Sunday, October 16, 2016

My Obligatory (Unoriginal) Donald Trump Post

I don’t write about politics.  I don’t feel qualified.  I doubt almost all of my positions.
I hear all the time: “No one changes their mind on the internet.” 
I don’t know what they’re talking about. 
I change my mind three times almost every time I scan a twitter feed. [1][2] 
Economics is REALLY hard.  Race and ethnicity and systemic inequality in our country is complex and most attempts to fix it, explain it, or explain it away strike me as thin and naive.  Global inequality and radicalized ideologies have us engaged economically and militarily all over the world in a complex network of intervention that I can’t believe any human can hold in her or his head at one time.  I know I can’t.
The confidence most of America takes into the voting booth makes me feel like I’m missing something fundamental…like there is a part of my brain that doesn’t work.
I have never, in my life, cast a vote that didn’t leave me feeling dirty, sad, compromised, and confused.[3]
This November will be the same…with one exception. 
I will walk out of that both feeling dirty, sad, and compromised. 
But I will not be confused. 
This is the easiest vote I’ve ever cast.

I will be voting for Secretary Clinton.  I will not be voting for Donald Trump. 
I tried to reassess this choice at several points throughout the election, which is my custom.   When you are as confused about politics as I am, you can’t trust your initial impressions.  You have to reassess.  But I have never been able to seriously consider casting a Trump vote.[4] 
Now, you should not care about how I’m voting. 
I am not good at this. 
I offer no particular expertise or insight that makes my political opinion valid.  But as recently as a few weeks ago, Nate Silver was giving Mr. Trump a 20-25% chance of victory.  I come from a spiritual lineage that has a prophetic tradition.[5]  I felt the need to go on the record.
Here are the four top reasons I’m not voting for Donald Trump:
  1. I respect the OFFICE of the president and recognize its cultural power.
I believe in the presidency.  This may be hopelessly naive.  But I believe the office George Washington created by relinquishing does include qualifications of decency.  I have never disqualified a major political candidate on these grounds before, and don’t expect to again.  I didn’t like Cruz.  I thought his policy was naive and his rhetoric was dishonest[6], but I would not disqualify him for the office.  Clinton has skeletons in her closet.  I find her policy naive[7] and her rhetoric dishonest, but I do not disqualified her on decency grounds. 
But Donald Trump[8] lacks trace levels of certain virtues I require for the office.  Primarily, trump lacks temperance. [9]  That is an old timy word, that doesn’t mean much to most any more…but it means something to me.  Temperance is the ability to self-restrain, a basic power over impulse that allows humans to avoid rash choices.[10]

  2. I will not hand Donald Trump drones.
The last two administrations (Republican and Democrat) have both expanded executive privilege.  That sucks.  My epistemology makes me a fan of balanced powers.  But my understanding of the current state of executive privilege (which, we have established, is flawed) allows the Commander and Chief makes calls on drone strikes with little oversight.
Temperance is important in an engineer, or a nurse, or a professor, or a barista.  But it is essential…essential, for a job that comes with keys to a fleet of drones.[11][12]  

  3. I find Mr. Trump’s positions on immigrants and refugees unacceptable.
No.  We will not close our country to Muslims.[13]  We will not build a wall.[14]  The rule of law is important and immigration policy needs attention.  But it is our Judaeo-Christian heritage that knits hospitality into our national fabric.[15]  

  4. Secretary Clinton’s will be better on sentencing reform.
In my opinion, sentencing is the biggest justice issue in American politics.[16]  Yes, Secretary Clinton was part of the problem.  But here’s the thing.  She knows that.  I think she’s deeply embarrassed by it.  I think she would love to fix that part of her legacy, which makes her personally incentivized to fix it.  And whatever you say about the Democratic Nominee, I wouldn’t bet against her commitment to her legacy.  Mr. Trump doesn’t even seem to think we have a sentencing problem.  In fact, while policy recommendations are scarce from his camp, I’d expect him to double down and go “tough on crime,” exacerbating the situation.
This list could go on.  But you get the idea. 
I have not said anything new.  Usually that means I don’t say anything.  I only use this space if I feel I have something unusual or insightful or helpful, or at least quirky to add to the discussion.  This is none of those things.  It has all been said many times in better ways.
But, for once, I just want to add my voice to the others, to add a polemical vote to my constitutional one, to say that, though I hate politics, and am deeply dissatisfied with both parties, to dismiss the current candidates as equally flawed is a false equivalency. 
Mr Trump will be far worse for our country than Secretary Clinton.[17]
One of the benefits to internal political conflict is that, while I’m never happy on the second Wednesday of November, I’m also never despondent.  Whoever we elected has deep and debilitating ideological and economic flaws.  But they also have strengths.  I try to see it as a season of those strengths.
Mr Trump lacks that upside.  I see no ideological or economic strengths and the cultural and moral downside is unprecedented.  For the first time there is an outcome that could leave me despondent on Wednesday.  So I had to say something.
This post was written while listening to The Oh Hello’s[18] Pandora Channel

