Posted by on May 16, 2016

These days, I seem to talk about little else.  The Republican Party is locked in the same conversation.

Most of my friends fall into the same camp as the former Governor of Louisiana, and former McKinsey consultant, Bobby Jindal.  Jindal has just written an editorial for The Wall Street Journal entitled “I’m Voting Trump, Warts and All.”  Jindal starts by saying that he was “one of the earliest and loudest critics of Trump,” an opinion he has not changed.  But then he says:

I think electing Donald Trump would be the second-worst thing we could do this November, better only than electing Hillary Clinton to serve as the third term for the Obama administration’s radical policies. I am not pretending that Mr. Trump has suddenly become a conservative champion or even a reliable Republican: He is completely unpredictable. The problem is that Hillary is predictably liberal….

If elected, Mrs. Clinton will continue hindering affordable domestic energy, increasing dependence on government and the growth of welfare programs, growing the nation’s debt and weakening America abroad. She will more firmly establish a culture of victimhood and identity politics, further dividing Americans rather than uniting us, and will continue promoting redistribution and government interference rather than growth and freedom.

Throw in the good chance that a few more Supreme Court justices may kick the bucket during the next term – although two of them (Ginsburg and Breyer) are so irredeemably statist that Clinton could not possibly make things worse and the third (Kennedy) is a notorious waffler – and the “hold-your-nose-and-vote-Trump” argument is made.

Or, as I like to say, the problem with the Republicans (especially under Trump) is that they know nothing.  The problem with Democrats is that they know only the wrong things.  The Democrats’ problem is bigger.

But I think that this is too simplistic.[1]  If the Republicans were nominating a conventionally bad candidate (eg., Cruz), this would be the right calculus.  But Trump is way beyond this.  As I have said before, he has the capacity to do huge damage down-ticket and for years to come.

This is the issue that is keeping Speaker of the House Paul Ryan up at night.  He has to estimate how much damage going “all-in” for Trump can do.  And he has to decide whether, by aggressively distancing the “establishment” Republican Party from Trump, the party can live to fight another day or whether Trump has already delivered a mortal blow.  These questions are much tougher than just correctly identifying Clinton as the nightmare she doubtlessly is.

In other words, and with a nod to Jindal’s consultancy background, these questions can best be framed as a matrix with the following strategies for Congressman Ryan[2],[3]:

 

Effective Anti-Trump Condom Available?
No Yes
 

Amount of Down-Ticket and Multi-Year Damage

 

High The damage is done.  Become a monk Run, do not walk, from Trump
 

Low

WTF, go “all-in” for Trump since party affiliation will likely make him easier to restrain than Clinton Keep a reasonable distance from Trump.  Condoms sometimes break

Unfortunately, I don’t know which box the Republican Party is currently in.  And neither does Paul Ryan, which is why he continues to play Hamlet on the Potomac.

Practical Advice

On a more prosaic level, I am offering the following voting advice to anyone who cares to listen (and some who don’t): watch the polls.

Although I have been wrong about Trump all along, I do not believe that he can stand the sustained scrutiny that he rarely experienced as a face in a 17-person crowd whom nobody took seriously until it was too late.  I think that, come November, the polls are going to show a landslide for Clinton, as independents declare massively for her and Trump garners lukewarm support from Republicans.  Trump has collected 10.9 million votes during the Republican primaries, but this is far cry from the roughly 65 million needed to win a general election.

So now the advice.  If I am right and the polls in early November are showing a large Clinton lead, then vote for Gary Johnson, the likely Libertarian Party (LP) candidate, particularly if you live in a “blue” state (such as New York, California, Massachusetts, etc.).   You aren’t going to stop Clinton anyway and voting for the LP will deliver an unambiguous message to the Republican Party that, in its election post mortem, Trumpism is not the lesson the party should take away.   This will also give you the satisfaction of voting  for, instead of against, someone – a rare thing in American politics.

If, conversely, the polls are tight and particularly if you live in a “swing” state (such as Florida or Ohio), then do what you have to do.  Afterwards, go home and wash your voting hand thoroughly, unless you chose the LP toggle.  However, no matter what you do about the presidential election, vote for and pray that the Republicans continue to control Congress.

As for me, Johnson has my vote no matter what the polls say.  Basta!

Update on Brexit

I am long overdue for an update on the vote in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union (“Brexit”).  As a reminder, the vote is on June 23 and the campaigns for Remain and Leave are in full swing.

Neither side has scored a goal yet, either for themselves or their opponents.  However, it cannot be a good sign for the Leavers that Boris Johnson, their leader, has just broken Goodwin’s Law and been the first to invoke Hitler.  The Law stipulates that the debate is now over and the invoker must be declared the loser.

The reality is that there is no economic argument for Brexit[4], particularly because, as I have indicated before, there is a great deal of “path-dependency” in these decisions (see “Path Dependency” here).  Although the UK probably would have been wise to stay out of the EU entirely, given how it has deviated from a purely beneficial free-trade bloc, that is different than deciding to leave it, with all the attendant disruption.  It is also undoubtedly true that the UK cannot expect a fast or generous trade deal from the EU if it choses to leave.  Even if this is in the direct interests of both sides, as the Leavers rightfully argue, the EU will be compelled by other considerations.  It would not want to encourage other departures.

