I consume an enormous amount of information, as I’m sure that you do. Not from television anymore, #FakeNews masquerading as “Nightly News”, CNN’s Fareed Zacharia pretentiously preaching nonsense and calling it wisdom. “I want to get the viewers to understand the world around them.” Thank God there aren’t many of them – viewers that is. Orwell would be proud.
No, instead I read a lot. And from many different sources. Also not usually Washington Post or the NYT; although the Journal’s (WSJ) Peggy Noonan has managed to keep her finger on the pulse of the national mood – so I do like her. But mostly I read the online “rags” – they don’t try as hard to hide their true intentions which makes for more honest writing and by association more insightful reading (although you really do have to sift through a lot of sand to find that golden nugget).
At any rate, this year I read even more than usual – it was a bewildering election year, wasn’t it? So much emotion, so much vitriol, so much angst. A year when all of us at one point or another went nuts and posted something to social media or had a fight with some friend (who might now be a former friend) that we knew was a mistake and would probably like to undo. So as we prepare for the inauguration of our 45th President I’d like to take the liberty to distill down the election, arguments, debates – fears and frustrations and yes – hate – into two articles that I read and found most enlightening; one from either ‘side’ of the aisle.
“The Stranger” is a weekly newspaper in Seattle representing the grunge, hipster, progressive, tattooed topless transgender coffee shop crowd. In 2004 the editors ran an article called “The Urban Archipelago” in which they laid out their plan for the country. It could have been President Obama’s playbook (who knows, maybe it was). “Citizens of the Urban Archipelago reject heartland “values” like xenophobia, sexism, racism, and homophobia, as well as the more intolerant strains of Christianity that have taken root in this country. And we are the real Americans. They–rural, red-state voters, the denizens of the exurbs–are not real Americans. They are rubes, fools, and hate-mongers.” The article goes on – in equally poisonous prose about what they feel about the “flyover states” and how they will go about destroying them. Again, cue the Democratic playbook for the last eight years, because they did indeed try.
Now the other side. In March of 2016 there appeared on blogspot.com a common blog that called itself “The Journal of American Greatness”. It was, boiled down, intellectual Trumpism. As The New Yorker said “The most cogent argument for electing Donald Trump was made not by Trump, or by his campaign, but by a writer who (…) called himself Publius Decius Mus, after the Roman consul known for sacrificing himself in battle…” In September of 2016, a month after the journal went offline (for those who like spontaneous expression and the amazing ability of ideas to find their way, this itself is a wild little anecdote) their greatest writer, Publius Decius himself did one more curtain call, published of all places in the Claremont Review of Books. It was titled “The Flight 93 Election”. “One of the Journal of American Greatness’s deeper arguments” the article reads, “was that only in a corrupt republic, in corrupt times, could a Trump rise. It is therefore puzzling that those most horrified by Trump are the least willing to consider the possibility that the republic is dying. That possibility, apparently, seems to them so preposterous that no refutation is necessary. (…) 2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die. You may die anyway. You—or the leader of your party—may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane. There are no guarantees. Except one: if you don’t try, death is certain. To compound the metaphor: a Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances.”
This was the election when the “basket of deplorables” – those (but obviously not all) who the week before the election saw the country headed in the wrong direction (63%) took a look at Clinton’s third “Seattle Stranger” term and rose up to rush the cockpit with the best leader they could find – a controversial and bombastic candidate who promised to fight for them, to turn the tides and bully their tormentors.
So the dust is settling on 2016 and most people are coming to terms with the new reality. The Democrats of course continue to complain about the Electoral College. This is because to a certain extent their “Seattle Stranger” strategy was effective and they received a large popular vote victory. The urban echo chambers of the elites have grown, as have their majorities in those places. Now, isn’t that exactly what the founding fathers were worried about, when they set up our checks and balances in the first place? I’ve been watching lots of episodes of “Henry VIII” and “The Crown” and “Reign” on Netflix recently and have been struck by just how isolated the nobles and their royalty are from the commoners. Those who live on the money collected through taxes to fund their wars and their lifestyles and their parties seem to be generally baffled during the occasional peasant revolt, or when they hear about a famine or crop blight. They really can’t find a way to understand (remember ‘Let them eat cake’?). Their confirmation bias is sealed tight against anything trickling in that their thick layers of advisers can filter out.
The founders knew this – their experience with monarchy was fresh. They set in place the Electoral College so, at least every four years, those who wished to rule would have to walk the country. They would have to wander through the villages; eat meat and potatoes with the “deplorables”, saying grace first of course; tour the abandoned factories amidst the tears of the unemployed; and hear the concerns, fears and frustrations of a wide and diverse citizenry.
To protect us from the formation of a new nobility.
The Democrats and their “Seattle Stranger” strategy willfully forgot this, and they paid the ultimate price. So doesn’t that mean the system still works, even after 240 years? And isn’t that a remarkable thing?