h/t Target Liberty
By now the airwaves and newspapers have been filled with the propaganda that Clinton clearly won the debate, and Trump clearly lost. For example, Nate Silver reported that the CNN poll of debate-watchers called Clinton the winner:
Democrats woke up on Monday to a spate of bad polls for Hillary Clinton, which brought Donald Trump to perhaps his closest position yet in the Electoral College. They had reason to go to bed feeling a lot better. Clinton bested Trump in the first presidential debate according to a variety of metrics, and the odds are that she’ll gain in head-to-head polls over Trump in the coming days.
Start with a CNN poll of debate-watchers, which showed that 62 percent of voters thought Clinton won the debate compared to 27 percent for Trump — a 35-point margin. That’s the third-widest margin ever in a CNN or Gallup post-debate poll, which date back to 1984. The only more lopsided outcomes were the 1992 town hall debate between Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot — widely seen as a maestro performance by Clinton — and the first debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in 2012, when the CNN poll showed a 42-point win for Romney and the horse-race polls moved in his favor in the following days.
Politico reported similar results:
Hillary Clinton won Monday’s showdown with Donald Trump at Hofstra University, according the results of a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll released Wednesday.
Nearly half of the likely voters surveyed declared Clinton the victor in Monday’s presidential debate, the first of three in the run-up to November. Forty-nine percent said the former secretary of state bested her opponent, while 26 percent gave the edge to Trump. An additional 26 percent said they either didn’t know who won or had no opinion.
While such good results ought to result in an improvement in Clinton’s polling numbers, Silver asks an important question:
What if Clinton doesn’t improve in the polls — or they even move toward Trump? Then that ought to be scary for Democrats, obviously. While Trump’s lack of preparation could also potentially cause him problems in the second and third debates, he showed off some of his worst qualities on Monday night, appearing to be the weaker leader than Clinton and less presidential than her, according to the CNN poll. If undecided and marginal voters were willing to shrug off Trump’s performance, then perhaps they really are in the mood for the sort of change that Trump represents, his faults be damned.
While there haven’t been any polls reflecting voter sentiment since the debate, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that Clinton’s numbers will not improve significantly, if at all. Moreover, I think the Democrats know this will be the case.
First of all, the polls looked discouraging for Clinton before the debate. The LA Times rolling poll responses have shown Trump increasing his lead over Clinton to 4 points:
Furthermore, Trump supporters have become increasingly likely to vote for him over time, while the inverse is true for Clinton:
I don’t think anything happened during the debate that changes either trend. I also think the Democrats know this.
For example, yesterday Obama sternly lectured Democrats that staying home or voting for a third-party candidate is a vote for Trump:
“If you don’t vote, that’s a vote for Trump,” Obama said during an interview on “The Steve Harvey Morning Show” broadcast Wednesday. “If you vote for a third-party candidate who’s got no chance to win, that’s a vote for Trump. So the notion somehow that, ‘Well, you know, I’m not as inspired because Barack and Michelle, they’re not on the ballot this time, and, you know, maybe we kinda take it easy’ — my legacy’s on the ballot. You know, all the work we’ve done over the last eight years is on the ballot.”
(By the way, everything has to be about Obama, doesn’t it?)
Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign is panicking because it isn’t confident that it can earn sufficient minority votes to win Florida:
To kill Donald Trump’s chances of capturing the White House, Hillary Clinton needs to win Florida. And to do that, she needs a big minority turnout.
But Democrats are beginning to worry that too many African-American voters are uninspired by Clinton’s candidacy, leading her campaign to hit the panic button this week and launch an all-out blitz to juice-up voter enthusiasm.
A black Democratic leader in the state sums up Clinton’s situation perfectly:
“Hillary Clinton’s campaign is in panic mode. Full panic mode,” said Leslie Wimes, a South Florida-based president of the Democratic African-American Women Caucus.
