"How Do I Explain This Election to My Kids" Is Much Easier for a Constitutionalist

Last night, Van Jones (among likely many others on the Progressive Left) lamented, "How am I going to explain the election [Trump's victory] to my kids?"

Well, as someone who has always respected the Constitution, I would tell my kids that the folks who wrote the Constitution spent a lot of time thinking about how to make the system robust against tyrants.  Their solution was a system of checks and balances that prevented a single person in the Presidency acting against the general wishes of the country.  The President is bound both by Congress and the judiciary, but also by law (particularly restrictions in the Bill of Rights).

The last couple of Presidents, with the aid of a sometimes supine Congress and judiciary, have pushed the boundaries of these limitations, expanding Presidential power, and in certain spheres attempted to rule by decree.  Folks like Van Jones were way up in the forefront of folks cheering on this power grab, at least under President Obama, as long as it was their guy grabbing for power.  What should Jones tell his kids?  Perhaps he could say that for well-intentioned reasons, he helped increase the power of the President, but in doing so forgot that folks he disagrees with would likely someday inherit that power.

As I wrote years and years ago:

  • Technocratic idealists ALWAYS lose control of the game.  It may feel good at first when the trains start running on time, but the technocrats are soon swept away by the thugs, and the patina of idealism is swept away, and only fascism is left.  Interestingly, the technocrats always cry "our only mistake was letting those other guys take control".  No, the mistake was accepting the right to use force on another man.  Everything after that was inevitable.

Sarah Baker has some nice thoughts along these lines at the Liberty Papers, but I will leave you with her first one:

This is how libertarians feel after every election. We learn to live with it. So will you.


  1. ErikTheRed:

    While I respect the *idea* of the Constitution, in practice the results have been fairly predictable. When you take any significant mass of humanity, the fat portion of the bell curve will follow their incentives and institutional ethics. Over time, the institutional ethics will mold themselves to the incentives, no matter how perverse. It reinforces itself until it fails completely - this is part of why successful (in a completely amoral sense of the word) organizations grow until they implode. So you have this accretion of power that seeks to make itself more powerful over time, which will attract more and more people who want either the power at the top or the safety of being minions in the machine, which in turn reinforces this behavior and it gets more and more extreme. The collapse will not be pretty, and living in another country at the time will probably be a good idea. That's not to say that other countries are better or worse (they're almost universally worse); it's just that they're in a different phase of self-destruction.

    Lysander Spooner called it a century and a half ago: “But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain - that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case it is unfit to exist.” The Constitution was a noble attempt, but it did not work. In hindsight, it could never have worked. At this point, it's just worshiping in a cult that we Americans were all raised into. You can leave any time you want, or your can stay in it.

  2. mlouis:

    How about this: when a very large portion of the electorate "loses" both economically and culturally they revolt against the status quo?

  3. MJ:

    Apparently he has no trouble explaining how he became a communist and black nationalist, yet this is what he worries about explaining to his kids?

  4. Not Sure:

    "How am I going to explain the election to my kids?"

    How about this...
    "We were such incredibly arrogant and colossal dooshes that it was more important to us to nominate a candidate based on genitals rather than real-world qualifications. And we actually thought we would get away with it."

  5. mx:

    Unfortunately, it's much harder to explain if you and your kids look like Van Jones. It's easy to blame him for advocating for increasing the power of the President, but it's a lot harder to explain that the guy the klan is backing just won.

  6. chembot:

    And no doubt the black Panthers generally supported Hillary but that doesn't make all her supporters anti white bigots. While attempting to tar by association 60 milion people as closet racists may be emotionally consoling, might I suggest a little more introspection is in order.

  7. mx:

    Absolutely. I'm not in any way saying that everyone who voted for Trump is a racist. They're not. Some people clearly did vote for both Obama and Trump. I do believe, however, that Trump ran a campaign that relied in no small part on appeals to racism, and plenty of people were happy to sign up for that, or at least overlook it. It's hard not to take that personally.

  8. David Stambaugh:

    Just because I'm against illegal immigration doesn't make me a racist - rather it makes me a law abiding individual who respects the law and wants to see the country apply it equally. That includes charging people in high positions with dereliction of duty for not pursuing charges against officials who have violated the law regarding classified information disclosure.