[1] I feel like twitter was built for polemics…but polemical posts on facebook always confuse me.  I know that’s an arbitrary distinction, but I try to keep a hard wall between friendship and ideology. The link to this post is my first political post (and hopefully will be the last).  Whenever I see an aggressive polemical post or meme I hear ”We can be friends as long as you pay an anxiety tax for my ideology.” or “ You are important to me, but not as important as this issue/candidate.” Or “I know you care too deeply about me to defriend me or get off facebook, so here’s a meme mocking half the people you care about.”  And since I find both liberal and conservative politics economically and morally flawed (though not equally so), it doesn’t matter if the post comes from my friends on the left or right.

[2] A cleverly deceptive meme or tweet can cause me to change my mind eight times in a minute as I try to parse truth from philosophical sleight of hand and rhetorical fallacy…and I can’t remember a polemical meme that didn’t somehow employ one or the other (usually both).  They are the raw materials of the trade.

[3] Frankly, it was only Bonhoeffer’s “Ethics” that made voting a long term psychological possibility for me.  Bonhoeffer argues that the difficult ethical situations are not choices between good and bad, those are easy, and rare.  The difficult ethical choices are between bad and worse or good and better.  Purity religion (which we saw recently in the largely secular Bernie vote this year) will not participate in bad-worse decisions.  But abstaining is an implicit choice for worse.  On the other hand, those of us who follow the incarnate God, who invaded the broken earth and soiled himself with our sin, can absorb the personal guilt that comes with choosing the bad over the worse.

[4] I drafted this post before the recent “incident on a bus.”  That was by no means a “final straw” for me.  I hit my final straw with Trump during the first debate.  The most telling thing about that incident was that it did not surprise me.  That is where I was with this candidate.

[5] The prophetic tradition is invoked far too often to excuse ad hominem argument and aggressive polemical diatribes, so I invoke it cautiously.  Most claims to the prophetic tradition enjoy its proclamation component but dodge of its evidential requirements and preoccupation with responsible content.*  But it is not something I could escape in this case. 

*False prophecy carried severe penalties in the communities that featured it, because they recognized its power.

[6] What does it say that I no longer require honesty as a basic virtue requirement of the office?  I don’t know.  Nothing good.
[7] I only listened to a short exchange from the second debate, where they were talking about their proposed changes to the tax code.  I’m not sure if the republican or democratic policies are more economically naïve.  Monotonic economic solutions are fallacies.  If your answer to every economic question is “put more of Americans money back in their pockets” or “tax the rich,” you are not thinking carefully about economic policy.  Economic one-trick-ponies are not what our country needs but it’s all we are offered…we only get to choose the trick.  The democrats will never be able to fund their vision without broad, middle class, tax hikes.  They lack the courage to say so, so they keep running multi-generational deficits.  When they say “Tax the rich” they mean “Tax the rich…and our children.”   Their attempt to blame those who make over $1/5  million is rule-by-jealousy, a covetous based populism tapping into the same dark impulses that gave us Trump on the other side. 

But the republican solutions are not better (and may be worse), and Trump’s particular version of them are in a fantasy world of their very own.  Dropping the marginal tax rate to 15%???  What?  Really?  Donald Trump’s economic policy may be crazier than Cruz’s.  The republican offer to immediately gut revenue shows absolutely no respect for the conservative “incremental, adaptive changes out of respect for unintended consequences.”  The current republican nominee’s economic proposals makes the democrat fiscal policy seem measured and reasonable, which is an accomplishment.

