“Hoonism,” The GOP Establishment, The Media and the Rise of Mr. T

After the rise of universal white male (as opposed to only land owning male) suffrage in 1828 the quality and notoriety of Presidents declined (Pop Quiz! Name one president between Andrew Jackson and Abreham Lincoln)  and much of the intellectual heft of American government resided in the House of Representatives with three leaders providing the bulwark of statesmenship that, in the most altruistic telling, kept the Union whole until it was finally ripped asunder in 1860. This “Grand Triumvirate” consisted of Daniel Webster broadly representing the North, Henry Clay broadly representing “The West” (then states like Ohio and Michigan) and John C. Calhoun representing the South.

Of these three stalwarts Calhoun was dealt the worst hand. He needed to perpetuate the peculiar institution of slavery, whose existence was even in 1776 a compromise to the minority interest of politicos, even as the physical size and number of states expanded. Should the majority will hold true to those new states they would be “free”. In time, free western states and free northern states would outnumber southern slave states and slavery, as a minority regional interest, would end through the basic “majority rules” structure of the Republic even with its attendant check and balances.

Luckily for the South, Calhoun was smarter than Webster and Clay. Calhoun was a full throated booster for the “positive good” of slavery, but his arguments for maintaining slavery were not about its awesomeness; rather, he made legal argument over the need for “minority” rights, states rights, and even the idea of a “concurrent majority” of all major interests for anything that the majority does — in other words, the majorities of the rest of the United States that wanted to abolish slavery and keep new western states free, could be nullified if the majority of the Southern slave states disagreed.

Calhoun’s ideas are a ripe rabbit hole of worthy College sophomore bull session fodder to cannonball into: How are minority interests protected in a majority-rules Republic? Are Calhoun’s ideas a tyranny of the minority? These ponderances conveniently allow the self-evidently repugnant fact of slavery to become tacit background to the debate. The states rights argument was a tactic to perpetuate slavery; had the majority of the USA been pro-slavery than Calhoun would have been a genius scholar of the dictae of majority rules. The politics of antebellum America were about slavery with all of the genocide, violence, rape and subjugation that goes along with it.

“Hoonism” then, is an intellectual or symbolic rationale for ugly positions that allow both sides of the argument ground to disagree while keeping the hideousness of the subject matter at bay.

John C. Calhoun is the intellectual grandfather of reactionary conservatives, so of course the Right enjoys employing Hoonisms. Moderates dig Hoonsims too. Isn’t easier to focus Grade 6 through 12 history on yakking about “concurrent majorities” rather than how America’s founding fathers and most of its politicians rationalized the enslavement of the ancestors of several of the kids in class? A visceral examination of the sickening practice of slavery indicts everyone in an uncomfortable way.

Those that are that are surprised by the rise of Mr. T despite his Real Conservative apostatecy , then, have grown numb to the fact that the GOP has become the party of “Hoonism” ever since it employed the “Southern Strategy” in 1968.

Take abortion. The pro-life “Hoonism” is that people with deep religious convictions hold all embryonic life sacred. There are many, well-organized people for whom this is true. The pro-choice narrative is more informative: women should have control over the bodies. Ay, there’s the rub. The Pill and progress towards gender equality overall allows more women to choose their family and career options, thereby limiting some of the power once held by men. Some men find this untenable, but that’s kinda’ nasty so they are supposedly very religious in their pro-lifeness. Enter Mr. T who is all over the map on abortion, but is a barking misogynist that will put the Megan Kellys of the world in their place. He wins because for most of the Right “pro-life” is a Hoonism for misogyny.

And on the Hooisms slide:

“Welfare Queens” = Lazy black people stealing white people’s money. (Irregardless of the fact that most welfare is distributed to whites)

“Strong Military,” at a time when America has the most powerful conventional army in world history = Still Butthurt over Losing Vietnam.

“Against Big Government” = Schools should still be segregated and I resent federal power being used to enforce constitutional equality for everyone.

“New York Liberal” Slander = I don’t particularly care for the Jews, or the blacks or the queers or all the other “others”.

“Show Me Your Birth Certificate” = Any black person is illegitimate to be president.

And so on.

Mr. T’s skill has been in ripping off the Hoonism hood and racing the car with its untethered racist engine. One of the reason that he has been so difficult to contend with is the GOP Establishment is too inbred to realize that its Hoonism is a faceade, but even The Smarts like Nate Silver have been flummoxed. The reason for this, I suspect, is that being forced to acknowledge that Mr. T’s support is greatly predicated on a White Power (with all the ugliness that phrase implies) reaction to white disempowerment, forces one to look up from their equations on measuring the standard deviation “resentment” and acknowledge that a great many Americans do not like black people, latinos, Muslims, Jews, homosexuals, and so on. This hatred has been the organizing factor in right-wing politics since 1968. Acknowledging this forces people of good conscience to speak out against it. And that’s uncomfortable.

