The two Democratic presidential debates were performed against a broad background of consecrated untruths and the debates gave them new life. Mostly, I don’t use the word “lies” because pseudo-facts eventually become facts in the mind of those who hear them repeated many times. And, to lie, you have to know that what you are saying isn’t true. Also, it seems to me that most of the candidates are more like my B- undergraduates than like A students. They lack the criticality to separate the superficially plausible from the true. Or, they don’t care.
So, it’s hard to tell who really believes the untruths below and who just let’s them pass for a variety of reasons, none of which speaks well of their intellectual integrity. There are also some down-and-out lies that none of the candidates has denounced, even ever so softly. Here is a medley of untruths.
Untruths and lies
I begin with a theme that’s not obviously an untruth, just very questionable. Economic inequality is rising in America or, (alt.) it has reached a new high point. I could easily use official data to demonstrate either. I could also – I am confident – use official figures to show that it’s shrinking or at a new low. Why do we care anyway? There may be good reasons. The Dems should give them. Otherwise, it’s the same old politics of envy. Boring!
Women need equal pay for equal work finally. But it’s been the law of the land for about forty years. Any company that does not obey that particular law is asking for a vast class action suit. Where are the class action suits?
What do you call a “half-truth” that’s only 10% true?
“Abortion is a women’s health care issue.” No, it’s not, not for nearly all women. Where there is a real concern for the health or life of the pregnant woman, it’s easy to get a big majority to agree to provide a safe and legal abortion (notwithstanding certain recent extreme state laws). In nearly all cases, abortion is a recreational issue.
There was much vagueness in the debates that was equivalent to lying except for a lacking proof of self-consciousness. One candidate (or more) wants to ban – again – “assault weapons.” But there is no such thing except (cribbing from a stranger), “scary-looking guns.” It’s a marketing term. The politician in question almost certainly means automatic rifles. He spent time in the military. He ought to know that automatic weapons have been federally prohibited for fifty years or more (along with anti-aircraft cannons and fully armed submarines). Sen. Harris, Attorney General of the largest state in the union for seven years also must know this. Not a peep from her!
The on-going, useful untruths about immigration. Contrary to what was asserted in the second debate, applying for asylum in the US is perfectly legal. One just has to do it at one of the border stations. Contrary to what was strongly implied in the same debate, crossing the border without permission is only lightly “criminalized.” It’s a misdemeanor, less likely to be prosecuted than your ordinary overstaying of a parking meter. It will be difficult to “decriminalize” – as demanded by several candidates – an act that is already barely criminal. Here again, I don’t know if ignorance takes precedence or dishonesty. Both explanations are credible.
To be fair, it may well be true that ignorance about immigration laws is also abundant among Trump supporters. I heard with my own ears the Chairwoman of the National Republican Committee refer to the question of citizenship on the census form (since rejected by the Supreme Court) in the same breath as this country’s illegal immigration problem. This juxtaposition implies of course that the chairwoman is not aware of the fact that millions of non-citizens, aliens, live in this country in perfect legality.
The persistent immiseration narrative. America’s economic well-being under the Trump administration is an illusion, several candidates affirmed. It only profits the top one per cent. Many, according to Sen. Warren, have to work two, even three jobs, just to survive. No wait, just a minute, three full-time jobs simultaneously adds up to seventeen hours a day seven days a week. Yes, that must be exhausting! And if the Senator means three ten hours a week jobs, it may be inconvenient but so what? What does she imply?
Might be difficult to find so many jobs anyway when my local Seven/Eleven is begging for workers.
The “one per cent” is a dumb fiction but one that has a grip on the imagination of those whom thinking tires out. Briefly put. Right next to the top 1%, there are the next richest 1%, and then, the next-to-next richest 1%, and so on, down to the bottom of both American income and wealth pyramids. There is no discontinuity at all. It would be impossible to devise a distribution of income or wealth that benefits the top 1% but not the next 1%, and not the next 1%. Those who use the term insult their audience. Most in the audience don’t mind. Perhaps, some independent voters do.
Sen. Sanders affirmed with a straight and indignant face that there has been no wage increase in “forty years.” That’s idiotic, obviously, for reasons too technical to get into here. I will just say that whatever workers Mr Sanders has in mind have taken their pay raises in the form of hugely expanded health care and in superior products – such as “telephones.” (Readers under thirty may have no idea of what we used to call a phone!)
Pres. Trump has managed to fool most of us with his illusion of prosperity. The man is smart. Good reason to re-elect him, I say.
Racial discrimination. It’s still 1958. Segregation reigns. The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act failed. White supremacists are everywhere, and not only in the White House. Racial prejudice is rampant in America. And if I can’t exactly locate it near where I live, you can be completely sure it’s flourishing, the next county over. Also, somebody is shooting young black men in the streets. Hard to tell who is doing it.
Climate change demands immediate (big) government action. All the candidates (if memory serves) treat as obvious that there is unusual climate change caused by human activity that should panic us into demanding massive government intervention. I don’t believe the whole package myself. Fortunately, that story seems to have little traction with rank-and-file voters.
