Showing posts with label Politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Politics. Show all posts

Monday, March 16, 2020

Repost: Shedding Our Martian Ways: Coronavirus and H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds

This is a repost from

A deserted airport. A civilization shut down by a virus. It makes me think of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, in which Martians conquer England with heat-rays and "black smoke", and seem unstoppable until, suddenly and surprisingly, they succumb to lowly pathogens to which they have no resistance.

We have watched as civilization has been taken over by forces alien to reality, as cold and unsympathetic as Wells' Martians, with a rigid ideology that aims all skepticism outward, and denies the connection between combustion and climate change, between spending and taxation, present and future, self and responsibility, words and truth.
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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

False Strength and the Artificial Polarization of Our Era

Most of the polarization of our time is due to people's failure to direct their skepticism inward. Skepticism is associated with strength of mind--an ability to resist and scrutinize what others accept as true. But people who claim, for instance, to be climate skeptics are merely pretending to be tough minded, because they practice one-way skepticism, aiming it all outward. True skepticism, the kind that demonstrates strength of mind, is directed inward as well. The current president is an extreme example of directing criticism outwards but none inward. He's tough on others, soft on self. Scientists have an incentive to practice two-way skepticism, because the rigor of their profession requires that they look for flaws in their own data and conclusions, lest they later be discredited by their peers. They have to be tough on themselves, as well as others.
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Saturday, July 13, 2019

George Will Criticizes Those Who Don't Praise

As part of the 2019 graduation ceremonies, political columnist George Will gave one of the more curious speeches ever to bounce off the ornate walls of the Princeton University Chapel. Enrobed in orange and black, he chose to praise praise. "Intelligent praising is a talent," he said, "It is learned. Like all virtues, it is habitual. It is a habit. And it is a virtue we need more of, right now." Speaking as a 1968 graduate of Princeton University, Will told the graduating seniors, many accompanied by their parents, that he hoped they had "learned to praise." He said that many Americans "seem to think that expressing admiration for someone or something is evidence of deficient critical faculties." Instead, he posited that the habit of giving praise is evidence that one is sufficiently secure to celebrate others "without feeling oneself diminished."

Then, rather than give examples of praise, he proceeded to unleash a flurry of criticism. He criticized "the infantilization of America," a nation he described as "awash in expressions of contempt and condescension." He criticized what he called the "anti-social media", and its "snarky expressions of disdain". He criticized our "age of rage," and those Americans for whom "disparagement is the default setting."

He criticized the "habitual disparagers," for whom "maturity means a relentlessly-exercised capacity for contempt." He criticized an "unpleasant surplus" of anger, an eagerness "to be angry about something — anything." All of this Mr. Will believes to be evidence of a "culture of contempt."

How could a speech in praise of praise slip so frequently into criticism? Praise is a wonderful thing, to give and to receive, but it is not what got George Will to that pulpit in the Princeton Chapel. He reached that level of distinction through a career dedicated to finding fault in others, whether it was every other week in Time magazine, or twice weekly in the Washington Post for some 40 years. 

Through the decades, those columns have oozed with contempt. The following example is indicative, as he mocks leaders concerned about climate change.
“Consider Barack Obama’s renewed anxiety about global warming, increasingly called “climate change” during the approximately 15 years warming has become annoyingly difficult to detect. Secretary of State John Kerry, our knight of the mournful countenance, was especially apocalyptic recently when warning that climate change is a “weapon of mass destruction.” Like Iraq’s?”
This is not the first time George Will has returned to his alma mater to preach a gospel distant from his own conduct. Back in 2015, he shared the stage at McCosh 50 with faculty member Robert George to tell the audience that we should, in John Stuart Mills' words, "be willing to entertain reasons why we might be wrong." That capacity to reflect and question one's own beliefs is vanishingly rare in George Will's writings, most strikingly in his denial of human caused climate change. 

Interestingly, Mr. Will's newfound religion of praise coincided with an occasion at which he likely knew he would be criticized by many in the audience--students who stood with their backs turned to him throughout his speech, to protest a 2014 column in which he criticized those concerned about rape at universities. Given that context, Will's declaration that "there are deleterious political consequences from the weakening of the adult culture of confident, measured and generous judgments about people and events" can be seen as a dig at the protesters in the audience. After a long career dedicated to criticizing others, Will cast as immature those who criticize him.

