Is Technology The New Creativity?

I am of two minds about living in America today.  Setting aside any discussion of politicswhich I am glad to do for the momentI find that I cannot escape my belief that our popular and fine arts and entertainment are, by and large, horrifically bad and stupendously boring.  However, this shortcoming is more than made up for by the near-magical world of technological innovation we live in today.  Although we clearly have our problemsevery age doesI can firmly assert that I do not wish to live at any time other than now.  Our daily cultural life may be a wasteland, but our work and play are made immeasurably better by the incredible creativity in technology that has relegated most fine arts and popular entertainment to a purely secondary role in early 21st century American life.

A while back I was appalled to discover that a total of sixSharknadomovies have been made.  I cannot believe we actually needed even the first, but this odd phenomenon brings a stark fact of the universe of popular entertainment into sharp focus: New ideas are typically few and far between.

There are, of course, many reasons that endless iterations of so many idiotic ideas plague our modernity.  One is that investors and entertainment companies are desperate for a sure thing, so they reason that if Sharknado 3 made money, there is some likelihood that Sharknado 4 will as welland, for reasons that surpass understanding, they often do.  By the same token, the business executives who green light this kind of falderal presume that a flop will be more easily excused by their bosses if it can be presented as a wise decisionone derived from a sensible expectation based upon prior successesthat for reasons beyond their control simply failed this one time.  Money in the arts and entertainment tends to chase conservative investments, and gambling with the cash provided by your corporate overlords is not a prescription for a long career in this business.

Consequently, artists and entertainers who long ago lost their edge are recycled beyond the point when they have any work truly worthy of our consideration.  Even if the caviar of their early career has now degenerated into stale corn flakes, it has some intrinsic worth as a known brandthat can still make a buck off name recognition and former notoriety.  This explains why the late work of Pablo Picasso, which basically was terrible and derivative, continued to sell well and the tours of aging rockers still command premium prices despite the suspicion that their current artistry owes much to the wonders of lip syncing and hip replacement surgeries.  We know what to expect and fill in the blank spots from our own memoriesand so the illusion survives.

We are, in addition, now besieged by recycled drivel simply because there are so many more media outlets in need of contentany contentto fill in the spaces between infomercials.  Cheap and disposable entertainmentcontrived and packaged to present the best possible platform for advertisements or to encourage streaming subscriptionsrules a great deal of the entertainment world today simply because there are twenty-four hours and seven days in a week that must be programmed.  No one plays the National Anthem and turns off their transmitter at midnight anymore because dead air is anathema in a culture where constant stimulation is the norm—and necessity.

However, as much as the traditional forms of creativity—music, sculpture, poetry, theater, dance, etc.—seem to have landed in a ditch today, we do live in an age of mind boggling technological inventiveness that has transformed every facet of our livesand which provides sufficient compensation for the dreary state of our arts and entertainment.  

I sometimes shake my head when I think about growing up in a world of land line telephones, rabbit ear antennae on boxy cathode ray tube televisions, clacking typewriters, and rooms filled with library card catalogues.  Medical care was often diagnosis by stethoscope and exploratorysurgeries because there were no wondrous medical imaging technologies available beyond a simple x-ray.  Cars, which were attractive but unreliable, could not instantly tell a mechanic via a computer link what was wrong with them.  Our connection to news and events in the outside world was a daily newspaper tossed on the doorstep in the morning or the six oclock newson a black and white television.  K-12 education was all pencil and paper, and the height of workplace computing technology was punch cards and slide rules.  Carbon paper was still a common office tool, and eager young women strove to master shorthand (how many even know what this is today?) prior to entering a heavily hair sprayed career as a secretary.

It is, of course, quite natural that technology will outpace the arts when it comes to the application of creative power.  Customers demand cutting edge innovation to justify the investment of their hard-earned cash.  However, those tired souls seeking mere distraction from their daily toil are content with that which is as comfortably familiar as a pair of worn house slippers  Therefore, the artists of each age tend to move as a herd so as to not stray too far afield from the tastes of their audiences, but the technological innovators become rich precisely by bringing new and wholly unfamiliar products to market.  

