Pseudo-liberalism, the Club of Cool, and Donald Trump

Spotted this in my news feed yesterday. I thought it was both interesting, and timely. Because it spoke about the same things this earlier piece also dealt with. Namely, the dumbing down of American liberalism to the point that being liberal — in the United States, in 2016 — isn’t about compassion, or critical thinking, or finding solutions to societal problems, as much as it’s about self image. The perception of cool. Possessing the intellectual trappings of knowingness — TED talks! Neil deGrasse Tyson! National Public Radio! The Daily Show! — without actually knowing anything in-depth. A kind of quasi or neo-liberalism that treats The Poor™ as both a receptable for endless governmental uplift, and a target for sniping and jibes; provided we’re talking about the conservative poor. You know, the ones who stupidly “Vote against their own interests.” Which is just code for unedumacated, Southern-drawlin’, gun-shootin’, red-neckin’, Trump-votin’, tobacky-chewin’ inbred yocal hick racist Bible-thumpin’ white-sheet Klan scum.

Or so the Jon Stewart pseudo-liberals like to believe. Because if you’re not laughing as part of the joke, you’re the butt of the joke. You’re uncool. Point and sneer, boys. Point and sneer. Everybody’s doing it. Gotta make sure you’re doing it too. Cleverness has replaced wisdom, as the hallmark of “smartness” in today’s pseudo-liberal social media sign language. I mean, thirteen million shares on a Louis CK video cannot possibly be wrong, can they?

I personally first encountered the Smug Style of pseudo-liberalism, when I lived and worked in Seattle at the tail end of the 1990s. You will find few cities in America more dedicated to the idea that Liberalism (caps f) is the default intellectual state of the enlightened human being.

In Seattle, the real problem with the Democratic Party, is that it’s way too conservative. In Seattle, you signal your allegiance to the flag by keeping the latest copy of The Stranger perched on the corner of your office desk — just slightly askew, as if you’ve recently been leafing through it. In Seattle, you know exactly what Dan Savage said in his latest sex and relationships advice column. In Seattle, you listen to All Things Considered — on public radio KPLU-FM — like it’s the holy call to prayer. In other words, in Seattle, “Did you read it?” is a way of life. A daily set of Starbucks-fueled rituals, all conducted in the name of being “up” on the latest expectations and dispensations — from various fonts of progressive intellectual haute couture.

But — philosophical differences aside — I found there just wasn’t much “there” there. Questioning the pseudo-liberal conventional wisdom, was like trying to explain to a fish that water is wet. The fish merely looks at you goggle-eyed and exclaims, “But sir, that is the very nature of the universe! How could it be otherwise?” Indeed. How could it be otherwise? When all the smart people, with their brilliant smartness, are mutually engaged in displaying all the signs and symbols of smart — listening to the smart music, congregating in the smart coffee houses, the smart bars, reading all the smart literature, listening to the smart talk radio, discussing smart stuff with smart people over smart lunches where smartness flows in rivers — what sane person raises a hand to object? That’s just crazy talk. What’s wrong with you? Are you stupid? Malicious? Evil? Or some combination thereof?

Of course socialism is awesome! We need more of it, dammit! I read it in The Nation! I mean, they talk about it on the BBC! And there’s Scandinavia! Because Europe is always and forever better than America, on all things.

Speaking of which, let’s make sure we’re wearing our Scarlet Letter P today — p is for privilege, naturally — because nothing makes a difference in the lives of working underclass blacks and latinos like a bunch of properly and correctly concerned college-bred white DINKs sitting around talking to other properly and correctly concerned college-bred white DINKs about the awful scourges of modern racism and oppression. Yes, yes, it’s so terrible. Yes. Of course. Yes. But not us. We’re not part of the problem, we’re part of the solution. Just look at us! We’re hanging out and talking about it, like we’re supposed to! We’re acknowledging our privilege, like we were told! (A roach may or may not be lit, and passed. Depends on if we’re at the office, or at somebody’s super-expensive high-rise apartment.)

But wait, it’s not all self-flagelation and hairshirts. Quick, give us a joke. Jokes about Mormons are awesome! But oh, wait, no bro. Jokes about Muslims? Not awesome. That’s Islamophobic, doncha know. Yes, yes, don’t wanna be Islamophobic, now, do we? We’re not going to allow ourselves to be accused of being insensitive to a minority. But Mormons, hah! So hilarious! Utah too. Never been there. Wouldn’t want to. They’re uncool in Utah. Totally uncool. Not like us. We’re cool, and we know it.

