How do you solve a problem like a MAGA?

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thoreau
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How do you solve a problem like a MAGA?

Post by thoreau » 28 Dec 2018, 13:47

I'll start by stipulating that many of us Trump critics have made missteps, focused on the wrong problems, and been too optimistic in our appraisal of which allegations would pan out most rapidly and cause the most problems for Trump.

At the same time, I am pretty pessimistic about ever getting through to a disturbing fraction of America. If Trump loses in an LBJ-Goldwater landslide in 2020, there will still be a third of the country that is convinced of and motivated by a disturbing set of narratives.

To wit, I spent Christmas talking to a MAGA believer. She is a nice person, we get along, and she didn't even mind that I disagreed. We were able to argue politics amicably. We have that kind of relationship. At the same time, it was disturbing that she's probably not atypical. How do we talk people who believe the following?

*There was no economic recovery under Obama.
*Unemployment didn't fall until Trump won.
*Mueller's team is nothing but a bunch of Democrats.
*So what if a man who now holds the highest security clearance did business with the Russian mob? He's a NYC real estate developer. Big deal.
*Trump has been a spectacularly successful businessman, and understands the economy better than any of his critics.
*Trump, unlike all of those other Republicans who said the same thing before them, actually is trying to cut the size and scope of government. Yes, she believed the previous ones, but this one is actually telling the truth.

The first two are not at all subjective points. Merely reading the Wall Street Journal would be enough to have a clear perception of what's going on there.

And this isn't a 25 year-old looking for "bad economy" excuses for not yet having a Real Job, nor a 55 year-old guy trying to explain why he's dropped out of the labor force. This is a retired anesthesiologist who reads a lot. Yet she's fallen into the hole of epistemic closure.

How does democracy work (for generous definitions of "work", since democracy is what it is) if a third of the country is convinced of these things?

Those who want to can say something about Ocasio Cortez and Bernie, but they are (for now) a dissident faction among the Blues. For now. I am focusing on the Reds because the Reds are controlled by MAGA. But if Sanders and Ocasio Cortez become as dominant among the Blues as MAGA is among the Reds, I really question whether American democracy can/should continue.
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Re: How do you solve a problem like a MAGA?

Post by Aresen » 28 Dec 2018, 13:59

I think the worst-case scenario is if the economy has a major recession, especially one brought on by a currency crisis. That could strongly radicalize both sides. We'd get 'Hang the Rich' vs 'Hang the Immigrants'. The US would muddle through, but it would be a long time before we'd see anything like 'normal' politics.
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Re: How do you solve a problem like a MAGA?

Post by JasonL » 28 Dec 2018, 15:45

I heard a guy at the bar the other night say Google was completely controlled by the Clintons and if you google HRC nothing about emails comes up. We did it in the bar and the first thing that came up was an "email timeline". The guy didn't even blink and said trump made them put it back that's great he gets things done.

I don't know what to do with that, nor do I understand really what happened to move the Travel Office murder Vince Foster conspiracy mindedness into the dominant public voice of the right. They are just crazy and they drive the left to be nearly as crazy by way of TDS. They don't care what's true, or, maybe more like they Always Knew the Truth and now they can just say it out loud and the shame is no longer a thing. They were never ashamed because facts were inconvenient, I don't think conspiracy mindedness works that way. They used to be ashamed because they felt isolated in their convictions and people laughed at them.

I just don't understand why there are so damned many of them.

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Re: How do you solve a problem like a MAGA?

Post by Aresen » 28 Dec 2018, 16:23

JasonL wrote:
28 Dec 2018, 15:45
I heard a guy at the bar the other night say Google was completely controlled by the Clintons and if you google HRC nothing about emails comes up. We did it in the bar and the first thing that came up was an "email timeline". The guy didn't even blink and said trump made them put it back that's great he gets things done.
I force myself to shut up while a friend, who is a 'Homeopathic Practitioner', describes and prescribes her 'remedies' for my other friends. I know if I say anything, there will just be a fight and I will be blamed all around. Besides, she is basically a nice person otherwise.
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Re: How do you solve a problem like a MAGA?

