Archives for category: Personal Strategies

The term “neo-liberal” is the left’s favorite term to conflate actually-existing globalism, limited-government conservatism and libertarianism. There is a reason why libertarians, especially, hate the term. And, often, despise leftists for using it.
The term “cultural Marxist” I heard first from people trying to explain the left’s strange obsession with inclusion/exclusion issues and group identity politics. It is, I guess, a term of art on the right. I tend not to use it, but hey, I understand its utility. Modish, post-modern social justice ideas do trickle down from their ancestral origin, in Marx, regarding class interest and exploitation . . . and the idea that oppression must be understood in those precise terms.stevehorwitz
Users of the term cultural Marxism, so far as I have witnessed, do not normally conflate SJWers and feminists and intersectionalists with liberals and statists of the center-left variety. I, at least, rarely hear it so used, except when used in haste, and when the cultural acquiescence to the SJWers by the center-left is at issue. But perhaps I am living in a bubble.
Why bring this up?
Because Prof. Steve Horwitz, an economist I follow on Facebook, wrote the following:

The progressive bubble on college campuses that makes it so hard for so many students to pass an Ideological Turing Test leads them to name-call and question the good faith of libertarians and conservatives. Those students simply have no idea what a serious, thoughtful defense of conservative or libertarian ideas looks like.
But their bubble is mirrored on the right by the retreat into the right-wing media echo chamber which causes many conservatives, and too many libertarians, to be unable to pass an Ideological Turing Test themselves. They too end up name-calling and questioning the good faith of progressives, and they have little idea what a serious, thoughtful defense of progressive ideas looks like.
We end up with people shouting meaningless terms like “neo-liberal” and “cultural Marxist” at each other rather than actually talking, while they assert that they are on the moral high ground and the others are “snowflakes,” and everyone remains blissfully ignorant of the socially destructive bubbles they inhabit.

Horwitz had me until the last paragraph, at which point I rebelled. Neo-liberal is definitely not meaningless. It started life as a way to acknowledge the filiation of ideas of modern limited-government thought. Leftists, in recognizing it, acknowledge that liberalism used to be individualist — that in itself is something of an achievement (there are a lot of “liberals” and “progressives” out there who still refuse to accept the facts of their inheritance). The fact that it now encompasses almost the whole of any possible capitalist order indicates the extent to which its users hate the central institutions of capitalism: private property and markets, and the rule of law that sustains both.
And hey: cultural Marxist is not meaningless, either. The parentage of much of modern feminism and anti-racism and the whole intersectionalist project does indeed hail from a bowdlerized Marxism. It is not economic Marxism, which is fine, since that is a brain-dead philosophy anyway. It is “cultural” in that it emphasizes culture and “systemic” social influences, all the while denying whole perspectives on biology (and is thoroughly anti-science on many levels) and economic law.
So, these two terms may be problematic in some usages, or all, they are not mere terms of opprobrium. And to call them meaningless is to misconstrue major ideological ideas in our time.
Why would Horwitz suggest that they are meaningless?
Perhaps because he is playing a popular game that many libertarians play: the left and right are equally bad. And equally good.
Designate me dubious.
Where and how they err and differ depends on the subject.
And, frankly, the “right,” insofar as conservatives tend to uphold ancient, traditional conceptions of justice, is far, far less dangerous than the “left,” which holds to ideas of revolutionary justice, what Thomas Sowell calls “cosmic justice.” And my readings of John Rawls and the Frankfurt School confirm this notion down the line.
Like Horwitz, I do not easily fit into either camp. Perhaps like Horwitz, I can pass ideological Turing tests pretty well. I know what makes both left and right tick. And tic. And talk.
For the record, I categorize my social philosophy, following Herbert Spencer and F. A. Hayek, as “evolutionary justice,” which takes from traditional conceptions huge hunks of doctrine and major hints, but then applies philosophy and social science to them, to better understand their limitations.
I readily admit, this idea was revolutionary when advanced by John Locke, and the American Revolution, and in Spencer, Gustave de Molinari and others who carried on the tradition. But it was not anything like the revolution proposed by socialists.
The left has openly flirted (and often embraced) their concepts as a revolt against nature itself. My kind of revolutionists did not have the left’s utopian view of human potential, or the leftist’s “malleablist” (tabula rasa + social engineering) view of social causation. It was on the left that truly revolutionary — cosmic in scope — notions of justice took hold.
Today, things have come to a head. Contemporaries call each other names because now they recognize, as never before, how diametrically opposed their views are. Sure, they put themselves in bubbles for the reasons people have put themselves in bubbles throughout history. But the Internet has let us all gain intimate contact with our opponents’ very ids, and each side rears back in revulsion.
This is not a result of bubble-think. It is the result of more information and personal knowledge than ever before.
And I suspect Prof. Horwitz does not see it because he is firmly em-bubbled in the Academy, which houses many a . . . “snowflake.”
And let us come to terms with that as well. “Snowflake” is not a term used equally by both sides. It was used against the Social Justice Warriors by . . . everyone else. The far left’s whining and freak-outs over ideas showed a truly remarkable touchiness that most folks outside the left, not coddled by the deep class notions of oppression, and promiscuous standards to define oppression, are outside of their experience.
Horwitz’s apparent idea, here (if he is not simply engaging in an etiquette fiction) — that the left and right is equally as bad — strikes me as implausible. The left is more firmly in love with government, far more committed to government growth, and has a lock on several major cultural institutions all of which push increasing the size and scope of government.
They are the ones to fear most of all. For those very reasons. Government must be limited in order to be possessed.
I am somewhat surprised that a libertarian might think otherwise.
Now you see: that’s the bubble I live in, thinking that libertarians have it all figured out. When formulated as “all libertarians have it all figured out”? Obviously untrue.

