The main event at PolitiCon over the weekend,
was the hyped and highly-anticipated
debate between Ben Shapiro and Cenk Uygur – a real David and Goliath matchup.
Except for in this case, the tiny Jewish guy is actually Goliath,
and he just punches David square in the face,
before any of that upset talk gets too loud.
I watched this as soon as I was able on Sunday night,
and it was mostly what we all predicted:
A master of articualation against a master of obfuscation, and all the Cenk memes were on full display.
He got in his not-so-subtle, not-so-humble brag,
about how awesome The Young Turks is.
And I run a small business myself,
getting larger every day, so… heheh.
Except for the views and subscriptions, which have trended downward for the last year and a half. [Cenk: heheh.]
He introduced the audience to a new concept he uses, to formulate his lead opinions.
Guys, try to follow along, okay? It’s called logic.
“Lah-gic…” Is that with J or a G?
And all of this was punctuated with the classic Cenk mannerisms, right…? Of course.
[“Right” three times,
“of course” twice]
[slowed down] “of course!”
But amid the predicatble Cenk-isms was a new one.
Or at least one that’s new to me,
I don’t think I’ve heard him say it before.
It was Cenk, on several occasions making a point,
and then challenging the audience to vet his claims.
Look it up! Google it!
– Go look it up!
– Look it up. You can google it, it’s real easy.
– Once again, it’s this wonderful capitalist invention called “Google”. Google it!
Well, since you asked so politely,
and never insulted our intelligence…
[wait, let’s restate that]
Well, since you asked, I say: “Challenge accepted!”
The first of Cenk’s challenges comes during an exchange on taxes, and this is probably the most interesting one.
Because he says you’re an idiot,
if you don’t know what he’s talking about,
but it is actually unclear,
what he’s talking about.
– It would be preposterous to set the tax rate to 0%,
it would be preposterous to set it at a 100%.
So what we have to do as a society, is figure out, where we can maximize the most amount of good for, for the country.
So, for example: the reason why when taxes are higher,
it winds up being better for the economy,
is because it recirculates the money.
So, if you give it to the rich… this is hilarious.
If you’re uneducated, please, at least don’t…
…don’t make it obvious.
– I’m taken aback by what I heard.
– So, if you don’t know the concept of recirculation of money, then… go look it up.
And I did google “recircuation of money” in good faith.
I’m not the most well-studied economics mind, so I figured: “maybe I missed class that day, or something”.
This isn’t a term economists use, in fact,
if you do actually google “recirculation of money”,
the top hit is a story quoting Cenk, in this very debate.
He does go on a bit further, to explain what he means.
– The way that it works, is that when the middle class,
when the middle class has more money,
disposable income – they spend it. Why?
Because they’re not living in a lap of luxury,
they’re not saving it for their yacht.
So they need to buy food for their family,
they need education for their family,
so they spend it, and it goes back to the economy.
What he’s describing, isn’t really “recirculation of money”.
It’s Keynesian economics, or demand-side economics.
It’s the idea, that demand is the primary factor in driving economic growth.
So if we get more spending power in the hands of consumers, they will spend more,
thus prompting economic growth, to provide the supply.
This theory, in contrast to supply-side economics
(sometimes called “trickle-down economics”),
which contends, that economic growth is spurred through supply.
And supply is best stimulated through removal of barriers to production, including burden some tax rates.
Pick which side you like, but why Cenk is wrong
to call his theory “recirculation of money”,
is that “circulation of money”, is in fact,
the goal of both theories!
Demand-side advocates don’t want money stashed uselessly, in the off-shore bank accounts of the rich,
and supply-side advocates don’t want money stashed uselessly, in the hands of the government.
And that’s because they both want as much money flowing, as possible.
So this isn’t a debate between people, who want the circulation of money versus those who oppose it.
And it’s even more ridiculous to say, that if you aren’t on the demand side, that’s because you aren’t educated.
There are intelligent and highly educated economists on both sides.
It’s a debate, that will never be as cleanly decided, as this one was.
Next comes the issue of campaign finance, and whether political donations should be considered “speech” under the 1st Amendment.
As far as the idea, that Republicans pass tax cuts,
because they’re beholders of their donors.
Okay, and Democrats pass tax increases, because the unions give them hundreds of millions of dollars every year.
And I don’t see Democrats complain about this.
You got me there, the unions give money to Democrats.
Um, so… am I-
We agree about economy, does it upset you as much as,
you know, bankers giving money to Republicans?
No, no, corporations give WAY more than the unions.
[Cenk] Um, so… look it up. That’s okay, that’s okay, look it up.
[Ben] It depends which corporations, that’s not really true.
[Cenk] You can google it, it’s really easy.
It’s irritating to be told, that complex questions are in fact really easy to answer,
though why apologize, for making my “lack of education” obvious?
The answer to the question of
“who spends more on elections?”,
between businesses and unions,
depends upon how you ask it.
To Ben’s response: 6 of the top 25 spenders,
federally in 2016, were labour unions,
13 were businesses, and 6 were political action commitees.
Which can, and do accept money,
from both businesses and labour unions.
And of these organizations 16 supported,
primarily or exclusively, Democrats.
This analysis, from the Center for Responsive Politics – the group compiling this data from the Federal Election Commission,
says business interests outspend labour interests.
But these numbers are complicated, because neither businesses nor unions can give money directly to candidates,
or party committees at the national level – they must manage money through those political action committees.