All of this might be amusing — every region of the country having its quaint and sometimes annoying peculiarities — except I saw that same empty self-important, self-referential pseudo-liberalism being exported across the country. Over the nine years since I left the Pacific Northwest, I’ve seen pseudo-liberalism go mainstream. Two successive Presidential elections have been dominated by it. My chosen tertiary profession — science fiction writing — is positively drenched in it. A cult of Knowing (caps k) that revolves around the image in the mirror: do you make the street signs and speak the gang language of cutting edge progressivism? Yes, or no? Or are you (gasp) un-Knowing? Oh God, you are un-Knowing!

Point and sneer, boys. Point and sneer. Totally uncool!

It is the smug style’s first premise: a politics defined by a command of the Correct Facts and signaled by an allegiance to the Correct Culture. A politics that is just the politics of smart people in command of Good Facts. A politics that insists it has no ideology at all, only facts. No moral convictions, only charts, the kind that keep them from “imposing their morals” like the bad guys do.

Knowing is the shibboleth into the smug style’s culture, a cultural that celebrates hip commitments and valorizes hip taste [see: “It’s over!“], that loves nothing more than hate-reading anyone who doesn’t get them. A culture that has come to replace politics itself.

The knowing know that police reform, that abortion rights, that labor unions are important, but go no further: What is important, after all, is to signal that you know these things. What is important is to launch links and mockery at those who don’t. The Good Facts are enough: Anybody who fails to capitulate to them is part of the Problem, is terminally uncool. No persuasion, only retweets. Eye roll, crying emoji, forward to John Oliver for sick burns.

I’m glad somebody is noticing this. I am glad to see media outlets outside of the usual conservative venues, posting or printing articles that take pseudo-liberalism to task. For being the shallow Club of Cool that it is. For accelerating our political race to the bottom — where one of the two most pathetic, worthless, indeed most irresponsible Presidential choices in my lifetime, stands on the brink of claiming the most powerful office in the world. For speaking the words “compassion” and “caring” while wasting no time deriding, mocking, name-calling, ridiculing, and otherwise bully-shaming anyone and everyone found guilty of being uncool. It’s not even about the issues at all anymore. It’s the uncoolness proper, that gets the lion’s share of ad hominem invective. The Club of Cool wouldn’t be the Club of Cool, if it didn’t look down its nose at everyone not in the club — and make a cutting remark.

Ridicule is the most effective political tactic.

Ridicule is especially effective when it’s personal and about expressing open disdain for stupid, bad people.

Political legitimacy is granted by the respect of elite liberals.

You can’t be legitimate if you’re the butt of our jokes.

If you don’t agree, we can’t work together politically.

We can’t even be friends, because politics is social.

Because politics is performative — if we don’t mock together, we aren’t on the same side.

I have occasionally seen progressive laymen and even commentators blame the rise of pseudo-liberalsm on people like Rush Limbaugh. As if Rush — all by his blustering self — somehow dumbed down political discourse in the United States, such that American liberals simply had to out-dumb Rush. As if the response to a toxic coarsening of dialogue can only be to match and amplify that toxic coarsening. Thus it’s all Rush’s fault. Or it’s all FOX NEWS’s fault. Or it’s all Glenn Beck’s fault. And so on, and so forth. A legion of conservative yackety-bogeymen, inflicting an impossible mode of political and social exchange on a hapless nation.

I suspect this (weak and unsupportable) defense arises from a strong instict to preserve self image — having become infatuated with the mirror, America’s 21st century progressives see themselves as the most morally and intellectually perfect people to have ever lived.

For the Club of Cool, self image is paramount. No part of the toxic coarsening must be traced back to another strong instinct: the desire (felt by humans, in any era, across thousands of years of history) to feel superior. To self-perceive as better than the other guy. Mentally better. Morally better. Ideologically better. The Club of Cool cannot remain Cool without keeping its gates shut against the masses of Uncool who dwell beyond the borders. Everything bad is automatically evicted to the Uncool side of the fence. Thus our cheap and easy Club of Cool conversation can continue, as long as the sins of the Club of Cool are forever assigned to people beyond the glimmering halls of the Club.

Which (not coincidentally) precisely describes how (and why) the past three years in the science fiction publishing world, proceeded as they did. With the key aspect being: the Club of Cool experienced pushback from the Club of Uncool, and all hell broke loose.

The Club of Uncool ‘aint never, ever supposed to push back. Ever.

Which takes me back to the national scene:

The smug style resists empathy for the unknowing. It denies the possibility of a politics whereby those who do not share knowing culture, who do not like the right things or know the Good Facts or recognize the intellectual bankruptcy of their own ideas can be worked with, in spite of these differences, toward a common goal.

It is this attitude that has driven the dispossessed into the arms of a candidate who shares their fury. It is this attitude that may deliver him the White House, a “serious” threat, a threat to be mocked and called out and hated, but not to be taken seriously.

The wages of smug is Trump.