twv

FYI:
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When a friend or sibling advises me how to be safe, I attribute the concern as earnest, perhaps even as “heartfelt.”

When my insurance agent advises me in a similar manner, I infer self-interest on his part.

In both cases, I consider the advice in a spirit of equanimity and good feeling.

But when an agent of the government lectures me on safety, I check for ready exits, and eye any official weaponry with deep suspicion.

twv

The Truth About Donald Trump’s Lies” (Jamelle Bouie, Slate) is one of the few articles on the President-elect’s relationship with truthfulness that breaks out of the humdrum, placing its author outside the corps of earnest scolds.

img_1569The Slate author, Jamelle Bouie, begins by explaining the use of prevarication by fascists, as explained by Hannah Arendt. Then he expands on Arendt’s analysis:

Put in plain language, fascists didn’t lie to obscure the truth; they lied to signal what would eventually become truth. Or to use Arendt’s analogy, “It is as though one were to debate with a potential murderer as to whether his future victim were dead or alive, completely forgetting that man can kill and that the murderer, by killing the person in question, could promptly provide proof of the correctness of this statement.”

Americans aren’t living under a fascist government, but they have elected a president with an unusual relationship to the truth. Even when they lie, most politicians care about the truth. It’s why they lie, why they try not to get caught. But Donald Trump doesn’t appear to see a difference between truth and lies. He lies as a matter of habit about matters large and small. His lies are often obvious: easily disproved by available information. For a strong example, look to Twitter. “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” tweeted the president-elect on Monday. This charge is groundless. False. Frankfurtian bullshit. There is no evidence of “illegal voting,” no evidence of the mass fraud necessary to give Hillary Clinton a significant lead in the national popular vote.

But, following Arendt, debunking Trump’s lie as a lie misses the point of his lying. Since 2013, when the Supreme Court struck key provisions from the Voting Rights Act, GOP lawmakers in states across the country have pushed and pursued strict laws for voter identification and voter suppression. Republicans in Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin (among others) have tried to burden voters with cumbersome requirements, convoluted procedures, closed precincts, and reduced time for voting. In each case, Republicans began their push with broad accusations of voter fraud influenced by figures like conservative activist Hans von Spakovsky, a key architect of ID laws and other methods of voter suppression. “We call this restoring confidence in government,” said Thom Tillis, then-speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, in support of a strict voter ID law. “There is some evidence of voter fraud, but that’s not the primary reason or doing this. There are a lot of people who are just concerned with the potential risk of fraud.”

The author, of course, doesn’t take kindly to the idea of tightening up voting requirements. And here we get to the problem with his take on Trump. After an initial foray into the interesting, he reverts to the usual partisan knee-jerkery.

