medieval-hell-illuminations-06Porky dumped me because I didn’t properly understand one of her poems. At least, that’s what she said. I thought I understood it well enough. I was even complimentary. But I shared my thoughts, and she explained that I didn’t understand it at all and ended with “You know what? This isn’t working.”

I once had a living situation that was blown up by my two roommates and an argument they got involving Mighty Ducks 3. Dennis wanted to watch the movie, Karl thought it was a dumb movie. They got into a fight, and never spoke to one another again.

When I was working at Falstaff, we (the managers and team leaders) could tell when someone was planning to leave, or at least actively looking for a way out. There would be a 20-30% drop in measured productivity, lunch breaks would take about ten minutes longer, and so on. You’d be surprised the stupid things that can compel one to look for a new job.

Once, Sally was considering leaving a boyfriend over a particular problem they were having. One of her holdups was the problem that of the top 25 ways in which she had wronged him, this was not even on that list. It was small. She was trying to justify leaving despite that.

My advice to Sally (biased though it may have been) was relatively simple: It’s rarely the biggest straw that breaks the camels back. It wasn’t really about this trifling thing anyway. This was the accumulation of all things. How she was feeling at that moment was really the realization, however come to, that things simply weren’t going to get better. He’d left town for a weekend without telling her or anyone his plans. But for a guy that had physically threatened her (with a knife in his hand, at one point), cheated on her more than once, threatened to hurt her friends, it was odd to her that a weekend getaway would be the last straw. But that’s just it, it was the last of many, many straws. Sally didn’t actually leave him. He left her. Well, I guess technically she left him, but only after he’d stopped calling her, and after he’d demanded (and received) a unilaterally open relationship. She’d basically rode with him to the bitter, bitter end.

The last year or so, she had been looking for the right and justified thing to leave over. The thing that was worse than all of the other things. She was measuring the straws for length and girth to determine that this was the most reasonable straw on which the back shall finally give way. If you’re doing that, it means two things. First, it means that your back is pretty strong. That you can take it, but are choosing whether to or not to. It also means that you’re likely already deeply in sunk cost territory.

But sometimes, the back just breaks. A small thing becomes a clarifying moment. A realization that all past things were truly indicative of all future things, and all future things are likely represented by all past things. Often, it’s realizing that the other person isn’t trying, that it may suit them to become even worse, and there is no reason for it to get better.

Porky had reasons for dumping me, but the poem wasn’t really the one.

I mention all of this in conjunction with the Election 2016 news of the day, which is that allegedly a number of Republicans have finally had enough. I’m seeing a lot of commentary talking about how the Republicans put up with so much odiousness from Donald Trump but the one thing they couldn’t abide was his refusal to endorse Paul Ryan and John McCain. This narrative ignores a lot of the underlying dynamics. I don’t know if this will be the straw that does break the elephants’ back or not. I do know that this isn’t the only straw, and we should be wary about judging the broken back by the last straw that fell upon it.

There is some natural bafflement over the length and girth of the straw here. I think Trump’s refusal to do so is actually kind of justifiable. It’s a primary and not a general election, and neither McCain nor Ryan endorsed Trump during his primary and Ryan made a point of doing so only reluctantly after he did win it. Further, just a couple of weeks ago he was talking about donating money to defeat John Kasich and Ted Cruz in the future, and he didn’t even specify in the primary. Everything he does going forward is going to be debatably less bad than something he’s done before. It would be folly for the GOP to wait until they finally have that one thing that is worse than everything else.

For formatting purposes, I’m not going to put this paragraph in bold but I almost want to so that I may underscore its importance, but none of this is a defense of the RNC or any particular individual. Dumping Trump now, if it happened (and I don’t think it will), or pulling endorsements if that happens (it might, but even there I wouldn’t bet on it), doesn’t rectify much. I’ll view any who bail now with less male malevolence than I view any who don’t, but that’s only comparative. I don’t want to valorize them. I want them honestly humiliated. They deserve to be. (That may be the only thing both Trumpers and I agree on, albeit for different reasons.)

Beyond that, though, it’s a matter of individual assessment. If Porky had never said word one about being unhappy in our relationship, then I would be able to attach great importance to The Poem. Had she always seemed unhappy and tentative (which she did), then I would assign less. With politicians and public personalities, we only know the public face they put on and will only find out later how disturbed they were or weren’t about the events leading up to this week. Newt Gingrich has loved it, and Rudy Giuliani has gotten into it, so I’m not sure they can credibly scale back. Paul Ryan, on the other hand, has demonstrated a discomfort throughout the process. My inclination has been to say that Reince Priebus, for example, had been somewhat indifferent until now, though maybe that’s an unfair characterization. Time will tell.