A local news source, Planet Princeton, published an account of the speech that didn't mention the 100+ demonstrators in the chapel. If the comment section was indicative, many readers, unaware of the context of the demonstrators and George Will's history of serial contempt, took his speech to be thoughtful and positive, rather than a verbal spanking of Will's critics that was drenched in irony and hypocrisy. It was a chilling reminder of how easy it is, for instance, for political candidates to sway voters who lack the time or inclination to look beneath the surface of the words.

There is a good speech that could be given about the paucity of praise and our preoccupation with people worthy of contempt. It would point out that government is seldom praised when it works well, which plays into the hands of those seeking to undermine it. The speech would note that headlines and our conversations tend to gravitate to bad actors, and acknowledge how the incompetence shown by leaders actually has a payoff for us as individuals. Misdeeds and malaprops provide fodder for late night comedy that entertains us while making us as individuals feel more competent by comparison, even as poor leadership endangers our collective survival. The speech would point out that, if people focused some of their skepticism on their own views rather than always looking outward for fault, then someone like George Will would pause before showing such overt hypocrisy, and would find suspect the cherry-picked evidence of the climate deniers. The rise of conservatism that George Will worked so hard to promote in the 1980s and 90s has been built on an increasing contempt for government, for liberals, nature, truth, democracy, the downtrodden. Will's call to "neuter" the presidency of Obama was part of a larger denial that Democrats have any right to govern. 
Praise is certainly praiseworthy, but as George Will's career and the Republican ascendency has shown, people and ideologies most consistently rise by tearing others down, avoiding self-scrutiny, and projecting their own failings onto others.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Drill-Baby-Drill vs Pump-Baby-Pump

The move by the Trump administration to open all U.S. coastal waters to drilling brings back memories of the 2008 election and the Republican chant "Drill, baby, drill". Where does one begin with all the rich meaning that can be mined from the race to extract more carbon energy from underground?

Collectively Created Problems? Yes. Collectively Solved Problems? No
Though conservatism as currently defined might seem to be against collective action, as it dismantles or paralyzes government and demonizes regulations, this is only half true. Conservatism allows problems like climate change to be collectively created, but is opposed to collective action to solve those problems. When Obama, responding to McCain's "drill, baby, drill" proposal to sell drilling rights along the coasts, pointed out that we wouldn't need to burn the oil from the coastal waters if we kept our tires properly inflated, he was ridiculed. He was proposing collective action to reduce climate change, while McCain was promoting action that would maintain or increase the collective releasing of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Libertarians, according to the Libertarian Party website,
"strongly oppose any government interference into their personal, family, and business decisions. Essentially, we believe all Americans should be free to live their lives and pursue their interests as they see fit as long as they do no harm to another."
Those last words, "as long as they do no harm to another", render libertarianism fraudulent from the get-go. It is a libertarian's deregulatory fervor that increases the harm individuals do to one another. To the extent that any individual creates nonpoint pollution, be it car or chimney exhaust, trash, sewage, or fertilizer runoff, that individual is creating harm, particularly to those who are downstream in topography or time. Libertarianism, being a substantial component of conservatism, is compromised at its core. Liberals, acknowledging basic realities that a libertarian chooses to ignore, work to free us from the negative impact of others.

Energy Independence Now, Energy Dependence Later
There's a flip side to claims that drilling more domestic oil will reduce U.S. dependency on foreign oil. Draining the nation's reserves of oil and gas now leaves fewer reserves to tap in the future. True energy independence is achieved only by reducing the need for energy, through greater efficiencies of which keeping tires inflated is a small but valid example, and by tapping the inexhaustible energy from the wind and sun.

Public vs. Private
Part of our individual wealth is what we own collectively through government. The logic of government can be seen in a public park. Owned by everyone, a park enables the individual to enjoy a landscape that otherwise would be accessible only to those with the wealth to acquire it. We all own the nations coastal oil reserves. Leasing that shared wealth, most likely at very low prices, shifts that wealth to a few private companies, leaving the public poorer.

Radical Conservatism Co-ops the Language of the Radical Left
The "Drill, baby, drill" of 2008 was preceded by the "burn, baby, burn" phrase associated with the Watts riots in Los Angeles in 1965, when urban blacks rioted to protest police brutality. Though the burning of fossil fuel is highly controlled, hidden within internal combustion engines and furnaces, its consequence is a permanent heating of the planet and radicalizing of the weather, with consequences that are far more destructive than an urban riot.

