Welcome to the 13th issue of The Outsider Perspective, brought to you by The Beltway Outsiders.
US Presidential Election 2016: The State of the Race
Happy Labor Day Weekend! We’re 66 days away from the general election. 2 more full months to slog through before the Presidential campaign cycle ends. It’s best to think of Labor Day as the end of the first half of the campaign and the start of the second half. This is when most Americans are fully tuned in to watch the Presidential race, the debates, and pay attention to what each candidate stands for/believes. Starting now, the polls become more predictive every week.
If you look at the polls this past week, you’ve seen a gradual tightening of the race. Post-Conventions, Clinton held a 6-8 point lead over Trump nationally. That has now shrunk to a 4-5 point lead over Trump. The Real Clear Politics poll averages of a 4-way race with Clinton, Trump, Johnson, and Stein gives Clinton a 4 point lead. Clinton’s state leads have tightened as well, slowly following the national poll trends. Will this continue? There is no way of telling. Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight had the best take on what is happening in the polls:
The tighter margins in the polls, which reflect a loss of support for Clinton along with a modest improvement for Trump, have come gradually over the past few weeks. The evidence of a tightening has become more widespread, however, and it’s particularly clear in polls that surveyed the race just after the conventions and are retaking its temperature now. Fox News’s national poll, for instance, had Clinton up by 9 points just after the conventions (in the version of the poll that included third-party candidates) and has her up by 2 points now.
There isn’t any guarantee that Trump will continue to gain ground. Over the course of the year, polls have oscillated between showing a dead heat at Trump’s best moments and a lead of 8 to 10 percentage points for Clinton at her peaks. We’re about halfway between those goal posts now. It’s plausible that the recent shift reflects Clinton’s convention bounce wearing off — reversion to the mean — as much as it does momentum for Trump per se. Most importantly, Clinton is still ahead, with a 74 percent chance of winning according to the polls-only model and a 70 percent chance according to polls-plus.
The tightening of the polls still favors Clinton, fairly heavily. The ultimate question is this: who has the ability to benefit from a dead heat race right now? The answer is Clinton because of her ground game. PBS journalists did the leg work to find out where Trump and Clinton had their ground game operations located. Clinton’s ground game is destroying Trump. Across the country, Clinton has opened up 291 field offices. The offices activate local volunteers, go door-to-door, and convince people to vote. Trump, by comparison, has 88 field offices. 165 (or 56%) of Clinton’s field offices are located across the battleground states of Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Trump, by comparison, has 37 (or 42%) across those same states. In North Carolina he has none, Florida has 1, Pennsylvania 2, Virginia 18, and Ohio 16. He’s also made odd decisions, like opening 22 offices in Wisconsin (Clinton has 33 there), but few in places like Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. Clinton is also pushing Trump in red states, forcing him to redouble efforts in states that should be wrapped up by now.
In other words, Trump is outgunned in the battleground states that will decide the election. He’s down in the polls in each state. And being outspent by historical margins across the board. He’s allowing Clinton to define him to the people in those states over the air, on the ground, and through the mail (the same mistake Romney made in 2012 by allowing Obama to define him in the summer). The campaign has shifted from being a referendum on Obama and Clinton’s policies and instead is a referendum on Trump. Normal election fundamentals would suggest a Republican year. Trump has managed to flip that script almost entirely.
The Impact of Trump’s Mexico Trip and Immigration Speech
It’s not an accident this trip occurred after the campaign shakeup and prior to Trump’s big immigration speech. Originally, Trump was supposed to give an immigration speech in Denver, Colorado. He canceled that after the blowback on his “softening” moment when he floated support of amnesty. According to multiple sources within the campaign, the Mexico trip has been in the planning stages for weeks. So it’s likely the the Denver speech was canceled to make way for a Mexico trip and Arizona rally speech. The reality of losing is beginning to hit Trump now:
Mr. Trump’s course adjustment emerged in an atmosphere of growing urgency and alarm within his campaign. Over the last week, close associates have told both Mr. Trump and members of his family that he is in real danger of losing the race, according to a half-dozen people close to the Trump campaign and briefed on its activities, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid angering the nominee. …
Without a major shake-up of the electoral map, strategists indicated to the younger Mr. Trump, his father’s already narrow path to the 270 electoral votes he needs to win could vanish. Going through the swing states one by one, party officials showed Eric Trump that his father was drastically underperforming other Republicans in the polls.