There is, of course, always an audience of elite tastemakers who seek out edgy art and culture, but there is an obvious reason why The Monkees sold many, many more records than John Cage ever didthe art that is the most popular is always that which soothes rather than assaults.  Middlebrow is always where the money is to be made, so this is what will always dominate as long as artists need food and shelter to survive.

Although the pace of creativity in engineering, science, and medicine may move faster or slower at any given time, it is always moving in one directionforwardand this is precisely what humanity demands.  There is little market for nostalgia except as it pertains to the collection of key technological artifacts of the pastclassic cars being one obvious examplein order to preserve and enjoy the genius of a particular age.  

However much we may still watch the plays of Shakespeare or read the poetry of John Milton, no one wants to again live in an age when travel from city to city meant days of bouncing along rutted roads, fire was the only source of heat and light, and surgeries were performed without the benefit anesthesia or antibiotics. The worlds that people inhabited in the past may have been more elegant in some very limited ways, but the vast majority of human lives were stalked by hunger, disease, vermin, and pain.  Our knowledge and understanding of the actual daily misery of those days have their limitations, but we are willing to look past all that for a few hours of engagement with the music, paintings, or plays of centuries gone by.

Therefore, before we get too carried away complaining about the world we live in today while romanticizing some time period long ago, perhaps it is worth taking just one small moment to celebrate the many wonders of the world we have right now.  We may have to occasionally endure the existence of the Kardashians, but we can also microwave some popcorn, stream some Miles Davis music through our ear buds, and read a classic novel on our iPads.  I have to admit, it works for me.

 

 

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Fears R Us

I sometimes feel as if we Americans are living in a national Doomsday cult—or some nightmare far worse.

Although the timeline for our imminent demise due to global warming/species die-off/genetically modified crops/fire/flood/drought/ leaf burning/natural resource shortages/mass infrastructure failure/killer bees/lawn chemicals/cell phones/slow internet/sugary soft drinks/atomic war/pollution/lone gunmen/poor dietary choices/incivility/general stupidity is instantly extended whenever one deadline or another passes, it is difficult to escape the constant message that our very existence as the keystone predator on the planet earth is about to end.

Over the past couple of decades. the general prescription offered to forestall the end of the world as we know it has always seemed to be either a new tax, a new fee, a new law, a new bureaucracy, a new government program, a new form of state-sanctioned monitoring or control, or expanded censorship of thought and expression—basically more power flowing ever upwards from the general population to a distant priesthood of the educated, enlightened, and unaccountable elites.

In other words, Superman won’t save us—but the 2nd Assistant to the Secretary of the Global Commission on World Oversight surely will.

Doomsday cults must, by definition, be able to accomplish two basics: scare us half to death about our impending deaths and offer the only possibility for salvation. This is necessary in order to engender the overwhelming fear that ensures mute compliance. The constant drumbeat of documentary and news reports explaining the disasters soon to befall us provides the fear. The sage—and usually government employed or sponsored—experts explaining the only possible solutions provide the hope for salvation. The mass media, of course, love these types of stories and run them constantly and gleefully because their audiences are like audiences everywhere—we just can’t look away from a frightening and gory car accident.

Fed a constant diet of the coming—and certain—apocalypse, many people naturally sink into hopelessness and despair or join the Doomsday cult itself, where they grasp for control of their own lives by adopting a quasi-mystical belief in the protective powers of all that is “natural” while voting for candidates who promise new and improved controls of individual behaviors and personal beliefs that they find upsetting or threatening.

Like small children who insist that mommy check under their beds for monsters before bedtime, these fearful people loudly and continually demand that which can never be guaranteed in a vast and complex world: an absolute freedom from all fears—both real and imagined. Perhaps it is little wonder that 1 out of 6 Americans are reportedly now filling a prescription for either anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication. It is kind of a drag being constantly told that the world as you know it is resting on crumbling precipice overlooking a deep and unforgiving chasm—and no one has yet devised a way to provide the protection that you now so desperately require.

