The Mess We’re In. Trump And The New Party System | February 2016 Update

This month was mostly about the 2016 election, and the truly unprecedented situation we found ourselves in. Some of these videos look quite prescient a year later, others less so…

But before we got into US politics, I did a video on world affairs that I think remains one of the best I have ever done. “The Oil Price and The End of Islamic Terrorism“, draws together a number of strands to put together a compelling picture of the future of terrorism and geopolitics. It defies conventional wisdom, but I think it holds up pretty well a year later. My freelance work includes a lot of oil industry analysis, which leads me to believe that oil prices will remain in the gutter. There are just too many sources of oil, and too many technologies coming on stream. As predicted, oil prices today stand at about 52 bucks a barrel, well under the 55-60 dollar band I predicted, despite some histrionics from OPEC. The video’s prediction of falling terrorism has fared well too. Saudi-funded Aleppo has fallen, and ISIS continues to be pushed back. The big deal terrorism events of 2016 were mostly lone wolf style attacks. Not enough has been done to link the oil price and geopolitics of terrorism, and I think this video remains a valuable contribution.

This month includes some of my best US election coverage. “Why Bernie Sanders is No George McGovern” took on one of the comforting myths we like to tell ourselves. In truth, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are nothing like former party insurgents like Democrat George McGovern and Republican Barry Goldwater. Those rabble-rousers of yesteryear were actually quite friendly to the establishment compared to Sanders and Trump. I brought in the comparison to Andrew Jackson, which I have seen a lot recently, now that we’re in the era of President Trump. Though I didn’t highlight it in the video, it’s also interesting that both McGovern and Goldwater were big losers. I think establishment folks were using this comparison to convince themselves that Trump would lose right up to election day. Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the title, I switched it to “Donald Trump is no Barry Goldwater” to aid discoverability in the post-Sanders era. When Sanders was running he inspired a lot of enthusiasm. This video had one of my largest opens ever, racking up 296 views on its first day, and over 500 in its first week. I think this video remains very useful a year later.

This one is not. “When to Panic About Donald Trump” is another one of those Facebook optimized videos that I stopped doing after this month. They just didn’t do very well. Also Facebook video’s threat to YouTube seems to have been over-blown as well. Facebook doesn’t yet provide a good hub for discovery of an individual’s videos. Until they have that, they won’t win over independent producers of any size. This video is neatly done, but it’s definitely in the “Don’t worry about Trump, he couldn’t possibly win!” genre. We now all now know that that’s not true.

The Power of Sanders and Trump Explained” lays out the much maligned economic and educational reasons that these insurgent candidates did so well. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a snarky journalist re-tweet some racist Trump supporter with a comment along the lines of “So it’s all about economics is it!?!?!?” I’ve seen less of this after the election. The loss of the “Blue Wall” mid-western states gave Trump the election. A lot of blue collar areas that voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 switched over to Trump. There was a sad poetry to Clinton’s loss of these traditional “old left” states. Wisconsin, which used to be the closest thing to a socialist state we had, decided that the “New Democrats” had less to offer them than the Orange Chaos Muppet. As awful as Trump is, and as frankly racist as his policies and some of his supporters are, we’re not going to beat him until we acknowledge the simple fact that the bi-partisan consensus on trade and globalization up until 2016 left the majority of the country out.

Why Scalia’s Death is a Massive Gift to the Establishment” is my least successful video of 2016. I think name-checking actual Washington, DC figures in a video title is generally a bad idea. The broader public doesn’t know who the people in “Hollywood for Nerds” are other than the sitting president. Also, this was my last effort in the “facebook-friendly” format, and my lack of comfort with it may be obvious. Nonetheless, I think the video makes a valuable point. The Democrats and the Republicans love a supreme court fight, because it makes them seem different.

Oof. “3 Myths about President Trump” is more effective than I’d like it to be. It gets essentially everything right, from Clinton’s failings as a candidate, to how craven the Republicans are, to how not moderate Trump’s government is. We’re in terrible trouble folks. Sigh.

This month’s videos do a good job of highlighting what we’re going through. One of the more interesting ways to look at US political history is the division into different party systems. Even though we’ve had something like the Democrats the whole way through, and we’ve had a Republican party since the 1850s, political scientists can see distinct party systems. Some say we’re on the fifth now, some say we’re on the sixth. Basically, what a “Republican” or a “Democrat” means has changed dramatically over the years. Some of this change happens with dramatic moments like the Civil War or FDR’s new deal, but nobody who was going through it knew they were going through such a change (OK they probably knew during the Civil War). These periods of change are always tremendously stressful. People hold on to their old ideas of what their party means long after they’ve changed completely. I’d argue we’re going through such a moment right now. 20 years from now there will probably still be “Republicans” and “Democrats”, but under the “7th party system” those parties will be completely changed. They will certainly better reflect the interests of the country than the party system ca. 2015. It sucks to be going through this, but in my more optimistic moments I imagine that it’s bringing us to a better place. Here’s hoping that’s true.

February of 2016 saw a very important improvement in video quality. I watched one of my vids on a friend’s TV, which highlighted how bad the sound had been up to this point. My recording is pretty OK, but I hadn’t been doing any sound editing in post-production. That experience with the TV convinced me to look into sound compression. I’m still quite bad at it, but I’m much better at avoiding those jarring jumps in volume that you may have noticed in my videos produced up to this point. Audio compression is a valuable tool.

Views continued their upward trend in February 2016, up to 17,709 from 16,224 in January. None of the top five, and three of the top ten videos in February were produced in February. Five of the six videos crossed 100 views on their first day, and one of them almost made it to 300 (296). Eleven months later, five of six have topped 200 views, and of those four have also topped 400, and one has topped 1,000. At the end of February 2016 we had 148 videos, all but three of which were viewed in January, 100 of which were viewed 10 or more times, 21 of which were viewed more than 100 times, and four of which were viewed more than 1,000 times (FATCA, John Oliver, Hillary Clinton, Putin-Estonia).

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  • Robert Morris


  • Nathan Ruffing

    Trump vs. Hillary. You acknowledge that our options were abysmal. Neither Trump nor Hillary got more than 50% of the vote, and many fewer actually liked who they voted for. I think that the root of what we lack is a “unity of purpose.” Obama used the phrase in his inaugural address. Trump of course claims to champion a unity of purpose. What did “Hope and Change” mean? What does “Make America Great Again” mean? Are we really even doing anything as a nation? What? Are We? Doing? I ask the question in exasperation, but I am really asking the question. A challenge unites people. What cause can we all unite behind? Do we need an identifiable outside enemy like during WW2, or can we decide on something and go for it, like going to the moon?

    • Robert Morris

      Excellent question. I did a long series on the Military Industrial Complex, and I’ve so far chickened out on the conclusion that I meant to give at the outset. World Peace needs the US MIC, but our budgeting process relies on ginning up fake threats to keep the money flowing, which has become counterproductive. I start the series out by talking about some of these problems, but get to the point that we’re all really part of the MIC, and we’ve all benefited from it. I think you’re exactly right. We need a cause. We’ve been without a general strategy, and without an enemy for 25 years now. The final video, which I really need to make, points to the same enemy you mention. Space is out there, and it’s trying to kill us. The whole infrastructure could easily (OK not easily, but effectively) be shifted towards space colonization, and taking the lead on that would give us a lead on any plausible terrestrial challenge as well. I really need to make that video before Trump comes out and tries to get all Kennedy on a Mars shot.