I’ve said here before that I think Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are two sides of the same, rancid coin. Trump voters seem to be voting for Trump out of fear and hatred of Hillary, and Clinton voters seem to be voting for Clinton out of fear and hatred of Donald. Each of them has become an avatar — for the opposite side — of all that is heinous and terrible about The Other Guys. And they (voters, both Trumpist and Hillaryists) will support Their Man (or Their Woman) at all costs — to ensure that The Other Guys cannot prevail. The Club of Cool and the Club of Uncool, in a cage match where nobody wins.

Frankly, I think even if every last Libertarian voter (me, in this election; for example) were to switch to Trump, it still wouldn’t be enough. Hillary is Club of Cool, and Club of Cool put Obama in the White House for eight years. I was certain the Club of Cool didn’t have enough of a hold on the country, to put Obama back in office, after all that transpired from 2007 through 2011. But I was dead wrong. Obama beat Romney handily, just like one of the great prophets of the Club of Cool — FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver — said would happen. Rejoice, fellows! The prophet prophesied correctly! Club of Cool in the center square, with all the Smartness and stuffs, for the win!

I’m not sure how much more Smartness the country can endure, without serious deliterious consequences. Not that I think Trump is any better, nor has he a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. He doesn’t. He never did. In fact, he seems to be precisely the kind of repugnant, eratic, buffoonish opponent that Hillary needs to drive people into her camp — even people savvy to the fact that Hillary is an atrocious and uprincipled candidate. Because The Donald is worse, in their minds. He is not Club of Cool. He cannot offer the Club of Cool the irresistible chance to elect the first woman POTUS in American history. That this woman POTUS is a certified careerist crony-capitalist two-faced serial liar seems to not bother the Club of Cool. Because Trump is always worse. Always. Worse. Therefore, the Club of Cool is as the Club of Cool does. It’ll be Hillary for the W, and we’ll endure four to eight more years of Jon Stewart-style smuggitude from insufferable Hillary supporters, who will too proudly praise themselves (for having voted for a woman) and not once wonder whether or not their candidate is in fact a miserable, absolutely unworthy government officer.

Has the White House seen worse, than either The Donald or Hillary? Maybe. Plenty of incompetents and crooks have cycled through that chair. And each time, the fabric of the Constitution gets a little more tattered — our national body sickened just that much more, by the disease. Of freedoms curtailed and honest men and women burdened by still more regulation, and more taxation. In the name of growing a federal beast that spends money it doesn’t have, to ensure programs — which are ineptly run — continue in perpetuity, so as to guarantee jobs and to buy votes.

I have occasionally asked Hillary supporters if they will admit that there should be limits on government spending and government power. I’ve not been very satisfied with the answers, mostly because even asking such a question — and it is a reasonable, honest question that should not be off the table — immediately throws me into the Uncool Club. For the Club of Cool, asking the question raises a massive red flag. “Aha! He’s one of those people. He doesn’t Know like we Know, and we all know how you treat the not-Knowers, right gang? Pillory! Mocking! Derision! Accusation! The ignorant rube has bared his ass, we should make him pay for it!” This is done on-line, of course. Behind the safety of keyboards. And in the company of like-minded compatriots. Because the true path to diversity is to surround yourself with other pseudo-liberals who all show the markers of Knowing and make the correct signs and wear the correct gang garments, to demonstrate correct tribal affiliation.

Oh, sure, the cries of, “BUT THE RIGHT WINGERS DO THE SAME S*** ALL THE DAMNED TIME, SO F*** YOU!” can be heard, even before I push the PUBLISH button on this article. The misbehavior of the Right seems to be the only excuse pseudo-liberals need, to keep perpetrating on the Left. Which is another example of racing to the bottom. Because if the only “standard” you set for yourself is to always be just as crappy as the other people, nobody is going to stop and pause, to ask: could there possibly be a better way to approach our philosophical, societal, ideological, and especially emotional differences?

I know I’ve probably had far less patience — with pseudo-liberalism — than some people would prefer. I’ve lost a few friends over the fact that I am unrelentingly blunt in my (hard) appraisal of pseudo-liberalism’s vacuousness and obsessive attention to superficial identity politics. My wife occasionally asks me why I always laugh to the point of tears, any time we watch an episode of Portlandia, and my answer is always the same: the Club of Cool was in desperate need of savvy lampooning. To take the air out of its tires. To show that the emperor has no clothes. To poke a funny (and occasionally sharp) stick at the people who too often believe they must not, can not, should not be laughed at. Ever.