He calls the Democratic Party’s approach to voting rights “broad and inclusive.” Yikes. This is part of the modern Uplift approach to democracy, the trivial “rock the vote” nonsense, wherein we encourage everyone, including those who know next to nothing about politics (much less history, economics, sociology, war, taxation, etc.) to vote, which seems hardly prudent.

Making it “easier” to vote just increases the number of marginal, uninformed or uninspired voters. Precisely the kind that can be moved by unreflective, uncomplicated political pitches.

The Democratic Party, in pushing for this kind of voting, suggests, to me, that it relies upon uninformed and easily-manipulated voters.

But of course the elites defend it in “racial” terms. Which is a fine example of the party’s over-reliance upon identity politics to solidify subsidy-based allegiance.

The Slate author thus derails his essay by turning it into yet another case of special pleading, preaching to the Choir Ideological.

Apparently, Democrats just cannot help themselves.

The essay’s title focus, however, retains interest, no matter how botched. Certainly it is the case that no matter how one feels about voting rights, the President-elect has never been known as a stalwart for the truth. Mr. Bouie gives us at least some small purchase on Trump’s modus operandi. Though it run off the rails by not looking into the basic notion — and questioning whether Hillary Clinton’s long string of whoppers might not also fall into the same not-quite-familiar fascist mode — in greater depth.

That’s up to the reader, I guess.

Just not the marginal voter . . . from whom nothing insightful about politics should be expected.

twv

 

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Matthew Blanchfield, the CEO who refuses to do business with Trump supporters, was interviewed by Tucker Carlson on tonight’s new Fox news opinion show, Tucker Carlson Tonight. Not the best interview ever; not the worst. Least favorite Tucker moment: when he suggested the man couldn’t even define the term “fascism.” Tucker should have innocently asked the man what he meant by the word.

Worst moment for Blanchfield is a little harder to identify. It seems weird to me that his shareholders would approve of cutting off a whole bunch of clients, thereby losing potential profits. Why no questions about how the owners of the company reacted to the CEO’s stand, Tucker?

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Blanchfield’s best moment was an aside: his thinking that Trump might take office despite losing the popular vote “quite ironic,” considering the charges of a “rigged system” that Trump made so much of in the election. There is irony here, though I’m not sure Blanchfield and I would agree on its precise nature.

One possible worst moment — Blanchfield messed up his challenge to Tucker, re: doing business with Nazis. I can see why Tucker might’ve been nonplused, since the exact manner in the formulation of the question was witless and confusing. (“If you were a member of the Nazi Party in the Forties, in Hitler’s day, would you have done business with Nazi Party members?” Yikes, that goes off track, eh?) The man seems to think that fascism is the same as a dictatorship under an authoritarian.

Terrible definition of fascism. I mean, come on: I recently read the Gentile and Rocco and Mussolini treatises, and there is more to it than just a grab-bag epithet for tyrants one does not approve of.

Tucker was probably right to not extend the pissing match over definitions very far. But I think it is incumbent upon him to explore the concept in future shows.

A teachable moment, I’d say.

Blanchfield, whose moral courage I kind of admire, had some problems with definitions far beyond the one word. Indeed, not long after he claimed to be aware “what all these definitions are,” he then proceeded to misuse the word “turpitude.” (Another possible worst moment.) He praised “having the moral turpitude to stand up against the masses” as very American, as “what a citizen and a patriot actually does.” What? I know, I know: he meant “moral courage” — or maybe he was thinking of “temerity.” But that’s a word demoting excess, inherently a pejorative.

“Audacity” would do better, maybe? The audacity of . . . ?

It was a bizarre interview, to say the least.

twv

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President-Elect Donald Trump does not speak in a normal way. Everybody noticed that, supporter and enemy alike. But I think that most people misinterpreted his modus operandi. They assumed his “plain spoken” outbursts were evidence of an earnest person merely speaking his mind, from the normal, common sense, everyday standpoint.

That could hardly be further from the truth.

img_0721Indeed, it is his relationship with the truth that interests me most. I do not think — perhaps have never thought — that the things he has said were, are, or will be attempts at the truth.

