Where Is The American Left’s Outreach To Trump Voters?

Donald Trump supporters

Too many leftist and liberal voices would rather bask in their own righteousness and moral virtue than engage in the only kind of outreach which stands a chance of defeating Trumpism at its source

As is often the case, a satirical news article in The Onion makes a political point better than 100 earnest Op-Eds on the same subject (including those of this blog).

In a piece entitled “Former conservative recalls belittling tirade from college student that brought him over to the Left”, The Onion reports:

Explaining how the string of personal insults and sharply worded accusations caused him to reevaluate every one of his political leanings, former conservative Vincent Welsh recalled for reporters Friday the belittling tirade from a college student that brought him over to the left. “It was last October and I’d just mentioned my support for a Republican congressional candidate on Twitter when this 19-year-old responded by telling me I was an ignorant asshole who hated the poor and that I was everything that was wrong with the world, and it just completely opened my eyes to how incorrect my whole worldview was,” said Welsh, fondly recounting how the sophomore sociology major converted him to liberalism on the spot by calling him a hateful bigot and saying he was too much of a “brainwashed puppet” of corporate interests to know what was best for him, instantaneously invalidating the 56 years of individual thought and life experience that had led him to his previous political beliefs.

This is what the Laura Pidcocks and Abi Wilkinsons of the world simply fail to understand; publicly declaring that those with differing political views are amoral or at best complicit in evil behaviour does not open hearts and minds, it closes them. Furthermore it only prompts those on the Right, tired of being falsely portrayed as callous oppressors, to hit back against leftist positions using the same divisive language of morality.

I’m sometimes guilty of this myself, having finally snapped after being called out and unfriended by a sanctimonious leftist former acquaintance, and subsequently resolving to fight fire with fire rather than patiently argue that left wing policies are well-intentioned but flawed. Is this the best approach I could take, in terms of helping to bridge political divides and promote understanding? Of course not. But it is incredibly cathartic and gets this blog much more traffic.

The Onion makes a point which may be (and often is) lost on ordinary grassroots left-wing activists, particularly those patrolling social media. And that is only to be expected; right-wing activists are often equally strident in their denunciation of leftists and liberals as communist antipatriots determined to undermine the country from within. Obstinate partisanship is not the preserve of any one political ideology.

But one would hope and expect the adults in the room to take a different approach. Those holding elected office or exercising influence over millions of people on television or in their written commentary ought to be able to tell the difference between playing to the gallery (which is easy) and engaging in genuine persuasion (which can be extraordinarily difficult). Yet too often they choose the former rather than the latter path.

Witness this recent feature by Stephanie McCrummen in the Washington Post. Entitled “The Homecoming”, the feature follows a young female university student returning from her liberal arts college back to visit her home in rural Missouri and help out at the county fair, finding it difficult to relate to her conservative, Trump-supporting family and friends.

In a piece which broke the needle on my overwrought sanctimony detector, McCrummen begins:

It was the first full day of the Clark County Fair, and over at the concession stand Emily Reyes was reading the novel “Ulysses,” raising her head every few paragraphs to look out through the window.

Meet our protagonist, Emily Reyes, child of rural Missouri but reborn as an urban sophisticate following a couple of semesters at college in Kansas City. Already the alarm bells should be sounding – few people read “Ulysses” for pleasure, and one wonders whether Reyes brought the book home with her in part to signal the intellectual leap she has made from her backward hometown. That I could certainly understand, having read numerous books merely to be seen reading them back in my more insufferable youth.

It goes on:

She put down the novel about a young Irish man searching for meaning on an ordinary day in Dublin and began making some jalapeño poppers. A white-haired farmer in denim overalls arrived at the window.

“Small cup of coffee,” he said.

“It’s Starbucks!” Emily began, realizing as soon as the words came out that “Starbucks” was of course a symbol of the urban elite liberal, which was exactly what she did not want to seem to be. She poured him a large cup of coffee and slid it across the counter.

Jesus. Rural Missourians are familiar with Starbucks, and most of them do not see it as a symbol of the urban elite – how can it be when even smaller towns often have a drive-thru Starbucks on their main strip? Newsflash, Washington Post: small town America also has electricity and running water.

More:

Emily had been going since she was a girl, and had always looked forward to the feeling of ease, the lull while the corn was rising, the unhurried conversations. But nothing felt easy to her since the election, especially conversations of the sort that she had learned could arise here.

