This will be my final election-related post because I'm just so goddamn sick of writing about fucking politics. You need to understand my history: I've always hated politics, but when we attacked Iraq in 2003, I found myself on one side of the debate over the war, with two of my best friends on the other side (they were pro; I was con, and I think I've been proven right). Our email exchanges—now lost to the mists of time, for me at least—ranged up and down many different aspects of history, politics, and culture. I'm thankful to have gone through that wringer: it helped me flesh out, in some measure, my own political views, and it made me realize that politics is an essential part of social reality. It can't be dismissed or denied, and however cynical I might become about politics, politicians, and notions of government, these issues won't simply disappear just because I'm ignoring them.
I like to think of myself as a moderate and a centrist. My friends and acquaintances to the left of me will scoff and reply that I'm an obvious rightie. My friends to the right of me, meanwhile, will think I'm more of a leftie than I'm letting on. In terms of social policy and cultural mores, I'd call myself a fairly open leftist (and as a religious pluralist, I'm way to the left, religiously speaking). Having acted as the officiant at my gay brother's marriage, I'm obviously fine with gay marriage, and my openness extends to a whole panoply of attitudes relating to sexual behavior and, yes, bathroom behavior. None of that offends me, and if more people out themselves as somehow ambisexual or omnisexual or whatever—if future nanotech and bioengineering allow us to create more sexes than our current two-ish—I'll be ready for that, and will welcome the variety being expressed. I agree with the left when it targets many perceived social problems and injustices: homelessness, racism, etc. These problems do still exist and shouldn't be ignored.
Where I part ways with the left, however, is in focusing on government as the vehicle for salvation. Conservatives are, I feel, correct when they view government as, at best, a blunt instrument that tends to ruin more than repair. Solutions to various ills really ought to arise locally, from the people who understand the problem best. Imposing top-down measures is often the worst way to go about changing society. The American Civil War is a classic example: the British managed to abolish slavery through the civilized (okay, sometimes heated) discussion of elected representatives after an anti-slavery movement that began from the ground up. In the States, a top-down attempt at abolishing slavery eventually proved successful, but only after a tragically bloody war. My point is: I lean very much to the right when it comes to my vision of government's role in citizens' lives. I'm also an economic conservative: high taxes generally stifle growth (the US has some of the worst corporate tax rates in the world), and governments should never spend beyond their means—the sort of common sense that abides in middle-income families who live on budgets, but seems to escape the US Congress, which is averse to holding itself to a strict budget.
It's taken years and a good bit of introspection to have arrived at the above positions. I admit that, as I get older, I'm may be trending further rightward in some ways, but as my recent Political Compass results seem to show, I'm still generally centrist.
Of course, nowadays, the game seems to have shifted. Thanks in part to blog commenters and my online reading, I've been made aware that a new distinction seems to be overtaking the old left/right paradigm: these days, it seems to be more about globalism versus nationalism.
In some ways, the new paradigm is a reflection of the old: globalism, for example, has more than a whiff of what some conservatives used to call transnational progressivism, an open-borders attitude that sees nation-states coalescing into huge entities governed by trans-national authorities. This is basically what the European Union is: an incarnation of transnational progressivism, where EU countries enjoy a diminished sovereignty and are governed by unelected representatives based in Brussels.
The recent Brexit is an example of nationalism: an attempt to reclaim one's full sovereignty while still nurturing international ties. Where globalism/nationalism fails to map onto the old left/right paradigm, at least from what I can see, is in the matter of international trade. US conservatives have traditionally been pro-trade, which is consistent with the right's generally pro-free-market spirit. Nationalism, by contrast, prioritizes one's own country and workers, and international trade is viewed as a means by which rich elites benefit, with little trickling down to the general masses. Trump's emphasis on a new protectionism, and the potential for trade wars as a result of his attitude, is a reflection of this new nationalism that is replacing modern conservatism.
My own opinion reflects the more classically conservative pro-trade view. I'm not sure how many jobs Trump thinks he can create with his focus on US workers, especially when you consider the rise of job-killing forces like automation, which is how some bosses are solving the problem of being forced to pay higher minimum wages: cut down on the number of employees and install unpaid robots. More and more work can be done by machines these days; an entirely automated manufacturing plant (or restaurant, etc.) is no longer inconceivable. Imagine an industrial sector with no foremen, no unions, no workers at all. White-collar jobs requiring cognitive ability and emotional intelligence will still be available for the educated and the psychologically stable; meanwhile, brute labor will become the province of machines. Some of this might begin to happen on President Trump's (or President Clinton's) watch, if it's not already happening now.
