Unoriginal Campaign Hot Take #25

It is perhaps axiomatic that often, a group of individuals rationally pursuing their immediate self-interest undermine the interests of the group as a whole. That is to say, the actions of those individuals, while rational, produce sub-optimal results for society as a whole. I do not mean to posit that this is a universal truth or to naively extrapolate from this position to construct an un-nuanced worldview—I present it merely as a common trend, one that we see poignantly when it comes to the issue of voting. “My vote doesn’t matter,” is the common refrain of the politically ambivalent or disenfranchised. It is an opinion that is hard to alter, since for the most part it is 100% accurate. One’s vote does not, indeed, matter. Political science and economics both tell us that voting is not necessarily a rational act. Public choice theory, popularized by economic God-emperor Kenneth Arrow and Anthony Downs among others,  gives us the concept of rational ignorance which refers to the perfectly rational tendency of individuals to refrain from voting (or specifically educating themselves about political issues) given the cost of acquiring such information. It goes without saying that this produces undesirable outcomes for society in subverting the ability of society to make decisions concerning governance and policy. 

So, to those who refuse to vote, who self-righteously cling to their rationality and good judgement as moral justification: just because you’re right, does not mean you are not part of the problem. I have never disguised my political affiliations or my opinions—so those who know me will not be surprised when I posit that this election presents a…remarkable choice. So surrender yourself to the unabashed romanticism of the democratic process—“Let your voice be heard”, “exercise your civic duty,” and so on and so forth. This election cycle, don’t let your rationality get in the way of positive democratic outcomes.

please please accept the results, Donald.

Here at Popular Discourse, we aren’t big fans of brevity. But events over the past few weeks have called for at least some kind of response. So even though it’s Fourth Week at the University of Chicago and midterms are afoot, here comes yet another article. 


By ETHAN GELFER || October 21, 2016

“I would like to promise and pledge to all of my voters and supporters and to all of the people of the United States that I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election, if I win.”

Those were actual words that exited an actual presidential nominee’s mouth in the day following a debate that self-destructed inside half an hour. We’ve documented Donald’s scandals in what we believe is its entirety here, but in reality its not even the obscenely inhuman force of offense and criminality (see: unconstitutional Muslim bans, sexual assault, etc), but rather the threat to institution that Donald Trump and his candidacy represents that scares me the most.

Much like every other nation, and to the consternation of many, the United States government and Constitution is not infallible. The republic is a socially constructed phenomenon that relies on continuous social agreement and cohesion to function. Authority, the rule of law, and power of the state are all derived from reification as a result of such socializations. In essence, we only have a government because we say we have a government.

That’s what makes Donald’s casual affronts to the pillars of democracy so dangerous. Traditions and customs affirm our commitment to the continued social reification of abstract institutions. Why do we refer to our chief executive solely as Mr. (and soon Madam) President? Why is it that when the President stands, no one sits? I submit that these aren’t random exertions of power that have become accepted, but rather these and other small traditions are vital to the perpetuation of our social fabric.

Unfortunately, Donald drags the Republican guard down with him as he goes. John McCain has suggested that the new Congress will still refuse to consider any Supreme Court nominees. Donald suggests that his supporters could seek Second Amendment remedies if Secretary Clinton were elected. He supports and encourages foreign intervention in the American election system. He suggests that subverting federal law makes him smart. He threatens to throw his political opponent in jail. And to top everything off, he suggests that he may not concede the election if he loses.

Trump apologians have already begun spinning the story by claiming that Al Gore, a Democrat, also refused to concede an election. Yet that situation is monumentally incomparable. To entertain the subject for a minute- Gore actually had a reason to contest the result, given that he won the popular vote  (Donald has as good a chance as not to lose by double digits in the popular vote), and the margin of victory in Florida amounted to .009% of the vote in the state. Yes, there was a constitutional crisis in 2000. But when it became clear that the mechanisms of our government had not worked in his favor, Gore said the following:

“Other disputes have dragged on for weeks before reaching resolution. And each time, both the victor and the vanquished have accepted the result peacefully and in the spirit of reconciliation. So let it be with us. I know that many of my supporters are disappointed. I am, too. But our disappointment must be overcome by our love of country. And I say to our fellow members of the world community: Let no one see this contest as a sign of American weakness. The strength of American democracy is shown most clearly through the difficulties it can overcome.