But lampooning just shines a spotlight on the problem. The problem isn’t addressed unless people on the Left side of the aisle begin to talk about and act on the problem. Us right-wingers can scream about the problem all day long, and the Club of Cool won’t give a damn. Anything coming from the Uncool Club is automatically mocked and derided out of hand, just because it’s Uncool in origin. But when the liberals themselves begin to see an uncomfortable or even alarming pattern, that’s when you know the issue has gotten serious. Because people who give a damn about hearts and minds are realizing that “Smug, self-important asshole” is a rotten way to sell liberalism — especially to the very classes of people liberalism desperately claims to want to help. The blue-collar workers. The middle and lower-middle class. The people who fix your plumbing and do your wiring and re-roof your house and maintain your car. Military folk. Police. Farmers. Firefighters. When so-called “compassionate” liberalism’s response — to being turned away from, by these demographics — is to mock, deride, shame, name-call, or worse, something has gone very, very wrong in liberalism. Thus, it’s not liberalism at all. It’s something else.


39 thoughts on “Pseudo-liberalism, the Club of Cool, and Donald Trump

  1. Well said, and I’m to the point of pushing back HARD on any of them I encounter. I’m sick and tired of the political games, and supercilious attitudes. Their knowledge is barely skin deep, and ONLY on subjects they consider important. No knowledge of real issues, or the reality on the streets today.

  2. And speaking of the Club of Cool, I hear there’s an Award Ceremony and Mass Circle Jerk this weekend in Kansas City. All the Cool Kids will be there, I hear. . . .

  3. I think you’re completely wrong on Trump. He’s doing a lot better in the polls than you realize, and if the GOP establishments stops campaigning for Hillary, he’ll probably win.
    I’m not voting for him because I hate hillary, I’m voting for him because I hate the establishment, both GOP and Dem and they way they’ve behaved in the last decade plus.
    And pretty much everyone I know who is planning on voting for Trump feels the same way, they’re tired of ‘business as usual’ by the ‘elite’.

    You think it’s terrible that the world has gotten to a place where Trump can run successfully.
    I think it’s just sad that we’ve gotten to a place where a man like Trump realizes he’s the only one who can win it. We all knew Romney was going to lose, he was ‘left-lite’, just like McCain was, and he refused to take it to Obama, for fear of being called a racist.

    Well guess what, in the choice between ‘leftist’ and ‘leftist-lite’ people are going to chose the real thing and everyone else is going to stay home. But hey, feel free to believe what the media has been telling you about Trump for the last 2 years, since he decided to run. I just go by what I know of the man from when I lived in NY in the 80’s and 90’s and what the people I knew, who worked with/for him said.

  4. Van Stry: Trump is nuclear fallout for everyone who is not 150% voting for Trump as a way to block Hillary. Trump has zero crossover appeal among moderates and Blue Dog Democrats. He is a stuntman. A Clinton family friend who is doing this for the yuks, and to ensure Hillary’s path to the White House suffers no obstacles. I get it that many people are sick of “soft conservativism” or “liberal lite” or what have you. They want a meat-eater who will go into D.C. and begin taking scalps. I fully understand that sentiment. I just think Trump is the wrong horse to back. People think he’s a fresh stallion who’s going to come from behind and trounce the old, corrupt nag. He’s not. He’s half a step shy of the glue factory, not anything like what people seem to want him to be, and in my opinion, has more or less already decided the matter in Hillary’s favor — because he’s just that repellent to the 20% of middle voters necessary for either side to win.

  5. I am reminded of The Screwtape Letters, when Screwtape is talking about flippancy, and says (paraphrasing here) that flippant people don’t make jokes, they speak as if the joke was already made. They don’t need to supply reasons for their contempt, the fact that they are expressing the same attitude as the cool kids is all they want.

    The Left (and I believe that it is the Left far more than the Right) is the politics of fitting in. Being part of the right crowd, laughing at the right comedians (unless those same comedians are saying something that is supposed to be deep and profound) and buying the right products is the essence of modern Leftism.

    Which is why Leftists always think that attacking a particular person is a win for their side. Leftists think that saying “Glen Beck is an idiot” is going to demolish a Conservative argument. Glen Beck may be an idiot, he may not–I don’t know. I’m pretty sure that I have never listened to a word the man said.

    My philosophy isn’t based on being part of a group, my philosophy is based on reason and evidence and deciding for myself what I think is true. It wouldn’t make a damn bit of difference if I was the only Conservative in the world to my way of thinking. Nor would the news that some particular Conservative figure had changed their position on an issue make me change mine.

    The Left has strength in unity–they all march in lockstep. The Right, on the other hand, has strength in Individualism (I could even say “strength in Diversity”). Which is why the Left is tearing itself apart–everyone wants to be the one leading the parade. The Right, on the other hand, isn’t a parade, it’s a bunch of people walking in more or less the same direction for their own reasons and we are all our own leaders. I can disagree with someone on a lot of points and still work with her or him on those issues on which we do agree.

  6. While the media would like to keep us stuck on stupid, forever fixated on the personalities of the candidates, the only meaningful distinction I can make out between them is that Clinton is a globalist and Trump is a nationalist.

    And here’s hoping that you are as wrong about Trump’s inevitable defeat as you were about Obama’s.