She had tried talking to her parents during other visits home, telling them that a vote for Trump was a vote “to deport your future son-in-law.” She had tried with Cyrus, and their relationship had only suffered. She and her best friend Hannah had decided not to talk about Trump at all because of the strain the subject had put on their friendship. A sister-in-law had told Emily that she had become difficult to talk to lately, self-righteous and angry.

At this point you should be starting to question whether Emily Reyes might just be a little bit dim. And to be fair, at her age of 22 and early into my political awakening I was not unlike her in terms of my outlook. A more curious person, though, having noted her hometown’s strong proclivity for Donald Trump and then experiencing an entirely different culture at a left-leaning urban college campus, might start asking what faults and failings among the supposedly superior political and cultural elite prompted so many decent people to drift away from establishment candidates and end up wearing MAGA hats. But all Reyes can seeminly do is see the faults and failings of her own family and friends.

And why on earth was their vote for Trump a vote to deport her then-fiancé, how husband? Is her husband an illegal immigrant? There is no indication given in the piece that her Guatemalan partner is “undocumented”. One can reasonably object to Donald Trump’s stance on border security, amnesty for existing illegal immigrants and the foul, racially charged rhetoric he used during the campaign. But to imagine that Trump plans to begin deporting legally settled immigrants is leftist hysteria of the first order, a wild extrapolation from anything that Trump has ever said or that his administration has ever proposed. But again, the Washington Post is not interested in highlighting or deconstructing the flaws in Reyes’ own thinking – for the purposes of their feature, Reyes is unquestionably right about everything, and the residents of Clark County, Missouri are unquestionably wrong.

So far, the only line in the piece which rings true is the observation that Reyes “had become difficult to talk to lately, self-righteous and angry”. That much I can totally believe, based on numerous conversations with people exactly like her.

More:

She turned on some Bob Dylan at a low volume, opened “Ulysses” and settled into a folding chair, advancing 10 pages before Hannah arrived to help. Hannah Trump was her maiden name. Her uncle ran Trump Trucks. An aunt ran a bed-and-breakfast called Trump Haus. Her brother played football and was booed at an out-of-state game recently because of the name Trump on his jersey.

They began making biscuits and gravy, talking about an old high school classmate studying at the University of Missouri.

“She was asking me to help her work on a project about diversity in small towns — she wants to know about any racial targeting,” Emily began.

Again, did the fact that her friend’s brother was booed at an out-of-state football game for sharing a surname with the 45th president of the United States prompt Emily Reyes to dwell for a moment on leftist intolerance? Apparently not.

And of course their mutual friend at the University of Missouri was working on a project about diversity in small towns. American academia in general has become little more than the clergy of the social justice movement, and Mizzou in particular is notable for having capitulated totally to the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics. The only astonishing thing here is the speed at which Reyes discarded her old values and sense of empathy with her hometown friends and neighbours in order to side completely and unequivocally with the leftist politics pumped out by her college.

There then follows a particularly egregious segment where McCrummen and the Washington Post seem almost to take enjoyment from the fact that the hopes that the people of Clark County had invested in Donald Trump were not being met:

At a moment when Trump was making news almost every day, when the Trump campaign was under investigation for possible ties to Russia, when some Americans were still rooting for his agenda and others were convinced that his presidency amounted to a national crisis of historic dimensions — no one seemed to be talking about Trump at all.

In the very heart of Trump country, no Make America Great Again hats were in sight. No Trump T-shirts. No Trump bumper stickers or placards.

When asked, people said the standard things Trump voters have been saying, that the president should “stop tweeting so much,” or Congress should “give him a chance,” or that he was always “the lesser of two evils.” Then they went back to talking about how good the corn was looking, or the car crash yesterday, or which garden photo won the open art show.

Sitting in the shade of the grandstand, Marvis Trump, a member of the fair board and owner of Trump Haus, had her theory. She had supported Trump, she said, and for a while, she even had a Trump sign up at her house because it irritated her liberal daughter-in-law. It was a lot of fun, she said, but sometime around Easter, she said, that feeling faded.

“Probably the fun’s over now,” she said.

Perhaps I am being oversensitive, but I almost detect an air of mockery here – a perverse enjoyment by the writer and newspaper that the hopes of these people that Trump might actually “Make America Great Again” were being slowly dashed, that they were being made to look foolish for having previously supported his candidacy so sincerely.