[8] Every post swirling around the internet where evangelicals (yup, that’s me, the only person I know who still claims the term…but that’s another post) or conservatives* or, whatever I am, make their case for Trump, starts with “I don’t like Hillary…” Well, I am certainly not a fan, but I’ve had to ask myself why.  I have carefully and repeatedly audited my gender biases, and while, like racial biases, they are certainly always suspect, I don’t think they are the culprit.  Secretary Clinton is a 60’s liberal.  I’m dubious of liberal solutions (I’m just more dubious of republican solutions).  I’m not angry about President Obama’s administration.  I just think that after 8 years of center-left power, a center-right administration would be healthy.  But if I’m going to keep voting democrat decade after decade, I’d like to vote for someone more imaginative policy proposals, proposals that don’t seem crafted for the Vietnam era milieu.

*Note: Yes, despite not voting for a republican for president in decades, I consider myself a conservative for two reasons.** I am committed to intergenerational equity (sustainability) and have deep, motivating respect for unintended consequences, committing me to incremental adaptive management solutions.  (If those don’t seem like conservative principles to you, you’ve confounded contemporary tea party politics with conservative thought).  But I have not managed to convince myself to vote republican since my first election.  I’m not proud of that.  Even though a pure blue voting record is how a white man of privilege signals status in a liberal college town, it still feels like moral failure to me.  I fear I’ve become an ideologue, an entrenched liberal voter with a monotonic policy perspective, who cannot recognize when his country needs a conservative correction because of cognitive hardening (and the status that comes with liberal voting).  Every election, I look wistfully at the Republican slate, begging one of them to win my vote.  The first republican primary debate (both of them) was one of the most depressing events in this political cycle for me, and that is saying something.

My hope for America is not that the Liberal vision would get stronger and stronger and eventually prevail without reasonable dissent.  My hope for our country is that the two parties would hold our policies in tension with sound, logical, evidential arguments, and provide such compelling visions of the future that we would have trouble choosing.

**Again, I have a draft post on this.  I can’t apologize for not blogging.  And, frankly, no one is asking me to.  My writing time is going into talks, journal papers, and fiction (8 shorts and 3 novels in the last three years).  Also, somewhere around the time the fourth decade odometer rolled on my life, I realized I don’t want to be an internet personality.  I like analog life.  I believe in the congregational scale of human community.  But this is still a helpful venue to try out ideas, or go on the record.

[9] I wrote much of this before the “hot mike on a bus” incident.  Obviously, those comments displayed more than a lack of temperance, they showed a criminal level of entitlement and a potential history of assault.  But they did not shock me, which just underlines why I have to disqualify the Republican nominee on virtue criteria (which I have set to a pretty low bar). 

[10] This is one of the reasons I like politicians with a track record of marital fidelity.  Marital fidelity demonstrates 1) choosing against impulses to build a long term, life giving institution, 2) delayed gratification including capacity for second stage thinking, 3) self-skepticism and cognitive plasticity* required to parse complex ideas.  Someone who can weather a rocky stretch in their marriage without chasing a hard, young, body because they want to build something lasting for their family seems more likely to make the hard political choice that I need them to make, when their self-interest competes with what is best for my family and tens of millions like it.  That may seem like an unrealistic expectation, but I expect my president to be in the upper 3% of impulse control (and wisdom and a lot of other things for that matter).  Mr Trump has demonstrated that his impulse control is at least two standard deviations below the mean.

* I really believe that the ability to re-evaluate a position, entertaining the possibility that there is a better way to think about it, and to change the position when a better one is presented is the #1 marital skill.  This is an important quality in those who wield power.  Conviction is essential, but humans all too often mistake cognitive entrenchment for conviction. 

[11] I’m not comfortable with how Presidents Bush or Obama used drones.  But I also know that their briefings must be terrifying and that they are getting the very best advice, which I think they take.  So I give them some benefit of the doubt.  I believe they are both be measured, descent men without penchants for vengeance or petty violence.  Nothing in Mr Trump’s personal style or rhetoric leads me to believe that about him.

[12] I do not see a pro-life case for Trump.  My pro-life position* includes Pakistani villagers and school children in Yemen.  Those lives will be affected by this election.

*Yes, I am pro-life.  I know I’m supposed to be ashamed of this.  I am not.  I do not consider it one of my conservative positions.  I consider it one of my liberal positions, in keeping with my Hebraic-Christian commitment to the rights and voices of the powerless.  But it is an incredible difficult position as well, with many implications about gender power and class and race and economic inequality.  It requires a nuanced, complicated conversation that I do not feel particularly qualified to weigh in on, and at the very least requires a separate post.