To be honest, I am myself at a bit of a loss as to why this could be the thing that tips it over. There’s not even a cynical interpretation. There is nothing clear to me now that wasn’t clear when he got the nomination to begin with. Except that now it’s too late to deny him the nomination, even if they were so inclined. I think that the Khan story really got to some people. I also do think that the endorsement thing matters for a lot of the wrong reasons, but also because it touches on the one thing they had been using all along to rationalize their support: party loyalty. I find these explanations lacking, but I’m in my own head and not theirs.

My guess is that they’re going to go the Sally route anyway. It would be one thing if it were a Corbyn situation where something will continue indefinitely without intervention. In this case, though, there is a stamped end-date, and what I can only assume is an incredible temptation to wait it out for lack of any better option. Trump happened in part due to a lack in leadership. There were a hundred earlier interventions that would have had an enormous impact. If you’re too squeamish to cut off your finger that has gangrene, you’re probably not going to cut off your arm.


Category: Newsroom

About the Author

Will Truman (trumwill) is a southern transplant in the mountain east with an IT background who bides his time taking care of their daughter while his wife brings home the bacon. You will probably be relieved to know that he does not generally refer to himself in the third-person except when he's writing short bios on his web page.

11 Responses to The Straw That Breaks The Elephant’s Back

  1. RTod says:

    It occurs to me that it might actually be wise for the GOP to yank the nomination before November, and I’m not talking in a “you need to take a stand against Trump” kind of way. The fissures within the party are pretty deep right now, and until they are somehow resolved I don’t know that I buy into the establishment’s feeling that once Trump is out of the picture everything gets better.

    If Trump loses, there’s going to be a short period of initial finger pointing and name calling, but I suspect that gives way to joy of facing the Common Enemy that is Hilary Clinton. Also, I expect HRC to be president that loses some or all of whatever gains the Dems might get this year come 2018. If I’m right about this, then the party will likely do what it did in 2010 and 2014 — assume that because it had a positive midterm that everything is fantastic, and pretend not to see the huge glaring problems they have to deal with prior to the next presidential run.

    If Trump wins, t’s actually worse. You still don’t get out of having to face the difficult times to come, but it likely makes that process more public and more contentious. An election to beat HRC is one thing, but once that battle is over — just to take one obvious, unavoidable battle that would flow the election — Trump’s giving Russia a longer leash for cross-border aggression, effectively pulling the US out of Title 9 andletting countries like Japan and Germany build up large scale militaries, and potentially making cold-war enemies out of the long-tim European and Asian allies won’t be tolerated by the establishment wing of the GOP. Those kind of battles will likely get far nastier and messier than a party back-room/competing op-ed skirmish would, with incredibly high stakes hanging in the balance.That kind of inner-party battle would likely be all nuclear, all the time.

    So it seems to me that the best thing for the party in the long run might be going to the unthinkable option right now. The stakes are comparatively low (when compared to aligning with Russia over NATO), it forces the party to deal with its issues two whole years prior to the next midterm election, and it (potentially) gives the party three years of a united front from which to approach 2020, assuming the problems can be fixed. And if the problems can’t be fixed, you know it years in advance and everyone has the option of considering the creation of a third party or some other Plan B.

    If I was Reince, I think I’d fall on the sword and make it happen.

    • trumwill says:

      This was pretty much my rationale for denying him the nomination if he didn’t get to 1237, and why I was on the fence during #DumpTrump. I seriously have no idea how things are going to look coming out the other end. I can outline plausible scenarios where the Establishment Fights Back, and I can outline plausible scenarios where it’s doomed.

      In the former case, I actually point to 2014 as a blueprint for success. Not that they won the general election, but that they successfully controlled the Senate/House primary process that they lost in 2012. If you will recall, almost everybody was saying that the threat of being primaried was going to be perpetual and lead to shutdown after shutdown after shutdown. Instead, they were ready for the Akins in 2014 in a way they weren’t in 2012, and there was only one pretty upset in a race that nobody was watching. There is an argument that among the reasons 2016 happened is that nobody in a position to act expected it to until it was too late. It’s also the case that Trump in particular is going to be hard to reproduce (the platform is easy to replicate, the “charming” crudeness a bit harder, but the celebrity is harder and that was pretty critical).

      On the other hand, the wrong people are resigning. The Trump/RNC meld is going to give Trumpers the inside track as far as internal politics goes. And the primary voters are what they are. I can also see the anti-Trump faction trying too hard and getting swept up in further blowback (analogous to how Gang of Eight backfired in a big way).

      Once Trump got to 1237, I became unsure what the best way to proceed is for the GOP to get on Track 1 instead of Track 2. A lot of it depends on November performance, and performance at a point later in the cycle after which it will be impossible to do anything.