Two shameless outright lies stand out
Of the untruths being peddled routinely by the whole Democratic Party without a tweet of dissent, there are untruths that no adult can pretend not to know as such. One concerns abortion, the other, immigration.
The small creature that wriggles on the hospital table on the day before she was scheduled to be born – according to the description by the Governor of Virginia (he of either the black face of the KKK robes) – that creature is a baby. It’s completely obvious; it’s self-evident. To not acknowledge this is to lie outright. I understand that lying is more comfortable than admitting one supports infanticide.
Yet, my reading of the polls over twenty years tells me that there is a fairly easy compromise solution on abortion that the left is deliberately avoiding. The solution was well described by Pres. Clinton. Incidentally: I am an atheist.
Immigration: the swamping issue. Our nation-state faces an immigration problem that is complex enough for honest people to disagree and for one person to endorse several variations of his party’s platform. (See below.) One aspect of it should not be debatable.
If immigration is not effectively restricted by legal means (and I would like, orderly and humane means – see Delacroix on immigration), the sheer number of people coming in will surely destroy our economy, ruin our lifestyle, and, worst of all, wreck our political institutions. With respect to the latter, I am thinking of large enough numbers of those who – having had no experience with representative government – do not cherish it. That’s not to mention those who hate democracy outright but would move here anyway.
To not recognize that there exists a number and a composition of foreigners influx such that they would unavoidably bring those results is to lie. It could be lying to oneself under the influence of the emotion generated by the realization of one’s own generosity in matters of immigration, but it’s still lying. Incidentally, I am an immigrant and the only white/ white member of my immediate family.
Dem. platforms (as far as I can tell)
The strangest thing, I have to confess, is that I am not completely unreachable in terms of the Dems announced major policy planks.
Free tuition. The same argument can be made here as is universally accepted in favor of free primary and secondary education. Also, of the 1944-55 GI Bill. Yes, it would enlarge the power of government but, possibly, mostly of state governments. (Not obvious but it can probably be done.) One has to choose between credible proximate solutions to big social problems and vaguely defined remote ideals until such time as the latter take the place of the former. It’s not easy. I do remember that I am for small government. Often, I have no solutions in keeping with that preference.
Student debt relief. Two or three generations of younger Americans have their lives constrained, many, severely, some probably forever, by the weight of their college debts. Inevitably, the left tells them they were cheated. This is one case where the left may be close to the truth.
Telling 20-year olds that they may contract big debts without clear expectations of how they will pay back would be considered a con-game if the con were not the federal government itself. The loan endeavor is supported by a special kind of phony statistic that exploit high school graduates’ arithmetic incompetence. College graduates earn significantly more than high school graduates over a lifetime, it’s true. Sounds like a good reason to “invest” in college even by contracting debt. Yes, but the observation is on the average. No doubt that young people with engineering degrees earn more than the average (again) high school graduate. But those who have majored in French, for example, earn less than plumbers or welders.
The wonders of arithmetic means seem to have largely escaped the attention of the bulk of our degree-bound high schoolers. And then, there is always the optimism of the young – as if it were a surprise. If one tenth of one tenth of the anecdotal horrors being told about student debts is real, we need a remedy to avoid a major and lasting fracture in the American body politics. That is exactly what the GI Bill accomplished: It avoided a life-long sense of grievance among those who had fought the war while others were enriching themselves. Yes, I think public monies will need to be spent. It may be spent in such a way as to achieve some other collective good (as the GI Bill did, I believe.)
Health care. Here is the simple, horrible truth: I have been on Medicare for twelve years, my wife, for eight years. It works fairly well, so far. If I had a serious criticism it’s – not surprisingly – that Medicare is too eager to provide care for ancillary health issues that might not need any attention. Also, it’s pushing preventive care that has little economic justification thus far.
The second thing that instructs, informs my position relative to collective health care is a degree of familiarity with the single-payer, French national health system, including under emotional circumstances. It works well, at about half the per capita cost of American health care. The French life expectancy is higher than the American. (Frankly though, I don’t know how long the French can afford it.) Note that the big cost differential leaves a lot of room for bad American innovation on public health care.
Yes, I know that giving 20% of the economy to government is a serious decision from which there is probably no walking back. I am sorry, my libertarian friends, but I am really tempted.
Immigration imposes issues that are both complex and emotionally charged. I wrote about it in NOL to set facts straight about actual policies and actual numbers of legal immigration, to escape emotionalism, to an extent. Here are two inescapable observations. Assuming there are still only eleven million illegal aliens living in America, they are a sub-population open to exploitation and mistreatment and therefore, to corruption. This is bad for me and for mine.
Something, or some things, have to be done to pull many of those out from under illegality. Another amnesty is surely in the works. It’s not fair but it’s the wise thing to do. In the case of illegals who were brought here as children and I have never known another country or language, taking care of them is also a matter of simple humanity. (America does not visit on the sons the sins of the parents.)
Speaking of humanity, I have a weak stomach with respect to children detained without proper care, care of any kind. If anything could cause me to break ranks, that would be it. That’s it wherever the responsibility lies. I am sure I am not alone.
