What do 19th century financier Jay Gould, the Ottoman Sultans and Joe Biden have in common? They were, and are pretty cynical folks. See just how cynical in this podcast.
Naked Cynicism in History and the Democrat plan for 2022
"As iron is eaten away by rust, so the envious are consumed by their own passion."
Antisthenes, founder of the Cynical School
"The mob is the mother of tyrants"
And, "Why not whip the teacher when the pupil misbehaves?"
Diogenes, foremost among the Cynics
"The older I grow, the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom." HL Menken and "A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin."
Jay Gould is one of my favorites. I do not mean I admire him or wish to see others emulate his methodology. Just that he was such a singular, cynical genius, it is hard not to shake one's head at his boldness. Forget fictional Wall Street's Gordon Gekko or Succession's Logan Roy. Gould was the real deal. Between 1866 and 1868, Gould conspired with James Fisk and Daniel Drew to issue spurious Erie Railroad shares, thus "watering down" the stock, of which unsuspecting Cornelius Vanderbilt bought a large quantity. Fooling the brilliant, imperious, and ruthless Vanderbilt, one of the wealthiest men in the country, was not the half of it. Gould later turned on ally Drew, pushing him into bankruptcy.
Gustavus Myers, an American historian, and muckraker wrote in his 1910 work entitled History of the Great American Fortunes, "The year 1868 proved a particularly busy one for Vanderbilt. He was engaged in a desperately devious struggle with Gould. In vain did his agents and lobbyists pour out stacks of money to buy legislative votes enough to defeat the bill legalizing Gould's fraudulent issue of stock. Members of the Legislature impassively took money from both parties. Gould personally appeared at Albany with a satchel containing $500,000 in greenbacks which were rapidly distributed. One Senator, as was disclosed by an investigating committee, accepted $75,000 from Vanderbilt and then $100,000 from Gould, kept both sums — and voted with the dominant Gould forces." Progressive historians love to paint late 19th century America as a wild west of lassies faire, unfettered capitalism. The reality was that the government was very much in the mix, just manipulated by the likes of Gould.
What has also fascinated me about Gould was that, unlike the dominating Vanderbilt, his domestic life was entirely conventional with his wife and six children. Upon reading his obituary, one of his daughters noted that she did not recognize the man upon whom so much odium was placed.
At the heart of Gould's methodology was a cynicism not so much around the system of capitalism but of the ethos exemplified by specific figures of the day running from Vanderbilt, Drew, and state legislators and judges. But his aims were clear. First, Gould was on the scene to make money. Later, he attempted to build a viable railroad system and emulate valuable capitalists such as Andrew Carnegie and Cyrus McCormick, but naked cynicism ruled the day early in his career.
I contrast Gould with the cynicism of politicians who extoll one set of values that provide a false patina of decency against what is truly the type of naked cynicism that would have made Gould, Fisk, Drew, and Vanderbilt blush.
It is hard to beat the Ottoman Empire if one wants historical cynicism. In an essay entitled "The Rise and Fall of The Janissaries, The Ottoman Empire's Elite Military Corps," Author Natasha Ishak writes, "The Islamic empire itself was founded around 1299 by a Turkish tribal leader from Anatolia — now modern-day Turkey — named Osman I. Under the leadership of his successors, the Ottoman Empire's territories continued to stretch from Asia Minor to North Africa, from Budapest to Bagdad. Among Osman's successors was Sultan Murad I, who ruled over the kingdom between 1362 and 1389. Under his reign, a blood tax system known as devşirme, or "gathering," was levied on the Christian territories conquered by the Ottoman Empire. The tax involved Ottoman authorities taking Christian boys as young as eight years old from their parents, especially families in the Balkans, to work as slaves. There are plenty of historical accounts of Christian families trying to keep their sons from being taken away by the Ottomans through whatever means possible. However, some advantage was gained — especially for poorer families — if the kidnapped child was put in intensive training as an elite soldier of the empire's Janissaries."
The thinking was fairly straightforward. Without any loyalty to any specific Turkish or Muslim group, the Janissaries owed their allegiance only to the Sultan. But having an elite standing army near the Sultan provides the issue of who watches the watchdogs; after nearly 150 years of accomplishments, there were several Janissaries rebellions throughout the Ottoman Empire's history. For example, in 1622, Osman II, who planned to dismantle the Janissaries, closed the coffee shops they frequented and was killed by the elite soldiers. There was also Selim III, who the Janissaries dethroned.
