An election fit for 2020

Well, that’s a relief. Even though there were warnings for weeks and months before the election about a “red mirage” that might happen election night, a result of Trump supporters voting on election day and Biden supporters voting heavily by mail, and the order in which the ballots would be counted, even though many of us knew about the possibility intellectually, it turned out actually experiencing was a whole different matter. It was a long week.

I realize this result is not a relief for many of my conservative friends. However, they can take some solace that even if the Democrats manage to take control of the senate through the Georgia senate runoffs, that control will be so tenuous that it’s unlikely any large scale liberal legislation will happen.

In truth, even the 52 majority many were predicting probably wouldn’t have enabled that. The Democrats had a far stronger majority back in 2009-2010, when they barely managed to pass a very conservative health care plan. The reality is there are a lot of moderate and a few conservative Democratic senators who would have complicated any far left agenda. (I say this as someone who would love to see many liberal ambitions happen.)

But at least we’re in a place where we’ll have a reasonably competent leader at the head of the executive branch, or at least one who isn’t as aggressively incompetent as possible. That will matter in the battle with the virus, in foreign relations, and in many other things. And Biden is arguably the best Democrat to be in the presidency if the only way forward is Democrats cutting deals with Republicans.

This was a 2020 election. It seems inevitable in this miserable year that it would end in a manner that will entirely satisfy no one.

The next ten weeks are not going to be pleasant. I anticipate Trump inflicting as much pain as he can before he goes. (Assuming he doesn’t just lose interest and disappear.) I also anticipate he’ll do everything he can to stay on the public stage moving forward. But hopefully this bloviating clown can be relegated to the lunatic fringe where he belongs, and the political right can find a less odious spokesperson.

It’s worth noting that Trump was a symptom, not a singular problem in and of himself. The effects of globalization are still leaving large segments of society in an eroding position. Our society’s response to those people, despite lots of hand wringing, has largely been, “Gee, sucks to be you.” Unless that changes, we’ll see other figures rise with a similar message. And the next one may not be nearly as inept, and may therefore be able to threaten our democracy in ways Trump could only fantasize about.

The future is unknowable, and we still have daunting problems. But at least today we seem to have a path out of the wilderness.

What do you think of the results, and what will happen moving forward?

27 thoughts on “An election fit for 2020

  1. I’ve been saying for some time now that Trump is a symptom, not an illness. America was already hyper-partisan before Trump ran for office, and it still will be after he leaves.

    And what you say about globalization is, in my view, also correct. Globalization has brought about good things and bad things. A lot of people (myself included) fully embraced the good things and tried to ignore the bad stuff. We can’t do that anymore. My hope is that the new Congress and the new President will try to do something to make the bad parts of globalization better without rejecting the good things too.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The partisanship is definitely an issue. Interestingly, like globalization, it’s not unique to Americans. When I talk with, or just watch, folks in other countries, they’re often just as partisan about their own politics as we are about ours. It seems like an inevitable fact of modern society, where each of the dominant political coalitions are fine tuned to maximize their impact.

      It’s also not really unique to our time. If you read about America in the 19th century, politics were very partisan. Things became less intense in the decades after World War II, and I think many take that as the norm. But it was probably a result of mass media and the FCC fairness doctrine. As the internet has opened up new forms of communication, it’s brought back that pre-WWII partisanship, albeit possibly at an intensity higher than ever before.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. We have been very fortunate in that during most of Trump’s term the economy has been quite good. A faltering economy fuels the divisiveness in a society especially when a scapegoat race or ethnicity is blamed for a country’s problems. Under such economic stress even moderates can be easily silenced or recruited into following extreme ideologies. Maybe now we can begin a return to a more rational, benevolent society.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent use of the word bloviating. It has indeed been a long week. I don’t usually watch much cable news, but I was sucked in this week. What has impressed me the most is that the people of both parties responsible for the actual election process appear to have been dedicated, with sincerity, to the integrity of the process. And that was refreshing. Perhaps it is my bias, and personal desire to see such as the true reality beneath all the bombastic rhetoric, that leads me with this impression. I have no idea what actually happened in counting rooms across the country. But I am glad that after all the hoopla and grandstanding, it appears that it all boiled down to simply counting the votes.

    Your point about needing to speak to and hear the concerns of all Americans is well-taken I think. We’re still strongly divided, and there is a great deal of work to be done I think.

    Michael

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Michael. I’ve actually watched more cable news this week than probably the last four years combined. While I don’t mind many of the personalities on the networks, it’ll be nice to get away from it again.

      I’m with you on being impressed by the professionalism and integrity of the election process. I don’t think we’re being unreasonable about that feeling. The people running them went out of their way to be as open about it as possible, possibly because they knew at least one party was going to accuse them of fraud.