[13] When I think about the future of conservative politics in America, when I think about what kind of coalition a conservative vision could build given our country’s shifting demographics, it seems to me that that coalition should focus on recruiting Muslim and Latin American immigrants.  Pluralism should work both ways.  Our country should benefit from conservatism native to other cultures, a corrective to our modernist blinders.  I cannot understand why the political right isn’t openly courting Muslim immigrants.* 

*Because of my interstitial political position (and, lets be honest, my contrarian streak), I find I defend democrats in Mississippi and republicans in California.  That means I spend more time defending republicans even though I lean democrat.  For years I’ve argued that the racist component in the party is very small and that holding them against conservative politics is a genetic fallacy.  The 50% “basket of deplorable” thing was reprehensible.  But my estimate was also naive…I underestimated the racially motivated republican voting block by like an order of magnitude.

[14] I’m not going to call him a “racist” or a “bigot,” even though I think, for once, those words fit. I think one of the things this election showed is that we have expanded the semantic range of these words so far that they’ve lost their power.  If everyone is a “bigot” then maybe it’s not that bad.  If Bush’s response to Katrina was “racist,” well then we’ve already had a racist president, the precedent is set, what’s wrong with another one?  I have another post drafted on this, which, like most of my posts never saw the light of day.  But the ad hominem chickens have come home to roost.  The internet warriors who deputized themselves the conscience of everyone who sees the world more complexly than they do, who have tried to shame us out of our cognitive dissonance by calling us racist or bigots, have gutted some of our culture’s most powerful words.  Now we need those words to name the thing before us.  But they’ve been used up.
[15] There is a lot of talk about how the Christian Scriptures weigh in on either side of every political debate.  Most of this talk is hermeneutically thin.  (For example, the scriptures vehemently calls Yahwehists to be outrageously generous to the poor.  This in no way justifies raising the marginal tax rate.* Arguing that it does conflates taxes with generosity.)  But I think there are two visions of “State” that are translatable from the Hebrew theocracy to our secular democracy: 1) insistence on just courts that do not have class or ethnic bias and 2) hospitality to refugees.

*Note: I support raising the marginal tax rates (also capital gains, but that is much more problematic given the propensity for that money to leave the US) and not just for the rich.  My family is single income in one of the most expensive housing markets in the US but we are still upper middle class.  We do not pay enough tax in my opinion.  Neither President Obama nor Secretary Clinton have the courage to hold the middle class accountable for our share of the liberal vision.  So I believe that the marginal tax rates should return to something like Reagan levels (which are much higher than Obama era levels).  But, arguing that position based on Isaiah or Ezekiel’s or especially Jesus’ call to care for the poor claims spiritual authority for a pragmatic economic calculation, that may be false based on reams of confounding data and drivers.  It is illicit.

[16] I don’t mean to minimize police reform and am not suggesting both conversations aren’t worth having…it just seems to me that sentencing has broader effects and is easier to fix.***  But I am white, and have never feared a police officer in this country or been pulled over unless I’d actually committed a traffic infraction, so my confidence in that opinion is low.
***Here’s a shocking revelation.  I have a draft post on this, centered largely around my experience with an extended jury service.
[17] Which is why I won’t be voting for a third party candidate.  I understand the impulse and respect it.  But back to my Bonhoffer-ian ethic, if I oppose Trump this strongly, I need to make the move most likely to defeat him, even if it makes me feel dirty.  If I vote third party and he wins, I’m complicit.  I cannot escape the math into a safe cocoon of ideological purity.  Voting third party and then complaining about the outcome strikes me the same way as European countries that rely on US military intervention and then criticize us for it.

[18] Who are delightful, and should be, in no way, associated with the content of this post.


stanford said...

The first amendment reads:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

I am not congress and have no authority to make laws. Therefore, I will not be violating anyone’s “freedom of speech” by deleting comments in this little corner of the internet that Google allows me to control. Comments are welcome, especially those that challenge my cognitive entrenchment, but I feel no obligation to keep comments that are aggressive, intemperate, or engage in ad hominem. I don’t have the emotional capitol to respond to or carry comments like that, and feel no responsibility to let them stand to assault my friends who want to read this.