It is, of course, the case that real problems do exist that are harming our lives and daily existences—American life expectancy has, for example, now dropped for three years in a row—but it is also certainly true that many risks are exaggerated while others that might actually pose a more dire threat are paradoxically ignored. Possibly it is simply the case that the fears that seem more grim and tangible are more likely to seize our attention. Hollywood studios are, for example, going to sell more tickets with a movie that revolves around a gigantic meteor striking the earth (which is exceedingly unlikely to ever occur) rather than one that deals with the ongoing and decades-long collapse of academic standards in our nation’s public schools—which is happening right now and is truly horrifying.

It is perfectly understandable that we pay more attention to spurting blood, cacophonous explosions, and piteous screaming, but an idiotic decision made on a sunny Thursday afternoon inside a quiet conference room at a federal agency in Washington, D.C. is far more likely to be the causal agent for the next catastrophe affecting our lives.

Moreover, rather than focus on the many, many problems that are outside our control, perhaps we can most immediately and dramatically improve our lives by focusing our energies and irritation upon those matters we can most directly impact.

Spend a day in your children’s classrooms and see what is—and what is not—being done to prepare them for future success. Go to a county planning board meeting and find out what is—and what is not—being done to provide affordable housing in your region. Attend a public meeting at your local police department and learn what is—and what is not—being done to reduce crime in your community. Most importantly, ask questions, expect answers—and take action. Doomsday cults preach the end of the world precisely because it encourages passivity and thereby empowers the priesthood; instead resolve to be active and involved in your own life and that of your town or city. Leave the priesthood to babble among themselves.

Big national and international problems grab our attention, but a thousand smaller local problems offer our best opportunity to exit the cult of utter hopelessness and seize control of our own lives. I guarantee that taking action will feel a lot better than being a powerless victim waiting for some bureaucrat or government agency to improve your life—or provide the security that you crave.

However, as I write this, I find myself wondering whether I am wrong that we are living the nightmare of a national Doomsday cult. In could, in fact, be the case that a problem far more nefarious and dangerous is actually afoot, and this explains why the obvious solution to fear and passivity—bold thought and action—is simply beyond the reach of so many who seem sincerely flummoxed at the notion that they need to take responsibility for their own happiness and well-being.

Those who work in our nation’s penal systems speak of the problem of “institutionalization” that affects those prisoners who have been incarcerated for many, many years. Having grown so accustomed to having all of their life decisions made by all-powerful authorities who control every aspect of their daily existences, these prisoners eventually reach a point where they are simply unable to function outside of a cage because no one is directing and managing their lives.

Maybe this accounts for the odd and seemingly inexplicable mixture of unfocused anger and crazed frustration that seems to grip so many today—particularly our younger men and women who struggle mightily with the very basics of “adulting” as they flail aimlessly and disastrously through their lives. Having grown up with helicopter parents who hovered over their every move and compelled them to continually trudge along a pre-determined life path, perhaps they are now simply unable to survive without someone directing their every action.

Thankfully I still meet many young men and women who are able and aware, but I am often startled by others who find the ideas of independent thought and action completely beyond their grasp. Given that a successful transition from child to adult requires the ability to embrace and navigate complex—and sometimes conflicting—life needs, the crippling inability to manage adult responsibilities is driving skyrocketing rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide among those in their late teens and twenties today.

A Doomsday cult might be too charitable a metaphor for our social, political, and cultural life in America today. Perhaps a better metaphor is one that is much simpler and more direct: a prison. This prison is not one made of concrete and steel. It is instead one where the bars of the cells are forged of the fears that are constantly drummed into our heads by those who find monetary and political advantage to be found in frightening us. In doing so they are polarizing our nation, destroying our young, and creating crises far greater than those they claim to be able to solve. By ruthlessly promoting never ending fear over assertive confidence, they are encouraging the misery and passivity that is killing so many souls and condemning us all to live locked in our own sad, little cells—with no hope for escape.

Groupthink Gridlock

The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 seemed to many the final triumph of Western liberal thought over a system known for its rigid adherence to doctrines driven by theory, the suppression of dissent, and demands for soul-crushing intellectual conformity by the nation’s elite leaders. A new golden age characterized by freedom of expression, a renewed faith in the value of free and open debate, and decision making based on facts rather than wishful fantasies had triumphed, and all the old divisions would be set aside in favor of a world run by a benevolent and tolerant meritocracy. Go, go Western democracies!