  7. Rush Limbaugh didn’t start anything, because leftists (I won’t call them liberal) were the same sort of smug, superior snobs back when theirs was the only voice in town. Then the so-called fairness doctrine went away and the Right (and libertarians) finally got to have funny commentators, too — but Rush and the rest still aren’t as funny as those of the enemy. At least they’ve lost a few of theirs, so the field is beginning to even out anyway.

    I sure feel a lot better informed, though, since I junked my TV.

  8. This article is a monument to the author’s hypocrisy. The cartoon caricature of the “liberal” is no more enlightening than the supposed stereotype same is accused of carrying about “conservatives”.

    You spent a great deal of time creating a straw man rant (feel better?) but there is less substance in it that that you ascribe to the superficial liberal caricature. Grow up. I’d be embarrassed to put such stream of consciousness to paper – it speaks more to the warped antisocial thinking of the author than to anyone else’s superficiality..,

  9. I don’t think you’re right about Trump at all. He’s not an ‘old Clinton family friend’ he was just another guy who had to pay them money and respect in order to be allowed to do his work. If you think he’s running just to allow hillary to win, you don’t know his ego.

  10. Tom, since you didn’t actually refute anything I wrote — you merely asserted I was wrong — I will assume that you either can’t, or won’t. So, like any good pseudo-liberal, you assume the argument was “won” by you simply because you deigned to walk into the room. You don’t even have to make a counter argument. You just have to invoke magic Knowing phraseology like “straw man” (which I am quite certain you don’t understand; as a rhetorical concept) thus, poof, your magic wand is waved, and victory is yours. Congratulations. I am sure everyone in these comments is, like, totally convinced. Totally.

  11. Well, I’m fascinated. The US political scene, looked at from anywhere else in the world, is a system of two right-wing ultra-capitalist parties. Calling the one slightly more centrist right-wing ultra-capitalist party “leftist” (or the moderate wing of the slightly less-centrist right-wing ultra-capitalist party “left-lite”) is quite hilarious if you have ever seen an actual leftist politician.

    Democrats’ policies are so right-wing that in Europe even the right-wing parties wouldn’t dare to support them, and Hillary is certainly a crook, but if you have to give the nuclear codes to somebody, I guess it would have to be her this time.

  12. Smug that’s developed immunity to normal discourse and empathy becomes toxic. There’s a cure for toxic smug. The therapy involves rope and lamp posts.

  13. Spacefaringkitten, it is true that different parts of the world use words in different ways. In America, for example, a bonnet is something that women wear on their heads.

    So when Americans refer to Leftist, we mean people who believe that the government is sovereign in itself, and that individuals only have those rights that the government chooses to cede to them. And in America the Right refers to people who believe that sovereignty rests with individuals, and the government has only those powers that individuals choose to give it.

    I hope that clears things up for you.

  14. The US political scene, looked at from anywhere else in the world, is a system of two right-wing ultra-capitalist parties.

    It’s informative to take a look at statements like these and see that they’re not statements about real policies, but statements about public perception. This isn’t anyone’s fault, even the dreaded media boogeyman, it’s a natural consequence of how complicated the world has gotten. Most people don’t know how difficult it is to start a business where they live, much less on the other side of the globe. Most of us don’t know how the rest of the world lives day-to-day.

    I think the difference between the European left-right political spectrum and the American left-right political spectrum is one of the most visible places this difference appears. It also doesn’t help that it’s a universal truism that what politicians say never matches up with what they do, and politicians lie about other politicians they disagree with. Unless you’re incredibly rigorous, it’s impossible to make a remotely valid comparison.

    Let’s diagram the following sentence:
    Democrats’ policies(1) are so right-wing(2) that in Europe even the right-wing parties(3) wouldn’t dare to support them(4)
    1: To start with, which policies? Who’s describing the policies and their impacts? The same policy could be described very differently by a Democrat, a Republican, and a member of the Green party.
    2. Which definition of right wing is being used?
    3. Which European right-wing parties? There’s a vast difference between, say, the UKIP, Golden Dawn, PiS, and FN.
    4. Support publicly? Remember, this is a matter of public perception. Also, support which version of the policy?

    The other problem is that it’s very easy to find cases where it’s ambiguous as to which side a policy is on. Most of the rest of the world looks at us as if we’re crazy for not requiring ID to vote, which is a right-wing cause in the US. Is the American reverence for Free Speech from the left wing or right wing?

