Argos: A Profile Of A Trump Voter

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“How could Nixon have won? Nobody I know voted for him.” —Pauline Kael

The quote is tongue-in-cheek and somewhat apocryphal (Kael, a highbrow film critic for The New Yorker, was aware of her own elitist bubble) but it is apropos to the Trump phenomenon.

Over Christmas break I had a conversation with our traveling correspondent, Argos (see his reports from Belgium, Jordan, and Sweden). A white collar, pragmatic conservative not given to flights of fancy over winning the culture war through legislation, he expressed some discomfort with the Trump’s boorishness and doubts over his electability. I caught up with him the other day to discuss the subject again.

The mood has changed and it’s telling, though anecdotal. Simply put: if the election was tomorrow, he’d vote for Trump in a heartbeat.

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A Radical Flips His Whig, or Observations on a Perpetual Convert

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Father Dwight Longenecker really has got it made. He’d be the first to tell you just how much of a crazy ride it’s been, and how much he’s grown over the years. From his humble beginnings as a brainwashed fundamentalist Evangelical to reaching the Billy Corgan-level Roman Catholic blogger-star status he has today, it seems like that his conversion story is the gift that won’t stop giving. Considering just how often he mentions it on his various blogs, it’s also clear that Fr. Dwight is really quite simply in awe of this path he’s trod, and wants very much to share with you this awe he feels (helpfully distributed into no less than five different testimonials! Get ’em while they’re hot!). I mean, Evangelical Dwight probably only had one conversion story, whereas OS Fr. Dwight 2.1 has conversion stories. Yep. That’s right – plural. Apparently the Roman Catholic church is so much more superior to other denominations that even your testimonials get an upgrade, like Papal bull hormones spurting through a syringe into your spiritual bloodstream.

But just in case you couldn’t get enough Fr. Dwight from his numerous bios and testimonials, he also has several books he’s authored for sale on his website, many of which are tailored for the aspiring Roman Catholic convert in all of us. He’s even got a nifty little Screwtape Letters knock-off series for those of us who just don’t find C. S. Lewis, ya know, Christiany enough. While reading Fr. Dwight’s contributions to Christian culture, one is reminded of  the comedy sketch from the show Portlandia where Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein depict Etsy-esque crafty-types who can’t resist “putting a bird” on everything – except, in Fr. Dwight’s case, instead of a bird, it’s a Papal Seal.

Now, before you assume that the main point of this article is to deride Fr. Dwight for using his conversion to Roman Catholicism for financial gain, I must clarify. There’s really nothing wrong with wanting to make a buck. Plus, if your Patheos-hosted blog will even let you put your Pay-Pal information right on your front page, I’m not going to belittle you for scooping up some dough to keep your five blogs running. As Fr. Dwight will make very clear, he’s a sucker for tradition, and the Roman Catholic church has a very deep and long-standing tradition of using their religion to make some dough. Some of Rome’s most famous  adherents were known for this kind of wheeling and dealing, for the Seat of Pete’s sake!

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All Hail Walter Benjamin

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A bit of fiction from an election in which the truth is often stranger . . .

 

I had blinked and rubbed my eyes a number of times as though the repeated acts would offer some new shot of clarity. They did not, and I muddled on in confusion and in the sweat and noise of the bodies all clustered around me humming with excitement audible and otherwise, an electrical charge which seemed poised to arc between to conductive points. The man crouched over the podium raised his hands again and charged into a new tirade. I squinted as the light caught the morphing of his facial muscles. The jury was still out as they say, but my suspicions had gone into overdrive as had the crowd. Why had I been drawn out of California and halfway across the nation to, of all things, a political rally? Had it all started as a simple act of kindness and morphed into something else? Was it obsession?