      We’re definitely still divided. The results of this election make that all too clear. It seems like we need to find a way to live with that dividedness, make it less take-no-prisoners, rather than being pollyannish about it disappearing anytime soon.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. The following quote applies to voting a president out of office as well as rotating congressman and senators; and it concisely reflects my take on the election of 2020.

    “But to tear down a factory or to revolt against a government or to avoid repair of a motorcycle because it is a system is to attack effects rather than causes; and as long as the attack is upon effects only, no change is possible. The true system, the real system, is our present construction of systematic thought itself, rationality itself, and if a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a systematic government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government. There’s so much talk about the system. And so little understanding.”

    ― Robert M Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

    Peace

    Liked by 2 people

  5. The world is a better place without that terrible incompetent clown but you are right to warn of the rise of authoritarianism. The next, and there are many waiting in the wings, may be a rather better deviser of the putsch. Politicians are a sad reflection on the human race. Business “leaders” no better. It is not a question of right or left or even right and wrong. It is a question if escaping brutal animal roots and achieving a better and more humane universe than evolution has bequeathed us. I am not holding my breath. Nor should you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely we always have to be on guard against authoritarianism, from any and all directions.

      My view of politicians and business leaders isn’t as bleak as yours. I think you’re right that they’re a reflection of us, of what we demand, for better or worse. And like us, they represent the full spectrum of human ethics.

      Of course, I’m saying that on a day we voted out a particularly awful example. I might feel different in a few months.

      Like

  6. “The effects of globalization are still leaving large segments of society in an eroding position.”

    Mike, I think you are quite correct on this. Trump just took advantage of it. Economic innovation results in “creative destruction” as Schumpeter described in “Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1942). And many liberals, like Clinton, etc, teed up the ball for this demagogue with a blind embrace of global economic trade policies which were good for macroeconomic growth and destructive because the deals ignored so many American workers (microeconomics). That produced a pool of left-behind and angry people.

    It’s not the full explanation of Trumpism. But, I agree with you that it was a substantial factor in empowering him.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Matti. It’s a difficult issue. We’re not able to simply eschew global trade. That would be even worse for the people concerned, with the added cost of bringing everyone else down with them. In short, we can’t go back to way things used to be. It was dependent on a world that is relentlessly disappearing. There has to be change. The question is how to give the people suffering from the changes a viable path for a livelihood that preserves their dignity. I’m not sure what the answer is, but if we don’t solve it, or at least ameliorate it, the people affected may burn down the whole show.

      I think you’re right that this doesn’t fully explain Trumpism, but a lot of the rest came from his alliance with social conservatives, many of whom held their nose to get conservative judges.

      Like

  7. I’ve looked up what went on here four years ago to see if any of the commentary between Mike and I was in hindsight very off. Mike’s initial post may have been a bit too gloomy though I think we each did pretty well. I was new here back and hadn’t quite gotten into the meat of my ideas.

    Anyway as for the present I didn’t like that Biden was instructed to yell his victory speech. This was apparently to portray him as someone who could do the job even given his advanced age. Calm conviction would have been a far more assuring in general I think. If they want to understand how to do “old” well, maybe his people should study Regan?

    Kamila Harris did great however. Clearly if she can keep her nose clean she’ll be next in line on the Democrat side. And will Joe pass his spot off to her after a single term given his age? To me that sounds like a reasonable proposition, not that I’m aware of such a thing ever happening in the past.

    On the divided country thing, I don’t actually consider this to be all that big a deal. It’s not like the losers are going to riot or hold all sorts of protests. They should essentially just move on under a new president.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Eric,
      You made me go back and read my posts from four years ago. I think they hold up fairly well, particularly the one a few days after the election. (The one the morning after was really just an expression of shock.) The last four years is more or less what I expected. The only real miss was assuming Trump would be able to get his wall, but at best he got fragments of it.

      I also predicted he would get reelected if the economy was doing well. He might well have been reelected without the economic shocks from the virus. Even then, had he managed minimal competence in dealing with it, we might be having a very different conversation right now. Although given how dug in everyone was, it’s hard to say.

      I personally don’t care about the style of political speeches. Generally I don’t even watch them anymore. They take too long to relay content I can get with later news summaries. Although I did watch the one last night. I think they said exactly the right things. But a lot will depend on what the opposition does.

      Actually, the losers are holding protests. There were many yesterday. They’re just not attracting the crowds of the 2016 protests, or yesterday’s celebrations. For that matter, there were protests outside of some of the counting centers during the week, some with people brandishing weapons.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You forgot to actually check your predictions Mike? Fortunately you did pretty well. One of the things I most like about blogging is to go back and see the kinds of things I was saying months or years ago. It’s a way to check yourself. Sometimes you find that you learn some things. I’ve been impressed at how consistent my message has remained even given all that I’ve learned.

