Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus.
A few days back, the Wall St. Journal published an editorial written by Yuri Vanetik about the Mueller report. Or, more specifically, about his personal connection to the subjects wound up in the just-released Mueller report.
Mr. Venetik is a wealthy individual from Orange County, California who uses some of that wealth to be politically active. If the Orange County, California isn’t enough of a tip-off, he supports Republicans. He also was born in the former-Soviet Union. His family were Jews who fled Ukraine in the 1970s when he was a child.
Mr. Venetik has contributed to conservative campaigns. Being a substantial contributor at that, he is knows and is known among the money circles of national politics. He has some decidedly superficial connections with some of the other names associated with Trump. He says, however, that he supported neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton in the last election; he backed Bush and Rubio in the primary and voted for an unnamed-third party in the general. More importantly, though, his first name is Yuri, a name that just drips with intrigue. It has even been used as shorthand for a Russian spy.
Mr. Venetik has not been investigated by the FBI nor by the Special Investigator’s team. He was never charged in that investigation and, apparently, has never been prosecuted for any criminal activity. However, a selfie taken with Paul Mannefort was enough to net him a four-part exposé in the newspaper chain which publishes the Sacramento paper The Daily Bee. The article juxtaposes various suspicious-sounding or minor incidents over the course of his lifetime into a narrative that implies Venetik is a Russian spy who works to manipulate Trump and the American body politic. He has sued the paper and obtained partial retractions but, as he suggests in his editorial, the accusations and innuendo will forever be tied to his name. Whatever he does until the day he dies, be it politics, charity, or just business activity, a Google search is going to bring up that he was part of this whole “Trump thing,” whatever that was.
I always assumed it was understood that the Left, particularly the hard-left, saw the Soviet Union as fellow travelers in the struggle for, well, whatever the hell they’re struggling for. It seemed to follow that they might look at the counter-reformist new Russians as inheritors of the Soviet’s mantel. I should be glad, shouldn’t I, that they too have come to see those ex-Soviets as the enemy of freedom – as an “Evil Empire,” if you will? The anti-Russian frenzy I’ve personally witnessed surpasses even that of the most ardent Cold Warrior of the early 80s. It is shocking, sometimes, but let us all agree. The Soviet Union was bad. Full Stop.
It makes me wonder, how out of place are the current tactics – both the political actions of the Progressive Left and the actions of the “Deep State” with regard to the Trump wiretapping and Hillary email revelations – how out of place would they be in Stalin’s Russia? Or maybe Kruschev’s Russia?
Could we find a case where a fairly successful resident of Russia had some opinions, and a propensity to express them, that didn’t jive with those of the Supreme Soviet. While that in itself wouldn’t get you shot in the back of the head, it might draw the wrong kind of “official” attention. Suppose also this figure had some relatives who fled to the West and on to America at the end of World War II. The possibilities might open an intensive investigations on the potential threat to Soviet security. Maybe somewhere along the line, they find he illegally imported something (literature, denim jeans, who knows) from Germany.
Maybe he’s brought up on charges for tax evasion or customs violations. He might end up in jail or a gulag. If so, from a societal standpoint, the man broke the law and, caught, he paid the price. You believe in the rule of law don’t you? Society and even the officials that control it have a plausible deniability that what, objectively, is tyranny is, for them, merely the rule of law, a fundamental pillar of freedom. Maybe the charges are minor, but the public association of that individual with improprieties means he loses a job, or misses out on promotions, or has difficulty forming and maintaining the relations that made him “successful” to begin with.
One can imagine this happening in the Soviet Union. I am almost certain I could find clear documentation of something very similar happening in Putin’s Russia. This is stock copy describing how a tyrannical government goes about controlling its people while avoiding the outright “gun them down in the streets” stuff that sparks revolution. I could probably, also, post a dozen variations on the story involving conservative figures in the United States, all taking place within the last couple of years.
Is there even a discussion left to be had? We have become what we have feared. We have met the enemy, he is us but, hell, he isn’t so bad after all.
The real question might be less about how far down a previously-unthinkable path we have come, but which direction are we headed? What horrors lie in the darkness under those trees, upon which we are quickly coming. Are we about to become Stalin’s Russia? That is most unlikely, as we have the example of Stalin’s Russia from which to learn. Mark Twain said that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme. What rhymes with “enemy of the State?”