As I’ve said many times: Labor Day weekend is a fork in the road moment for the GOP. Either they stick with Trump or drop him and divert resources to save the House and Senate majorities (remember, they’re already testing this plan out). Both the Mexico trip and Immigration speech reek of desperation. As I said above, this past week was the waning moments of the first half for the election. But Trump is already lobbing Hail Mary bombs downfield trying to catch up. This is telling. He’s not investing in his campaign, state resources, data operations, or get-out-the-vote efforts. He’s searching for a quick fix to his floundering campaign hoping something sticks. He wants an October surprise type event in September just to even the polls.
The Mexico trip was a Hail Mary bomb trying to appear more Presidential. The Immigration speech was a move in the opposite direction trying to keep his small base together for the general election. Whether the trip helped or hurt Trump is a secondary point. The real point was to appear Presidential enough to prevent the RNC from pulling resources out from under his legs. The Mexico trip will have little to no impact on voter preferences or the polls. This was Trump’s attempt to keep the election focused on him and convince the RNC from cutting ties and protecting the House and Senate majorities. Whether it works depends on the down-ballot races. And ironically, those races look bad for Trump but good for the GOP.
The Congressional Races: Republicans are running ahead of Trump and Democrats are redeploying resources
One of the assumptions going into this election year was that Trump would prove to be dead weight to down-ballot races. I’ve said this multiple times myself. If you’re watching the polls right now though, voters seem to be open to split-ballots. Meaning they would vote one party at the top of the ticket and another party at the bottom of the ticket. It’s rare to see this happen. But recent polling has shown GOP candidates in Florida, Ohio, and New Hampshire running ahead of Trump. They’re beating Democratic challengers even though Hilary Clinton is leading the Presidential race in those states.
Democrats have noticed this trend as well. They’ve paused running ads in Ohio to divert those resources to other races, as The Hill reports:
Taken together, the cancellations are an indication that Strickland’s (D) bid against Portman (R) is not catching fire.
The race has been one of the most expensive in the country; Democrats and Republicans have spent a combined $35 million on TV advertising in the race to date, according to a report compiled by the Wesleyan Media Project. Republicans have outspent Democrats in the race by about $9 million so far.
Democrats have not abandoned Strickland yet. Both the DSCC and the Senate Majority PAC have millions reserved for late September and October ad blitzes.
But the delays reflect polls that show Portman maintaining a steady lead and the likely conclusion that Democrats have better chances to win Republican-held seats in other states like Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.
Democrats are holding back their ads until September 20th in Ohio. Which means they are watching polls there to see if spending money in the Ohio Senate race makes sense from a competitive standpoint. Where are the resources moving in the meantime? Liam Donavon (@LPDonavon) provides the analysis:
So the real question is to whom does the benefit of this triage accrue. All in on NC? Double down in NH/PA? Dems need to net 4. Start off w/ two in pocket. Risk giving one back in NV. OH off the board. Leaves IN/PA/NH/FL/NC. Outside shot in MO/AZ. To feel good you need to knock down at least three of five in the top tier. So where do you put the newfound chips you’re pulling from Ohio? At the end of the day it’s about where add’l resources can move the needle. The obvious battlegrounds risk saturation/diminishing returns. Toomey (PA-R) /Ayotte (NH-R) running well ahead of Trump, but outcome will be function of top of ticket. IN critical, but Bayh (D) already has a big war chest. Sheer cost of FL combined with Murphy (D) stumbles suggests that he will rise/fall with top of ticket. Which leaves NC & NV as the primetime targets.
And that’s exactly where Democrats have moved, with large buys in NC. And the important part for Democrats is this: They’re focused on winning as many seats this cycle because 2018 is unfriendly for them. The map tilts towards Republican gains in 2018. Which is why it’s so surprising to see Democrats ceding ground in Ohio. They believe split ballots are a potential in this election by the way they’re moving resources.
