Hooray. It’s 2020. An election year. A year when we’re probably more likely than ever to share what we think about the state of things while wrestling with the choices presented to us.
I’m probably not going to win any more love this year on that point than I ever have. But at least I’ll give folks the honest chance to understand where I’m coming from. To those who disagree, that’s fine. I accept your disagreement. Unless you’re a full-tilt Nazi-endorsing bona fide bigot, I can probably overlook the differences we have as individuals. Since I don’t know that I know anyone like that personally, I think we’re off to a good start, at least with the people I know. I can’t speak for the rest of you. I’ll say this, though. If that’s where your sentiments trend and people don’t know it, you are a coward lacking the courage of your convictions. You should let your freak flag fly so decent people can shun you. If you find yourself making excuses for them or comparing apples to oranges to justify them, or deploying straw men to distract from them, or play the Two Wrongs Make a Right card to cover for them, I mean you. The world will be better when you’re not in it. The only thing I will say in the defense of the most horrible among us is that they have the qualified right to feel, think (if you can call it that) and believe as they will, and to speak and act within the bounds of law. Beyond that, I give no quarter.
Now that that’s clear, let us begin.
So. Let’s just suppose (these are my premises, after all) that we currently (read: my lifetime) live under a government ruled by some unholy alliance of money and sentiment instead of reason. By all means, attack the premises. If I lose on the point and the premise is severable from the argument, I can plod right on along. If the whole thing is a house of cards that falls upon the destruction of a premise, I owe it to myself to upgrade to at least a house of twigs. Give me your best shot.
Let’s also suppose the Overton Window is a real thing with real-life effects on the direction the two major parties take on the issues.
Let’s also suppose, for the sake of simplicity, that there’s essentially four classes of politician to choose from: hard right, right of center, left of center, and hard left.
Let’s then adjust that for the effects of the Overton Window. Now we have: extreme right, hard right, right of center, and left. We’ll talk about hard left the day a card-carrying actual socialist (words mean things) makes it to the national debate stage.
Having made that adjustment, let us further suppose that right of center comprises moderate Republicans willing to reach across the aisle and DINOs.
I have a couple of litmus tests of my own. Based on those, I’ll choose between the moderate Republican and the left, with caveats. I automatically exclude the extreme and hard right factions, usually for a combination of utter parochialism and overt, oppressive religiosity that only embraces so-called freedom for some but not all. They don’t support rights. A right that everyone doesn’t have is actually a privilege. I’ll support that right after I support a return to feudalism, so don’t hold your breath.
If a moderate Republican generally supports common-sense bipartisan solutions to real world problems, I can maybe get behind that. I accept that they may have a walk of faith different from my own, one that guides them in their decisions differently than mine guides me. They may cast votes on wedge issues that I would oppose. But they also tend not to wear their putative faith on their sleeves like a 20-lb maul with which to bludgeon the opposition into submission and make good-faith efforts to both represent the will of their constituents while making rational compromises. That’s laudable. It also helps shift the Overton Window back toward a genuinely more moderate position on the political spectrum. That’s desirable.
I will support a candidate on the left with a few caveats. First, their policy positions must be genuinely liberal, properly understood, not as media and the commentariat would misrepresent liberalism. Further, their policy positions must be generally internally coherent.
As a guide, I now have reference to something I lacked previously, the Maxims of Jurisprudence, in particular:
Rule 2: Same reason, same rule. Where the reason is the same, the rule should be the same.
Rule 3: Change in purpose. A person may not change the person’s purpose to the injury of another.
Rule 5: Limit on rights. A person shall so use that person’s own rights as not to infringe upon the rights of another.
Rule 6: Consent. A person who consents to an act is not wronged by it. [Author note: consent under duress and/or deception is no consent at all)
Rule 7: Acquiescence. Acquiescence in error takes away the right of objecting to it.
Rule 8: Own wrong — no advantage. A person may not take advantage of the person’s own wrong.
Rule 9: Fraudulent dispossession. A person who has fraudulently dispossessed oneself of a thing may be treated as if the person still had possession. [Author note: I extend this to culpability. See also: weasel words and fake PR apologies.]
Rule 10: Acts on one’s behalf. A person who can and does not forbid that which is done on that person’s behalf is considered to have authorized it.
That one is so important, I’m going to repeat it.
Acts on one’s behalf. A person who can and does not forbid that which is done on that person’s behalf is considered to have authorized it.
Rule 11: Acts of others. No one should suffer for the act of another. [Author note: simplifed – the suffering of one because of the act of another is a wrong. Wrongs are not justifiable.]
Rule 12: Benefit — burden. A person who takes the benefit shall bear the burden. [Author note: see also – why I supported most, if not all, of Occupy]
Rule 13: Grant includes essentials. One who grants a thing is presumed to grant also whatever is essential to its use. [Author note: corollary – if the latter isn’t granted, nothing was granted.]
Rule 15: Equal in right or wrong. Between those who are equally in the right or equally in the wrong, the law does not interpose. [Author note: there is no correct choice between lesser evils]
Rule 17: Beyond control. A person is not responsible for that which a person cannot control. [Author note: you can’t legislate attitudes.]
Rule 19: Form and substance. The law respects form less than substance. [Author note: this, in so many things, hence my just about utter rejection of any externally imposed norms of so-called politeness that would give cover to bullshit and evil.]
Rule 21: Apparent nonexistence. That which does not appear to exist is to be regarded as if it did not exist. [Author note: this, in so many things, especially integrity.]
Rule 31: Principal. The incident follows the principal and not the principal the incident. [Author note: you will know them by their fruits.]
Rule 34: Third parties — who suffers. When one of two innocent persons suffers by the act of a third, the person by whose negligence it happened must be the sufferer.