If you had told the celebrants who were gleefully demolishing the Berlin Wall that their futures would be characterized by crippling political polarization, public shaming of dissenters, and academic and political elites that ruthlessly enforced an intellectual orthodoxy that still somehow thrived despite ample evidence of its disastrous failures, they might well have put down their sledgehammers and gone home that day.

The liberal belief in a godlike global state that would be managed to peak efficiency by appointed bureaucrats managed to do little other than engineer a massive transfer of wealth to the super rich while insisting upon a zillion pettifogging regulations for the rest of us that neither protected our futures nor improved our daily lives. Our global elites instead enhanced the power of perhaps the most universally hated group on the planet—lawyers—because their expertise at navigating newly created mountains of arcane and contradictory bureaucratic mandates was now critical to every aspect of our now thoroughly regulated existences.

The steadily rising economic anger of the ruled against their rulers has now led to the election of Donald Trump in America, the revolt against the European Union that has pretty much ended the political career of its greatest champion, Angela Merkel, and the rise of populist leaders most everywhere else who have surfed to power on tsunamis of rage and outright revolt against the deeply dysfunctional status quo. The reaction of the new global elite to this new and unwelcome reality has been both predictable and depressing: Those who don’t appreciate our sage guidance are a bunch of ignorant and misguided bigots who fear what they cannot understand. Therefore, what we need now are new and enhanced powers to monitor and manage this unruly and ungrateful herd.

The self-serving outrage and smug insults of those leaders and their supporters who are angry about the vicissitudes of democracy isn’t likely to win back many of the disaffected. Here in the United States we are regularly treated to apocalyptic gabfests and learned commentary regarding why our governing structures are suddenly too weak to stand up to the scary “white supremacists” who are now diligently engaging in the one action that is characteristic of all budding domestic terrorists: casting a vote in an election. Democracy kind of sucks when those whom you deign to rule tell you to shove off.

However, despite their unwilling efforts to better understand the peculiar motivations of those whose lives revolve around work, faith, and family, the mainstream media and Beltway insiders have mostly fallen back on that old standby strategy familiar to despots the world over when faced with a revolt: We need to reassert our control by crushing dissent. Hence, we hear and read repeated calls to censor the dissemination of opposing viewpoints, incitement of the harassment of those who question the status quo, and the launching of daily ad hominem attacks on the values and morals of those deemed enemies of the statist solutions. Aided and abetted by those in academia equally concerned about the yearnings of many Americans to slip the leash of government-approved behavior and beliefs, we are regularly warned of the hell lying just ahead unless these ideas—and those who hold them—are destroyed and their rights to free speech are suppressed.

The problem is, of course, that neither the globalist or nationalist viewpoint is correct 100% of the time. Just as some matters are best left to individual nations to manage for themselves, so are some problems large and complex enough to warrant a response coordinated by an international body.

A thoughtful explanation followed by a reasonable suggestion is still more than able to sway opinions when the necessity arises, and the 2018 elections should be proof enough that democracy still has sturdy powers of self-correction despite breathless predictions of its imminent demise. However, those who lack faith in the wisdom of the governed are still anxious to hand power to unaccountable authorities who can more easily override the wishes of those who are obviously too stupid to manage their own lives or the planet without leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.

New ideas are neither inherently dangerous nor destructive, but the ongoing effort to silence those who want to change the current direction of our nation and world will simply frustrate the legitimate aspirations of many and promote yet more of the theory-driven groupthink that has landed us in the mess we are today. Any refusal to listen is ultimately more harmful than the idea being expressed, and we might find that even those supposedly ignorant and bigoted masses who are not properly credentialed to rule have many ideas worthy of consideration. In the final analysis, those who do the working and the sweating will always understand more than those who devote their cloistered lives to study and judgement—so the voices of the people should be treated with far more respect than they often are today.

Our “No Trust” Nation

Who and what are Americans to believe in today?

Polls show that we suffer from a crushing lack of faith in government, business, educational institutions, religion, law enforcement, news organizations—and one another.  The outcomes of this perhaps unprecedented collapse in trust in most every aspect of our daily lives are felt everywhere we look, and this likely accounts for much of the sour and suspicious insularity that pervades both our politics and personal lives today.