Post by thoreau » 28 Dec 2018, 17:06


JasonL wrote:I heard a guy at the bar the other night say Google was completely controlled by the Clintons and if you google HRC nothing about emails comes up. We did it in the bar and the first thing that came up was an "email timeline". The guy didn't even blink and said trump made them put it back that's great he gets things done.

I don't know what to do with that, nor do I understand really what happened to move the Travel Office murder Vince Foster conspiracy mindedness into the dominant public voice of the right.
I feel like I get why people in the Midwest hate Hillary Clinton, and like I can explain it to coastal liberals....and then I don't. Because "Google won't show bad stuff about the Clintons" is shit that I just can't get. I mean, I can gripe all day in the Critical Theorists thread about some article on political correctness in Silicon Valley, but I have my limits.

What do you say to someone who thinks that the Caravan is coming to an expensive DC suburb to live off welfare while charging way too much for house cleaning services?
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Re: How do you solve a problem like a MAGA?

Post by Warren » 28 Dec 2018, 17:29

"The Clintons control Google" is pure wackadoodlery. But I can't understand how anybody anywhere could fail to hate Hillary Clinton. She is made of pure unadulterated ambition with zero compassion for any other soul.
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Re: How do you solve a problem like a MAGA?

Post by thoreau » 28 Dec 2018, 17:47


Warren wrote: But I can't understand how anybody anywhere could fail to hate Hillary Clinton. She is made of pure unadulterated ambition with zero compassion for any other soul.
This doesn't really differentiate her from most other politicians, though. The question is not why they hate her but why they hate her so much more than the others.
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Re: How do you solve a problem like a MAGA?

Post by Hugh Akston » 28 Dec 2018, 17:49

I think step 1 in reaching detente with MAGAmericans is to accept that the Mueller investigation/Russia connection is not going to convince anyone of anything. It is political theater of the same type as Obama's long-form birth certificate, in that it is useful for keeping partisans fired up while distracting from the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of both parties.
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Re: How do you solve a problem like a MAGA?

Post by Warren » 28 Dec 2018, 17:52

Hugh Akston wrote:
28 Dec 2018, 17:49
I think step 1 in reaching detente with MAGAmericans is to accept that the Mueller investigation/Russia connection is not going to convince anyone of anything. It is political theater of the same type as Obama's long-form birth certificate, in that it is useful for keeping partisans fired up while distracting from the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of both parties.
Okay. But then what? I mean, you can't stop it. The Mueller investigation is a witch hunt that won't stop until Trump is burned at the stake.
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Re: How do you solve a problem like a MAGA?

Post by JasonL » 28 Dec 2018, 18:02

I am unclear at this point if the magamericans actually want anything. They may just want the environment where they can spout nonsense. I wonder if all populist movements devolve into that eventually.

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Re: How do you solve a problem like a MAGA?

Post by Pham Nuwen » 28 Dec 2018, 18:04

So ... the ability to spout any and all nonsense with 0 repercussions? I feel like that is everyone.
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Re: How do you solve a problem like a MAGA?

Post by Hugh Akston » 28 Dec 2018, 18:32

Warren wrote:
28 Dec 2018, 17:52
Hugh Akston wrote:
28 Dec 2018, 17:49
I think step 1 in reaching detente with MAGAmericans is to accept that the Mueller investigation/Russia connection is not going to convince anyone of anything. It is political theater of the same type as Obama's long-form birth certificate, in that it is useful for keeping partisans fired up while distracting from the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of both parties.
Okay. But then what? I mean, you can't stop it. The Mueller investigation is a witch hunt that won't stop until Trump is burned at the stake.
I don't have all the answers. But one thing that MAGAmericans and reasonable people can agree on is "this is stupid".
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Re: How do you solve a problem like a MAGA?

