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Post Recollections of 18 Presidential Elections
Created by John Eipper on 11/13/20 3:28 AM

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Recollections of 18 Presidential Elections (David Duggan, USA, 11/13/20 3:28 am)

The Squid and the Whale

I am two weeks from my 69th birthday and have lived through 18 presidential elections. I have some recollection of the last 17, recalling as a 4-year old kindergartner coming down for breakfast in 1956 to learn that Eisenhower had been reelected. The night of the 1960 election I watched the returns with my parents on a Dumont television in their Glen Ellyn, Illinois stucco home, as vote totals flickered back and forth between Nixon and Kennedy. I awakened the next morning to learn that Kennedy had been elected: Chicago's "river wards" on the west and south sides had tipped the state for JFK as people rose from the grave to put Illinois' 24 electoral votes in his column. This was in the era of paper ballots and "straight ticket" voting, when you could place an "X" for the party of your choice at the top of the ballot and thereby vote for all candidates from that party. My grandmother, fearing that an unscrupulous election judge would spoil her ballot by, for instance, marking outside the check box with a piece of pencil lead embedded under a fingernail, said that she always voted for each candidate individually.

In the 15 elections since 1960, we've had seven squeakers (‘68, ‘76, ‘00, ‘04, ‘12, ‘16, and ‘20) and eight blowouts (‘64, ‘72, ‘80, ‘84, ‘88, ‘92, ‘96, and ‘08). In the squeakers, a few votes the other way in a few states would have changed the outcome. Note that the frequency of squeakers has increased in this century, while there's been only one blow-out. "Deeply divided" has become a shibboleth, but unlike the divisions of 1968 (race and Vietnam), the divisions of today are class and cultural. One side loves our country, respects its traditions and values our rights (including the right to conscience and to be let alone); the other sees a history of racism, sexism, homophobia, white-male privilege, Christian ascendance, and economic and environmental exploitation. Unlike the divisions of 1968, which were healed by surrender in Vietnam and integrating blacks into our national narrative of success, the divisions of today are systemic and irreparable. No number of black, female, transsexual, first-generation persons in power can cure America from its perceived ills.

The genesis of this divide can be traced to Bill Clinton's 1992 election, as a "new Democrat." He co-opted the "law and order" issue by supporting anti-crime legislation and the death penalty: the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (both supported by Biden). He didn't have to face the consequences of these policy choices and could always claim plausible deniability: that it was the Republican-controlled legislature that had passed them (actually the 1994 bill passed when Democrats controlled both House and Senate). This of course led to the mass incarceration of blacks for drug offenses, and it took Barack Obama's 2008 identity politics campaign to reverse decades of decline of black participation in the electorate. Eight years later we saw how fragile is the coalition of white intelligentsia, economic redistributionists (otherwise "socialists"), and persons-of-color-social-justice-warriors. Though this coalition may have carried the day last Tuesday, defeating a president whom they could not believe they lost to in 2016, they have no unifying theme that would allow them to govern. With a Republican-controlled Senate, Joe Biden will have a hard time getting any legislation passed, no matter how adroit he may have been "crossing the aisle" during his unmemorable 36 years in the Senate.

In the 40 years since Reagan's election, there have been only eight when the party in power controlled both houses of Congress (1993-95, 2003-05, 2009-11, and 2017-19). Americans like divided government and it mostly serves them well: the Reagan tax cuts of 1986 (which also closed a lot of loopholes favoring the real estate industry) were passed when the Democrats controlled the House and lasted largely unchanged for a generation. Contrast that with the Affordable Care Act, where Nancy Pelosi and the Brothers Emanuel jammed through a 1200-page monstrosity that, eight years after the Supreme Court sustained the law under Congress' taxing power, is still under constitutional attack. Nothing like that attended the previous efforts at social engineering through the tax code and commerce clause: the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Medicare. The politics of those enactments were sustainable: discrimination places an economic drag on society, and health care costs were bankrupting seniors and all of us hope to be a "senior" some day. The ACA, however, was the first bit of legislation that penalized the majority (i.e., those who already had health insurance either through their employers or their own purchased plan--as I did for ~20 years until Obamacare kicked in in 2013) to "benefit" a minority, i.e., the 40-odd million who didn't buy health insurance, most of them because they didn't want it.

If this election has shown anything, it is that the crazy quilt of state election laws needs to be updated. No rational explanation can be given for Pennsylvania's vote counting five days after the election and the challenges to the vote totals in Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nevada. Twenty-years after Bush v. Gore, and 60 years after Boss Daley stole the election for Kennedy, one would think that we'd have solved the problem of absentee voting. We haven't. And while I'm a big believer in federalism and letting the states run their own shows, this is intolerable. Trump has his legal rights and the people of this country have the right to the assurance of a fairly conducted election, which may yet be resolved in the courts. But if I were DJT, I'd bid the country a fond adieu for having given him the chance to right the ship of state after eight years of drifting on a sea of Islamophilia, buffeted by the Marxist winds of self-loathing Europea. He needn't concede, simply acknowledge that, for the good of the country (something Hillary never did) he wouldn't challenge certified results, he will be leaving office January 20. Thank you for your service, Donald.

JE comments:  Trump is many things, but unique among US presidents is at the forefront.  Might he retire abroad?  Mexico's former presidents have a tradition of doing this, and usually it's to escape prosecution.  Trump may be interested in a haven with no extradition policy.  China is probably not a candidate, but what about Russia or the UAE?  Especially the latter.  The hotels in Dubai are very nice, although the proposed Palm Trump Hotel and Tower never got built.

David, if I may play the gadfly, why do you suggest above that "love of country" is an exclusive value of the US Right?  And how, exactly, were the Obama years marked by "Islamophilia"?  The Iran treaty?

