Sunday, February 21, 2016

Bloc Heads

One of the most tedious features of political horse-race coverage is how inept it tends to be. Even the Monday-morning-quarterback hindsight assessments tend to be off, because they tend to be based on assumptions going in.

Last night's South Carolina primary is a good example of that. Conventional wisdom had it that "evangelicals" would go for Cruz, and instead they went for Trump. The media don't really know what to make of evangelicals, and when they ask them questions, of course the evangelicals spout a bunch of god-bothering jabber about their morals and values.

I saw a commenter somewhere -- a conservative Trump supporter, mind you -- recently say something to the effect that most of the southern evangelicals he knew had been divorced several times, used meth, oxy, and or alcohol, and usually could be found at a casino. He was not saying this disparagingly or admiringly, just in a matter-of-fact way.

This jibes with my experience with such folks as well, even out here in California. I have known a lot of religious people who are the most hypocritical, amoral motherfuckers I have ever come across. I've literally known drug dealers that were more trustworthy than some of the "fambly valyews" types, who fuck around on their spouses and take drugs routinely. I will bet you serious money that the majority of the self-described evangelicals cannot name more than five commandments.

In other words, they're full of shit, their ethics are as situational as anyone else's, perhaps more so, since they are as a rule intellectually dishonest and factually ignorant. Those characteristics, in fact, make them perfect Trump voters: they are inclined to believe things that they want to believe in the first place, he tells them what they want to hear, he doesn't worry about whether it's objectively true or even possible, and he grooms the "us versus them" mentality they already have baked into their worldview. I know, it seems insane that straight white Christians could seriously feel persecuted, but these morons do, and Trump scratches their itch much better than a preening douchebag like Ted Cruz can. But the media will talk about these wretched fools with a straight face, instead of refuting their nonsense as it deserves:

Throughout the last few weeks, the state’s biggest GOP luminaries—notably, governor Nikki Haley and senator Tim Scott—have rallied around Rubio. The party’s advocates and its anointed candidates have spent the last few weeks railing against Trump’s defiance of the GOP orthodoxy—for instance, his position on eminent domain, or the qualified support for Planned Parenthood he voiced in the most recent debate—and questioning his character (one Bush radio spot was a medley of Trump’s bleeped-out curses).

But straight talk, for Trump supporters, trumps consistency. Nancy Pugh, a staunchly religious retiree who also attended Trump’s Sumter event, sees his willingness to change as a sign that he can be trusted.

“At one time, he might have been a part of that problem. When I see attack adds [sic] against him for things he did back in 1999, I do not hold him to those things,” she says. “Perhaps, now he has seen the devastation that those things caused. Everyone can change their opinion on issues when they are given good reasons why they were wrong.”

It's not clear which "things he did back in 1999" this addled biddy is referring to, but let's infer for the sake of argument that the items in the previous paragraphs -- eminent domain, Planned Parenthood -- are in that group. Trump continues to make no apologies for his support of eminent domain. He does not try to conceal his sincere belief that his right to force people to sell their homes so that he can have more parking space for his casino and "create jobs" (mostly menial cleaning and cooking jobs) is more important than their right to keep their homes. And while Trump may be personally opposed to abortion, there is no indication that that translates into any sort of meaningful policy change regarding Planned Parenthood or Roe v. Wade or anything else.

But because he's a confrontational asshole, the media do half of Trump's work for him, simply by characterizing his bullshit as "straight talk". There is no specificity whatsoever as to Trump's "willingness to change" on an item of policy. It doesn't matter. They want to believe. There is no rationality factoring into this, and therefore no consistency or predictability.

Another group that is frequently misread -- in fact, frequently mistaken for a monolithic voting bloc -- is blacks. As with many demographics, it can depend on the issue; same-sex marriage, for example, has been a deeply divisive issue in the black community, one that has been consistently stoked by pastors of predominantly black churches.

Trump has made several overtures to the black community right from the start of his candidacy, including paying these sassy sista YouTube bloggers to shill for him. Frankly, the article has so many holes and evasions from these two nitwits that it really shouldn't have been published in the first place without more fact-checking, but there's your modern media in a nutshell. Check one of the prime factors for their support for Trump:

They see in the businessman qualities that many others miss. “He is very meek,” said Diamond. “He’s humble.”

