Thursday, June 9, 2016

Does Nice Deliver the Goods?

Leo Durocher said it--or something close to it:  "Nice guys finish last."



Here's Leo managing the New York Giants at Braves Field in Boston, perhaps August or September in the 1948 season.  source: Creative Commons

Machiavelli recognized the conundrum five centuries earlier:  you get better results once you learn to appear to be good and religious.  People who actually are good and religious usually get clobbered.  (See Chapter XVII.)



And that brings us to the 2016 GOP presidential race.  Trump seems to prove Durocher and Machiavelli right.  The Washington Post asked:  Can a nice guy like John Kasich win?  Of course, we now know the answer, at least in this election, is/was "no."  The same thing held true for Ted Cruz, who also succumbed to Trump's incessant skulduggery.  Thus the presidential "fall classic" will pit one wealthy New Yorker (Trump) against another (Hillary Clinton).  This has been, as you might imagine and surely know by this point, the subject of much blogging.  I'm sure this same conflagration eventually will consume this blog, too.



Meanwhile, Tod Kelly throws cold water on the Trump dumpster fire. In other words, while nice guys might finish last, nasty guys--at least in this case--probably will meet similar results.  Kelly:

The truth is that with one notable exception [SD: 2000] in every presidential election in my adult life, it was painfully obvious long before the conventions who was going to triumph. Neither Ford, Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, H.W. Bush, Dole, Kerry, McCain, nor Romney had a reasonable shot at victory in the various years they had their collective asses handed to them.

Most recently, Romney's own supporters would not say their candidate's name at Tea Party rallies for fear of ostracism.  That's harsh, but not as bad as it looks for Trump.  More Kelly:


That’s spectacularly bad news for Donald Trump. Because in the Fox News and Quinnipiac polls, between 52-64% of likely voters said they believed that Clinton has the temperament and knowledge to be President. Trump, on the other hand, scores between 38% and 29% (!). Keep in mind, these weren’t questions where likely voters were asked to compare Trump to anyone else — they were just asking likely voters what they thought of Trump.
Look, there is no question that Hilary is, shall we say, somewhat less than popular. Her unfavorables tend to run in the low-to-mid 50s.4 But even if the country doesn’t love or even like her, a solid majority still think she’s at least fit to hold the office. Barely a third of the country feels that way about Trump.5
When only 29-38% of all likely voters think that Candidate X is fit to be President — in that candidate’s by far best-ever showing at the polls!!! — then Candidate X is not going to be elected President in November. Period.
and more:
Over the next half-a-year, everyone involved in politics is going to look at this growing set of facts and say, with a straight face, that Trump has a really good shot at the White House. And if you want to play along for whatever reason — you hate Hillary so much you think your vote should be properly weighted, you are a liberal that doesn’t want to jinx things, you can’t bear the thought of a summer where you have to actually work at your desk rather than follow the horserace incessantly on your computer — then hey, by all means, be my guest. Go for it.
But you’ll still be wrong.
None of this bothers me one bit.  The closest thing I have seen to the Trump phenomenon is Julian Felsenburgh in Robert Hugh Benson's Lord of the World.  Throughout the novel (written in 1907), Felsenburgh moves from conquest to political conquest.  Nothing on this earth stops him, even though it is clear--to the reader--just who he is (the anti-Christ).

Matt Bai casts some light on this cultural-political fiasco.  Trump is not a nice guy, and every Republican leader who has endorsed realizes that it is not an act.  Trump really is that nasty.  Bai:

Deceived spouses always throw good money after bad. It’s hard to look in the mirror and admit you were had.
I’ll admit: I, too, thought Trump was capable of broadening his appeal. I thought this not because I presumed he had some inner Ronald Reagan lurking under that crass exterior, but because Trump is, if nothing else, a masterful entertainer and diviner of the marketplace, a man with no discernible ideology beyond his own self-promotion.
I assumed he might approach the fall campaign as he would another reality show. I assumed the angry, xenophobic Trump was a persona, soon to be replaced by the reformist, independent Trump. I expected him to re-spawn, like in a video game.
But here’s the thing Ryan and I both should have understood about Trump, and that now seems to me the central fact of his existence: He is man tragically enslaved to his own neediness.
He needs constantly to be talked about, admired, validated. He has an almost pathological obsession with ratings, polls, flattering profiles – anything that seems to call out, from the unrelenting darkness, “You exist and you are seen.” He talks about being a winner more than anyone I’ve ever met who doesn’t play with Pokémons or watch the Wiggles.

Bai has a point here and thus Trump is not *quite* Julian Felsenburgh (more on this in another post) because in Benson's novel Felsenburgh clearly commands the world's powers.  He runs the table--politically but also culturally and religiously--through power.  Trump isn't that skilled.  In fact, Bai notes, he's needy and, perhaps worse, angry about it.  This, in part, explains his appeal.  Bai:

Our strengths are always our weaknesses, though, and what we should have known is that Trump can’t moderate it. The need is too much to overcome. Every criticism, every judgment, every potential obstacle seems to evoke in him a latent rage, a sense that the world – as embodied in Manhattan’s unbreachable elite – is condescending to him again.
Trump’s white, working-class supporters identify with this rage; they find it cathartic. And Republican leaders are loath to push those voters away.
But they also understand that the broader electorate will find the insults and bigotry increasingly reviling. The black hole, left unchecked, could swallow the party’s electoral hopes and leave no trace.
Here’s another psychoanalytical nugget I picked up years ago from a psychologist I knew socially for a while. She told me that however other people make you feel is always a reflection of how the world makes them feel.
No wonder Trump’s campaign seems bound to make us feel smaller and less worthy than we really are.
In the coming months several blogs will post discussions of whether or not Christians (however construed) could/should/must vote for Clinton or Trump.  To avoid spiritual diabetes--which certainly seems to have Trump utterly in its debilitating grasp--one perhaps should recall the Catechism which reminds us (#1731-42) that we are free in Christ, not by our own actions.  In fact, it is only in Christ that we are truly free since, left to our own devices, we usually wind up making a complete mess of things.  
So, nice guys might indeed finish last, but 1) God calls us to the good, not just the nice; and 2) bad guys don't leave with much, either.  If anything, they make it worse.  Worse than losing.

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