  15. My localized observation:, in the era after the SJW attack, has become an echo chamber for elderly feminists and paleoliberals. I’ve stayed mainly because I feel I owe a debt to Jeffrey Dwight & Co., so I’m sending him the dues I used to send to SFWA. What I’ve seen is, most of these folks, average age similar to mine (65), either don’t grasp that liberal and Progressive are not even close to congruent, or else they do get it, but are afraid they won’t be seen as one of the Cool Kids, if they don’t go along with Marxist Progressive nonsense. I always regarded myself as a sort of liberal-libertarian (what I smoke, drink, and do with my willy none of the government’s business), but somewhere along the way, liberalism jumped the shark and I did not. The country as a whole needs a wakeup call. I’d like to think President Trump and Brexit would do the job, but I think all those could do is make the SJWs double down. What will do it is a theater-oriented tactical nuclear global war. My touchstone is September 1, 2019. “I and the public now know what every school boy must learn: those to whom evil is done do evil in return.”

  16. Liberals/lefties always decry ‘othering’ yet are the greatest practitioners of it.Conservative writers of all stripes have been analyzing Alinsky’s tactics well before Obama came onto the scene. Most analysis of the right from the left is making strawmen or boogeymen.

    As for your thesis about how this attitude gave us Trump, may I offer an example. On illegal immigration I’ve seen ‘They stole our jerbz!” style mockery from the sorts who bewail H-1B visa abuse. Because of the class of the people hurt, their pain is insignificant.

  17. Ironically, there is nothing more uncool than trying to be cool.
    One can have a form of hell on earth by having to suppress one’s own taste, desires, beliefs and actions in order to impress people you don’t really like, and probably don’t even know.

  18. Christopher: There are at least a couple of candidates that are banking that Trump and Clinton both can lose. The most interesting, perhaps, is Evan McMullin (even if I’m not planning on voting for him– I’m voting for Johnson again– I find his strategy fascinating). As I understand it, McMullin’s plan is to try to land Utah’s and maybe one or two other states electoral votes, in the hopes that it prevents both Clinton and Trump from getting the magic 270 they need. This would cause the top 5 electoral vote winners (which, in this scenario would just be Trump, Clinton, and McMullin unless Johnson or Stein can pick up some electoral votes as well) to be voted on by the House, and, as a more mainstream conservative Republican, he expects he would win the Congressional vote and be elected, even having only picked up say, 6 electoral votes.

    It’s a sort of bizarre campaign gamble, especially since it seems right now that Clinton will likely win the majority of the electoral college regardless, but given all the other bizarre things happening this election cycle, I don’t feel I can rule out any candidate at this point. If two or three of the third party candidates get even one state each, it could very well go to the House to decide the vote, and I’m pretty sure the House wouldn’t vote either Trump or Clinton if they felt there was a good alternative candidate they could pick. It’s not a very likely scenario, but at least one campaign thinks it’s a possible one.

    Course, I wouldn’t put it past either Trump or Clinton to sue the House if they pick the president and it’s not one of them. Which would make the 2000 election brouhaha pale in comparison.

  19. Whoops. Made a slight mistake there. It should be the top *3* electoral vote winners go to the House, not the top 5.

  20. Me:
    The US political scene, looked at from anywhere else in the world, is a system of two right-wing ultra-capitalist parties.

    Let’s diagram the following sentence:
    Democrats’ policies(1) are so right-wing(2) that in Europe even the right-wing parties(3) wouldn’t dare to support them(4)
    1: To start with, which policies? Who’s describing the policies and their impacts? The same policy could be described very differently by a Democrat, a Republican, and a member of the Green party.
    2. Which definition of right wing is being used?
    3. Which European right-wing parties? There’s a vast difference between, say, the UKIP, Golden Dawn, PiS, and FN.
    4. Support publicly? Remember, this is a matter of public perception. Also, support which version of the policy?

    The other problem is that it’s very easy to find cases where it’s ambiguous as to which side a policy is on. Most of the rest of the world looks at us as if we’re crazy for not requiring ID to vote, which is a right-wing cause in the US. Is the American reverence for Free Speech from the left wing or right wing?

    I’m fairly sure that, for example, that all of the (Western) European mainstream right-wing parties (that is, parties that are members of the EPP — that is, CDU/CSU in Germany, Les Républicains in France, PP in Spain, CDA in Netherlands, Høyre in Norway, the coalition parties in Sweden and Finland etc. — would be happy with the level of government spending on education, healthcare and social security that the Democrats are promising and would want considerably more. The right-wing parties in Europe also support higher taxes, more progressive taxation and more income distribution than either US party. Voter IDs aside, aren’t these the things that distinguish between left and right wing policy?

    The anti-immigrant parties you mention are economically much further left than the EPP parties (even though they want the higher spending on social security to benefit only the people who happen to have the right skin tone).

    I agree, not requiring IDs sounds quite crazy. Not as absolutely batshit mad as requiring you to register before you can vote, though.

