Monday, August 25, 2014

The Article Vs. The Comments Section

Red State author Erick Erickson is becoming increasingly unhappy with the populist Conservative discourse:
Were I to recreate this site, I think it would have no comments section. Disqus is just horrible. I do not recommend it to anyone. And it just helps further what I see on so much social media these days. As much as the internet can bring people together of like mind, it also can help shrill minorities of people think their views are more mainstream than they are. That then emboldens them further. 
The last is the present situation in Ferguson, MO. The rush to win a fight and lay blame instead of mourning a loss and praying for a situation just leaves me perplexed. The rush to “change the narrative” with bad facts to replace bad facts by some folks who keep the ichthys on their car unsettles me.
David Frum observes that the Republican party has cornered itself by being the party of the old, the wealthy and radicalized donor class, and a Us vs. Them attitude that turns off people who would otherwise agree with its principles:
It wasn’t their personalities that kept McCain and Romney from winning the vote of the female partner in an accounting firm, the Indian American hotel owner, the Japanese American architect, or the gay retired military officer. McCain and Romney were fine candidates. The problem was that they were forced to contort themselves and embrace messages that must-win constituencies found deeply obnoxious.
A Question of Jeb Bush
At a gathering this weekend The Omnivore spoke with a friend who seemed certain that Hillary Clinton would lose in 2016. To whom? Either Jeb Bush or, you know, maybe Chris Christie. Bank on it. The Omnivore isn't sure exactly what his reasoning was--but it's not irrational. Consider:

So in a nut-shell, Jeb or Christie would be a reasonable candidate with wide-spread appeal and Hillary is a weak, unpopular choice.

The Omnivore isn't sure if his realizes this or not but that was exactly the We-Can't-Lose formula that gave us presidents McCain and Romney.  Now, the friend in question doesn't frequent conservative blogs and FOX News on cable doesn't have a comments section (it does on the web--when they are not being shut down) so he can't see what people are saying. He doesn't quite realize what he's up against: Democrats can generally find something to like in Hillary--and the fact that she clearly has a decent chance of winning is the whipped cream and cherry on top.

For the Republican base, the fact that Jeb or Christie could win is seen as a powerful negative: the term 'electable' drips with contempt in conservative parlance. Additionally, the argument that Romney was 'forced' to say things that made him unpopular is only partially true (the immigration comments in the debate certainly qualify): the missing white-male voters in 2012 weren't evangelicals--they were blue-collar white men (more like Hillary or Perot voters). 

In other words, it isn't just a matter of cleaning up the debates / primary schedule--it was probably Romney's 1% rich-guy persona that left a vital block of voters cold. The 47% gaffe wasn't the result of a rightward head-wind that blew him off course--that was Mitt Romney at his most honest. The problem with the Jeb-Rides-In-And-Wins scenario is that the high-turn-out ideological base doesn't want their most viable best-fit candidate but rather the most ideologically pure one. 

Let's say that again: the Democrats don't have to be one whit more 'enlightened' than the Republicans on this. They also don't have to sell out their convictions (some will say they do--but someone will always say that). They simply have to recognize that Hillary is the best candidate that will pretty reliably get them some of what they want and rationally decide that a vote for her maximizes their individual voice. This basic game-theory approach is broken for the GOP base.

The fact that Romney and McCain eventually consolidated their parties isn't the point here--the fact that right now the guy with the front-running polling is Rand Paul at a minuscule 16% tells you everything you need to (Hillary at last check has a pretty unprecedented 60+% support for her candidacy). The GOP doesn't need to pick a candidate two years out--no--but when The Omnivore's friend's "obvious choices" are both high on name-recognition and polling in the basement, it should be clear that the party base doesn't think about this the same way he does.

They're serious about it too--from the high-turn-out early states to the heavy-hitting money guys. The party's election machine should have catapulted Romney into the candidacy when, instead, it created a painful, expensive path to nomination that hurt everyone. This is usually cast as the split between the GOP-Establishment and the Conservative Base--but it is most clearly seen in its pure form in mainstream conservative blogs: the difference between the bloggers (who generally get that position by being chosen for writing skills, perspective, and knowledge) and the comments sections.

The Schism: The Article And The Comments Section

The Upshot, the New York Times data-blog, looked at Google searches and correlated them between the hardest and easiest places to live in America. These are what people in those areas were searching on most often that most strongly correlated to the miserableness-index of that area. You should read the article--but it looks like this:
You'll have to guess which side was the haves and which was the have-nots--but The Omnivore bets you can. People on the nice side of town probably aren't Googling 'severe itching' a whole lot. You can compare the Hardest Places To Live (and Easiest) with a by-county voting map from 2012 to see if you think there's a line up (note too the breakdown by population density: the nicest places to live are often sparsely populated).

The Omnivore thinks that if Erick Erickson lives over on the green side of the graphic, a lot of his readership probably comes from the orange. The bridge between the two worlds for guys like Erickson is a nuanced understanding of the situation where Brown could be both a criminal and a victim or youngsters crossing the border could be both illegal aliens and traumatized children. 

Erickson clearly understands that both things can be true at the same time--why don't people in his circles? Well, he probably ought to look at ads on mainstream conservative sites. The ones telling people to buy gold or watch a video warning them about FEMA and telling them what item to horde (yes, using the term 'horde'). Erickson knows that a lot the visitors to these sites expect if not the biblical apocalypse, the economic Obamalypse to come soon and need things like expensive dubious quality freeze-dried meals to be prepared for it. 

