Patterico's Pontifications


Constitutional Vanguard: You’re Probably Not Going to Like This Piece

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:09 am

What did you do during the great Los Angeles rains, Daddy?

Well, son, I wrote this nearly 8,000 word piece with no real thesis.

Um, why did you do that?

Well, I had a bunch of new subscribers from Jonathan V. Last’s recommendation of a recent piece of mine about backing away from Twitter. Evidently I felt the need to drive most of those subscribers away! Weird, isn’t it?

I guess. Can I go outside and play?

Sure, son. Sure you can.


If there is a thesis to my latest Substack piece, it is that almost whatever you believe, there is often a pretty good counterargument . . . unless you restrict your beliefs to very simple and incontestable propositions like: “I should always strive to do the right thing.”

In the piece, I examine the arguments for things like: the notion that a writer should challenge his readers; the dangers of tribalism; the importance of expertise; the case for prosecuting Donald Trump; and the notion that Trumpism is worse than wokeness. But I also explore why a writer should reassure his readers; the importance of questioning expertise and conventional wisdom; the case against prosecuting a candidate like Trump; and the dangers of wokeness that make them potential harbingers of totalitarianism.

In short, there’s something there for everyone to hate. Hence the title.

In the course of the discussion, I recommend a few books and podcasts along the way, and engage in a rant or two. Here’s a sample:

One of the things that irritates me the most about Big Media is the sheeplike herd mentality that reporters and editors adopt about all conventional wisdom. Big Media positively sneers at anyone who bucks the Conventional Wisdom on any topic. Their attitude seems to be: “He who knows only his own side of the case knows . . . everything he needs to know, and the opinions of adversaries can always be safely dismissed as ridiculous.” In that way, Big Media is the anti-Mill (John Stuart Mill, that is) when it comes to questioning the conventional wisdom.

To take one glaring example: it is Conventional Wisdom that it is stupid for any politician to talk about entitlement reform. When have you ever seen anyone on a major network make the case, at length, in reasoned discussion, that the current path we are on is unsustainable? Anyone who even thinks of mentioning such a thing is ultimately bullied into claiming that they never really said such a thing (see: Rick Scott, Mike Lee, Ron DeSantis, and the list could go on and on). No major news anchor will ever have any of these people on and express sympathy for the undeniable fact that these programs can’t go on this way forever. Instead, they harangue them over and over: but you do want to reform entitlements, dontcha? Dontcha? Dontcha? Example:

And if any of these folks ever even hinted that it’s not a crazy topic to broach, the anchor would simply point out that the American people won’t stand for it and it’s very, very unpopular. Well, sure, in no small part due to the way that Big Media refuses to explain why it’s necessary.

Nearly 3000 words of the piece are free. It’s enough to decide if you do indeed hate it, as I warned you that you would, or if instead you want to subscribe to read the other 5000 words or so.

22 Responses to “Constitutional Vanguard: You’re Probably Not Going to Like This Piece”

  1. My problem with both Trumpism and Wokism is that both of them forget that those are human beings that they’re f***ing around.

    (Yes, read that far. I’ll probably have more comments when I reread it more carefully. 😉 )

    nk (9ab84f)

  2. I liked the piece very much, Patterico. Thank you.

    Simon Jester (c8876d)

  3. People would much rather prefer to have any benefit cuts dictated by circumstances beyond control than by politicians.

    Models can be wrong, like about energy (see Jimmy Carter) or climate. Economic growth can be higher. Emergencies tilt things toward tax increases rather than benefit cuts. And taxes that are not felt by the average voter – like a tax on companies purchasing their own stock.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  4. We live in a busy, stressful world in which we have to deal with more issues and more complicated issues involving way more information than we are are really set up to process and make decisions on. Nuance is hard and making decisions on all these issues when we barely have time and bandwidth to make dinner while watching the news and talking to our families is worse.

    It makes things less stressful if we can find someone or a group of someones who may be experts (or think they are experts) in some of these areas and who maybe share some of our already formed opinions that we can trust to tell us what we think is the truth and follow them on the issues we don’t really have time/energy/knowledge to really consider ourselves. However, if we find ourselves in the solid middle of the followers of that group, it’s hard to feel motivated to look at anything other than the group around us, it’s hard to fight our way to the edge or out, or even see that that might be necessary, and we can’t see the cliff coming if they are running us off a cliff.