Hillary: the Movie got added to my to-rent list during the 2016 presidential primary. A friend had posted on line asking what was wrong. For those who subsist purely on streaming video, the Citizens United film that made “Citizens United” everyone’s favorite epithet, the offering was no where to be found. Said friend speculated whether the controlling media entities, Netflix and Amazon, were doing it out of political bias. Myself, I suspect more mundane money issues involved. Nevertheless, I can’t stand being told what I can and cannot do, so I promptly queued up the DVD for rental.
It is now a good year-and-a-half beyond that most recent primary and almost a decade beyond when the film was originally made. So I’m a little late to the game. Hopefully, Hillary won’t be mounting another presidential run in 2020, but one never knows. As for the scandals which are presented in the movie, I’ve read about several of them but several others were new to me. Of course, there was no time in the last 10 years when I considered myself a Hillary supporter. At the time, in the 2008 primary, I had stated I preferred Barack Obama as the Democrat’s nominee.
The movie itself is fairly well put together. There seems to be an effort to use documented information and to present opinions from the liberal side when possible. The more conspiratorial accusations against the Clintons are avoided in favor of incidents with public testimony or written evidence. A couple of the bits draw over heavily on emotions (e.g the focus on a dead soldier and his parents, where the point in question was Hillary’s inconsistent commitment to the War on Terror), but at least half the movie has a solid factual grounding.
Like I said, viewing the movie in a timely manner would never have swayed my vote (I now think Hillary would have made perhaps the worst possible president in U.S. history). As far a documentaries go, it was OK but not great. It was worth watching, however, to get some perspective on what the Citizen’s United v. FEC ruling was really all about.
It also makes me want to watch The Path to 9/11 (and ABC miniseries), but I can’t do that either. The Clintons had the DVD release blocked.
Related to the topic of my last political post, Dilbert artist Scott Adams posted an analysis, of sorts, suggesting that something like half the body politic is experiencing “Mass Hysteria” (and isn’t dat sexist right there?)
Earlier this year I called it “fantasy to the point of derangement,” which accounts for it on a case-by-case basis, but begs the question of why it is so widespread. Mr. Adams suggests a cultural phenomenon as a way to explain its breadth.
I guess it goes without saying that I’m one of the ones he describes as being “outside the bubble.” I also find it interesting that, for the purposes of his argument, the actual truth is irrelevant. In other words, even if Trump is proven to be a Hitler-loving, racist, National Socialist who is under direct control of the Russian government, it still doesn’t change the fact that those who assumed the truth have been suffering from a mass hysteria.
Donald Trump’s victory has given both sides of the aisle cause for reflection. Up until the killing of a protester this past weekend, I was seeing a particular theme coming up with regularity. It applies to both sides. The question is, given the surprise of Trump’s victory, how must the parties adapt to this “new” political landscape?
For the right, most of the articles followed immediately after the election. The theme was that the politics of Trump had some significant departures from the politics of the Republican Party. What those difference were probably depend on your perspective (are we talking conservatives, “establishment” Republicans, activists, or what?). But, just to pick an example, Donald Trump’s appeal to economic isolationists seemed at odds with both Republicans and Democrats and (at least initially) aligned only with Bernie Sanders and maybe the likes of Ted Cruz. So should the Republican party shift away from its traditional free trade position to Trump’s protectionism? Would this gain votes or lose votes?
In some ways, it is the same argument that takes place election cycle after election cycle in the Republican party. Different factions, from libertarians, to Christian Conservatives, to “neo-cons”, etc. etc., fight for their positions in the party agenda. The new wild card is the whether Trump has drawn traditional Democrat voters (or perhaps just non-voters) to the Republican side, and whether Republicans should adapt so to keep them. The discussion was most intense right after the election, and has dwindled as the press cycle focuses more on the Donald day-to-day.
For the left, though, the chorus has been growing. Initially the shock that Trump actually won was too great to allow for introspection. The blame came next, and wasn’t very constructive. But recently I’ve seen a lot written about what lessons the Democrats need to learn, and how they need to adapt. The more thoughtful (and lengthy) articles I’ve read (a recent one here, if you can see past the Wall St. Journal paywall) are by center-left Democrats. However, even the party activists are saying roughly the same thing. Which is…
What the Democrats are learning is that they failed to speak to their main-stream supporters in their efforts to push farther to the left. The advice, the goal, is to refine their message to explain to the traditional working class why they need to support Democrats. The article above talks about an inspirational message – one that unites us around our common citizenship and the quest for a better society.
