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Saturday, May 28, 2016


It is a rainy Saturday afternoon in Paris, Serena Williams’ third round match at the French Open has been suspended, the two cuisses de canard with five spices and mandolined sweet onions are slowly cooking in the oven, and it seems a good time to reflect a bit on the state of the endless presidential race.
Let me begin with the latest State Department report about Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.  I confess that I find this affair simply incomprehensible.  When Clinton assumed the position of Secretary of State, she knew she was going to make another run for the Presidency [I know she says she had not yet decided, but seriously!]  She knew that if she secured the nomination, she would be the object of endless attacks.  She stupidly refused simply to maintain two Blackberrys [Blackberries?] in order to keep her official e-mails separate from her private e-mails, and sure enough she got in trouble for that idiotic decision. At that point, she must have known that this would become a thing when she ran for the presidency.  Why in the name of God did she not, right then, release everything, apologize, and put it behind her?  I mean, this was not her first supposed scandal.  It was her tenth or twentieth.  She is an intelligent person.  Does she literally learn nothing from experience?

Will this sink her chances in the election?  No.  Will she win, nevertheless?  Christ, I hope so.  All the objective evidence suggests that she will either win respectably or overwhelmingly.  But how sheerly blindly mind-numbingly stupid is she?
On to Bernie.  I think he is doing the right thing by fighting hopelessly to the bitter end in the primary battle.  Why?  For two reasons.  First, I think it is politically useful to give all of his enthusiastic supporters the opportunity to go to the polls and vote for him.  The American political system is a winner-take all system that creates vast numbers of what Professor Lani Guinier, in several well-known law articles about that system calls “wasted votes.”  Wasted votes are votes beyond the 51% needed to win that, when cast, do not change the outcome.  The electoral college system compounds the phenomenon of wasted votes – winning New York or California with 60% gets a Democrat no more electoral votes than winning with 50.1%   If Bernie is really building a movement, he needs to fire up his large mass of supporters so that he can keep them engaged even after he concedes and calls on them to vote for Clinton [as I am confident he will.]  Giving every supporter in every state the chance to vote for him will serve that end.

Secondly, there is a real struggle for the control of the Democratic Party going on, and it is fundamentally generational in nature.   Victories in primaries that are meaningless with respect to who will win the nomination can nevertheless play a very important role in consolidating the insurgency seeking to take the party to the left.  None of this, of course, will have the slightest effect on how Clinton governs, if she wins the election.  After moving left to inspire Bernie’s supporters during the campaign, she will snap back to the center-right as soon as she is inaugurated.  That is all right.  Such are the realities of American politics, and I do not hold that against Clinton at all.  She is who she is.  But her election will not be the end of this insurgency, or so I hope and pray.  Bernie’s run for the nomination is one more stage in that insurgency, just as Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter have been.
And so we come to Trump, whose behavior is so counter-productive as to confound [I mean, what can he hope to gain by attacking a popular Latina governor who is the Chairperson of the Republican Governor’s Association?]  I have been brooding about this behavior, and I am beginning to understand it.  Here is the conclusion I have come to:  Trump actually has no identifiable political or ideological views whatsoever.  What he has is a set or complex of sociopathic obsessive needs – to bully those around him, to brag about and promote himself, to dominate men and humiliate women sexually, to deny that his hands are small [I am not kidding].  He is incapable of moderating these needs for more than an instant, even when it is in his self-interest to do so.  It is utterly pointless to probe his statements for any underlying beliefs about the world at all.  The only beliefs he holds with any firmness are beliefs about himself, at a psychodynamic level that is infantile.

Well, the duck is almost done, and I must sauté the courgettes


s. wallerstein said...

What's noteworthy is that someone like Trump, without any political convictions or ethical center, a bullshitter in Harry Frankfurt's use of the term, whose only goal is self-promotion in an infantile sense, is the candidate of one of the two major political parties in the world's most powerful nation, the center of a global empire. Otherwise, the world is full of Trumps: they are an all-too-common personality type in contemporary capitalist society. Just yesterday a neighbor, a salesman, was confiding in me the tricks he uses to push expensive cell-phone plans on people who don't need them and often can't afford them: exude confidence and self-assurance, constant eye-contact, play on the customer's weakness and status anxieties, manipulate or guide them towards signing the contract, etc.

TheDudeDiogenes said...

I would attribute HRC's using only one Blackberry and subsequent responses to the email scandal to overwhelming arrogance rather than stupidity, per se.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

It is interesting. If you assume that Clinton is ambitious, intelligent, and arrogant, which seems right, then you must conclude that her arrogance overwhelmed her combined intelligence and ambition, which is really saying something about her arrogance!

Jerry Fresia said...

What is with the "intelligence" thing? Obama called her "super bright." Super ambitious, most definitely. Tenacious, yes - like a dog with a bone. Arrogant? Yes, on the level of jet-set entitlement. But bright, intelligent? I just don't see it. She has never said a single thing that I'm aware of that provoked introspection, that was prescient, or even plain old insightful. She was the person in high school who by sucking-up to all the little frogs in the small pond, managed to get elected class president. She obviously phony but fills the space the system creates for her. By contrast, pompous, narcissistic, and sociopathic Donald remains amusing and refreshing in the land of cardboard careerist who have screwed over 80% of the population.

s. wallerstein said...

Jerry Fresia,

I agree with you about Hillary, but she's the kind of person whom you have to call "super bright" (even though she isn't) because if you don't, her revenge and fury will be fearful.

Another thing about Hillary is her self-righteousness. Self-righteousness is hard to take unless the person is truly righteous, say, Martin Luther King, and since Hillary is far from righteous, she turns a lot of us off. If she were less self-righteous, like Bill, she's be more simpática.

Chris said...

She earns the term super bright from political insiders who claim her ability to comprehend legislation and its manifest impact is uncanny. Elizabeth Warren for instance said among all her students, no one better understood the bankruptcy bill faster, and better, than Hillary Clinton.

TheDudeDiogenes said...

Perhaps we should recall that intelligence is not the same as wisdom.