And this gets to the heart of the problem with leftist and liberal resistance to Donald Trump. It’s not that leftists do not have many critiques of Trump which are entirely valid – of course they do. It’s that too many of them seem to enjoy being proved right more than they see the need to make meaningful outreach to those who were wrong.

Yes, the Emily Reyes’s of this world were absolutely right about all of Donald Trump’s character flaws, his inability to govern effectively and his disinterest in even trying to do so. They correctly identified his moral flaws, and picked apart the non sequiturs and logical fallacies in his various arguments with ease. But astonishingly, even now – 227 days into this presidency – they remain utterly unwilling to look at the flaws and failings of their own politics which drove so many people into the arms of Donald Trump in the first place. This does not bode well for the defeat of Trumpism.

I’m currently reading an excellent book, “The Once and Future Liberal” by Mark Lilla, which explores some of these failings in leftist dogma, particularly as they relate to the Left’s obsession with identity politics.

In the introduction, Lilla notes:

“The main result has been to turn young people back onto themselves, rather than turning them outward toward the wider world. It has left them unprepared to think about the common good and what must be done practically to secure it – especially the hard and unglamorous task of persuading people very different from themselves to join a common effort.”

This seems to perfectly capture the seemingly unbridgeable divide between college-educated child and rural-dwelling parent described in the Washington Post piece. In one sense, Reyes is extraordinarily open, having seen the wider world, worked with Syrian refugees in Greece and married someone of Guatemalan heritage. But in another way, her newfound political ideology is so insular that it has left her struggling to look past the different politics of her immediate family and friends to see their innate goodness, and also unable to discuss these issues without becoming angry.

None of this is particularly the fault of Emily Reyes, who seems to be a generous and upstanding individual, despite the fact that she is clearly being used as a tool by the Washington Post to advance their particular ideological agenda. Rather, it is the fault of a political dogma which equates moral virtue with the unquestioning acceptance of its strictures – hence the cognitive dissonance experienced by some identity politics leftists when beloved family members hold the “wrong” views, effectively making them “bad” people.

Obviously the Left’s problems go far beyond this, and include a failure to grapple with the impact of globalisation and automation on the people of small-town America, who tend not to be the kind of ultra-mobile knowledge workers found in the city (and to whom so much of the Democratic Party policy platform is geared). But besides Mark Lilla, few other people on the American Left presently seem willing to engage in any kind of introspection.

Abraham Lincoln once noted that “with public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed”. Sullenly waiting for Donald Trump supporters to realise the error of their ways – and come crawling back to the same political parties and the same policies which so repulsed them in the first place – is not a recipe for success. On their current trajectory, the Left and assorted anti-Trump forces can at best hope to silence Trump voters, returning many of them to a state of sullen political disengagement and despair – hardly a recipe for improved social cohesion.

Far better to win them over with a new and improved vision for America, one which is better than Donald Trump’s bleak and superficial promises on the one hand, and the Left’s dystopian, censorious identity politics on the other.

 

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A Sermon On Justice And Reconciliation From Ferguson, Missouri

Ferguson Missouri MO Fourth 4th July parade 2

  

What to say about the slow-motion tragedy unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri?

The few known facts – that a black teenager, Michael Brown, was shot to death by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, in disputed circumstances – belie the visceral anger that has consumed the town.

The subsequent actions by the authorities, notably the St. Louis County Police – stonewalling on releasing the name of the officer involved, refusing to release the autopsy details, waging an increasingly military-style war of aggression against legitimate protesters and journalists, and releasing CCTV footage of Michael Brown purportedly robbing a convenience store in what can only be interpreted as an act of pre-emptive character assassination – have only compounded the sense that a predominantly white establishment have more interest in protecting their good names and quelling dissent than administering justice.

St. Louis is a city that I know, have spent much time in, and feel close to. People should not be put off St Louis, Missouri and the surrounding area by the horrible scenes unfolding there now on television and Twitter, because the current crisis is not representative of the state and its citizens. But having personal experience of the area,  it is also glaringly evident that the violence and racial tension that forced itself into our collective consciousness with the shooting of Michael Brown last week was looming, unaddressed, for a long time.

