Monday, February 15, 2016

Gheorghe Explains the Election: Presidents' Day Edition

I don't follow sports much these days. I feel like I've seen the same story (or what is now called a "narrative") over and over. The huge rivalry, the huge underdog, the young lion reaching for some record, the old lion looking for one more title, the struggle for historical greatness, the pall of historical collapse. It just doesn't interest me much anymore. And the outcome of any event, no matter how "big," has no real impact on my life. Which is why I now watch politics as a form of sport.

So, on Saturday, instead of watching a bunch of young men half my age dunk basketballs in allegedly novel but actually derivative ways, I watched a bunch of middle-aged guys roughly 10% to 50% older than me debate political issues in actually novel but allegedly conservative (and thus allegedly derivative) ways. I concluded that politics and sports are essentially the same in that general truisms generally do not hold true.

For example, the NFL is allegedly an offensively driven game but teams with top defenses continue to play in and/or win the Super Bowl. Similarly, conventional wisdom says that small-market baseball teams can't do well, despite the fact that four of the last five World Series featured Kansas City or St. Louis (and mid-market Detroit was in the fifth). If we go back 10 years, small-market teams made the Series seven times (St. Louis thrice, KC twice, and Colorado and Tampa once each). So the things that sports pundits say often don't translate to on-field results. Simply put, things don't have to make sense in sports. That's why they play the games--to see who'll win.



Along the same lines, politics doesn't have to make sense. That's why they hold elections--to see who'll win.

For example, Mitt Romney was lambasted in the 2012 primaries (i.e., just four years ago) because he made a metric shitton of money at Bain Captial. Remember this photo?


Romney's success was viewed as a negative--he allegedly was such a ruthless businessman that he shouldn't be president. And remember when his wealth was crass?

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By contrast, Trump voters choose him because he has a reputation for sharp business practices. A seemingly reasonable NH voter was shown on TV saying "You can't deny that Donald Trump is a successful businessman" as justification for his primary vote. Trump flaunts his four corporate bankruptcies as evidence of his business acumen, despite the fact that his creditors (i.e., people to whom he owed money such as vendors and employees) doubtlessly got screwed out of what he owed them. Remarkably, on Saturday Trump said he would close various loopholes of fraud and abuse in the welfare system. I guess it's ok for Trump to use a system to his advantage but others should not.

And according to my bankruptcy expert (zwoman), Trump abused the bankruptcy system by buying under-performing companies and immediately throwing them into chapter 11, thereby sticking his creditors and employees with the bulk of the companies' debts. Trump then got to reorganize the companies and have a fresh start.

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Inconsistencies further abound with Trump. Two debates ago he said that Bill Clinton's infidelity was "fair game" against Hillary. Apparently she enabled Bill to take all those third-party beejays. Of course, Trump cheated on his first wife with Marla Maples, with whom he had a child out of wedlock but eventually married and then divorced, but not before mercilessly hitting on Princess Diana (with no luck). Trump, like Bill Clinton, is 69 years old. Trump's current wife is 45. Monica Lewinsky is 42. Make of that what you will.

Even weirder stuff happened on Saturday. While arguing about who has a more ruthless stance on deporting illegal Latin American immigrants, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, both sons of Latin American immigrants who at one time may or may not have had ruthless stances on deportation, devolved into a separate argument over their respective Spanish language skills. At one point Cruz actually started yelling at Rubio in Spanish. I don't know what he said, but I doubt that performance helped him much with voters who want to deport Spanish speakers (i.e., much of Cruz's base). I suspect we'll see that replayed in some slimy attack ad in the near future.

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Also weird: the debate started with every candidate stating that President Obama should not nominate someone to the Supreme Court after Justice Scalia's death and thus advocating for some abridgment of the President's power despite the fact that (1) they are all running for President and (2) Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution says that the President "shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ... judges of the Supreme Court ...." This was remarkably remarkable given that the candidates all praised Justice Scalia's originalism, textualism and conservatism. Jeb! even went so far as to say "Look, I'm an Article II guy but ..." thus acknowledging that this whole line of demagoguery runs counter to the text of the Constitution.

Yet also weird: previous presidential candidates like Howard Dean (the scream) and Joe Biden (multitudes) were deemed too unhinged and, well, unpresidential to be president. But on Saturday most of the candidates tried to put on the worst possible display of deportment they could manage. Even patrician Jeb! started getting gully. Kasich remained above the fray but he's still a goober.