Bloody hell, that’s a lot to expect from a candidate! You’re damned straight it is. One might wonder why I hold one group to such stringent standards but not the other. That’s reasonable, because on the face of it, it probably seems absurd. Think of it like a football game, but at stake is one’s set of core principles. You’ve got your home team that you want to win. You’ve got the opposition. You generally want them to lose.
The only thing I expect out of an opposition team is that they play a good and fair game.
I expect my team to play the best game. Case in point, the Saints are my home team. I want them to win. After decades of losing, losing, losing, they finally won a Super Bowl. That also happened to be the year they were busted for having bounties out on opposing players. Sorry, no points for “winning” that Super Bowl. Unsurprisingly, that’s a view that doesn’t make me popular with Saints fans. That’s their problem, not mine. I have standards.
In politics, I absolutely favor genuinely liberal positions. Again, that’s liberalism as properly understood, provided I properly understand them. I’ll see your sources and raise you my own.
I see no right as an absolute. Rights are balancing acts to be settled by just triers of fact. Sadly, that leaves us with juries and judges to decide the balance, and honestly, both options leave me cringing, but it’s the best we’ve got. Have you seen the peers that form a jury lately? I’m not sure I want half of those folks choosing lunch, much less a person’s fate. And judges? There’s many fine ones. And then there’s the ones who put the sad truth to the joke, “What do you call a law student with a C average? Your Honor.” And that’s before you even get to ideologues in robes selected by other ideologues for the appointment by yet other ideologues on the payrolls of the self-serving.
I open this part with rights, because if they exist at all (a purely philosophical question and, or, or and/or [inside joke] an entirely pragmatic one) they are fundamental, the analysis of which demands rational rigor, not sentiment. Where reason and sentiment intersect, I have no problem. Sentiment lacking reason, which itself requires internal coherence, is, in its proper domain, merely human nature. Wielding power absent reason? I find it utterly abhorrent.
And that’s the rub, right there. As a friend of mine has said countless times, even if he and I occasionally disagree on whether it’s selectively deployed, it’s important to be right for the right reasons. When I see a candidate running on a policy that I might support, but it becomes evident that the reasoning that led them there is faulty, all I see is a pig with a hog ring waiting to be led astray by the next yank of sentiment. I don’t want a light switch that only works sometimes. I don’t want brakes on my truck that only work sometimes. I don’t want people in the halls of power making decisions affecting all of us on the basis of faulty reasoning, because their thinking only works sometimes.
More than that, I not only expect, but I demand internal coherence. If policy objective A is such and such, and their other policy objectives run counter to that, I’m going to take that at face value…that candidate will, given the opportunity, undermine the very thing I might have supported them for.
Show me a candidate that undermines the very value of reason in policy-making, and I’ll show you a candidate fit only for tar and feathers.
Show me a candidate that changes their views depending on the room they’re speaking to, and I’ll show you a candidate fit only for the stocks.
On the sentimental side, show me a candidate that took a lifetime to “evolve” to what most decent people arrive at early in life, and sure, I’ll warrant they get redemption points as a voter, but please, get them the hell out of the race. Their ‘68 Subaru that just had a tune-up is no match for a modern make/model that doesn’t outright suck, much less for a real candidate. The best thing they can do is go play at advocacy to convert the benighted to their newfound moral compass.
I’m still waiting for the candidate that meets all of those requirements, which, honestly, is a pretty damning statement on our society as a whole. Depending on the severity of the lapses, perhaps I can hold my nose. Maybe. Don’t bank on it.
Lastly, that leaves a group I simply will not countenance, that I will not support, and that’s the DINOs. The only thing worse than losing to a solid opposition team, worse, even, than finding out your team only won because it cheated, is finding out that your own team lost because they went full Pete Rose and bet against their fans’ interests.
Want to know how to distinguish a DINO? It’s a simple litmus test, really, and, again, it’s with reference to the Overton Window. A moment of so-called compromise has arrived. The politician can throw their lot in with the opposition team, or with what passes for the liberal wing of their party. Dollars to donuts, the DINO will throw their lot in with the opposition every. Damned. Time. Because if there’s one thing a DINO will not do, it’s piss off their paymasters, and liberals, actual liberals, want the paymasters to pay their dues commensurate with the benefits they derive from their rarefied existence in the upper strata of our social hierarchy. There is no liberal position a DINO won’t just throw under a bus, but back up and make sure it’s good and dead, when the buck stops with their financial support. They are the fifth column in liberalism. Vichy Dem is perhaps too gentle a term for them, insofar as we’re talking about the vast majority of over 300 million people to whom the benefits of liberty do not redound.
A moderate Republican can be reached. A DINO is merely the ugliest kind of mercenary who can only be trusted by the people who can afford to buy their loyalty. As George Carlin told us ages ago, we’re not in that club.
Human civilization may well be at a crossroads. Just about every myth, legend, morality play, and even half-way decent drama we’ve ever learned from has tried to teach us the value of sticking with principle, especially when it seems all hope is lost. For lack of it, we have arrived at the conditions of the present day. For sheer spinelessness, we the people, en masse, (oh, surely not you, personally) fail to insist on it as the necessary corrective.
So, hooray for 2020! Bring on the clusterfuck and the clown cars. The safe wager is that we will be told, once again, that the daily special on November 3 is our choice of shit sandwich on white or wheat.
No. Please and thank you.
And if that’s what we get and the price either way is calamitous for civilization, just call me fucking Cassandra. It’s probably best the world go up in flames.
If, after all that, you need some consolation, there’s this. My opinion and $5 will get you a value meal somewhere. Last I checked, I comprise a political demographic with population 1.
As to my verbosity, I submit Rule 28 in my defense:
Superfluity. Superfluity does not vitiate.