So that's a historical overview of my politics. I admit it's a mess; I don't doubt that some or many of my views, when teased out, might lead to self-contradiction. Like you, I'm merely a work in progress; keep that in mind before you flay me for not being left enough, right enough, nationalist enough, or globalist enough.
Now—on to the debate.
Once again, I refused to watch the actual follies, but indications are that this third debate, staged in Las Vegas and moderated by conservative Chris Wallace, was more whimper than bang. Rightie pundit Stephen Green seems to be calling the debate slightly in favor of Hillary:
I hesitate to draw any broad conclusions from this final debate until we see some viewership figures -- were enough people watching to make a difference, and did enough of them spot Trump the points he needed on those topics when you kinda knew what he meant to say, but never quite did say?
And just as importantly: Did Clinton manage to escape the Wikileaks/Veritas traps?
I'd say "Yes" to the latter and "We'll have to wait and see" to the former.
My suspicions appear to be confirmed: this debate, relatively bland as it was, probably won't move any needles. One of my liberal friends on Twitter agreed with my observation and crowed that this means a Clinton landslide is nigh, given the mainstream polling, almost all of which has favored Clinton for a long while. Your mileage will, of course, vary; I've already written about the wildly different doxastic practices in play this election cycle. You may read completely different signs and come to a completely different conclusion, but in the end, one worldview will be roundly proven right, and the other will be proven wrong.
The Drudge Report's snap poll shows, of course, a Trump victory, but it's surprisingly limp if we take into account how rightward-stacked the Drudge poll is: as of this writing, the poll shows 74-26 in favor of Trump, not the usual 97-3 or 90-10 spread. I conclude that the general feeling among poll-takers is as lackluster as was the debate itself.
Trump will, apparently, be crucified for at least two things he said: the phrase "bad hombres" to describe a subset of Mexican immigrants, and his apparent refusal to say that he would accept the election results. (This 1990-era PDF shows some of the options available to people who legally contest the results of an election. Keep in mind that the info is 2.6 decades old.) As for Trump and his racism, Scott Adams, in an old blog post, comments on how confirmation bias kicks in to justify entrenched notions. And in his most recent post, he writes:
And I’m here to tell you that if you are afraid that Donald Trump is a racist/sexist clown with a dangerous temperament, you have been brainwashed by the best group of brainwashers in the business right now: Team Clinton. They have cognitive psychologists such as Godzilla advising them. Allegedly.
Both of Adams's posts are worth reading.
The right-leaning Daily Caller has articles on how moderator Chris Wallace grilled Clinton on her foundation's pay-to-play scheme and on how Trump won the third debate, according to "the internet."
The Washington Post's screamer headline right now is, "Trump refuses to say whether he’ll accept election results." Another article says Trump started strongly, then made a "killer mistake." Given the leftward lean of most mainstream media, more articles similar to the Post's are undoubtedly being churned out right at this moment.
I will doubtless update this post several times as I keep on reading, but to reiterate my two takeaways: (1) this was a milquetoast debate, all in all; surprisingly little blood was spilled; (2) this debate shifted almost no one's opinions.
And that's all. This post is my final election-related piece. I won't write anything more about politics until after November 8, when three hundred million of us will all be in a post-coital stupor. As for how I'll be voting—I hope I've made it clear that I find neither candidate savory. Based on what I hear from both the righties and the lefties, one candidate is obviously better than the other, but since both sides are saying the same thing, I have little reason to trust either side. My solution to this is to abstain from voting this time around. I don't want to be part of a process that puts either of these two jokers into power. And I wrote, twelve years ago, in response to the accusation that not voting means you have no right to complain, which is arrant nonsense. I suppose I could take the time to write in my own candidates, but there's zero chance they'd be elected.
I'm just gonna go Taoist and ride this out.
UPDATE: the conservative National Review, no friend of Trump, has the following articles:
1. "Trump's Best Debate So Far... And His Worst"
2. "Tonight's Debate Perfectly Summed Up the State of the Race"
3. "No, Trump Didn't Get It Done Tonight"
The Huffington Post, meanwhile, is all but calling Donald Trump a traitor.
1. "Donald Trump Just Disqualified Himself from the Presidency"
2. "Unfit for Any Office in the United States"
3. "A Statement of Disloyalty Without Precedent"
UPDATE 2: Styx calls the debate 60-40 for Trump; he found Trump to be more "measured" than he had been during his previous debates, albeit still "a little unhinged" in his speaking style. Trump "did what he had to do" in this third debate, although Styx thinks that Trump did miss several opportunities to unload on Hillary. Styx notes with approval that Hillary "didn't get softballed" during this debate, primarily because Fox is a rightie network, and moderator Chris Wallace is an acolyte of Fox.
UPDATE 3: Scott Adams scores the third debate very marginally for Clinton.