Friday, July 3, 2015

Trump Bump Stumps Chumps

A couple of days ago, Trump was polling second-place in the GOP primary. Today? Number One! What does that mean?

Vox Says: He Won't Win

Vox describes the 'stages of voter affection' in K├╝bler-Rossian terms: discover, scrutiny, and decline. They point to the 2012 cycle where EVERYONE was ahead of Romney at some point. They peg his coming decline to the fact that he's just up-there for saying crazy things and that once his weaknesses come out he'll be dropped like Michelle Bachmann. They also note, more credibly The Omnivore thinks, that his biggest real disadvantage is that he lacks establishment support.
Vox is wrong. How come? The Omnivore will tell you in a second!

PowerLine Asks: Why The Trump Bump?

Steven Hayward over at Powerline notes that Trump is surging in the polls despite being hated by, well, everyone. He decides that the real surprise would be if he hadn't surged:
Americans of all parties, but especially conservatives and populists of what is sometimes called the “angry middle,” almost invariably take for the outspoken outsider—not just a governor or some non-Washington person running as an “outsider,” which almost all successful presidential candidates have done now for nearly 50 years. (Which is another reason why Hillary can’t win—she’s too much of a Washington/Establishment insider.) We like their candor, flamboyance, and the novelty of a non-politician running for office. It’s one of the time-honored tropes of modern American politics.
In other words, he puts on a good show! But they never win.

PowerLine is wrong--in a moment The Omnivore will tell you why!

National Journal: Why Is Donald Trump Polling So Well?

Lauren Fox at National Journal asks why he's doing so well? She points to a the president of a Democratic polling firm with this answer:
"He obviously benefits from his celebrity, but I think more to the point, there is no question that there is a segment of the Republican electorate that is strongly anti-immigrant and there is an overlapping piece of the Republican electorate that is anti-politician," says Geoff Garin, the president of the Democratic polling firm Hart Research. "Donald Trump appeals to those voters, and not in the most sophisticated way possible, but in the loudest way possible."
He notes that with a large field the voting bloc behind the more serious candidates is fractured so Trump's core of support rockets him to the top. This is, in fact, a pretty good answer.

But it's not entirely correct. The Omnivore will tell you where it's wrong. Stay tuned!

The Truth About The Trump

 Observers have noted that, erm, might Donald Trump be hurting the Republican party's brand? This comes after Trump said that a lot of Mexican illegal immigrants were rapist--and, when challenged on that, doubled down:
Well, He's Right: Somebody Is . . .
This has cost him a bunch of relationships--Univison, Macy's, etc. Trump, though? He doesn't care. He's not backing down (like Tom Petty--but giving even far fewer fucks). For a party that, you know, would maybe like to win some Latino votes this calling-Mexicans-rapists (however nuanced--and it wasn't all that elegant to begin with) is not a move the high command approves of.

The GOP fears that Donald Trump is hurting the brand:
We're now trying to grow the numbers of votes in the Hispanic, African-American communities and work on growing the amount of female voters,” said GOP strategist Ron Bonjean, who suggested Trump is kneecapping those efforts. 
“He's not hurting other candidates. He is risking the Republican brand,” added fellow Republican strategist David Payne.
Uh-huh. Well, he might be--kinda. But even that's not right..

Firstly, FiveThirtyEight's numbers-don't lie (same with 'hips' The Omnivore is assured) approach gives us the brutal truth: Donald Trump's immigration statements aren't far off his party's voter base!
Trump’s populist grandstanding, in fact, lines up with the views of a high percentage of Republicans. A majority of Republicans think immigrants — regardless of how they entered the U.S. — “burden” the country rather than make it stronger. In the May 2015 Pew survey, 63 percent of Republicans felt this way compared with 32 percent of Democrats. Just 27 percent of Republicans said immigrants made the country stronger, which was the lowest percentage recorded since 2004.
Indeed, Rich Lowery Editor of the NRO writes: Sorry, But Donald Trump Has A Point!
As for his instantly notorious Mexico comments, they did more to insult than to illuminate, yet there was a kernel in them that hit on an important truth that typical politicians either don’t know or simply fear to speak. “When Mexico sends its people,” Trump said, “they’re not sending their best.” 
This is obviously correct. We aren’t raiding the top 1 percent of Mexicans and importing them to this country. Instead, we are getting representative Mexicans, who — through no fault of their own, of course — come from a poorly educated country at a time when education is essential to success in an advanced economy.
What Lowery knows--and what FiveThirtyEight points out--is that the GOP really does pretty much think America is under invasion by Mexicans and that Obama is intentionally complicit in this state of affairs. Donald Trump isn't damaging the GOP Brand: He is the GOP Brand.