Even though the parties are moving resources around, it’s no guarantee the party currently ahead will win. As Dan McLaughlin noted in 2014, Senate poll averages can be beaten. Nate Silver has found even October polls of Senate races can be off by as much as 4 points (individual polls, not averages). So what does this mean? It means the GOP will keep tabs on the races to see if they need to dump Trump fast and Democrats will keep their ad buys for now. Both parties are trying to read the map and see where resources can make a strategic difference. Trump is a potential albatross for Republican candidates. But for now, it appears that he’s not the anchor that I and others have charged him of being.
But while Trump may not be dead weight for candidates, he’s not proving to be a help either. Nor are his supporters proving to be capable of affecting an election. The best example of this is in the races involving Trump surrogates. Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, and John McCain each faced Trump surrogates in their primary. At the immigration speech in Arizona, Trump supporters spent time booing John McCain when Trump talked about the Senator. Here’s the important part: Ryan, Rubio, and McCain crushed the Trump surrogates in their race. The races weren’t even close. In fact, it’s been a trend across the country that more “establishment-like” candidates have been winning. Trump’s supporters have proven ineffective in upsetting any primary on the map. And there aren’t enough of them to move the election away from Clinton. They’ve been outnumbered in every instance. Which bodes ill for Trump’s electoral chances. He needs to broaden his base.
Cybersecurity and the Electoral Process: Russian hackers are doing more than document dumps
The last point I would make on the election is that cybersecurity is an issue that’s not getting enough attention. Particularly the security of our electoral process from foreign powers. The Russians and Chinese are our key adversaries in cyber-espianoge. The key difference between the two is this: you never really hear about the Chinese hacks. The Russians make considerable media noise when they hack someone. The first big splash this year was when the DNC and its affiliates were hacked prior to the Democratic Convention. The Russians have kept their attacks up.
This week it was revealed Russian hackers were trying to breach the systems of Washington Think Tanks focused on Russian studies and policy:
The hackers could have been trying to access data and information from officials that serve on the boards of prominent Washington think tanks, Alperovitch speculated. “Many of these people are former government officials that still advise current government officials,” said Alperovitch. The goal could have been “to look at their communications with government officials to see if they may have some plundered information that’s been shared with them, or use them as a way to target government.”
NBC News also reported that Russian hackers were actively going after state voter roll databases. Fueling even more concern that foreign hackers would attempt to influence the US election. And while two of the sources NBC interviewed said they could not tell for certain the hacks were by the Russian government, other sources disagreed:
One official tells NBC News that the attacks have been attributed to Russian intelligence agencies.
“This is the closest we’ve come to tying a recent hack to the Russian government,” the official said.
That person added that “there is serious concern” that the Kremlin may be seeking to sow uncertainty in the U.S. presidential election process.
I would agree with this official that the Russian government is behind the attack. The Russians may be using shell groups to hide their true identity, but the source is Russian espionage agencies. This has prompted the FBI to alert state agencies that they are now targets of foreign hacking attempts.
There has been talk of making federal and state elections a part of “critical infrastructure” under federal law. This would allow the Feds the power to control elections and provide security through the Department of Homeland Security. States have pushed back against this suggestion. I’d be hesitant to allow the Federal Government to control this process as well. Centralizing power seems like a bad idea. But that doesn’t mean states are free to ignore this threat. The Russians would love nothing more than to sow seeds of doubt in American’s minds on the validity of the electoral process. Undermining the very basis of our Democratic Republic.
It’s also important for the US to stay ahead of foreign powers in terms of cybersecurity and cyber-espianoge. The future of warfare, as Digital Trends writes, is in digital warfare (must read for those interested in the subject). The wars of our future will look, appear, and be fought on vastly different battlefields than wars of the past. Cyber allows the war to hit at home without ever dropping a bomb or firing a bullet. Considerable diligence is required here.
Other Political News
Clinton Corruption knows no bounds
We all knew the Clintons were corrupt prior to this election. But it seems like every week now a new story hits exploring the depths of their corruption. It really makes you wonder where all these intrepid reporters have been for the last… 3 decades.
First up, The IBTimes reported that Clinton approved multiple arms deals to foreign nations that gave money to the Clinton foundation. Including Saudi Arabia. It’s difficult to even summarize:
Under Clinton’s leadership, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation, according to an IBTimes analysis of State Department and foundation data. That figure — derived from the three full fiscal years of Clinton’s term as Secretary of State (from October 2010 to September 2012) — represented nearly double the value of American arms sales made to the those countries and approved by the State Department during the same period of President George W. Bush’s second term.
