Tag Archives: Roy Moore

Moore’s the Pity

Roy Moore lost. But a tiny margin and there may be a recount but I suspect the result will stick. It was a nasty campaign but enough of the mud stuck that Republican voters stayed home. Turnout was low all round but the Democrats managed to get the black vote out in huge numbers and they were having none of Judge Moore (and really, who can blame them?). I suspect that had I been an Alabama voter I might well have stayed home simply because I find Moore’s socon message deeply unappealing.

Of course we will never hear from any of Moore’s teen dates again. They’ve served their purpose, why run the risk of exposure? And, with a little luck, we have heard the last of Roy Moore.

What we have not heard the last of is the Bannon insurgency. Bannon is a bright guy and he’ll learn from the Moore defeat. I am hoping he learns that to defeat a determined Democratic Party enemy you have to have a candidate with a few less negatives than Roy Moore. And you need a candidate entirely prepared to respond well to whatever dirty tricks the Democrats (or GOPe) come up with. Poor Moore was simply overwhelmed by the deeply deceitful attacks on his behaviour forty years ago.

The second thing Bannon needs to get right is the need to actually nominate candidates for whom the black vote is a locked box. There is a Trumpian message of jobs, jobs, jobs which will resonate in black communities if Bannonite candidates are willing to do the legwork to ensure it is heard.  The Democrats tend to see that vote as locked up with only the need to get the black voters to the polls. Bannon needs to hone a message which can reach black voters and break a few of them away from the Democratic plantation.

The third thing Bannon needs to do is understand that the media is the enemy and act accordingly. This is not about yelling “fake news” every ten minutes – the Donald has that covered – it is about providing a counter-narrative to the Democratic talking points so routinely parroted by MSM. But that counter-narrative cannot be the whole socon check list of guns and fetal rights (there is room for that but that is preaching to choir); instead the counter narrative needs to be about working Americans having a hard time because of the swamp creatures in Washington. Teddy Roosevelt got great mileage out of “the Square Deal” and his rather weak attempts to “trust bust”.

The Bannonites can put flesh on the Trumpian bones by taking a serious run at the Googles/Amazons/Apples as essentially monopolists of the internet. And they can take a solid run at illegal immigration as taking the jobs which ordinary Americans, and black and Hispanic Americans, need to get on the economic ladder.

Bannon sees his mission as economic nationalism. There was not a hint of this in Roy Moore’s campaign because, I suspect, it flew right over Moore’s head.

Right now Trump is presiding over a remarkable American recovery. He is winning on any number of fronts and this is likely to continue for some time. Surfing that wave Bannon needs to talk about ensuring that Americans gain the benefits they deserve from America’s economic resurgence.

Finally, Bannon needs to develop a deployable ground game. It does not need to be huge; but it needs to be effective and easy to roll out. Having a couple of hundred activists for each state Bannon wants to contest is an achievable goal and one which is a matter of networking and training. Putting together a mobile campaign school and hitting the key states where Bannon wants to target GOPe incumbents or candidates is a matter of a few million dollars and a bunch of organization.

Alabama was a closely fought battle narrowly lost by a man who, if elected, would have likely been more trouble than he was worth. The Bannonites likely learned a lot. And one of the things they learned is that the GOPe and the Democratic establishment will not let the swamp be drained without a fight. A nasty, street by street, fight.

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They’re all at it

My friend Phil wrote to ask what I thought of the current groping scandal engulfing his home state Senator Al Franken. Truth to tell, I don’t think much of any of the current groping/molestation/sexual assault/rape charges flying around. I would love to say that I was shocked and appalled, but I’m not. Not because non-consensual sexual activity is ever acceptable. It isn’t. Rather because, short of going full Mike Pence and never being alone with a woman who is not your wife, every man is open to the accusations and in the current climate of “I believe the woman” has no possible comeback. Worse, the “crime” has been defined down to such a degree that the British Minister of Defence felt compelled to resign over a “knee grazing” incident which a) happened inadvertently, b) did not outrage the owner of the knee in question, c) occurred fifteen years ago and went unremarked ever since.

Lots of pixels have been spilt making fine distinctions between assorted levels of groping, outright assault, feelings of discomfort and so on. Even more have died in trying to discern what level of historic evidence should be required before a man loses his career, is shunned by his colleagues and is replaced by Christopher Plummer.

