A Disinterested though Partisan Appeal to the Political Scientists of the Future

Note that, although a partisan, the below was written as a disinterested appeal to the political scientists of the future to explain the perverseness of the political discourse of our time.

Again, what I find so puzzling is the odd reverse-imaging of the attitudes of Democrats and Republicans today. At times, this seems simply a sort of childish tit-for-tat: “you called Bush II incompetent and a poor speaker (sincerely), so now we’ll call Obama incompetent and a bad speaker (insincerely), no matter that we might criticize him on firmer grounds.” But at times it seems to go deeper than this, seems to go beyond anyone’s conscious decision-making: “we allege Clinton to be a corrupt official, so now we will elect this actually corrupt, dishonest guy. And while we want to see every last thing Clinton’s ever written, we don’t have any interest at all in seeing even the most basic documentation (tax returns, medical history) of our own candidate.” Etc. To me, there remains something to be unearthed psychologically here, something not yet understood.

Republican claims that Obama couldn’t speak without a teleprompter. (I would have thought it was obvious that thinking on his feet was one of Obama’s clear strengths, that it was one of Bush II’s evident weaknesses, yet Republicans at the time, and still today, have decided to go after Obama on precisely these grounds –that he’s not a good speaker. Why?)

Republican claims that Obama was “incompetent”. (Bush II, with Iraq and Katrina among else, was seriously vulnerable to charges of non-competence. That is how the word came to enter the lexicon of the news. Yet Republicans at the time, and still today, will go after Obama on precisely these grounds. Obama, who made tough good calls on Osama Bin Laden and GM, who pulled us out of a downward financial spiral, etc… Why?)

Republican claims that Clinton is “corrupt.” (It was evident that Donald Trump was kind of a dark figure well before he was nominated and elected. If Republicans were non-plussed by the alleged corruption of Clinton, why would they have selected as their nominee precisely a person who himself seemed at least a little dirty?)

The most recent iteration of this is the revelation that Trump habitually talks on insecure phone lines, which, after all the uproar about Clinton’s handling of classified information, you would think that Republicans might care about, but just don’t. Just like they once were concerned about the deficit but now don’t. (What is surprising here is not that Republicans don’t have anything to say about it, but that they have elected a person so disdainful of security procedures –that they want a person from their party who does the very thing they disparage a person from another party for having allegedly done. N.b. this is not at all the first such breech of security of which Trump’s been guilty.)

As I say, I very much hope political science will one day give clarity to the alternate realities we’ve experienced in our time. My perception is: Republicans falsely impugn Democrats with doing the things they actually do, and support among their own candidates those attributes they fear their opponents might have. (I.e., they fear Clinton’s corrupt; so they think corruption is powerful and good, and so support an actually corrupt person like Trump.) The reason involves some combination of extraordinary wealth and extreme desperation that has been spawned by technological advance.

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