The polls are moving in the direction of Leave, but only slightly.  A slight poll lead won’t do it for the Leavers.  It is easy enough to tell a pollster that you are in favor of radical change, but a lot harder to actually pull the trigger in the voting booth.  If the polls are about evenly split now, then the betting has to be that the actual vote will be for the status quo.

In fact, the betting odds remain solidly for Remain (with currently about a 68% probability, having never dipped below 60%).  Most studies show that betting odds are better, and much less volatile, predictors of future political events than polls.  But this is no guarantee: you could have still made good money betting on a Trump nomination, even after his early primary victories.

The one thing that could possibly change this outcome would be some kind of massive disruption on the Continent that reminds the English how nice it is to be an island nation.  There is no shortage of possibilities, but the EU is doing its best to tamp these down until after the English vote.  The can of differences between the re-named Troika and the Greeks is being kicked down the road.  The deal with Turkey over refugees seems to be holding and the EU will probably find a way to mollify the Turks over visa-free visits to Europe or to delay this issue.  A recent lengthy article from the leading economic commentator for The Telegraph points out that Italy’s moribund economy is caught in the same Euro trap as Greece’s – “Efforts to claw back competitiveness by means of an internal devaluation merely poison debt dynamics and perpetuate depression” – and that the country must now choose between staying in the Eurozone and its economic survival, but this is a slow-burning fuse.  And the list goes on.

There are two major events that could produce the biggest changes since the crumbling of the Soviet empire: a Trump election and a Leave vote.  Neither one is likely but this has been the year for surprises.   

 Another Randian Moment

Probably the most common criticism of Ayn Rand’s novels is that they are grossly exaggerated.  That is why it is important to point out cases, such as Venezuela, where truth is stranger than fiction.  The PC concept of “gender identity” has just given us another example.

Rand believed that the ultimate goal of the Left was to destroy the idea of an objective reality, which is why she named her philosophy “Objectivism” to put herself in sharp contrast.  For Rand, the denial of objective reality, and the faculty of mankind that allows its grasp (reason), is the ultimate negation of humanity.

Keep this in mind when you watch this video entitled “College Kids Say the Darndest Things: On Identity.”  In it, a 5’9” white adult male asks students what they think of his self-identity as a 7-year old, 6’5” inch Chinese female.  Listen as the brainwashed products of the Left-controlled education system struggle to reconcile the evidence of their senses with the PC nonsense they have been taught.

Of course, the Obama administration has come down on the side of unreason.  It has also predictably done so in a way that ignores the Constitution and, in all likelihood, the overwhelming will of the population.  The administration has just declared that it will consider “a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of enforcing” the anti-discrimination provisions of Title IX of the Education Amendments.

In plain language, this means that the Obama administration will blackmail (by withholding federal funds) any educational institution that questions the claim that he is a 7-year old, 6’5” Chinese female.  Or that denies him access to the toilets, locker rooms, or housing that such a claim would allow.

Obama’s misnamed Departments of Justice and Education go further.  They have imposed, of course, a prohibition on the school requiring the transgender student to produce any objective evidence, such as a medical or psychological diagnosis, of the claimed identity: “Gender identity refers to an individual’s internal sense of gender.”  There is also specific denial of an alternative approach to this problem, such as single-occupancy facilities for transgender students, since this would unfairly stigmatize them.  As for athletics, the Obama administration offers the following guidance:  schools may not “rely on overly broad generalizations or stereotypes about the differences between transgender students and other students of the same sex (i.e., the same gender identity) or others’ discomfort with transgender students.”  Well, I am glad that is cleared up.

This latest diktat will undoubtedly be challenged in court and will probably lose, like many of the administration’s other attempts to impose social engineering by decree.   There is absolutely nothing, either in the law or the legislative record, to suggest that Congress intended back in 1972 to change the unambiguous meaning of “sex” to “gender identity.”  And yet, blessed with this sense of the law and the Constitution, Obama still wonders why Senate Republicans refuse to consider a Supreme Court nominee who has passed his screening.

This episode has brought forth another thought.  Like many of you, I have watched the video of Obama’s speech at the 2016 White House Correspondents Dinner.  There is no denying that Obama is a very cool, funny and charming guy; he also appears to have an endearing relationship with his wife and children.  All of this is precisely what makes him so destructive.  It is very hard to see the poison that lurks beneath.

In this respect, but only in this respect, Hillary Clinton would be a big improvement on Obama.  Clinton is weapons-grade Obama.  She would make all the same domestic policy mistakes, but would add to these a strong bias for foreign military adventures that Obama lacks.  But at least nobody has ever accused her of being cool, funny or charming.

Roger Barris

Weybridge, United Kingdom

[1] To be fair to Jindal, he is aware of this.  He says that members of the #NeverTrump movement are “motivated by long-term considerations” to “preserve a remnant of the conservative movement and its credibility, which can then serve as a foundation for renewal.”  Jindal disagrees with this strategy because “the stakes for my country, not merely my party, are simply too high.”  I think that Jindal underestimates how bad it would be for the country if the Democrats enjoyed a monopoly of power for the foreseeable future.

[2] Of course, this use of a matrix is nowhere near as enlightening as the famous Hot-Crazy variant.

[3] In fact, this decision is even more complicated, because Ryan must also make a guess on whether Trump, with the all-in support of the Republican Party, can even win.  But three-dimensional matrices are way beyond my mental or typing abilities.

[4] If you are looking for details, The Economist does a nice job of summarizing the economic arguments in “The Brexit delusion.”

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