One of the more significant, but largely overlooked, change in the american political arena within the last decade concerns the obvious impotency and rapidly declining role of political strategists in wining party nominations and elections. It was not that long ago when names like Lee Atwater, Karl Rove and Roger Ailes evoked feared in those who ran against the politicians who employed them.
While a significant part of their fearsome reputations was based on myth and hearsay, it is also clear that their “dirty tricks” were somewhat effective in winning close elections. We all remember how George W Bush “won” the 2000 presidential election. But that was over a decade ago and the presidential elections of 2004 were the last major elections in USA where such political consultants were able to influence the final electoral results to any measurable degree.
Since then political consultants have been, by and large, unable to influence major elections at the national and increasingly the state and local level. Some of you might remember the very public humiliations and irrelevancy suffered by once feared political operatives like Karl Rove and Roger Ailes during the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. You might also be aware of how Donald Trump destroyed the presidential aspirations of his far better funded and establishment rivals in the still ongoing race for the republican nomination.
So what is going on? Why are all the old and new “machiavellian geniuses” unable to influence american elections like their predecessors? Why do they seem to spend more time as TV pundits, Authors and make most of their income from job descriptions that fit the definition of a Sinecure? Why is somebody like Donald Trump winning the republican primary? Why is Bernie Sanders still competitive in the democratic primary?
Well.. there are many reasons for this change ranging from the still ongoing impoverishment of the average american to the (also still ongoing) post-2008 loss of public trust in all credentialed professionals and institutions. However the most important, and central, reason for the terminal impotency of political strategists is linked to the rise of decentralized, fast and structurally uncontrollable spread of information over the internet. And it does not work the way most of you think…
The conventional narrative about the effects of information spreading over the internet is based on a pleasant-sounding fallacy. Most people believe political change over the internet is almost exclusively due to people using it the educate themselves about the “facts”. While that is sorta true for objective “facts” like the stuff found in textbooks on physics and chemistry- it is not the case for information about subjective issues such as politics.
The biggest, and most important, effect of the internet on politics is that it makes pretty much everyone extremely cynical of the whole political process. The sheer amount of opinions supporting or denouncing any given position on any issue almost guarantees that most people will stick to what they believed in the first place. It is this widespread cynicism which more than anything defeats attempts to sway opinions through sophistic rhetoric, “dirty tricks”, advertisements and appeals to morality.
This is why all attempts by MSM to attack Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump have had virtually no negative effects on those who support their campaigns. Indeed, the scorn of the MSM and its paid pundits has increased, rather than decreased, public support for both outsider candidates. This is why Bernie and Trump rallies can easily get tens of thousands of enthusiastic supporters while mainstream politicians like Hillary or Cruz struggle to get a tenth or twentieth of that number.
Another interesting effect of internet driven cynicism is that the physical appearance of politicians is far less important than it was even ten years ago. People have now come to associate a “professional” look and grooming with dishonesty. In other words, people are now far more likely to trust (or not distrust) somebody who looks like Bernie or Trump than somebody who looks like Hillary, Rubio, Cruz or Mitt Romney. I had predicted something along these lines in one of my older posts- How ‘Anodyne’ Communication Destroys Societal Trust.
What do you think? Comments?
I was going to complete and post this article a few days, but decided to wait for reasons that will be more obvious when you read it further. Well.. as many of you have read or heard in the last two weeks, many presstitutes and media personalities in the main-stream media have been busy peddling their allegedly original opinions about how Bernie Sanders cannot win the democratic presidential nomination. You might have also seen articles about how he should (or soon will) “gracefully” step aside and participate in the DNC-led anointing of Shrillary. I, for one, think that the course of events might take a rather unexpected turn- and it is not what most of you are thinking.
To be clear, Bernie’s Plan A is to win the democratic presidential nomination. However, I strongly suspect he has a Plan B- specifically, one that involves damaging the electability of Shrillary in a general election to a point where she will lose to most potential republican candidates. The beauty of this Plan B is that it runs in parallel with Plan A and does not make Bernie look bad or vindictive.
To understand what Bernie is trying to pull off, you have to first look at this from his viewpoint. First a little history and context. As some of you know, Bernie Sanders is no newcomer to electoral politics and has been involved in it at various levels for over three decades. Secondly, he always ran as an independent- even though he could have made far more money and wielded much more power if he had joined the democratic party. So, it is clear that the guy has a pretty good understanding of the political system and what he wants as a person. In other words, he knows what he is doing..
