Friday, July 10, 2020

For the Record: Stupid or Wicked?

Kin Ming Estates, Tseung Kwon O, Hong Kong, housing 22,000 people. Image by Baycrest via Wikipedia.

Roy (subscription) asks, on the subject of the contrast between helpless Jonah Goldberg and Rod Dreher and malevolent Tucker Carlson, where we draw the line for conservatives between stupid and evil. It generated a huge amount of very interesting commentary, from which my main contribution:

I'm enough of an old-school love-me-I'm-a-liberal, by upbringing and temperament, that the question makes me kind of uncomfortable. Am I implicitly wondering whether we in the progressive community are really, really smart, or just really, really good?

There's a classic liberal answer according to which stupid and evil are two sides of one coin. People are evil because they don't know any better, and they're stupid because they're too selfish to bother learning. Chicken and egg. Conservatives are evil because they're so unconscious of the exigencies of life outside their own tiny and comfy community that they can't conceive how anybody could get into trouble unless they were bad people, and therefore feel no pity. There's a parallel failure of perspective among liberals like Dickens's Mrs. Jellyby, whose emotions were wholly devoted to starting a mission in Africa while she lost track of her neglected children and suicidal husband, but at least Mrs. Jellyby has some moral imagination.

If conservatives are forced to find out, they might learn. I think David French truly learned something about what it's like to be a black kid when he adopted one and his ugly-white community turned on them. Everybody knows about Mrs. Reagan realizing that stem-cell research isn't immoral when she was caring 24/7 for an Alzheimer's patient and heard that the research could help. That's why we love stories like The Prince and the Pauper or Trading Places.

The thing that distinguishes Tucker from Jonah is the energy he's willing to put into staying ignorant or, if necessary, turning to ignorance on a 1984 dime, as he did with the subject of mask-wearing the other day, adopting the Trump view after weeks of telling his audience the (scientifically correct) opposite. Jonah doesn't have any energy and trusts his friends to make the decisions (David Brooks has a wider circle of friends and adopts three or four contradictory viewpoints without noticing the contradictions). Tucker actively looks for the view that will advance his power goals whether it's true or not, and I agree that's evil. But he doesn't think it's important because he's too stupid to imagine the real-world consequences; he's just a high school kid taking the side the debate coach assigned him, doing his best to win it for the team.

The conversation quickly fell into worrying about "DLC Democrats" or "establishment Democrats", and I had something to say about that as well:

2 hrLiked by Roy Edroso

I think you are wrong here. I think establishment Democrats like Never Ending War. They like police brutality. They like screwing over the poor and middle class and giving money to the rich. Those are their goals, they just need to pretend that they aren't and they really want to help the average American.

I think this because I see what they've been doing since 1992 at least and maybe since 1976. I read the speeches they give to the bankers, I see the laws they propose. I watch the current Democratic Presidential nominee say over and over again that he wants to cut Social Security. I see that he cheered the Clinton crime bill and those welfare cuts. I see that the current bankruptcy bill is basically his baby. And he like Obama is the choice of the establishment.

This is what they do and what they say. What can I assume from this if it isn't that their constituency isn't you and me at all, but George Carlin's "Big Club" that we are not members of.

Take your point, but given the current situation, even if I accept your interpretation (and I don't), doesn't the political situation require that they move left? Like I said elsewhere, they can't just sell Biden as Less Senile Trump.

In my experience Democrats are gutless rather than Secret Republicans. Most of them don't have the imagination to follow their youngers-and-betters like AOC. But like the GOP they stand on the precipice of extinction -- they're several steps further from the edge than the Trump people but if they blow this (by losing, or by winning and not doing anything with it), get ready for President Bongino and the end of everything.

Remember the New Deal didn't happen because FDR was a Bolshevik but because he knew fortune favors the brave.

Agreed. The distinction among Democrats is that some of them are a lot more timid than others. Everybody wants to make things better, and Biden has had a more limited idea than many of what's possible.

I spent some time with the "speeches" Hillary Clinton gave bankers in 2014-15 and came away with an impression pretty different from the labels posted on them by the curators at WikiLeaks. Just saying.

Similarly, Biden actually wrote the 1994 crime bill, but it was the Congressional Black Caucus that put it through the House against overwhelming Republican opposition to its $7 billion in aid for the gang-wracked inner cities of the time (the issue that make John Lewis feel bad about voting for it wasn't the incarceration provisions, either, but the capital punishment, on which he was clearly morally right, but which didn't turn out to be the most harmful part of the bill), because they thought on balance it would do some good—Biden and Lewis alike failed to anticipate the crazed misuse certain state governments would make of it, as is also the case with the terrible 1996 welfare bill

As to FDR, he also had the sense to surround himself with advisors who would tell him what the results of a given program would be instead of worrying whether it was too "left" or "right". Biden has been doing good work in that direction, which is why his program keeps getting more radical during the covid shutdown, as with the astonishing housing plan that just came out

On Biden's plan, to be specific,
The centerpiece is simple. Take America’s biggest rental assistance program — Section 8 housing vouchers — and make it available to every family who qualifies. The current funding structure leaves out around 11 million people, simply because the pot allocated by Congress is too small. Then pair it with regulatory changes to help the housing market work better for more people. It’s the general consensus approach among top Democratic Party politicians and left-of-center policy wonks....

According to original modeling by Columbia University scholars, it could cut child poverty by a third, narrow racial opportunity gaps, and potentially drive progress on the broader middle-class affordability crisis in the largest coastal cities as well.

The plan hasn’t stirred an intraparty debate or really much attention at all, which could make it politically feasible to enact.

LOL. So don't talk about it too much! (Go ahead and talk about it.)

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