But what the article doesn’t say – what I’m not sure any of the articles say – is anything about changing their policy. In fact, the recent evidence actually suggests the opposite. When party activists talked about trying to open the party to pro-Life Democrats, the response was fast and furious. So, the party needs to change the tone of their message to convince, for example, the pro-life but otherwise left-leaning voter to come back, but what they will not do is soften their actions to obtain the result that these lost lambs would like to see.
It’s not said directly, but the implication is that, having lost an election (presumably on the basis of the policies they espoused), how do they repackage and sell themselves so that they can win power to, in fact, enact those same policies?
The fact is, I have no idea whether the actual policies, and behavior of the party faithful when in control, is a factor in winning and losing elections. Maybe, indeed, it is all messaging. To me is seems dishonest to get the sale by simply describing your (unwanted) product in different ways until the buyer gets fooled. To me, assuming that you’re doing everything right but people just don’t understand what you’re saying is elitist hubris that is bound to backfire on you.
But I’m probably wrong. I didn’t think Trump could win, either.
If Putin’s Russia was more-or-less not involved in “throwing the election,” what would be his best move right now? To make it look like he did decide the election, of course.
Yesterday, the Wall St. Journal’s most recent article (paywall) talks about the how the press and the left are trying to make the most of the Trump administration’s ties to Russia. In fact, they’re not any closer (and perhaps less so) than U.S. policy and Democrat administrations working toward that policy. Before the Crimea sanctions in 2014, the policy of the U.S. was engagement toward Russian and the development of business and economic ties. To suddenly find evidence of a “Manchurian Candidate” behind every business relationship is fantasy to the point of derangement.
Likewise, anyone with half a brain understood the reality of the relationship between Putin’s Russia and the United States. We all know that former agent Putin has rebuild the security service of his nation on the model of his old KGB. We all know that Russia Today mixes real news, alternative stories, conspiracy theories and outright misdirection in a way that has appealed, particularly, to a certain segment of Americans. Anyone who couldn’t see the hand of new KGB behind that wasn’t paying attention. We all know that Russian mobsters are particularly adept at cybercrime and suspect that the ties between those mobsters and their government are a tangled web.
So knowing all that, are the “revelations” about the involvement of Russia really a sign of the greatest election corruption in the history of Democracy? Or is it pretty much business as usual for Putin’s Russia? We mere mortals have no way of knowing what the U.S. CIA, NSA, and FBI have as evidence regarding Russian activities. From what I’ve read, it is in line with what Russian has done for years.
But speculate with me here for a moment. If it is not. If there is evidence of a “smoking gun” connecting the Russian government to specific information release that impacted the election, which is easier? To hack Democrat’s email servers and provide the information to the public in a way that is a deciding factor to an election? Or to manufacture evidence, after the fact, to make it appear that intent and direction existed where there really was none?
The accusations of foreign meddling in elections is a favorite of Putin’s. If anything, it’s the conspiracy theories which bear his signature.
I direct you to a blog post by a Ukrainian citizen commenting on the involvement of Russia. His theory, which I like, is that whatever Putin may have done, the intent was not to throw the election. He, like everyone else, probably believe The Donald stood little to no chance. Instead, by feeding the anti-Hillary contingent during the election, he would weaken her administration by firing up the inevitable conservative opposition. Donald Trump as President may have actually been an even worse outcome, from Russia’s standpoint.
But now, his goal is still to embolden the opposition so as to weaken this administration. As before, he can do it by feeding this “Russian Stole the Election” mania of the left. Or, perhaps better yet, he can sit back and watch the American left try to destroy itself and everything else it can get its hands on.
As Napoleon was reported to have said to his Marshals, “When the enemy is making a false movement we must take good care not to interrupt him.”
The big story on the Republican side of the ballot these days is the Establishment versus Trump. Assuming (a fair bet) that Donald Trump does not have 50% of the delegates going into the convention, can he still win? Can the “not Trump” faction get the 50% of delegates necessary to defeat him? Can they do it without gaming the convention? The establishment has backed several candidates; first Jeb Bush then Marco Rubio, whom they have seen fallen by the way. Other Candidates, like Christie, got the beginnings of support before being abandoned. Is Kasich capable of taking on that mainstream mantle? Can they stomach Cruz, who in any other year would be the one they’d want to see defeated?