There is no particular reason, though, why meliorative measures must include a “path to citizenship.” Almost all illegal aliens inside the US have citizenship in another country. And the European Union has dealt with this issue peacefully for many years: The numerous Romanians living in France don’t vote in French elections; they vote in Romania.
It’s a mystery why the GOP has been verbally so passive with respect to the Democratic Party’s cynical attempt to make this country a one-party system forever through control of former illegals’ vote.
And, yes, illegal immigrants must have some access to health care, as all the candidates voted in the second debate. We can’t have people bringing in Third World diseases and dying in our streets for lack of attention. It’s not criminal indulgence toward lawbreakers but ordinary self-interest. They cost a lot in resources that they have not contributed to producing. That’s one of the reasons to limit immigration, precisely.
Even reparations for the descendants of slaves get a hearing from me: There is a remaining issue of unpaid wages over 200-plus years of slavery. And I believe that good things are transmitted through family lines. The polity that enforced slavery from a legal standpoint is the same under which I live right now. I am listening to calls for reparations because I am a conservative.
Not open for negotiations, finally: the control of our borders.
So, I am surprisingly close to several Dem presidential candidates as far as actual, concrete programs are concerned. Or, at least, I could be seduced. Yet, it’s unlikely I will cross the line toward any of them. The reason is character. They are a dishonest bunch that does not care about facts; they are extremists; they are childishly self-indulgent; in the end they promote totalitarianism (although they may honestly not know it). Unless Pres. Trump does something much more objectionable than usual, I will vote for him again. Or, I will stay home (unless the Libertarian Party surprises us with a wise slate).
Those left standing
The debates, the shows, one boring, the other disorganized did serve a useful purpose. They showed pretty clearly who has the energy to campaign and/or to occupy the office and who does not. I believe candidates indicated in snipets who responds adequately to stressful aggression. I concluded that there aren’t twenty Dem presidential candidates after all. Most are there for reasons other than wanting to be president, other than believing they stand a chance, for the experience, perhaps, in one case, probably to sell more books (the woman who is Oprah’s “spiritual adviser”).
First, the candidate who most moved the agenda. Sen. Sanders is honest; he has a lot of energy. He has not had a good idea since 1970, at best. Possibly, he has not had any idea ever. What I had not realized until now is that he is a bad Marxist, a crude Marxist. He repeats the same stilted formulas that seemed partly valid in 1870 ( “18” not a typo). He displays none of the sophistication, the inventiveness, the nimbleness of those who have read Marx extensively. Not only would he try to impose some version of socialism in America, it would be very bad socialism because he does not understand the concept.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren quickly moves to the verge of hysteria. What came though in the first debate was not her usual lack of authenticity but what I think is a sincere hatred of our very successful economic institutions. I am hoping her very intensity on such matters will turn off independents. Plus, she will remind many men of their first wife.
Joe Biden came out surprisingly well, in my book. He gave coherent answers to questions. He kept his dignity even when he was attacked violently (and dishonestly) about a past he cannot change (and I hope he does not try to pretend to change it.) My musings of a couple of weeks ago on the thirst for normalcy appear prescient: Joe Biden looks exceptionally normal, so to speak, not only against Trump as I said then, but against his Dem. rivals. But Pres. Obama’s failure to endorse him is like a chain and ball, for the time being. (I sure hope Mr Obama is not considering running at the last minute.)
Sen. Kamala Harris demonstrated a great deal of oomph. She is articulate and obviously intelligent. Her mean streak though is just below the surface. I doubt it’s an asset in a race against frequently witty Pres. Trump though it may well be for the rest of the Dem. primary race. I still don’t know what she has to brag about for her seven years as Attorney General of California, where I live, a mystery of major proportions. I would guess she has sent more black men to jail than any American alive. It will catch up with her eventually. The Senator has good skin though. I think it matters to some men and to almost all women. She is a much better identity flag-waving female candidate than Sen. Clinton ever could dream to be.
I fear Sen Harris because she seems well equipped to work the same magic on white America as Pres. Obama did. She is an obviously competent and presentable, middle-class Negro and not too African-American (not at all, in fact.)
Julian Castro is a lightweight (for the time being) but his Spanish is good. The mayor of South Bend Indiana, is smart and articulate; it’s just not his turn yet. Plus, even the bulk of Democrats are not ready for a First Lady with a five o’clock shadow. Corey Booker is not ripe either. He seems to think things through and he has a respectable record in New Jersey. He is too young except as excellent VP material also providing a necessary touch of the tar brush.
De Blasio takes the palm as the easiest candidate to dislike. I wish I could say that Rep. Baggard from Hawaii has a chance but that would be taking my wishes for reality.
All the other candidates don’t exist, or don’t anymore, including the two middle-aged nice, white gentlemen with moderate and rational viewpoints whose name I hardly learned.
What did else did I learn in the two Dem. debates? Several candidates don’t know Spanish (which is fine) but are not smart enough to know that they don’t (a problem).
In the end, I take some comfort from the fact that the leftist organizers and monitors of the first debate had trouble getting mastery of a 1950’s sound technology!