Frankly, I think it is all a huge waste of time in almost every case. Sen. Franken was idiotic enough to have a picture snapped of his grope (which was not, by the way, the worst allegation made against him). In most of the other cases, the evidence is ten or twenty or even forty-year-old memories of encounters where drugs and drink were ubiquitous and modern standards of “sober, enthusiastic consent” were unknown. Of course, there were power imbalances; Monica did not arrive in the Oval with a penchant for cigars. And Bill was simply following in the footsteps of JFK and LBJ. Was he wrong? Of course, he was, so was Jack Kennedy getting blowjobs from 19-year-old interns. Harvey Weinstein, pig that he is, was in the tradition of Hollywood producers stretching back to silent films. (Kennedy’s father among them.) No one could possibly be surprised.

As to the furor surrounding Judge Moore, there is only one accusation which I consider disqualifying if true and that is the outlying charge that Moore took a 14-year-old girl back to his home and tried to become intimate with her. I say outlying because all the other initial instances were with girls old enough to consent and whose testimony suggested that Moore was pretty much a gent throughout. (And yes, there is lots creepy about a 32-year-old guy taking a 16-year-old girl out. But that, to my mind is not disqualifying if the behaviour has not continued.) [The woman with the yearbook – and Gloria Allred as her lawyer – is not plausible until she turns the yearbook over for handwriting analysis. Right now I suspect she is Moore’s best chance to discredit all the stories.] But the Moore matters all turn on evidence which is 30 or 40 years old and which has only come to light a month before a hotly contested election. He has a perfect right to push back.

And so it goes. Right this instant, as at the height of the Salem witch trials, a denunciation becomes a conviction in the flick of a tweet. Plausibility is now a matter of sheer numbers with 5 apparently being the magic number.  There is no defence and heartfelt contrition, as Sen.Franken is discovering, is not enough. The Salem witch trials burnt themselves out but not until 19 people had been hung and one “pressed” to death with heavy rocks. They ended for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons was that “spectral evidence”, essentially dreams and hallucinations, was no longer accepted at face value.

At a certain point, and I suspect we are getting close to that point, the rush to accuse men of sexually inappropriate (and what an awful word that is) behaviour on the basis of shaky, historical, evidence will collide with the entirely devastating consequences for the men so accused. Sheep will be sorted from goats. Rapists like Clinton or Weinstein will, finally, be flung into outer darkness. So, I am afraid, will goofs like Al Franken who are dumb enough to have incriminating photos floating around. But the evidentiary standard is going to tighten as well. Dim chanting of “I believe the woman.” will be replaced with, “No ruin without evidence.”

But there are a few things we can learn from the current hysteria. First, very powerful men take advantage of that power. This is a reminder, not news. A nodding acquaintance with Roman history, or British or French monarchs, or the biography of Lloyd George or Asquith for that matter, not to mention Kissinger’s aphorism that “power is the ultimate aphrodisiac” will serve to confirm this fact. Reading Keith Richard’s wonderful autobiography, Life, will serve to confirm this in another sphere.

Second, power is situational. The VP marketing for a tiny company may be in a position of relative power vis a vis his staff and the vendors who want to sell to that company. It is a pretty sure thing that if you looked at the conduct of 100 such VPs you’d find a few, perhaps more than a few, who after a few drinks got very handsy indeed.

Third, none of this is a secret. We all knew. We all know. And “we” in this case includes women as well as men. Which is why I am not shocked nor, realistically, should anyone be who has spent time in the business, entertainment or political worlds. In fact, just day to day life will throw up instances of men using position to “get at” women. It is wrong and disgusting but it is also the way of the world and knowing that is part of growing up.

Optimistically, it is possible that the current generation of men, as they enter adulthood will have absorbed more egalitarian principles. But I doubt it. Against all the schoolmarm indoctrination about “appropriate” behaviour and “sober, enthusiastic, consent”, are ranged the full impacts of internet porn, hip-hop culture and a thoroughly sexualized media and advertising industry. Worse, the feminist doctrines of female sexual emancipation have created a Tinder culture where women are just as likely as men to swipe right and hook up. Obviously not every woman is on the hunt, but enough are to complicate things.

Even more complicating is the fact women have been known to use their beauty to get ahead.  The wonderful, and very beautiful, Nancy Huston writes,

“My beauty has gotten me many places, to some of which I very badly wanted to go, and to some of which I did not want to go at all. Over the years, I’ve watched it attack and corrode borders, then take me with it into foreign territories. Borders are ideas erected between age groups, social classes, all sorts of hierarchical entities, in order that society may function as predictably and as decently as possible. They are not solid brick walls. Beauty eats them away. This is the truth; we’ve all seen it happen, though it happens differently in different places” Dealing with What’s Dealt (excerpt)

While I am quite certain the current mania will pass, the underlying issues of sexuality, consent and power are not being addressed. Nor do I think they will be. Like a lot of other human behaviour, it is pretty much impossible to come up with top down rules governing sexually charged behaviour between adults. I suppose a company might make it a firing offence to be alone with a member of the opposite (or same, because, gay) sex. But I can’t see that working very well and, fairly quickly, it would be routinely ignored. And would a rule against older men dating younger women get off the ground? Should we go back to the days of chaperones? (Which, in the current climate, maybe an emerging Hollywood profession.)  I don’t think any set of rules dealing with sexuality will work.