        If Trump wasn’t an idiot then he’d have realized that a second term would be assured through his relative silence and ability to appear presidential. Fortunately for us he is an idiot however, and so continued on as a speaking advertisement for his idiocy. We’ll take it! And regarding theses “protests”, as well as Trump challenging the results and not conceding, it’s really just going to be more entertainment than anything else. Here the right is able to complain while the left is able to further bitch them out for trying to subvert our democracy. The hype here will of course be “Unprecedented!” though it’s really just standard business.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Eric,
          I did check my predictions. Most were in the ballpark. In addition to the wall, I did miss on thinking Trump would support LGBT rights. And he kept trying to kill the ACA. (He might yet have succeeded with Amy Coney Barrett.) The misses were a case of giving Trump more credit than he deserved. I’m very glad I was wrong about him being reelected, but I stipulated that was based on him managing some minimal level of competence, which never materialized.

          I doubt the transition will be standard business. For sure, there have been sore losers before. John Adams infamously spent the night before Thomas Jefferson’s inauguration stacking the federal bureaucracy, then fled town. And there have been other rough transitions. But Trump is still capable of causing real damage before he leaves, particularly with pardons. We’ll have to see how much of the rest is easily reversible by Biden.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. I look at it from a historical perspective. Democracy is a relatively young form used in human societies. The biggest advances of democracy on the world scene happened during the last several centuries. The biggest democracy defeats also happen in the same time interval. Some of those incidents directly led to autocratic and totalitarian regimes, like bolshevism in Russia or fascism in Germany. Both were encouraged by the massive support of tens of millions of people with well known now leaders. The credo of motivations of people in those movements was “the end justifies the means”. The same happen with tens of millions of Trump supporters. He just did not have enough time to transform into a dictator. Yet he enjoyed the overwhelming support of almost half of the USA population.

    The problem is much bigger than just Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, or Trump persons. I suspect that over half of the world population supports the idea that “the end justifies the means”.

    I hope that the end of Trump’s run will lead to multiple investigations of mentioned movements, including additional research in human and crowd psychology.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think the biggest issue is that democracy works as long as most of the population sees it in their interest. That takes time to develop. It’s why new democracies are particularly vulnerable. People don’t have enough experience with it yet to have trust in the process. That trust hasn’t had a chance to become a tradition.

      Not that established democracies are completely safe. They’re just safer.

      Historically though, the established republics that fail, before their final failure, had ceased taking care of the interests of much of the population. It makes them vulnerable to strongmen who promise to be their champion.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. “That takes time to develop.” – I agree. Shortage of time is the biggest problem for humanity now on all fronts. Advances in technology made possible digital dictatorships, which are on the way in Russia and China. Soon a globally controlled digital dictatorship will be possible too. After that, even a local uprising with a goal to return to democracy, probably, would not be possible.

        People, and societies as a whole, tend to overestimate their current power and accomplishments. That is true also for the biggest and mightiest societies/countries/religions at a time. “Mightiest” became complacent and do not THINK and WORK to resolving future problems.

        The time interval, during which global problems for democracy institute on Earth could be researched and, possibly, solved, is shrinking. At the same time, the pace of technology advances grew per a hyperbolic curve.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Victor,
          It sounds to me like you’ve been keeping your eye on China’s coming Social Credit System. If a person knew that all recorded information, such as what someone chooses to purchase, or who they effectively associate with, would factor into an incredibly influential score regarding that person’s privileges in society, wouldn’t behavior thus change dramatically? Though it’s being rolled out cautiously I suspect that this system will progressively make for an extremely obedient populace. Furthermore it seems to me that such compliance might substantially increase general productivity and thus Chinese wealth!

          “Give me liberty or give me death” may make for a strong slogan, but at the end of the day liberty is but one of many potential components to “a good life”. If the Chinese government is able to use extreme oversight manipulation to foster far more wealthy people than otherwise, then I think your prophesy may indeed come true.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Eric,
            Maybe there is a path for humanity between Scylla and Charybdis. Possible AI dominance is Scylla, which requires a global, coordinated response from mankind. Global digital dictatorship is a Charybdis as a maybe feasible response to AI dominance.

            A collective democratic West believes that it won a competition between West and East, and between democracy and non-democracy. I think it is a premature conclusion.

            There are some undercurrents in world history, which we don’t understand and which could impact all those options. For example, historians agree that approximately at the time of the Industrial Revolution a great migration of human activity from Asia to Europe happened (so-called The Great Divergence or European miracle). In my upcoming book “Subsurface History of Humanity” I will uncover that that migration, in reality, happened many centuries earlier. The cause for it is unknown.

            We may hope that some powerful undercurrent trends may emerge and impact positively our battle with Scylla and Charybdis. Otherwise, I do not see positive signs from the current mankind’s affairs.