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Still weird: Trump committed apostasy by shredding a former President of his alleged party. I've never seen that before on either side. Sure, he was trying to use the transitive property to shit on Jeb! by shitting on W, but even mere transitive shits on party Presidents are verboten. This act of GOP treason allowed Jeb! to mount his high horse and ride it around the stage while highlighting his royal family in counterpoise to Trump's crassness. This further led to an alley-oop to Rubio, who managed to praise W without praising Jeb! while still shitting on Hillary, all in one sentence. It was great theater. Trump also called for W to be impeached despite the fact that W is no longer President and thus ineligible for impeachment. Later still, Jeb! admitted that W shouldn't have used eminent domain to build a stadium for the Texas Rangers. All in all a bad night for W.

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Continued shitting weirdness: Trump also shat at Lindsey Graham, probably because Graham endorsed Jeb!. This makes less than zero sense in front of a South Carolina crowd, and they booed him. As usual he said that these booers were all Jeb!'s donors. Which makes sense, right? If you back Jeb! and someone attacks him, you boo the attacker. In Trump's (and Trump voters') bizarre view of the world, these Jeb! and Graham fans are "special interests" while Trump's crew is not. But why aren't they? Their interests appear to be separate and apart from other voters', so why aren't they "special"? I'll never get this.

Beyond weird: Obama was dismissed by the GOP in 2008 as too inexperienced to be President. He was "just a community organizer" with only three years of experience in the Senate and almost eight years in the Illinois State Senate, and that supposedly wasn't enough experience to be Commander-in-Chief. This GOP election cycle features two candidates who have never held elected office, 44-year old and 45-year-old Senators with five and three years of Senate experience respectively, a former two-term governor who hasn't held any office in nine years, and John Kasich. Three of the six do not hold an advanced degree. Only Rubio and Cruz have a J.D. Confusingly, the more novice candidates are touting their lack of political experience as an asset, and Republican voters are picking up what they're putting down. I have no explanation.

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I convinced zwoman to watch the debate with me--it was an excuse to drink some of the awesome beer TR gave me and make snarky comments so she relented. She's one of the smartest people I know, an exceptional lawyer, a fun drunk, and a lover of booze and pointed wit. She hasn't followed the Republican race at all because no matter its outcome she'll vote for the Democrat. I had to explain who some of the candidates were and she still can't wrap her head around how Ben Carson got in the running, let alone got any votes, and this lead to a discussion about how the ability to separate conjoined twins can possibly translate to leading the free world.

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After the debate ended she looked at me and said "That was a lot more fun that I thought it would be" which is also what she said after our first romantic interlude many years ago. She then added "I can't believe one of those buffoons is going to get a shot at being president!" I replied "Yes. The only people on that stage who weren't lying were Bush, Carson, and maybe Kasich. Carson is a dope and Kasich is a dork." To which she said "That's my impression too. I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I really hope Jeb[!] wins the nomination. Wait ... so we'll have another Clinton-Bush election?!? That's the best outcome?!? What just happened?!?!?"

Somewhere Mitt Romney is drinking a glass of warm milk and wondering where he screwed up. Election 2016 y'all!

43 comments:

Marls said...

Nice job Zed.

As you so eloquently point out, this election cycle is fantastic as political theatre but it's depressing as fuck for the republic.

It will be fun to watch the Republicans step on their collective dick regarding the Supreme Court confirmation process. They just can't help themselves.

There a 34 Senate seats up for election in 2016, 24 of which are currently republican held. 13 of those Republican seats are potentially vulnerable, but in reality it's more like 6 that are really at risk. However, that is more than the 5 that the Democrats need to take control of the Senate. If the Republicans nominate one of the current front running clowns (Trump, Cruz, Rubio), respond to a reasonable SC nomination like petulant partisan douchenozzles(which they will), and Hillary has any coatails at all; then the Republicans could easily lose the Senate to the Democrats.

rob said...

hear, hear, z. and marls, too. when i think about this election, i feel a little like bill paxton in aliens, 'game over, man. game over.' but hey, there's always tribe basketball.

rob said...

james fallows with a reader email that makes a point about this election that i hadn't considered: http://www.theatlantic.com/notes/all/2015/10/the-american-futures-blog/411148/#note-462813

Whitney said...

Winter Storm Olympia.

It's the water.

Marls said...

It says "good luck" right on the can.

Shlara said...

This election has me considering a move to the British Virgin Islands. (It's too cold in Canada).
And I think I've convinced the Z-family to join me there.
We can start Gheorghe: The Compound, if the rest of you guys make the move too

Dave said...

ok, that helps. i'm voting for the green party again. that way, i'm not responsible for any of this.

rob, instead of learning spanish, just write a post, put it one of those online translators, and put it up. you could learn to play the oboe with all the time you'll save! you playing the oboe would be EPIC!

rob said...

i shall effort to learn to play the ride of the valkyries on oboe, in spanish

rob said...

we should all congratulate zman on his mastery of giphy searching

zman said...

