Friday, March 25, 2016

Finally, a thinkpiece on the election

I haven't actually written anything down about the Presidential election, outside of some stray tweets and private email discussions. I'm not sure if I've ever blogged about an election before (and I've blogged since the early 2000's), but I feel like maybe it's finally time I put something down on paper.

Part of that is just so I can go back and look at it later - but part of it is I'm getting more and more interested in politics. I was never really interested in Presidential elections until 2000, and I think I've been fairly passionate about them since, but it feels like I'm getting deeper and deeper as I get older.

I was trying to think through why I feel that happening, and I've got a couple theories:

1 - I'm becoming a more responsible adult/citizen as I get older: I find this theory deeply unsatisfying and disturbing. I'm still immature, I swear (at this point I took a break to watch a YouTube video of crotch shots.)

2 - Politics is my new favorite sport: One thing that's definitely true about getting older, is that I'm starting to acknowledge the decreasing likelihood that I'm going to become the starting Free Safety for the Philadelphia Eagles. I'm still a big sports fan, but there's something a bit weird about watching and cheering for people much younger than you. I mean most pro athletes are now younger than just about all the people I know on Earth. Politics has that same competitive intensity (some would say that's a bad thing), but politicians are old! There's still an escapism element of putting myself in their shoes, and that's part of the fun. Plus, the stakes are actually meaningful.

3 - Expanded supply is meeting my demand: Sure I'm hugely into this election, but what I perceive as being more deeply invested is also a result of the continual media content explosion. Back in 2000 I don't really remember where I was getting my political news. Probably CNN? Now there are dozens and dozens of lowly-paid content-monkeys punching computer keys and smartphones at all hours of the day. I've listened to three different political podcasts this week. I've got Tweets coming in every second. With no costs or constraints on distribution there's no end to my election news binges. Back on 2004's Election night I remember watching the Bush-Kerry results come in on TV, but not being satisfied, going to the internet and getting county-by-county vote tally updates. Now that live vote tallying is part of the regular primary night coverage and tons of correspondents are bringing in even MORE content.

I think it's mostly #3.

But regardless of why I feel I'm more interested in the election, how do I actually feel about the election???

Cautiously optimistic.

I'm supporting Clinton, for a whole bunch of reasons, even if I remain a little underwhelmed by her. She's just most aligned with my views on the largest number of issues I think are important. It would be interesting to contrast her against a Republican with some reasonable views on those issues -- but that's apparently asking too much.

And since I'm pulling for Clinton, and she seems to be the most likely outcome, I'm as I said, cautiously optimistic.

But I've been disappointed before.

On the Democrat side -- I'm eagerly awaiting a Bernie Sanders dropout, but am resigned to that campaign going on for months. I'd love it if the Democrats could start rallying around Clinton, but Sanders seems like the type to continue to run in the face of overwhelming evidence that he can't win. That's his call, and I get it, particularly as he's bringing up some extremely relevant issues focused on the working-class, but selfishly it'd be best if he just packed it in.

I don't have a big problem with Sanders sticking around, but what's gotten under my skin is the idea that the hardcore Sanders supporters say they won't ultimately support Clinton in a general election. Now for the record I don't know any individuals who have said this explicitly - but if they're out there, I'd love to smack some sense into them.

People who would argue that they see no difference between a vote for Clinton and a vote for a Republican remind me of the same type of doofus you heard from in 2000. The ones who said they'd vote for Ralph Nader instead of Al Gore because Gore and George W. Bush were basically the same. You know, the ones who damned us to easily the worst administration since I've been on this planet.

My guess is those Sanders' idealists don't really have an appreciation for the very real consequences of their choice. That's too bad, but something I think will soften once the general election match-up actually becomes clear.

Again, I'm cautiously optimistic.

On the Republican side though, wow, it's really amazing to watch.

What started as a field of seemingly infinite candidates has dwindled and dwindled to just Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich.

It's amazing that this is what it's come to, and even more amazing is that Kasich is the first candidate I can recall who's trying to succeed with the Steven Bradbury strategy. Who is Steven Bradbury? He's the guy that wins the race in the video below...

I would've guessed he had no shot, but hey, last man standing might just win this thing.

There has been no shortage of Donald Trump think-pieces since he first emerged in the race, and I'm not going to rehash them all here. Honestly, it's tough just to keep them all straight.

But there are a couple things about the Trump emergence that I do believe:

- Trump's succeeded because he's telling a good portion of voters he cares: A lot of my liberal friends have wondered this for years...why working class voters support a Republican party that pursues policies that hurt them economically. It's the whole 'What's the Matter with Kansas?' problem. I'd argue that Republican historical success with those voters could be linked to a whole bunch of things beyond economic policy (e.g., social values, national security, etc). But, for the first time, there's a candidate that's actually focusing a populist economic message to these folks who, at least in economic terms, haven't been helped by their party. It's a hell of a white space, it's just amazing Trump's the first one to hit it.

- It reflects a natural outcome of the conservative media industry: You can debate why they've become this way, but it's hard to deny that a big swath of conservative voters have gotten angrier and angrier over the last decade. These people want the system to change (can't say I blame them) and the longer they go without seeing change, the more extreme measures they'll be ready to take. Now, extreme conservatives would say this is a natural response to a President who doesn't respect the rule of law, works around the Constitution to pass big government disasters like Obamacare, and is actively working to destroy the country. Regardless of whether you believe that or not, there's a massive conservative media industry who has built their success on perpetuating that narrative while insisting that anyone else in power/media is in on the whole conspiracy. With this segment of the population, they've systematically dismantled any faith in institutions or idea that the 'other side' wants what's best for America.

I'm sure some people would dispute that line of thinking - but I've spent a lot of time listening to Patriot Radio on XM - and that is absolutely what I've heard. I don't know who actually listens to people like Mark Levin, but I have, and it's absolutely nuts.

But taking a step back, if you've built a business on getting people angry (and angry people will keep listening and calling), and you've told them that all the standard players in the world of politics are against them, and you convince them of that fact, what recourse do they have?

They can start small -- Tea Party wave in 2010 -- with elections where they can make a difference. But what if that doesn't work? Where do you turn to next?

Bigger change right? And so here we are.

My hope is that there are enough OTHER people who haven't been, is radicalized too strong a word?, that our country won't go completely off the deep end. Based on all the data and analysis (remember I'm a technocrat), I remain cautiously optimistic that it won't happen.

:::Knocks on wood:::

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