What The Others Get Wrong

What we see above, therefore, are several misconceptions about what is going on with the Trump-Bump. These are:
  1. He's just like [ Cain ]--he'll rise and fall and go away (Vox).
  2. It's his lovable flamboyant attitude that's elevating him--attaboy, Trump! You shine on, you crazy diamond! 'Course the lad hasn't a chance. (PowerLine)
  3. He's appealing to a tiny, rabid base who are the only ones consolidated (National Journal and others)
He's Like [ Cain ]
To understand why this is wrong, you have to understand (a) what was going on in 2012 and (b) what happened to Cain, Santorum, Gingrich, and so on. In terms of raw material, Trump is most like Cain: a rich guy with business experience but zero political background who says some outrageous things. In terms of appeal, though, he's more like Gingrich: elevated for his willingness and ability in a fight. What was happening when these guys crested the polling in 2012 was that The Base was desperately searching for a Not-Romney who could fight-and-win. 

Today the closest analogy is that everyone wants a Not-Bush which, while true, is nowhere near the depths of despair that the party was in as the actual primaries ground on. In this case they haven't started yet: although smart people should be worried about Bush winning, the Base isn't yet. 

Secondly, what killed Cain was a for-real scandal. What got Gingrich was the eventual running out of money. Neither of these will apply to Trump. He has all their strengths--and none of their weaknesses (he's the DayWalker of presidential candidates!).

He's a Lovable Scamp, That Trump!
The idea that Trump is stratospheric because of either name-recognition or just because he puts on a good show doesn't hold up either: the polling also says that no one likes him. He's regarded almost universally as an asshole. Secondly, several other candidates--like Chris Christie--have high negatives and good name recognition: Christie is on life-support. Trump is number 1. Explain that.

While it does seem hard to project him winning states, he's not just polling at the top nationally--he's also doing well in New Hampshire (known for being, erm, sober) and he's scoring well on specific questions like "Good at handling the economy." These are signs-of-life of an actual candidate--not a bomb-thrower.

Of course, he is a bomb-thrower: but he's an incredibly rich one. That buys credibility.

It's A Tiny Core of Assholes
The idea that the Republican primary voters--which comprise more than just The Base--haven't settled on someone is true. As such, the people to whom Trump appeals do constitute a voting bloc. Yes--that much is right--but a pie only slices to 100% no matter how thin the slices are. As Trump moves up someone has to move down. Who is getting hardest hit? Marco Rubio.
My guess was that the Trump boom would come mainly at the expense of grassroots conservative favorites like Cruz, not because Trump is any way a serious conservative alternative but because his whole shtick is that he’s waging war on the Beltway establishment generally and the GOP establishment in particular. And it’s true, Cruz’s numbers have sunk since Trump jumped in. (Cruz is hoping to win back those voters eventually by playing nice with Trump in the media.) He’s not the biggest loser here, though: That would be Marco Rubio, who’s down eight points in less than a month. 
Trump's strength has come from voters 50 or older--a demographic that had, previously, strongly backed Marco Rubio:
No Republican has been as consistently strong among older voters in the early primary polls as Rubio. His favorable rating across the party is excellent but his favorables among senior citizens have been stratospheric. They were the one group more than any other who were carrying him towards the top of the field. Now that support has receded, apparently thanks to Trump. The same thing is happening to Walker, but to a lesser degree.
The takeaway here is that Trump isn't just costing other Crazy-Eyes candidates the vote--he's siphoning support from Marco Rubio--a more moderate and highly credible candidate . . . and also one who is very well liked. Walker is also a first-tier candidate--to lose support to Trump is telling.

What's Going On?

As The Omnivore pointed out, Trump is the candidate of an angry base who want an unlikable asshole to go and be their weapon. He's the message they're sending--and he'll continue to be that message until he goes broke or backs down: which do you think is likely to happen first. The fact is that he is the evolutionary pinnacle of the GOP base: A wealthy outsider who says things no one else is willing to say and will fight like a veteran prize fighter against any target--the GOP Establishment, Hillary Clinton, or ISIS--who gets in his way. He is everything the Base wanted in Romney--and nothing that Romney delivered. Donald Trump is the perfect candidate--he has created his brand . . . by matching it to the GOP--and now guess what?

It's selling.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Chris Christie Is IN! There's NO ROOM LEFT!!

The once-heavyweight Chris Christie--the "most electable candidate" is now officially IN THE RACE. What are his chances? What the heck could he be thinking??

He Can't Win
Boy can't he. Politico details his approach as a nothing-to-lose long-shot:
The hope, according to advisers — who spent the weekend in a flurry of last-minute planning meetings — is that by exceeding expectations in debates and town hall events, and by performing well in a few select primary contests, he can re-establish himself as a top-tier candidate.
“Once he gets that momentum,” said Dale Florio, a leading Republican lobbyist in New Jersey and a staunch Christie ally, “you’ll see the whole dynamic of the race change.”
Or not, right? FiveThirtyEight doesn't even have an article on him yet. That's a new low.

Of course they've covered him before: he's the well-known-but-highly disliked candidate in the race: a niche, finally, that no one else is fighting for. Well, save Donald Trump.