Post by Number 6 » 28 Dec 2018, 18:39

If you're honestly looking to engage, then I'd say the approach is no different than with any contentious subject. In general:
1) Assume you're dealing with a person of good will.
2) Try to find some common ground. In the case of Trumpkins, it's probably safe to say that they feel cheated and exploited by government and possibly corporations. Any libertarian worth his salt should be able to find something there.
3) The best common ground to find is on values. Freedom, self-sufficiency, some sense of patriotism, whatever. If you can find that, then it's easier to show how your favored policies are better at achieving those values than Trumpism.
4) Don't expect fast change.
5) If there is change, don't expect a Paul of Tarsus style moment of clarity, much less an acknowledgement that things have changed.
Of course, there are those who are unreachable. Clinton/Google guy is probably not reachable. So be it. I can only quote the prophet Peart:
Spirits turned bitter by the poison of envy
Always angry and dissatisfied
Even the lost ones, the frightened and mean ones
Even the ones with a devil inside
Thank your stars you're not that way
Turn your back and walk away
Don't even pause and ask them why
Turn around and say goodbye
All that you can do is wish them well
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Re: How do you solve a problem like a MAGA?

Post by Mo » 28 Dec 2018, 18:50

Warren wrote:
Hugh Akston wrote:
28 Dec 2018, 17:49
I think step 1 in reaching detente with MAGAmericans is to accept that the Mueller investigation/Russia connection is not going to convince anyone of anything. It is political theater of the same type as Obama's long-form birth certificate, in that it is useful for keeping partisans fired up while distracting from the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of both parties.
Okay. But then what? I mean, you can't stop it. The Mueller investigation is a witch hunt that won't stop until Trump is burned at the stake.
You can’t complain about a witch hunt if you’re all bubble bubble toil and troubling in the woods though.
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Re: How do you solve a problem like a MAGA?

Post by Mo » 28 Dec 2018, 18:56

Number 6 wrote: 2) Try to find some common ground. In the case of Trumpkins, it's probably safe to say that they feel cheated and exploited by government and possibly corporations. Any libertarian worth his salt should be able to find something there.
The problem with this is that they have more in common with the Democratic Socialists than they do with libertarians. They feel that all corporate and government people are criminals and believe that they just need one of their own to smash the existing establishment.
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Re: How do you solve a problem like a MAGA?

Post by thoreau » 28 Dec 2018, 18:57

It may very well be that the Mueller investigation will fail to find anything that merits impeachment. And it is certainly true that Mueller will fail to find anything that is persuasive to the core MAGA crowd. But I simply cannot equate the Mueller investigation with Obama's birth certificate. The Birthers had absolutely zilch going for them. It was insane from the start and every subsequent investigation bore that out.

The theories connecting Trump to Russia start from some observations rooted in publicly available evidence (his kissing of Putin's ass at every turn, the presence of Paul Manafort in his camp, rump campaign hangers-on who had suspiciously good knowledge of forthcoming hacked emails), and reporters and prosecutors have subsequently turned up plenty of dirty business (e.g. the meeting with Natalya Veselnitskaya, indictments of GRU officers involved in hacking the DNC, business ties between Trump's associates and people close to the Russian government, active efforts to seek permission for business in Russia while campaigning). Maybe it's completely unremarkable dirty business, maybe it's rot of the sort that both sides engage in, maybe it's rot that doesn't go all the way to the knowing involvement of the Don, maybe it's just more evidence that the entire swamp needs draining. But it's far more substantial than anything that any Birther ever turned up.

And no Birther was louder than Trump, back in the day. The Birthers never turned up anything other than their own fever dreams. Mueller has turned up plenty of dirty (even if ordinary) business. One of these things is not like the other. Both may be inadequate to topple a leader, but they are hardly equivalent.
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Re: How do you solve a problem like a MAGA?

Post by thoreau » 28 Dec 2018, 19:02

Number 6 wrote:
28 Dec 2018, 18:39
If you're honestly looking to engage, then I'd say the approach is no different than with any contentious subject. In general:
1) Assume you're dealing with a person of good will.
I genuinely respect these family members. I know that they are good. I see what they do for the actual people in their lives.
2) Try to find some common ground. In the case of Trumpkins, it's probably safe to say that they feel cheated and exploited by government and possibly corporations. Any libertarian worth his salt should be able to find something there.
3) The best common ground to find is on values. Freedom, self-sufficiency, some sense of patriotism, whatever. If you can find that, then it's easier to show how your favored policies are better at achieving those values than Trumpism.
Believe me, I've tried. But the barriers of epistemic closure are amazing.