  21. Oops. That should of course have been “none of the (Western) European mainstream right-wing parties”.

    I’m fairly sure that, for example, that all of the (Western) European mainstream right-wing parties

  22. I’m fairly sure that, for example, that all of the (Western) European mainstream right-wing parties (that is, parties that are members of the EPP — that is, CDU/CSU in Germany, Les Républicains in France, PP in Spain, CDA in Netherlands, Høyre in Norway, the coalition parties in Sweden and Finland etc. — would be happy with the level of government spending on education, healthcare and social security that the Democrats are promising and would want considerably more. The right-wing parties in Europe also support higher taxes, more progressive taxation and more income distribution than either US party. Voter IDs aside, aren’t these the things that distinguish between left and right wing policy?

    So your point is that European right-wing parties (right-wing on the European scale, aka, nationalist) have different priorities than American right-wing parties (right-wing on the American scale, that is, free-market)? That’s not a surprising observation. However, domestic social spending is a small piece of the pie in terms of overall left and right wing policies, even just looking at economic policies. A lot of the debate on the nature of the relationship between government at the people is on the regulatory burden of government.

    A good gut check for numbers like these is to look at indexes like Heritage’s Index of Economic Freedom ( Heritage rates US as number 11, with Switzerland, Ireland, Estonia and the UK ahead of the US (as far as Europe goes). Heritage rates four categories, Rule of Law (property rights and corruption), Limited Government (government spending and tax burden), Regulatory Efficiency (business and labor policies) and Open Markets (trade and investment policies).

    For the US, in the category Limited Government:
    The top individual income tax rate is 39.6 percent, and in the absence of comprehensive tax reform, the top corporate tax rate remains among the world’s highest at 35 percent. The overall tax burden equals 25.4 percent of total domestic income. Total government spending amounts to about 39 percent of GDP. Frontloading spending increases, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 has not reduced the size or scope of government.

    For Switzerland, same category:
    Taxation is more burdensome at the cantonal levels than at the federal level. The top federal income tax rate is 11.5 percent, and the combined tax rate is as high as 40 percent. The federal corporate tax rate is 8.5 percent, but the joint rate can be as high as 24 percent. The overall tax burden equals 27.1 percent of GDP. Government spending amounts to 33.5 percent of GDP.

    The US corporate tax rate is incredibly high. Democrats want to keep it high. Republicans want to lower it. Does that make Democrats far to the left of the rest of the world?

    For another example, Denmark is ranked 12 on the list, right behind the US. It scores incredibly low in the Limited Government category. However, it scores incredibly high on the Rule of Law, Regulatory Efficiency and Open Markets category, which means in three categories it’s much closer to the US right than the US left. One of the reasons the European social democracies can get away with such a high level of domestic social spending is that they are incredibly capitalistic when it comes to the business climate.

  23. The US political scene, looked at from anywhere else in the world, is a system of two right-wing ultra-capitalist parties.

    Cited example:
    I’m fairly sure that, for example, that all of the (Western) European mainstream right-wing parties […] would be happy with the level of government spending on education, healthcare and social security that the Democrats are promising and would want considerably more. The right-wing parties in Europe also support higher taxes, more progressive taxation and more income distribution than either US party.

    It shows how much propaganda has seeped into the debate that objecting to social spending is the mark of an ultra-capitalist party.

    The first definition of capitalism Google gives me is:
    an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state

    The second (full) definition of capitalism given is:
    an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market

    That definition says nothing about what a government spends money on, only about the level of government control of the economy. Strictly speaking, based on Heritage’s rankings, Denmark is more capitalistic than the US. I understand Heritage’s logic that tax burdens siphon productive money out of the economy, and therefore have a place when discussing how economically free a country is, and without the rule of law, all else is meaningless, but strictly speaking Heritage’s Regulatory Efficiency and Open Markets categories are more important to capitalism.

  24. The problem is that a lot of things people know that just aren’t so.

    Take the government expenditure on education, total (% of GDP), as reported by the world bank ( The US is higher than Germany, Japan, and the European Union average.

    Most countries have immigration restrictions that the American right wing can only dream of. Of course Mexicans don’t like American immigration restrictions, but their own are far to the right of anything even Donald Trump could pull off.

    As much as the US right wing has issues with Muslim immigration, we could never ban headscarves or burkas.

  25. The Democrats these days are only “right-wing, ultra-capitalist” in that they aren’t explicitly socialist.

  26. Mr. Torgersen,while I agree with you on the smugness and virtue signalling, I think there are significant, and growing, numbers of…right leaning statists? (I’m not sure what to call them)…that evidence similar behavior. They have a group of signals for their tribe, are impervious to logic and evidence, and even have the whole victim of bit laid out as part of their signalling. Their arguments look like non-sequitur from outside their skull, because inside their skull they assume everyone has the same media information and outlook, and they’re just beginning in the middle. Only “the enemy” (they seem more prone to having enemies than stupid people on the other side) thinks or knows different. These people can, while insisting that Mr. Trump is actually ahead in the polls, lay the foundations for blaming others for any potential defeat. Frankly, it is amazing to watch.

