The political post I’ve been avoiding writing

This is a post about the current election. I didn’t want to write it, for several reasons. One is that none of my insights are my own, and…

The political post I’ve been avoiding writing

This is a post about the current election. I didn’t want to write it, for several reasons. One is that none of my insights are my own, and I expected to see lots of other people making them. Another is that I don’t particularly like making or seeing political posts — even political posts that I generally agree with make me irrationally angry, because they stir up all that stressful tribal instinct. The third reason is that posting about american elections doesn’t and can’t really shed any light on my genuine political positions, because I’ve never seen a political system that really lent itself to the way I feel about politics. However, because somehow nobody is making the arguments that seem obvious to me, I’m going to have to make them, with the caveat that readers probably shouldn’t take this as an indication of my alignment outside the particular and very unusual circumstances that constitute this election.

My position is that, no matter your opinions on any political issues , Clinton is more likely to be a better candidate than Trump in terms of implementing them. No matter where you fall on the various political spectra, you have a better shot with Clinton. If you’re a marxist, or a neocon, or a neonazi, or a randian libertarian, or you really want the united states to become a zoroastrian theocracy, you’re better off voting for Clinton.

Here’s the thing. Trump isn’t very good at doing things. No matter what he tries to do, he’s pretty likely to fail; not only that, but he’s unlikely to be able to realize that he’s failed. His mental model of the universe is so disconnected from reality that he believes himself to be a successful businessman. So, if you already agree with his positions, you can’t expect him to successfully implement them. On the off chance that he succeeds in some task, it’s difficult to determine which task it will be, and once he starts something, he can not be dissuaded from continuing. In other words, voter opinion can not influence him. His positions are arbitrary and change often, but they are quite importantly not based on any kind of outside influence: if he accidentally stumbles upon some policy that’s, say, a war crime (as he has), he won’t be convinced out of it; likewise, if he stumbles upon a highly unpopular policy, its unpopularity won’t convince him to abandon it. A Trump presidency is like electing a random number generator: it’s unpredictable, can’t be reasoned with, and although it’s technically unbiased the best possible case is that it will be entirely ineffective.

Compare this to Clinton. Hillary is extremely effective as an administrator, and seems to want power for the sake of demonstrating her ability to wield it rather than for any particular end. While effectiveness in of itself is a double-edged sword in a politician, Hillary has a couple other attributes that make her power much more likely to be wielded for good. Specifically, she has a tendency to make her positions mirror that of the general population — in other words, to flip-flop in order to mirror popular sentiment (if you want to paint it negatively) — and she’s concerned in a fairly realistic way with how history will remember her. By following public opinion, she’s unlikely to perform actions that are terribly unpopular based on some kind of flawed personal conviction; however, her concern with posterity lowers the rate at which she would advocate things that may be popular in the moment but will almost certainly end up seeming terrible to future generations. To use a concrete example, she’ll publicly support gay marriage even if she privately disagrees because she knows that gay marriage is only going to continue to grow in support, but she will never support legislation like that proposed by Trump to ban the immigration of muslims (even though this would not be illegal per-se & has precedent in the Alien Act) even if it’s highly popular with the electorate because such bans will always look bad at some point in the future.

While people criticize the candidates for being weak in either confidence or implementation, there’s really only one circumstance in which a leader that has a set of strongly held positions that they implement effectively is desirable: when you agree with all those positions to a greater degree than the leader does. A strong leader with unpopular positions is a disaster of a dictator; we would rather a leader with positions with which we disagree be ineffective, because then his or her decisions would be irrelevant. Alternately, a leader whose policies are flexible but whose ability to enact policy is good can be bent to the will of the people, and becomes a tool of the people: an even better result. In a sense, to the degree that leaders are strong, we wish them to be corrupt in a very specific way: weak to the forces of popular sentiment now and in the future, but strong against the kind of organizations that exist to warp politicians’ sense of what positions have popular support (industry lobbying groups and such).

By John Ohno on September 29, 2016.

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Exported from Medium on September 18, 2020.

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