After the debate last night, one of the more common refrains was that America deserves better, America can do so much better, or the American People were the losers of this debate, and similar sentiments.
The simple answer is this: No, America does not deserve better.
Andrew Breitbart once said that politics is downstream from culture, so if one is wondering why our politics are in the gutter, the first place to look is upstream at the culture.
And what you’ll find there is a culture which has been in decline for decades now.
Earlier this morning, the Wall Street Journal had this piece about the debate in which the following was written in response to the outrage over the Trump Tapes last Friday:
Our email inbox is filled with Republicans saying this is a double standard because while Mr. Trump may talk like a lout, Bill Clinton acts like one and Hillary Clinton enables him. Oh, and Democrats still revere JFK, who was a sexual predator in the White House.
This is all true, and it is a bit much to see the same liberals who said Mr. Clinton’s actual exploitation of an intern was merely about sex, or who called Paula Jones trailer trash, now wax indignant about Mr. Trump’s bragging. The same moralists who celebrate misogyny in pop music and a sex-crazed culture are also conveniently outraged by a man who was marinated in that culture before he entered politics.
This is spot on. We have a culture which celebrates autotuned, dumbed down music as fine art, has no qualms with the ubiquity of pornography, and eschews personal responsibility, whether that be in the realm of our diets, our commitments to marriage vows, or any hardship which may befall us. We’ve gone from scoring a touchdown and handing the ball to the ref and high-fiving our teammates, to grown men twerking in the endzone.
I don’t say this to make judgements, as I’m far from perfect in any of these matters. I only say this to highlight the fact that a culture with an eroding morality, while at the same time allowing everyone with a pulse to participate in the political process, is going to end up with nothing more than mudfights.
If everyone is granted the same rights to vote, the only way to win over a majority is going to be through an appeal to emotion, going down to a base level which all of us can relate to regardless of our individual variations in intellect and education.
This is something many have failed to understand, particularly when analyzing Donald Trump. Based on your competitive college debate rules, Trump probably hasn’t won any of the debates he has participated in throughout this election cycle.
Actually, let me rephrase that.
Based on pre-cultural decline competitive college debate rules, Trump hasn’t won any of the debates he’s been in.
That isn’t because he doesn’t possess the intellectual rigor to debate on that level. It’s because he possesses the intellectual rigor to understand that the current electorate, with its almost negligible attention span, has no time for nuanced policy discussions.
Barack Obama didn’t win his candidacy in 2008 because he flawlessly opined about the intricacies of Wall Street regulation and cap and trade. He won because he kept saying ‘Hope and Change,’ and this tapped into an emotional vein commonly felt among millions of people. That was what carried him to the presidency.
The chattering classes understood this to a large degree back then (recall Chris Matthews tingling leg), but this time around they want to judge Trump on a highly technical policy wonk basis.
The rise of the ‘fact checker,’ more aptly described as pedantic geeks with little grasp of normal human expressions, such as sarcasm and facetiousness, is emblematic of the punditry missing the mark.
Nobody gives a shit if Trump ‘lied’ by saying that Clinton ‘acid washed’ her server, when she actually used ‘BleachBit.’ The point is that she tried to destroy evidence of wrongdoing, which itself constitutes wrongdoing. The ‘fact checker’s’ subsequent attempt to declare the entire argument invalid on such technicalities would be laughable, but for the fact these positions are elevated to legitimacy by a media pushing an agenda.
That Trump relentlessly blows through these sort of ‘fact checks’ is to them evidence of the absence of intellect in the Trump campaign as a whole. The reality is that Trump understands that disseminating truths and half truths with a dose of emotion embedded is far more effective.
If we’re going to have a culture which embodies the Marcuseian dictum of ‘whatever feels good is good,’ we shouldn’t be surprised that our politicians have evolved to be world class liars who specialize in lying to the public, ensuring their stranglehold on power by playing to that feelgood element.
Any politician who is honest, and was prepared to be principled on things such as the unsustainability of entitlements, wouldn’t last long in the politics game. So those lamenting the reality show nature of this election, I’d submit this: If you really want a Lincoln-Douglas level of debates, you need a Lincoln-Douglas electorate, with a Lincoln-Douglas grasp of the English language, and a moral and intellectual pedigree befitting that level.
Until you get there, stop moaning, and stop promoting cultural changes which advance the dumbing down of society.