The Clinton-led State Department also authorized $151 billion of separate Pentagon-brokered deals for 16 of the countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation, resulting in a 143 percent increase in completed sales to those nations over the same time frame during the Bush administration. These extra sales were part of a broad increase in American military exports that accompanied Obama’s arrival in the White House. The 143 percent increase in U.S. arms sales to Clinton Foundation donors compares to an 80 percent increase in such sales to all countries over the same time period.
American defense contractors also donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state and in some cases made personal payments to Bill Clinton for speaking engagements. Such firms and their subsidiaries were listed as contractors in $163 billion worth of Pentagon-negotiated deals that were authorized by the Clinton State Department between 2009 and 2012.
The State Department formally approved these arms sales even as many of the deals enhanced the military power of countries ruled by authoritarian regimes whose human rights abuses had been criticized by the department. Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatarall donated to the Clinton Foundation and also gained State Department clearance to buy caches of American-made weapons even as the department singled them out for a range of alleged ills, from corruption to restrictions on civil liberties to violent crackdowns against political opponents.
You’ll notice some of these nations aren’t even friendly to the US. Didn’t matter to Clinton. As noted last week, the AP found that over half the people who donated money to the foundation gained access to Clinton. In arms deals, those who donated were armed. Pretty strong smoke here for pay-to-play.
Second, a Politico investigation found that Bill Clinton used taxpayer money to subsidize the Clinton Foundation, pay for personal staff, and pay for the IT equipment that would build his wife’s illegal home-brew email server:
But even as the Clintons got rich and grew their foundation into a $2 billion organization credited with major victories in the fights against childhood obesity and AIDS — while paying six-figure salaries to top aides — Bill Clinton continued drawing more cash from the Former President’s Act than any other ex-president, according to a POLITICO analysis. The analysis also found that Clinton’s representatives, between 2001, when the Clintons left the White House, and the end of this year, had requested allocations under the Act totaling $16 million. That’s more than any of the other living former presidents — Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush — requested during that span.
The program supplemented the income of Clinton’s staff, while providing them with coveted federal government benefits, alleviating the need for the Clinton Foundation or other Clinton-linked entities to foot the bill for such benefits. Similarly, Clinton aides got the GSA to pay for computer technology used partly by the foundation.
An analysis of the records provided by GSA, combined with Clinton Foundation tax returns, found that at least 13 of the 22 staffers who have been paid by GSA to work for Clinton’s personal office also worked for the Clinton Foundation.
The money Clinton used to pull this stunt off was meant to ensure former Presidents didn’t go destitute after serving the country. The Clintons have abused the law to fund their personal world.
And finally, the Daily Beast ran a piece talking about how the media has humanized Hilary Clinton over the years. Specifically the Daily Beast noted how odd it was the media kept talking about how Clinton “found her voice” over and over again. Any time the media wanted to paint a sympathetic Clinton for readers, they would suddenly write about her finding her voice again. And again. And again. It’s an odd motif to run for woman helping run a foundation that’s taking money for arms and abusing US tax codes to fund her personal world. If you’re running your own home-brew server to avoid FOIA, taking money for arms, and playing pay-to-play with domestic lobbyists, I think you have a voice.
Evan McMullin marches on and The Wall Street Journal endorses… neither?
Unlike most major newspapers, the WSJ has an editorial policy of not endorsing Presidential candidates. However, the Editorial Board wrote a very telling piece this week. After examining the polling data showing the massive unpopularity of Clinton and Trump and how most voters don’t want either, and WSJ wrote the following:
We’ve sometimes thought that the best thing about this election is that one of them will lose. But that still means that one of them will take power for four years. Perhaps we need to open ourselves to new possibilities. If “neither” could make it onto the November ballot, maybe we’d reconsider our longstanding editorial policy of not endorsing candidates.
Some have observed this is support for a general third party candidate, like Gary Johnson (Libertarian) or Jill Stein (Green). I disagree. Both of Johnson and Green are already on the ballots of all 50 states, or will be. The one question looming is: Evan McMullin. The WSJ’s editors are well aware of McMullin because McMullin’s staff is well connected. As I’ve said many times now, McMullin just lacks resources and a few big names. Namely Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney. If those two would direct their donors to move, the election would shift. McMullin’s campaign has said they’re in contact with Romney and his staff. The WSJ would be another big name for McMullin. And the WSJ would move donors and voters to McMullin.