Al Gore was gracious even in the face of heartbreaking, unfair defeat. He signaled faith in our political process. Donald Trump is preparing to present himself as the polar opposite. I’m reminded of a quotation from The West Wing, a show that might as well now be considered fantasy; “This country is an idea, and one that’s lit the world for two centuries and treason against that idea is not just a crime against the living! This ground holds the graves of people who died for it, who gave what Lincoln called the last full measure of devotion, of fidelity.”

Yes, we can, and we should complain and protest Donald’s monumental disrespect for ethnic, racial and gender groups. Yes, we can, and we should complain and protest Donald’s inflammation of violence and violent rhetoric. Yes, we can, and we should complain and protest Donald’s utter lack of experience, understanding, or demonstration of education on anything remotely representing governing. But in my mind if there is one issue to protest, if there is one truly disqualifying factor for this candidate, it is this flagrant disrespect for the guardrails of democracy. Our country only exists because we agree that it will. By suggesting that it doesn’t have to be that way, it won’t.

Donald, I hope I saw a human side of you at the Al Smith dinner yesterday. I hope you were as uncomfortable and embarrassed of yourself as I was of you. I hope you understand what you are doing to this country. I hope you understand that you are quite literally the greatest threat to the structure of the world’s oldest democracy at present. Because if you understand that, there’s still time to salvage some of your dignity and some of this country. Please, for the sake of our country and our future, stop challenging these pillars of our existence.

Note: normally I try to refer to people I’m writing about by their proper titles. I hope to signal the rift I pointed to once again by referring to Mr. Trump in this article solely by his first name. I firmly believe in the need to reinforce and continually reify our social structure. Mr. Trump operates outside that social structure and thus I refuse to refer to him in the manner that operates in a world he seeks to destroy. 


Ethan Gelfer is the Managing Editor of Popular Discourse. He is a first-year student at the University of Chicago. 

Glimpse Talks Trends: a (handwoven) Cornucopia of Deplorables

I sat down two weeks ago with Luke Philips at Glimpse From The Globe to talk about liberal internationalism, charges of globalism, international trade and the TTP, climate change and collective action problems, the proliferation of far right populist movements, and the motivating factors behind Trump’s rise and support.

Please find the podcast here:

I hope you enjoy!

-Spencer Slagowitz

Scandal: Donald Trump makes the case against a Trump presidency.

We here at Popular Discourse have furiously penned self-righteous polemics and thinly veiled academic invectives at Donald Trump and the particularly noxious strain of far-right authoritarian populism that he champions. As election day approaches swiftly, we had another idea. We realized that the compelling argument against Donald Trump, comes from Donald Trump himself. Surely Donald Trump’s policies are vague, ill-defined, or non-existent (ISIL strategy, how he would revamp trade deals, foreign policy?) and those he has outlined are outright laughable (tax plan, the wall, etc.) or plainly unconstitutional. Indeed, for us, it is taken prima facie that Donald Trump is woefully unprepared for the office of the Presidency of the United States in nearly every capacity. Yet, leveling criticisms of Donald J. Trump’s policies and grasp of policy issues is rendered moot insofar as Trump fails to meet the most basic of thresholds: fundamental fitness. Please don’t take it from us, take it from the Donald’s ever-pursed lips. The following list is a non-exhaustive accounting of nearly every major scandal (the list comprises 47) that the Republican nominee for President has been implicated in, since he announced his candidacy. I would only offer this one caution to our readers: it may cause you to long for the sweet old days of Romney’s ‘binders full of women’.

 

Conspiracy Theory Mongering (The Greatest Hits!)

  1. Birtherism: Obama wasn’t a U.S citizen
  2. Claiming that thousands of muslins cheered in New Jersey after 9/11
  3. Ted Cruz’s father was involved in Kennedy Assassination
  4. Vince Foster: suggested several times that the Clintons were involved in his death
  5. President Obama “Complicit in Orlando Attacks”
    1. “People cannot, they cannot believe that President Obama is acting the way he acts and can’t even mention the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable. There’s something going on.”
  6. Obama and Clinton were “founders of ISIL”
    1. There is a legitimate claim of facetiousness on the part of Mr. Trump, however his history of conspiracy mongering casts serious doubt on that position.
  7. Scalia Was Assassinated
    1. According to Trump, “They say they found a pillow on his face, which is a pretty unusual place to find a pillow.”
  8. Vaccines Cause Autism
    1. “The child, the beautiful child, went to have the vaccine and came back and a week later got a tremendous fever. Got very, very sick. Now is autistic,”
  9. Climate Change is a hoax (created by the Chinese)
    1. Has since walked statements back, but asserted in numerous times fairly recently
  10. The Unemployment Rate is a “phony number” and “one of the biggest hoaxes in American modern politics”
  11. The Fed is political and Janet Yellen is keeping interest rates low to help Democrats
  12. Hillary part of an international banking cabal
    1. “Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty.”

