This hashtag started trending on Twitter after Hillary Clinton’s speech about the Alt-Right movement. As some readers may remember, I’ve had lively debates with some Alt-Right writers in the past, so I was interested to see that the existence of this ideology is seemingly news to many people.
I started thinking about how I’d concisely describe the Alt-Right. The best I could come up with was “unabashed nationalism”, but that seems inadequate.
After thinking about it a bit more, I settled on this definition:
The Traditional Right got outraged about movies that they believed blasphemed against the Bible, like The Last Temptation of Christ and The Life of Brian. The Alternative Right gets outraged about a movie that they believe blasphemed against Ghostbusters.
It’s a rather awkward definition, but very revealing, in my opinion.
Well, Mr. Trump–and/or your advisors–if you’re reading this, and have now learned to follow my advice, I suggest you do the following things:
- Apologize specifically for your many past disgraceful words and deeds towards women, and never say or do such things again.
- Read David Ricardo to get some idea how International Trade works.
- Also read John Maynard Keynes to get some idea how macroeconomics works.
- In general, adopt a more cooperative tone–win or lose, it would be better if the country is not at war with itself when the election is over.
- Make a sizable donation from your own personal wealth to domestic violence shelters or other organizations that help women who have been victims of violence.
- Use your Twitter account only to post links to press releases and videos–not to insult random people.
- Quit constantly getting into fights with the Press. A Free Press is vital to the functioning of our Republic, and thus you should welcome their tough questions.
- Promise to reform and improve America’s Educational system, so that the next generation of young people can be competitive. As a first step in this direction, quit speaking in slang and improper English, and remove all vulgarity from your language while you are seeking public office.
- You have spoken in the past about the importance of hiring “the best people” away from the competition. Immigration can be used much the same way for a Nation–and indeed it has been throughout our great Country’s past. Remember that, and change your proposed policies accordingly.
I know what you are thinking, Mr. Trump. (If you’re reading this) You’re thinking: If I do all that, will I win?
I can’t say. But if you do it, you will at least be able to say you comported yourself honorably and intelligently in the last few months of the campaign. And if candidates for public office conduct themselves honorably and intelligently, it improves the quality of our political discourse generally. And if that happens, it will certainly help to make America even greater than it already is.
And that’s really what you want, isn’t it, Mr. Trump?
Ok, so the title may not be specific enough. Trump seems to have many problems. But I’m not addressing his financial, social, physical, intellectual, moral or psychological problems. Lots of people have run successful political campaigns despite having those. I’m talking about his strategic problem that’s hampering his quest for the Presidency.
Trump’s strategic problem is that he can’t adapt. He is a one-trick pony who has used his trick to the limit of its potential and now does not know what to do on finding it no longer works.
In the primaries, Trump employed an aggressive, brash style to get attention for himself and to mock his competitors. It worked very well. I won’t lie; I thought it was very entertaining to see him relentlessly mock the career politicians. They had never seen anything like it, and were unprepared for it.
The problem is, people have now gotten tired of the insult-comedy routine. It was funny for a while, but eventually wears out its welcome. Add to this that the general electorate is less receptive to such an aggressive style than Republican primary voters, and it becomes clear Trump needs a new strategy.
The standard political hack term for this is “pivoting to the general election”, which is a nice way of saying: “tell the primary voters one thing, then tell general election voters something else.” Or lie, to put it simply.
Mitt Romney provided the textbook example of this in 2012. He said all sorts of Conservative-sounding stuff in the Primaries, then took it all back and came out with new, more liberal policies in the General election. It all seemed strategically sound in theory, and I think most strategists would say it was very well done, except for the bit where Romney lost the election.
As you can perhaps tell, I do not like the “pivot to the general election” concept. It seems to show contempt for voters. It is effectively saying “Ha! Those stupid voters will forget what we promised earlier this year, and believe the new, contradictory set of things we are promising now.” I like candidates who seem a bit more principled.
Trump is definitely not pivoting, but he is also not standing on principle. He is just continuing to fight and insult people. And people are tired of it. They want to see that he is capable of doing something else, at least once.
The funny thing is, his biggest error may also have been his greatest opportunity to do this–but he missed it.
After he started his absurd argument with the Khan family, Trump could have surprised everyone by apologizing to them profusely. If he had done that, completely and unreservedly, people might have said “Wow! Trump actually can admit when he’s wrong!” and it might have come out being a positive for him.