Instead, anything he says must be interpreted as a gambit in some sort of negotiation. He is a negotiator, he says — yes. And that means he is not truthful but manipulative, speaking to change others’ behavior.

Normal people tend to look at speech as primarily a series of truth-statements or lie-statements. Trump, on the other hand, does not. He speaks to get effects, and always has done so. He uses the appearance of truth the better to set up others to do what he wants.

This is why he is proceeding to turn back on many of his promises, already. Before being sworn in.

They were never promises. They never had truth-value. They were manipulative efforts. I’d say they were lies — and technically, they were and are — but when a person does not care about the truth, then the word “lie” barely applies. I am not even sure he knows what the truth is. Truth is surely not an idealized concept for him. He sees utterances as having utility, but truth-value — which is, if not another thing altogether, is another thing in part — well, no.

Trump is more a bullshitter. A fantasist, or fabulist. He is a salesman who buys his own pitch, and must, since it all comes down to selling himself. And he is and always has been more fictional than real. He is a personal contstruct resting on carefully manipulated social constructs. He is a sociopath who “displays” as a common sense “get ’r done” kind of guy. That is, he is . . . a base rhetorician.

I repeat: I believe nearly everybody, for and against, has been fooled by the man — because they have judged his statements in something like the normal framework of speech. But his speech must be seen primarily as “speech acts.” This is a man deeply orthogonal to the normal standpoint. And we must judge him, now, primarily by whether we like what he manages to accomplish, not by such apparently crude standards as truthfulness . . . or any other virtue, for that matter. Except prudence. The standard is what he accomplishes. Not what he said he was going to do, not what his followers wanted him to do, not what his opponents wanted him to do. His efforts must be judged by their actual intentions.

Which is hard to do, since we cannot rely upon his own report of his intentions. So, as we judge his acts, we must, as best we can, speculate on his real motivation.

This is what American politics has come to.

twv

I am a propagandist by profession. But my unpaid presence on the Web — which sometimes veers on rantwork, other times wanders into personal reflection — differs from my less public, behind-the-scenes editorial consulting in matters of persuasion. I allow myself, here as well as on Facebook, Twitter, etc., the latitude to use bigger words and more involved arguments . . . and to be more annoying in other ways as well. 

My middle name’s Wirkman. But, with some justice, I could elide the first phoneme: ’irkman.

Huh?

A propagandist must have one foot in philosophy. And, off the clock, the other foot is free to step in and out of the philosophy ring at will, as if dancing the hokey-pokey. And philosophy, you may remember, may have started with a kind of metaphysical speculation about the substance of reality (Thales, Anaxagoras, Anaximander), but it was early on upgraded to gadfly status (Socrates). And there is no surer way to annoy a normal denizen among the living than to question his reality or challenge her ideals. But that is the job of the philosopher. So: irksome is the name of the game.

The propagandist has that job of inducing paradigm shift, too. But there the notion is to make the bitter pill of Error Correction as sweet as Confirmation Bias Candy. 

Marketing medicine as a luxury or decency, rather than as a necessity or strict economizing effort (no one hates “austerity” more than a modern profligate cosmopolitan*) is not an ignoble thing. 

But it is not the only thing. So I can be at once more honest and more annoying when I sign my name to these posts. Or just my initials —

twv

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———

* See the propagandist work of Paul Krugman in the New York Times. He is paid well to shill pleasant, candy covered pills for the Establishment. And boy, does he hate the very idea of “austerity”!


Trump won, think of that. The last I saw, he nabbed 274 electoral college votes, which should surely be enough to withstand a few defectors, rogue electors. . . .

The Republicans maintained control of the Senate and the House. GOP insiders are rubbing their hands in unexpected glee: united government!

Do you fear united government? Well, you should. It was terrible in the Bush years. It was what led to the repudiation of Republicans in 2006 and 2008, and to the eight years of the Barack Obama disaster. The Republicans were punished. American voters punished them.

Yesterday, it was The Democracy’s turn, turnabout being rough, but a sort of poetic justice. Call it doggerel-eat-doggerel justice. And no better candidate for repudiation could be imagined than Mrs. Hillary Clinton. I gloat and glory in her defeat. Her agony. Driving home from town, after the night’s big turn went from the West Coast States’ blue board results, and the red began racking up, my fellow traveler chortled along with me: To be defeated by the most hated man in America! What a blow. What a slap, what a thwacking. None dare call it comeuppance?