Lyrics in a 2001 song by Ash, entitled "Burn, Baby, Burn", capture the radical result of a conservatism that untethers the individual from responsibility for collective consequence:
Tumbling like the leaves
We are spiraling on the breeze
Almost to the point of no return
Everything will burn baby burn
U.S. Rushes to Become Europe
Resource abundance has long distinguished America from Europe. Dismissive of Europe and its ways, conservatism ironically hastens the resource depletion that in time will make America more closely resemble Europe.

The Quandary of the Conservationist
The work of preservation is never done, while it only takes one action to permanently exploit or destroy.

It Only Takes One Bad Tenant in the White House
Anyone who has been a landlord for awhile has learned that it just takes one bad tenant to trash a house. Likewise, it takes only one bad president to trash a nation. The George W. Bush administration left a legacy of 9/11, two wars, an economic meltdown, and tragic delay on climate change. With one political party in the grips of an anti-government philosophy, the federal government is caught in a recurrent cycle of demolition followed by repair, followed by even more aggressive demolition.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Cat in the Hat Moves into the White House

What sort of cat wears a hat, wreaks havoc wherever it goes, makes a monstrous mess that entertains as it appalls, turns the world red from "lying", and suffers no personal consequence? Why, it's the Cat in the Hat, by Dr. Seuss. If you missed it in childhood, you can witness it now, in the news every day. While the adults were out, a man in a red hat and no scruples slipped into the White House. This time, there will be no magnificent machine to clean up the mess, no VOOM! to erase the lies that spread red across the land.
Little lies founder,
But big lies can stick.
Lies can determine
The leaders we pick.
Taken together, The Cat in the Hat and The Cat in the Hat Comes Back anticipate our current cat-in-chief's tremendous capacity to demolish what was carefully put together, and generate an endless stream of red lies that spread and spread. In the Cat in the Hat Comes Back, the first red stain happens when the cat lies in the tub. From that first "lying", the red stain spreads from bathtub to mother's dress, to Father's shoes, to the rug, ultimately coating the snowy landscape outside.
If you don’t like that lie,
Then I’ll give you another.
I’ll give you its cousins,
Its sister and brother.
The cat has helpers to spread its brand of mayhem even further. Out of the cat's red hat leap small assistants who spread the red until it coats the land. Those assistants, in our increasingly unreal world, include not only those who wish to spread the lies, but also those attempting to stop them.
We’ll make ourselves welcome--
A lying family--
On the porch of your house
Drinking new lies for tea.
How do you stop a lie from spreading? The standard method in journalism is to state the lie, then explain that it isn't true. The more outrageous the lie, the bigger its headline, and the more it dominates conversation. Whether the lie gets repeated with an air of disgust or irony or stern correction, the assumption is that people will see it for the lie it is. But lies, if they are repeated often enough, become true for people who aren't paying much attention. The actual truth often can't compete.
The truthy truth truthers
Will frown all around,
At how high I can fly
While they’re stuck on the ground.
If someone is accused of a crime, each time that story is reported, the accused is associated with the crime. But if the crime is a false accusation about someone else, then news reports taint the lied-about more than the liar. The lied-about can charge the liar with slander or defamation of character, but that risks even more news coverage with yet more repetitions of the lie.
We’ll keep telling lies
Till you think they are true
Do you think it can’t happen?
It can happen to you.
We become like the boy and girl in Dr. Seuss's stories, powerless, aghast, but also entertained while watching their world order come undone.
And how do you stop a big lie once it’s out
By saying it again while it prances about!
As an example of how lies can be like a stain that keeps spreading the more you try to stop it, consider a pre-election series in the New Yorker that documented myriad lies. These are thoroughly researched, devastating articles, and yet they also serve to spread the lies further. Though the series' alliterative title, "Trump and the Truth", was meant to be ironic, at a subliminal level some may be swayed instead by the visual power of two words that share the same length and the first three letters. By associating Trump with the truth, the title works against the articles' content. And because of the difficulty of reporting lies, the articles' content even works against itself. Of 1260 words in one of the articles, only 195 present the truth, while 628 convey Trump's lies.

This is the journalist's predicament, in a time when content may not register. Instead, it's the subliminal message in the image, the look or sound of words in the headline that people respond to. In a similar manner, some people watching the presidential debates last fall may have picked up on Trump's impressive physical bearing, rather than what he actually said. For people wishing to believe, appearance will win out over content.

Click on "Read More" below to see the 195 words of truth, presented almost apologetically, and how more than half of the article actually helps spread Trump's message.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Trump Unites the Nation, Against Trump

Simply put, in the final presidential debate, it was the class valedictorian against the rich kid who never had to study up. Hillary looked increasingly poised to break through the glass ceiling, while her opponent went crashing through the floor into the basement. Still, we may someday thank Donald for bringing us together, even if what we share is revulsion.