But Trump couldn’t do that. Whether because he has some personality disorder that prevents him from ever admitting he’s wrong or just because he thought “My ‘Always Attack/Never Apologize’ strategy got me this far, I won’t drop it now”, Trump failed to do the right thing because he can’t do anything other than attack people.
In general, I try not to use sports analogies when discussing politics, because sports are zero-sum games, and politics has more dimensions to it than that. But in this case, there is a fairly apt analogy with American football.
Teams with great offenses that can “throw the ball all over the field” and score tons of points will go on record-setting streaks and look almost unbeatable playing teams with bad to mediocre pass defenses. Then they finally have a game when the quarterback and/or receivers timing is off, or the opposing pass defense is giving them a hard time, and they have nothing else they can do. They fall apart.
Trump is like that. He won the primaries with an aggressive, angry style against weak opponents, but now that he is in a contest where people want to see empathy and humility, he can’t adjust and do it.
All right, so maybe I did end up analyzing his psychological problems a little, after all. It’s kind of unavoidable.
So, time to lay my cards on the table and confess what was truth and what was not in this post.
- B is the lie. I can speak a little German, but not fluently. I do have a degree in Economics, and I have edited papers published in academic journals.
- B is the lie. I wish it weren’t. I figured most people would know that a horror writer probably would hang out in cemeteries; so this was probably the easiest one to guess. I did catch a pass from an NFL quarterback. I was 14 years old and he was visiting a football camp I was in.
- C is the lie. I hate gardening, and can’t paint at all. Amazingly, for as much as I write about them, I have never seen a Savoy Opera performed live. Really a shame. My nickname was “Tank”, because I was big but slow.
- C is the lie. I dress as all kinds of weird stuff–never the same thing twice! Yes, for as much as I criticize them, and despite the fact I’ve never voted for one at the Federal level, I’m actually registered as a Republican. It was just what you did in my small town. I never bothered to change it. It does mean I get some hilarious mailings in election years. I also never learned to type or write cursive. Pathetic for a writer, isn’t it?
- A is the lie. I’m a lifelong vegetarian and teetotaler. Boring, huh? And yes, my personality did change after I fell out of a building. It wasn’t a head injury, though–it was just that I realized I needed to appreciate life more.
This game was a lot of fun. Thanks to Barb Knowles of Saneteachers for nominating me for it. I just wish I could have done better on guessing her lies!
Wins the division
With no Tom Brady
Garoppolo will be good–
But defense will not.
Taylor and Watkins
Need to prove if they’re for real
Or it’s “Goodbye Rex”
Fitzpatrick is back,
But he’s still not the answer–
Can’t make the playoffs.
Flacco will surprise–
(I know, I said that before)
This time in good way.
Sure, they’re talented–
But injuries, suspensions
Mar their playoff hopes.
Lack of discipline
Showed in last year’s playoff game
Same story each year–
Like the chimera, Griffin
Can’t be believed in.
Luck will bounce right back–
Better for having struggled–
And win Super Bowl
Old order changeth:
They now warrant some respect–
But still no playoffs.
The next “game changing” QB
Who crashes and burns.
The Wizard of Oz?
“D” made Osweiler look good.
Pay no attention.
Sanchez of ’09
Paired up with that strong defense
Would have been scary.
Not as bad as they
Looked last year, but they are still
Far from being good.
But Denver’s dangerous “D”
Keeps a lid on them.
Solid, but boring,
It’s always the same story–
Reid is good, not great.
“Captain” Kirk Cousins
Boldly goes where they’ve not gone
In years: Super Bowl.
Eli will be good,
And a strong passing offense
Makes them wild card.
If they stay healthy,
They’re best in their division.
Too big of an “if”.
After failed experiment.
Reid looks good now, huh?
Fox’s teams do well
In his second year with them.
They make the playoffs.
They come back even better.
But Peterson’s done.
They are a strong team—
But their luck has to run out,
And this is the year.
No Calvin Johnson
Will mean no identity–
It will be ugly.
Newton will regress;
But still will be good enough
To win division.
Brees is getting old.
Can’t sustain their old style–
Will need to rebuild.
Is Matt Ryan good
Or a glorified Stafford?
It is hard to say.
Winston has been good;
But they seem too pass-happy
To be complete team.
Wilson is awesome.
May be league’s most balanced team–
But lose title game.
Kelly’s second chance
Works out for them and for him–
“Kap”, Hyde run wild.
Move back to LA
Makes them seem glamorous till
Fans see their offense.