Baring some sort of deux ex machina the leadership of the free world will come down to a contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I cannot believe I just wrote that sentence. If the Left and the Middle wants to win this fight, it must acknowledge what the right has become, and has been since 1968 without the Hoonism woodwork to obscure it.








You say you want a revolution…

I’ve written extensively on this site about America’s failure to have a reconciliation of the Bush years. We have sort of passively endured the fallout and let time pass. We’re to the point where picking at the scabs may inflict its own damage, but the wound is obviously infected. Consider:

• No substantive changes came about after the Bush years except arguably the ACA

• Not only did Jeb Bush have to drop out early despite being arguably one of the two most qualified Republicans in the race, he had to drop out because the leading candidate abused him and his brother’s record as President

• Trump and Sanders are both attempting to entirely reconfigure their parties. Trump is more successful so far, because of or despite his attacks on Bush

The problem is that people have become so enthralled with Presidential politics that they don’t realize that it is no forum for a revolution, at least not by itself. You need the presidency, but you also need a Congress that supports the agenda. Electing a revolutionary president isn’t what our constitution has in mind for better or worse.

Neither Trump nor Sanders will be able to deliver on their promises or meaningfully reshape politics in their favor under our system of government.

Revolutionaries in this country are largely lazy.

They are repeatedly trying to shoot the moon by winning a Presidential election (Nader, Kucinich, the imagined Howard Dean, the imagined Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and now Bernie Sanders) which is both extremely unlikely and almost entirely useless on its own.

In order to meaningfully change politics, you need a party that can compete in every congressional district, every senate election, and that can also tell a compelling narrative of their vision while moving in that direction, leading the public, but not lapping it. You need to remove interference from the Supreme Court. And then you need to repeat this at the state and local levels.

This is a long, hard slog and it is one that Democratic presidents have been trying to bring about for decades, only to have their efforts dismissed by impatient revolutionaries. Once that effort bore fruit with the Congressional zenith of the Democrats in 2009, the passing of a once in a generation piece of reform legislation left everyone cold (except the millions of newly insured…)

Now there is a once in a generation chance to change the direction of the Supreme Court and get it out of the way. Because that is a precondition of a revolution, it should be handled first.

The myopia of the revolutionaries also sounds in their issues. Other than climate change, which is an issue that isn’t going to go away, chances are that the economy will heat up, at least for a while, and take some of the pressure off of this issue. There are worrying signs that decades of decreasing crime is at best hitting a dead-cat bounce, at worst on the upswing. This will change the conversation about criminal justice reform. If this issues persist, then they will create more energy. But the demand that these issues trump climate change or anything else is just more of this impatience. Get in line.

If the revolutionaries were ready to work and endure, by the time their work was completed no one would even sense there was a revolution. Think of the persistent, steady, patient labors of the gay marriage movement. It took 20+ years. It worked. And when the Supreme Court finally went their way, no one was surprised in the slightest.

God damn it.

Fuck you you stupid fucking fucks. If Ruth Bader Ginsburg hadn’t become a meme and had faced more pressure to resign we could be looking at a 5-4 majority of liberals on the court for a generation. Now we’ll be lucky to have it for a year or two.

Screw it! New Jersey Should Go First.

Now that the inane Iowa caucuses are over and the tail-chasing Boston Suburbs + Quebec Suburbs primary is ended, the rest of America can begin to choose between the candidates that our cornfield and flinty-faced betters have so expertly winnowed or story-lined for us. The primacy of IA and NH would be NBD if not for the fact that America’s candidates spend almost two years campaigning there; meanwhile, after a brief jaunt to Nevada and South Carolina, the totality of Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia (to say nothing of American Samoa) will all vote on March 1 with about 19 days of campaigning for the lot of them. Our candidates make a show of mugging at all 99 of Iowa’s counties and making multiple visits to each New Hampshire Nothingberg. If I’m lucky I might get one meaningful rally in my state, like we did for Obama in 2008.

I was going to suggest wonky solutions for this absurdity. Perhaps a random drawing of “Plus One” states to go along with Iowa and New Hampshire so that at least four states get the two years of attention. Or, perchance a series of regional primaries with a different region going “first” each four yeats. But, the umpteenth visit to Ida County and the media’s smiley smile tallying of Dixville Notch’s first votes have left a groady corn and granite slime in my mouth.

Yep. It’s time to move this entire grotesque carnival to where it belongs. The state of my birth: New Jersey.

There are intellectual reasons for starting with Jeerz. It boasts some of the richest and poorest sections of the country, meaningful numbers of almost every race, religion, and ethnicity in the world, dense urban areas, sprawling suburbs, and more farmland and rural pockets than an outsider would expect. That’s all well and good for an NPR segment, but the real reason that the Marco Polos, Mike Hucketerbees, John Kasichs, and Jeb!utante Bushs (etc.) and all their media should have to spend two years slogging the Oranges, Amboys, and Cape Mays is far more pointed: It will be a colossal pain in the ass.

