On the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration, Your Poor Correspondent (YPC) must confess that he was confused by the leftists’ reaction, both in Washington, DC and Davos. Part of their distress seems to have been driven by their narrative falling apart. That is, the absence of Barack Obama and the presence of Donald Trump both elicits extreme emotion and indicates that something significant has changed. But the meaning of what has changed remains—elusive.
The problem the left has is an unexpected one, which is based on the tension between the social and natural environments. The social environment is based on popularity, the status of a person in the group, which is achieved in various ways. In democracies like the Unites States, popularity and status can lead directly to leadership. Moreover, the powerful media are kingmakers who have perfected the dark art of building up and tearing down status. Barack Obama is the media’s creation because he received glowing press coverage and very, very little negative reporting. It is for this reason that Obama was able to claim after a string of scandals including Obamacare, Benghazi, Internal Revenue Service, Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Iran appeasement, and epic deficits that his administration was the first in history that was free of scandal. From this purely social worldview, it the press doesn’t report it, then it didn’t happen.
The social environment however isn’t the final arbiter of success, the natural environment, physical world, or reality is. The problem is that reality is messy, hard, and often unpleasant, which works against the popularity and status of the social environment. Moreover, the policies and actions taken by popular leaders have consequences, and those consequences are ultimately the measure by which they should be evaluated and judged. In the long run though, consequences rather than popularity matters. This perspective is holistic, which makes it in turn holy. At some point, in some way, the social and natural environments must align. So the political left, who concentrate almost exclusively on the social environment, this results in a set of cognitive pathologies including an emphasis on speech, image, and intentions rather than technical competence, results, and history. It seems unlikely that the left will turn away from the behaviors that have led, until recently, to such great political success. However, paying attention to the details of policy consequences might help to explain the recent success of populist candidates. It also suggests that democracy is working as it was supposed to do.