URLs du Jour

2020-11-07

[Amazon Link]

  • Jacob Sullum at Reason does some psychologizing, which I usually hate, but for some reason seems OK here: Trump’s Desperate Conspiracy Theories Won’t Save His Presidency, but They Might Save His Ego.

    When Donald Trump claimed he would have won the popular vote in 2016 if it weren't for "the millions of people who voted illegally," he was only trying to magnify his victory over Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Now that he seems to be losing a presidential election, his desperate scramble for explanations has produced conspiracy theories that make his 2016 fantasy pale by comparison. Here are a few of the things the president seems to believe, judging from his remarks at the White House last night.

    "If you count the legal votes, I easily win," Trump said. "If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us. If you count the votes that came in late, we're looking to them very strongly, but a lot of votes came in late."

    This is a testable claim. Trump is saying that Biden can win the election only if mail-in ballots that arrived after Election Day, which he deems "illegal," are counted. Yet in Pennsylvania, whose 20 electoral votes would clinch Biden's victory, the former vice president has pulled ahead of Trump even without including late-arriving ballots. "The votes being counted in Pennsylvania do not include any mail ballots arriving after Nov. 3," New York Times reporter Nick Corasaniti notes. "Those are being kept segregated. This count is for votes in by Election Day."

    When Trump (et. al.) float 23 allegations, and 22 of them are garbage, how seriously are we supposed to take that last one?


  • My own blog inspiration, Instapundit, has (at least for now) totally bought into the stolen election story. Sample, excerpting an Epoch Times article from Michael Walsh: Democrats and Media Collude to Steal Presidential Election.

    With the corrupt and partisan media edging toward declaring Joe Biden the presumptive president-elect—you can practically hear the salivation—the Democrats’ long march through the institutions of the American electoral system is nearly complete. Scripted as carefully but as predictably as a run-of-the-mill Hollywood thriller, the Democrats played every card and sprung every trap on their way to achieve a media, if not genuine, victory over their hated enemy.

    After their surprise 2016 loss, the Democrat/Media complex relearned the importance of the Electoral College, a zero-sum game in which all the winner has to do is get to 270 votes. Despite all their complaints about how Hillary Clinton “won” the popular vote—which doesn’t matter a whit—this year they went back to the maps and realized the key to victory lay exactly where it had lain for Trump: in Pennsylvania and the upper Midwest.

    And so, via their control of the big-city machines in cities with large minority populations (Detroit, Milwaukee, and above all Philadelphia), that’s where they concentrated their efforts to steal this election.

    Yeah, well, maybe. But probably not.

    I'll throw one bone to the conspiracists: the years-long effort to "improve ballot access" by making voting easier has also made fraud theoretically easier. Demands for proof of fraud are (probably) valid, but the MSM, who you'd think would have the tools and the clout to do this kind of investigative journalism are uninterested.


  • Kyle Smith has some good news for us, though: The Progressive Agenda Is Dead.

    The Democrats gambled that if they chose the least offensive, most avuncular establishmentarian to lead them — a guy who could say “Do I look like a socialist?” and get America to concur that, no, Joe Biden did not look like one — they could leverage dislike for President Trump to win not only the presidency but the Senate. Meanwhile, they assumed they would build on their majority in the House to achieve overwhelming dominance.

    What the Democrats understood is that Democrats are pretty much all the same under the surface. Once a “harmless moderate” was installed, the radicals would come out and boogie. Trojan Joe was selected to tell the voters he didn’t support the Green New Deal, even as his platform clarified that he essentially did. He was supposed to tell the voters that restoring “decency” was what the election was mainly about, even as his backers schemed to rewrite the political rulebook by destroying the filibuster, packing the Supreme Court, and making states out of Puerto Rico and D.C. He didn’t want Medicare for All, which would destroy the private insurance industry immediately; he merely sought a “public option,” which would do so gradually. And every time he futzed up a simple sentence or retired for the day at 9 a.m., activist Democrats licked their lips at the prospect of replacing him with the single most liberal member of the United States Senate, a woman of color whom several nonpartisan surveys ranked to the left of even Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Just as Biden secured the party nomination, the country was gripped by the pandemic, whose catastrophic effects allowed him to blame Trump for mismanagement, even though his own party’s disgust for the stigmatization of China and the hardening of our borders against the virus probably would have made matters worse.

    I'm cautiously optimistic that Kyle's correct. Bad news is that we're already in a deep fiscal hole that can't be crawled out of without real pain.


  • Trashing Progressives is always a job that needs doing. At City Journal, William Voegeli asks the musical question: Compared to What?.

    The Right’s burden, however, is lightened by the Left’s arrogance. Progressives’ responses to the 2016 election are indistinguishable from their reactions to the 2020 election, notwithstanding the detail that Donald Trump won last time and (apparently) lost this time. It seems that progressives have not only forgotten nothing and forgiven nothing but also learned nothing—exactly the way progress is not supposed to work.

    Four years ago, the New Yorker’s David Remnick pronounced the election results “a sickening event” and a “crushing blow to the spirit.” For Slate’s L.V. Anderson, Trump’s victory demanded that white liberals discard any illusions about America’s fundamental decency and capacity for improvement—threads Barack Obama had woven into a garment of Hope and Change—in order to finally “see our unjust, racist, sexist country for what it is.”