 

Sexism, Sexual Assault, and The Donald’s View of Women

  1. Bragging about sexual assault: “Grab them by the P***y”
  2. Corroborating cases and accusations of attempted sexual assault
    1. Great rundown by Vox: here
  3. Sexist remarks toward Megyn Kelly “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her, wherever.”
  4. Comment to Philip Johnson “Women, you have to treat ‘em like shit.”
  5. Punishment for women who get abortions

 

Encouraging Violence and Undermining Democratic Institutions

  1. Has suggested repeatedly that the election will be rigged
  2. Assertion that the Media is dishonest, in the pocket of the Clinton’s, and rigged against him
  3. Threatened violent riots if he had lost the primary
  4. Repeatedly encouraged violence against protestors at rallies
  5. Implication that his supporters should use violence against her if Clinton appoints judges…
    1. “If she gets to pick her judges — nothing you can do, folks. Although, the Second Amendment people. Maybe there is. I don’t know.”

 

Authoritarian Don’

  1. Praise for Vladimir Putin: ‘more of a leader than Obama’
  2. Proposal to censor media outlets critical of him through altering libel laws
  3. Institution of campaign blacklist for media outlets that delivered critical reporting of Trump
  4. “I alone can fix it”: Trump’s fearmongering and authoritarianism at the RNC
  5. Implication that Trump would jail his political opponents and especially Hillary
    1. Suggested that he would appoint a special prosecutor to try Clinton, “Lock Her Up”
  6. Praise for Saddam Hussein
    1. “Saddam Hussein throws a little [chemical] gas, everyone goes crazy, ‘oh he’s using gas!’”

 

Engaging with and flirting with racism

  1. Mexico is sending “rapists”, “criminals”.
  2. History of housing discrimination against African Americans
  3. Racist comments surrounding suggestions that an Indiana born ‘Mexican’ judge’s heritage would influence his decisions and is unable to impartially adjudicate the situation
  4. To minority communities, “What do you have to lose!”
  5. Muslim Ban
  6. David Duke scandal

 

Donald Trump, Foreign Policy, The Military, and Veterans

  1. Insulting John McCain, and by extension POWs, for being captured.
  2. “The generals have been reduced to rubble,” “I know better than the generals”
  3. Insulted a gold star family—Khizr and Ghazala Khan scandal
  4. S should specifically target the innocent families of terrorists
  5. Repeated calls for use of torture, worse methods than waterboarding
  6. Disbanding NATO
  7. “‘Its not so bad for us if Japan [and Korea] have nuclear weapons”
  8. Asking an expert three times: “If we have [Nuclear Weapons], we can’t we use them?”
  9. Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

 

General Impropriety

  1. Mocking a disabled reporter
  2. Tax Returns
  3. Trump University Scandal
    1. Pam Bondi bribery scandal
  4. Trump Foundation Scandal—improper use of charitable money for personal reasons

 

As voters we are compelled to draw conclusions from the actions and public statements of candidates to piece together an idea of how they would perform as President of the United States. Any of these scandals, during a past election cycle, would completely render the presidential aspirations of a politician unrealizable. If any of the above 47 scandals cast doubt on Trump’s ability to meet the most basic requirements of public office, we urge that you take that into account when considering who to vote for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here Fishy Fishy…

How the territorial dispute in the South China Sea is all about fish, and what that tells us about world order and American foreign policy.

           A nuclear-aspirant North Korean lobbing No Dongs into the Sea of Japan, Vladimir Putin’s Russia testing the willingness of the self-appointed custodians of the post-Cold War settlement to defend it, and the inescapable imperative to implement an international agreement that halts the progression of climate change—clearly, the United States faces a plethora of foreign policy challenges in the status quo; it is not with a single great threat with which the United States must contend but a whole slew of problems that each impel action. So one must ask—what are the nature of these problems?  Are there higher-order commonalities between them that may inform our grand strategy?

