It’s an election year! Oh, wait.


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.

12 replies »

  1. OK, say I want to play along. Can we nail the definition of center-right down a little more? When we talk about moderate “Republicans,” it almost feels like we need air-quotes around every syllable.

    These days that term is most often applied to the likes of Collins and Murkowski. Collins has voted with Trump two-thirds of the time and Murk nearly three-quarters.

    Now, by 2020, purely relative standards I guess that’s pretty “moderate.” But this last 40 years, well, as you say, words have meanings. And we’ve sort of mutually agreed to pretend some words mean something nearly the opposite of what they used to mean. Today Murkowski is moderate. But by any sort of fixed point standard – ie, one where conservative intellectuals aren’t allowed to rewrite the dictionary to suit their needs – she and Collins are borderline batshit. WAY the fuck right of Tricky Dick and far enough right Ike would have been afraid to be in the same room with them.

    I get how it all works, but I guess my wish here is that you’d use labels in something like a historical context. That doesn’t make life easier, but it means I can read without screaming and throwing shit quite so much.

  2. By the time I finish splitting the necessary hairs, this would probably hit 7000 words 😉

    In the cases of Collins and Murkowski, I could fault them and their ilk at Rule 10 and stop right there. What they support belies their claims to and/or reputations of moderation of any kind. Rule 19 just shovels the first load of dirt on the graves of their integrity.

    I think what I failed to include is that, at the national level, there’s a dearth of actual moderate Republicans, especially when we look at the Senate. As horrible as it may sound, I think I’m homing in more on the likes of Romney, who, however much I might disagree with so much of his policy positions, at least seems like a spoiled aristocrat who *tries* to have some degree of character. At no point do I even mean that to be flattering. It’s just the best I can hope for when it comes to Team Red. From my perspective, the best they can offer is generally “sucks least,” which is the part where I at least hope their efforts help nudge the Overton Window back where it should be.

    Would we actually get to a time where an actual center implies actual reasoned discourse? I doubt it.

    But that’s the catch with our modern “center” as I see it. Remember that point was brought up on connection to what would happen if I had to choose between center-right and center-left. Center-right, well-applied, at least implies a good-faith effort at bipartisanship. Center-left just deserves all the opprobrium I can heap on them.

    I can’t even see it as a double-standard because of the dramatic shift in the Overton Window. Sure, all stripes of right-wing extremists will also lob political molotovs at the Romneys in the party, but their voice should never have gotten that outsized to begin with. At least the momentum of their party toward extremity was somehow internally consistent. They swung the balance of power in their direction, and then did everything they could to keep it that way. That’s just them doing what they do. Might as well blame wolves for being wolves.

    With the center-left, we get a betrayal of the left. That’s it. Nothing more glamorous than that. And the left, such as it is, keeps placating itself with shit sandwiches.

    Having thought out loud a bit more, I suppose I can take a better crack at defining center-right, but it’s still mostly a game of compare/contrast. It’s just difficult because it’s like trying to draw a thin, smoky haze with a Sharpie.

    Let’s say there’s an issue, A. At the heart of it, both sides want the same outcome, e.g., healthcare for the sick, education for the populace, etc. If we don’t have that much, I’m pretty sure we’re already to the right of whackadoodle to begin with. What remains in terms of party disagreements is how best to get to the mutually desired outcome. I think it’s entirely possible for an actual center-right pol to negotiate in good faith with an actual liberal.

    There *is* no good-faith negotiation with the center-left. Both center-right and center-left are beholden to the same paymasters. What’s telling is the negotiating aspect of it. Center-right negotiating with liberals actually stands to lose something in the balance. Center-right “negotiating” with center-left is just exchanging handshakes and winks. When center-right is in a position that it has to justify itself to a radicalized base, they’re trying to bring things back to rational territory. When center-left (serving those same paymasters) is forced to “negotiate” with liberals, it’s not good faith. It’s a perpetuation of a screw-job, usually while gaslighting us and telling us that if we just endure their bullshit, we’ll see how obviously right they are. At best, when they give us a shit sandwich, they’ll throw in a bag of chips, but only if Big Potato gets a kickback.

    Does that help?

