Political Quick Hits


“Let me tell you about my grades…”

A) There’s nothing that better encapsulates the dark cynicism at the heart of politics than a campaign manager announcing how they are rolling out a new image.

“That’s what’s important for you to understand: That he gets it, and that the part he’s been playing is evolving,” Mr. Manafort said, suggesting that Mr. Trump was about to begin a more professional phase of his campaign.

“Well, we’ve got some suckers. Now we’re going to get a different kind of sucker.” I don’t think this works anymore for two reasons: we’re too plugged in, and enough people (though far from all) hear about these cynical mechanisms. Shooting bull with political pros isn’t the same anymore. Two, and most importantly, it’s nonsense. Trump has been telling people for decades that the incendiary style is just an act, but there has never been a single recorded instance of him being gracious or decent or even recognizably human. Part of his self-mythology is telling people that he can act any way he wants, and his sycophants have to do the same (“Mr. Trump is a master of controlling himself, the very best”) but he’s always the insecure idiot who fights people on Twitter at 2AM despite having a billion dollars and a smoking hot wife. The “this is just an act” is the biggest act of all.

2.)  Ted Cruz having to explain why he should get the nomination even if he doesn’t have the majority of delegates is going to be peak-Cruz:

  • Wrapping self-interest in the whiny squeal of self-righteousness,
  • Trumpeting his endorsements while railing against the “Washington cartel” while both lacking a hint of contradiction and possessing unbearable disdain if you can’t accept which argument he spins at any given moment as the Revealed Truth
  • Unbearable smugness when explaining the rules
  • That look he’ll give when he explains why he’s the popular choice, even though he doesn’t have as many votes. You know, the one that is so condescending, as if he just can’t believe that you won’t accept that what he is saying is literally the opposite of the truth.

In some campaigns, like in 2012, a candidate has to tack so far to the right to get the nomination that they can’t get back. That’s not Cruz’s issue. His problem is that to get the nomination, he’ll have to act like Ted Cruz, and there is no getting back from that.

iii) From the same article:

Stuart Stevens, the chief strategist for Mitt Romney in 2012, said that many aspects of the primary process — holding the first contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, for instance — would appear widely unpopular if posed to voters in a poll.“None of this tests well,” he said. “It’s like a bowling league. Do the rules of bowling make sense?”

Look, I’m not a heartland type, I guess, but aren’t the rules in a bowling league that whomever knocks down the most pins win? I don’t even mean this as a metaphor for Trump or whatever; I’m genuinely confused. I know that strikes and spares have somewhat strange rules, but not really, right? It’s a rolling reward for doing well. I don’t know if I don’t understand politics or bowling (or if, maybe, the chief strategist for Romney 2012 might not be a supergenius.)

Ecuador’s Radical Proposal: The Poor Shouldn’t Be Destroyed By A Moving Earth

Almost 600 are dead in the desperately poor nation of Ecuador, which has billions of dollars of damage from an enormous earthquake. President Correa?

Among the measures he announced in a televised address late on Wednesday:

  • The sales tax is to be increased from 12% to 14% for one year only;

  • People with more than $1m in assets is to pay a one-time sum equivalent to 0.9% of their wealth;

  • Anyone who earns more than $1,000 a month is to pay the equivalent of one day’s pay; anyone getting more than $2,000 pays two days and so on, up to $5,000 a month and five days’ worth

  • Unspecified state assets to be sold

Although I can’t comment on the specifics, this seems to be fundamentally fair. It seems, in fact, to be the basis of society. These measures aren’t going to bankrupt anyone, but they will help a country rebuild itself, and help protect the people who are most affected by the devastation.

That’s the thing about natural disasters: we do like to say they are the great equalizer, and it is true that the earth, sliding its enormity under our feet, is wholly unconcerned with checkbooks. A millionaire will die in a collapsed building just as much as a poor man.

But it isn’t really equitable. Someone with assets can withstand the destruction of their house. They won’t have lost everything. They won’t go hungry in the streets. They won’t have their world suddenly torn away by these ancient rumblings. If they survive the initial disaster, they’ll be fine.

And that’s good! But that’s exactly the point: no one should have all their hope ripped away by something like this. A poor person who has lost everything in a warren of collapsed brick and ragged steel is just as faultless as the person who is doing fine. Society is built around protecting everyone from the random cruelty of fate. A society where the vulnerable can be shattered and the rich entirely cosseted is, strictly, elementally unfair. That’s why what Correa is doing is both radical and needed. It’s how a society pays for itself. It’s inarguably just.

This is going to be more and more of a big deal, as the ravages of climate change become more and more apparent, and the storms and droughts fiercer. It’s the poor who will pay first. The people who benefitted from the Industrial Age will be the most protected (I include myself in that). And this wasn’t an earthquake; it’s an own goal. When we talk about the economic costs of combatting climate change, the question we are asking isn’t “how much should we spend” but “do we believe in justice, or just the rule of money?” Correa has provided a template, one that simply and radically insists we’re all in this together.