On The Other Hand . . .
Back in the day The Omnivore declared Chris Christe a non-starter because he was, well, too fat. The Omnivore suggested that The Overton Window--the range of things society will accept--was. The Omnivore thought, not quite ready for someone of Christie's size.
Sorry, Christie

Christe, however, pulled a mind-scramble on The Omnivore by getting lap-band surgery. According to Google he has lost 85-100lbs. Here's a Then and Now for 2013:
Almost There!
Christie is planning on leveraging the one great strength he really has: showmanship. He's a gifted campaigner--maybe one of the best in the race. He's also still likely got some moderate cred and he can tell it like it is the way few others can. Yes, he's a long-shot--but so are a lot of other people. The break-way scenario could go to him as likely as, well, Huckabee or Carson, really.

The Net-Net on Chris Christie
Christie is betting on floating a 'Gingrich Bubble' starting in New Hampshire and continuing to victory. To put it mildly, without serious donor support, and at barely-alive levels in the polls, this is 'unlikely.' What Christie will do to the race is add some drama--for at least the first Kid's-Table-Debate as the candidates basket-of-crabs their way towards relevance.

Here Christie's strength as a bully will help him--but his time-line is too short: he'll likely be out of money before New Hampshire.

But What Could He Be Thinking??
It's got to be hard to go from a front-runner potential to "give it up you RINO"--and The Omnivore suspects that Christie is deluding himself about what his chances are. From his perspective he was validated on Super Storm Sandy, cleared on Bridgegate, and is STILL the Republican governor of a blue state. What's not to love?

But what's in his mind? Let's take a look with Telepathy!

Let's see--Announcement at my high-school: check. I was class president there for 3 freakin' years. That's almost a full term! Then--what--The Concord Hilton . . . oooh--they have a NICE buffet. Then a lunch at the Smoke Shack. Ribs! Yum. Then I've gotta totally tank Santorum. How hard could THAT be?

Let's do some real talk here: Jindal--I'll just shove him off the stage. Santorum? Tougher: he's got a bit of a fighter in him. I'll crush his ribcage. Cruz? Little tougher. I bet one kick in the stones, though and he cries like a little girl--hey, is that a doughnut--the strategy crew left a doughnut! MMmmmm. Delicious.

I should check the catering for the roll-out. Won't get a do-over on that. But soon? Soon it's Huckabee and if he thinks he can beat me he's a fool. I'll bite his smug little head off. Mmm ... maybe with some ketchup. Pepper. Like that.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Post-Judicial Court?

Over at the National Review Andrew McCarthy had discovered/decided that this court--this 'Supreme Court'--has become nothing more than a political animal: While sometimes so-called conservative justices disagree or argue, on a political issue there is never any question how the 4 liberal justices will vote:
There was never a shadow of a doubt. In the plethora of opinions generated by these three cases, there is not a single one authored by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, or Sonia Sotomayor. There was no need. They are the Left’s voting bloc. There was a better chance that the sun would not rise this morning than that any of them would wander off the reservation.
He's got a point--or does he?

What Is To Be Done?
 McCarthy stops just short of a detailed prescription--but he does seem pretty clear here:
If the justices are going to do politics, they should be in electoral politics. If John Roberts is going to write laws on the days when he isn’t posing as powerless to write laws, if Anthony Kennedy truly believes the country craves his eccentric notion of liberty (one that condemns government restraints on marriage 24 hours after it tightens government’s noose around one-sixth of the U.S. economy), then their seats should not be in an insulated third branch of government. They should be in an accountable third chamber of Congress.
This is pretty much what Senator and GOP president Ted Cruz has called for:
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) has proposed a constitutional amendment that would subject Supreme Court justices to periodic judicial elections in the wake of rulings that upheld a key portion of the Affordable Care Act and affirmed gay couples' right to marriage. 
“I am proposing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would subject each and every justice of the United States Supreme Court to periodic judicial retention elections," Cruz said Saturday, during a speech in Des Moines, Iowa. He also called for such elections in the National Review on Friday.
If and when the GOP wins the White House what might these newly minted SCOTUS activists do (at least during their elected tenure)? John Hinderaker has some ideas--discover OTHER new "fundamental rights!"
For example, how about a “fundamental right” not to pay income taxes in a percentage exceeding that which other Americans are charged? Why isn’t the progressive income tax a violation of the equal protection clause? That is a much stronger argument than the one the Court has just accepted on gay marriage. Or, how about a theory that the Internal Revenue Service is violating Americans’ right of privacy–that same right of privacy that the Court found among the emanations and penumbras of the Constitution’s actual provisions–in seeking extensive information about taxpayers’ finances? 
Or how about a fundamental right to affordable energy–or, rather, to be free of government policies that unreasonably raise the cost of energy? If the Supreme Court discovered such a right, the EPA’s anti-coal regulations would be unconstitutional. You could write a decision in support of such a “fundamental right” that would be at least as persuasive as Justice Kennedy’s “fortune cookie” travesty. What is more fundamental than heating your home and driving your car? To paraphrase Justice Kennedy, what if a voice cries out in the night, saying, “Honey! Can you turn the heat up?”
It's a thought.