Thanks. I honestly don't understand why Romney's business success was an anchor around his neck while Trump's is a buoy. And I'm pretty sure that Romney is more successful than Trump. Trump is essentially bizarro/sideshow Romney.

rob said...

can't remember where i saw this, but some business publication analyzed trump's business dealings and concluded that his net worth would be substantially higher if he'd just put his money in an s&p index fund and reinvested the dividends than invested it as he's done. he's a fraud. but we already knew that.

Danimal said...

Great article on Harvey Levin of TMZ in the New Yorker.

rob said...

in a coincidence too great to be anything but a powerful signal, i happened to put on vox's 'the weeds' podcast while i shoveled snow this afternoon. the topic was, as are most things vox, politics. specifically, it was a discussion of a recent paper by jonathan rauch arguing *for* machine politics as a force for good governance. it's a really fascinating conversation, worth hearing: http://www.vox.com/2016/2/12/10978874/the-weeds-political-realism

Marls said...

Index funds are for pussies, Rob. You don't bang models investin' in an index fund. You don't own the biggest most importantest franchise in a defunct football league by counting your pennies. The S&P 500 is for guys who don't have the balls to wear an onion loaf on their head while deporting Islamexicans. Ya gotta go yuge or you go the fuck home.

Mark said...

I love the British Virgin Islands. Count me in, Shlara.

Dave said...

weird day today. my wife and kids were off, but i had school-- and i was annoyed-- but then last night, my school was called off because of impending snow. so i had president's day off after all. celebrating with a new beer: stone pataskala red ipa, massively dry hopped deep crimson ipa. a long name, but it's delicious.

rob said...

stone does good work, dave.

and i came across an article today expressing the pragmatic case for feeling the bern. reassessing my position now.

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/02/the-pragmatic-case-for-bernie-sanders/462720/

and yes, i've spent way too much of my president's day thinking about presidents, future case.

rob said...

john kasich, fruit ninja makes me happy

Whitney said...

You could be thinking about friends of yours who dress up like old presidents.

Dave said...

just remember: your vote doesn't matter! and in the grand scheme of things, your concern is over one ruler of one of the 196 countries on earth, in one particularly tiny sliver of time in the vast and mainly unremarkable pantheon of political figures since the formation of city-states.

zman said...

I'm not convinced that a 74 year old socialist from a tiny state is a pragmatic nominee, at least in the context of actually winning the Presidency and thus preventing the six republican dingbat candidates from doing all sorts of shit I won't like, but I'll think about that some more.

rob said...

we livecommenting the grammys again this year?

rob said...

my daughter is talking to the television non-stop during this telecast. that's got to be my wife's fault.

rob said...

same daughter made fun of country. so i showed her the chris stapleton/timberlake duet from the cma's. raising kids is hard work.

Danimal said...

Has she ever heard of Johnny Cash? How about Billy Ray Cyrus?

rob said...

gimme a few minutes, danimal.

vanity died. pour out some purple stuff.

Whitney said...

It's probably best for me to avoid the Grammy telecast. The nominees alone for Best Rock Album and Best Alternative Music Album had me cussing. Wilco's throwaway free album got a nomination? I don't have words. And they are one of my favorite acts of all time.

If you happen to see Elle King and think she's sexy, remember that she's Rob Schneider's daughter.

rob said...

get the fuck out of here

Shlara said...

Not watching the Grammys.
Monday nights are all about Ben the Bachelor
He's BY FAR my favorite Bachelor
And, after tonight's dates--he vaulted even higher in my book.

Date #1: Brought Paul George , George Hill and Coach Vogel to the community center of his hometown in small-ville Indiana to do a basketball clinic for the town kids. Ended the date in his favorite dive bar in town.

Date #2: BP with his date in Cubs Stadium.

Those are awesome dates.
And, even though I'm old enough to be Ben's mother, I think he's just adorable.

mr kq said...

Billy Ray Valentine? Capricorn.

rob said...

dave grohl has a red solo cup in the grammys audience. yet another reason to love dave grohl.

Marls said...

Please tell me that the Teej say the Lionel Ritchie tribute.

Marls said...

What the fuck is Cubs Stadium?

Shlara said...

Wrigley, Marls. Wrigley Field

rob said...

anna kendrick could get it

rob said...

the curmudgeon is strong in that one, shlara

zman said...

I dated a girl in high school who looked like Anna Kendrick. More so when I was over served.

Marls said...

I like my curmudging.

rob said...

kendrick lamar. holy shit. didn't leave much in reserve.

mr kq said...

Wow. I think this new rap/hip hop genre just might catch on.

rob said...

lot of white people upset about kendrick lamar on the tweet machine. pretty proud of the race right now.

rob said...

i wanted to like the gaga/bowie thing, really. but it sucked.

Shlara said...

I have never understood the fervor over Taylor Swift