Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Role of the Selective Service System in Donald Trump's Win


The Selective Service System (SSS) is a small independent agency within the Executive Branch of the United States Government. One of its missions is "to be prepared to provide trained and untrained personnel to the DoD in the event of a national emergency." In other words, to run a draft of (so far only) young men to fill the ranks of the military.

So what is the relevance of the SSS to Trump's victory? The draft has not been used since 1973!

A bit of history: before December 1, 1969, during the height of the Vietnam War, which, from the American viewpoint, was fought by draftees, the system for determining eligibility for those 18 years old and above can best de defined in one word as "elitist." Individual draft boards in each locality were charged with drafting young men into the Armed Services. Each had different priorities and susceptibility to influence. 

American military involvement surged in 1965. The Johnson Administration decided to use the draft to fill the needs of the war effort. That meant that, until the lottery was instituted in 1969, boys in their 18th year became liable to be drafted. For each of the years 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969, this is the year that they were born their age today (if they managed to survive), and the number of draftees each year:

Year Birth year Age today Number of draftees
1965 1947 69 230,991
1966 1948 68 382,010
1967 1949 67 228,263
1968 1950 66 296,406
1969 1951 65 283,586

There were three big bases for deferment: school attendance, the presence of dependent children, or physical problems. You could also avoid becoming a grunt in Vietnam by being accepted into a Reserve unit of any of the branches of the military. That's how George W. Bush got out of the draft and active military service. Donald J. Trump reportedly had an educational deferment for years and then, when drafted upon graduation, received a classification of I-Y (a physical deferment that was a "pass" unless there was a dire need) because of bone spurs on his feet. Before he graduated, Bill Clinton agreed to join the R.O.T.C. as a way of avoiding being drafted into service during the Vietnam War and later reneged on that promise when his draft-lottery number ensured that he would not be selected. (I was promptly drafted on my graduation from college in June 1968 and received a 1-Y classification because I had spondylolisthesisNo kidding. I wore a back brace from when I was 14 and, to this day, cannot lift more than 40 pounds without severe pain and ensuing inability to stand up straight.)

The long and the short: boys who didn't go to college, or those who didn't have or fake an illness, or those whose parents had no local influence or those who wanted to serve were drafted and sent to Vietnam and put out in the front lines, such as they were in this guerrilla war. 

This was grist for the cultural war that began with the Vietnam War and continues to this day. Yes, as the sixties turned into the seventies, kids from small towns smoked dope, listened to rock music, and, extremely rarely, demonstrated against the war. But mostly they soldiered on and watched their fathers' and mothers' secure world begin disappearing with the first gas lines in 1973. These are the sons of the original Reagan Democrats. They were screwed from 1965 to 1969 by an elitist (and, to the extent large numbers of blacks were also drafted, racist) Selective Service System. Their justifiable resentment of what they perceived (correctly) as privileged liberals can only be expected to have grown over the last 50 years. 

Is it not very likely that there is a direct connection between the old SSS system and today's late-60s Donald J. Trump voter? Not that there are not other reasons, but every cluster of attitudes has its roots in some actual, and not imagined, cause.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

It wasn't a vast right-wing conspiracy

It wasn't a vast right-wing or media conspiracy that caused:
  • Bill Clinton to hand over health policy in 1993 to his (unelected) wife, who came down from the mountain after months of closed-door confabs with a complicated health-insurance-based plan that she refused to permit even loyal Democrats to amend.
  • Bill and Hillary Clinton to prostrate themselves before bankers and other business groups to earn huge speaker fees.
  • Bill and Hillary Clinton to accept huge amounts of money for their family foundation from foreign governments or foreign-government enterprises while she was Secretary of State and while she was running for President.
  • Bill and Hillary Clinton to set up a home-based server to handle their emails while she was Secretary of State.
  • Hillary Clinton to misrepresent the facts concerning her use of that server for her official emails.
  • Hillary Clinton to be woefully oblivious of the security implications of doing so.
  • Hillary Clinton to refer to half of Donald Trump's core supporters as "deplorables."
A comparison of the margins between Obama and Trump (in 2012) and between Clinton and Trump (in 2016) in the most populated counties in the states that went from Blue to Red shows and in certain nearby counties shows that the only state that could have stayed blue had her margins in each state's selected counties been as large as Obama's was Michigan. In four of the six states, her margin was smaller than Obama's but the difference was dwarfed by the margin by which Trump beat her. 

(I am not using any suburban counties around Miami or Des Moines because the usual model of urban city surrounded by suburban counties is not applicable in those states. Adding Broward County or substituting it for Miami-Dade does not materially change the analysis.) 