On The Other Hand . . .
The Omnivore has to throw cold water all over this. Firstly, on a 9-person court there has only, ever been questions about how two of the justices will vote (Roberts and Kennedy). Justice Thomas gives speeches at Tea Party events and doesn't even ever ask any questions: he's as predictable as gravity. In the case of Kennedy it is because he is, resolutely, a man of principles--and they're kind of weird libertarian-ish principles. Secondly, in the case of Roberts, there wasn't any questions until his first ACA decision which got him branded a traitor by many on the right--but was probably done to avoid his legacy being that of a political operative.

Secondly, remember that time SCOTUS elected The President? Bush got 100% of the black-vote in that election. When the chips were down they were certainly happy to elect from the bench and conservatives were pleased.

Citizens United? Another political decision that had liberals screaming their heads off--but had conservatives lauding the court's wisdom.

If you're still not convinced, consider this: a major pressure point that conservatives (and liberals) discuss in national presidential elections is the vast importance of 'getting your guy in the Oval Office' because "of the judges." Anthony McCarthy is probably about 16 years old as he's apparently never been exposed to that argument--but trust The Omnivore, Anthony, it's out there--and people on both sides are making it in a breathless panic.

But What About The Fact That He's . . .  Also Kinda Right?
Despite being wrong about Things Being Different Now, McCarthy does kinda have a point:
Yet, for all the non-stop commentary, one detail goes nearly unmentioned — the omission that best explains this week’s Fundamental Transformation trifecta. Did you notice that there was not an iota of speculation about how the four Progressive justices would vote?
So what . . . about that? It is something of an interesting point--if the Chief Justice (the Dread Justice Roberts) might shift around, isn't it at least noteworthy that the 4 liberal justices never will? Let's examine that. We don't know exactly what is going on in the heads of these people--but we do know something about what the context for their decisions are. Let's see:

Gay Marriage

This was one where Roberts did the Right Thing (meaning he voted with the Right bloc). The fact is that everyone who had been paying attention to Kennedy knew more or less where he stood and what he was going to do. Why did we have no question about the other 8 members of the court? Well, firstly because the politics and theology of the question was clear cut--but also because the direction of the country was pretty clear cut. Let's look at a case of The Framer's Intent vs. Direction of the Country In the case of Scott vs. Sandford a part of the court's decision as this:
[ Chief Justice Taney ] decided: "the affirmative of these propositions cannot be maintained." According to Taney, the authors of the Constitution had viewed all blacks as "beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect."
Oh, yeah: That was Dred Scott vs. Sandford (his owner). The country has changed rapidly and as a whole in the direction of allowing gay marriage--including young Republicans. The idea that there's any doubt about where the liberals would lie on this is a fantasy. It's also true that there was almost no question about where the conservatives would lie--or, indeed, where Kennedy would come down.


In the Obamacare ruling there WAS questions about how both Roberts and Kennedy would vote--in this case the question was around Roberts more than Kennedy since he represented a "fail-safe" should Kennedy go against the ACA (in other words, the ACA had two potential saviors on the bench). The conditions--the context--around the case, though was pretty significant.
  1. A ruling against the ACA would throw the country into chaos and embroil the party that has majorities in both houses of Congress--the party to which Roberts belongs--into a civil war.
  2. The administration said, credibly, that they had no contingency plan for such a ruling. This was very likely true: like it or not, the GOP would get the blame and the 'contingency plan' to demand a 1-sentence fix to the law while parading people losing their coverage on national television was all the Plan B they needed. While this might have "solved the problem" (the GOP would eventually cave) the idea of banking on it would be more than any prudent person would willingly undertake.
  3. Despite what McCarthy says, laws have been evaluated by the "entirely of the intent" before--this isn't as stark a decision as he feels it is--and the betting markets called it accurately. 

Conservative Overreach?

One thing that McCarthy should consider is that while it's possible that the court has simply become a politicized legislative entity, it is also possible that conservatives have become well more conservative than the court and may be, erm, courting disaster by assuming Bush and Reagan-era appointees still line up with today's Tea-Party-tinged conservatism. From The UpShot:
Why are conservatives losing more often? While the justices may have changed their views in some instances, it’s also possible that the types of cases the court is deciding have shifted. What seem like liberal decisions may instead represent conservative overreach.

In a 2009 article, the political scientists Kevin T. McGuire, Georg Vanberg, Charles E. Smith Jr. and Gregory A. Caldeira proposed a theory that provides an alternate explanation to liberal drift. They predicted that conservatives would press their luck to take advantage when they had a majority on the court, appealing more cases they lost in lower courts. (Conversely, liberals would be less likely to appeal cases because they were more likely to prefer lower-court decisions and to fear creating damaging precedents.) Mr. McGuire and his co-authors then showed empirically that this process increased the number of conservative reversals of lower-court rulings but also increased the number of cases in which a more liberal ruling was affirmed because litigants guessed wrong about how far the court was willing to go. 
Their prediction seems to fit nicely with recent evidence.
This should be closely considered--especially in light of conservative frustration about their difficulty in winning national elections and the national popular vote (and possibly with Bush-v-Gore as instructional in the power of a conservative court).

