Jocks & Nerds

Years ago I had a conversation with a young attorney about a business issue. The topic was about a company relying on vendors, marking up those vendor invoices and then billing their clients. The attorney was shocked by it and thought it was probably going to be a problem for his client in the case. I had to explain to him that it was normal practice because that’s how a business makes money.

In this case, the company used a combination of contractors, vendors and their own employees to deliver a service. All of it was billed under a standard rate contractually set between the company and the customers. The customer never saw who was doing the work and they probably did not care. The attorney could not understand why they would charge more to the customer than the vendor was charging them.

I did my best to explain it, but I suspect he was never fully convinced. Even when I carefully explained it using his billing hours as an example, he looked skeptical. He was not a dumb guy. He just did not know about business. Like most lawyers, he was sure he knew everything about everything. You can’t blame him for that. Up to that point, he was probably sure he was the smartest guy in the room most of the time.

I thought about that reading this excellent column by Roger Simon, regarding the National Review meltdown. I’m still chewing over this bit:

Ideology should function as a guide, not a faith, because in the real world you may have to violate it, when the rubber meets the road, as they say.  For those of us in the punditocracy, the rubber rarely if ever meets the road.  All we have is our theories. They are the road for us.  If we’re lucky, we’re paid for them.  In that case, we hardly ever vary them. It would be bad for business.

Trump’s perspective was the reverse.  The rubber was constantly meeting the road.  In fact, it rarely did anything else.  He always had to change and adjust.  Ideological principles were just background noise, barely audible sounds above the jack hammers.

When National Review takes up arms against Trump, it is men and women of theory against a man of action.  The public, if we are to believe the polls, prefers the action.  It’s not hard to see why.  The theory has failed and become increasingly disconnected from the people.  It doesn’t go anywhere and hasn’t for years. I’m guilty of it too. (Our current president is 150% a man of theory.) Too many people — left and right — are drunk on ideology.

There’s a lot to agree with there, but I come up short with the “man of action” line as it strikes me as a veiled reference to fascism, or at least what the commentariat has come to think of as fascism. The argument about Hitler was he did not offer a coherent vision, but he was seen as a man of action, willing to break a few heads to get things done.

Maybe I’m imagining things, maybe not, but I think he is correct in thinking his fellow chattering class members are seeing it that way. Bill Kristol has a hissy-fit posted over at NR today that sounds like the nerdy kid telling the jocks to stop picking on him. That’s where Simon has it right, I think. His people are offended by Trump coming into their safe place. Trump is micro-aggressing the bleep out of them right now.

That explains one part of this, but what about Trump supporters? I was in New England last summer when Trump was just starting to campaign. I was in a bar in a nice, generally liberal town and was struck by how captivated people were by Trump giving a speech somewhere that was being shown on the bar televisions. Something was going on.

Similarly, in the first debate, the snarling bimbo went after Trump about giving money to Democrats and he responded by pointing out that he had to do business in New York and that meant greasing the pols of both parties. I was struck by the look on the faces of the moderators. They were as baffled as that young lawyer I described at the start of this post. Trump may as well have been talking about attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.

Here’s the thing, most everyone watching that answer from Trump understood what he was saying. Anyone who owns a business knows the drill. Those who are in decision making positions for a company know the drill. In the real world, you do what you need to do to push the rock up the hill. Trump’s honesty about that was refreshing, thus making the contrast between him and the rest even more stark.

Mark Steyn has it right, I think.

The movement conservatives at National Review make a pretty nice living out of “ideas, ideology, philosophy, policy, and so forth”. The voters can’t afford that luxury: They live in a world where, in large part due to the incompetence of the national Republican Party post-Reagan, Democrat ideas are in the ascendant. And they feel that this is maybe the last chance to change that.

Go back to that line “When Reagan first ran for governor of California…” Gosh, those were the days, weren’t they? But Reagan couldn’t get elected Governor of California now, could he? Because the Golden State has been demographically transformed.

The public is looking for the candidate that can fix the issues of greatest concern to them. They look around and feel like guests in their own country. The two parties want to spend all of their time debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, while millions of foreigners pour over the border. I suspect most Trump supporters would like a better candidate, but they will go with Trump if that means addressing their top concerns.

Reading the comments on Trump stories, I see two camps. In one camp are those having fun watching their guy give wedgies to the nerds. For the first time in a long time, they feel like the guy running for office knows something about their life. The other camp is in shock, believing that if they just huddle closer together, the storm will pass. They appear to be heading for a Dorothy Martin moment.

