Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A Short Trump Trialogue


A short Trump trialogue:

The note:

L: As far as it goes, I think it's spot on, except for this sentence: "But surely an awful lot of our establishments must be smart enough to have figured this out", where "this" refers to the idea that "all this tone-deaf sanctimonious lecturing will not actually help reduce interest in Trump, and may instead increase it" -- I don't think our establishments have the foggiest. Hanson identifies the reason for this blindness himself a bit further on: "people typically care more about making sure they are seen to take a particular moral stance than they care about the net effect of their lectures on behavior". 

Of course, this says something about the Trump supporters too, and it would certainly be easy -- and tempting for his detractors -- to blindly continue the sanctimony by labelling them all childish or emotional adolescents. But that just stays fixed within the limits of a role or posture. Better would be to think about what it is that makes people of any age react to such sanctimony, whether it comes from parents or teachers, or from holier-than-thou preachers, or from comfortable elites....

R: This trivializes the whole business.  His defiance of PC, which is well worth doing, is not the basic issue, but a mark of his willingness to violate other limits, as in torture in defense of America, which claim does little for defense but a lot to bolster the spirit of dispirited people...

L:  No, I'd say his defiance of "PC" is the basic issue, for his supporters and detractors alike. The problem, though, is that the term "PC" doesn't get at the nature and scope of the underlying issues driving both sides, and of course, those who defend one version or another of PC will always want to say that their particular issue is not it...

I (me):  I don't think Hanson adds much to our understanding of why and wherefore Trump. Nor do I think there's much to her/his idea that the critics of Trump, all manner of them, are more interested in moral posturing than anything else. It may be that PC, understood in a particular way, as a kind of proxy for virtually whatever is conventional, is an apt approximation of what underlies Trumpism. But that doesn't seem to me to say much. 

My own vague sense is that with rising globalization we're in the midst of massive creative destruction that overtakes policy solutions to it, if there are any, for that, so far, roughly 1/3 of the R primary electorate. In Trump, this group has a repository for its anger, which is at root economic frustration and with that the loss of an American way of life now in the midst of transformation, and enhanced by demographic change. These conditions have been well diagnosed by many going back the last couple of decades, including by Robert Putnam, Charles Murray and Deirdre McCloskey, and these three from different ideological angles. 

As for moral posturing, how to distinguish from agonized moral concern, especially when the case against Trump ought to be primarily a moral one? Moral preening, no doubt there's some, is that amount of preening typically present whenever a morally provocative issue confronts us. One can't reason from lack of solutions to Trump to preening. He's a pretty good marriage between ripe conditions and his charismatic, telegenic ability to channel them. I mean, as microcosm for him, he was a lunatic birther on O's citizenship. Solutions for him and the conditions he exploits are necessary but not sufficient for his political success are elusive to say the least....

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