Unknown said...

Well said!!! I was seriously considering not voting at all. However my 19 and 18 year old daughters reminded me what I said when Obama first ran. One vote can change something down the line.

Unknown said...

Well said!!! I was seriously considering not voting at all. However my 19 and 18 year old daughters reminded me what I said when Obama first ran. One vote can change something down the line.

Ian Spencer said...

Great post Stan! The only place I'd disagree with is footnote 17, for various reasons. For instance, it would be different if you lived in a swing state, but - given the winner-take-all nature of the electoral college and California being a solid blue state - voting for Clinton in practical terms makes it no more likely that Trump is defeated than if you had voted third party or simply abstained from voting. All voting for Clinton would do is, if she were to win, make you complicit in that win and the administration that follows (Clinton, as Trump, falls below my personal threshold for qualities for President, so I am not okay with this for myself). In not voting for either Trump or Clinton, I would not be responsible no matter what the outcome of the election. In not voting for either, I am taking a stand against both. In encouraging others in the same position as myself not to do so either, I am taking responsibility for this election, but against the two primary candidates rather than for one and against another. If Trump wins, not voting for Clinton would not make me complicit in his victory (we could argue differently if we didn't live in California, but that's not the case), as I was not actually part of the causal chain bringing about his victory and actually chose not to be. It's those who vote for Trump that will be responsible, not me. This gets us into complicated issues in ethics involving the intended/foreseen, allowing/causing, and other important distinctions, so I'll just stop there - hopefully that makes some sense! (And, of course, it goes without saying that I'm fine with other people thinking differently - as you say, this is complicated stuff and we're all going to come to slightly different conclusions)

Richard Schugart said...

Maybe I missed it, but my only critique of the post is a lack of explanation for consideration of voting for a third party candidate.

On a separate, but related note, did you see the article on the mathematics of a wasted vote? In it, they said that an individual vote in CA counts 0.000003%. In the article, they also make a qualitative argument about the effects of voting for a third party. In a state like CA where Clinton is likely to win, what are your thoughts about third-party candidate consideration and voting?

For the record, I'm voting for whom I voted in the primaries. However, I might not if I lived in a Battleground state.

Unknown said...

I agree with the previous two posts on third party candidates. I would also add that, for many of us, both of the candidates are terrible: Clinton for many of her policy stances and her lack of judgement and Trump for the embodiment of everything wrong with conservative right and so much more. I believe, and correct me if I am wrong, Bonhoeffer-ian ethics would make the assumption that only one choice is evil (in his case, Hitler/Nazism) and the other choice is righteous. I would say that in this election we have a lesser of two evils situation in which case finding a third party, especially in California where our vote only matters in the sense that it tells people what we want in a president, is the correct course of action. That being said, I can sleep soundly at night because I don't live a swing state where your vote actually matters.

stanford said...

Yeah, I didn’t treat protest votes in unbalanced states fairly.

Footnote 17 was literally the last thing I wrote…and didn’t receive the consideration the rest did. It was sloppy.

Despite my resistance to “purity voting” and my apparent support of pragmatic voting, I am actually too familiar with voting math to actually be an electoral pragmatist. I think of voting as a moral assertion. And, I do think a major showing for third party/write in candidates will register dissent.

Here’s the thing, I can’t ask a swing state voter to take a bullet for me.

Out of a weird solidarity, I can’t ask her to do something for me that I won’t do with her. I feel like I’m telling them, “Sorry, you live in Ohio, make the right choice for us and live with the conscience consequences.” I can’t ask them to make a choice I’m unwilling to make.

But that is a pretty circuitous argument, which is not remotely ‘math’ based. I have to approach elections as if my vote matters, even though I know it doesn’t…which does not give me the empirical high ground. Conceded.

Thanks Friends.

Landon said...

"And whatever you say about the Democratic Nominee, I wouldn’t bet against her commitment to her legacy."
Brilliantly persuasive line.

Fantastic thoughts all the way around!

Noah Elhardt said...

Good thoughts. I appreciate your comment above vis-a-vis footnote 17: I had come to ask about that as well. Are you saying that an unnecessary compromise shows solidarity for those who are making necessary compromises? I can't think of any other situation in life (including the "taking-a-bullet" battleground analogy you referenced) where this would apply, though I would love to hear your thoughts. If I'm taking a bullet for you, I'd actually be pretty ticked if you shot yourself in the chest to show solidarity. ;) I don't need you to do that to prove to me you'd be willing to if the need arose.

