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The wind is veering

January 10, 2017

Liberals fall into an easy trap of wanting to view politics in rational terms. Political problems can be addressed by a range of policies. Any given policy has short-term effects and long-term effects, helps some and hurts others, and impedes or helps related policies. Those questions are largely factual that can be addressed by studies and statistics. We admire wonkish candidates who seem to have at least passing familiarity with those facts. And many a liberal is easily seduced into thinking that the art of politics is a matter of creating a mix of policies that will retain their benefit after implementation, and selling that to different factions of voters.

The liberal presidential candidate this year was rolled by the most ignorant presidential candidate in living memory. Other than building a long wall, his one clearly stated policy is eliminating health insurance that is helping keep alive the wedge of swing voters that was pivotal to his narrow victory. That seeming contradiction has roiled the liberal pundits. Why would anyone vote so contrary to their own self interest? Do they really believe that Trump will bring back those middle-class, rustbelt jobs? What positions should we take to approach that slice of the electorate?

And all those questions still are framed in terms of policy. Which doesn’t matter to these voters. They’re not thinking in those terms.

Politics plays to far more chthonic drives. Hunter Thompson understood that people would rather be viewed as deplorable than pitiable. There is a sick pride in deplorable, and populist politicians like Trump know how to ride it. Every time he said something racist or sexist, or hurled conspiratorial accusation, those voters liked him more.

Time will tell whether this is a roadbump in liberal democracy, or whether winter really is coming.

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