January 21, 2016

Hyper-competitiveness keeps elites from uniting against common enemies like Trump / Sanders

One major irony of our status-striving era is that the hyper-competitiveness of career strivers leaves them vulnerable to being conquered by those who are group-oriented rather than worshipers of individual ambition.

Quite simply, the strivers' overweening ambition prevents all of them from joining any other one of their fellow individualists who's come under attack by the group-oriented team. That would expose them to unknown risks -- catching collateral damage, getting caught in the crossfire, and so on -- with zero payoff to themselves, and a positive payoff to the fellow striver they helped out.

If their goal were to enhance the well-being of some greater group that they and the target belonged to, perhaps they'd make an individual sacrifice for the group. But if they're only looking out for #1, then no sacrifices will be made on behalf of others, even when under attack by a common enemy. "No, YOU take the enemy out."

It turns out that once the movement against unchecked individual ambition gets going -- which may take some time after the initial revolution of laissez-faire norms -- it does not even need to bother with the strategy of "divide and conquer". Pure individualists are already divided among themselves, and if the group-oriented team has gained enough solidarity, it is simple to conquer them.

We're seeing this most spectacularly among the Republicans, whose Establishment figures have been trying to figure out how to kick Trump out of the race by any means necessary. It's really simple, though -- order all but the most promising non-Trump candidate to fall on their swords, and suddenly there's a non-Trump candidate who's polling within the neighborhood of Trump himself. But that assumes that there is enough group-orientation among those Republicans, and enough willingness to sacrifice the individual for the Party.

The fact that only a few zero-percenters have dropped out, while guaranteed failures like Bush, Christie, Kasich, etc. are still in it to win it, proves how little today's career strivers are willing to jump on the grenade to save the platoon.

As it stands, Trump is dominating all of them, with over 30% to their 10-15% at the highest, and towards 1% at the lowest. This will lead at worst to a battle at the convention if he doesn't get a majority during the first ballot, and at best to a flawless victory.

On the Democrats' side, the principle is not shown in the fighting among the candidates. The former mayor of Baltimore is a non-entity. Sanders is doing pretty well, but he's not an Establishment figure driven by overweening ambition -- if anything he has demurred from going for the jugular about Hillary's endangering of national security by hosting the most secret intelligence on an insecure personal email server.

Rather, what is throwing real sand into the gears for the presumed heir is the current Democrat administration, who got into a big conflict with the Clinton camp during the 2008 season. They still don't care for each other.

They keep looking into how much sensitive material she had on that email server that foreign spies have almost certainly hacked into, and they haven't ruled out a criminal indictment. Those Establishment members are either under Obama's influence, or their own semi-autonomous lead bureaucrat's influence -- not Hillary Clinton herself, who is no longer Secretary of State.

It's no secret that the Obama camp and the Clinton camp hate each other, and here we see how mutual antagonism may sabotage any effort by the DNC to keep things running smoothly for Hillary. Obama lets the investigation proceed, Hillary threatens to pull strings to get back at the Obamas, or at the agency doing the investigating and leaking of info to the press, these targets of Hillary resent being hit back against and probe even more seriously into her criminal activity, and being an inveterate sociopath she cannot help but threaten and push back -- ultimately resulting in being indicted for compromising national security, and she's yanked out of the Presidential race.

There would be no enthusiasm for any Establishment stiff who they would try to replace her with -- Biden, whoever -- so Sanders could coast into the nomination.*

The fact that the Obama people have refused to squash the investigation / possible indictment against Hillary reveals how little solidarity there is among the Democrats, even as they face their greatest schlonging in electoral history.

Nor is she willing to bow out for the good of the Party, in the way that the sitting President Johnson was ordered not to run for re-election in 1968, on account of his policies destabilizing the social order, angering the elites who feared that business would no longer be running as usual if the President kept antagonizing everybody over his Great Society and Vietnam War programs. And since that was back during the Great Compression, before the Me Generation revolution of the 1970s, Johnson in fact withdrew from his re-election campaign in early 1968.

Only a generation later, so much had changed, and President Bush could not bring himself to withdraw from re-election, no matter how lame and frustrating his first four years had been, no matter how charismatic and popular the Democrat was -- requiring a Republican who could have out-Willied Willy -- and no matter how much of his thunder was stolen by Perot.

There's no honor among thieves, whether they've set up camp in the Democrat or Republican party. Provided that a movement of enforcers can band together against them, they will be driven and scattered to little fanfare. During a period of such hyper-competitive careerism, internecine status-jockeying among the thieves means that "divide and conquer" will have the important first half of the solution already taken care of.

* Not that he'd win the general against Trump -- no more so than William Jennings Bryan won against McKinley two times, and against Taft a third time. Remember that the nearest previous realignment seems to have been the 1896 election, with McKinley leading the Republicans out of the laissez-faire Gilded Age and into the Progressive era of pro-tariff economic nationalism.


  1. President Bush could not bring himself to withdraw from re-election, no matter how lame and frustrating his first four years had been, no matter how charismatic and popular the Democrat was -- requiring a Republican who could have out-Willied Willy -- and no matter how much of his thunder was stolen by Perot.

    Except . . . who was the alternative? Other that Bush and Clinton, the three most visible politicians in 1992 were Perot, Buchanan, and Quayle. The first two were far scarier to the establishment than Clinton, while Quayle was, if anything, politically weaker by 1992 than Bush himself. So it's not obvious to me in favor of whom Bush would bow out.