The following impressions, out of respect for the wide separation between the candidates on stage, takes them one at a time.

In retrospect, assuming he loses, Trump will be seen as having done the nation a huge favor, and I mean that "huge" in the outsized Trumpian sense. His campaign could be renamed, Let's Make America Agree Again, and the brilliant strategy all along has been to say increasingly preposterous things until finally the rightwing and leftwing, the Them's and Us's, would come together and speak as one, against Trump. What a challenge he faced! Politicians define themselves through disagreement. Talking heads on cable news are paid to differ. Obama's naive "let's all work together" approach back in his first term had crashed and burned. What's a peacemaker to do?

Well, it took a nut to finally crack that nut. People complain about the endless campaign season, but Trump needed every bit of it to finally break through the lockstep disagreement. First, he tried saying crazy things, like climate change is a hoax, or tax cuts pay for themselves. But a lot of people had drunk the same Kool-Aid, and long-intimidated journalists refused to call a lie a lie. He launched one conspiracy theory after another, each more improbable than the last, but his followers loved him all the more. He spoke disparagingly about women, war heroes, selected ethnicities, and still his supporters remained steadfast.

Seeing he was struggling to fully alienate people, the Washington Post thoughtfully released a video of some of his past braggadocio about groping women. Many supporters wavered at that point, but last night's final debate was truly the breakthrough moment. Not sure he'd accept the results of the election? He'd already extended his political party's contempt for science, government, nature, and minorities to include women, truth, and all leaders present and past, excepting Patton and Putin. There was only one more card to play, and he played it last night: contempt for democracy itself.

Oh, what a joy to see politicians and commentators of all stripes afterwards, speaking as one in their condemnation of Mr. Trump. True, the air of agreement won't last long. Otherwise, the talking heads would lose their raison d'etre. But for one shining moment, the dream of unity burned bright. The unifying power of a universally alienating figure was demonstrated beyond doubt. If we emphatically agree on a negative, might we find a few positives to agree on as well, and finally move forward?

Though Trump questioned whether he'd accept the election results, there was a moment in the debate where he seemed to concede to Hillary. Speaking, as he does so well, in that dystopian, doom and gloom manner, he said, "And wait until you see what happens in the coming years. Lots of luck, Hillary."

I'd like to suggest that President Hillary, in the spirit of Obama's appointment of her as Secretary of State, appoint Trump to be a special envoy to the Middle East, where he will be tasked with saying and doing such deplorable things that all people, Palestinians and Jews, Sunnis and Shias, will lay down their arms and ancient animosities and come together in the public square to say as one, "This person is HORRIBLE!" One point of agreement will lead to another, and peace will blossom in the desert as never before. This diplomatic coup will be called the Trump Triumph. In gratitude, humanity will build in his honor a giant tower 300 conspiracy theories high, lock him up in the penthouse suite, and tell him if he wants to rejoin us he'll have to grow his golden locks long enough to reach the ground.

Could it be that Hillary has grown in the past few months, blossomed and found the joy? Back in July, speaking to legions of devotees during her acceptance speech at the Democratic convention, she sounded at times almost angry, as if unwilling to let people love her. Now, with her long time ambition to be president finally within grasp, something in her has begun to relax. She seems more comfortable in her skin, more presidential. The Hillary who is reportedly so personable one on one is starting to show through the lens of a camera and in front of crowds. In the final debate, she said some things that went beyond talking points, things that needed to be said, about her opponent, about the country, about leadership. To listen was healing, and because Hillary's life has spanned so many of the nation's traumas, from the civil rights movement to Vietnam, through culture wars, the drug war, through the Republicans' pivot from the Cold War to a war on government, she like many of us carries those national traumas within her. If any national healing can come, it will come from within and without, with one feeding and informing the other. Hillary stands as the embodiment of both the trauma and the potential for healing. Many, made leery by the endless stream of innuendo, will hold their noses when they vote for her. I view the prospect as much more exciting--a behind-the-scenes policy wonk who finds her voice, progressivism informed by pragmatism, a chance to cut through the pretty lies that have seduced voters of many stripes for decades.