In addition to registering dissent, a vote for 3rd party, if that party captures 5% of the vote, reduces the two-party stranglehold by giving that third party federal funding the next time around. It's a long way from complete electoral reform, but its a step that can make your CA vote actually count toward some kind of change.

And finally, if you happen to actually agree with Gary or Jill, a vote for them is no longer a protest vote. Lincoln was a 3rd party candidate. :)

Unknown said...

Well said!

nic gibson said...

I'm not sure the disqualifying nature of high crimes and misdemeanors otherwise committed in offices and misuses of power are sufficiently taken into account when comparing Trump and Clinton as morally qualified for office in terms of dignity. I suppose it is a judgment call in how much one would weigh these against each other, but Clinton's crimes against the rules of our system, obstruction of the justice process, misuse of classified information, and so on are all immediately related to the office itself and the parameters of it's functional integrity. These seem to me to be more basic consideration than trump's mouth or unsubstantiated accusations of sexual indiscretions. although I believe Trump should be considered disqualified as a figure for the office, I believe it is even more certain that Sec. Clinton has completely disqualified herself from holding the functions of the office. That disqualification is the only one that can be even more foundational then trumps disqualification as a figure for the office.

nic gibson said...

Also, it is very difficult to argue that sentencing disparity is the #1 injustice in this country, even racially speaking. Government caused economic underperformance effects literally everyone every moment of every day. remember that overall American black wealth has been cut about in half in the last eight years, and economic malaise disproportionately affects minorities. The American government school system has been called by some and "educational Holocaust", even Obama's education secretary Arnie Duncan was very strongly in favor of charter and choice schools – something Clinton has not been supportive of. In the Obama administration, the black lobby had more power than the teachers lobby in some situations. I don't see good evidence that that will continue because of the large financial contributions the unions make two Democratic politics. I also don't think Christians should forget that abortion is the greatest human rights crisis and injustice in America, and that presently half of the black babies in New York City are aborted every year. Just because we don't have much hope in changing it, we shouldn't forget that it is unavoidably the greatest injustice in our country, and possibly the world – making our leadership in global abortion a large part of our true global moral shame.

nic gibson said...

However, it should also be noted that the but official effects of sentencing laws are often not discussed when people laments disparities in incarceration rates. I've heard several scholars clarify that a small proportion of people commit the vast majority of violent crimes in our society. Most of those crimes are committed in minority neighborhoods against minorities- namely, African-Americans and Latinos. A large percentage, if not the majority, of violent crimes are committed by people who have previous records, many of whom are on parole. I don't think we should treat the conundrums of criminal justice as simple questions of racial disparity. Ultimately, I believe they can only be handled morally without reference to pragmatics, or disparity. One can only asked the question, "what is the right punishment for committing X". And this must be done without reference to what we may gain by imprisoning the person longer, or by considering how many of their race are already incarcerated. Punishments can morally only be deserved. Increased incarceration rates has as much to do with urban decay, horrific public schools, policies that have destroyed the black family, ghettoization projects, and other tampering's with the black family as with sentencing laws passed with the overwhelming support of the Congressional Black Caucus.

nic gibson said...

I also don't think the "trusting trump with drones" argument is very persuasive. There is good evidence in trump's long business career that he is quite adept at balancing costs and benefits, and considering repercussions for the actions that he takes. There is also good evidence that he tends to surround himself with competent people – his present campaign staff perhaps notwithstanding (I attribute that to him not knowing the job he was hiring those people for very well). Presidents make these decisions in the presence of key advisors, and Trump is utilizing normal Republican advisers in areas where he lacks expertise – utilizing scholars from the heritage foundation, American enterprise Institute, Cato and even Brookings and others. You can see this and how he has softened his language on trade policy. I think the argument that he's going to have an itchy trigger finger is conjecture that lacks real support. it seems like putting a lot of weight on an issue we in the public cannot know very much about. And remember, these kinds of arguments were also falsely used to attack Goldwater as well. This whole, "you can't trust that Republican with the trigger" trope is well-worn. what is different about Trump, is his criticism of our Middle Eastern wars. If there is a danger with him, it is isolationism not international interventionism. My fear is that like Bill Clinton, we will stay out of wars but allowed two very preventable genocides.

nic gibson said...

