I came across a great compound word today in an old review by Martin Amis of Hillary’s book It Takes a Village. It’s on today’s WSJ editorial page. He said the books was the product of a large staff effort to achieve “pan-inoffensiveness.”
Not only is that the goal and “skill” of politicians, nowadays, about 99% of the population are also “politicians.” Most are amateur politicians, water-cooler politicians, high-school-cafeteria politicians. They all are convinced the only way to succeed in life is to avoid pissing anyone off.
The only way to do that is to do nothing and say nothing, which is exactly what the Hillary’s of the world do, including the hundreds of millions of amateurs. Here is an example from It Takes a Village: “Brisk walking, hiking and bicycling are all good exercises and are great ways to spend time together.”
A couple of points: If Hillary is so inoffensive, why are her negatives at 56%?
Answer: Being inoffensive is itself offensive. Pan-inoffensiveness is really offensive.
My high negatives are irrelevant to my making a living
I have high negatives. But I also have enough high positives that I can make a good living selling them books and my newsletter. Furthermore, if put myself in a blanderizer to lower my negatives, as Hillary did with her book, it would also lower my positives—to the point where I would not be able to make a living writing books. Bland does not sell. Ask Jeb.
Being inoffensive is dishonest. It is accomplished by tongue biting. An impulse to be yourself suddenly appears. If you are Hillary or most people, you do to yourself what “Archie Bunker” was always telling his wife Edith to do: stifle.
But the result is a dishonest or inauthentic you.
Insults our intelligence
It also insults the intelligence of the rest of us. You aren’t fooling anyone into thinking you are really that bland. It’s cowardice.
You also are telling those you refrain from offending that you do not trust them to like you if you revealed your true self to them. You know something about yourself that we don’t—and it’s bad. Actually, it’s not bad with people who are compatible with you, but then you will never find such people because you hid your real self from everyone. That’s sad.
As a writer, my negatives are sort of irrelevant. People who don’t like me visit this site, then soon leave. Others visit, like it, and buy some of my books. It’s like a self-cleaning oven where you never even have to push the “clean” button.
I was reminded of that when I coached my local freshman high school football team. I created a weekly newsletter for the parents and players. Many loved it. I would get fan mail from people I never heard of. My player parents had forwarded articles to them. But when the season ended, several parents publicly revealed they hated me and my newsletter.
The problem was there was no self-cleaning oven. Subscribing to my newsletter or reading my web site is voluntary. My parent newsletter was sort of mandatory if your kid was on the team.
Same applies to Trump. He has high negatives because he has high positives. The key question is a phrase I put above: “I also have enough high positives that I can make a good living...”
Trump has enough high positives to acquire a net worth of $4.9 billion. Now we find out whether Trump has enough high positives to win 270 electoral votes.
Purported low ceiling on his positives
Much of the dismissal of Trump during the primaries was about exactly this question. It was said, “Yes, he gets more votes than the others in the fragmented campaign, but he has a ceiling of 25% or 35% or 45%.” Yet in the final primaries, he was getting 50% to 60% of the votes.
Now we find out whether his positives are high enough to get 51% of the electoral college. How can that happen if his negatives are 65%? His negatives are probably not evenly distributed in the exact same percentages in each state as the electoral votes.
He needs to target the states that add up to 270 where he has the high positives. Just as a lot of Democrat votes are wasted because they are concentrated in states like CA, many of Trump’s high negatives are wasted because they are in states where they create a landslide against Trump, but 51% of the winner-take-all (WTA) states’ votes gets you 100% of electoral votes in those states. Landslides are no better than 51% wins in terms of electoral votes except in proportional states. And only two states are not WTA in November—NE and ME—and neither has many electoral votes: 5 and 4.
A big lesson from 2016 is ”Don’t underestimate The Donald”—and don’t overestimate the attractiveness of the Hillary’s bland-leading-the-bland campaign compared to the first real alternative to that in 32 years.