Our personal lives are based on trust, and the frightening cynicism that pervades our society—and manifests itself most obviously in our suffocating self-absorption and childish focus on our own personal needs above all else—drives many to either “hook up” without any long term commitment or simply retreat into daily lives built around video games and online pornography.  The amazing numbers of people who are alone—yet seem not to even want to bother with human intimacy—is a symptom of a culture and people devoid of even the minimal faith necessary to have a cup of coffee with someone whom they find interesting or attractive.  Of course, anyone willing to contemplate either emotional or physical intimacy must also reckon with the amazing lack of both personal boundaries and respect for the privacy of others that now pervades our existences.  Expect to have a slurp-by-slurp description of your encounters pop up on social media somewhere because apparently an occurrence is no longer real until it is blared to a global audience—which is both frightening and ridiculous.

No society can thrive without trust.  No one will, for example, be willing to engage in dialogue if they doubt both the veracity of the information provided and the good intentions of others involved in the conversation.  Moreover, the willingness to marry, start a business, have a child, earn a college degree, buy a house, or work diligently at a job—each a basic function inherent in a successful nation—all rely on trust in either the future or in others.  No modern economy can thrive without the willingness to both extend credit and assume reasonable debt; the alternative is a pre-industrial system of barter trade that was the key feature of medieval life.  Worst of all, those who lack trust gradually—and catastrophically—stop thinking about the future and focus on nothing other than the here and now, which is an impediment to building the societal consensus necessary to both solve problems today and make the investments of time and money needed to ensure successful tomorrows.

The counterargument is, of course, that our leaders and institutions have failed us and are undeserving of our trust—and there is certainly validity to this.  However, although we seem to now be unable to easily find leaders who can readily recognize that sweet spot on the spectrum between naive idealism and ruthless realpolitik, we must also keep in mind that the renowned men and women of our past were probably not much better.  Time tends to wear the rough edges off both memories and events, and part of the problem with our “warts and all” modernity that records—and endlessly replays—our political and cultural highs and lows is that we are mercilessly stripped of our illusions and reduced to weary cynicism because we cannot escape the fact that our leaders are just a fallible are we are.  Much like children who are crushed to find out there is no Santa Claus, we rage over the foibles of others who share our human weaknesses and are disappointed that no one in charge can ever satisfy our every need in precisely the manner in which we want it to be satisfied.

This childish need to have our every wish granted without having to deal with gritty and unwelcome realities is likely a key component of the irrational attraction many voters currently have for socialism—now rebranded as a new and improved American type of “Democratic” socialism offering the same empty promises that have beguiled previous generations around the world.  

As a system of political, economic, and social organization, socialism has probably destroyed more lives than the Black Plague, but its attractiveness to those who believe that capitalism has failed because some are rich and some are poor is perhaps less puzzling when we view it as a symptom of our crushing lack of trust.  

If one proceeds from the presumption that no one can be trusted to provide what you “deserve”, and there are those who promise to help “the people” experience painless wealth and ease by taxing and regulating those who hold undeserved wealth and power, it sounds pretty darned good. Particularly in light of the harsh fact that our nation—along with most of the developed countries around the world—is crashing headlong into the fiscal limitations of the post-WW II welfare state, the promise of endless benefits paid by a magic pot of money extracted from those who either lucky, smart, or both is simply irresistible to many who have no trust in the American economic system today.  

This will not, of course, end well, but socialism’s many bold promises initially play well with people who have lost trust in their leaders and institutions. However, before we go that route entirely, it might be worth asking the Russians of 1917 and the Germans of 1933 how state-run socialism worked out for them in the long run.