    Nic (896fdf)

  5. People would much rather prefer to have any benefit cuts dictated by circumstances beyond control than by politicians.

    People decide these matters over trivial issues, usually unrelated to any logical discussion. I trace the unseriousness back to unserious reporters who know that stories that involve animals or burning houses get more airtime than discussions of fiscal reality.

    Kevin M (1ea396)

  6. Entitlement reform. It can’t go on forever and ever. Social security will go BANKRUPT! Why do conservatives never talk about what happens then ??? Because telling people it will pay out 90 cents on the dollar or if you get $1000 a month you will get $900 if nothing is done isn’t so scary. Like the liberal media you leave stuff out to fool people. If cap is lifted on SS. its 98 cents on the dollar or $980 instead of $1000. Very minor funding changes gets it back to 100% As for woke if it goes to far it is easily pushed back as is happening now. As I told some young liberals if we defund the police who will arrest the facists and racists?

    asset (5cb3ab)

  7. asset (5cb3ab) — 3/20/2023 @ 2:00 pm

    Because telling people it will pay out 90 cents on the dollar or if you get $1000 a month you will get $900 if nothing is done isn’t so scary.

    I think benefits would be cut to 78% if Congress decided to cut everyone’s check by the same percentage. Since this would case a recession, that’s not likely to happen.

    The reason it would suddenly drop is that the Social Security “trust fund” would be exhausted.

    78% is less than depositors of amounts over $250,000 at a bank that became insolvent would get. That’s been estimated at 85% to 90%

    The problem though is that money used to make payroll and pay for Accounts Payable and mortgages would be frozen for a time until things got sorted out.

    The same entity owning multiple accounts is entitled to full payments of only $250,000 total. Banks are not set up to instantly credit everyone just the amount of insurance, and besides they still need the cash and nothing would be coming in. That’s why the Fed always wants the change in ownership to be seamless and they to close banks on a Friday.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  8. Social security will go BANKRUPT!

    No, it won’t. Immigration has filled in the Gen-X workforce to a great degree and the Millennial cohort is as large as the Boomers. The problems of SS are easily dealt with and not long-term in any event.

    Medicare is another issue entirely.

    Kevin M (1ea396)

  9. Going back to the substack post, yes, it is important to prosecute crimes by the president, but not all crimes are of equal importance. There is a p0olitical aspect to this which, when considered, would suggest that the crime needs to resonate with the public or the politics will overwhelm the facts and the prosecution will prove counter-productive.

    Does that mean that the Stormy payoff should not be prosecuted? Had it been just a matter of hiding a blackmail payment, well, that’s understandable with blackmail payments. But claiming it as a legal expense and/or a campaign expense* (rather than just marking as a miscellaneous personal expense) means that it’s not just embarrassment that was being hidden. But still, I dunno.

    The whole incitement thing on J6, and the attempted election fraud in GA, are the real crimes that need to be prosecuted. There is some danger that charging Trump for “lying about sex” will muddy the waters for the actual crimes.

    * it’s a little unclear

    Kevin M (1ea396)

  10. I have not read the whole essay so it may be unfair to comment, but my gut response to this:

    The only correct principle is to develop a world view about how you know when you are doing the right thing, and then try to do it. There is no easy shorthand for that.

    … is that if your reaction to people with whom you have political disagreements is to hate them, you are wrong. Even if your position is defensible or right.

    DRJ (b39202)

  11. There is no political downside to Allan Bragg, and it could even have an indirect beneficial effect on those Trump supporters with some vestigial sentience: That there is something to be said about “playing by Marquess of Queensberry rules”.

    nk (c0bb18)

  12. Social Security and Medicare will never go bankrupt, nor will benefits be reduced by any great percentage. Those who benefit from these program are also voters in the demographic that is most likely to vote.

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  13. Wokeness is race based communism.

