“How long , O Lord…How long? Where will it end? The only possible good that can come of this wretched campaign is the ever-increasing likelihood that it will cause the Democratic Party to self-destruct.” – Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72, pg. 125
Reading this actually reminded me of that line from Camus where he says that absurdity can walk up to you on any street corner and just smack you in the face. Whack! Of course, I was snuggled up in my bed when I read those lines from Fear and Loathing last night. That book is really a mind blowing read in the context of the present election. I can’t wait to see what happens next. But before I move on, I would also like to observe: did you know that the 1972 Democratic Party primary included both George Wallace and Shirley Chisholm? The icon of Southern racism and a black woman – who, by the way, was in Congress, and ran a serious campaign, even if she was a moon-shot in 1972.
As I fell asleep last night, it occurred to me that there was more to say about both Facebook and Politics than what I managed to crank out last night. And as long as I’m going to give this whole blogging thing an earnest go, I might as well just try to give it what I’ve got. Let’s start with politics.
I don’t know quite how the primary schedule got made, but somehow last night there was a Democratic caucus in Nevada, and a Republican primary in South Carolina. Hillary won in Nevada, although Sanders won among latinos, independents and young people. It was a closer victory than originally projected- and I think that’s indicative of the trend. Clinton will have to fight like hell for the nomination, and when its all finished the Democratic coalition will be in rough shape. The primary has recently taken on heavy racial undertones, which complicates the discussion greatly. I was appalled to hear Sanders say that Clinton was embracing Obama as a strategy to win the black vote (as opposed to allying herself with Obama, as she did as Secretary of State, and as a fellow Democrat, because her positions are largely analogous to his own) but it sparked some interesting discussion on ye old Facebook wall. Thinking about it right now, though, I am reminded of the last Mayoral election in Chicago, where Jesus “Chuy” Garcia was the anti-establishment challenger to Rahm Emmanuel. Latinos in Chicago, fully a quarter of the population of the city, and of course, young anti-establishment voters, all came out in force for Garcia, and were, as expected, crushed by Emmanuel, with notable assistance from black voters. A lot of black voters now are ready to kick Rahm to the curb over the Laquan MacDonald case, but that didn’t happen until after the election. The point is that, at least in Chicago, minority voters are not natural allies. Indeed, they seem to view each other as competitors, or even rivals. They don’t really trust each other. I don’t know if that extends to national politics, but it is certainly true in Chicago. Anyways, getting back to Nevada – Hillary squeaked out a win, and the battle moves forward. That’s how I think the next couple months will be. Wherever Sanders wins, it will be a magnificent triumph in the face of adversity, and wherever Clinton prevails, people will just shrug and move on.
Meanwhile, in South Carolina, we had a bunch of super interesting stuff go down. First of all: Trump won, and he won by a good margin. And then Bush dropped out. Ladies and Gentlemen, the GOP establishment is throwing in the towel on Presidential politics, and that should give us all pause for concern. The inmates are now running the asylum. Rubio came in second, followed closely by Cruz – but I’m starting to feel like neither of those clowns matter any more. Republican voters want Trump. They want the Angry White Man. And South Carolina is the first state of the South. It was where the Civil War began. Near the close of that war, the Union army made a point of destroying everything in it, too. The rest of the Confederacy was defeated, but South Carolina got punished. If there is a representative Southern State, surely it is South Carolina. And they just voted Trump. As bad as things are in the Democratic Party right now, the situation for the Republicans is worse, at least in terms of Presidential politics. Trump is a great showman, but I don’t think he’s any kind of leader. Salesmen don’t make good leaders, because they only know how to say what their mark wants to hear. Leaders have to make decisions. As I’ve said before, I think this is where Paul Ryan will be able to step in once the dust is settled. Regardless of problems at the top, and they are problems, and they will have long term consequences for the party, conservative GOP pols still rule most the Statehouses in the US, as well as Congress.
In terms of long term trends, I think this election is demonstrating some of the longer term consequences of the lowering of taxes under Reagan and GW Bush, and the widening gap between the middle class and the wealthy. For folks who still have to earn an income, and that includes people who make hefty six-figure salaries as well as that vast panoply of middle-income earners who have been struggling through the stagnation of the last 20 years, the world of the wealthy is getting more distant all the time. People who rely on income generating assets for wealth (in the old days, they were called “capitalists” but now they’re more usually referred to as “investors,” or “job-creators”) have become insanely wealthy since the 1980s. They didn’t used to be this rich, but changes in the tax code transformed the situation. Americans have a vague sense of this, and a lot of folks are angry because it doesn’t seem fair – but how to alter the path we’re on is not at all clear to most people. I still think Larry Summers makes a good argument for shared prosperity, but that doesn’t seem to resonate across the electorate. And in any event, no coalition explicitly supporting such a platform seems to exist. Hillary is close in some ways, but she has to content with a great many folks who don’t care about the rest of the world, and just want to get back to ignoring it.
I wanted to spend some time reflecting on the political conversation on Facebook this morning, but I need to get to Church, and there’s a busy day after that, so it will have to wait. But just briefly, I want to say that I have been encouraged by many of my friends there, even though I often find the general discussion demoralizing. Bernie is definitely beating Hillary in the Facebook primary – according to FiveThirtyEight, by three to one – although Ben Carson is ahead of both of them, if that tells you anything. For what it’s worth though, I have been really impressed by the political engagement of the folk I know, and it makes me glad. There is so much going on, so much to write about and argue about, and its a challenge just to keep myself going, to keep believing that its worth it.