  9. Peabody:

    So the media and Democrats have successfully convinced you that "Trump ran a campaign that relied in no small part on appeals to racism". While "in no small part" is open to great interpretation, my opinion is that actual racism played an incredibly trivial role in the outcome.

  10. Not Sure:

    "To just be grossly generalistic, you can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables, right? Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it."
    When do you suppose Van Jones got around to explaining *that* to his kids?

  11. SamWah:

    ALL idealists do...because they are idealists and fail to realize that others AREN'T and are looking for ways to latch on to power.

  12. SamWah:

    Well, except for the #BLM.

  13. mx:

    Nobody had to convince me. I listened to his own words, untainted by any filter, many, many times. Here's a few of the things I heard and saw:

    I saw him spend years, not even sort of giving it up until late in the campaign (and never apologizing), as one of the most prominent proponents of birtherism, an effort to delegitimize the first black President by accusing him of being foreign-born with no evidence and significant reliable evidence to the contrary.

    I saw him spend a great deal of time peddling inaccurate information about crime, and it was quite clear who he thought was committing this crime, claiming people living in inner cities are "living in hell" and getting shot left and right. Yes, we still have crime, and of course we have to keep fighting it, but crime rates have thankfully been on a steady decline for decades, with violent crime, homicides, and property crimes all at or near 50 year lows last year. When he said "African-American, Hispanics, are living in hell" because of crime despite these statistics, he painted a picture of people of color in cities "out of control" to appeal to suburban voters. Lying about African Americans committing far more crimes than they really do is an appeal to racism.

    I heard him call to ban all Muslims from the country, 1.6 billion people around the world, on the basis of their religion. He also at one point wouldn't rule out requiring Muslims to hold special IDs indicating their religion or making them register in a database somewhere. These are some of the most profoundly disturbing major policy pronouncements I have ever heard in my lifetime and one completely unsupported by the principles of peaceful religious freedom this country is supposed to be built on.

    I saw him claim "thousands and thousands" of people in New Jersey cheered on 9/11, a statement nobody has been able to back up over the past year.

    I saw him say the US would admit 250,000 Syrian refugees under Obama, a claim that has been time and time again proved utterly false.

    I saw his campaign dabbled in white supremacy online, tweeting out a meme with a swastika, one showing the uniform of the SS, and one showing Clinton with a backdrop of cash and a Jewish star. All originated with white supremacist groups online. He retweeted messages from self-described white supremacists, including one user called "white genocide." He tweeted out utterly fake statistics from a non-existent organization claiming that the majority of whites killed in homicides were killed by blacks; those statistics originated with a white supremacist group.

    I read about his son giving a radio interview to James Edwards, a white supremacist pro-slavery neo-nazi, and his campaign gave him press credentials multiple times.

    I heard him spend a while refusing to disavow support from the klan [he eventually did, yes] and never made it clear that hate had no part in his campaign. When hate groups are supporting you, there's an affirmative duty to reject that support, and he wouldn't even condom violence at his own rallies. Two men beat a homeless man, saying they were doing so in Trump's name. Instead of condemning them, he said it was a "shame," but his supporters are "passionate"

    I saw his campaign hire a spokeswoman who once attacked Obama (and Romney) for not being a "pure breed," along with a racial epithet.

    I heard him attack a federal judge for his "Mexican heritage" (he was born in Indiana), suggesting that his ethnicity made him unable to do his job.
    Anyway, those are just some things from the campaign. I'm ignoring Trump's past, I'm surely missing a bunch, and I'm even ignoring areas where there are policy disagreements, such as the role of racial profiling or the need for police reform .

    My point, again, is not that everyone who voted for him is a racist or a white supremacist. That's categorically untrue. I'm not even saying Trump is a racist; I honestly don't care what he personally believes. I am saying that his campaign was built on many appeals to racism, and people were willing to ignore that to vote for him. Some of them voted for him explicitly because of these appeals, others certainly went in holding their noses, but they all went by every single one of these stories before they got to the voting booth.

  14. Peabody:

    Based on your wall of text, you clearly have more free time than me so I won't get into an argument about your half truths, non-sequiturs, or irrelevant statements. I have my issues with Trump and don't like him as a politician, but pretty much none of them for the reasons the press or you are arguing. Though for drawing your own conclusions, your post sounds like it could be an article lifted from the Huffington Post.