The Omnivore is unimpressed with the idea that the SCOTUS rulings are something new or different--the country has often wound up before the judges on intractable problems. What's new, though, is that the GOP, not seeing a way forward other than through the courts is outraged that they are not more political. Remember: the various ACA lawsuits were designed to change a passed law--however it was passed--through judicial fiat. It's not the activism that outrages them--it's the 'betrayal.'

The idea that this would be ameliorated by 'voting the bastards out' (Ted Cruz's idea) is also deceptive: what really needs to happen is for the GOP to vote a conservative IN (into the White House). This, not coincidentally, is also what needs to happen to repeal Obamacare--and has been what needs to happen to repeal Obamacare for quite some time. The reason that message isn't the one that's being pushed is because it's hard and unpopular.

THAT'S the real story here--not the court going this way or that.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Trump-Star Rising!

Here is the current consolidated polling for the GOP Primary:
In second place is Donald Trump. This should give anyone pause--but hey, say pundits, it's nothing to be concerned about:
Legal Insurrection:The lesson here is to not get too worked up over Donald Trump and whatever early polling success he has. It is not likely to last once primary voters get to know the candidates more and have a chance to really listen to their ideas. Trump will do well, early on, but it largely will not matter.
Politico (Are Trump's Polling Numbers Too Good To Be True?) “Do I think it’s a substantive measure of his real support? No way. But do I think it recognizes that he has some name recognition that other candidates don’t have?” Cullen said of the poll. “What I have observed of coverage of those events is that they seem to be made-for-TV events where there’s no authentic interactions with the candidate and voters.” 
Cullen stressed that this isn’t a matter of the Suffolk poll’s accuracy, just name recognition.
On the other hand:
That's What Noah Rothman Was Linking To
What About The Donald?
 The Omnivore isn't sure that the name-recognition thing checks out. Consider these charts:

FiveThirtyEight: Why Donald Trump Isn't A Real Candidate In One Chart
He's more disliked than, well, anyone--but Chris Christie is at the bottom of the polls with his horrible favorability rating and Trump is at the top. Additionally:
Trump has been underwater for some time.

In other words, it isn't just that he's well known--it's that he's well known for being an asshole. So why's he winning?

Really: Why's he beating out guys like Dr. Ben Carson and Marco Rubio who are far, far more likable than he is? Is it really that he's that much more well-known? The Omnivore doesn't think so.

What The Voters Want: A Weapon
When you get a divorce sometimes you want the attorney who is the biggest, most awful asshole you can find. This is because that attorney will be your weapon against your significant other--you can't go in there and mix it up personally--but they can. In that scenario being a jerk is a selling point.

The Omnivore has heard a lot of talk about "amicable divorce" (meaning secession without a very, very high body-count) among the right and thinks that's not coincidental. Trump is unlikable and that's exactly what you want when you really, really hate the person you're going up against (Obama by way of Hillary Clinton . . . with a side of the GOP establishment).

This was the same conclusion The Omnivore came to when analyzing the behavior of the Tea Party vs. their Stated Values: That Tea Party candidates--especially the wacky ones--were 'human hand grenades' hurled at the administration. A lot of them didn't win--couldn't win--but that was fine: the votes cast made their point.

What Does This Mean?
People who think Trump will be a good thing for the party (check the byline and search this post!) should be careful in assessing what the base-voters want. The base voters, at least as of today, are very, very angry. We have Huckabee threatening promising a constitutional crisis when elected. We have Jindal offering to 'defund the court.' We've got Ted Cruz calling for a convention to recall supreme court justices.

These are real-world serious candidates who are competing for a small margin of polling-space and have to contend with Scott Walker who has also called for a new amendment. In this fray Trump is NOT a complete outlier--indeed, he's free to go where no one else is because in the same way Hillary doesn't need the press (and is effective without granting them access) Trump doesn't need donors (and is effective without pandering to them). Trump is the un-cut stuff a substantial portion of the base wants. He's selling a premium product.

While the smart money says his star will dim and, yes, he will be relegated to the dust-bin of candidate history along with Michelle Bachmann, it is quite possible that he will reveal a serious appeal that is more than skin-deep. This should concern anyone who cares about the dignity of the GOP and the election be fun to watch!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Future Shock

These two charts show the rate of social change and the rate of technological adoption. There are a few things to note here:
  1. Vertical (or near vertical) lines did exist for tech in the past--Color TV and Radio took off quickly--while Computers and the Telephone took longer. 
  2. A BIG part of tech-adoption is the rural vs. urban split (electricity on farms took forever--it was widespread in cities long before it was everywhere). Network-effects--and similar (the computer is more valuable the more people have one--the same for VCRs) are hugely important to some things (Telephones) and not others (cars).
  3. Not all social causes are equal either--and not all are listed here.
This has a different view of the world--slightly--but it also makes a point that is worth looking at: this slice of technological adoption shows what a technology looks like when it is in a semi-viable state (the 1975 PCs would only be vaguely identifiable today--as would the Web of 1990). Still, the curve here is worth looking at too.

Is Social Change Being Driven By Technology?
The comparison of these graphs is meant to show a sort of correlation: the speed of social change and the speed of adoptive technologies (especially social-interaction technologies which is what these charts sort of focus on). Are they related?