    • At the heart of it, both sides want the same outcome, e.g., healthcare for the sick, education for the populace, etc.

      Wait. Do you mean IF both sides? If not, upon what evidence would you base a claim that the GOP wants healthcare or education?

      To some degree there’s probably no way to talk about these political positions without resort to the fake vocabulary we’ve come to take as a given. Maybe the only way to deal with is the abundant use of quotes.

      • I can’t tell how you’re missing my qualifications and distinctions. Chalk it up to my failure to communicate, if you will. I can’t spell it out any better than I have. It’s just not worth the effort.

        • Probably my bad. Interested, but severely distracted. Let me try again when I can actually think. And when I’m not so fucking mad about everything that I’m treating “good morning” as an attempt to pick a fight.

  3. I don’t know about you, but that madness is my breakfast, lunch, and dinner some days. It makes it hard to see much of anything clearly. And it could be that I don’t make a difficult point well, which doesn’t help.

    • Part of my issue right now is that – failure to make what seems an obvious point. The rest of the issue revolves around the fact the point even needs making.

      • Might I ask if you are perhaps inadvertently painting with too broad a brush. I’m not asking you to vote Republican. I’m asking you if you honestly think there’s no such thing as a Republican that wants healthcare or education. Damned the damnable all you will, and rightly so. But are you damning the whole on those two examples for the flaws of the large group, The Worst?

        • I think the issue is that there’s a fine line between analyzing broad cultural trends and painting with a broad brush. Collective dynamics are very real, but as we all know that which is true at the system level is false at the individual level.

          So I’m working hard on those long, big-picture dynamics, but shit happening at the individual level is blurring the lines in infuriating ways. Specifically, it’s very hard to talk with people who believe a detail negates the larger truth.

          And I lack the patience I’d have in a context where powerful, ascendant forces aren’t actively trying to annihilate me and what I value. I hope I’m making sense.

  4. I think we’re done. I’m also working hard on those “big-picture dynamics.” There’s an honest and simple question on the table. And I’m pretty sure I’ve got a solid sense of the degree of annihilation coming down the pike, which is why I have no truck with back-stabbing incrementalists.

    I’m not sure I’m trying to persuade you of anything at this point. There’s the essay and my answers thus far, and that’s as far as it goes. Either you’re persuaded toward a certain view, or you aren’t. And I surely can’t tell what you’re trying to persuade me to conclude. If there’s a genuine conversation to be had, let me know.

    • I feel like I initially went down a side track and haven’t circled back to the main road yet. But I don’t think I have any issues with what you say. One thing I notice about myself of late, though, is that I sometimes recoil a bit when encountering too much of the truth. It’s not that I disagree at all, it’s that I’ve reached a point where it’s gotten so bad it’s hard to engage with a fair measure of rationality.

      This is just what I’m trying to deal with, and it’s a bizarre place to be in. The Trump experience, and the things it represents… I need to get some rational around it, if only for the sake of personal sanity.

  5. Now you’re speaking my language. Have you played Call of Cthulhu lately? Because fictional or otherwise, that’s just about what this whole hot mess of 21st Century existence feels like. We’re living in a world ruled by some combination of the gongbat insane and the insidiously evil.

    I don’t even feel crazy any longer for thinking that, you know, maybe the billionaires hit upon a brilliant idea…for billionaires. Why look to off-world colonization when we’ve got a perfectly fine world here, right now. If we can come up with the tech to survive on Mars very comfortably without an Earth-based supply chain, the only thing stopping them from plunking down “settlements” like that on earth is all the damned riff raff stinking up the place. One good civilization-ending calamity, engineered, or at least malignantly ignored, should do the trick.

    And that’s pretty much the sum total of my angst in a nutshell. It’s not an impossible scenario. At this stage, I’m not even sure it’s implausible. That it’s even a little plausible is problematic. And we’re not just wrestling with domestic idiots and the predators who use them. We’ve got a world population approaching 8 billion with too many getting a view of things from the top of the bell curve, and too many looking up that curve from the wrong side of it.

    My best hope at this stage is that I’m horribly, woefully wrong about everything and that I can just die remembered as a crank who meant well, which rather begs the question that I’ll be remembered at all.