In the meantime, McMullin has delivered enough signatures to be on the ballot in Wyoming and Virginia, adding those states to his growing list. Politico reported that McMullin won’t be on the Oregon ballot. I’ll be curious if that ends up getting challenged in court. But if not, it’s not a fatal blow for McMullin. Oregon is not a state he’d win even if he was a main candidate. As I argued when he first entered the race, all McMullin needed to do was get on the ballots of red and battleground states. He should be in good hands on those two points.
I’m often told that people aren’t seeing updates from McMullin. If you want those, I advise you sign up on his website. He speaks to the press and media regularly. He isn’t going to be on channels like Fox News because they’ve gone full into the tank for Trump. They want this to be a binary election between Trump and Clinton. At most between 3 parties of Trump, Clinton, and Johnson.
Obama administration defends itself over foreign policy in Syria, Libya, and ISIS
As I wrote about last week, Obama’s red line rule with Syria over use of chemical weapons has been abused. Repeatedly. And the deal he cut with Russia and Assad to remove chemical weapons has crumbled after reports of Assad using chlorine gas on civilians emerges. Obama and his defenders continually say that the choice of dealing with Syria, ISIS, or any Middle East problem is about avoiding another Iraq.
This a false dichotomy. The argument is that the only option is go to war, like Iraq, or stand back and do nothing. This is simply not true. You have to have an incredibly narrow view of US power to assume the only deterrence is boots on the ground. The US has far more power and tools at its disposal if our leaders would simply choose to use them. It would also help to make the argument for those tools.
Two examples come to mind. In dealing with Russia or ISIS, the main deterrent is cutting off their money. Crippling economies and starving a group is effective. Authoritarian regimes and destructive organizations like ISIS have the seeds of their own destruction built into them. The US has to simply ensure those destructive seeds are watered and starve off anything else in them. This is essentially the policy of containment the US used with the USSR. Containment was never a military-first policy. It used a full array of economic and diplomacy steps to keep the Soviets contained. Letting Syria, Russia, and Iran run free gives life to tyrants. When you starve them, good things happen. We have not effectively starved the tyrants.
On a final point, not all military intervention is bad. As War on the Rocks writes, there is good evidence in the British intervention in Sierra Leone is an example of how smart intervention can work well. The short version is this: The Obama administration’s handwringing over how intervention is always bad is a false problem. They have a full toolbox of options at their disposal. This is willful disengagement. Obama, like Clinton and her scandals, is trying to run out the clock so he no longer has to answer for foreign policy problems. This line of thought is hollow when looking at the humanitarian disaster in Syria.
Russian mercenary companies are actively engaged in supporting Assad in Syria
From Russia Beyond the Headlines, Russia is using private mercenaries to send forces into Syria. These forces are propping up Assad’s regime, even as the US continues to say Assad must go:
Under Russian laws, the military can only be employed by the state. Mercenary activity is punishable by a prison term of up to 15 years. However, RBK sources in the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the defense ministry indicate that the Russian authorities have no intention of giving up on the idea of legalizing PMCs. Furthermore, there are private military companies in Russia that operate just like those abroad, despite the fact that there is no law in place to regulate their activity.
It is exactly because of the lack of legal regulation that Russian PMCs mainly operate abroad, registering their subsidiaries in offshore zones. Although Russian troops were not involved in a full-scale ground operation in Syria, there are reports of fighters who performed “special tasks.”
These are the kind of “special tasks” carried out in Syria by Major Sergei Chupov, a member of an elite unit who was killed in February 2016, an acquaintance of his told RBK.
The RBK source, who knew the serviceman well, claims that the interior ministry forces veteran, who had been through both Chechen campaigns, was in Syria as an employee of a private military company known as the Wagner group.
The Russian Defense Ministry dismissed reports about the Wagner group’s operation in Syria that appeared in the Wall Street Journal as an “information attack.” However, sources at the FSB and the defense ministry told RBK that unofficially the Wagner group is supervised by the GRU.
The Wagner group first appeared in the Middle East shortly before Russia began to officially deploy its bases in Syria in the fall of 2015, the RBK source at the Defense Ministry said.