What he's refusing to look at is the fact that these ads are symptomatic (as well as part driver of) a feedback loop that is created when you relentlessly call people illegals or give a bunch of air time ideologically to 'the knock-out game.' When things are framed that way, is it any wonder that people don't want to give illegals aid and comfort or that they have already made up their minds about Ferguson? 

It shouldn't be.

It most certainly shouldn't be to Erick Erickson.


  1. I think you may have your logic inadvertently flipped in one spot there: " it any wonder that people don't want to give illegals aid and comfort or that they haven't already made up their minds about Ferguson?" Did you mean "have" instead of "haven't"?

    -- Ω

    1. You are correct--yes. Thanks!

  2. Online comments sections are often awful. Especially on mainstream sites, and doubly especially on conservative sites.

    I'm not at all surprised that the less stupid members of the right are getting fed up with their comment sections. Even if they agree ideologically with the hateful nonsense in their comments, I imagine they find the numerous logical and factual mistakes irritating.

    1. But do the "less stupid members of the right" also see everything they dislike or disagree with as an existential threat? Those who do may be gritting their teeth and reminding themselves that victory at any price is still victory.

      And as to the identity of these people - it seems to me that something like 97% of American so-called conservatives (what they profess to want is in fact extremely radical, but let's leave that aside for the moment) are being preyed upon due to some combination of ignorance, stupidity, fear, and ideological blindness. That is to say, they've essentially been duped, for various reasons, into voting against their own interests by the remaining 3%, who could be described as cynical bastards who care nothing for the so-called "base" of their party beyond their money and their votes. Those in the smaller group are the Republican Party's natural constituency; those whose personal or corporate fortunes are strongly correlated with those of the party. They are the HNWIs, the "one percenters". Unlike their far more numerous brethren, they can be said to know exactly what they're doing.

      I would also categorize the "swing" faction of single-issue voters in the larger group. Of course, right-wingers have no monopoly on these; the liberal analogs of homophobes, gun rights partisans, and fanatical right-to-lifers could be said to be PETA activists, "gun grabbers", and pro-choice absolutists, to name just a few ideological fault lines.

      A thought experiment: what do you suppose would happen to those infamous comment sections if people could no longer post anonymously? I guess that's another way of asking how large a role you think anonymity plays in the sheer venom and nastiness so often on display there.

      I despised G.W. Bush almost as much as today's Tea Party folks do Obama - but I never had any desire to kill him or do him any actual harm. Having him removed from office in disgrace with some of his more odious associates indicted for treason would have been enough for me :-) That said, it won't come as news to anybody that today's Obama-haters don't stop there; they seem to want to impeach him, grind his whole family up into Puppy Chow, and then get really nasty...

      -- Ω

    2. Let's be clear: were Erickson to read this post (he will not) he would -not- agree with my conclusions. Firstly he would say that it IS just a minority of assholes who are wishing ill on children (and while we can't prove it either way, I suspect the correlation between high-turn-out and active-online is higher than might make anyone comfortable).

      Secondly, he *does* see Obama as an agent of destruction--honestly--and he (I'mma guess) -wonders- if Obama's destruction is, in fact, -willful- (okay--no, he thinks at least SOME of it is DEFINITELY willful either in the sense of cleaving to far-left liberal values when they clearly lead to tragedy or, possibly, even in the sense of "let's hurt those rich white guys--hey, why not!?").

      Erickson is NOT the RINO that Frum is (who thinks Obama is a bad president but sees the lack of a viable alternative in, say, Santorum--a trade Erickson would likely make in a heartbeat. No idea if Erickson would swap Obama for Bachmann though).

      So really it IS just limited to the comments section--and that is in a closed loop of blame.

      Secondly--credit where due: lots of the right actually does think Obama's singular decent trait (after persecuting the drone war, maybe) is that he seems to be a committed family man.

      -The Omnivore

    3. Not to be a grammar Nazi (again), but "...persecuting the drone war" should probably be "prosecuting the drone war".

      And I like your Gedankenexperiment, but have to say that anybody who'd trade any remotely mainstream American politician for Michele Bachmann has hemorrhaged their last drop of credibility, as far as I'm concerned. In fact, it's kind of a relief when people propose such things, in the somewhat {selfish? lazy?} sense of "oh good, I don't have to pay attention to them any more."

      At least Kodos is consistent: no one can say that he/she/it has ever been less than forthcoming about expressing the view that humans are crunchy and good with ketchup.

      -- Ω

  3. A few years ago, I saw a chart overlaying "Red/Blue-states" statistics with (for lack of a more complete description) finacial "taker vs giver states" tax-dollar wise. I'm guessing you might already guess where I'm going by now... While certainly not absolute, there was nonetheless a noticeable correlation between Red/taker states and Blue/giver states.
    Some of the other article references you made here seems to generally corroborate this - i.e. the 'hardest' places to live (often relying on government to help) often seem to be among the most Red politically.
    I find this correlation curious. And wonder how voters in these Hard and Red areas come to buy the concept that the party of (supposedly) small government, of big business, and big money (i.e. GOP), brings them betterment of their economic standing. It doesn't (imho).