Since I have known St Louis, it has been a city of two halves – the still somewhat dicey downtown area and select suburbs with higher black and lower income populations on one level, and the highly desirable enclaves and suburbs (such as Clayton and University City) that surround them, populated by a much wealthier (and whiter) demographic on the other. Everyone may cheer on their hometown St. Louis Cardinals baseball team on game day, but there is a clear divide between those who can afford tickets to watch the game at Busch Stadium and those who have to tune in on the radio or TV.  Tensions between the city’s two halves, while not ordinarily visible to the casual observer, have roiled this part of Missouri for years.

The New York Times thoroughly summarised the history of this divide in a recent article, revealing the underlying causes of the difference between St. Louis City and County:

Back in 1876, the city of St. Louis made a fateful decision. Tired of providing services to the outlying areas, the city cordoned itself off, separating from St. Louis County. It’s a decision the city came to regret. Most Rust Belt cities have bled population since the 1960s, but few have been as badly damaged as St. Louis City, which since 1970 has lost almost as much of its population as Detroit.

This exodus has left a ring of mostly middle-class suburbs around an urban core plagued by entrenched poverty. White flight from the city mostly ended in the 1980s; since then, blacks have left the inner city for suburbs such as Ferguson in the area of St. Louis County known as North County … 

Many North County towns — and inner-ring suburbs nationally — resemble Ferguson. Longtime white residents have consolidated power, continuing to dominate the City Councils and school boards despite sweeping demographic change. They have retained control of patronage jobs and municipal contracts awarded to allies.

This history lesson may seem a million miles away from the reality on the streets of Ferguson today, but it is directly relevant. It is because of structures such as this, where the now-minority white establishment continues to wield almost unchallenged control over the levers of local government, that allow the scenes of high-handed crackdowns on civil assembly and free speech as practiced by the predominantly white County Police.

The attitude – sometimes explicit, sometimes more subtle – of many of the wealthy St. Louis County residents to their St. Louis City and poorer County neighbours – has often been one of impatience and grudging forebearance on one end of the spectrum, and wilful ignorance on the other.

In 2009, St. Louis residents faced draconian cuts to their Metro public transportation service, the network of buses and light rail that connects the city. Residents of generally wealthy St. Louis County voted against an increase in the transit sales tax that would have raised $80 million to fund the Metro’s operation. They made little use of public transportation themselves – they were wealthy and drove cars. But the subsequent service cuts predominantly impacted the poorer County residents and the City residents who rely on public transport to get around. One figure implied that access to jobs in St. Louis County was reduced from 98 to 71 per cent.

Why does this matter? Because it was the poorer, predominantly black workers who served the coffee, sold the groceries and worked in the nursing homes used by the wealthy St. Louis county residents. A measure came up for vote that would have prevented it from becoming exponentially harder for these people to get to work in their low paid jobs every day. And the response of the County voters: Tough luck, we won’t pay a penny more to fund the civic infrastructure that you need. Screw you, we got ours.

Take this attitude and repeat it in every area, from education to police traffic stops, and you get a sense of the climate in which the Michael Brown shooting took place, and how little the two sides of St. Louis have historically been able to empathise with one another.

And on Saturday 9th August, it led to this:

Ferguson Missouri Michael Brown Protests Police

  

On my visits to St. Louis, a visit to the Episcopalian Christ Church Cathedral was always on the itinerary. The church and its community made a lasting impression on me with their many acts and expressions of love, welcoming and tolerance which sometimes seem so much at odds with the prevailing impression of Midwestern Christianity in America.

The way that Christ Church Cathedral (both in its grand stone home on Locust Street and its lively Facebook presence online) is responding to the crisis as it roils the city is perhaps a model to be studied and followed by all of the jostling interest groups – police forces, politicians, civil rights groups, the media and the oft-reported but scarcely-heeded residents – that have descended upon the area.

Yesterday, the Cathedral’s Dean Michael Kinman had this to say:

“The police and the justice system needs to hear the cries of the people and the people need to hear the cries of the police and the justice system, and we as followers of Jesus are the ones to stand in the breach between and even as we are being convicted and converted ourselves, help everyone on every side have their Jesus moment of conviction and conversion, of truth and reconciliation….

“The cry is ringing out from St. Louis around the world. The mothers are crying “Save my child,” and it is time for us to hear that cry and let it change our hearts and with changed hearts together lead this change in the world.

“St. Louis, this is our moment. And we know that this is not a child that will be healed instantly. The tasks are many, the obstacles are large and the journey will be long. But we are the Body of Christ and, with God’s help, together we will get the job done.”