To answer these questions, we ought to look to the Pacific, most specifically to the territorial disputes in the South China Sea. This conflict is emblematic of the type of international issue that presents the greatest challenge to the United States. On one hand, China seeks to expands its territory, through force and, well, semi-clever island building.  It’s a zero-sum conflict between regional actors, resembling the traditional geopolitics of yore—an exercise of power in the name of self-interest at the expense of other states. In this matter, one might say it cleanly fits a neorealist model.

Yet, at the same time the South China Sea is the site of a separate but interrelated problem: overfishing, illegal fishing, and—as a result— declining fish stocks.  Fishing is a core component of the Chinese economy, accounting for 3 percent of GDP and employing ~8 million fishermen.[1] As coastal stocks have dwindled, Chinese fisherman have moved into contested water to compete with the fishing industries of several other nations. As a consequence, fishing has been conducted at an alarmingly unsustainable rate—fish stocks have declined from 95% of their 1950s levels, and might soon be exhausted due to illegal fishing. Furthermore, the decline of fish stocks has severe regional implications—the average person in China and South East Asia consumes a remarkably large amount of fish, around 24.2 kilograms of fish a year, and fishing is a massive component of regional economies.[2] It merits, then, to pose the central question of how regional governance of common pool resources can be established for the fisheries of the South China Seas? This is a question of both international and regional import given that regional food shock may have significant consequences on international food prices and contribute to regional instability. Indeed, as the example of the Syrian refugee crisis highlights, regional problems no longer have strictly regional consequences.

The example of territorial disputes in the South China Sea has two fundamental strategic dimensions: a quasi-realist imperative to balance China and protect the international order, and the neoliberal necessity of inviting China to the negotiating table as a necessary stakeholder in the fish stocks of the South China Sea. The second imperative is as important as the first— without Chinese cooperation, the US simply does not have the power, nor the mandate to prevent Chinese illegal fishing. Without a permanent resolution that all stakeholders assent to, the only potential Nash equilibrium, to borrow from game theory, that could result will be either total control on the fish stocks by one or more states to the exclusion of others or instability and infighting that leads to the depletion of the fish stocks entirely. In both cases, conflict is likely to erupt as dwindling resources provoke even more aggressive competition that, in turn, reduces fishery capacity even further.  The situation necessitates, then, the implementation of some sort of multilateral diplomatic settlement like a Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMO) that has proved effected elsewhere at managing fish stocks. Yet a necessary precondition for regional cooperation of this nature is the external balancing of Chinese aggression and provocation in the South China Sea.

This type of challenge—which require both an oppositional relationship in one respect but a cooperative one in another characterizes many of the international strategic challenges the US faces in the status quo. For example, the U.S vehemently opposes Russia’s territorial ambitions vis a vis Crimea and its military support of Bashar Al Assad’s regime in Syria. Yet, the United States must cooperate and cooperates with Russia on several other fronts: counter-terrorism, nuclear nonproliferation, space exploration, counter-narcotics efforts, climate change, combating piracy, and scientific advancement—just to name a few. It would not be within the U.S’ best interest to simply abandon cooperation in these mutually beneficial areas due to Russia’s revanchist tendencies.

All this shows that a ‘flat’ word characterized by interdependence and interconnectedness ensures that regional challenges have international implications; the proliferation of global challenges that necessitate collective action demand a strategic emphasis on multilateral cooperation and international institutions. The greatest long term threats to global order all necessitate such internationally coordinated responses: climate change, global health crises, and nuclear proliferation. The international network of institutions and agreements that constitute the ‘international order’ all help to facilitate global cooperation through dialogue, reduced transaction costs, international norm creation, economies of scale, and massive efficiency gains. Thus, challenges to the international order must be met with appropriate resistance, yet the United States must cooperate with those same revisionist actors on matters of mutual interest. Truly, the greatest foreign policy challenge the United States faces is the question of structuring a grand strategy that considers these twin, perhaps antagonistic imperatives.

[1] http://thediplomat.com/2016/07/the-south-china-sea-is-really-a-fishery-dispute/

[2] http://blogs.wsj.com/briefly/2016/07/19/5-things-about-fishing-in-the-south-china-sea/