Chris Wallace did a good job, except he somehow forgot to ask about climate change. Strange that a video about abusing women demands response, but denial of our high-risk collective abuse of the planet does not. It's only the only place we have to live. For Wallace and other moderators, "drill baby drill" is just harmless locker room talk.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Attacks at Commander in Chief Forum--Was Clinton Held to a Higher Standard?

A ground rule for the Commander in Chief Forum, hosted by NBC on Sept. 8, 2016, was that the candidates should not use the forum as an opportunity to attack the opponent. Both were reminded of this at the beginning of their respective half hour interviews.
It’s often said that Hillary Clinton is held to a higher standard for behavior and honesty than her opponent. An analysis by your News Companion of the candidates' words at the forum reveals the following:

Clinton criticized Trump on three occasions—143 words out of a total of 2744. Trump agreed to keep attacks to a minimum, “absolutely”, then went negative 18 times--879 words out of a total of 3226. Clinton went negative 5% of the time. Trump went negative 27% of the time.

By word count, Trump broke the rule five times more often than Clinton, and yet only Clinton was called out for breaking the rule, when Lauer interrupted her, saying, “And we tried to have an agreement…”

Other Troubling Aspects of the Forum

This was the first time the two candidates appeared on the same stage on the same night, first one, then the other, with their contrasting styles very much in evidence. Clinton gave long, detailed answers, while Donald Trump's responses were clipped.
  • The Emails: Hillary Clinton's half hour began with an extended grilling about her emails and whether they suggest she is unfit for the presidency. This is part of a long, judo-like tradition of using Clinton's strength's against her. For anyone who believes public servants should be working hard for us, the impressive number of emails, in the tens of thousands, could be taken as evidence of her work ethic and extensive experience with foreign affairs. Instead, by alleging wrongdoing, her opponents make us think not of hard work and deep commitment to country, but of some vast impropriety. Though not mentioned at the forum, Colin Powell had also used a private email account, because the State Department's email system was slow and cumbersome. 
  • Trump's Secret Plan: Trump, when asked repeatedly about how he planned to solve this or that problem, gave few or no specifics, quickly veering instead into attacks on Obama and Clinton. Asked how he would defeat Isis, he claimed to have a plan, but then said he'd ask generals for a plan. The interviewer pointed out that Trump had earlier claimed he knew more than the generals about Isis. That inconsistency led to more attacks on Clinton and Obama. In other words, we have a candidate more comfortable with attacking his opponent than offering coherent proposals. 
  • Dictatorial Tendencies?: Trump suggested that, given our huge investment in money and lives in Iraq--he said $3 trillion--that we should have taken all of their oil. "To the victor belong the spoils," he said. That way, Isis would not have had oil to fund their terrorism. Speaking positively of Putin, who has invaded and claimed other countries, Trump noted Putin's high popularity rating and said, "the man has very strong control over a country." Trump portrayed our country as currently weak and embarrassed by other nations. We have a "depleted military" and "We’re losing our jobs like we’re a bunch of babies." Obama is poorly treated by other countries, e.g. when the Chinese failed to provide stairs for him to walk down from his plane. In his convention speech, Trump had claimed that "our citizens ... have lived through one international humiliation after another". The world's most notorious dictator, prior to World War II, portrayed his country as "defenseless", and a victim of "the most humiliating treatment ever meted out to a great nation." Similarity in speech does not necessarily equal similarity in intent (a survey of language used by other dictators would be instructive), and yet, when Trump portrays our country as humiliated by foreign powers, and praises a foreign strongman, and speaks of extracting foreign oil as "spoils", what does he mean when he says he'll make our country great again?
  • No Mention of Climate Change: Our military leaders see climate change increasingly as a destabilizing influence in the world, and therefore a security threat. Climate change likely played a role in the extended drought that contributed to destabilization of Syria. Trump's denial of climate change raises questions about his ability to identify threats, and yet the subject was not raised.
Below are the candidates’ words (all questions removed), with attacks in red. For each candidate, the words in attack sentences in red were counted and compared to the candidate's total verbal output.

Friday, September 02, 2016

A Borderline Solution for the Border: Build That Retirement Community!

I have a dream. Two dreams actually. The first is that Donald Trump not become president, in part because being president requires having an attention span, but also because his dream of a secure border with Mexico can best be realized if he remains in the private sector.

Building the wall is important to him, at least for the energy the slogan generates at his rallies, but is it important to us? You can watch this PBS News Hour report to learn that "illegal immigration from Mexico is at an historic low". 21,000 agents patrol the border, aided by ground sensors and cameras, with 650 miles of wall strategically erected along the 2000 mile border.