Some people think that he entered the 2016 race with the naive expectation that he would not face a very determined PR campaign against him by Shrillary, her legions of flying monkeys (media personalities and presstitutes) and the DNC. Some also think that he underestimated the support of the establishment for Shrillary. But is that really so? Do you really think a guy who has been successfully elected (and re-elected) to the house and senate is that naive? Do you really think he underestimated the support of the political and corporate establishment for Shrillary?
So why would a worldly 74-year Jewish senator from Vermont decide to seriously run for the democratic nomination against Shrillary? And why in 2016? And what does he intend to achieve in case he cannot get the democratic nomination? Why is he not taking corporate donation? Is it just out of principles or is he trying to achieve something that is not that obvious? why does he keep talking about the ‘revolution’? What is the ‘revolution’ really about? And why is he acting as if the DNC does not exist or matter?
The short answer to these and other questions lies in a peculiar convergence of electoral rules, demographic realities and the general mood of people in the country.
The somewhat longer answer is as follows: As some of you might remember from 2000, the president of USA is elected by a majority of votes by the electoral college rather than a simple majority of voters. For a large part of american history, it was possible for candidates of either party to win a significant number of states- irrespective of which candidate had won them in the previous election. To put it another way, there were many more ‘swing states‘ in the past than there are now. Starting in the 1990s, polarization of the electorate in most states reached levels that rendered most of them noncompetitive for one party or the other. Consequently, presidential candidates of each party can be fairly certain about which states they will win or not before a single vote is cast.
You might also have noticed that the swing states for the last few elections have a peculiar geographical distribution and demographic profiles. For the 2016 election- we can consider Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Florida to be definite ‘swing states’. Did you notice that the major swing states (except Virginia) are somewhat poor and full of working class whites with an increasing number of Hispanics? And what does any of this have to do with Bernie’s Plan ‘B’?
As it turns out.. a lot.
Bernie has figured a way to use Shrillary’s greatest weakness, her visceral unlikeability, against her in a way that does not make him look bad. The easiest way to pull that off is to drag Shrillary and her supporters through a series of contested democratic primaries in all 50 states, but especially in those ‘swing states’ where she desperately needs a high turnout of white democratic voters. He also knows that Shrillary and her backers will do all the things that a conventionally successful political campaign will do to win the democratic nomination. He also knows that all of those things will dramatically increase her unfavorability ratings among the white working class voters she so desperately needs later in the year.
Bernie is trying to reduce the potential democratic voter turnout for her in ‘swing states’ during the 2016 presidential election.
But why take this somewhat circuitous route? And what is he really trying to achieve by making her lose the 2016 presidential election? Well.. for starters- attacking her directly at this stage might make her look more human and actually reduce her unfavorability ratings. Remember that most people felt sorry for Shrillary all through the 1990s- when she was a relative political unknown and under constant attack by republicans. The best way to defeat and degrade Hillary in a conventional political setting, as Obama demonstrated in 2008, is to get her (and her backers) to attack you.
But that still does not answer one question- why now (in 2016)?
Well.. for one major but non-obvious reason. Bernie knows that the corporate-owned DNC, not Hillary, is the biggest impediment for any real change. He also knows that the machinery of the DNC will not stop (or even slow down) as long as it is regularly fueled by its corporate backers. So how do you cut off or reduce the flow of corporate money to the DNC? The answer is.. make sure that democrats do not control the presidency, senate, house of representatives, most state legislatures, most governorships and the supreme court. Corporations do not pay political machines that lack political power. As it turns out the democrats have already achieved most of those goals- on their own.
Losing the presidency (and not regaining the senate) in 2016 will basically finish of the current incarnation of the democratic party. Of course, winning all of them might finish of the republicans via a different mechanism- but that is a discussion best left to a future post. In short, Bernie is trying to destroy the DNC by pushing it to make that one big final mistake.
What do you think? Comments?
I have been trying to finish and post this somewhat odd blog post for the last few weeks, but was distracted by other posts and life in general. The idea for this article comes from some blog post (or discussion thread?) I came across a few months ago. The post (or discussion thread?) was about how smartphones with cameras have exposed many hitherto hidden events and facts- from “normal” women being narcissistic and slutty to police routinely killing unarmed black men. One of the commentators in that thread also talked about how trail cameras have been able to catch images of unknown or seldom seen species of animals.
All of this got me thinking- Why has the global proliferation of cheap and ubiquitous smartphones in the previous few years not provided us much more visual evidence (photos or videos) of UFOs?
Here is why I find this odd.. Reports and accounts of unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) are not exactly new. Accounts of unidentified flying objects under apparently intelligent control can be found in literature from classical antiquity. Similarly multiple written accounts from the 16th-17th century also talk about mass sightings of flying objects what we would today call UFOs. Even more oddly, more than a few of these accounts are from east-asian cultures. Perhaps most significantly, almost all these older sightings occurred in the era before humans started building lighter-than-air or heavier-than-air flying machines.