    Within the past 72 hours, the Nation’s Joan Walsh has informed us that America’s failure to repudiate Donald Trump in a landslide has left her “ashamed of our country,” one where “racists who prefer white supremacy to equality” are horrifically numerous and powerful. Since John F. Harris, Politico’s founding editor, regards Trump’s odiousness as self-evident, “there is no logical way to scorn Trump without being somewhat scornful of voters who cheered his ascent to power and were eager for him to keep it.” Indeed, Harris believes 2020 is worse than 2016, since no voter this time could have taken refuge in the possibility that presidential responsibilities would induce Trump to “embrace moderation and restraint.” For the Washington Post’s Paul Waldman, the “last four years were a test,” one that “America failed.” The failure occurred because seeing “a political leader who enacts their darkest impulses on a daily basis thrills and intoxicates” Trump’s voters.

    The most important question in politics is Henny Youngman’s: compared to what? If progressives were given to rigorous self-examination, they might think hard about the possibility that Trump and Republicans in general surpass electoral expectations because the alternative to the GOP is . . . progressivism. Standing next to a twenty-first-century progressive turns out to be a good way for conservatives to get asked out onto the dance floor. Strange to relate, many voters do not respond gratefully to being execrated as bigots, fascists, and idiots.

    We're lucky in our enemies, who (occasionally) let the focus-grouped rhetoric slip and tell us what they're really after.


  • And more gloating from David Harsanyi back at National Review: This Is Biden’s Worst-Case Scenario for a Presidency. Yay! (NRPLUS, sorry.)

    Let’s just say this wasn’t the repudiation the Left was looking for. If Joe Biden wins the presidency, he will have beaten one of the most eccentric and flawed candidates in American history, and then only during a once-in-a-century pandemic and a massive economic contraction. It’s unlikely Donald Trump loses this election without coronavirus. I’m not sure he loses this election if he had a good first debate.

    Trump, who brought much opprobrium on himself, faces the prospect of losing after enduring four years of mind-numbing hysteria over a slew of imaginary existential threats to American democracy and a concocted scandal about imaginary Russian spy rings. And then, barely. Not only did the political media feed the frenzy (though many Americans are likely inured to it), but also by the end many were openly campaigning for his opponent. They even went so far as to bury inconvenient stories for their favored candidate. The media’s credibility is shot. No one deserved Donald Trump more.

    I doubt this will bother Biden much, though. He (like Trump) just wanted to be President. Goal accomplished, it doesn't matter to him much what happens next.

A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear

The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (And Some Bears)

[Amazon Link]

An irresistible title for me, and (even better) it's a book about a town more local than most: Grafton, New Hampshire, just up US Route 4. A few years back, it was the target of the so-called "Free Town Project", an effort for self-styled libertarians to take over the reins of Grafton's town government, and start whittling back on its power. The book's author, Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling, centers his book around this movement, but it's really more wide-ranging. For one thing, Grafton had (and has) a pretty serious bear problem, and MH-H goes into great (and sometimes gory) detail there. But there's no indication the bears ask about your political leanings before they raid your beehives and chicken coops.

Since the book is so wide-ranging, it also seems unfocused. There's stuff about Grafton's history (a long record of tax-hating). But most of the book centers on people: one citizen takes the local church building off the town's hands, only opening up years of wrangling over whether the town can assess property taxes on it. (A tragic ending unfolds.) Various people have bear interactions. NH Fish and Game is criticized for its bear policies. Bear poaching is deplored, and MH-H is given "Friendly Advice" that he probably shouldn't inquire into the details.

At one point, MH-H's story-telling takes him to Tunisia and the colonialist scholar Professor Daniel Butt of the University of Oxford. Which gives rise to the following phraseology:

  • "Butt heads down a different path…"
  • "… the oppressors (according to Butt) wipe out the indigenous culture…"
  • "Butt cracks down on the notion of benevolent colonialism…"
  • "All three characteristics, taken togother, make this very serious theory of colonialism, proposed by Professor Butt, whole."

My inner thirteen-year-old couldn't help but chuckle.

By coincidence, while I was finishing up the book I read this Reason article which urges libertarians to work politically at the local level. I'd recommend this book to anyone looking to go that route: sure, you can hold down spending, but it would be a good idea to have privately-provided services ready to take the place of the taxpayer-supported ones you're defunding. Arguably, Grafton libertarians failed on that score.

Also from that article:

In 2014, Jeffrey Tucker wrote about two main libertarian camps, which he termed "humanitarians" and "brutalists."

The humanitarians believe in liberty because it "allows peaceful human cooperation" and "keeps violence at bay," he argued. "It allows for capital formation and prosperity. It protects human rights of all against invasion. It allows human associations of all sorts to flourish on their own terms."

By contrast, brutalists like liberty because "it allows people to assert their individual preferences, to form homogeneous tribes, to work out their biases in action, to ostracize people based on 'politically incorrect' standards." It allows them "to hate to their heart's content so long as no violence is used as a means, to shout down people based on their demographics or political opinions." I call them "get off my lawn" libertarians.

Arguably, Grafton's libertarians might have had a brutalist tilt. Some seem nice enough, others not so much.

Small data point, since we just had an election: In Grafton, the Trump/Biden/Jorgenson US presidential votes split 423/345/16, for a Libertarian percentage of 2.04%. In my town of Rollinsford, things went 735/951/50, working out to 4.42% for Jorgenson. I question Grafton's [Ll]ibertarian creds! (Yes, anarchistic libertarians don't vote, because it's a symbolic granting of legitimacy to the state, blah blah blah; but there's no reason to think we don't have those folks in Rollinsford too. It shouldn't affect the apples-to-apples town comparison.)

By the way, Jorgenson's statewide percentage was a puny 1.63%. So Rollinsford is a relative libertarian hot spot.


Last Modified 2020-11-07 6:05 AM EST