Firstly, ad buys will have to be in the ultra-expensive New York or Philly markets. Yet, those ads will have a hard time appealing to Jersey’s ideal of itself. Half the state likes the Knicks/Giants/Jets/Yanks/Mets the other likes the Sixers/Eagles/Phillies. Debating Devils/Flyers/Rangers WILL start fights. Rutgers is there for everyone, but no one cares about the Scarlet Knights. Jersey has no central city, landmark or place. Newark is the largest population center, but I admit to never setting foot in it until I was in my late 20s. I’ve still never been to Camden. Most of the times I was in Trenton it was a mistake. Despite being easy Blue nationally since ’92, Jersey functions like a set of city-states and fiefdoms; intensely local subcultures that sometimes enjoy each other, but ultimately have little affinity for one another. The candidates will have to squeeze votes out of this incoherent melange.

Being so close to NY and Philly, Jersey will be unimpressed by the candidates, their entourage, or The Media. Nope. No corny aw schucks smiles when John Kasich mentions that Toms River has a storied history in the Little League World Series or that John Updike wrote about Elizabeth once. Hillary will get no bounce for trotting out Carl Lewis (he’s from Jersey, look it up). No one will entertain Ben Carson. That said, the instant Jersey learns that Marco Polo has been supping at Brooklyn’s Peter Luger every night or Jeb!utante calls the “shore” the “coast” then watch out, because the only identity Jersey has is a negative reaction to the rest of country’s “Toxic Avenger” perception of the Garden State. We will rally and defend Jersey to the death. It’s an incomprehensible composite rock of “I Don’t Give a Fuck!” and “Fuck You!” and anyone that wants to be president had better figure out how the hell to navigate it.

The candidates will get stuck in traffic. A lot. The people will get bored of security inconveniences. Familiarity will breed contempt. Months before the first votes are cast, Jerseyans will find that one little, peculiar bit that gets under each candidate’s skin and, like a coven of mini-Howard Sterns, pick at it endlessly. One would think that Crisco Kremey would be adapted to these environs and be favored in his home state, yet I suspect that he would merciless trolling for being  shitty at his day job. I Don’t Give a Fuck so Fuck You!

I want to see Mike Hucksterbee chum up to a dad with three kids at the Kendall Park roller rink and have the guy tell Huck to choke on his own vomit and die, and then go back to playing Buck Hunt.

I want to see overly tan women giggle and point at Jeb!utante Bush while he is wearing his creepy WASP shorts at the Shore and then have a guido laugh in his face.

I want to see Bernie face down a Libertarian heckler with aspbergers syndrome and a six figure salary from Bristol Meyers Squibb in a town hall in West Windsor.

I want to see Hillary “connect” over hoagie orders.

I want to see a beer bellied slob with half-chewed pizza in his mouth get into an Alpha contest with Mr. T on the Point Pleasant board walk.

I want to see the real life incarnation of Randall from “Clerks” make Marco Polo cry.

I want The Media to get grouchier and grouchier about the whole damn thing. New York and DC, so close and yet so far!

Finally, mercifully, the ordeal will end. Jersey will be sick of all you alls stupid, vapid speeches and boot slurping handlers. The candidates will be seething beneath false saber-tooth smiles, gamely thanking the volunteers and ready to book the hell out of here.

Thus, Jersey and The Election will part ways. Both reminiscing over scores of slights, brows furrowed, thinking about waving a gigantic stadium-style foamy hand with its middle-finger jacked up in each others’ face. I mean really, could anything be more American?

You Got A Problem With That!


What now for the GOP?

Trump won in New Hampshire and has been polling strong in South Carolina, which is next. Kasich is a surprise second. Cruz is still in there and probably gets to run for a while on his Iowa win. But Rubio? If he stays at fifth it’s hard to see where he’s going from here. After all, he was only third in Iowa and that was supposed to catapult him up, not into a blunder and a further back finish. I don’t imagine Jeb is going away right now either, even though he hasn’t done well anywhere.

I think the short answer is: it’s on to South Carolina. Maybe Carson and Fiorina drop out, but it will probably be well into March until the GOP field is down to a two person race and by then Trump may have gained enough of a lead to make him hard to stop.

Not much of a surprise on the Dem side. If Bernie can’t convert that win into progress in South Carolina and Nevada, people will lose interest. If he does, there’s no telling when this one will be over. Maybe even after the Republicans, who at least have a frontrunner.

Why I’m For Hillary

Yes, I support single-payer healthcare, drastic changes to funding of college education, and above all $15 minimum wage. But I support Hillary.

Here’s why. I believe that if Congress put any of those issues (let’s call them the “Bernie issues”) on Hillary’s desk, she’d sign them. But I also know that Congress won’t put them there and that she won’t waste a term Quixotically pursuing them.

If you think Hillary would veto any of these, then you’re right to support Sanders, I guess. But the reality is, she would and he can’t.

So, while Bernie is talking about things that will never, ever happen, Clinton is talking about things she can actually do. I know this is the kind of thing that the young and the revolutionary-minded don’t like to hear, but politics doesn’t work that way and 50+ million Republican voters won’t just disappear and can’t and shouldn’t be ignored in a democracy.