And yet, and yet . . .

America works better with divided government. A certain amount of checks and balances in the opposing parties vying for supremacy in House, Senate, and the White House.

But take heart! If I have been right, we will have divided government, despite Democratic dashed hopes.

Republicans have retained congressional majorities, sure. But another Democrat will enter the White House.

The devil, you say.

Well, yes. You see, Trump is, at the very least, not a conservative. His speech last night was all about spending increases, when not making vague promises of getting America “back to work.” If he gets his way, deficits will increase, as they did under Bush; and debt will increase, as it did under all presidents in my lifetime. Bigly.

My past prediction was that Trump will rule as an old-time moderate Democrat, a sort of vulgar Jimmy Carter with a propensity for super-Gephardtian trade barriers.

When will Democrats realize they won? When will Republicans realize they lost?

Mundus vult decipi. The world wills deception; the world wants to be deceived.

twv

Tomorrow will be glorious: I vote for neither Trump nor Clinton, and even if my fondest wish be dashed — an Electoral College stalemate sending the election to the House — I’ll have a clean conscience bolstered by the knowledge that my vote decided nothing.

The truth sets you free. Your vote doesn’t matter to you except in how you, yourself, frame it. Other people’s interpretations of your vote’s meaning are more arbitrary than your own.

Think for yourself, and don’t be ruled by spooks in the head.

I do not know what Penn Jillette was thinking when he swapped his vote for Gary Johnson with Democrats in Hillary-“safe” states like California, to vote for Hillary, even though he agrees with her on, as he put it, nothing. Sure, Nevada is going to be close.But will it be decided by one? Not likely. If there is a one-vote difference, the loser will demand a recount, somebody will find some “uncounted” ballots this side of Faërie and bring them to the desert sands we know, and . . . well, you get the picture. It seems silly to me to pretend that you are going to decide the vote.

I was so close, years ago, in my county! There was a tie in the commissioner race. My vote could be said to have “brought up” my candidate to viability. Stalemate. They flipped a coin. My guy lost. My vote mattered not at all.

Call it unproductive, marginal futility, what-have-you, but your vote does not “count” in an individually meaningful way.

So don’t vote if you don’t want to. Vote for Mickey Mouse if that is your thing.

As for me, I have little faith in democracies or republics, but for your sakes, and mine, I cast a vote that I say stands for the rule of law. Not the rule of charismatics, crony capitalists, cronies-of-capitalists, and charlatans.

twv


A friend offered up, on Facebook, an eloquent defense of his early, by-mail vote for Trump. He expressed how he had “no choice” but to place his vote for the Republican candidate. And then, he — a Christian, last I heard — defended his vote for a man whose vulgarity and sinfulness are widely known. Why? On the grounds that Hillary is worse.

Now, she may in fact (or according to decent values) be worse. In one or two dimensions, at least. And she may even likely do more damage than would Donald Trump. But, as eloquent as my friend was, I was unmoved by his reasoning.

I was going to comment on his Facebook post, at first. I wrote it up, and placed my finger over the “Post” link. But I thought better of it. I’m already a gadfly to my whole community and a troublesome spirit to my friends and family on Facebook; I’m sure, by now, I annoy more than I edify. Why push it?

So I did not respond on his page. But I obviously am under the impression my words matter. So . . . I publish my response here:

Chuck, nifty apologia, but . . . of course you had other choices! There were

  • other candidates on your ballot;
  • you could skip the presidential ticket; or
  • not vote at all.

And since your vote will not decide the election, you are under no desperate pragmatism to veto your values. And yet you chose to give it (and signal us as so doing) to a man who is the very form of crass cupidity and concupiscence covering a substance of ignorance and inanity.

Hey, it’s your vote. I’m not aghast or appalled or offended. And I certainly understand wanting to stand against the Witch Queen of Sinister. But it just seems strange to me that any rational citizen would play along to a rigged and farcical game on the terms set by statists only to signal his virtue by fecklessly pitching for vice.