In writing of cynical warriors, Ryan Leach and David Danford providing content for the Modern War Institute, comment on the victor of Agincourt and the realism he provided to his army. "Henry V, or at least Shakespeare, seems to understand this. Although his rousing speech to his men begins with an appeal to high-minded ideals, it ends with a grim reminder of the tangible cost. Instead of optimism, the king inspired his men with an admission of reality and a pledge to suffer together. He does not even promise victory because "war is a contest of wills," of which the outcome is never certain. Soldiers tend to shy away from leaders who talk as if success is assured, almost as if such thinking is more likely to lead to a rout than a victory. War requires determination and a willingness to suffer, not optimism."
Of course, a cynical, realistic approach would seem integral to the core of military men, but how many, from Alexander of Macedon to George S. Patton, were not conscripted nor forced to war but instead entered it willingly, even joyfully. An exception to this was William T. Sherman in the American Civil War. There was nothing glorious about his famous March to the Sea. Instead, his "making Georgia howl" had the grim and realistic objective of denying the south the resources necessary to conduct war and as a reprisal for rebellion. The war began with Irving McDowell, Thomas Jackson, and Jeb Stuart with his plumed hat. By war's end, the latter two were dead, McDowell was a historical footnote, and US Grant and Sherman, with their concept of total war, were the victors.
One of the most cynical presidents of our time is Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary. Their reaction to the exposure of Bill's affair with white house intern Monica Lewinsky was a master class in naked cynicism. When first confronted about the affair, the President wagged his finger at the T.V. camera and stated, without equivocation, that he "did not have an affair with that woman." Aside from the obvious point that Clinton had several affairs throughout his marriage, his anger seemed genuine, and it was all an act. Here is a timeline from that era in 1998.
January 7: Lewinsky signed an affidavit stating that she never had a sexual relationship with Clinton at the attorneys' request representing Paula Jones. The latter had accused Clinton of sexual harassment in 1994. Jones claimed she suffered emotional damage after Clinton exposed himself to her in an Arkansas hotel room in May of 1991. A conservative legal group that had volunteered to fund her lawsuit had gotten an anonymous tip about Lewinsky, so Jones' lawyers subpoenaed Lewinsky in hopes of arguing that Clinton displayed a pattern of workplace harassment.
January 21: Matt Drudge publishes allegations, as part of his overall report that Clinton and Lewinsky were having an affair, that Lewinsky had kept a "garment with Clinton's dried semen." Mainstream news outlets pick up his report over the week. FBI tests, however, find no DNA evidence on Lewinsky's clothes.
January 26: President Clinton denies the report on television, uttering what would become one of the most memorable lines of the scandal: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."
And my favorite, "January 27: On the TODAY Show, First Lady Hillary Clinton dismissed the allegations as a "vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced [his run] for president." That same day, Andy Bleiler, who had had a five-year affair with Lewinsky, goes public claiming that she had told him she had oral sex with the president.
August 17: Clinton testifies to the grand jury for more than four hours on closed-circuit television. He admits to "inappropriate intimate contact" but also says that he had given accurate evidence in January, arguing that "It depends on the meaning of the word' is." That evening, he spoke to the nation in a televised address, admitting for the first time that he had a relationship with Lewinsky "Indeed, I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong. It constituted a critical lapse in judgment and a personal failure on my part for which I am solely and completely responsible," he says.
But just in case one believes that such as level of cynicism was so the 1990s, in 2020, Clinton claimed, in a new documentary series, that getting involved in a sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky was a way to "manage my anxieties." He must have been very anxious because Lewinsky was a part of a greater behavior stretching back to his days as governor of Arkansas. Maybe he should have taken up jogging or practiced yoga instead.
His wife Hillary never recanted her accusations of right-wing conspiracies and, as we know, went on to run for president in 2008 and 2016. The Clinton Foundation, formed after their white house run, is featured by left-wing Politico in a nine-part feature on all of its corruption, including, "The FBI wanted to open an investigation into the Clinton Foundation, but the Obama administration scuttled the effort." Of which Hillary Clinton was an essential part.
This discussion of cynicism brings us to the Democratic Party's plans for Voter ID. Writing for the New York Times, Carl Hulce states on January 12, 2022, "Moving quickly to force a showdown over voting rights, congressional Democrats plan to pursue a procedural shortcut to bring up stalled legislation and try to win its approval over deep Republican resistance. In a memo to Senate Democrats on Wednesday, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, laid out a new strategy intended to overcome at least one procedural obstacle erected by Republicans to prevent the Senate from even considering the legislation.