What we have seen this week is a social-upheaval that is perhaps revolutionary. The collapse of the Southern Pride / Confederate Flag contingent. The legalization of gay marriage. The about-face of a conservative court (Justice Roberts: Appointed by Bush. Justice Kennedy: Appointed by Reagan) on Obamacare. These are blows that have rocked the Conservative party--and been cheered by liberals.

The Omnivore remembers back to 2012 when it was assessed that the Democrats had a massive edge in online activity and social-network recruiting. Is there something inherent in the new technological frontiers that provides a left-ward curve and acceleration of change along that axis to societies that use them?


Brand Management & Social Networks
The first thing we should understand is that all activity on Social Networks is best described as Brand Management. In this case, the brand you are managing on Facebook or Twitter is you. When you post things, LIKE things, Tweet things, and so on, you are projecting and curating a brand that is the version of you that you want to "sell" to people. There is a reason that spending time on Facebook--a lot of it--makes you feel depressed--it's because you are in a competitive atmosphere with all your friends and acquaintances who are all brand-managing in your space.

There are reasons people's lives look "perfect" (or desperately emo) on Facebook: because it's their brand.

Some things work better for brands than others--the terms associated with the GOP are generally not as good for individual brands as liberal ideas. Liberal ideas can be caring. Conservative ideas, in their basic form, often come across as mean. This doesn't mean the ideas are mean--it means that the domain that the GOP dominates (personal responsibility?) are not as brand-amenable as LoveConqueresAll. 

It's possible that everyone's immersion in Social Networks is driving liberal change.

Notes (from
  1. More inclusive / diverse emoji's
  2. Activists using social networks
The Collapse of Religion
There is no reason that technology should be at-odds with religion--but what if it was? Consider that one of the things that technology has done--that The Internet has done--is to bring pornography into every house that wants it. Children had to work to get old magazines when The Omnivore was growing up. Then it was likely Playboy. Today a 12 year old can get pornography that would make the Marquis De Sade blush.

There is also the capture of attention. Today a young person has grown up with numerous devices that enable communication and entertainment. While these do not and cannot compete in the spiritual space, the modern church is probably ill-suited to go up against an Xbox.

Perhaps one of the things that technology is providing is a kind of mental anesthetic that displaces religion in many segments of our society. TV has been accused of this for a while: next year Netflix will surpass standard network television. If TV could be the Opiate of the Masses, Netflix is refined Oxycontin.

Social Justice Normalization
Conservatives rail against Social Justice Warriors--and, to be sure, on the Internet there are plenty of people making asses of themselves in the name of Social Justice. On the other hand, what if technology was presenting a kind of normalized view of Social Justice that was separate from online juvenile activism. In this model what we see is the proliferation of media and person-to-person interaction that provides views into arenas that were never visible before. 

Having to rely on a million-dollar-an-episode prime-time TV show to present gay characters is one thing. Being able to see stories and media about gay people on any device without hesitation may present a picture of a world that is very different and changes far more quickly than the world you'd have seen in the 1980's.

The Omnivore thinks that if Hillary wins in 2016 it will be in large part because of TV shows depicting a female president. The fact that there are thousands of channels is an aspect of technology every bit as much as a cell phone. Some of the biggest media stars of today are on YouTube--and you've never heard of them.

To be sure a lot of the Internet is ANTI-Social Justice--but, again, that brand is weaker than pro. The deluge of rainbow icons on the day of the SCOTUS decision legalizing gay marriage will have a subliminal impact even if it does not make a specific logical case. For people embedded in social media this may move the dial even if they are inclined to disagree. Hashtag activism (or using Facebook's rainbow filter) is also easy. So long are you personally aren't paying a price for supporting something (Gay Marriage) there's no reason not to and arguments against it just seem mean and old-fashioned. Multiply this by a VAST increase in media and you have a tidal-wave of change waiting to break.

A Redefinition of 'Conservative'
It is worth noting that despite his defection on Obamacare, Roberts is by any rational definition a conservative justice. Kennedy somewhat less so--but still, as noted above: Appointed by Reagan. Part of what we are seeing in the shift is a movement not just of society to the left (see Gallup) but also conservatives--and what it means to be conservative--shifting to the right (see: Pew). It is a common barb to say that Ronald Reagan would be considered too left-wing for today's GOP--and not exactly true (he'd have been totally against Obamacare--and fought it out with Russia)--but there is some truth to it.

To justice Roberts, The Omnivore guesses, today's Congress probably looks like unruly spoiled brats screaming as loudly as they can for things that the government is not designed to deliver. He probably finds the Court to be the last functional branch of a government locked in ouroboros-like battle with itself. What else is he to do but try to prevent chaos and damage?