Further, judicial appointments and other appointments matter greatly in the rule of law and functionality of our country. With most of American laws now being made as bureaucratic memos and executive directives within executive departments, the appointees of these apartments and executive philosophy guiding them is critical. Pres. Obama has not only had the opportunity to appoint Supreme Court justices, he has been packing federal courts for eight years, producing many of the legal decisions the Supreme Court has chosen not to overturn. Judicial appointments on the Supreme Court level, and at the appellate court level are extremely influential in the present system of government that we have. Further, and more importantly, the courts may be the only recourse American citizens have against the increasingly large bureaucratic forces of the executive departments- like the EPA, the Department of Justice, and others. Therefore, for the maintenance of individual rights and freedoms, it is incredibly imperative in the bureaucratic state that the courts are not in the hands of people that are pro-bureaucratic, collectivistic and progressive. People utilizing judicial philosophies in which things don't mean what they say can overrule virtually all of the rights lay down regarding personal freedom. One organization has already estimated the attacks on religious liberty in America to be up 133% in the last three years. Clinton may be able to appoint 4 or more judges in a four-year term, which would have an incredibly negative effect on the court in relationship to anything related to the right of any civil unit besides the federal government including self-government, family government, church government, civil society and state government. It is often not taught in civics lessons how large a part federalism in local control was designed into our system of government so that states like California couldn't dictate the way of life of people in Nebraska or Connecticut or Ohio. With an ever-increasing executive bureaucracy, a decreasing place of Congress in the making of practical law, and a court increasingly complicit with that bureaucracy, the subsidiary rights are breaking down quickly.
Trump knows that Christians and conservatives are very concerned about judicial appointments, and he may even have the tenacity to point actually conservative people, something earlier Republican presidents failed to do consistently. It is very likely he will stick to the justices names that he has already released, most of them being very good choices.

nic gibson said...

last, I think it is fairly important for the American public not to hand the American press corps a win in the situation. If they refuse to honestly report on Sec. Clinton's many illegal indiscretions and obstructions of justice, how can we believe that they will be watchdogs over her administration? We cannot. However, we know that they will be there to criticize every sideways breath of Mr. Trump should he be president. In short, the only way we can believe in a free press in our current America, is if the president is of a different party than 95% of the press. Is the only way to force the fourth branch of government to work, and that is a very big deal. example: Trump makes crude remarks and emails reveal that Sec. Clinton broke even more laws. The press covers it at a ratio of 24:1 against Trump.

so I respectfully disagree that this is an easy choice for Clinton. I think this is the most difficult election in our lifetime, and certainly the worst choice of major party candidates. Although Trump is my 16th choice out of 16 Republican candidates, and my 21st choice out of 25 candidates for president, I will vote for him on election day.

so I guess mom has the deciding vote for our family.

stanford said...

Hi Nic,

I reject over half your premises, which surprises neither of us. But I prefer these conversations IRL.

And a 1440 word comment surprises none of the onlookers who saw your brother string 2500 words of footnotes on a 990 word post.

So lets focus on your final point on which we largely agree. The free press is stuck in the epistemological morass of peer effects and is not performing its necessary functions. I agree that it is a very big deal. I remember dad telling me that the free press can be annoying but it is essential. This is not the press he was talking about. The state of discourse is worse than the state of politics, and John Oliver is as guilty as the Fox news crew. Oliver et al are an ideological hegemony who didn't treat 15 of the 16 republican candidates fairly (ok, maybe 8). I'd love to stand up to them. But they did not form my assessment of the Republican Candidate...he did.

Looking forward to seeing you and the family in a couple weeks.

Monte Knetter said...

Interesting thoughts. I’ve read some of your posts before and listened to some of your talks with profit and I find you to be thoughtful and honest thinker.

I’d disagree with one aspect of your approach and one of you policy preferences. First, the approach.

