It Takes More Than the Russian Scandal to Connect With Voters

The Democrats need to weigh their options carefully:

“We need to talk about what people think about when they wake up in the morning, and it’s not Russia,” Sragow said. “The more we talk about stuff that voters don’t truly care about in their daily lives … it confirms that the Democratic Party’s brain has been eaten by the elites in Washington who have been sitting fat and happy for a lot of years while working Americans have lost their jobs and lost confidence in the future.”

I’ve always felt that the push over the Russia scandal was bizarre.  The whole concept of a foreign state influencing a country which is still as mentally insular and provincial as this one is strange to begin with. It gets stranger when we profess moral outrage over someone else influencing our elections while at the same time we meddle in others.  And, of course, we’ve always been unjustifiably obsessed with the Russians.  They just don’t have as strong of a hand as it looks to us.

I think the Democrats have it in their minds that if they can conjure images of the Cold War in the old white voters that put Trump in the White House, they can sink him, and at the same time put their own reputation as soft on national security behind them.  But that’s fighting yesterday’s war.  The best they can hope for is to hog airtime with this campaign of theirs.

The biggest problem the Democrat left has had my entire adult lifetime is what we used to call the “limousine liberal” phenomenon, i.e., an elite-directed party trying to connect with people who are entirely different from them in outlook.  That’s another place where the trials of the Anglican-Episcopal world are instructive.  In the 1960’s and 1970’s we had the likes of Ian Mitchell and my prep school chaplain trying to raise the social consciousness of an élite institution, and ending up with an institution that is still élite and now in decline.  Until they figure that out, the Democrats’ dream of closing the deal with the American people and making this country a de facto one-party state will remain beyond their grasp.

4 thoughts on “It Takes More Than the Russian Scandal to Connect With Voters”

  1. There is a non-trivial probability that Trump and his campaign conspired with a hostile foreign power to cheat in the last Presidential election. That means that the integrity of elections is at stake. That means that a hostile foreign power may have leverage over American foreign policy counter to America’s interests. Unchecked it would mean that the President can operate outside the law. So our system of constitutional government is also at stake. We are looking at losing democratic constitutional republicanism and becoming some sort of tyranny of tools.

    Democracy, sovereignty, and the Constitution–those are the most enormous stakes our country has faced in decades, maybe since World War II. Basically, American identity is at stake. That’s a terrifying and somewhat abstract set of systemic threats. That’s today unique war.

    To argue that people may not care about any of this because all that matters to them is bread and circuses may be true. But that is an indictment of the people as cows. Then the Democrats’ greatest problem would be that voters don’t care or understand democracy well enough to defend it, that valuing about the Constitution or rule of law makes one an out-of touch elitist.

    I’m not that cynical about the people though. I think voters are for now giving Trump the presumption of innocence, the whole innocent until proven guilty model while the investigation continues. With such high stakes and high uncertainty about the basic facts, people are being cautious… for now. That’s not unreasonable–extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And people are slow to wrap their heads around the dysfunction of the White House and enormity of the somewhat abstract charges.

    That said, to dismiss the threat by knocking down Russia as a bogeyman is preposterous. The Russians have a history of interfering in Western elections; they have capable intelligence agencies; and Trump is on record asking for their assistance against Hillary during the campaign. Not to mention admitting to firing the FBI director to squash the investigation and lying about nakedly conspiratorial meetings among his campaign chief, senior advisor, son, and Russian government representatives.

    And by the way, I didn’t overthrow the Shah or subvert anyone else’s election, so my outrage here is completely justified and in no way hypocritical. I have the right to defend my power as a voter. That right is absolute. So even if I had personally ordered the Bay of Pigs, I could still say two wrongs don’t make a right and the Russians are completely out of line interfering in American democracy. And that has nothing to do with how good the Democrats are at connecting with voters. What’s so tragic in your argument is that defending basic American freedoms has become a partisan function, not an American one. I am defending basic American freedoms as an American. Does that make me a Democrat?