13 thoughts on “Jocks & Nerds

  1. a republican and despised democrats but I have found this campaign quite interesting. Watching NT implode right alongside TNR is delightful. They got rid of their best in previous years and are making do with the chumps that are left.
    Your blogpost was delightful and probably the only time we’ll ever see the line, “attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion”, in a political context. Great imagery without drawing a picture of the difference between those who have and those who can’t.

  2. Pingback: Tuesday morning links - Maggie's Farm

  3. Interesting reaction from the average liberal audience in that bar when listening to Trump speak. It’s clear now that the boffins at NR have no use for “the base” except as hewers of wood and drawers of water. But remember the Romney campaign: who were the people he swore to champion? “Entrepreneurs”, right? Those were the people the Republicans claimed were the backbone of the country – the creators of jobs. Is there any sense of how THOSE people feel about Trump? Because they should understand better than any of us how life works when you run a business. All the stuff you have to do to push the rock up the hill, as you say. I’ve read that the Chamber of Commerce types don’t want Trump, but who are they, exactly? Are they the small businessmen the Republicans say they care so much about? Or are they the types who’ve already got theirs and don’t want the status quo that works for them upset? If the Republican establishment can’t even hold the support of small business, they who are they really for, except themselves?

  4. The choice isn’t between men of theory and men of action. Men of action are men of theory, as well. The primary difference between the people you’re talking about is that the men of theory aren’t willing to risk their own money on their pet theories, while men of action do on a regular basis. The men of action theorize as well and are brave enough to risk failure by acting on those theories.

    This is also why Trump is so popular, while the talking heads are not. It costs nothing to run your mouth and it’s particularly irksome to hear from these people how generous they are with your money. The people you’re labelling “men of theory” are so obviously cowardly, snivelling men, traits that are obvious to all and are repulsive to all.

  5. You earned your daily bread today. I’ve copied some, posting it elsewhere & given you credit for it. I assume it could boost your readership & that you desire such.

  6. >Trump may as well have been talking about attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.<<

    But that's *exactly* what he was talking about. Don't you see? In the end Roy Baty wanted to justify himself, and he did so in terms of his experience. To Deckard Baty is just a vicious killer, but he has his reasons and justifications for what he has done.

    Trump has seen attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I have, although from an entirely different distance and perspective. I suppose other people have too and that's why they support him.

  7. Men of theory, men of action.

    Reminds me of a phrase rattling around in my mindset about truth and reality – reality is when a theory meets a brutal gang of facts.

    Another good read.

  8. I hope you won’t mind a German point of view on this topic as I find the whole American political arena fascinating. It seems to me the significant difference between Mr. Trump and any other candidate of either party, is the simple fact Mr. Trump (love him or hate him) has actually worked for a living his entire adult life.

    Whether or not you agree with his business, his business model or how he has managed his personal finances, the point is clear to most; he’s actually worked for a living and understands the value of a dollar. All the others are politicians who have historically proven that while they may know what work means by it’s text book definition, no one believes have never actually done it themselves.

    Keep in mind politics doesn’t really require any tangible results to any bottom line other than the bottom line of getting elected and maintaining office. Other than that, everything they do, say or propose is theoretical (and most often a lie anyway) and any attempt to prove their theory is done at no risk to themselves and with other peoples money (or lives, as has been the case of middle-East intervention).

    As an engineer myself, we all know theory only goes so far. Until you put the ‘rubber to the road’ as you say, one has no proof anything will work. And, unlike politicians, people with a business background understand return on investment, especially when it’s their money (and not tax dollars) that’s at risk and their ability to keep their job is measured by the effect of their decisions on the bottom line by the CEO or board members.

    Unlike business owners, politicians have proven they are accountable to no one. The mis-deeds of Mrs. Clinton are clearly proof of that. Had she been charged with similar offenses in private business, I think we all know how that would have turned out. Our own Chancellor Merkle, with the recent immigrant debacle, may be unpopular for the moment with most Germans, but it’s clear she and her cronies don’t give a damn about the results of this new theoretical social experiment.

    • Agreed. The difference between Trump and the other candidates as well as his detractors in the self-identified intelligentsia is precisely that he has operated in the real world of actions and consequences and they have not.

    • I agree. The only people who have less real world experience than politicians are the so-called academics. Yet both groups are telling us what to do all the time. Trump has made it clear that he’s one of us, not them.

  9. Reading the comments on Trump stories, I see two camps.

    I’m in a third camp. I don’t like Trump, but I’m hoping he straps a bomb to his chest and takes himself out along with both parties in one big bang.

    Edit: Ah, I just now read the post below this one.

    • I never cared for Trump’s act, but I never had anything against the guy. I’m just watching the show and I have not really thought too much how I would vote if it came to it. I live in a one party state so voting is mostly pointless activity.

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