  2. When Johnson bowed out, it wasn't clear who was going to take his place -- turned out to be his VP Humphrey (from the New Deal wing in the party), but it could have been Bobby Kennedy (the old immigrant / diversity wing, who got assassinated during his surge in the primaries), or even Eugene McCarthy (the anti-war wing).

    The point was: Johnson must go, and then let the delegates / primary voters sort out who's going to take his place.

    With Bush Sr., Quayle could have run -- he only appeared weak because he didn't run and get his own chance to get in the spotlight, since Bush was still running for re-election. And believe me, no Republican voters would've cared about misspelling "potato" when they're facing the prospect of a Democrat in the White House.

    Remember that Humphrey was hardly a popular or strong candidate, and was associated with the reviled sitting President. Yet he still got the nom and nearly tied Nixon in the popular vote, although he got creamed in the electoral vote.

    Maybe Humphrey wouldn't win (he didn't), but the Democrats could afford to write off one or two losses, if the alternative was immediately blowing up the Party by letting Johnson run again.

    Same with Quayle -- maybe he wouldn't win, but running Bush again was just asking for it. True the Cold War ended under him, and the Gulf War came and went, but domestically it was a disaster -- the early '90s recession, the prospect of NAFTA sucking all our jobs out into Mexico, and Rodney King / L.A. riots kicking off a fresh wave of racial conflict.

    And if you thought "potatoe" was a gaffe, how about "Read my lips: no new taxes"? Even the "boo taxes" wing of the Republican electorate couldn't forgive him for that. They kept hammering him about it.

    He wasn't likable, had served in Texas but still had his native New England accent, as well as the stumbling-and-fumbling speech pathology that runs in the Bush family.

    Point is: he should have bowed out, and let delegates / primary voters figure out who to run instead. But now in the me-first status-striving era, the unpopular sitting President refused to risk the continuation of his own clan's dynasty, and went full steam ahead.

  3. Another major factor that should have put Quayle in place of Bush in '92 was the changing generational demographics. It was the first election driven almost entirely by the Boomers.

    Bush was from the Greatest Gen, who produced many Presidents, but who were a little long in the tooth by '92. A huge part of Clinton's popularity was that he was the standard-bearer of liberal Boomers, not the somewhat older-school and dorkier Silents (Mondale, Dukakis).

    Quayle, on the other hand, was born in '47 -- within one year of Clinton, Gore, Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, and Mitt Romney, who would influence the elections of the next 20-odd years.

    Quayle's "Murphy Brown speech" blaming violence and social unrest on the decay of family values and traditional morality anticipated the Gingrich revolution of only a few years later, and Bush Jr.'s compassionate conservatism. It was catnip for the cuckservative Boomers who were re-shaping the Republican Party at the time.

    And Bush Sr. could not have attacked Clinton's sexual deviance as forcefully as Quayle could have, not out of hypocrisy, but simply because the Greatest Gen considered that more of a private matter, while for the Boomers "the personal is political," and the Boomer Republicans did not hold back in the '90s about Bill's deviance -- even now, he's receiving his hardest clobbering from a fellow Boomer, Donald Trump.

    When you look at how Quayle fit into the broader context at the time, he would've held his own against Clinton. But we didn't get to find out because Bush put his own clan's dynastic ambitions above the well-being of the Party and the nation, who instead of Quayle got eight years of Slick Willy.

  4. BTW, Trump was considering some kind of Republican run back in '88, and had nice words for Quayle.

    Just think, if it weren't for the over-riding importance of the Bush Dynasty, we could have been sporting bumper-stickers that said "Quayle / Trump '92".

    But better late than never, Trump's already sawed off the last remaining branch of the Bush clan. And Jeb's beaner son who has mad gayface has zero chance of becoming anything in the neo-nationalist America of the coming decades.

  5. I am assuming Obama wants a Democrat successor. Many on the left think Bernie has zero chance in a general election so trashing Hillary doesn't seem like a smart move. Why did Hillary have her own server? I thought that she was afraid of some low level conservative guy reading her emails and giving ammo to the vast right wing conspiracy. Was her concern that Obama would be reading her emails and trying to detect any signs of disloyalty? Taking the Secretary of State position was a disaster for her. Hillary may think she can actually win this thing and she is almost certainly, the only nominee who can play the women card. If she avoids jail, she has a decent hand to play.
    Lastly, the economy was bad in 1992 but Bush in the spring of that year could have believed that things were turning around and the voters would be able to feel it by November. Too little too late but it wasn't obvious in March or April when he would have to exit the stage.

  6. To add to your point, surely some of those Republicans are only in it to raise their profiles for something lucrative down the road: books; speaking circuit; cabinet; veep; etc.

    Something else interesting is the difference between *the voting coalitions*. We started out with, what, 16 candidates, roughly divided down the middle between Libertarians and Conservatives, I think? But our side's voters rejected the siren song of "following our hearts" (I've had "the talk" with members of my own family about this as I'm sure many of us here have).

    The libertarian voters, not so much. Like us, they had many to choose from, but unlike us, they're divided.

    It could be a testament to Donald Trump, surely partly, but I believe our side is simply more group-minded this time around. Further, candidates tend to have a "sense" for where the voters are and decide whether to jump in or not on the all-important question of, "Do I have a chance?"

  7. Hillary can no longer play the "women card". It was stolen when she tried the "bring your husband to work" thing and Trump called Bill a degenerate.

    1. Imagine if Romney had ran against Hillary. She would've called him a sexist right and left and he would've stayed silent. Trump knocked that card right out of her hand before the election year even began.


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