Under the plan, the House would package two major pieces of voting rights legislation being pushed by Democrats — the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — and insert them into an unrelated bill and pass it. That measure would then go to the Senate as what is known as a "message," meaning Republicans could not filibuster a move to bring it to the floor for debate, and Democrats would not need to muster 60 votes to do so. "Taking advantage of this existing exception to the Senate's supermajority requirements will allow us to end the Republicans' ability to block debate on voting rights legislation," Mr. Schumer wrote in the memo. "The Senate will finally debate voting rights legislation, and then every senator will be faced with a choice of whether or not to pass the legislation to protect our democracy."
For more than four years, dating back to the lost election in Georgia's gubernatorial election, politicians on the Left have fueled a narrative of election denial, especially to people of color. This effort was amped up in 2021, despite some simple facts. These examples include Joe Biden getting more votes than any previous president or self-same Georgia electing two Democratic Senators, one a black man.
The concept of tainted elections is an article of faith on the Left — that American democracy is under attack in states such as Texas and Georgia. Earlier this year, President Biden called new election-integrity laws in these states "Jim Crow" and "un-American." After Christmas, Vice President Kamala Harris went so far as to label them the country's greatest national security threat.
Here is the to-do list for the Biden Administration and the Democratically controlled Congress: COVID management, inflation, supply chain issues, rising crime, especially in Democratically controlled areas, the Southern border, increasingly bolder moves China's Xi, Russia's Putin, and Kim's North Korea. Add to this the Iran treaty. This does not even include everyday democratic priorities such as the labor movement or Climate Change. Yet of all of these issues, the entire Democratic focus for December and January was voting rights, something proven ridiculous by the election of someone like Raphael Warnock.
This is cynicism that might make Clinton pause. Jason Snead, Executive Director of Honest Elections Project Action, had written extensively on these issues. These new laws have expanded early-voting opportunities, streamlined absentee-ballot procedures improved protections for mail-in voting, and brought greater transparency and accountability to election administration.
And despite a year of persistent attacks, policies such as voter I.D. have grown in popularity, especially among minority voters. Today, 65 percent of Americans want to strengthen election safeguards, and more than three in four black and Hispanic voters think everyone should have to show a photo I.D. to vote.
Progressives nevertheless are doubling down on the claim that states are suppressing the vote, all evidence to the contrary. Georgia, for instance, now offers more early-voting days than deep-blue New York, New Jersey, or President Joe Biden's home state of Delaware.
And despite all the hand-wringing over voter-ID laws blocking access to the polls, a 2021 study published by the Oxford Quarterly Journal of Economics discovered that voter I.D. had "no negative effect on registration or turnout . . . for any group defined by race, gender, age, or party affiliation." Voter-ID laws are in place in 35 states, yet the 2018 and 2020 elections set records for diversity and turnout.
The federal takeover Democrats pine for would replace popular and effective state laws with a left-wing wish list of flawed, unpopular, and likely unconstitutional policies. H.R. 1, for instance, uses taxpayers' money to fund politicians' campaigns, eliminates voter-ID laws, and legalizes vote trafficking, a practice that lets political operatives collect voters' mail-in ballots without supervision and which may have fraudulently swung elections in California and North Carolina. In addition, it would impose same-day registration nationwide, a policy most states opt not to do and which 58 percent of deep-blue New York voters rejected in the November election.
It's easy to see why the Left leans so heavily on the "Jim Crow" smear and the lie that American democracy is dying. They don't want a debate over the details because it would reveal how extreme their own positions are and show that the state laws they rail against make it easier to vote and harder to cheat. Instead, they want a political narrative that demonizes their opponents and enrages and animates their base. Of course, the Democrats also unsay that many of the laws enacted in Republican-controlled states mirror those already in place in blue states such as New York or Biden's native Delaware. But the Left already has those states.
It will, however, erode public confidence in democracy. So the stage has been set for voters and candidates on the Left to reject the legitimacy of elections administered under "voter suppression" laws whenever the results don't go their way. Stacey Abrams had already proven the concept in Georgia when she refused to concede in 2018, and she has become a progressive celebrity for it.
That's a short-sighted strategy that won't change minds. Nor did it persuade Senators Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.) to break their pledge to uphold the filibuster, meaning this elections power grab isn't going anywhere in a 50-50 Senate.