  15. Not Sure:

    Copied from elsewhere:

    "My question is where are all the racist, misogynist, xenophobic and homophobic people at? I don't run into anyone closely resembling that among my relatives, around my neighborhood, work, grocery store or showing up on my online feeds. If liberals see this everywhere, I have to question the circles they run in."

  16. mx:

    Pew has 37% of Americans opposing gay marriage in 2016 (http://www.pewforum.org/2016/05/12/changing-attitudes-on-gay-marriage/), Gallup has the same number. And a good number of people, supporters of both candidates to be absolutely clear, were in agreement with statements describing blacks as less intelligent or more lazy than whites (http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2016/06/29/reuters_hillary_clinton_supporters_are_pretty_racist_too.html). PPP did a South Carolina poll back in February where 10% said whites are a superior race (11% were not sure) (http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2015/PPP_Release_SC_21616.pdf). And these are people who said as much to a pollster.

    In any case, it doesn't take that many people. Even if just 0.5% of people are aggressively any of those things, you meet enough people as you go about your life, and you'll run into enough of them soon enough. Like this engineer (https://twitter.com/ManikRathee/status/796408766518292480) this morning who stopped for gas and was told "Time to get out of this country, Apu!"

  17. Not Sure:

    Ok- so you see racist, misogynist, xenophobic and homophobic people everywhere, too. Got it.

  18. mx:

    Not everywhere! And honestly, I don't label people with those terms, because I'd far rather focus on actions than who they are as a person. I really don't care whether someone is a racist or homophobe or anything else deep down inside of themselves; there's no way I can tell, nor does it really matter what they personally believe. I'm far more interested in people's actions and behavior, especially if those actions endanger others' safety or advocate for the use of state power in ways that are likely to hurt minorities, women, or gay people.

  19. Not Sure:

    "I'm far more interested in people's actions and behavior, especially if those actions endanger others' safety or advocate for the use of state power in ways that are likely to hurt minorities, women, or gay people."

    Is it okay to use state power in ways that are likely to hurt people who aren't minorities, women, or gay people?

  20. TMallory:

    Whenever I am involved in any discussion regarding the expansion of government powers, I always ask "What would you think of this law in the hands of your political enemy?" In issues like prayer in schools, "What if it's not my religion? There is an old quotation of Thomas Paine - "He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from opposition; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.”

  21. mx:

    I'm not really sure why trying to place me on the libertarian-authoritarian axis is relevant to this discussion. I believe limits on government power can help protect minorities and majorities alike.

    Since you were asking where all the people at, I'm more concerned about stuff like this:

  22. Not Sure:

    I'm not trying to place you on any axis. You chose to single out "minorities, women, or gay people" for protection from state power specifically. All I did was ask if it was okay with you to use state power on people who aren't minorities, women, or gay people. I notice you didn't answer.

  23. Not Sure:

    If my posts are going to be removed, the least that could be done is to have the guts to say who's doing it, and why.

  24. mx:

    I sure as heck had nothing to do with it, but I wouldn't link to infowars if you want to be taken seriously. As to the incident you mentioned, there's some reason to believe it was mainly over a traffic accident: http://www.snopes.com/black-mob-beats-white-man-for-voting-trump/

    People are investigating, as they should be. And to answer your question, the use of state power to arrest and prosecute, say, people who beat others in the street for any reason is fine with me.

  25. Not Sure:

    I didn't say it was you- don't even know how you might go about it. Apologies for the link- I didn't check snopes first. My bad. There are other reports, however, if you believe The Acadiana Advocate in Baton Rouge, LA:


    or ABC 8 News in Richmond, VA:


  26. mx:

    Yeah, if you expect me to be upset about vandalism of the Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee monuments, you're not going to find it. These are monuments to slavery.

    I have no doubt that people will continue to behave badly across the full spectrum of political views and that some people will make things up. But, to go back to the original point here, you were looking for all the "racist, misogynist, xenophobic and homophobic people," and I believe the majority of racist and homophobic incidents reported in the past few days are real.

  27. Not Sure:

    Vandalism is okay if you have a good reason? Got it.

  28. mx:

    In the specific case of the Jefferson Davis Memorial, I am comfortable being a hypocrite.

    And in terms of what I'm worried about, someone waking up to find a swastika painted on their house concerns me significantly more than graffiti on memorials to those who led the fight to perpetuate slavery.