    The reasons are the same, it’s just new that this group has the opportunity to fall victim to them. Media-al a cart has allowed this group its own echo chambers. Previously the left leaning statist had a relative media monopoly, and just lived in an echo chamber. They’ll boast about how they don’t got to movies or buy anything but a few selected authors/artists, and never watch anything but Fox. Nothing wrong with any of these choices individually, but it’s afforded many people the opportunity to never hear any idea but what they agree with, and pass the same sorts of shibboleths of “knowingness”.

  27. Andrew Jones:
    Statist implies a specific political posture. It is, however, true there are some people on the right in an echo chamber. It’s possible for anyone to end up in an echo chamber, and everyone could use the warning about ending up in an echo chamber.

    On the other hand, it’s much harder for someone on the right to say ‘I don’t know anyone that voted for Obama’ or ‘I don’t know anyone that plans to vote for Hillary’ because we see people loudly proclaiming support for those candidates all the time.

  28. I think Tom gave the game away when he used the phrase “supposed stereotype”. It indicates he doesn’t see the way the sjw’s see their opponents as a stereotype, just an acknowledgement of fact. Which goes a long way in proving Brad’s point.

  29. @Julaire

    I’ll point out that we have had a case where the decision ended up going to the house and the political opponents of the frontrunners decided to play political games with the decision. Go read up on the election of 1800. It lead to a Constitutional Amendment to block such issues in the future.

    For that matter, you should read up on the other elections between 1796 and 1812 or so. If you think the current campaigns are vicious mudslinging, they are lightweights compared to what was going on in those early elections.

    If someone does manage to play games in the house and get someone other than Clinton or Trump elected, they will have a really hard time convincing the public that they are legitimate and not a case of the “elite” rigging t

  30. Like Brad, I clearly hit a nerve. Grow up. You know nothing about me, my politics, or who I have or will vote for. I can tell you this – your article is so devoid of any factual data that there is nothing to dispute. How do you argue a piece that describes how you feel bullied by a bully who does not exist? It by several who are members of a mythical “club”?

    Convince yourself the world is bifurcated in such simplistic terms. Your straw man of the club of cool is merely perpetuation of your own insecurity. This is how we get authoritarians; the insecure and ignorant always need a scapegoat.

  31. Tom, this is not the Jon Stewart show, and you don’t win the argument simply by showing up, making assertions, then waiting for the blinking APPLAUSE sign to make your audience whoop and holler and pump their fists. You have to actually bring some kind of substance. You can dismiss me all day long, but what about the lengthier Vox piece? Did you even look at the link? Or are you (yet again) assuming you can claim victory simply because you walked into the room? Put a little effort into this, please. Give us something to wrangle with. Right now you’re the pot party intellectual speaking a lot of wordsy wordses and believing you’ve made some kind of profound comment — while having said nothing of merit.

  32. Brad,

    Again – pot, kettle, black.

    There must be substance to argue substance – your article reflects anger but nothing compelling in terms of actual data regarding this “club of cool”. Vox? really?

    Give the reader some data. Some substance. But don’t expect a rambling, incoherent complaint about a made-up construct to engender meaningful discussion.

  33. @David Lang

    I’m familiar with several of the early elections (particularly the Jackson-Adams race where the House put Adams in office despite Jackson having the plurality of the electoral and popular vote. It’s the only election where the House made the decision). My personal favorite for sheer bizarre levels of contention and back room dealing is the Tilden-Hayes election. I doubt anything that happens this year could top that one, although I’m leaving myself lots of room to be wrong, given how oddly this year has shaped up.

    I think whoever wins this year, though, will have a hard time getting popular support and congressional support both.

  34. The 1800 election that went to the house and was decided on the 36th ballot.

    the 1824 election that you are referring to went to the house as well, and Adams won even though Jackson had more votes in the Electorial college. But that was a 4-way race where the third and fourth candidates combined had as many votes as the second place candidate (roughtly 2,2,1,1 allocation) and the second place person won the vote in the house.

    That’s a far cry from having someone who gets single-digit percentage of the vote get picked.

  35. Brad, spot on. In my melees with SJW’s, the remarkable things about their smug attitude is they demonstrate no interest at all to attempt to respectfully win me over to their POV from my supposed disillusion. Interesting from a ideology that screams for inclusion and diversity. But par for the course of an ideology that always held that a final solution will be necessary to purge the “uncool” from society to achieve utopia. As Oprah said, “There are still generations of people, older people, who were born and bred and marinated in it – in that prejudice and racism – and they just have to die.”

    So, “the too cool for school” smugness of SJW’s is gloating as if they already have won, and snarking at you as you are being led naked to the gas chamber.

  36. Pingback: Survival Guide for the Conservative, Classically Liberal, & Libertarian Science Fiction & Fantasy Author | madgeniusclub

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