The obvious problem we now face is that—after many decades of continued government interference and control of our national economy—we are far closer to socialism than should be comfortable. The redoubled efforts we will now face to encourage yet more “partnership” between business and government—which typically takes the form of subsidies, regulations, and ever more threat of legal jeopardy—are not going to solve the crisis of trust that so infects much of our electorate. Recommencing our nation’s journey along the path to more government control and oversight of our economic life, which has been only slightly interrupted over the past couple of years, is likely to further cripple the hopes and dreams of many, leaving them little choice but to be further infantilized by elected officials and bureaucrats who will promise parental care and understanding—if only they are given the power to do so by voters so dissatisfied with their lives that they will choose to believe in the snake oil of socialism.  After these new-style socialist officials are in power, we will be assured of little but that the rewards of hard work and personal initiative will continue to erode as this terrible and destructive path to national ruin turns more Americans into passive and miserable wards of the all-powerful state.

Revealing the truth—that although sometimes people are ridiculously lucky or terribly unlucky, most success in an actual capitalist system still derives from brains, hard work, and sacrifice—is nowhere near as much fun as promising oodles of freebies. Telling people to put their heads down and work harder—but without any guarantee of having their fondest dreams fulfilled—is not a winning campaign message when so many are preoccupied with the blatant and blinding unfairness of a system now run to enrich the few at the expense of the many. However, until the electorate wises up to how the current economic disasters of their lives are brought to them courtesy of their own government’s corrupt and idiotic polices, which is doubtful at best, many politicians will continue to peddle their own version of El Dorado, the mythical “lost city of gold” that was there for the taking.

For those who don’t care to Google it, the myth of El Dorado drove many early explorers to madness and mayhem as they scoured the jungles of Central and South America for the gold and jewels that they were told were just lying there ready to be scooped off the ground.  Why did they believe such an outlandish and implausible story?  Perhaps for the same reason we continue to elect those who promise us all manner of government largesse without any explanation of how to pay for any of it.  We choose to believe in wild tales of wealth that can be ours for the taking because we find the belief comforting—particularly when we no longer trust our nation and its leadership to watch out for our best interests because the system is run for the benefit of insiders and government-sponsored grifters.

The “Blue Ripple”

We are, or course, well into the Midterm election post-mortem period.

On the one hand, we have the Republicans, who are pleased to have limited their midterm losses (as of this date) to 31 seats in the House while solidifying their grip on the Senate with 2 pickups.

Having won the right to hold hearings and howl about Donald Trump’s policies, expect lots of Democrat drama and endless House investigations starting next year.  However, that will pretty much be the beginning and end of the Democratic agenda and accomplishments for the next two years—unless they are willing to hold their noses and work cooperatively with President Trump.  Stymied in the Senate and vexed by the veto pen, the dreams of true-blue progressives for a government that is far more expansive and expensive will remain beyond reach.  Seeking to embarrass the school bully whenever possible will be all they can hope to do until 2020.

Perhaps most important to Republicans, their stranglehold on the Senate confirmation process will allow them to continue to put a deeply conservative stamp on the Supreme Court and federal judiciary, which will be a legacy that will live for decades beyond the end of Donald Trump’s presidency.  

On the other hand, we have the Democrats asking a familiar existential question: What happened?  Just a few short months ago Democrat candidates seemed poised to sweep away Republican office holders like a sharp scythe cutting down the tall grass.  Why the Democrats failed to close the deal will be the subject of much public and private discussion.  Given that the norm since 1908 is that the party holding the White House has lost 30 House seats and 4 more in the Senate, Democrat gains for 2018 are well in the range of average to below average.  Just as a point of comparison, the scorecard for Barack Obama’s first term Midterm was the devastating losses of 63 House seats and 6 Senate seats.  Republicans are obviously letting out a sigh of relief today after the many predictions of a similar Election Day catastrophe befalling them failed to materialize.

An additional worry for the Democrats going forward is that the trinity of charismatic progressive candidates who were supposed to be the core of the next generation of leadership for the party—Beto O’Rourke in Texas, Andrew Gillum in Florida, and Stacey Abrams in Georgia—all struggled mightily in their races (1 loss and 2 still in limbo).  Now facing the prospect of being stuck with their same ossified leadership going forward, the bench for a 2020 challenge to Donald Trump still looks very thin indeed, although many are actively exploring the possibility of somehow recycling Mr. O’Rourke for a national run buoyed by his amazing fundraising magic.