I have the sense that there is too much of the post-modern ethos in your approach. I know post-modernism can be vague so let me briefly define what I mean. By post-modernism I mean the belief that a subject cannot be separated from an object—i.e. that we as humans project our identity, whether it be our ethnicity, class, sex, nationality, etc. unto all objects and that therefore no object can be objectively known. For example, we all experience words differently and we have to thereby deconstruct all language and can never have true human communication. First, I think this is fundamentally false in that we have real (though admittedly imperfect) communication. Second, as a Christian the implications of this are horrible. If I as a subject project myself into all objects, can I ever read or understand the Bible with any confidence? I don’t believe I can and all I am left with is personal, mystical experiences. These experiences generally lead people away from Biblical and historical Christianity to an inner mysticism wherein the ego and libido get divine sanction.

The place where I believe the influence of post-modernism is clearest is in footnote 12 where you wrote: “but [abortion] is an incredible difficult position as well, with many implications about gender power and class and race and economic inequality.” Perhaps you are just being very generous and I am reading too much into this, but I think the lack of confidence in a very clear issue is a sign of a misplaced philosophical commitment.

This is not to say that people don’t need to be aware of their historical circumstances when they think through things to be sure they don’t have biases, but I believe people can know some things confidently. But you and I both would be hard pressed to think of any moral, political, social, or historical issue that does not involve issues of gender, class, ethnicity, etc.! Even so, many issues are clear. American slavery, the 2nd Punic War, Japanese internment, the holocaust, the Persian Wars, enclosure—these all involve a myriad of issues yet all can be morally solved with relative ease. By using reason and consulting tradition the abortion question is fairly easily solved. But we need to admit that a subject can be relatively independent of an object to come to this conclusion and to do that we need to keep the prevailing ethos of post-modernism at arm’s length.

Monte Knetter said...

Regarding policy, I believe Ms. Clinton would do far more damage with drones. Right now the United States is currently bombing or subsidizing the bombing of Somalia, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Syria. There is no indication from Ms. Clinton that she will be less aggressive than President Obama (indeed, she helped to form our current foreign policy!). On the contrary, she seems likely to take a more hawkish stance.

Trump on the hand is a populist and as such is likely to revert to isolationism. To my knowledge, no American populist has started or intensified a foreign war. On the contrary, “America first” populists tend to ignore foreign affairs. The bigger concern, as you hinted at, is mistreatment of minority status citizens. (For example, Jackson didn’t start a foreign war, but his Native American policies were some of the worst in our nation’s history.)

In talking to some friends that live in the Middle East I was surprised to hear that Trump is far and away the preferred candidate. As bad as Bush’s policies were, deaths in the Middle East have risen under Obama. Middle Eastern men and women fear that Ms. Clinton will continue these policies. They don’t know what Trump will do, but think the current course is so bad that anything else would be an improvement.

All in all, this isn’t an easy election. Neither candidate is fit for office on any level. Yet both are probably the types of candidates that we deserve. My prayer is that God will be more gracious to us than we deserve.

stanford said...

Hi Monte,

Both of your comments are fair.

I am not a modernist and I don't believe modernism has a priori epistemic preference over post modernism. I think they both have epistemological strengths and deep debilitating epistemological errors. I'd like to think of myself as an ancient-modern (but that's optimistic), and find that the Biblical tension between explicit revelation and self-skepticism keep both modernism's triumphalism and post-modernism's solipsism at bay. Regarding footnote 12, I'd like to think your more generous read is correct. I have firm conviction but want to err on the side of generosity in my discourse.

Regarding Secretary Clinton and drones. Your argument is cogent and one I have considered. It might be right. The main difference for me is that Secretary Clinton would follow the President Obama-Bush legacy of calculated drone strikes, which are deeply disturbing but come out of a moral calculus with boundary conditions I do not have access to. What I fear from Mr Trump is capricious drone activity.

It wasn't fair to call it an easy election. I can't remember ever feeling this dissatisfied with the candidate I selected. But I knew who I couldn't vote for.

I'm so relived it is almost over. I've found that my vote exacts a psychological toll completely out of proportion to its influence. And that is before we even get to the 17 California props, which I easily sunk 10 hours I didn't have into, and still was puzzled by 3 of them.

I think you are right. These are the candidates we deserve. I share your prayer, that whoever wins would exceed all our expectations of wisdom, temperance, and decency.

Unknown said...

Lots of good thoughts here, for a blog post I read months too late, but which has remained surprisingly relevant. One comment, with regard to the following quote:

"I can’t apologize for not blogging. And, frankly, no one is asking me to."

I want to go on the record as asking you to blog more.