“They have a big problem because they thought Obama and Michelle saying, ‘Hey, go vote for Hillary’ would do it. But it’s not enough,” Wimes said, explaining that too much of the black vote in Florida is anti-Trump, rather than pro-Clinton. “In the end, we don’t vote against somebody. We vote for somebody.”
A confident campaign wouldn’t chastise its base or spend time connecting with its base. These are purely defensive moves.
A lot can happen between now and November. Nevertheless, unless something significant changes, Clinton will find herself in an increasingly uphill battle to overcome Trump.
The cover story of this week’s edition of The Economist addresses the low interest rate environment in which we’ve found ourselves since the 2008 financial markets meltdown. While the leader addressing this topic covers a wide variety of issues relating to low interest rates, the magazine (I’m sorry, newspaper) proclaimed this whopper:
It is too simple to say that central bankers are causing the low-rate world; they are also reacting to it. Real long-term interest rates have been declining for decades, driven by fundamental factors such as ageing populations and the integration of savings-rich China into the world economy … Nor have they been reckless. In most of the rich world inflation is below the official target. Indeed, in some ways central banks have not been bold enough. Only now, for example, has the BoJ explicitly pledged to overshoot its 2% inflation target. The Fed still seems anxious to push up rates as soon as it can.
The Economist continues to argue under the mistaken premise that the expansion of the monetary supply somehow leads to economic growth. As Frank Shostak wrote in 2011:
According to mainstream thinking, the stronger the monetary pumping is, the stronger the pace of spending — and consequently the stronger the monetary income and the so-called real economy is going to be. In short, in this framework more money means more spending and this leads to stronger economic growth.
However, the actual effect of monetary expansion is more nefarious than how The Economist portrays it:
Contrary to this way of thinking, more money only undermines the process of real-wealth generation. This means that more money is bad news for the production of real wealth.
Consequently, with more money and less wealth, this means more money per unit of goods, i.e., a general increase in prices. Observe that what we have here is an increase in monetary turnover on account of monetary pumping, which is presented as a strengthening in real economic growth, and an increase in general prices on account of the monetary pumping.
When monetary expansion leads to increasing prices of consumer goods, the purchasing power of money declines. Those who are poor or rely on fixed income suffer the most under those circumstances. One would think The Economist, of all publications, should recognize this.
What’s maddening about The Economist‘s current position is that at one point the publication did recognize how price inflation hurts the poor. A June 2011 Buttonwood column published the findings of a study addressing whether governments should attempt to solve the debt crisis via inflation:
The characteristic of recent inflation is that it has been concentrated on food and energy, two items which absorb a higher proportion of the spending baskets of the poor than of the rich. As a result, lower income households tended to experience higher inflation rates than higher income groups over the last decade. The worst rates of all were suffered by the single pensioners. The trends seem to have accelerated; the poorest quintile suffered an inflation rate of 4.3% between 2008 and 2010, the richest 2.7%.
In other words, the newspaper acknowledged how the poor and pensioners are hurt by rising prices, the very thing they want to see right now!
It’s one thing for the media to call for a policy out of good intentions but bad economic consequences. That’s just another day in the office. It’s another kettle of fish entirely for a publication that has the subject matter in its name to call for policies that will harm the most vulnerable.
Scott Liebertz, a political science professor at the University of South Alabama, wrote an interesting essay in First Things. He discusses whether Catholic voters have the ethical option of abstaining from voting in the general election. He pushes back against the argument that not voting is unethical because the voter rides on the decisions of others and enjoys a false sense of moral purity. Liebertz argues that Catholic voters needs abstention as an option to keep Republican politicians honest. Otherwise, Republicans will continue to take advantage of pro-life voters as just one more voting block with which to stay in power.
It is very encouraging to see an argument for voter abstention. However, the case for it is much stronger than the argument Liebertz presented.