However, it must be noted that the Democrats did begin the road to bouncing back from their catastrophic state level losses during the Obama administration, when their representation at the state level sank to lows not seen since the 1920’s.  Perhaps when you hit rock bottom you have nowhere to go but up, but additional governorships and state legislative seats will allow Democrats to roll out some of their healthcare, environmental, and economic agenda on a smaller scale, which will provide useful laboratories for testing the differences between high-minded theory and blunt reality when it comes to the troublesome balance between taxing, spending, and debt.

I have a couple of theories regarding why, despite throwing every resource they had into this year’s elections, the Democrats managed to not even meet the historic norm for midterm electoral success—and this against a President whom they believe to be an unmitigated disaster.

First and foremost, Democrats forgot the lesson of 2016: Insulting Donald Trump is like punching a brick wall—the pain is yours and yours alone.  After mistakenly believing that hurling invective at Donald Trump was sufficient to win two years ago, the deafening rage of today’s bug-eyed haters of his politics and personality again managed to obliterate any possibility of rational discussion of Democrat policies that might provide feasible alternatives.  Moreover, the stream of snark and shabbiness from those who could barely keep their heads from exploding at every Trumpian tweet both enlivened his loyal base and fed perfectly into his strategy of convincing independents that crazed and crazy Democrats could not be trusted with the keys to the family car.  It is worth also remembering that if the most visible spokespeople for your cause are late night comedians and oddball D-list actors and celebrities, you’ve got a major problem with your political messaging going forward.

Speaking of message, this brings attention to the second problem that the Democrats had during this election: Resistance is not enough.  I pay a great deal of attention to politics, and I would have a very hard time explaining the party’s platform—beyond impeaching Donald Trump.  Spiteful promises of retribution mashed up with high-flown rhetoric and sanctimonious virtue-signaling are not the same as actionable plans to reach an objective.  In addition, making multiple promises of new programs and benefits—most of which have the word “free” baked inside them—but offering no specifics regarding actual financial execution (aside from raising taxes on the one-percent) does not inspire voter confidence.

I also suspect that the wild nomination hearings of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court were a huge turn-off for many swing voters.  The venom displayed likely startled those who still entertained the fantasy that Democrat Senators were respectable members of a great deliberate body instead of a gaggle of craven careerists who mug for the cameras in order to excite potential campaign donors.  One’s assessment of the final Senate confirmation vote is, of course, wholly a function of one’s political leanings, but the process was not one prone to engender great faith in the Democrat Party and its grasp of either evidentiary standards or the legal presumption of innocence.

This election also might be the point at which we need to finally admit that political polling is, for all its supposed science, no more reliable at predicting electoral outcomes than the Farmer’s Almanac is at predicting the season’s weather.  The stupendously confident failures of 2016 morphed into the careful hedging of 2018—but to no great benefit.  On the whole, the many, many predicted outcomes, which seemed to change daily, bore but a passing resemblance to the actual results, and the supposed clarity was more akin to blind guesswork in many cases.  

However, much more importantly, we can now see that many voters beyond the confines of liberal redoubts clustered on the coasts and college towns just aren’t buying wholeheartedly into what the Democrats are trying to sell, which will continue to cap their national electoral ambitions in 2020 and beyond.  

Democratic Socialism?  Expedited illegal immigration?  Massive tax increases?  Increased regulation?  Globalized government?  Yet larger bureaucracies?  More scolding by legislatively-mandated scolds?  None of these are issues likely to excite anyone other than the already faithful, who have an almost mystical belief in the power of big government to improve our lives—despite much evidence to the contrary.

Russian internet trolls are not to blame for the Democrat “Blue Wave” washing out to sea this time around, although I predict a whole series of new House hearings that will try to revive the rotting corpse of Russia-gate and demand that Robert Mueller be empowered to continue his investigations until he finally finds the elusive evidence that Donald Trump is a KGB stooge who gets down on his knees and prays to a statue of Vladimir Putin every night.  Unfortunately, untilthat day comes—or Democrats end up losing the House again in 2020—we can expect that unsubstantiated allegations, innuendo, and angry diatribes will be the chosen language of President Trump’s not-very-loyal opposition as they struggle to remain relevant during the years ahead.