Thursday, October 20, 2016

postmortem of the third presidential debate

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"
etc., etc.

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.


King Baeksu said...

Saw the final debate and it was largely focused on policy. Still, it was a brutal grudge match. If you judge the evening simply by the number of times one candidate made the other blink nervously and dart their eyes back and forth uncomfortably, Trump won hands down.

Trump absolutely owned Clinton on foreign policy. (I think anyone with wide experience in the world will concede that men are far more interested in abstract foreign-policy discussions than is the fairer sex). Trump also got the biggest applause of the night when he brought up the scandal of Hillary's deleted emails, and suggested that her husband had helped corrupt the Justice Department when he met Loretta Lynch on that tarmac in Arizona.

Clinton trotted out her usual "social-justice" attacks, many of them outright lies, such as falsely accusing Trump of mocking a disabled NYT reporter (he didn't, and that smear has been debunked by Ann Coulter and others). Again, that kind of rhetoric will appeal to her base, but I question whether it will move many independents to her side (if you're an independent at this point in US history, you probably have SJW and PC fatigue, I'd imagine). In contrast, Trump seemed very measured and consistently refused to take her bait, so I think he probably succeeded in convincing many undecideds that as far as temperament goes, that is basically a non-issue at this point.

In short, I give the advantage to Trump once again.

By the way, I was actually arrested in San Francisco protesting the first Gulf War (back in 1990). So I am in agreement with you that we never should have invaded Iraq in 2003 in the first place. And if you listened to the last debate, Clinton was blithely talking about putting US boots on the ground in Syria, so I fear that if she makes it to the White House, the (((neocons))) will continue to wreak havoc upon the Middle East. There is a reason why Jill Stein has said that Trump would be a safer bet on foreign policy than would be Hillary. Only fools and blind partisans could possibly think otherwise.

brier said...

I got to watch the whole debate. It is painful to watch Trump. But this was his last debate and he will have a good decade or more to bark about how mainstream media neutered him. Hilary looked tired, bored and at times frail. She showed no enthusiasm for the job that will affect billions of people. I miss Sanders.

King Baeksu said...

..he will have a good decade or more to bark about how mainstream media neutered him.

Lol, no one can possibly believe that Trump has been "neutered" by anyone. He has quite the opposite problem, in fact: He has such big balls that they probably frighten quite a few people (beta boys and cat ladies, for the most part).

Kevin Kim said...

Sanders got royally reamed by the Democrat machine. And now, defeated, he's humbly shilling for Hillary.

I think Sanders's ideas are generally kooky, but I find him personally likable, and he has the virtue of years-long consistency in most of his positions. Even if one were to disagree on the "consistency" thing ([cough]avowed socialist with a lakeside mansion[cough]), I think we can all agree he's more honorable than HRC, relatively speaking.

Kevin Kim said...


"So I am in agreement with you that we never should have invaded Iraq in 2003 in the first place."

It's a red-letter day when you and I agree on something!

"if you're an independent at this point in US history, you probably have SJW and PC fatigue, I'd imagine"

Fatigue doubtless plays a role.

TheBigHenry said...

I live in California, so my vote is completely meaningless in this election -- this State is Leftist to the bone. Nevertheless, I am going to vote, because I don't want it on my conscience that I had anything to do with the likely HRC victory.

Mark my words. An HRC Presidency will be an unmitigated disaster for our Nation and the rest of the world as well.

Kevin Kim said...


I respect anyone who acts according to his conscience.

Surprises Aplenty said...

King Baeksu, I doubted you on the 'Trump didn't mock disabled reporter' claim and hunted for a video showing you wrong. I was wrong. In the video, it is not certain but pretty likely Trump was shaking his hands showing the reporter's confusion rather than disability. You could read it as mockery but it definitely wasn't obvious. Thanks for driving me to search.

"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. ""

We should remember that it is not only liberals calling Trump racist. David Duke and other leaders of White Nationalist (nee Supremacist) groups all call Trump racist. Of course, they do so approvingly. Trump can't choose who votes for him so he is not necessarily racist because of their approval, but get enough racist leaders promoting you and the charge is hard to downplay. This is above and beyond his anti-Mexican comments and etc.