The new conservative is marked by a litmus test of agreement with the most fanciful elements of the base--that Obama is a literal tyrant, that Operation Jade Helm could be a power-grab-coup by the military, that the president might be a Muslim, a foreigner, or a traitor. These are extreme positions that are reflected by the media the right consumes (see: FEMA warning pop-ups on major conservative web-sites--heralding disaster and collapse) and produces (Fox News and the 'Knock-out game'). This is a change both in degree and content of what being on 'the right' means (note: The Clintons saw many scandals and Bush saw 9/11 Trutherism--but none of these elevated the way conspiracy has today).

Notes (from The Upshot)

  1. A model for the Supreme Court finds that the movement of decisions in the liberal direction may be more due to conservative over-reach than a change in attitude.
The "correlation" above isn't all that strong--and it's not causation anyway--but the rapidity of change makes The Omnivore think there IS a technological acceleration behind what we are seeing. As change is happening in the young faster than the old--and the young are far more immersed in technology--this would provide a sort of "predictive check."

If this is the case, expect to see these trends increase until some sort of natural saturation point is reached. The Omnivore isn't sure what that would look like--but the culture is probably only so elastic. We should also expect back-lash. A few days ago, parties unknown distributed KKK material around Charleston. Periods of rapid social change have always had significant backlash. This one should be no different--but we should also be aware that to a very large extent the people who are being caught in the cultural rip-tide are people who may not be, exactly, ideological enemies of positive social change--but may simply be seeing something they have a hard time understanding happening so quickly that they don't have time to adjust.

Now You Will ALL Get Gay-Married.

Yesterday’s Obamacare decision told us that we do not live under the rule of law. Today’s gay marriage decision tells us we do not live in a democracy. These are dark days.
-- John Hinderaker PowerLine Blog
Today SCOTUS dropped yet another left-wing bombshell. In this case the traitor to the conservative cause was Anthony Kennedy (he was also a traitor yesterday--but was overshadowed by Roberts) who ruled that Gay Marriage is essentially a state right. The four Conservative justices were infuriated--each writing a separate, often snark-laden response.

What are we to make of this?

Don't Go To The Courts
The first thing that Conservatives should take away from this is that you can't "trust" Supreme Court Justices to rule in your ideological favor. This chart shows that under Roberts--a conservative justice--the court has issued more and more liberal rulings:
If you say "Ah! But in this case the liberals brought the suit!" you are correct--BUT there were some non-judicial remedies that could have been deployed earlier. For example, a constitutional amendment to let STATES decide marriage rules. Trying to have a constitutional convention to make marriage a man and a woman was a bridge too far--but a less severe play might have forestalled this. We'll never know now--but the lesson ought to stand: just like with a boxing match, you DON'T want to leave things in the judge's hands. Ever.

This Should Take Gay Marriage Off The Table for 2016: It Won't

And they even seem happy about it--THE FOOLS!!

Unfortunately the ruling will NOT take the issue off the table: Here is Vox's list of 2016 candidates responses ranked by level of anger (the first four):
  1. Mike Huckabee: "The Supreme Court has spoken with a very divided voice on something only the Supreme Being can do — redefine marriage. I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch... The Supreme Court can no more repeal the laws of nature and nature's God on marriage than it can the laws of gravity."
  2. Bobby Jindal: "Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that. This decision will pave the way for an all out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree with this decision."
  3. Rick Santorum: "Today, five unelected justices decided to redefine the foundational unit that binds together our society without public debate or input. Now is the people's opportunity to respond because the future of the institution of marriage is too important to not have a public debate... Marriage, the family and our children are too central to a healthy society to not fight for what is best. I realized that fact early on and that is why I lead the charge against some in my own party in 2004 to ensure the Federal Marriage Amendment received a vote and I continue to stand for marriage, for families, for freedom."
  4. Scott Walker: "I believe this Supreme Court decision is a grave mistake... As a result of this decision, the only alternative left for the American people is to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to reaffirm the ability of the states to continue to define marriage."
This positioning will keep the issue alive and in reporter's hands until election night. This is especially true since the Iowa voting bloc is highly evangelical and several candidates (the top 3) need to win to be relevant. With Walker, the current favorite, diving in with the Amendment-Solution they will need some way to get to the right of him. This will fan the flames.

Next Stop: Polygamy?
The right is saying this--when they aren't invoking NAMBLA or man-dog marriage. It's an interesting question though (consent and legal-age take care of the more ridiculous comparisons). Is Polygamy next? Well, maybe--but there IS an argument against it that works with "age of consent." It's this: people have a legitimate interest in marriage--ask any SoCon--or gay person who wants to get married. As such, they have a legitimate interest in marriage rules supporting their orientation (i.e. gay people would like to be able to visit their loved ones in the hospital or share employer-provided health insurance).

There is, however, no comparable interest for polygamy. Polygamy isn't an orientation, at least not yet--and society has no compelling need to treat it like one. Now, in the brave new world of people who turn black because they say they "feel black" we might get a "I'm genetically polygamous--my love--it cannot be contained/constrained."

So, okay, sure--maybe--but we don't have to. Something will need to lube that slope a little more to convince The Omnivore that Polygamy Is Coming To The USA.