Amen to this. Thus far, the police and the justice system have not been hearing the cries of the people. And in many cases they have conspicuously not been listening, either. Not in Ferguson, Missouri, and, sadly, not in many other towns and cities across America. For black Americans, the police are not automatically the reassuring presence on the street that they are to most whites – in fact, quite the opposite.

The protests taking place now would not be happening on their current scale and intensity if the death of Michael Brown was not just the latest of a litany of tragedies – and perhaps even injustices, depending on the outcome of this investigation – to disproportionally befall black victims and black communities. Looting and violence are reprehensible, but the situation in Ferguson does not exist in a vacuum, and it is not fair or intellectually honest to haughtily condemn them exclusively as failures of personal responsibility and ethics without taking the context of deprivation and repression in which they are happening.

That is not to say that a better, more peaceful path is not there for the taking. The police captain whose empowerment to take over control of the ongoing Ferguson situation from the hapless (and very culpable) St Louis County Police initially caused such a lull in the violence and bitter feeling showed the way with his early remarks:

“And we all ought to be thanking the Browns for Michael. Because Michael is going to make it better for our sons to be better black men. Better for our daughters to be better black women. Better for me so I can be a better black father. And, our mothers, so they can be even better than they are today. Lets continue to show the nation who we are. But, when these days are over and Michael’s family is still weeping, still on their knees praying. No matter what positive comes out, we still need to get on our knees and pray. We need to thank Mike for his life. We need to thank him for the change that he is going to make in America. I love you, I stand tall with you and I’ll see you out there.”

The difference that good leadership – and one man – can make is telling, and is encapsulated in this quote from a local resident, given last Thursday when hopes that the crisis was easing were still high:

But the presence of Johnson was clearly the difference between Thursday and the four nights of turmoil that preceded it.

 “I love this man so much,” said Angela Whitman of Berkeley. “He’s been here since the beginning,giving us encouragement and letting us know we’ll get through this.”

Conversely, the fact that the residents of Ferguson are not yet “through this” shows the limitations of good leadership and one man. Putting a local police chief – with black skin and roots to the community – in charge was a good first step, but it does not make up for the woefully slow response of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. Nor does it make up for the fact that America’s libertarian political cheerleaders paused so obviously to test the waters before finally jumping into the fray.

The parachuting in of a black police captain does not make up for the many blatant violations of civil liberties – and the dignity of Ferguson protesters – inflicted by the overequipped and underprepared St Louis County Police in the preceding days. It does not make up for the flagrant inequalities in the American justice system, which incarcerates and punishes a huge number of young black men, stamping an indelible black mark on their records and making it even harder for them to ever break free from their circumstances and achieve the American Dream. And it does not make up for the false but universally known fact – reinforced over and over again, in lessons from cautionary tales like those of Trayvon Martin and now Michael Brown – that in America, a black life is worth far less than a white one.

One way or another, the protesters will eventually leave the streets of Missouri. So will the riot police, the clouds of tear gas and the world’s media filming it all. Michael Brown’s family will continue to grieve. These facts are certain, predictable, unchangeable. What remains within the power of people to influence is the legacy of this latest tragic black death on a city street. Will there be a meaningful and lasting change in police tactics, and a broader change in the way that the police seek to interact with – and reflect – the communities that they serve? And will there be a recognition that on America’s present trajectory, Michael Brown’s death was every bit as inevitable as that of the next person shot down without justification or consequences?

It takes a lot to change the culture of a local police department, let alone the judicial system of an entire nation. And for all the good that the players in Ferguson can do to bring these issues to our attention and make us face uncomfortable facts as they seek to reconcile and come to terms with what has taken place, it is usually at the state and national level where any lasting, widespread changes are enacted.

Unfortunately, this means that it is left to the slow-moving and cautious Missouri governor Jay Nixon, the vacationing President Obama (himself hamstrung in his response after failed interventions in the Trayvon Martin shooting and other incidents) and a host of national politicians who are more inclined to use the pain of Ferguson, Missouri for their own ends than to solve a common problem. With this predictable cast list, there seems little hope that we will not be reassembling in a few months’ time to beat our breasts over the next police shooting, mass shooting or other act of wanton violence.

But still, we must hope. And in the absence of any meaningful national leadership, the people of Ferguson, Missouri must lead the way themselves in turning a case study in “Community Policing – How Not To Do It” into a model of outreach and reconciliation for the rest of America.

For the sake of everyone, black and white, city and county, this dark chapter in American history must not be endured for nothing.