So, what do you do about a company CEO or a union boss, who makes political contributions as an individual?
Well, this analysis lumps those contributions in
with the organizational spending.
Which creates a crucial caveat in their conclusion,
that business intetests outspend labour.
Individual contributions are categorized as a business interest, based on the donor’s occupation or employer.
Since nearly everyone works for someone,
and since union affiliation is not listed on FEC reports,
totals for business are overstated,
while labour is understated.
So if you work at Walmart, and decide to make a donation to a candidate for federal office,
this analysis counts your contribution
as a Walmart contribution.
Even if you hate the company,
and you gave to Bernie Sanders.
The other difficulty with this analysis, is it says nothing about state and local elections.
Where teacher’s unions, or other public sector unions are often major players,
and often much more powerful,
than they are nationally.
And look, Cenk may be right. If you believe people compiling this federal data,
business interest do outspend labour interest at the national level.
But it’s clearly not a question as simple, as “google it”.
It’s not even a question as simple, as “add up the numbers”.
It’s more like: “Hire staff, and then scour millions of campaign contribution records,
and then make difficult decisions
about how to categorize the data,
and still come up with an answer,
that is rich with asterisks”.
But if you’re trying to make a convincing case.
And I have sympathy for anyone, trying to make a convinging case against Ben Shapiro.
I wouldn’t wanna make a convincing case for gravity, against Ben Shapiro.
If you’re having trouble, drop the ace of spades.
Call him racist!
It’s what Cenk opts to do, in response to Ben’s criticism of the identity politics within the Democratic Party.
What’s become more common, is that on the Left there’s this- there’s this retreat to intersectionality, as in: identity politics.
This idea, that if we can cobble together a group of people, who are feeling victimized by American society.
You know, we have black people, and we have Hispanic people, and we have women, and we have gays, and lesbians, and transgenders.
And they all feel really bad,
about how American politics is going,
and if we push that notion, we can create a coalition, there’ll be a brand new coalition – never before seen in American politics.
Look, this idea of the identity, that Democtrats rely on identity politics. Some of them do.
But let’s not forget, that Republicans do the same and worse.
Who’s the one, who came up with the Southern Strategy?
That was the Republican party.
And the Southern Strategy was,
“let’s go get racist, white voters in the South”.
That’s a fact!
Once again, it’s this wonderful, capitalist invention called “Google”. Google it!
Two Republican chairmen have said
“Yes, we did do that strategy, and we apologize”.
So that’s a fact!
They’re the ones, who invented identity politics!
You like identity politics, when it serves your interests,
but all of a sudden, when we say “Hey, can black people have the same rights as white people?”
“Oh, identity politics!”
“Can gay people have the same rights as straight people?”
It’s called equality, look into it.
It’s called America! Okay?
Actually, to the question of “can black people have the same rights as white people?” –
– we all said “yes”, with the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
To the question of “can gay people have the same rights as straight people?” –
– the Supreme Court said “yes”, more than two years ago.
But again, Cenk tells us to google a question that is actually pretty complex, and not entirely clear.
Why did the South turn from a Democratic stronghold, into a Republican one, after the Civil Rights Act?
Cenk says, it was deliberate racial pandering from the Republican Party.
But there are plenty of other cases to be made.
Some argue, religious institutions created the shift.
Some argue, the explanation is economic.
To his point on Republican chairmen admitting to it, it is true, that Ken Mehlman in 2005 and Michael Steele in 2010,
both discussed the Party’s disconnect with minority voters,
and referenced the Southern Strategy in particular,
with Mehlman calling it, quote, “wrong”.
But to Cenk’s specific claim of formal apologies,
I don’t see any record of those.
But let’s say “close enough” for Cenk.
Let’s grant him, that the Southern Strategy was real,
and that the Republican Party has apologized for it.
His argument still isn’t in the clear.
If the damning evidence for your case is
“who invented identity politics”,
why not discuss the Ku Klux Klan’s first grand wizard,
a Confederate veteran and Democratic politician,
Nathan Bedford Forrest?
If you want something more recent,
in 1956 nearly 100 Democratic legislators
wrote the Southern Manifesto, condemning the Brown v. Board decision and the racial integration of schools.
I imagine Cenk would say, those things have little or nothing to do with today’s Democratic Party. And I agree.
So why then, would you hold the Republican Party accountable for decades old policy,
that has nothing to do with the modern party?
And nobody who opposes identity politics, praises racial pandering of the past, if it worked in their favor.
They don’t like today’s identity politics, and they’re likely to say, it was wrong in the past too.
It’s ironic, that Cenk tells the audience to “look these things up” in such a dismissive way.
Because what he’s actually doing,
is dismissing his own purpose as a debater.
If your presence on the stage can be interchanged with simple google, you’re not doing it right.
It is true, that we can all find facts on a moment’s notice.
But what computers struggle to do,
that a skilled orator can,
is assemble those facts in a cohesive, structured way,
that brings sense to the world around us.
It’s why we have humans on the stage, instead of computers.
And if it is that simple, “just google it” – for the love of God, google debate tactics and common decency to an audience.
If you’re that elitist and unlikeable, please – don’t make it obvious.
Thanks as always for listening,
and for supporting this channel.
Always appreciate that thoughtful discussion down below,
and especially over on Twitter,
that is at @MLChristiansen.
You’re always welcome to come hang out and chat in my livestreams, those are linked down in the description.
Looking forward to it… goodbye.