Saturday, November 19, 2016
Theories of History
There are several approaches to understanding and writing about history. There is the Great Man (rarely Woman) school, which consists largely of biography. There are grand theories that explain history as a process shaped by large forces in which the choices of individuals have little weight, from Marxism to the inevitability of neoliberal dominance of the planet. The latter didn't exactly have a name but lots of people believed in it.
Then there are those who say, sure, there are grand forces -- technological change, climate, resource depletion, demographics -- but against that background, a lot of shit just happens. Call this the "for want of a nail" theory of history. Well, it's true.
No-one can enumerate the links in the causal chain that led to our present disaster, but we can spot a few that are both necessary and basically stochastic. Hillary Clinton actually won the election by quite a substantial majority, but thanks to the historical anachronism of the electoral college, it doesn't count. There is no argument that I can see that makes this the right result. A few thousand votes in a key state tips the whole thing. In past elections that has been consequential but in this election it puts the country on a path completely opposite to what would otherwise have been.
Another necessary link was the Comey letter. There is plenty of evidence that it flipped the election, and probably the Senate. This of course would not have happened in the corporate media hadn't been obsessed with the completely bogus non-issue of Hillary Clinton's e-mails to begin with. But they were, and Comey knew it.
Comey could not have played his dirty trick, however, if he didn't have Anthony Weiner's computer. Ergo, if the ridiculous and ridiculously named Anthony Weiner did not have an incorrigible habit of tweeting his junk, Hillary Clinton would be preparing to assume the presidency and appoint a young liberal justice to the Supreme Court.
In other words, this whole thing doesn't mean shit. It's a horrible accident. Jessica Williams (a Daily Show regular with John Stewart for those who aren't with it) said, "The first rule of politics is, Don't Tweet Your Junk," which presumably Weiner would have learned when it cost him his congressional seat. He did not, causing him to lose his chance to be mayor of New York and prompting Williams to say, "The second rule of politics is, Don't Tweet Your Junk."
Apparently we need a third rule. "Don't Tweet Your Junk."