I read Dilbert everyday and have bought a Dilbert comic collection or two. But I sure don't have respect for Adams' political views. This is the man who said we shouldn't vote for Hillary because that would make his testosterone drop. Pretty sure that's bad political reasoning and bad science.

King Baeksu said...

SA, Trump has used the same shrugging hand gestures multiple times to evoke others he was discussing at his rallies. None of them was disabled, either. Again, Ann Coulter has written about this on her own site, and Mike Cernovich recently linked to a video debunking this smear in his own Twitter feed.

Trump is a civic nationalist and David Duke is racial nationalist. That's the difference. I believe that every politician has a duty to look after the interests and welfare of their own fellow citizens. I also don't think it's "racist" to say that. It's simply common sense, and America once had a great abundance of it.

Today, not so much.

John Mac said...

I'm so done with the USA I barely care about the politics there now. I think Hillary will be a disaster, but at least I won't have to experience it first hand.

I find myself more interested in the politics of the Philippines and Thailand. Duterte seems to be pitching an anti-American fit and cozying up to the Chinese. It's already got me rethinking my future retirement plans. Who knows what is going to happen next in Thailand now that the beloved King is gone. He was the glue that held the various political factions from all out war with each other.

Damn, I can run but I can't hide. Or so it seems.

JW said...

Ann Coulter didn't prove shit regarding the disability mocking. This is a woman who literally said Trump is like a God to her and you're gonna cite HER to defend against Trump accusations? That's basically like asking Melania if she thinks Trump is a serial sexual molestor. Dumb. Here's a wapo analysis of the incident which refers to Coulter.

Surprises Aplenty said...

"I believe that every politician has a duty to look after the interests and welfare of their own fellow citizens. I also don't think it's "racist" to say that."

In the context of our discussion I think it is racist. It sure reads as if you think the judge (American but of Hispanic heritage) that Trump called biased because he was Mexican isn't an American citizen. Or that the blacks and other minorities that the KKK and other supremacists attack are not Americans.

King Baeksu said...

It sure reads as if you think the judge (American but of Hispanic heritage) that Trump called biased because he was Mexican isn't an American citizen. Or that the blacks and other minorities that the KKK and other supremacists attack are not Americans.

Wow, now I know how Trump feels. I will literally give you a thousand bucks if you can find just one statement I have written, here or anywhere else online, that even remotely suggests what you claim I have imputed in your above quote.

I suggest you apologize for libeling me so shamelessly, if you have any personal honor at all. Unbelievable!

King Baeksu said...

JW, I will address your comment later today as I am on the road at the moment. However, if you think referencing the WaPo is at all credible, I can only laugh at your incredible naiveté. It's funny how I keep reading that most Americans no longer trust the MSM, and yet people keep trotting out MSM sources like the NYT, WaPo and CNN that have been exposed, by WikiLeaks and many others, outright propaganda organs for the Krooked Killary campaign. LMFAO!

King Baeksu said...

Cernocheck: Hoax! Trump did not mock a disabled reporter.

JW said...

LOL you're sitting there citing Ann Coulter, nay, supporting the most obvious con man to ever run for office, and you're gonna call ME naive for citing the washington post? The article addresses Coulter's arguments but that's not even the point. The fact that this even became an issue at all, that it became fodder for the most effective attack ad means that you and your people lost. It's over. Anybody seriously running for office wouldn't dare such 'standard retard' mockery of anybody let alone someone with a disability. But your candidate did just that..because he just doesn't give a fuck about anything but saying and doing anything he damn well pleases. That's the fucking moron that you and your ilk voted in as the presidential candidate, which is leading to a civil war within GOP and as Ann Coulter says herself the death of GOP as we know it given the ongoing demographic trends. Enjoy!

Surprises Aplenty said...

King B, I do think you wrote a racist statement. Not sure if bolding works in comments:
"I believe that every politician has a duty to look after the interests and welfare of their own fellow citizens.
I also don't think it's "racist" to say that. It's simply common sense, and America once had a great abundance of it."

Since I never once suggested otherwise, you must be referring to what I did discuss, racism, some of Trump's supporters who happen to be racist and specific racist statements that Trump has made. You responded (quoted above). If your statement wasn't discussing Trump's racism, why did you say that? Was it a simple non sequitur?

