The Three Paradoxes Disrupting American Politics

They didn’t start with Trump, and they won’t end with him.

.. It is comforting to think that Trump is the only thing standing between us and the good old dysfunctional ways of Washington. But I have my doubts. The president’s disruption engine is powered by three paradoxes. Each was made possible by technological innovations. All will endure long after this ringmaster moves his circus to another town.

Paradox #1: More information, less credibility

Today Google processes 61,000 search queries a second. That’s 5.2 billion queries a day.

.. Because the barriers to entry are so low. In the Middle Ages, when paper was a sign of wealth and books were locked up in monasteries, knowledge was considered valuable and creating it was costly.

.. We now live at the opposite extreme, where anyone—from foreign adversaries to any crackpot with a conspiracy theory—can post original “research” online.

.. Last month, a Pew survey found that for the first time, a majority of Republicans had a negative view of American universities.

Paradox #2: More connectivity, less civility

Today nearly half the world is online. By 2020 more people are expected to have cell phones than running water.

Paradox #3: The wisdom of crowds, the duplicity of crowds

Technology has unleashed the wisdom of crowds. Now you can find an app harnessing the experiences and ratings of likeminded users for just about anything. The best taco truck in Los Angeles? Yelp. The highest rated puppy crate? Amazon. Youth hostels in Barcelona? TripAdvisor

.. But the 2016 presidential election revealed that not all crowds are wise, or even real. The wisdom of crowds can be transformed into the duplicity of crowds. Deception is going viral.

.. On social media, one person can masquerade as hundreds, even thousands, with fake personas. Thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, it’s also possible to create armies of automated social media bots to develop, manipulate, and spread deceptive information at speeds and scales unimaginable before now.

The Empty Majority

And one lesson of that decade, of every election when Barack Obama wasn’t on the ballot, is that a party that’s terrible at governing can still win elections if the other party is even worse at politics.

Which the Democrats, amazingly, have been. Or to be less judgmental, let’s say that there’s been a strange cycle at work, where Republican incompetence helps liberalism consolidate its hold on highly educated America … but that consolidation, in turn, breeds liberal insularity and overconfidence (in big data and election science, in demographic inevitability, in the wisdom of declaring certain policy debates closed) and helps Republican support persist as a kind of protest vote, an attempt to limit liberalism’s hegemony by keeping legislative power in the other party’s hands.

.. But even the Iraq War and the financial crisis didn’t prevent U.S. politics from reverting to a Republican advantage.

.. So that leaves the Democrats as the only people with the power to put an end to the current spectacle of Republican incompetence and folly.

All they need to do is persuade Americans that they have more to fear from conservative hackwork than from a liberalism in command of politics as well as culture.

America’s Future Is Texas

With right-wing zealots taking over the legislature even as the state’s demographics shift leftward, Texas has become the nation’s bellwether.

Texans see themselves as a distillation of the best qualities of America: friendly, confident, hardworking, patriotic, neurosis-free. Outsiders see us as the nation’s id, a place where rambunctious and disavowed impulses run wild. Texans, it is thought, mindlessly celebrate individualism, and view government as a kind of kryptonite that weakens the entrepreneurial muscles.

We’re reputed to be braggarts; careless with money and our personal lives; a little gullible, but dangerous if crossed; insecure, but obsessed with power and prestige.

.. Texas has been growing at a stupefying rate for decades. The only state with more residents is California, and the number of Texans is projected to double by 2050, to 54.4 million, almost as many people as in California and New York combined. Three Texas cities—Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio—are already among the top ten most populous in the country.

.. For more than a century, Texas was under Democratic rule. The state was always culturally conservative, religious, and militaristic, but a strain of pragmatism kept it from being fully swept up in racism and right-wing ideology. Economic populism, especially in the rural areas, offered a counterweight to the capitalists in the cities.

.. In 1978, Bill Clements became the first Republican governor of Texas since Reconstruction. To help him reach constituents, Clements hired a young direct-mail wizard named Karl Rove, who became a central figure in Texas’s transformation from blue to red. Rove attributes the change to the growth of the suburbs and the gradual movement of the rural areas into the Republican column: “They went from being economic populists, who thought the system was rigged against them by Wall Street, to being social and conservative populists, who thought that government was the problem.”

.. Moderate and conservative Democratic politicians followed the voters to the Republican Party. Rick Perry, for one, served three terms in the Texas House as a Democrat, and even campaigned for Al Gore in his 1988 Presidential run, before changing parties, in 1989. In 1994, Texas elected its last statewide Democrat. “It was a complete rout of a political party,”

Shields and Brooks on the Senate health care bill unveiled, Trump’s tape clarification

Brooks: I favor using market mechanisms to redistribute wealth and reduce inequality.

Shields: The Democrats have to come up with what they are for, rather than what they are against.

Nancy Pelosi passed the Affordable Care Act and raised millions.  She is the most effective leader ..

Brooks: After Trump leaves, will this be the new norm

Shields: Americans don’t believe that Trump is honest, trustworthy, knowledgeable, experience, or has right temperament.