Liebertz’s argument assumes that we live in a democracy. There are two problems with this premise. First, the United States is not a democracy, but a federal republic. The federal government’s scope of activities far exceeds what is allowable under the U.S. constitution. If neither major presidential candidate recognizes this, there is no reason to vote for either one. Second, a democracy, especially when it has few constraints on its power, has tremendous incentives to take unethical actions against minorities. In a democracy of one hundred voters, it is very tempting for fifty one voters to punish the five to ten voters they dislike the most. It is appropriate for Catholic voters to be concerned about whether they are participating in mob rule.
Notwithstanding these concerns, at least the very idea of voter abstention is being discussed. For that alone, I appreciate Professor Liebertz’s essay.
You can read the entire essay here.
Peter Hitchens has written a quiet, poignant, and powerful essay at First Things, in which he talks about two struggles that have occurred since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The first is Russia’s struggle to revive itself:
A good picture of the general squalor, cynicism, and despair in Soviet life was provided by a documentary film Tak Zhit Nel’zya (roughly “We can’t go on living like this”), which was released into movie theaters in the summer of 1990. It had been made by Stanislav Govorukhin, a friend of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and distributed only after the Communist Party Politburo reluctantly gave permission. As far as I know it has never been shown in the West. I attended a screening in the Cosmos theater in North Moscow, a district given over to commemorations of Soviet space triumphs. As I watched the frank and sometimes jeering parade of failure and unhappiness unroll on the screen, I became aware that everyone else in the theater was weeping. For the first time, they were seeing an honest account of how harsh their lives were, contrary to the unceasing propaganda proclaiming the U.S.S.R. an unmatched, enviable success. Now they were free of the lies, and free to mourn.
The second is the United States’s struggle to find an existential enemy:
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the West has struggled to find a new bogeyman. Noriega would hardly do. The Taliban crumbled at a touch. Saddam Hussein was not up to the job, and the failed attempt to make him look more dangerous than he was has made the populace more incredulous than ever. Even the Iran of the Ayatollahs turned out to be quite keen to make friends. Al-Qaeda and now the Islamic State have an unconvincing fuzziness about them, nasty for sure but not as big as the headlines that are written about them. So what a relief to return to the old and trusted Russian menace, even if it does not really exist and its supposed aggression consists mainly of retreats.
The misreading of Russia’s geopolitical situation is especially sad because for the first time in many decades there is much to hope for in Moscow. Out of utopian misery has come the prospect of rebirth. It is as yet incipient. But I see great possibilities in it, in the many once-blighted churches now open and loved and full again, in the reappearance of symbols of pre-Bolshevik Russia, in the growth of a generation not stunted and pitted by poisoned air and food, nor twisted by Communist ethics. Many Russians will never recover from the cynicism they were taught, the mistrust, the contempt for religion and the foul cult of Comrade Pavlik. But their children can, and may. Why then, when so much of what we hoped for in the long Soviet period has come to pass, do we so actively seek their enmity?
As you can see, Hitchens is far more sympathetic to the first struggle than the second, and his writing is lovely.
As they say in the blogosphere, you should read the whole thing.
h/t Rod Dreher
Yesterday, Labor Day, was the unofficial beginning of the presidential campaign. Unfortunately, the Clinton campaign began not with a bang, but with a hack:
Hillary Clinton had a massive coughing fit as she began a Labor Day campaign rally in Cleveland, Ohio. She had trouble speaking and thanking local elected officials and had to stop multiple times to cough and clear her throat.
Clinton’s voice did not return to normal for the rest of the speech.
“Every time I think about Trump I get allergic,” Clinton quipped.
“She had quite a coughing fit,” MSNBC anchor Ari Melber remarked. “That’s one of the worst coughing fits I have seen from her.”
Meanwhile, Trump has not only withstood the demonization attacks against him since the Democratic convention, the latest polls show him ahead of Hillary by 2 points!