A more promising avenue is an ethical philosophical commitment to treating all people as ends in themselves. Whether it is sex or business or school gate acquaintanceship,  it makes sense to treat people with kindness and respect rather than as mere instruments. This sort of approach would take a long time to gain traction but, in the long run, solves a lot more problems than just sexual misbehaviour. It is more than a little utopian but it is something you can teach your children right now. It is also something which HR departments, schools and universities,  can use in place of the brain dead “zero tolerance” dogma which gets in the way of a healthy business or learning environment. Best of all, it provides a framework for conduct and a scaffold for dealing with misconduct. It recognizes that “all or nothing” is an entirely inhuman way of understanding human behaviour.

A commitment to treating people as ends in themselves would also provide a means for individuals to redeem behaviour which fell beneath that standard. Instead of mouthing platitudes, Sen. Franken, possibly with the help of an applied ethicist, could set about making amends to the woman (well, women, it appears) he groped and, in the process, actually set his sights higher. Even criminal acts, such as Clinton’s or Weinstein’s rapes, while attracting criminal sanction, could also involve making amends.

I am deeply skeptical about the efficacy of any top down “rules” for behaviour; but I am deeply optimistic that men and women can learn simple, universally applicable, ethical principles and apply them in day to day life. We may not always meet those ethical goals, but having them at all is a good first step.

 

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Bannon 1, GOPe -5

Judge Roy Moore is about the last person I would want to see in the US Senate. But, and here’s the thing, he has the right friends and, more importantly, the right enemies. He thrashed swamp creature Luther Strange in the Republican runoff primary tonight.

No doubt he will bring his God-fearing, fundamentalist, Christian principles to Washington and enjoy a richly deserved obscurity in a back corner of the Senate. All of which does not matter.

The fight here is against “business as usual” in Washington and a win for McConnell backed Strange would have been all about continuing the dysfunction which is Washington politics.

Steve Bannon understood that and went all in for Moore simply for the message it would carry.

The message was received loud and clear by Tennessee Senator Bob Corker who announced he was not running again in 2018. As a RINO, Corker was pretty certain to be primaried. So he quit. A number of other quasi Republicans are expected to do much the same thing in the next few weeks.

The Moore win, in the face of a 30 million dollar campaign and the lukewarm endorsement of Strange by Trump (apparently under pressure from the useless GOPe), has made Bannon and Brietbart the single most imposing political machine in the US. It is dedicated to Trump but the old Trump, not the shiny new, Democrat-leaning, confection of the generals and the Kushners.

Now, from what I can see, Trump hates losing. He hates making mistakes. Supporting Strange for a handful of McConnell’s magic beans was a mistake. But, and here is the thing, Bannon is smart enough to let Trump climb down with Grace. However, Bannon is not going to stop in Alabama or Tennessee. Leaving out Tennessee, there are seven Republican seats in play. Several RINOs need ejection.

At a guess, we have seen the last time Trump is going to intervene in a primary fight where Bannon has a preferred candidate. It didn’t work this time and there is no reason to believe it will work in other races. Which leaves the table open for Bannon to run against GOPe wherever they pop up. Flake in Arizona is the obvious target, but there are several others.

Bannon has Mercer money, lots of it, available for the right fights. He has Breitbart. He has an all-star cast of deplorables from Sarah Palin to Phil Robertson to Nigel Farage (which I think is hysterical). He has an agenda which actually contains policy. Most of all he has the fact that the Senate and House Republicans can’t seem to get anything done even with a sitting President.

As Trump’s adventures in football are demonstrating, Trump knows how to keep his base onside; but Trump without Bannon is an empty suit. Fortunately, Bannon is well aware of this and is taking full advantage. The Generals and the GOPe leadership may think they have the Donald in harness but they couldn’t deliver in Alabama and it is unlikely Trump will risk another humiliation at the hand of his biggest, and smartest supporter.

Some whacko Alabama judge won a runoff election tonight, Steve Bannon gained control of the electoral fortunes of the entire Republican Party. Bannon was wasted inside the White House. It was like asking Captain Kidd to command a Royal Navy Man ‘o War, he could do the job but never be comfortable in the position. Now Bannon is loose.

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