Palmer, Fitz are old–
Without a solid QB
Offense falls apart.
Loyal reader and all-around cool person Barb Knowles of saneteachers challenged me to a game in which I reveal 2 truths and 1 lie, five times.
It works like this: I will list 2 truths and one lie about myself–then you guess in the comments which one is the lie in each set. I love unreliable narrators, so this should be fun.
Barb also said she expects my answers to be very dark, which is the greatest compliment a horror writer can get.
a. I have a degree in Economics
b. I speak German fluently
c. I have edited papers published in academic journals.
a. I once sat in an old cemetery at midnight on Halloween looking for ghosts.
b. I am a trained helicopter pilot
c. I once caught a football from an NFL quarterback
a. My nickname when I played youth sports was “Tank”
b. I have never seen a live performance of any Gilbert and Sullivan opera
c. Apart from writing, my other hobbies are painting and gardening.
a. I am a registered Republican
b. I can neither touch-type nor write in cursive
c. Every year, I dress as the Devil for Halloween parties
a. My favorite pizza topping is pepperoni
b. I am a life-long teetotaler
c. My personality changed drastically one day after I was injured falling out of a building.
Enjoy! Put the number and letter of each statement that you think is the lie in the comments. I’ll post answers… sometime. Once I get enough comments that it’s fun.
Now, the last part of the challenge other people. The difficulty is that the two bloggers I know best, Thingy and P.M. Prescott, are on hiatus and semi-retired from blogging, respectively. So, they probably can’t do it. But on the chance that they do, I would love to see how they handle this challenge.
A couple of weeks ago, Andrew Crowther, the secretary of the W.S. Gilbert society, tweeted:
My initial reaction was that the reason for this was that Gilbert’s works are inaccessible to modern readers because he was sometimes a bit of chauvinist, and most publishers aren’t keen to push the works of another straight, white, male Victorian writer. Modern readers are looking for more diversity.
I was about to say this, but then I realized it wasn’t true–and my own literary interests showed why. (You can see my whole exchange with Mr. Crowther here.)
Specifically, I thought of H.P. Lovecraft, the early 1900s horror writer, whose influence on modern horror seems to be ever-increasing. His ideas creep into films like Alien and The Thing, his famous monster Cthulhu is the shorthand for Ultimate Evil in some parts of the internet, and there is an entire genre of horror named after him. Only yesterday I wrote a review of a horror novel clearly influenced by him.
And Lovecraft is way, way less accessible to the modern reader than Gilbert. Gilbert, as I said, was a bit of a chauvinist. Lovecraft openly sympathized with the Nazis. His letters, while in other respects brilliant and insightful, show a man prone to almost genocidal racial screeds, and his books often contain appalling racist diatribes and descriptions.
Everyone who reads and enjoys Lovecraft’s work ultimately has to grapple with this undercurrent of White Supremacist venom that runs through it. (For the record, here’s where I did it.)
So, if a racist Nazi sympathizer can have such an influence over modern writers, why can’t a lovable old Victorian dramatist have the same?
The answer is that Gilbert’s main claim to fame are the comic operas he wrote with Arthur Sullivan, and comic opera is out of fashion. In fact, not only is comic opera out of fashion, but the form of musical theater that evolved when it fell out of fashion is also out fashion.
Gilbert’s other famous work, the Bab Ballads, are witty, short poems in a style that is, once again, out of fashion.
Thinking about the Lovecraft v. Gilbert issue was what really brought home to me how out of fashion metered, rhyming poetry is. Because Lovecraft also wrote poetry, and yet, for all his influence, his poems don’t seem to get reprinted nearly as much as his short stories and novellas.
I have a collection that purports to be “The Best of H.P. Lovecraft” in front of me. It contains mediocre tales like “Pickman’s Model” and “In The Vault” , but not his great poem “Nemesis”. If Lovecraft had only written horror poetry, probably he would not have one-tenth the influence he does.
So, why did poetry fall out of fashion? I have no clue. It’s easy to memorize (that’s part of the point) and tends to be shorter than the sprawling novels that students in schools get assigned. And yet, poetry–or at least, rhyming and metrical poetry that adheres to rhyme schemes and other rules, is distinctly out of fashion.
(As an end note/bit of self-promotion: for those readers who like both Gilbert and Lovecraft, I once wrote a short horror story entitled “The Revival”, very much in the Lovecraftian vein set around an amateur production of Ruddigore.)