Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The most dangerous hobby

The rise of the Donald has got the Left scratching their heads. They need some explanation that will save them from admitting that a lot of what he says is right.  Out of that has come the essay below by academic Eitan D. Hersh.  He provides the explanation that Trump supporters are "hobbyists".

I think Hersh does have a point in general and I think that "hobbyism" may well be part of the explanation for Trump support -- but I see the enthusiasm for Trump as too great to be explained fully that way.  I think a lot of Americans really are fed up with a GOP that repeatedly kow-tows to Leftist thinking, with all its double standards and lack of reality contact.

The way both sides of politics describe Islam as a "religion of peace" is truly astonishing.  What do Muslims have to do in the name of their religion for it to be described as a religion of hate? And The Donald is the only one who has said anything negative about Muslims.

But I do think that the Obamamania of 2008 was a prize example of the "hobbyism" that Hersh describes

Something troubling has emerged on the American scene: Political activity has become a hobby. Voting, petitioning, partisan cheering, donating, watching infotainment news: The chief purpose for participating in politics seems to be self-gratification.

We are accustomed to thinking about participation in politics as motivated by civic duty or self-interest, not gratification. That has changed due to a combination of factors related to the nature of free time, the openness of the political process to mass participation, and a recent period of relative peace.

For Americans who are far enough removed from military service, economic hardship, and discrimination, political stakes can seem pretty low, especially in the quarter-century since the end of the Cold War when foreign threats seem less immediate. And so politics has become an erudite way to spend leisure time. But unlike softball or beekeeping, the stakes are actually high.

Donald Trump’s surprising rise sheds light on the perils of political hobbyism. It is clear that far too many people have been treating a high-stakes affair like a low-stakes one. That’s why they never saw Trump coming. When politics is treated like an unserious game, unserious candidates emerge.

TO UNDERSTAND POLITICAL hobbyism, consider three important forms of political participation: campaign contributing, activism, and voting. Today, all three activities are dominated by hobbyists.

Wealthy donors are pouring money into politics. Why? Our reflexive answer is so they can get something in return, like tax breaks or government contracts. But when political scientists study campaign finance, they mostly do not see self-interested donors. Most donations come from individuals, not corporate PACs. Most of these individuals (97 percent) give to only one party, which is not a savvy investment model for self-serving contributors. And donation patterns suggest that donors are less motivated by ideology than by pure partisanship.

So what are donors buying? Not policy, but time with their celebrity crushes. Donors want to attend cocktail parties, pose in photographs, and golf with candidates. They want to socialize with other donors. They want the candidates to solicit their advice. They want to be friends with their favored politicians.

Would a wealthy person really contribute thousands of dollars just for self-gratification? Yes, actually, the rich spend money to gratify themselves in ways that seem unfathomable to the rest of us. Politics is just one of those ways.

Here’s an example: Journalist Matea Gold recently noticed that wealthy donors have been traveling around the country to attend the presidential debates in person. The political parties were saving them seats. Why are donors traveling to watch the debates live? Because they are groupies. Republican donor Foster Friess told Gold, “It’s the same thing as going to a football game. If you’re in the crowd, you can hear the cheers, unfiltered by microphones. The chemistry is so much more exciting.’’ For the avid and wealthy hobbyist, a few thousand dollars is a small price to pay for a good show.

NEXT, CONSIDER ACTIVISM, a form of participation open to nonwealthy hobbyists. When a presidential campaign season is in high gear, millions of people engage. During the 2008 presidential contest, for instance, more than 13 million Obama supporters provided the campaign with their e-mail addresses, more than 3 million donated, and more than 2 million volunteered.

Obama’s campaign organization hoped it could channel this grass-roots energy into policy advocacy. Thus, the campaign morphed into Organizing for America, a group positioned to push the administration’s policy agenda through grass-roots mobilization.

It didn’t work.

The problem is that policy advocacy is much less fun than campaigning. Campaigning involves competition. Policy involves compromise.