In 2016, there were from 1,000 to 1,600 Wagner employees simultaneously present in Syria, says a source familiar with the operation.
North Korea signals it is open to negotiations regarding its nuclear program
U.S. experts and former officials secretly met several times with top North Korean officials this year, and some of them have emerged believing the regime of Kim Jong Un is ready to restart talks about its nuclear program.
There has been no official dialogue between the U.S. government and North Korea since Kim assumed power following his father’s death in 2011. But Pyongyang has quietly maintained contact with Washington through a series of “Track 2” dialogues. Pyongyang often sends senior diplomats to attend these sessions. The Americans who take part are former officials and top Korea and nuclear experts. The meetings have taken place in Berlin, Singapore and Beijing.
The timing of this is odd to me. The piece goes on to report how US officials are suspicious of the North Koreans offering empty promises. I would be suspicious of the North Koreans getting talkative too. I am suspicious of the timing because of the newfound freedom Iran is exercising. North Korea could be looking at the Iranians with some jealousy. North Korea would benefit from gaining access to the world economy while giving false assurances for ending their nuclear ambitions. Given how long it took the Iranians to hammer out the details of their deal, I’m not worried about the Obama administration signing a similar deal with the North Koreans. But I would have concerns Clinton or Trump could sign a similar deal. North Korea should be contained and kept from obtaining nuclear arms.
Key takeaways from new healthcare spending reports
Growth in health-care spending has slowed since the recession and the passage of the Affordable Care Act. It was down to 5.5% annual growth in 2015, from an average of nearly 8% in the two decades preceding the recession, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Some of the recent slowdown is cyclical. Many of the millions of people laid off during the recession lost access to employer-provided health insurance, and broad-based belt-tightening also forced cutbacks in health spending. But as the economy grows and earnings rise, spending on health care is expected to re-accelerate, reaching a 6% annual average growth rate between 2020 and 2025, according to CMS projections. The pickup in spending would be in large part due to America’s aging population, although other trends, such as reforms to Medicare reimbursement and “spillover effects” in the private market, will help counter some of the increase.
Also worth noting, the rising costs costs being paid by the middle class and government in healthcare. The WSJ also notes how deductibles have skyrocketed since Obamacare was passed. The increasing costs and deductibles will eventually come back to the news forefront. Occasional stories won’t be enough. Congress and the President will have to deal with this mess again. Americans won’t be able to stand rising costs like this for long. Nor will the government be able to afford it.
The GDP Report
Also from the WSJ, 5 takeaways from the GDP report, showing growth of 1.1% in the second quarter of 2016. What stood out to me in that report? Businesses cutting back:
The boost in corporate profits hasn’t led businesses to increase spending on big-ticket equipment. A proxy for business spending on equipment and facilities—nonresidential fixed investment—fell at a 0.9% rate in April through June. The one good piece of news: The drop was far less than the initially reported 2.2% decline. The revision largely reflected a big increase in spending on intellectual property products.
Business are cutting back on what they reinvest into themselves. Seeing businesses spend that money on themselves helps create economic growth and create jobs. Ideally you want to see this number go up. Companies continue to stockpile money. This says businesses expect choppy waters ahead in the economy.
What I’m reading
Why have racial relations deteriorated so rapidly in America?
A number of great columns have come out in the last few weeks talking about the racial divide in America. I recommend each of the articles I’m about to link to read and share with others. First, in National Review, author J.D. Vance writes a piece tracing the history of the racial divide in America. I highly recommend reading his piece and the history he lays out. One of the key passages he writes is:
Because of this polarization, the racial conversation we’re having today is tribalistic. On one side are primarily white people, increasingly represented by the Republican party and the institutions of conservative media. On the other is a collection of different minority groups and a cosmopolitan — and usually wealthier — class of whites. These sides don’t even speak the same language: One side sees white privilege while the other sees anti-white racism. There is no room for agreement or even understanding.
The institutional offshoots of this peculiar moment have monopolized the conversation. Donald Trump is the voice of poor white America. The Black Lives Matter movement is the voice of dispossessed blacks and their sympathizers. Yet if these voices have monopolized the conversation, they certainly haven’t monopolized the good ideas. Trump’s policies, such as they are, offer little substance to those suffering from addiction, joblessness, and downward mobility. And the Black Lives Matter movement, focused primarily on police violence, cannot alone address the full spectrum of problems faced by the black underclass.