  

Statue of Reconciliation Coventry Cathedral Britain

  

Cover Picture: Fourth of July Parade in Ferguson, Missouri – NOCO magazine

Middle Image: Police in riot gear advance through clouds of tear gas in Ferguson

Closing Image: Statue of Reconciliation, Coventry Cathedral, Coventry, UK

  

The Republican Party, Or The Mikado

Okay, so some good news out of St. Louis. Ron Paul, the only Republican presidential candidate still in the race whose political ideology, record in office and personality that I can reasonably tolerate, is apparently doing well in the Missouri caucuses. So says the St Louis Post-Dispatch:

http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/ron-paul-supporters-dominate-gop-caucus-in-st-louis/article_4c7977d4-75e0-11e1-858e-001a4bcf6878.html

Hooray.

Except, why is Missouri having a caucus, didn’t they just have a primary last month? Why, yes, they did, but it was a non-binding primary because some awesome person or people in the legislature screwed up and left a law requiring the state to hold a primary on a date that was earlier than the Republican National Committee would sanction. So they went ahead and held the primary in accordance with their state law, but it was essentially a “beauty contest” because the results counted for nothing. These caucuses, happening now, are the ones that count.

As The St. Louis Post-Dispatch helpfully explains:

“The slate backing Paul cast 158 votes in the non-binding caucus Saturday. The purpose was to choose representatives to a round of Congressional district meetings in April and June that will repeat the process to send 52 delegates from Missouri to the August convention in Tampa, Fla.”

Is that clear everyone? What do you mean, no?

So. The primaries that happened last month in Missouri counted for nothing. But that’s okay, because the caucuses that are happening now will choose the representatives that then go on to another round of meetings in April and June, the output of that meeting being the selection of 52 delegates to travel from Missouri to Florida where they can then all bicker together about who will have the honour of being electorally destroyed by Barack Obama in November.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the greatest democratic system on the face of the earth, etc.

Seriously, this is the stuff of which Gilbert & Sullivan operettas were made in terms of farcical plots, topsy-turvydom and bureaucratic nonsensical officialdom.

Firstly, having a long series of primaries and caucuses is dumb, because by the time the race gets to the big states that actually, y’know, contribute the most to the union (we can quibble about how we define “contribute the most” but we all know it’s true – lose Alabama, for instance, and the USA will pick itself up and limp on, ‘real America’ or not; lose California or New York or Texas and there’s a mortal wound right there) the race is pretty much already decided. Sure, it’s great to make the big rich hot-shots trek around a million diners and pancake houses pressing the flesh every morning and participating in good ol’ fashioned retail politics. But why should ethanol-swilling rural Iowans and their special interests have more of a say in choosing the nominee than those residents of the industrial midwest, or the two heavily populated coasts? It makes no sense, and the way in which those overlooked states which rightly try to increase their influence by bringing forward their primaries have been bullied, slapped down or penalised by the establishment is, if anything, the real affront to democracy taking place in America at the moment.

Secondly. if you are going to have a series of primaries and caucuses, can we at least get together to apply roughly the same rules to them all, so that you don’t need to fire up IBM’s Deep Blue supercomputer to work out the impact of each primary election night on the fortunes of the respective candidates? I know, I know, state’s rights and so on and so forth. That’s fine. Every state is allowed to do what they want and organise their primaries the way they best see fit. But when the existing method makes you all look like a disorganised bunch of ass clowns, maybe it’s time to actually get together and come up with a more uniform system. Now when might be a good opportunity to do that? If only there was some upcoming pre-arranged big gathering of the nation’s top Republicans, in a big convention city like, say, Tampa, Florida, that would perhaps be ideal. But we can only wish.

Thirdly. As long as America persists with the ridiculous system they have in place at the moment (and the Democrats aren’t much better on their side, but of course Obama’s renomination is not being contested so we hear nothing about the “superdelegate” shenanigans this time around), I will continue to unapologetically act as cheerleader for Ron Paul’s scrappy efforts to increase his delegate haul by using his army of devoted supporters to out-organise the front-runners and win the apparently-crucial but almost-unreported actual meetings that assign the delegates for real.

After all, if the rules are stupid or flexible enough that winning a majority of votes in a state’s primary or caucus doesn’t guarantee you something approaching a commensurate proportion of delegates to the convention, three cheers for the guy with the smarts to actually play the system.