And for all of the common ground that I can find with them, the more that Trump makes cruelty to border crossers a signature policy sanctioned at the highest levels (as opposed to the work of "a few bad apples" who were "not in compliance with policy"), the harder it is to talk politics and values with people who complain about immigrants while making excuses for Trump.
4) Don't expect fast change.
5) If there is change, don't expect a Paul of Tarsus style moment of clarity, much less an acknowledgement that things have changed.
Frankly, I think they've gotten worse. Two years ago they were less than thrilled that the President-elect was a pussy-grabbing trash TV star. They were glad that Clinton lost, and they talked about that with relief, but there was no praise for Trump himself. Now they've doubled down on Trump. They're riding the MAGA train all the way.
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Re: How do you solve a problem like a MAGA?

Post by Number 6 » 28 Dec 2018, 19:50

Dr T-In that case, I'd do as Peart suggests, and wish them well. You seem to like these people otherwise, just as I know some Trumpkins that I generally like, so perhaps it's better just to leave those subjects alone.
As for whether one can still like people who are in favor of family separation, etc....it's difficult, but possible. Certainly, it's a huge black mark against them.
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Re: How do you solve a problem like a MAGA?

Post by thoreau » 28 Dec 2018, 19:53

I'm less worried about my ability to get along with a few people in the face of this difference (I can totally do that), and more worried about a country with a great many people like this, who seem to be fundamentally unmovable. This is very bad.
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Re: How do you solve a problem like a MAGA?

Post by Number 6 » 28 Dec 2018, 20:39

thoreau wrote:
28 Dec 2018, 19:53
I'm less worried about my ability to get along with a few people in the face of this difference (I can totally do that), and more worried about a country with a great many people like this, who seem to be fundamentally unmovable. This is very bad.
I agree. I've tended to roll my eyes at the notion that the divisions in the US are any worse than they have been before. The late sixties and much of the 70s appear to have been worse by almost any measure. However, it does seem that the division highlighted in that era and the division extant now are really the same thing. The names may have changed, but the basic divide hasn't. While I don't forsee any kind of civil war, or even unrest of late sixties sort, I do think it appears that we will have kulture kampf forever. I find this depressing.

As a side note, I do wonder if social media makes this sort of thing worse.
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Re: How do you solve a problem like a MAGA?

Post by JasonL » 28 Dec 2018, 20:43

Pham Nuwen wrote:
28 Dec 2018, 18:04
So ... the ability to spout any and all nonsense with 0 repercussions? I feel like that is everyone.
Yeah but you see it as parity to something the left has been getting away with because their cultural nonsense is given cover by both academia and media as The Right Way to Be. I think it's something like - okay say you are conservative guy over the past decade. You have lost the culture wars. The stories you might talk about with your friends over big breakfast at Cracker Barrel are officially "stories stupid mean people tell". Every time you want to point out that all them people don't act normal - you are told you are like hitler. Maybe it's the gays, maybe it's sluts acting like sluts, maybe it's furriners and terk er jerbs. Whatever. All the stories that are based in some obvious truth to you get you ridiculed outside of people who look exactly like you. Coastal types. Rich types. Comedians.

Now, okay you turn around and notice, what are these people saying is the way things are - you get to pick your gender? Mexico culture aint any worse with all the poor and lazy people than european/merican culture? We don't need to worry about that? Black on black crime is my fault as white guy?

All those stories get support from college teacher types and media. So - look - they're sayin things that just obviously ain't true and they're saying them like if you disagree you are a nazi.

So, kinda fuckit. Here comes this guy who just says all the stuff needs sayin and he doesn't care. Yeah maybe wall a good idea but really REALLY the thing is we got enough of us and a president that we don't have to shut up and be embarrassed just cause the fukkin NYT tells us to. They made up their shit and nobody cept trump callin' em on it.

Something like that.

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Re: How do you solve a problem like a MAGA?

Post by thoreau » 28 Dec 2018, 20:59

Number 6 wrote:
28 Dec 2018, 20:39
thoreau wrote:
28 Dec 2018, 19:53
I'm less worried about my ability to get along with a few people in the face of this difference (I can totally do that), and more worried about a country with a great many people like this, who seem to be fundamentally unmovable. This is very bad.
I agree. I've tended to roll my eyes at the notion that the divisions in the US are any worse than they have been before. The late sixties and much of the 70s appear to have been worse by almost any measure. However, it does seem that the division highlighted in that era and the division extant now are really the same thing. The names may have changed, but the basic divide hasn't. While I don't forsee any kind of civil war, or even unrest of late sixties sort, I do think it appears that we will have kulture kampf forever. I find this depressing.