I am serious about the value of one’s vote. There are only a few uses of a vote. From my perspective, my vote can find use in only a few categories:

  1. AS INSTRUMENTAL IN CHOOSING
  2. AS SIGNAL OF MY PREFERENCES
  3. AS SIGNAL OF MY ALLEGIANCES
  4. OTHER_______
  5. Since I’m familiar enough with economics and probability, I know that my vote cannot gain value by the use it plays in the first category. When I vote, my vote does not decide anything. So, despite what value a candidate or some political tribe may put on it, its marginal utility in terms of choice effectiveness is ZERO.

    But it can serve to signal my preferences (if I tell somebody) or, more broadly, my allegiances (once again, if I tell somebody), and, merely by being counted and thus noticed, it tallies up in some candidate’s or cause’s column. (And thus in some way is of practical value to him or her or them, etc.) So, the mere existence of my vote in some cause or other, counted as a cardinal number, can be the first use for my vote. And thereby gains its value, its marginal utility.

    Though this does not exhaust the theory of voting, it is enough to discredit the idea that one “wastes one’s vote” when one votes for a losing candidate. If you think your vote only gains value because it has a drop-in-the-bucket value to a winning candidate and his or her team, you have very strange values indeed. They are not about policy or philosophy or integrity or even tribe. Those values (in voting, mind you), are, if you fear “wasting it,” based entirely on the pathetic desire to appear “not a loser” by being tallied in the winners’ column.*

    No individualist would be such a group cultist.

    And there remains no desperate pragmatism to constrain your vote in any way.


    * That OTHER____ use to which my vote may be put includes a few subtle points that I hope to deal with before the fateful day in November in which we expend much time and energy voting and counting votes. And talking about the results. And even a few other subjects.

    twv

It is interesting how the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates are now both intimately embroiled in scandals regarding male-female rape. Trump, for boasting in a typically vulgar, alpha-male fashion about his sexual conquests, and Clinton, for covering up and defending her husband from multiple sexual harassment and rape charges.

alpha male baboonFor all I know, Trump has also fought off rape charges; he has certainly confessed to rapey gropings. But we do know for sure that, back in the 1990s, Hillary maligned her husband’s accusers, worked mightily against them behind the scenes. And thus found herself the de facto enemy of contemporary American (that is, feminist as well as Christian) sex mores.

There is a certain degree of hypocrisy on the part of both sides. To make much of the one and not the other seems unsustainable, morally.

Though I suppose one might make the case that Trump comes off as the more honest. The full statement of his that caused so much scandal was that rich and powerful men can get away with sexual misconduct that most men cannot get away with. Alas, this is obviously true. Hillary’s Bill is living proof of that. He got away with multiple rape and sexual harassment charges. Most folks, today, seem oblivious, utterly unconcerned, even today,  about his many trips on a supporter’s “statutory rape” plane. And we know how Hillary’s husband got away with it: Hillary and her many friends in the press worked mightily to spin all the stories in his favor.

Or ignore them entirely.

If sexual misconduct is a big issue for you, advantage Trump, but not by much. An honest horned goat is still a horned goat. Or, switch the metaphor. Make it baboon. A species known for displays of sexually aggressive behavior to signal alpha status.

It interests me that so many voters are enough obsessed with power and political advantage that they could forgive their candidate such behavior . . . if not the opponent candidate. But few of these people would forgive their neighbor for such conduct. (I hope.) But most folks apparently so strongly yearn for an alpha male in charge — or an alpha female — that they will shrug and vote for their candidate. Turn a blind eye. Cover their ears. Speak no evil . . . against theirs and theirs alone.

This suggests something very interesting. Since no single voter’s vote determines an election, this means that, from a practical political point of view, each voter’s vote is costless — and this suggests to me that most folks who vote Trump or Clinton do not care about matters of sexual probity much at all. Demonstrated preference. If you say you support something but effectively demonstrate no such support when the cost of such support is near zero, you are a hypocrite.

If voters did care about rape and sexual misconduct, they’d vote Johnson or Stein. Who have no such scandals dogging them.

So, radical feminists may be right; there is a rape culture in heterosexual America: it can be found among the voters who overlook sexual misconduct and its valorization when they cast their votes for either Clinton or Trump.