Belmont Club

Why 2016 Is NOT About Who Will Be President

Something in the air

How do we know a key historical moment has arrived? When do we know it is time to act?

Writing in the Washington PostPaul Waldman claims to have seen signs from Donald Trump that now warrant such extraordinary measures. Waldman argues that the journalism community has decided (and how exactly this happens is not clear) to put a stop to The Donald:

The media have reached a turning point in covering Donald Trump. He may not survive it.

[S]omething may have changed just in the last few days. I have no idea how meaningful it will turn out to be or how long it will last. … [J]ournalists finally figured out how to cover Donald Trump.

I suspect that many journalists are deciding that the way to cover Trump is just to do it as honestly and assiduously as possible, which would itself be something almost revolutionary.

The argument, stripped of its self-congratulatory paragraphs, suggests they’ve reached the point when they’re going to tell the “truth” about Trump — in a departure from their usual practice. Another sign that something’s changed is the San Jose chase-down of participants at a Trump rally. As one friend wrote on Facebook:

The message of the San Jose violence is that you don’t have a right to go support the candidate you want as you had in the past.

No more corny political rallies, no more cutesy red-white-and-blue satin basketball outfits with pom-poms to cheer your candidate, they are off limits without bullet-proof vests and bodyguards. If you ignore this new reality, you will be beaten to a pulp by righteous mobs brandishing foreign flags. You don’t have that right anymore.

Politics is now a maelstrom of baying mobs with burning tires, shattered bottles, eggs hurled, shot-out tires, smashed in windshields, rocks hurled as cops stand around doing nothing.

Nor, if you are a Democrat, do you have a right to have your vote counted fairly — the establishment above you has named some pigs more equal than others and created a super-delegate system that makes a mockery of voter sentiment and enforces the status quo.

What does it add up to? A realization that democracy itself is under assault, and far weaker than anyone realized. We took so much for granted and it looks ready to vanish faster than anyone ever expected. The real story of this election is the assault on democracy and the question of whether it can be turned around.

Larry Kudlow describes another storm petrel on the horizon with his headline “Shock Report on Jobs Signals Obama Economy Is on Brink of Recession”.

What these three events have in common is the implied destruction of the old normal world. The First Amendment leaves in the night, the middle class paycheck departs in the morning.

If any of these sightings — especially the recessionary portents — actually develop into full-blown effect, we might recognize that a key event has arrived. If is the big question. The risk in “waiting for history” is that, like Nagumo at Midway, one has to decide on the basis of imperfect information whether that last report indicates that “this is it” or just another false alarm. This is especially stressful when one has to make the right call, since there is always the risk of reacting to a false positive with catastrophic consequences.

During the Cold War, people got good at waiting for the Big One and were quite careful about it. Recall the now-famous incident from 1983:

[T]he nuclear early warning system of the Soviet Union twice reported the launch of American Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles from bases in the United States.

Fortunately, they realized it was a bug in their own system:

These missile attack warnings were correctly identified as a false alarm by Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov, an officer of the Soviet Air Defence Forces. This decision is seen as having prevented a retaliatory nuclear attack based on erroneous data on the United States and its NATO allies, which would have likely resulted in nuclear war and the deaths of hundreds of millions of people. Investigation of the satellite warning system later confirmed that the system had malfunctioned.

But today’s liberal elite is far more spooked.

Compared to yesterday’s Soviet Air Defense Forces, today’s American political left is acting out not only “launch under attack” but is shooting at anything yuge. Both the presidential power of the last eight years and the media and academic control of the last 50 have done nothing to imbue them with a serene confidence. Instead, they are suddenly reminded how mortal they are.

If conservatives are still waiting for a sign that things are no longer business as usual, the Left fears the Train of Destiny has already abandoned the station, the panicked stragglers reaching for the receding caboose.

Ironically, the Left, not conservatives, feels the pressure most. Clinton supporter Sally Fields recently explained that the devastated economic landscape of Obama makes it imperative to elect … Hillary:

“I know people are hurting all over this country,” Field said. “That they can’t figure out how to make ends meet, and I know that that’s, you know, a terrible, terrible frustration and burden and sadness, and things need to be fixed.”

A jobs report out Friday showed just 38,000 jobs added to the economy in May, the worst hiring rate in more than five years.

So a third Obama term, via Hillary, is the last chance to remedy the catastrophes of the first two.

Every ideological enterprise is always one hill behind the sunrise. The crest of each summit always reveals failed pension plans, collapsing inner cities, budget deficits, death-spiraling health insurance schemes, and terminally fatal demographics. So to the left, it must necessarily follow that the Workers’ Paradise lies over the next hill, or at worst the one after.

What if you get to the last Hill and there’s nothing but a Trump casino there?

The greatest fear of the liberal left is reaching the end of the road, waking up from the dream, and realizing that pounding on the door is the 300 lb. landlord looking for his rent. As Tyler O’Neil puts it, 2016 is really a referendum on eight years of Hope and Change. Obama has spent nearly a decade prepping the top hat upon the stage and now they want him to pull the rabbit out of it, like he said he would.

A lot of people, including Sally Fields, are waiting, waiting, waiting …

Thus, every criticism starts to gnaw at the Left. Trump is offensive to them not because he is a clown, but because he is the clown they deserve. They now have to share the stage with him.

The clearest indication a game-changer has arrived is when there is suddenly no way back to the way things were before. That moment has already arrived for the liberal project. No longer is it possible to pretend they are some noble company of players acting out an arc of justice on stage of history. Trump’s barking and pitching unmistakably reveals they’re just another freak show on the Midway — and now the crowd knows it.

The sight of the media unmasking itself or the sound of the San Jose attackers are just the tawdry effects. From here on, to keep the job they’ve got to eat the chicken.

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Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with your friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.
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