I guess you could argue that Mexican isn't a race, any more than American is so perhaps you were not making a racist so much as a generally bigoted statement. I stated that Trump attacked an American judge for his background and you responded with "I believe that every politician has a duty to look after the interests and welfare of their own fellow citizens." The only connection I can see is if you think Mexican-Americans are not actual citizens of the US. Otherwise, it does not relate at all to my comment.

If I am wrong, and I hope I am, what did you in fact mean?

JW said...

Check out this op ed by Trump from 2013 where he speaks glowingly about the intermixing of cultures and the importance of global trade and cooperation. He sounds positively presidential and sophisticated in the use of language. So does the writer of this magnificent piece not understand that he has to behave in a restrained manner to win the general election? Of course he does. And yet he doesnt do what's necessary because he just doesn't give a fuck. That's the kind of boorish maniac that you believe is a 'civic nationalist' that supposedly wants to win this election to further the interests of American citizens. You've been had, my man.

JW said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin Kim said...

Oy gevalt. My blog is starting to turn into the Marmot's Hole, and I have only myself to blame.

KB, I just posted 4 comments by these other gents. I'm allotting you 4 replies, after which I'm shutting this thread down. I just don't see this exchange as constructive any longer.

Other gents: hold your fire.

TheBigHenry said...


I am so impressed by your knowledge of Yiddish that I simply can't resist asking the question it begs for (or provokes), which, BTW, is also the punchline to my favorite Jewish/Asian joke, "You Jew? You no look Jew!"

Kevin Kim said...


That's pretty much the extent of my Yiddish, alas.

Speaking of Jewish/Asian issues: ever heard of "JuBu"s? These are Jews who have entered into Buddhist practice and have taken on Buddhist beliefs, but still retain their Judaism. There are a few books on this topic. One of my favorites is by Rodger Kamenetz and is titled The Jew in the Lotus, a pun on one of the Buddha's titles: the Jewel in the Lotus. The book recounts a dialogue between a delegation of various Jews and the Dalai Lama. "JuBu"-ness is a trope that runs throughout the book, although it's not that book's main focus. The Dalai Lama, being the exiled spiritual head of a diasporic people, was curious to know the Jews' secret for persistence in the face of oppression. Good read.

TheBigHenry said...


I will look for the book you mention on Kindle (I no longer read printed books).

But I can tell you what the secret of Jewish "persistence in the face of oppression" has always been. And it's not really a secret -- we never had any choice. That is exactly why Israel must win every war it is faced with. It's win or die trying.

TheBigHenry said...


I have just downloaded "The Jew in the Lotus" to my Kindle.

Kevin Kim said...


Happy reading!

King Baeksu said...

SA, you are wasting my time either because you cannot read properly, or are hallucinating and seeing pink elephants. Again, tell me how I have even implied that African-Americans, Latino-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Korean-Americans and other Asian-Americans are not American citizens. If you can, I will not only pay you a grand in cold hard cash, but run down the entire length of Chongno in the buff during peak rush hour.

Here once again we see the sorry state that identity politics and the "social justice" cult have brought us to. People have become so obsessed with race that they start to see monsters and bogymen where none exist at all.

I'll have you know that I grew up in the People's Republic of Berkeley, California and also graduated from UCB. I used to girl-watch with black lesbian friends there, and my best friend since college is a gay black man I am still in close contact with. I even had a Mexican-American roommate at one point after we became good friends at work. It frankly pains me to have to explain all this to you, but evidently some people are either slow on the update, or are simply not arguing in good faith.

Again, either retract your baseless charges against me, or forever expose yourself here as an individual without integrity or honor.

Trump wants to represent all Americans regardless of their race or color. It wouldn't be that hard to understand if one simply listened to the man's actual words, rather than allowing the corrupt corporate media to do your thinking for you.

I'm done here. This discussion is frankly just too boring. So glad I left the US and no longer have to put up with this ridiculous crap any more!

King Baeksu said...

JW, Trump is not a professional politician, which is precisely why so many voters like him. That said, there have been numerous presidents throughout US history who have talked far more smack about their political rivals and opponents than Trump ever has, so your cute attempts to "tone police" him only reveal how little you seem to know about American history.

I suggest you spend less time perusing Amazon Boy's personal blog and more time hitting the history books, at least before presuming to offer me any further lectures. Thanks!

Kevin Kim said...

OK, KB, I'll take "I'm done here" to mean you're done here.

Closing the thread.