America's Biggest Loser
I threatened I would take an observation from one of my recent newsletters and flesh it out into a whole article, and that piece just went up today at The Bulwark under the inevitable title, “Making Failure Great Again.”
I try to explain a paradox: that the more Donald Trump gets into trouble—the kind of trouble that would sink a normal politician—the more he seems to thrive.
Once you realize that victimhood has become the dominant currency on the right, then you can see how Republicans look at Donald Trump and see someone who is the beau ideal of aggrieved victimhood. This is why all the narratives about how “the walls are closing in” on Trump never seem to come to anything. The “walls closing in” is not a problem for Trump; it’s his brand. The more Trump is embroiled in lawsuits, the more he is caught lying, the more seedy revelations emerge from his personal life—then the more he becomes the symbol of a right-wing persecution complex and the more Republicans rally around him.
I also point out that the old conservative critiques of the victimhood mentality still apply.
The person who becomes fixated on his victimhood puts the locus of control for his own life somewhere outside himself. In place of real victory, he seeks symbolic acts of retribution, whether it’s “sticking it to The Man” or the fantasy of “owning the libs.”
And they will do this rather than taking control of their own lives and taking responsibility for their own fates.
Donald Trump may be America’s Biggest Loser, but Joe Biden continues to wallow at a low point the polls. I like Jonathan Last’s observation that this is because “Biden is the centrist president everyone always says they want.” Humans have a long history of getting exactly what we thought we wanted and hating it.
I did, however, come across one interesting analysis of Biden’s poll numbers that explains a lot. He may be unpopular, but that doesn’t mean he can’t get re-elected, because the other guy is even more unpopular—which is, arguably, what already happened in 2020.
This analysis, from a center-left Substack called “The Liberal Patriot,” is specifically about the Democrats’ performance with young people: Millennials and their successors, the so-called “Generation Z.” The interesting thing about this generation is that they have not followed most others in moving to the right—and yet, their loyalty to the Democratic Party is actually pretty thin.
Just 31 percent of adult Gen Zers and 27 percent of Millenials identify as Democrats, and a clear majority of Americans under the age of 30 disapprove of the job that President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats are doing in Washington.
That might be surprising, considering that young people are reputedly more progressive than ever and regularly vote for Democrats by landslide margins. But these inclinations don’t translate into Democratic Party affiliation when you look at how many young people actually call themselves members of the Democratic Party.
To be clear, young people aren’t running into the arms of the GOP, either. Only a sliver of Millenials (21 percent) and Gen Z adults (17 percent) call themselves Republicans. Instead, a growing segment of these generations (52 percent of both) are rejecting party affiliation altogether and declaring themselves independents.
Most independents do concede that they lean towards one party or another when pressed. It’s reasonable to think that this tendency would apply to young independents, too, and that they would lean heavily toward the Democratic Party. But there remains a fundamental distinction between acknowledging that you lean towards one party and fully claiming you affiliate with that party. Those in the former camp are typically less politically engaged, less ideological, and more likely to change their party preference over time.
And no, if you read the rest of the post, this is not about young people being too far to the left to the Democratic Party. To the contrary, the party keeps confusing the agenda of left-wing activists with the preferences of all young people.
These poll numbers are exactly what I think we should expect to happen. Today’s Republican Party and its figurehead are uniquely repellent, so young people don’t want to associate with it, even as they start to slide into middle age. (Sorry, Millennials, but that’s you.) But that doesn’t meant the Democratic Party is an appealing alternative.
This leaves more and more people politically homeless, independent, and up for grabs whenever someone offers them a better leader—or a better party.
I have been weaning myself off of Twitter recently, but it still has its moments. A comment there on the recent panic over ChaptGPT and artificial intelligence really caught my eye.
Sci-Fi writers in the 60s viewed the future of computers as providing the computer with prompts and the computer providing an output to try to match that prompt. Then we got used to personal computers as they were since the 80s. So now we see AI as an unnatural advancement.
In short, the Star Trek computer is finally beginning to arrive, and instead of seeing it as part of a benevolent future for mankind, we view it as the end of the world.