    1. Let’s start with the last statement:

      I am defending basic American freedoms as an American. Does that make me a Democrat?

      At this point, finding a safe harbour for civil liberties isn’t a simple partisan issue. For example, many conservatives (including me) are unhappy with Jeff Sessions’ expansion of civil forfeiture, Trump had more reason to fire him over that than what he was insinuating at the time.

      And by the way, I didn’t overthrow the Shah or subvert anyone else’s election, so my outrage here is completely justified and in no way hypocritical. I have the right to defend my power as a voter. That right is absolute

      Your right is absolute, but that doesn’t change whether it is hypocritical or not.

      So our system of constitutional government is also at stake. We are looking at losing democratic constitutional republicanism and becoming some sort of tyranny of tools.

      We’re certainly in danger of that, the question is from whom. Since 9/11 (and before that) we have our intelligence apparatus, now christened as the “deep state” basically able to know just about everything and to act on that knowledge. I think–and may others do also–that this is the greatest threat to our civil liberties. The deep state and Trump are locked in a fight to the death. I’m the first to admit that Trump leaves a lot to be desired of in that role, but no one else (certainly not Chuck Schumer!) seems to be interested in doing anything effective about that. Whoever wins that struggle gets to run the Republic. If the deep state is able to oust Trump, we might as well forget about elections at the federal level.

      To argue that people may not care about any of this because all that matters to them is bread and circuses may be true. But that is an indictment of the people as cows.

      Much of the problem is due to the fact that this country has shifted from a country of owners to a country of renters, if not de jure certainly de facto via the deep level of debt. The cows don’t own the pasture any more, and that explains much of the instability in our political life. You will recall that this was one of the first conflicts the Republic went through, and it’s gone through it again, although I don’t know of a time when it’s been quite as bad as it is now (largely due to the general breakdown of the family.)

      And you will also recall that the idea that the voters are stupid fuelled people like Jonathan Gruber, one of the architects of Obamacare. That legislation was and is a bureaucratic kludge and its defects are no less to blame for the present crisis than the hopeless inability of Congress to fix it.

      You are too much like Mueller and Comey: straight arrows in a crooked world. As was the case at the end of the Roman Republic, the straight arrows may end up with a result that is opposite of what they intended, and then we’ll all pay the price.

  2. Specifically, what illegal deeds do the errors, preferences, or sins of the Democrats license and by whom? Does holding the President accountable to the law make me a Democrat?

    In a crooked world, should we overcome evil with evil? Is a legal investigation akin to an extralegal assassination?

    Minor: how is it hypocritical to support the sanctity of elections against covert foreign interventions in both the US and abroad?

    1. Specifically, what illegal deeds do the errors, preferences, or sins of the Democrats license and by whom? Does holding the President accountable to the law make me a Democrat?

      Just ask James Rosen and Sheryl Attkisson. Particularly with the latter, the FBI has stonewalled her for years.

      I’m not sure why you keep asking me the question of what makes you a Democrat. In this state, we don’t register by party. How should I know one way or the other?

      In a crooked world, should we overcome evil with evil? Is a legal investigation akin to an extralegal assassination?

      One of the things the effective rule of law requires is that the law needs to be as simple and transparent as possible. Our legal system is neither. That’s just reality. It’s possible to make just about anyone who does anything substantive in life a criminal. That’s why the AG choice is so controversial: everyone knows he or she gets to decide who gets prosecuted and who doesn’t. There’s an enormous amount of prosecutorial discretion in our system, and that “discretion” can be used maliciously. Again that’s just reality; if it doesn’t fit in your ideal construct, that’s just life.

      Minor: how is it hypocritical to support the sanctity of elections against covert foreign interventions in both the US and abroad?

      It’s hypocritical to blithely interfere in others’ elections (as we did, for example, in Nigeria’s last presidential election) and then turn around go postal when we think someone has interfered in ours.

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