The End Of The Republic?
This has been a bad week for The Conservative Right. Not only have the court's decisions all (and somewhat unsurprisingly) gone against them--but Donald Trump is polling in 2nd place and the GOP just capitulated on the flag.
THAT . . . is . . . Scary.
The New York Post's Ross Douthat re-releases The Terms of Our Surrender:
I am being descriptive here, rather than self-pitying. Christians had plenty of opportunities — thousands of years’ worth — to treat gay people with real charity, and far too often chose intolerance. (And still do, in many instances and places.) So being marginalized, being sued, losing tax-exempt status — this will be uncomfortable, but we should keep perspective and remember our sins, and nobody should call it persecution. 
But it’s still important for the winning side to recognize its power. We are not really having an argument about same-sex marriage anymore, and on the evidence of Arizona, we’re not having a negotiation. Instead, all that’s left is the timing of the final victory — and for the defeated to find out what settlement the victors will impose.
Buck up everyone, The New York Times just discovered additional Hillary emails--that'll end her campaign for sure.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

SCOTUSCare Ascendant!

From The Dissent
In a move that, frankly, didn't surprise too many people, SCOTUS has ruled 6-3 for the Obama administration allowing the federal subsidies to continue. Needless to say, a lot of people are very upset about this (and other people are very happy--jury still out on Republicans receiving subsidies--probably conflicted).

What are we to make of this?

The Court Saved The GOP
Despite outrage, Capitol Hill GOP staffers are apparently highly relieved. The court didn't throw a golden-apple into their caucus and force them to fight it out Hunger Games style (Paul Ryan Threat Rating: 12). What was said--but not acknowledged by the base--was that the GOP was in no way ready to execute on the window of opportunity that a ruling against the ACA would have provided.

The GOP Probably Fumbled The Ball
While Roberts probably likes to think of himself as calling "balls and strikes" there is no way a human being (which all of the justices, save Scalia who is undead, are) can separate themselves from the context of a decision. If Roberts had ruled against the ACA there would have been chaos followed by more chaos. Millions of people would have lost their subsidies--some . . . might have died.

The fact that the GOP had five years to come up with a viable alternative--and instead came up with several competing half-baked plans--should be acknowledged in the assignation of blame. With no cohesive plan to go up against the ACA the GOP did not provide a safe-landing for the justices to push towards.

The fact that there IS no solid alternative itself should perhaps be seen as a key point in the debate. What if it's Individual Mandate or Pre-Existing Conditions and that's that?

ObamaCare is Here To Stay
While the ACA will likely feature in some 2016 politics, it appears that it's going to go the way of abortion rights: there may be some hay to be made around the edges--but at this point? It looks like a done deal. Even if the GOP wins the presidency next year, it seems unlikely to see a serious repeal given that the party has been unable to agree on anything thus far and the Insurance Companies will be against chaos.

The GOP may need to pick another hill to die on--maybe reviving the Confederate Flag?

What About A Third Party?
Maybe just a second party would be good, eh? There will be talk--chatter--about voting the bastards out and reforming the party and taking back the country. The smart money is that nothing will be done--Game Theory, the science of incentives and behavior--is against it. The fact is that there are parties out there (and The Omnivore means Out There)* that would bring the ideological purity that the GOP base needs. What they can't provide is the credibility that a vote for them is worthwhile. So long as the GOP has a lock on anti-Democratic votes they can play in the gray-space of realpolitik and still keep control of at least one branch of government.

The fact that the base can't face is that their solutions (stand and fight--at ALL COSTS) are not practical. The modern history of the GOP has been that of being backed into one blind-alley after another--and the leadership, at each point, making--executing on--the reasonable choice--and simply absorbing damage as a result of their compromises with their own base.

This dysfunctional condition will continue until either The Base gives up on unreasonable expectations or the GOP gets a new name. If neither of these seem likely to you, you're reading things right.

While the GOP is likely breathing a sigh of relief on this, the fact is that SCOTUS is handing down very 'liberal' rulings from a majority conservative court (the other ruling today was a win for Democrats authored by Kennedy. It seems likely Gay Marriage will happen next week). Conservatives who are looking at the abrupt, avalanche of the Confederate Flag (and Confederate Culture) collapse should carefully consider a broader picture that seems to be emerging. These rulings are being constructed against a back-drop of changing political tides. The GOP isn't frozen out here--but attaining a real victory may involving changing what victory 'looks like.'

Here's a couple of questions:

  1. If you accept that a pro-GOP SCOTUS decision would still result in the extension of subsidies (which seems the case) and the Republicans had no reasonable plan for reform of the law, was all of this just theater? If so, who was the performance for--who was fooled by it?
  2. If you accept that the Confederate Flag was legitimately viewed by many as a racist symbol (even if also viewed legitimately as a symbol of heritage) then, if you therefore agree it should be taken down today--wasn't it always the case that you were standing up for a racist symbol (even if it had other meanings?). If that's true--then were the Democrats (and blacks) correct in calling racism on the GOP? Or did the flag just suddenly become racist when Dylann Storm Roof used it in his manifesto and massacre? Seems unlikely, no? 

* If the 4th major talking-point of your presumptive party's platform is Agenda 21, you should re-examine your life.