It is tempting to suggest that we change the way we talk about these issues. Perhaps rhetoric on the right that accepted the legitimate black complaints about inequality, paired with a less combative tone on the left, would allow for some progress. But it’s a fool’s hope: No tribe will change its tactics just so the other tribe will understand it better. That’s not how tribes work. As volumes of social science attest, understanding requires empathy, and empathy requires exposure. The only way out of this morass is to integrate the tribes.
Tribalism is important. Groups stay to themselves, protect their people, and listen to their leaders only. Anyone else on the outside is a potential enemy. This form of tribalism is the foundation for the shame culture I’ve covered previously. Tearing down tribalistic walls is needed. The problem is not a liberal or conservative problem. In the Huffington Post, Nikki Johnson-Huston wrote a piece called: “The Culture of the Smug White Liberal.” She lays out the problems many blacks have with modern liberalism:
My problem with Liberalism is that it’s more concerned with policing people’s language and thoughts without requiring them to do anything to fix the problem. White liberal college students speak of “safe spaces”, “trigger words”, “micro aggressions” and “white privilege” while not having to do anything or, more importantly, give up anything. They can’t even have a conversation with someone who sees the world differently without resorting to calling someone a racist, homophobic, misogynistic, bigot and trying to have them banned from campus, or ruin them and their reputation. They say they feel black peoples’ pain because they took a trip to Africa to help the disadvantaged, but are unwilling to go to a black neighborhood in the City in which they live. These same college students will espouse the joys of diversity, but will in the same breath assume you are only on campus because of affirmative action or that all black people grew up in poverty. My personal favorite is declaring with surprise how articulate a black classmate is despite the fact that we are attending the same institution of higher learning as they are.
The White Liberal culture encourages talking about diversity and shaming others for their alleged racism, but many times they themselves work in environments that are mostly white. When questioned they’ll defensively state that they promote strictly on merit. Black people aren’t suggesting that we want someone unqualified to get the position, but I find it telling that they assume that we are not qualified. These same Liberals are quick to be against school choice, while their kids go to private or well-regarded public schools. Leaving poor black children behind in underperforming schools and providing less opportunity to improve their lives is inconsequential to keeping true to their white liberal politics. Many people are quick to espouse the political values of liberalism without having to live with the often harsh reality of those policies.
Claiming to represent blacks, white liberals are instead silencing those they claim to represent. And harming blacks with policies that expand government overreach into black lives. But it’s not just liberals doing this. It’s conservatives too. Conservatives fail to care or understand the problems blacks face. Writing in The Buckley Club, an author going by Conservative Black Man, writes his “Open Letter to Conservatives.” Like the other two pieces, his is worth reading completely. Particularly the following passages:
Conservatives need more compassion and understanding. They need to understand why that rock hurts so much more when thrown from the top of that mountain. “We don’t do feelings,” you’ll tell me, “that’s what Liberals do.” I agree. Feelings don’t work for policy, but they work when we deal with each other in the real world. Try to understand why black people feel jaded when they move into a mostly white neighborhood and notice the increase in For Sale signs a few months after. Try to understand why the phrase “driving while black” bothers us so much. Try to understand why we see an Eric Garner choked out for selling cigarettes and become enraged.
Conservatives need to try to understand why black people feel the way we feel about some of these things. Would it hurt for you to show compassion for a mother who has lost her son to a derelict police officer, rather than pointing out the black on black crime statistics in Chicago? Why is the first reaction to the mentioning of the KKK a pivot to the Black Panthers as if the Black Panthers were ever at the top of that figurative mountain? Have you ever tried to understand what most black people feel when they see the Confederate flag? Have you taken the time to ask any?
So why have race relations deteriorated so quickly? Instead of uniting as a country to support one another, everyone has split into tribal groups. Each group blames the other for the problems occurring in the country. Any criticism, valid or not, by one group over another is seen as an attack on the other group. This idiocy needs to stop. We need to focus on tearing down the walls that have been built up between races and communities. And that starts on an individual level.
Social Media Post of the Week
The parody account of North Korean PR took a shot at Chris Christie going about town in shorts.
Thanks for reading!