    NJRob (eb56c3)

  14. Also, at least half of both Democratic and Republican voters are over the age of 50:

    More than half of Republican and GOP-leaning voters (56%) are ages 50 and older, up from 39% in 1996. And among Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, half are 50 and older, up from 41% in 1996.
    ………The median age among all registered voters increased from 44 in 1996 to 50 in 2019. It rose from 43 to 52 among Republican registered voters……..

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)


    Leftist wokeism and it’s destructive capacity due to its support of the invasion of the United States.

    NJRob (eb56c3)

  16. Someone in this comment section did not read.

    Nic (896fdf)

  17. Those who benefit from these program are also voters in the demographic that is most likely to vote.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but it’s a group larger than Trump’s supporters. It’s unlikely that politicians who are cowed by Trump (or any other sizable bloc of “their” voters) are going to find the ‘nads to buck the oldsters.

    Kevin M (1ea396)

  18. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it’s a group larger than Trump’s supporters.

    I would say most Trump supporters receive Social Security and Medicare, hence Trump’s statement to Republicans in Congress not to touch them.

    Rip Murdock (2ac749)

  19. I liked the reflection on tribalism. It is important to recognize that tribalism can be unifying and, especially when evil abounds, it lends a strength in numbers confidence….a confidence to do the right thing, even though it’s difficult and costly. There are political causes that are anchored in truth and a moral clarity. And then there’s much of what we see today.

    Today’s tribalism is more akin to a zombie horde looking to devour the other side. There is no nuance, just a simplistic lumping and the grossest of stereotyping. Of course it ends in the most predictable way…the other horde is stupid, immoral, and evil. The trouble is that once you say evil there is little that can’t be rationalized to confront and defeat it.

    Actually there’s no patience for nuance. We need hot takes that are quick and give us that biting climax, like the basketball coach pumping up his players coming out of a timeout. Let’s go out there and win one for Trump…or Biden. We get hyperbole and a whole lot of motivated reasoning. I disagree with much of Biden’s big initiatives, but still I find it difficult to label him evil, brain dead, or the cause for the dead patches in my backyard grass. You know, sometimes sh*t happens. It’s human to attribute it to dear leader, but sometimes…well…motivated reasoning.

    Sure both sides do it….the Trump prosecution watch would be almost comical on MSNBC except for the fact that they are dead serious. Nuance and objectivity have been sacrificed for a weird sense of group therapy. RedState abounds with it too — desperately creating narratives to buoy the native’s fragile world view. There are loons on both extremes and people who performatively play for the loons. But there are more people who aren’t extreme, who may lean one way or the other, and want reasonable discussions. People who don’t want to hate their neighbor, co-worker, sister, or friend because of politics or, worse yet, manufactured propaganda.

    We like clean and neat narratives. Cutting taxes and banning abortion are always good, right? We hate complexity and we hate pluralism these days. Drag queens are bad, right? Why am I asked to upvote or downvote…EVERYTHING. If we worry about everything, we hardly have the time or energy to address anything…in a focused serious manner. As a society we have to get back to patient problem solving while indulging existential grievance less….

    AJ_Liberty (b0bd3e)

  20. I would say most Trump supporters receive Social Security and Medicare

    I rather doubt that, unless you are counting disability. Most Trump supporters are unemployed formerly middle-class white folks who have seen their parents’ affluence disappear in their generation. Former tradesmen, manufacturing and mill workers who never “learned to code.”

    Kevin M (1ea396)

  21. Why would old people on SS and Medicare be so flipping angry that some stupid NY rich boy could get them out with pitchforks and torches?

    Kevin M (1ea396)

  22. @20. Most Trump supporters are unemployed formerly middle-class white folks who have seen their parents’ affluence disappear in their generation. Former tradesmen, manufacturing and mill workers who never “learned to code.”

    Who Are President Trump’s Supporters?

    ‘We know that on the basis partly of what the typical Trump voter looks like on paper, in data. They are wealthier than we sometimes imagine. They are not all in places that we sometimes assume. They are, in fact, on the coasts. They are in wealthy communities in – from Southern California all the way to New England. They have stayed with him and partly because of their perception that his vision of the economy is what they want. That’s been the tie that binds them together.

    DCSCA (5df396)

Powered by WordPress.

Page loaded in: 0.1007 secs.