In 2009, when Organizing for America began mobilizing support for its first big issue, the Affordable Care Act, only a fraction of campaign supporters took action. The organization tried to get supporters to town hall meetings where conservatives were a dominant presence. But the millions of campaign enthusiasts largely disengaged, even in the first year of Obama’s administration and even on his signature issue.

The demise of Organizing for America (and its reboot after the 2012 election, Organizing for Action) is hardly surprising. For most hobbyists, governing is simply less gratifying than campaigning. Measured by Google searches, almost nobody is interested in “Organizing for America’’ or “Organizing for Action” anymore, and they haven’t been for a while. Organizing for Obama? Fun. Organizing for Action? Meh.

Consider another example of hobbyist activism: online petitions, like those sent to the White House. Over 1,800 petitions (signed by 13 million individuals) were submitted in the first 20 months of the White House’s online petition program, which launched in 2011. Only 5 percent of these petitions addressed issues like health care, public education, taxation, paid parental leave — big issues that social scientists call redistributive. Most petitions either focused on minor issues (Recognize diaphragmatic hernia awareness day!) or addressed broad issues that were not directly related to economic well-being. Even when liberal groups like MoveOn.org and CREDO solicit petitions from their progressive base, economic issues are not particularly popular among petitioners. The most popular political petition that CREDO has ever circulated demanded funding for NPR.

Despite their enormous potential, online petitions are primarily tools for hobbyists. To hobbyists, large-scale economic issues are complicated and tiresome. And, frankly, these issues may not be a priority for hobbyists, whose lives are reasonably comfortable. They’d rather focus on issues that are gratifying and simple, or else just wait for the next exhilarating campaign season to begin.....

For citizens who are socially and financially comfortable, the risks seem low. They have a safety net. They do not fear military conscription. Their lives are stable. And so they do not approach politics with the solemnity appropriate for a high-stakes undertaking. Acting as if the stakes are low when they are high can be exceedingly dangerous.



The Nihilism of Sanctuary Cities


There are an estimated 300 or so jurisdictions -- entire states, counties, cities, and municipalities -- that since the early 1980s have enacted “sanctuary city” laws, forbidding full enforcement of federal immigration law within their jurisdictions.

Most of these entities are controlled by Democrats in general and liberals in particular. Sanctuary officials feel that federal enforcement of the southern border is either unnecessary or immoral, and thus they have decided that there is no real crime in entering and residing in the United States unlawfully. While the majority of illegal aliens are no doubt law-abiding and have avoided public dependence, the pool of unlawful immigrants is so large at over 11 million that even small percentages of lawbreakers can translate into hundreds of thousands of criminal aliens.

The liberal Migration Policy Institute conceded that there are over 800,000 illegal aliens with criminal records, nearly 700,000 of them with felony arrest records.

Those numbers, of course, reflect only those who have been arrested and faced trial, not the unknown number who have committed crimes without being apprehended or charged. In some sanctuary cities, lawlessness among undocumented immigrants has reached epidemic proportions.

Sanctuary cities are on record as having released over 10,000 known criminal aliens into the general population whom Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were attempting to deport. In addition, hundreds of thousands of criminals are currently protected from deportation as they await trials and sentences. Among them, most infamously, is Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a seven-time convicted felon and five-time deported illegal alien who was not turned over to ICE by the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department that held him in custody on a drug charge. He was instead released just weeks before he murdered Kate Steinle.

The apparent principle of sanctuary cities is akin to roulette. The odds suggest that most illegal aliens detained by officials are not career felons and thus supposedly need not be turned over to ICE for deportation. On the chance that some of their 10,000 released criminals will go on to commit further crimes in the manner of Juan Lopez-Sanchez, officials then shrug that the public outcry will be episodic and quickly die down, or will at least not pose political problems as great as would come from deporting aliens.

Yet the idea of a sanctuary city is Confederate to the core, reminiscent of antebellum Southern states picking and choosing which federal statutes they would abide by or reject. Even before the Civil War, the Nullification Crisis of 1832-33 pitted South Carolina against a fellow southerner, President Andrew Jackson, as the state declared that federal tariff laws were not applicable within its confines. Jackson understood the threat to the union, and promised to send in federal troops before South Carolina backed down.