As many of you know- accounts of UFO sightings exploded in the 20th century. While a significant part of this increase in number of alleged sightings can be accounted by the human desire to “see” more than what they actually saw- it is also clear that more than a few sightings of UFOs (especially by experienced pilots and amateur astronomers) are based in reality. Perhaps most tellingly, sightings of UFOs by pilots and astronomers almost always describe objects that are so different from existing aircraft (and balloons) that we have to consider the possibility that they were seeing real physical objects matching the description.
The worldwide proliferation of film cameras in the mid-1900s resulted in a wave of photos of objects alleged to be UFOs. While many have since been exposed as hoaxes or misidentification, a few have always remained explainable. We saw another mini-wave of recorded visual evidence for alleged UFOs after the proliferation of camcorders in the 1980s and 1990s. But then something curious happened. The introduction and even wider and global proliferation of digital cameras (standalone or in smartphones) has not resulted in an even larger wave of photographic evidence for UFOs. The question is- why not?
FYI- here is where I stand on the whole UFO issue. In my opinion, there is no reason for sentient life-forms to be unique to our planet. Furthermore, it is very likely that sentient and technologically capable life-forms in other planetary systems would explore other stellar systems using autonomous (and artificially intelligent) space probes.
What do you think? Comments?
As almost every one of you knows by now, Bernie Sanders resounding victory in the New Hampshire democratic primary has left Hillary Clinton and her cronies shaken, if not overtly panicking.. at least yet. The fact that this overwhelming victory comes on the heels of a technical and shady tie in the Iowa democratic caucus has suddenly made Hillary look far more vulnerable than she would have preferred. Most of you might have also heard all those noises coming from Clinton supporters and protegees about how Hillary will still win the democratic because of her alleged popularity among “Black” and “Hispanic” democratic voters.
But what if the course of events don’t work out that way in 2016? What if her professional supporters and protegees are lying to others or being self-delusional? What if her public viewpoints from the 1990s come back to wreck her quest for the “Black” and “Hispanic” vote in 2016? In other words, could her campaign to win non-white voters in 2016 be sunk by widespread public dissemination of her public views about those groups in the 1990s?
Let us look at the facts..
It is a matter of public record that her husband, Bill Clinton, actively supported laws that caused disproportionate damage to the Black and Hispanic community when he was president. He also promoted laws that caused a lot of damage to the black community as a whole. While he has recently acknowledged many of the racially biased laws passed during his presidency were a “mistake“, it means little to the millions of non-whites who life has been irreversibly damaged by these inherently racist laws.
Now some of you might say that a wife cannot be held accountable for the actions of her husband. Well.. that would be a reasonable line of argument if Hillary was a politically uninvolved 1950s-era housewife- but as you all know, she was anything but apolitical. In fact, there are tons of video clips of her actively defending her husband’s policies- whether they were about increasing levels of racially targeted incarceration or supporting welfare “reform” policies that targeted non-whites. To put it another way, she was a willing and enthusiastic collaborator in the design and support of policies that destroyed the lives of millions of black citizens.
And that is a big problem for her, especially in an era where media is no longer centralized and under the control of a few people and corporations. A recent and widely shared article by Michelle Alexander openly points out that the Clintons have done nothing to deserve the votes of black people. Even a borderline Clinton shill like Ta-Nehisi Coates has now found it hard to openly support Hillary Clinton. It does not take a genius to figure out that we will be soon seeing tons of official and unofficial attacks ads and articles which use public positions taken by the Clinton’s in the 1990s against them in 2016.
The continuation of Black and Hispanic support for Hillary is therefore heavily dependent on suppression of their public positions from the 1990s. While doing so was trivial in an era with three TV networks, a few cable channels and a handful of national newspapers- doing that today is impossible. In fact any attempt to suppress such facts today would achieve the reverse- a phenomenon known as the Streisand effect.
It is also worth mentioning that Blacks and Hispanics in 2016, unlike many of their counterparts from the 1990s, are no longer naive enough to strive for respectability and acceptability by an aging and declining white population. Furthermore, the growth and ubiquity of the internet (and smartphones) have exposed the gross and systemic racial inequalities in the treatment of Blacks and Hispanics in the USA. It is no exaggeration to say that Blacks and Hispanics born after 1970 have a very different view of the 1980s and 1990s than their parents.
To summarize, any serious public exposure of Hillary and Bill Clinton’s views and actions during the 1990s would make Hillary repulsive to non-white voters- especially those born after 1970.
What do you think? Comments?