As a side note, I do wonder if social media makes this sort of thing worse.
Honestly, what scares me most is the impunity with which they lie or deny about economics. One of the hardest things that America will have to confront is that we cannot simultaneously have (1) a tax policy that people will sort-of comply with, (2) generous public support for healthcare provision in some form, and (3) 10 or so aircraft carrier groups. It's hard enough to have that conversation with the left, although I think that mainstream Democrats quietly get that and thus want to moderate the left's healthcare proposals while raising taxes a bit.

But how do you have that conversation with people who think that the unemployment rate was terrible for all 8 years of Obama's administration and that illegals are living off welfare in expensive suburbs? How do you have that conversation with people who think that Obama slashed military spending? Yes, Trump wants to disengage from certain conflicts, and I applaud that, but I have no confidence that the American right is actually prepared to subtantially cut the military budget or stay out of future conflicts around the world.

If this is just about people saying bigoted shit in bars, well, that's always been a problem. If this is about people living in a bubble universe where it's impossible for elected officials to acknowledge certain facts, eventually we will fall off of a fiscal cliff. The Democrats have their problems here, but they also have grown-ups (in relative terms). One of the most important battles to come is between Democratic grown-ups and the Bernie/Ocasio Cortez faction.
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Re: How do you solve a problem like a MAGA?

Post by Aresen » 28 Dec 2018, 20:59

Warren wrote:
28 Dec 2018, 17:52
Hugh Akston wrote:
28 Dec 2018, 17:49
I think step 1 in reaching detente with MAGAmericans is to accept that the Mueller investigation/Russia connection is not going to convince anyone of anything. It is political theater of the same type as Obama's long-form birth certificate, in that it is useful for keeping partisans fired up while distracting from the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of both parties.
Okay. But then what? I mean, you can't stop it. The Mueller investigation is a witch hunt that won't stop until Trump is burned at the stake.
This brings a smile to my face.
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Re: How do you solve a problem like a MAGA?

Post by Eric the .5b » 28 Dec 2018, 21:12

thoreau wrote:
28 Dec 2018, 19:02
Frankly, I think they've gotten worse. Two years ago they were less than thrilled that the President-elect was a pussy-grabbing trash TV star. They were glad that Clinton lost, and they talked about that with relief, but there was no praise for Trump himself. Now they've doubled down on Trump. They're riding the MAGA train all the way.
Sports bar. People double down when they feel their identity attacked.

But then, I can't think of a political inclination where I haven't seen members pull reality-denial on that scale. That's the basic, crude sports bar response. It's the next step of sophistication to accept the facts, but then regurgitate a stupid talking-point a media personality said to rationalize them away. Both are just variations of stories that partisans tell to reassure each other that they're great and their enemies suck.

I mean, fuck. I've seen many, many Blues absolutely unwilling to accept that anyone could have a reason to dislike Hillary Clinton that wasn't due to being a sexist bastard. Even within the Blues, I've seen supporters of Bernie and Hillary try to pretend that they had wildly different voting records and didn't work together on a number of things. Just a different section of the sports bar.
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Re: How do you solve a problem like a MAGA?

Post by Hugh Akston » 28 Dec 2018, 22:24

thoreau wrote:
28 Dec 2018, 18:57
It may very well be that the Mueller investigation will fail to find anything that merits impeachment. And it is certainly true that Mueller will fail to find anything that is persuasive to the core MAGA crowd. But I simply cannot equate the Mueller investigation with Obama's birth certificate. The Birthers had absolutely zilch going for them. It was insane from the start and every subsequent investigation bore that out.
For people outside the web of thumbtacks and red string, they are both attempts to invalidate a presidency through eyerolly legal technicalities. They both distract from the actual harms caused by the actual policies implemented during the administrations. They both become focal points for the loudest people on either side because they don't want to grapple with the lack of intellectual foundation for their policy positions.
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