The American Singularity — Week 54: Embrace the Suck

Monday, March 21, 2016

By Reed Galen

Quote by A Smart Person: “If you improve or tinker with something long enough, it will eventually malfunction.” Arthur Bloch

Welcome to the American Singularity.

I was talking to an old friend of mine this morning. He lives in DC and we spent half an hour discussing the presidential race. He related a conversation with a former military officer when discussing Donald Trump. He said, “The Marines have a saying, ‘Embrace the suck.’” There’s so much about this year that is beyond our control, and the control of those smart people who are scurrying around the country trying to stop The Donald, that it’s time to accept the inevitable and try and navigate through these uncharted waters.

Official Republican DC appears to split on what do next. There are the #NeverTrump warriors who brave the slings and arrows of social media and actual fists at Trump rallies to throw a wet blanket on the rapidly spreading house fire engulfing their Party. Then there are the political bureaucrats. Those people whose job is to keep Washington, regardless of who controls either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, functioning on a daily basis. Lobbyists, trade association honchos, labor leaders, all adapt rapidly to whoever wins elections — maintaining the status, success, and safety of their clients and industries outweighs the politics of one cycle or another.

Secretary Hillary Clinton would seem to represent the maintenance of “the system” given her history in the White House, the Senate, and the Obama administration (and her campaign chair is a super-lobbyist.) But there is a segment of Republicans in Washington who see Hillary not as a return to the salad days of Clintonian triangulation, but a continuation of Obama. This, even in a turbulent year such as 2016, is too much to bear.

Fear and Loathing in America

Donald Trump does about two campaign rallies per day. And now each of those rallies is covered live with two cameras — one pointed at the stage, the other scanning the crowd for the (now) inevitable violent outbreak. Most of us who spend our time working in and talking about politics have racked up Trump’s unexpected success to a simmering anger within the country generally and the Republican electorate specifically. The basis of this anger is fear. As I’ve discussed before, we are 15 or so years into the “American Uncertainty” — nothing is as it was, nor will it ever be again. And for millions of Americans the crushing fear and stress of watching their jobs disappearing, the standard of living declining and their children coming up in a world in which their own prospects are dimmed is playing out in stadiums and arenas everyday.

Reading the news over the weekend I saw a story in which some smart person said that Americans should be all about free trade, after all, it gave us all the cheap stuff we now enjoy and take for granted on a daily basis. This perfectly encapsulates the thinking that delivered America to a place where a bloated, orange-faced, semi-self-made billionaire plutocrat is the tribune of tens of millions of disenfranchised citizens. (Author’s Note: I intentionally use the word disenfranchise in the previous sentence. One can vote in every election and still be excluded from the country writ large.) Don’t have a job? No worries! Take this smart phone and stare at it for a few hours. Spend some time on Instagram looking at pictures of fabulously wealthy celebrities who got that way through the furthest construction of “hard work.” Once sufficiently pissed off, flip over to Facebook or Twitter and express your rage and frustration to a bunch of people you mostly don’t know. Rinse and repeat. Yep, sounds like one hell of a deal.

Tinker Tailor Brokered Convention

Cable news networks spend no less than 78 hours per day discussing what a “brokered” Republican Convention would look like this summer in Cleveland. The beautiful irony, described many times previously, but worth noting again, is that the exact “rules” the party elites wrote in 2012 to keep Ron Paul from causing trouble, are now exactly the same ones those same political sorcerers need to get rid of to allow for someone other than Donald Trump to have a shot at winning the nomination on the floor among delegates. The Republican election cycle has been a case study in both fighting the last war and the law of unintended consequences. In 2012, the GOP may well have driven a large segment of younger voters away by excluding Ron Paul and his non-conformist Republican ideals. Should the Establishment do the same this year, they’ll likely drive away most of the rest of their voters. What’s left? Not a lot.

So, the 270 Electoral Question: Destroy the Party to save the Country? The predicate question is actually more important for the GOP elite: Are you more concerned about saving the Country, or saving your rarified place within it?

Phony War

On Tuesday voters in Utah and Arizona (and Idaho for the Democrats only) and make their choices on the respective party’s candidates. Since a week ago, we’ve already seen a marked slow-down in the pace of the campaign. With only three Republicans left, and only one of them with a mathematical chance at securing the nomination, the focus is on Trump rallies and Establishment mania. It’s not likely to get any better. We won’t see another GOP contest for two weeks, in Wisconsin, and then the effort starts to really drag out.

The Cruz and Kasich campaigns now face a more immediate threat than Donald Trump: their own bank accounts. Most likely neither campaign has reduced its staff in any major way and given the preciousness of campaign dollars, they’re likely husbanding every last one for advertising when they need it. The Donald does his three to four events a week and dominates the news even when he’s sitting atop Trump Tower and, according to Maureen Dowd, Tweeting from bed. Neither Cruz nor Kasich can afford many more losses. All of the talk of brokered conventions becomes academic if neither one of them can keep their doors open.

A Note on A Third Party Candidate

When pundits aren’t discussing a brokered convention, they’re talking about another mystical unicorn: The third party conservative who can swoop in and carry us Pegasus-like to victory in November. All 50 states (and DC) have their own specific rules about how to achieve ballot access and they are all designed to make it incredibly difficult. To be credible, this Superman needs to be on all 50 state ballots. Texas with its 38 electoral votes, sits at the beginning of this process. By May 9th an independent candidate must:

· Deliver 80,000 signatures of registered Texas voters who DID NOT participate in the March 1st Primary Election.

· Provide the names of their 38 presidential electors.

· Provide the name and ascent of the person who will appear as their vice presidential candidate on the November ballot.

If a candidate has not begun making the earnest effort to accomplish the first bullet above, the other option is to try and find some small statewide party on whose line to appear. But even that has its own quirks and pitfalls. This candidate will also likely need to be able to self-fund their effort as the same fundraising limits ($2,700 max donation) applies to these candidates as they do to Republicans and Democrats. And even if you figured out Texas, you still have 49 other states to figure out before the end of the summer. If someone has an idea of who can get all this done who hasn’t yet built out their effort, please let me know if I can also buy the Brooklyn Bridge.

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