            Liked by 2 people

          2. Actually Victor, the AI dominance thing isn’t something that I put much stock in. I guess my reasoning is that I don’t consider consciousness to exist as a product of computational power itself, but rather as a given kind of physics which our brains preform. So theoretically just as evolution built us, we might eventually build something conscious. But like us these machines should still be tied to associated physics rather than potentially exist in the form of “internet traveling demons” as popularly portrayed. Any artificially sentient beings that we create should exist at our mercy given that we should directly hold the keys to their welfare. And if we were to also grant them the right to not have their welfare be under our direct control, they should at least still be held accountable to our laws.

            If I’m wrong however and thus qualia can occur by means of information processing alone, which is to say no unique variety of physics is required to create this stuff, then I would be more worried that various inevitably conscious computers that we build might get angry with us and so fight back. But in that case we might be kind to them given their potential to function as internet traveling demons who destroy us. So I guess I’m only a bit more worried if I do happen to be wrong about qualia existing through physics based instantiation mechanisms (as all else does as far as I can tell).

            Liked by 1 person

          3. Eric,
            There is no need at all for AI and AGI to have a consciousness. They need only intelligence. You could read good books about that, if you want to. As for humans being able to always control AI – good luck with that. The first year when very dumb AI got out of human control was 2016.

            Liked by 2 people

          4. Okay Victor, I guess I got your position wrong. You aren’t proposing that our computers will develop sentient based agency and then get angry and destroy us, but intelligence nonetheless. Apparently in 2014 Stephen Hawking said:

            So, facing possible futures of incalculable benefits and risks, the experts are surely doing everything possible to ensure the best outcome, right? Wrong. If a superior alien civilisation sent us a message saying, ‘We’ll arrive in a few decades,’ would we just reply, ‘OK, call us when you get here–we’ll leave the lights on?’ Probably not–but this is more or less what is happening with AI.

            To me this suggests a worry about sentient machines taking over, just as we humans would naturally try to if we found ourselves under conditions that we didn’t like.

            I’m not familiar with our obviously still quite dumb AI getting out of control since 2016. Can you describe that situation, as well as what you fear down this trajectory, and conclude with your proposed solution? I mean this as a potential promotion for your coming book rather than as a spoiler, though obviously it’s your call.

            Liked by 2 people

  9. Eric,
    It is a really vast topic. Here is a brief summary. AI is just intelligence ( an artificial, from current humans viewpoint – because we, humans, created it in the first place). Consciousness and being sentient is not related to it at all. Consciousness is a sub-product of the organic biological evolution of life (as we know it) on Earth. AI is not organic (so far).

    AI is good at some specific task, for which it is created by humans. Nowadays AI is everywhere. Siri on your iPhone is AI. AI could be much better than humans. And it is in many cases. For example, AI could find skin cancer much better than any human specialists.

    It is estimated that in 10 years there would be two types of companies. On top, there would be companies, which use AI. All others would be at the bottom. One important application of AI is autonomous AI weapons. The global race on that is on. That fuels improvements in AI. It is also one of the reasons why it is really hard to get a global agreement on how to deal with AI / AGI. China has a $25 billion program to become the world’s top country in AI.

    The next step in AI development is Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). By definition of the term, AGI is AI, which exceed humans in anything which humans do, or, possibly do. Most people misunderstand what it means. It means that AGI is better than any human, or humankind as a whole, not only in any task but also in understanding humans’ emotions, humor or small talk, arts, science, etc.

    Ray Kurzweil defined a singularity point in mankind / AI development as a point-in-time when the capacity of AI/AGI will, at least, in billion times exceed the total capacity of all humankind combined. His prediction is that it will happen around 2045. Initially, most scientists/engineers working on AI were very skeptical about his prediction. Now most of them think that it could happen around that date or close to it. It is important to note that most of them think that an AGI emergence is not the question of if, but of when.

    It is common understanding that as soon as a first AGI will emerge, it will self-improve itself at an explosive exponential rate, and then spread out or recreate a better self, independent of humans. Humans would not be able to understand or predict what AGI will do. A good example to think about the relationship of AGI to humans is to compare humans to mosquitos. AGI to humans would be many many billion times smarter than humans to mosquitos.

    In 2016 in one online computer game, human players all over the world were able to compete with each other and an embedded AI. The code prohibited that AI from doing specific actions. Nevertheless, that specific AI got out of control, created unforeseen “weapons”, and beat up human players. The company, which developed the code, had to revoke this version of the game and re-wrote the code.

    2020 was the first year when AI, which was good not just at one single task, was created.

    The pace of AI “evolution” is, at least, many thousands of times faster than humans’ evolution. Moreover, AI “evolution” is getting faster every day and soon will be millions of times faster than humans evolution.
    AGI could be an existential threat to mankind.

    At some point, I will discuss all that in my blog. That time did not come yet. You could look up my blog at vtorvich.com.

    Liked by 2 people

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