But even if a politician is trying to scare us with a diminishing problem in order to avoid grappling with steadily growing problems like climate change, we could always do better with border security, and that's why my dream is that Trump in his post-election defeat pulls himself together and takes on the biggest, best, most fabulous real estate project of his career. Rather than a wall, which will only drain more public treasure while drug smugglers tunnel underneath it, private citizen Trump should buy the Mexican border, then build a linear retirement home that will run its full 2000 mile length. Don't worry about logistics. He'll make it work. That the building's extraordinary length is expressed horizontally rather than vertically may not sit well, but horizontal will become the new vertical as the population ages and heat exhaustion on a warming planet lays us low.

The building will have all the best accommodations for all the best people who have lived all the best years of their lives and now desperately need all the best care from all the best Mexican workers willing to deal with their ever expanding debilities. Our increasing number of seniors will enter from the U.S. side, while Mexico's increasing number of care givers will enter and leave each day on the Mexican side. Some will view the separate entrances as a nod to an era when America was supposedly greater than it is today. We're talking nothing less than a ribbon of prosperity and employment along the border so great that no one will ever want to cross the border again.

There's only one man for this job, and it will require his full inattention.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Trump, the Suicide Candidate

One way to understand Donald Trump, in his new role as Republican nominee for president, is as a suicide candidate who has gained entry into the Republican Party. Hidden underneath that improbable hair is a brain with the potential to blow up the Party, and take Trump with it. This is assuming he proves so alienating that he loses the November election, but there remains a chance that he could penetrate the nation's defenses and blow it up as well, figuratively or literally.

While the Russians have hacked the Democratic Party's and Clinton campaign's computers, Trump has successfully hacked the Republican Party itself, showing it to be uniquely vulnerable. Disguising himself as a brilliant dealmaker, his first step was to hijack the news media, then use its apparatus to get free advertising. Since news media give bombings top billing, he remains the lead story by dropping one verbal bomb after another. In the process, he has served the media's purposes well, providing easy stories for journalists, easy jokes for late-night comedians, and endless fodder for the opinion industry. Rivaling a trip to the movie theater, the spectacle conjures powerful feelings of validation or disgust, hope or horror, depending on whether he's viewed as a savior or charlatan.

Unlike a suicide bomber, who exits with the first splash of carnage, Trump sustains prominence by miraculously surviving each verbal bomb he detonates, buoyant no matter which segment of the population he alienates--religions, ethnicities, women, gold star parents. Whereas Superman was able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, Trump is able to alienate whole constituencies and rally the base in a single out-of-bounds statement.

While Republican Party leaders are themselves uneasy with his candidacy, they have spent decades preparing their Party for takeover by someone like Trump. Is he indifferent to facts? Welcome to the Party where tax cuts pay for themselves. Does he lack empathy for the disadvantaged and believe nature exists only to be exploited? Welcome to the Party that mocked the phrase "I feel your pain". Does he harshly criticize others while showing no capacity for introspection? Welcome to the Party that, while Newt Gingrich was having an affair of his own, focused its energy and the nation's attention on impeaching a president for lying about an affair. Does he stoke fear and resentment by conjuring false threats? Welcome to the Party that led the charge into Iraq. Does he offer no real solutions to real problems? Welcome to the Party that believes climate change is a hoax. The Party of Ronald, Newt, George and Rush needs to ask itself why it has proven such a good fit for a Donald with clear narcissistic tendencies. Could it be that the Party itself has a character disorder?

But the real groundwork for Trump's ascendency was laid by the low bar the Republican Party has set for public service. Because it defines government as the enemy--an inherently inept institution that does little more than take people's money and hamper the economy--the Party's mission has devolved into sabotaging any effort to make government work well. The resulting paralysis and national frustration set the stage for a candidate who claims that he alone can fix problems. Combined with the stultifying conformity demanded of Republican candidates (deny climate change, demonize taxes of all kinds, government regulation always bad, free market always good), the Party's low bar attracted a field of uninspiring candidates among whom Trump could prosper. Having occupied government with the professed goal of dismantling it, the Party now finds itself occupied, by a candidate whose goals are similarly anarchistic.

There's an emptiness at the center of it all. The news media chases one foul Trumpism after another, while real problems fester. Trump himself has been described by his biographer as a "black hole". It would be nice to think that, in this election season, the nation is bottoming out, and will begin to unify around a deep revulsion for the intolerance and recklessness on display, not only in a candidate but also in the Party that proved so well suited for his raw ambitions.