Described this way, the race seems all about the personalities and (almost to a lesser extent) the politics of these individuals. For many, those things are really about the electability of the candidate when it comes to the general election. How will a conservative, a libertarian or a moderate stack up against Hillary?
Yet, there is another reason why a Donald Trump candidacy spells chaos for the GOP establishment. His nomination would throw a YUGE wrench into the election methods and mathematics that have been so hard-won over the last 8 years.
Briefly, the traditional way to look at an election is this. You have an electorate that is made up of a (and I’ll use the liberal-conservative dichotomy as a shortcut, without stipulating that the electorate is truly this one dimensional) core of liberals and a core of conservatives. These voters can be counted upon to reliably vote for “their” party, but are not numerous enough to get an actual majority. For that, you need the “swing voters,” those whose priorities are neither all-left or all-right and who make up their minds after considering the details of the candidates positions and personality as well as the circumstances surrounding the election. In many cases, these voters don’t make their final selection until the last moment, resulting in elections that appear too close to call even when they turn out not to be.
The traditional politicking says its all about winning the hearts and minds of these swing voters. Candidates must come out of the primary able to convince the massive of the moderate bona fides. Aligning a party or candidate with the voters’ top concern (economy, national security, etc.) becomes the name-of-the-game so as to win over those “Reagan Democrats” or “Republicans for Obama.” On this the Republican Party spent their efforts for both McCain and Romney. And they got schlonged.
Obama, with an army of computer wizards and the power of Big Data, took another tack. Instead of going after the undecideds, who can be incredibly fickle and quite expensive to actually convince, he went after the, shall we say, decideds. Obama’s machine targeted those people who were hard and passionately left – either generally or on particular issues – but were not certain to vote. They needed no convincing that they were liberal, only that it was necessary to their interests to go down to the polls on election day and cast that vote.
Clearly it worked. Of course, you can win an election on math and data mining alone – Obama, especially in 2008, has been popular in the traditional sense as well. But the Romney versus Obama result was a lot closer than most people give credit for.
Republicans (I think) have learned their lesson. They are preparing software and databases modeled after what Obama used so successfully and they have been gearing up to beat the Democrats at their own game for the better part of four years. But it won’t work if The Donald is the nominee.
It is become clear that that many of your most traditional and staunch Republican supporters are not for Trump. In fact, many have been telling pollsters that they would not vote Republican if Trump is the nominee. Instead, Trump makes his numbers from a non-traditional supporters, including some of those independents that the GOP is ready to de-emphasize. Which would all be par for this year’s electoral course except for one thing…
The Presidential Election is only a small part of what really matters.
The November 2016 ballot will contain choices all up-and-down the ticket for other Federal Positions, State Positions, Local offices, ballot initiatives, etc. And each of these has a role to play in the politics of our Great Republic. While the perception and the story is that the party who wins the presidency is the victor, piratically speaking that is not the case. Certainly, if as Obama did in 2008, a party wins the presidency and a majority of the legislature, that President can push forward with a major partisan initiative (i.e. Obamacare). However, there is no guarantee that an election will award all levels to one party. Even as Obama has demonstrated a newfound power in the Presidency, the other parts of our government still matter – at least for the time being.
Control of the House of Representatives allows a party to put forward lots of legislation and define its principles. These initiatives are easily countered by a Presidential veto and a Senate which requires a super-majority to consider legislation. And this ignores the States, each of which have their own systems and subtleties. Another amazing aspect of our electoral system is the disconnected between the office of governor and the elected representatives. States like California, New York and Massachusetts, which will never, ever see a Republican legislative majority, nevertheless elect Republican governors.
Rather than dwell on the nitty gritty, I merely want to point out that a Donald revolt does damage to this system that even a weak McCain or Romney run doesn’t do. The traditional methods turn out voters who “vote the ticket” or are otherwise persuaded to cause a coattail effect. That is, the party mostly focuses on electing their candidate for President and knock-on effects benefit all the other levels of government. But if Trump is eschewed by the traditional voter and supported by the non-traditional voter, all of this goes away. It threatens the party in a way that even a Sanders revolt couldn’t harm the Democrats.
And that is one, completely rational, reason that the GOP Establishment fears Donald Trump’s winning the convention.