About a year back, my friend Trey had asked me to look in on his uncle, an older man who lived by himself with the daily invasion of a well-meaning but beleaguered healthcare worker. Business took Trey all around the country, and his uncle was the only family he had. He had explained that he felt guilty and could pay me a little for the service, since I was between jobs. The old man didn’t live too far from my apartment, so I assented and gave Trey that superior satisfaction garnered from killing two birds with one stone. I guess he figured that he was doing his uncle and I both favors, and he was not wrong. Continue reading

One Night He Heard Screams

 

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National Review has seen better days. Their impotent flailing against Trump demonstrates that something is rotten with (at least some of) the thought leaders of the right when the orange haired man runs circles around them and builds a sizable electoral base on a shoestring budget (and that’s saying something for a fellow not short on cash). But it isn’t all bad at NR and just the other day they published a devastating piece on abortion. If the following excerpt doesn’t hit you in the gut, I don’t know what will:

After injecting the hormone into the patient’s womb, the doctor left the syringe standing upright on her belly. Then, Selzer wrote, “I see something other than what I expected here. . . . It is the hub of the needle that is in the woman’s belly that has jerked. First to one side. Then to the other side. Once more it wobbles, is tugged, like a fishing line nibbled by a sunfish.”

Elvis Arafat: Report from Sweden

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A little while ago Argos, our European-African traveler, visited Stockholm Sweden for four days.

(See here his reports from Belgium and Jordan).

Argos, mind you, is of conservative persuasions, and the Scandinavian fling with socialism does not suit him. And yet he found it hard to deny that Stockholm had it going on: “It was maybe the most beautiful city I’ve been to.” Despite the absence of mountains (something Argos has always loved), the water was gloriously clear, the buildings magnificent, the streets clean, and the people gorgeous, which probably had something to do with the fact that, wherever he looked, he saw Swedes running, biking, and walking. Continue reading

Bernie’s Economic Safe Space

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Whenever I see Bernie Sanders speaking I simply picture him wearing a wizard costume with loose and floppy sleeves flapping around his wrists as he waves his arms overhand at the audience in an attempt to invoke some magical spell on them. So far, the old alchemist seems to be convincing people he can accomplish his craft. Bernie has made many people confident that he can turn dirt into gold and then throw it out on the waiting masses by the overflowing handful. It’s an effective method of electioneering. Many leaders throughout history have used the bread and circuses method, and, sadly, it appears that most of our juveniles never read Juvenal. Traditionally it has never been very difficult to get a following of people when you’re offering free stuff. Despite young people’s skepticism concerning religion, they do seem ready to believe a fiery preacher offering miracles. I don’t doubt Bernie’s good intentions, but his socialistic goals are not very feasible economically speaking.

There are two fatal issues with Sanders’ promises to Americans. The first is his offering of free education, despite the already plummeting quality and rising costs of college in the US. The second flaw is his hard-nosed approach to banks and corporate America. Bernie is very good at pointing out the problems, but his solutions only travel further down the road of impracticality, revealing a complete lack of reasonable implementation of his views. I’ll dig into both issues and try to explain what I mean. Continue reading

A Jew, An Arab, And A White Guy Walk Into A Bar

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I have three rules for my classes: 1) Come to class. 2) Come to class on time. 3) Come to class prepared (do the work and bring a notebook and writing utensil). Most of the time my students comply.

The other day two Russians raised their hands and in unison asked for pencil and paper. I’m usually an easygoing teacher, but when given the opportunity (i.e. breaking one of my three rules), I ream my students out, and that’s what I did: “I wake up every morning at 6:20 so I can be here on time to teach you! And when I show up, I’m prepared! Show some respect, and show up prepared yourself! Bring your own stinking pencils to class! And, no, I’m not giving you a pencil! Find one yourself!” I never yell, and I’m not mean, but students get the point. In this instance, the Russian students begin inquiring around while I fired up the powerpoint.

I said “Russian” but really what I meant was an ethnic Korean raised in Kazakhstan, and a Tatar, who were both native Russian speakers. (Its easy to forget that Russian influence and culture is bigger than Russia proper.) After a minute of searching, the Korean, Kazakhstani Russian speaker raised his hand, and upon acknowledgment asked, “Mr. Bellewether, are you Jewish.” Confused, I answered in the negative. “Why?” I asked in clarification. A come-on-you’re-not-stupid look spread across his face and he responded: “Paper, pencil…so cheap.”

Speechless I covered my mouth with the papers and stifled a laugh.

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