Monday, November 19, 2018

Not Thinking of an Elephant

Still keeping them away

George Lakoff (trying to revive his pundit credentials) says Trump lies to distract us from the "big truths." Funny thing, he never says what those "big truths" are. But he agrees with the Very Serious People that the voters we must worry about are the truck drivers at truck stops because everyone who is Serious agrees that's the narrative.

And if the media would only buy (from Lakoff) and then sell Lakoff's "truth sandwiches" (I am NOT making that up!), Trump would vanish with a stamp of his foot like Rumplestiltskin, and our long national nightmare would at last be over. Again, presumably; it's not really clear what Lakoff thinks would happen, but probably it would be wonderful.

Not to pick on Lakoff alone, because this is something a number of pundits and would-be pundits have chosen to gnaw on as the worry bone of American life:

Even if all politicians lie, I believe that post-truth foreshadows something more sinister. In his powerful book “On Tyranny,” historian Timothy Snyder writes that “post-truth is pre-fascism.” It is a tactic seen in “electoral dictatorships” – where a society retains the facade of voting without the institutions or trust to ensure that it is an actual democracy, like those in Putin’s Russia or Erdogan’s Turkey.

In this, Trump is following the authoritarian playbook, characterized by leaders lying, the erosion of public institutions and the consolidation of power. You do not need to convince someone that you are telling the truth when you can simply assert your will over them and dominate their reality

The context there is Trump's lies, but the analysis is that Trump's lies have some kind of performative existence.  If they did, we'd be much more like Putin's Russia or Erdogan's Turkey, and while Trump might wish that were true, the evidence is it's just not happening, viz:

A group of Senate Democrats is suing to block Matt Whitaker from serving as acting attorney general on grounds that his placement in the post was unconstitutional.

The suit, which is being filed by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, is the latest and most aggressive salvo against the Whitaker appointment. Last week, the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel defended Whitaker’s promotion in a memo that drew immediate criticism for its expansive understanding of the president’s power. That view is in hot dispute, including from the state of Maryland, which petitioned a federal judge to stop him from serving on constitutional grounds.
“Installing Matthew Whitaker so flagrantly defies constitutional law that any viewer of Schoolhouse Rock would recognize it,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “President Trump is denying Senators our constitutional obligation and opportunity to do our job: scrutinizing the nomination of our nation’s top law enforcement official. The reason is simple: Whitaker would never pass the advice and consent test. In selecting a so-called “constitutional nobody” and thwarting every Senator’s constitutional duty, Trump leaves us no choice but to seek recourse through the courts.”

These are not the actions of political enemies being ground under the heel of a powerful despot.  Trump is so powerful and charismatic he goes to California and still blames them for the loss of property and lives there.  How's that working out for him?  Trump may be "following the authoritarian playbook," but nobody besides the scared old men of the NFL (who have dedicated the football season to "honoring our armed forces" and make their team coaching staffs wear camouflage decorated jackets on the sidelines) is following his lead.  When is this "something sinister" going to come to pass?  Because the evidence continues to mount that Democrats won a rout in House elections this year.

Then again, Putin and Erdogan aren't known for doing things like this:

But [John] Oliver argued that Trump’s “weirdest unforced error this week” came during a Medal of Freedom ceremony honoring the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (as well as the wife of one of Trump’s biggest donors). After naming Scalia’s nine children, Trump addressed Scalia’s widow, Maureen, who was in attendance. “You were very busy!” the president told her. “Wow. Wow. I always knew I liked him.”

“What are you doing, you strange, strange man!” Oliver exclaimed. “You’re essentially saying, ‘I like your dead husband because I like people who fuck a lot because I fuck a lot. Guess what? I just took a speech about your dead husband and made it about me fucking a lot. Sorry for your loss, come get your medal.’”

Funny how Trump's narcissism and complete lack of empathy never figure into these analyses of doom

Despite the media not making "truth sandwiches" instead of journalism, and the Democrats thinking we are all controlled by Enlightenment thinking, Democrats still managed an historic win this month.*  And managed it despite the pundits still insisting it didn't happen.

Maybe this is one more reason the narrative is that we all still need the pundits to explain our politics, and ourselves, to us. I mean, if they can't do that, what can they do?

*Apparently the majority of us still use facts to reach the right conclusion, but pundits trade in opinions, not facts.

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