If Trump is meek and humble, then I'm Shaquille O'Neal. Go back and read that again, especially the first sentence. Could it be that "many others miss" those "qualities" because they objectively do not exist? Again, where is the journalistic responsibility to not let yourself get trolled by a couple of paid propagandists, whose schtick quite frankly smacks of stereotyping and minstrelsy? The premises are flawed from the outset, because of how the media approach the "black" voting bloc, one that the Democratic party has come to take for granted. Despite Trump's awkward assertions of being "good with the blacks," it would be pretty tough to say that he's any sort of racist, and in fact has been known to cultivate relationships in the past with high-profile rappers, to get them to hang out at his casinos and clubs.

Even so, it's disturbing to see how racists seem to be attracted to Trump's campaign. It will be interesting to see if he openly repudiates them. You probably shouldn't hold your breath on that one.

It's not a bad question to ask why a traditionally Democratic demographic might consider voting Republican, but even that question seems to get bollixed up with questions of racism. The fact is that blacks are not going Republican in general, but that some of them (it is unclear if the number is even statistically significant) are going specifically for Trump. Perhaps they sense that Trump is not a true Republican, nor a true conservative, in either of the usual definitions of those things. When people don't read anymore, or bother to acquaint themselves with facts and information, definitions are meaningless. Things mean what people want them to mean, in the same way that believers need something to believe unquestioningly.

Again, black churches tend to be prime movers in many voting districts, and just as in white evangelical megachurches, the pastor's call to his flock tends to resonate. One such black pastor in South Carolina is Mark Burns. Here is Burns' rationale for supporting Trump:

For Burns, the real problem is the Democratic establishment - how "Christianity is under attack" thanks to the Democrats, and how they have created a "generation of handouts to African-Americans." He cited cornerstones of Democratic politics, including a pro-choice stance in America's ongoing abortion debate, as indicative of Democrats' disregard for African-Americans:

"The whole abortion deal is targeted to African-American women ... and gives them the option to destroy the next generation of future scientists, doctors, presidents, CEOs. It's the systematic destruction of, I believe, the next generation of African-Americans, led by the Democratic Party."

Got all that? So, three reasons, all of them tendentious at best:
  1. Christianity under attack -- by what and how, they never say. What the fuck does "thanks to the Democrats" mean, exactly?
  2. Culture of dependency -- some truth to this, but not exclusive to the black community at all. There are plenty of lazy, dumb crackers on their third or fourth generation of welfare. The only skills they seem to have are breeding and milking the system.
  3. Pro-life -- again, Trump appears to be the common type who is personally pro-life, but is not going to do anything at all to curtail reproductive rights for women.

Now -- and here's where it gets really good -- it turns out that Mark Burns and his family run their own religulous teevee network. Take a look at the NOW Network page to see what money-grubbing tools Burns and his family are. Fifty dollars for a 30-minute broadcast; thirty-one dollars for a "gold" "lapel pendant" (it appears actually to be a pin, since there is no such thing as a "lapel pendant"). Free "holy oil" (which supposedly has healing powers, and will of course get you on their email list). This asshole is the epitome of why churched should not be tax exempt.

In profiling Diamond and Silk, or Pastor Burns, the media are attempting to limn a greater narrative, or identify some sort of trend, without actually getting at any real reason or pattern to it. And that's because there isn't a reason for it, except that blacks are just as capable as whites or Latinos or Asians or anyone else of being gullible idiots with stupid reasons for doing things.

More and more it appears that Trump's nomination, without a concerted effort by the GOP establishment, is inevitable. If Trump carries enough states next Tuesday, he's gathers momentum. If Trump carries Florida, Rubio's done. Cruz might take Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, but that just gives him a bargaining position at the convention. Rubio gets a little bit of help because Jeb(!?), after blowing through ungodly amounts of money, finally got the message that it just ain't gonna happen for him. But it won't be enough to recoup the mostly double-digit leads Trump has over Rubio in most states.

And if Trump wins the nomination, I actually believe he has a decent chance to win the general election now. I don't know if the Democrats realize just how thoroughly Republicans despise Hillary Clinton. I mean, I think Donald Trump and Sarah Palin are ridiculous people, and wish to hell they'd go away, but I don't hate them, like wish harm to befall them. They hate Hillary, they hate her with a fucking passion. The reasons don't matter, they don't have to make sense. It is what it is. They loathe her, and it will be a motivating factor for them. The Democrats will have their work cut out for them. It really is a shame Biden chose not to run.

The real wild card in all this is how Trump might affect the Republican down-ticket races. There are several Republican senators up for re-election in key swing states (NH, IL, Wi, OH) that would have their chances damaged if Trump's nomination had no real juice. If the party does decide to kneecap Trump and pave the way for Rubio, that will be the main reason why (that and because they can control Rubio).

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