The tone of the campaign promises be the shrillest in recent memory for two reasons. First, both the Clinton campaign and the media will have to engage in increasingly desperate rhetoric to wave off concerns over Hillary’s health. Second, if the left’s traditional tactics of demonizing its enemies won’t work on Trump, they will increasingly look like the Russian hockey coach in Miracle who didn’t know how to beat those damned American college kids at Lake Placid. As we approach November, their tone could become unbearable.
Both trends, if they continue, will only reinforce Hillary’s negatives, and drive voters to alternatives such as Trump, Johnson, or Stein.
P.S. For those of you who either don’t know or remember the result of that game, just watch:
That’s right, Democrats. Y’all are the Soviet freaking Union.
Good luck this November.
UPDATE: The Clinton campaign has already become much more defensive about Hillary’s health.
This is going to be a long campaign.
This election has been defined more by candidates overtly using persuasion techniques to sway voters than any election I can think of. However, there is a difference between how Trump and Hillary use them. Trump uses them almost instinctively. Hillary’s campaign, on the other hand, relies on the vast liberal intelligensia to carry out her dirty work. Unfortunately for Hillary, the only tool the intelligensia can find in its tool kit is guilt by association. However, it’s a tired technique. The more the intelligentsia uses it, the greater the likelihood that it will backfire.
Among the latest attempts to smear Trump comes in the form of a study published by The Program on Extremism at George Washington University. The study, entitled “Nazis vs. ISIS on Twitter; A Comparative Study of White Nationalist and ISIS Online Social Media Networks”, uses a pseudo-scientific framework to demonize the Alt-Right, and, in turn, Trump. It does this by:
- Categorizing white nationalists as “extremist” without defining the term;
- Connecting white nationalists to Nazis;
- Connecting white nationalists and Nazis to ISIS by identifying all three as extremist;
- Characterizing the 25,406 white nationalist followers on Twitter in 2016 (out of a U.S. population of 318.9 million) as a 600% increase in such followers since 2012; and
- Observing that Trump hashtags were among the top 10 hashtags used by white nationalist Twitter accounts.
There are a variety of problems with this study, including the following:
- All Nazis may be white nationalists, but not all white nationalists are Nazis. For example, while Vox Day is a white nationalist, under no circumstances would I characterize him as a Nazi.
- Just because ISIS and white nationalists use social media doesn’t prove anything. In fact, it proves too much. By this logic, we should be worried about anyone who uses social media. Even Tom Woods.
- Just because ISIS is violent does not mean that white nationalists are violent. In fact, the study could only identify two acts of violence that could possibly be linked to white nationalism since 2011.
- The study takes advantage of the law of small numbers by exaggerating the impact of white nationalists on Twitter. 25,000 Twitter uses won’t even fill up half of an NFL stadium.
- Just because white nationalists like Trump does not mean Trump supporters are: a) white nationalists, b) extremists, c) racists, d) terrorists, or e) violent.
Nevertheless, what matters to the Hillary campaign are any headlines the study could generate to link Trump to racism. For example, Politico published an article today with the headline Study: Trump-related hashtags dominate white nationalist, Nazi Twitter. Such stories reinforce the beliefs of those who are already inclined to think of Trump as a racist.
However, the effect of such stories beyond this group may become increasingly limited. Guilt by association accusations do not prove anything. They merely imply that someone shouldn’t be trusted because they’re somehow linked to a bad thing.
Hillary supporters haven’t learned anything they didn’t already suspect. What anyone else may learn may not be what the left wants to teach.
Americans are getting increasingly sick of such accusations. Rather than thinking badly of Trump, they may decide to trust the media even less than they do now. They may not become Trump supporters, but they’re not exactly running to vote for Hillary, either.
If the left keeps using guilt by association to villify Trump, don’t be surprised if it backfires against them in November.
We get this…
In other news, the Pope confirmed that he is Catholic.
By the way, readers’ reaction to the story has been ruthless.