The data show that even if Wayne and surrounding counties had turned out for Clinton the way thy did for Obama, that would have led to a change of only 16 electoral votes, not enough to give the election to her.

This disproves the notion, which we may well hear, that a relatively low turnout of Democrats' core constituencies of African-Americans, Hispanics living in big cities and people living in adjacent suburban counties cost Hillary Clinton the election. It was the white non-Hispanic vote in smaller cities and towns that killed her chances. 

Can we blame all of whites' votes on racism? or sexism? or the media? 

Isn't it as likely that an appreciable number of potential Democratic voters were turned off by the tone-deaf attitude of the Clintons, particularly Hillary--we're entitled, and I didn't break the law, and I really will stand up to the banks because, well, I worked for the Children's Defense Fund in the '70s--and either didn't vote, voted for Johnson, or, would you believe it, voted for Trump?

The Clintons are a spent force. They have done some good for this country, but the times have finally passed them by. I am sick and tired of hoping that the messes she and he have created can be cleaned up without causing mortal damage to the people who are most vulnerable to the effects of GOP right-wing principles. I am resentful that their reign over the Democratic Party has produced such a miserably inadequate bench that the only politician who saw her weaknesses--and was willing to try to capitalize on them--in 2015 was an aged hipster Senator with no record and no credibility as a potential President who wasn't even a Democrat. It is undoubtedly the Clinton political fund raising machine in each state that was deaf and blind to Hillary Clinton's weaknesses. And the press, especially The New York Times in 2015, also paid no attention to those weaknesses, even though, on the same newspaper, Times reporters continued to dig deep for Clintonisms, as well they should have. This one is on the Democratic political class and pro-Clinton media types--you can't blame Hillary Clinton for running.

I am a loyal Democrat who gave to Democratic candidates and worked the polls for Hillary Clinton, I hope they will leave politics, retire to their riches and their family get-togethers, and, if they want, they can speak to as many bankers who will pay them to pander to them.

See, there is a ray of hope amidst the devastation of November 8, 2016.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

There are only a few days to go before Election Day...

... and I want to puke my guts out.

The Republicans put up as their Presidential nominee someone who, in alphabetical order, is 
  • abusive, 
  • boorish, 
  • contemptuous, 
  • devious, 
  • egocentric, 
  • fatuous, 
  • grasping, 
  • haughty, 
  • ignorant, 
  • juvenile, 
  • knavish, 
  • laughable, 
  • mysogenistic, 
  • narcissistic, 
  • oafish, 
  • phony, 
  • quarrelsome, 
  • racist, 
  • sadistic, 
  • tactless, 
  • untrustworthy, 
  • vindictive, 
  • warped, 
  • xenophobic, 
  • yokelish, and 
  • zany. 
So, what did the Democrats do? They put up one of the weakest candidates in the last 75 years. 

Who was weaker? George McGovern in 1972, with that grating Midwestern whiny voice, his refusal to campaign on the fact that he had been a bomber pilot in WW II while Nixon manned a desk in the Navy, and his obvious lack of leadership (can't even strong-arm Bella Abzug and others to stop fooling around with their Vice-Presidential-nomination-crap so that McGovern could accept the nomination on prime-time TV rather than at 2 in the morning). Not to mention the fact that at the last possible moment he selected Tom Eagleton, a Senator from Missouri who had had electroshock therapy, as his running mate, then got walked on when he kicked Eagleton off the ticket until he finally got Sargent Shriver, JFK's brother-in-law, to agree to be the nominee.

Why is this year's Democratic nominee the weakest candidate since McGovern? First, her baggage is extremely heavy. Any realist among Democratic heavies could and should have predicted as long ago as March 2015, once her private email server was revealed, that that issue, together with the Clinton Foundation, would be seized upon by the GOP and would be potent arguments against her candidacy. Why? Because they fit, like a glove, with the long-held perception that the Clintons believed they are above the normal rules because they're so dedicated to the public interest (as in, "she worked with the Children's Defense Fund"). If they were not clear-eyed enough to see this danger, then the robust performance of an aging Senator who wasn't even a Democrat and had no credibility whatsoever as a potential President should have awakened them. But, even had they awakened, to whom were they going to turn? The incredibly weak "bench" of the Democratic Party nationwide meant that the only alternative to Clinton was an aging, grieving Joe Biden. 

We loyal Democrats have been forced to scurry around cleaning up after the Clintons' personal and political messes since 1992. They've sucked all the oxygen out of the party. If it weren't that the GOP had nominated a Know-Nothing cretin...