Sanctuary cities are careful to employ euphemisms rather than explicit references to illegal immigration. But not labeling San Francisco as an “illegal alien sanctuary” or even an “immigration sanctuary” only institutionalizes the idea of any city becoming a “sanctuary” from any federal law it finds convent. If sanctuary cities continue to flaunt federal immigration laws and if the federal government does not cut off federally earmarked funds to such offenders -- or if ICE does not, in Jacksonian style, threaten to use force to arrest and deport illegal aliens -- then the concept will spread, and spread well beyond matters of immigration law.

Much of the rural West opposes the Endangered Species Act. Can Wyoming declare that federally protected rats and bugs are not protected inside its state borders, when such pests obstruct construction of dams or highways? Many conservatives oppose federal restrictions on gun sales. Could Oklahoma City declare hand-gun purchases within its city-limits free of federal firearms statutes? Perhaps Little Rock could ignore a Supreme Court ruling and announce that gay marriage is not legal within its jurisdiction. On what rationale would liberals in California object to such nullifications -- that neither state nor city had the right to ignore a federal law or to obstruct the law enforcement duties of federal officials?

As a remedy to such reactionary nullification of liberal federal laws, would San Francisco or Los Angeles advocate cutting off federal funds, sending in federal agents, or nationalizing the local or state police? All of these are proven remedies from when recalcitrant southern states refused to abide by federal integration and civil rights laws in the 1960s.

What if the border between California and Nevada was nullified?

The theory of sanctuary cities is entirely hypocritical and self-serving. The idea of sanctuary from immigration law is predicated ultimately on the belief that there are or should be no national borders and thus no legal right to prosecute those who ignore them. But if California is a sanctuary state and Nevada is not, how is that distinction articulated and maintained?

Obviously California believes it has a clearly demarcated border with Nevada and that such a line is a good thing, allowing the Golden State a quite different approach to politics, economics, culture, and society within its own confines. Furthermore, if an illegal alien were speeding over Interstate 80 and crossed the state border into California, the state would object if any non-state law enforcement agent likewise crossed that line to turn him over to ICE for deportation. In other words, a sanctuary city or state is predicated on its ability to create borders not only to establish enforceable jurisdiction, but also as a reification of difference. Sanctuary cities, then, would insist that they have a right to create and enforce borders, and to create unique places within them that differ from other cities.

Nullification now thrives because our “pen and phone” president has decided to suspend federal immigration law enforcement in the manner that -- on over 20 occasions before his reelection -- he had warned was unconstitutional. But Obama has also ensured the next Republican president that he will have ample liberal precedent to create or neglect laws as his ideological whims dictate. Donald Trump, were he to be elected, might have a very different idea of what qualifies as a sanctuary city or what executive orders are needed to see through agenda with dispatch.

Forget about principles, because there are no consistent principles: sanctuary cities would never allow their precedents to apply to other jurisdictions that did not share their own liberal pieties. They believe federal law is omnipotent for everyone other than their own exalted classes, and they believe that borders, jurisdiction, and the sovereignty of laws are a good thing -- but only to the degree that they enhance their own utopian worldview.

The intellectual pedigree of sanctuary cities is not 1960s one-world ecumenicalism, but 1850s Confederate nullification. Their logical consequence is not a wide-open transnational continent, but utter disunion among the states and a second confederate attempt at destroying the primacy of the federal government.

Their politics are not exalted, but parochial, tribal, and demographic: sanctuary cities are predicated on the emergence of a large and politically potent Latino liberal demographic. Otherwise San Francisco or Los Angeles would be willing to turn over to ICE, for example, a lone Serbian illegal alien who had disrupted an environmental rally, or an Australian who overstayed his visa and began participating in "Trump for President" rallies. If thousands of Hungarian atheists were apprehended for committing crimes in Los Angeles, the Catholic archdiocese would stay mum about their deportation.

Nullification, neo-Confederate, tribal, and cynical are the proper epithets for such cities, which are best summed up as “cities of nihilism.”



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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