      Which is already a problem. Because there is no sure way that the GOP can yank the nomination. They can’t force him out. The best they can do is get to the electors, which is likely to be just as successful as #NeverTrump getting to the delegates. Even some real anti-Trump people have a problem going this route.

  2. Michael Cain says:

    (a) Skimming through the most recent version of the Republican Party rules I could find, the national committee has the authority to select (with a detailed voting procedure spelled out) a presidential or vice-presidential candidate in the event of a vacancy. It appears that the state parties will get a significant amount of input, scaled to the number of delegates they had at the national convention. How long will it take to agree on a replacement under those conditions? I couldn’t find anything about forcing a candidate to vacate the position.

    (b) They need to move quickly or it will begin to matter less. The Colorado ballot, for example, will be frozen on Sep 12 when the Sec of State transmits the names and ballot order to the counties. If the state party shows up on the 13th — and statute says it’s the state party that has to communicate — they’re just out of luck, and Trump’s name stays put.

    (c) Colorado’s statute requires the electors to vote for the candidate receiving the most votes in the general election. Got no idea how things would play out if the national party were telling electors to do something different.

    • trumwill says:

      I’ve talked this over with a couple of other Republicans, and there is some disagreement on (a). Basically, I think it would be Pence pretty quickly. He evades most of the factional problems, representing a victory of none over none. He’ll lose, but that’s sort of a given. No individual faction takes the loss. He’s also the fastest route.

      Somebody should compile a list of the dates for every state, per (b). It’s worth noting that laws in this regard can be challenged. The Torricelli precedent works in the favor of Republicans here.

      On the other hand, (c) seems pretty clear-cut. If Trump’s on the ballot, they’re likely stuck with him. Other states should be investigate, just in case. (Again, I don’t expect this to happen.)

      • Michael Cain says:

        My understanding of (b) in my state is that it allows the county recorders ten days between the ballot freeze and the last day — federally required — for getting ballots in the mail for overseas military personnel. The federal courts can order lots of things, but they can’t order that rural counties get all of the ballots, with all of the various special districts and such, in multiple languages, printed in negative time. Or even short enough intervals of positive time. From my time overseeing the Sec of State budget as a legislative analyst, the rural counties are already under almost ridiculous time pressures. And the last time I looked, the federal courts didn’t have a few extra million dollars to cover the overtime costs of things they might order.

        • trumwill says:

          Torricelli was replaced on October 3rd, despite dropping out over two weeks after the law allowed it. Not sure how they handled absentee ballots. Some people may have gotten the wrong ones, but Lautenberg won so it couldn’t have been too many.

          In Montana in 1996,a gubernatorial candidate was replaced within two weeks! There were some complications there, though.

        • Michael Cain says:

          Interesting. In Colorado this year, county recorders must have physical possession of all the official ballots that are going to be used on or before Oct 7. Just in my county, there will be dozens of different ballot types that have to be verified, what with the funny overlapping of special districts, municipal ballot initiatives, state and federal districts, etc. Most of those would have been printed by Oct 3. Once received, for each of 350,000 or so active registered voters in my county, the system has to correctly put ballot type X and return envelope with bar code Y in an envelope addressed to voter Z, remembering the link between Y and Z [1]. One of these years I’m going to satisfy my inner engineer and arrange to see this being done.

          [1] When envelope Y comes back, the signature on the outside is compared to voter Z’s signature on record. If my wife and I swap our envelopes, Bad Things will happen.

        • Michael Cain says:

          I would expect this to be very much a “cure is worse than the disease” thing. The last thing the national Republican Party needs going through September and October is a state-by-state challenge of the election laws as they desperately try to replace Trump with someone else.

        • trumwill says:

          Compared to what? That’s always been the question. We really don’t have any idea what the next 100 days are going to look like.

          It’s been this way at every phase.

          “If Trump gets a plurality of delegates, you should give him the nomination because the alternative will actually be worse.” (This is definitely not the case.)

          “Trump got a majority of delegates, so you can’t seriously change the rules to deny him the nomination, because that would be worse.” (To be determined.)

          “You don’t want to have to replace Trump, that’ll be even worse.” (To be determined.)

          “You can’t pull off an electoral college coup. That’ll be worse than a Trump presidency.” (A conversation we hopefully do not need to have, and probably won’t.)

          “You can’t impeach a president for going to war. When the radioactivity clears and we have elections again, he’ll be back with a vengeance and it’ll be even worse.”

  3. Brandon Berg says:

    Are you sure she didn’t dump you for calling her “Porky?”

    • trumwill says:

      She actually liked it.

      (She wasn’t even a little bit overweight.)

      (And yeah, she knew that was my nickname for her. If she’s out there, and she runs across this post, she’ll know who I am.)

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