So why this focus? Simple. The Democrats, because of all the issues above, are going to lose Congress by a lot. And with a weakened president and one of the most unpopular vice presidents in history, they might be lost in 2024. By questioning the legitimacy of the elections, ten months before they occur, they will place a patina of illegitimacy on the governing GOP. This is not a new tactic. They did this with the Russian collusion falsity to tarnish the Trump administration throughout that presidency.
In a previous podcast, I examined the concept of Jim Crow vs. this shibboleth. The real Jim Crow featured clear voter suppression up to and including lynchings to keep minority voters from the polls. In 2022 we are talking about obtaining an I.D., being ready to vote within 30 days of an election, and, God forbid, stopping at a 7/11 to get their own water.
Though it will not help bring people to the polls, the Democrat's cynicism will succeed in questioning the very concept of voting before a single vote is cast. Much has been made of former President Trump's efforts to declare the election of 2020 illegitimate, and I have routinely decried those conjectures. Trump's claims were filed in over 60 jurisdictions, without one, a single one, of the judges, including his appointees, finding evidence to overturn an election. Moreover, Trump's entire political persona was based on winning, so the defeat of a tired old man was anathema. Thus, it could never be a rejection of him but rather corruption.
But Trump was unique in that other defeated politicians of Republican stripe, from David Perdue in Georgia (who won the first election and lost the second due to Trump's claims of fraud) to John James in Michigan, who ran a very close Senate race, to Mike Pence, have not lodged these complaints of overt voting fraud. So voter fraud was very much a Trump-centric issue as he is trying to make it a Republican Party one.
But the voting rights issue is an all-in effort for the Democrats, from Biden to Harris to Chuck Schumer to Nancy Pelosi and all members in between. In fact, out of a Senate Majority of 50, only those two Senators demurred. So the question is not why Manchin and Sinema did not vote for the bill; the question is why other so-called moderates such as Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Mark Kelly of Arizona, or Jon Tester of Montana, did so.
And, of course, Trump was not the progenitor of the voting fraud issue. Stacy Abrams claimed in 2018 that despite losing by over 50,000 votes, a healthy margin in a state election claimed, she lost because of voter suppression and became a Democratic icon because of the spurious assertion. Abrams goes even one cynical step further if that is even possible. When Biden came to Georgia to stump for his voting rights acts accompanied by Vice President Harris, Abrams skipped the event. To be clear, a sitting president speaking on the very issue that Abrams has staked her entire political career was not there. And why? Was it COVID or a death in the family? Nope, it was due to "a scheduling conflict."
When the President of the United States, the most powerful man in the world and the leader of her party, came to the largest city in her state to talk about her signature issue, which made her famous, she was scheduled elsewhere. You really cannot make this stuff up. This is like one of those Babylon Bee-type gag lists in which they would state the other, more significant events on her calendar: having her hair done, picking up milk at the grocery store, or having her car washed. Maybe she was binge-watching HBO's Succession and simply could not break away because she was only on episode four.
The honest answer is one that Diogenes could appreciate. Biden's approval numbers are in the tank, and Abrams did not want to be anywhere near him with an impending Georgia election.
I originally started this post in February. And now I wonder where the bottom exists. A few days ago, Biden tried to pin inflation on Putin's invasion of Ukraine, despite the highly publicized fact that inflation had been an issue throughout 2021. The Democrats talk a lot about how Trump's advent eroded institution and governmental confidence. When they make spurious, outrageous, and easily debunked claims for pure political profit, what do they think that does to public trust. And even this week, Biden was under fire for ending a COVID era provision about testing of illegal aliens while maintaining a mask mandate for domestic travel. The definition of cynicism: taking away testing of illegal aliens while maintaining COVID era restrictions on U.S. citizens. What is behind this? Simple. The Democrats believe that illegal aliens today will be Democratic voters tomorrow. It is not about trust or good governance but naked political power.
What is interesting is how often cynical ploys fail rather than succeed. For example, kidnapping Christians to circumnavigate the central religion of the Ottomans backfired as the Janissaries became Sultan Makers in their own right.
Though Bill Clinton managed to remain in office, and his wife was made Secretary of State, Hillary never got to be president, having lost to two relative political neophytes in part because of her baggage and perception of corruptibility. And Abrams lost support for her scheduling issue rather than garner more. And will the voting rights ploy work for the Democrats? Not sure whether they will lose in this ploy, but if the American people do not believe that their votes matter, or even whether they should try and vote, the big loser will be the United States. Of all our sacred institutions that the Democrats now kick around like so many political footballs, voting is the most important, and they could care less about the future impact.