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  • On Patriotism, or, Love Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry (David Duggan, USA 11/17/20 5:49 AM)

    John Eipper asked (November 13th= that I defend my proposition that "love of country is an exclusive value of the US Right." Respectfully, I never said that it is. I said: "unlike the divisions of 1968 (race and Vietnam), the divisions of today are class and cultural. One side loves our country, respects its traditions and values our rights (including the right to conscience and to be let alone); the other sees a history of racism, sexism, homophobia, white-male privilege, Christian ascendance and economic and environmental exploitation."

    The cultural and class differences are not Left-Right, Democrat-Republican. They are based on two different views of the United States and its role in the world.

    First, let me suggest that "love of country" means loving the country as it is, not as it may become or should be. Anyone who has loved another knows that love means unconditional. It is not an intensive form of "like." Put another way, to love our country means being willing to die for it, for "greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life..." John 15:13. If Zogby or some other pollster asked Trump and Biden voters whether they'd be willing to die for the USA, I'd bet that the break would be 90% for Trump and 10% if that for Biden. That says a lot. If all you see is the 1619 Project propaganda that the US was designed to protect slavery and white-male [Christian] superiority, then you are not going to be willing to write that check to the government, payable with your life. The differences do not hinge on socio-economic status: the Silicon Valley plutocrats are overwhelmingly "progressive" and vote Democratic. Nor do the differences divide along racial lines. As Sgt Joe Louis said in 1943: "Lots of things wrong with America, but Hitler ain't going to fix them." Nor will Kamala Harris.

    Those on the other side of this class and cultural divide have listened too much to Bobby Kennedy's pablum: "Some see things as they are and ask why. I dream things that never were and ask, ‘Why not?'." Even overlooking that he cribbed this from George Bernard Shaw, Bobby's never-neverland thinking will always be dashed on the hard reality of human fallibility. That is why I added: "No number of black, female, transsexual, first generation persons in power can cure America from its perceived ills." If you live solely by expectations you are going to be perpetually disappointed.

    John also asked that I defend my thesis that the Obama years "drifted on a sea of Islamophilia." How quickly we forget 2009's "Muslim Apology Tour" where Obama speechified to Turkey and Egypt stating to the "Muslim world that ... the Americans are not your enemy," attributing American actions to "fear," "arrogance," "dismissive[ness]," and "derisi[on]." Admittedly he was an equal-opportunity apologizer, repeating the same contritionis Americanus to Europeans, Latin Americans and others. But when you combine his early speeches to the Muslim world with the Bengazi fiasco (aided and abetted by Susan Rice, probably the next Secretary of State), the Syrian red-line crossed and ignored, the Iran deal, the terrorists-for-deserter Bowe Bergdahl exchange, and the fact that he waited until he was "safely re-elected" to visit Israel during his presidency, it is unmistakable that BHO trimmed the sails of American foreign policy to the star and crescent.

    I'll leave to others the debate whether Obama was a "closet Muslim," hiding his true beliefs behind a veneer of social gospel Christianity greased by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's "God damn America" diatribe. But facts are facts. People are free to draw their own conclusions.

    JE comments:  David Duggan is probably correct on the "who would die for America" litmus test.  But I'm more Bobby Kennedyesque on one's love for country.  Look at a family analogy:  is it better to "tough love" your addicted and abusive spouse, or act the role of the enabler or co-dependent?  "My country right or wrong" is the kind of thinking that starts wars.  And such a defense didn't work at Nuremberg.

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    • On Dying for Your Country, Nuremberg (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 11/18/20 3:03 AM)
      If David Duggan is right (and I am afraid that he may have some good points) about the 90%-10 % ratio of followers of Trump versus followers of Biden ready to die for their country, this means that the Empire is really doomed, as is the US.

      For all its allies and colonies, it is time to keep a good distance from such a decadent agglomerate of people (no nation, no country, no state).

      Please, John, do not mention the Nuremberg Trials. These trials were mostly the "justice" of the winners. When it was presented that the winners did the same things, it was replied, "We are here to judge these people," meaning that no matter what the victors have done or will do in the future does not matter.  The only reality is vae victis as 2410 years ago.

      What has been learned from these trials? Very simple. As confirmed in the past 74 years, as long as you are the winner you can do whatever you want. Of course, if you accompany your bloody actions with nice words like democracy, freedom, equality, etc. it helps.

      JE comments:  Whenever Nuremberg comes up, I am reminded of what a treasure we had in our friend Siegfried Ramler, who was there.  I miss him.  Eugenio, Nuremberg was not solely victors' justice.  It set many powerful precedents on international law, human rights, and the fundamental principle that "obeying orders" is no excuse for committing genocide.

      I was thinking yesterday about David Duggan's litmus test.  While I do not doubt that more Trump voters would willingly die for their country than those who voted against him, I can also name one person who would never join that patriotic 90%:  Donald J Trump.

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      • Nuremberg, Geneva, The Hague (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 11/19/20 8:35 AM)

        When commenting on my post of November 18th, John E cited Nuremberg as setting powerful precedents for human rights and international law.  The various Geneva and The Hague International Conferences were much more effective in these regards, but they were not respected by both the winners and the losers.

        We have to concentrate on them and not on the "justice" of the winners, which never is real justice.

        JE comments:  Eugenio cited vae victis (woe to the defeated) in his suggestion that Nuremberg was little (or nothing) more than a kangaroo court set up by the winners of WWII.  There's probably some truth to this, especially if we consider the heavy hand of Soviet "justice."  But does this mean we have to dismiss Nuremberg?  The "moral relativism" argument only goes so far, and overlooks the unfathomable horrors of Axis atrocities.

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