Friday Round Up

1. Political certitude demonstrations
One observation that I have committed to memory in this election cycle is that there is a direct correlation between the willingness of people on social media to proclaim their worldview and political allegiances, and the extent to which they are unwilling to engage in good-faith discussions about those subjects. Many Twitter users for example proclaim their worldviews on their Twitter bio. It is then easy (and disappointing) to see that their tweets mostly comprise blatant examples of motivated reasoning, confirmation bias, and (in many cases) the use of interaction techniques such as insults and ad hominems.
I always worry about people whose bio begins with a long list of the components of their worldview, because that is a pretty good indicator that interactions with these people are likely to be one combination of a waste of time, or toxic. People who only peripherally refer to their convictions seem to be a lot more open to discussion and debate.

2. Charlie Stross on growing older and the perils of “adulting”
A good blog post from Charlie on his 52nd birthday.

3. The arguments against tactical voting
This posting at Bleeding Heart Libertarians explains some of the perils and issues with tactical voting. I have never been a fan of the “lesser of two evils” approach, because it ends up legitimizing poor choices overall. We ended up with two major parties who are unresponsive to electors and poor at strategy partly because of tactical voting.
One of the responses/arguments against voting your real preference is what I term the Ralph Nader Argument, the claim that George W Bush ended up winning the 2000 election (or being handed it by a non-interventionist SCOTUS, depending on your point of view) because a number of electors actually voted positively for Nader instead of adopting the “lesser of two evils” approach and voting for Al Gore. I am not sure if the result would have been any different if all of the Nader voters had voted for Gore (and do we know that they would have all voted for Gore?).
The bigger underlying issue with elections in the USA, which has been the subject of books, is that below state level, the entire district boundaries system is a dysfunctional gerrymandered mess, and many races in some states are not contested, with entrenched incumbents who have the job until they die or retire.

5. The nastiness of Donald Trump and the post-election impact
This article about the GOP’s problem over Donald Trump behaving like a narcissistic jerk correctly points out that even if Trump runs away after the election, the GOP still has the problem of what to do next. As many people have noted, Donald Trump is not the result of some momentary aberration on the part of GOP supporters. He is the final end-game result of over 40 years of the GOP deliberately appealing to nativist and regressive people. What really happened in this electoral cycle is that Donald Trump, either because he does not know how to, or (more likely) he doesn’t care to, dropped any pretence of not appealing to nativists and racists and began explicitly to appeal to them, sometimes indirectly, sometimes openly.
My experience of watching political parties in the UK who suffer major electoral reverses is that it can take up to 15 years for a party to re-orient itself and become capable of winning at a national level again. After the Labour Party lost the 1979 election to the Conservative Party, it did not win a General Election until 1996. In the meantime, the party engaged in years of in-fighting, as reformers tussled with people who were in denial that the party’s policies were outmoded and unappealing. Likewise, the Conservative Party, after losing the 1996 General Election, also engaged in fratricide and went through 3 leaders before it was able to win under David Cameron.
The approach that the GOP takes will depend on how down-ballot races perform. If the GOP emerges after November 8th without control of the Senate, and the House, then the pressure for a policy and positioning re-think from donors and moderates will be immense. However, the Tea-Party centric base who mostly supported Donald Trump will probably double down and insist that there is nothing wrong with the policies, they just needed to be sold better by a committed leadership, not the snakes-in-the-grass current weasels. This is a classic sort of argument between reformers and regressives that always takes place after a major defeat. In the short term the regressives often win, but then a further bad defeat is likely, that then emboldens the reformers to make their vision stick, and the regressives are defeated, although not without a lot of light heat and sound.


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