As We Near the 100-Day Mark of the Trump Regime

by Corey Robin on March 27, 2017

Despite having taken a long break from social media and blogging after the election—partly due to having gotten the election so wrong and wanting some time to reflect; partly due to exhaustion—I have written a bunch of pieces on the political situation that may be of interest to folks, particularly as we near the proverbial 100-day mark of Trump’s regime.

Back in December, I wrote an essay for Harper’s on how we ought to think of opposing Trump, of not falling into the trap of resting our politics on the intractable evil of his regime. I trace that kind of thinking back to the liberalism that emerged at the end of the Cold War (really, it extends back further), a liberalism that refuses to posit a good and, instead, grounds its claims on a feared evil or ill. One of the consequences of that way of thinking is this:

A liberalism that needs monsters to destroy can never politically engage with its enemies. It can never understand those enemies as political actors, making calculations, taking advantage of opportunities, and responding to constraints. It can never see in those enemies anything other than a black hole of motivation, a cesspool where reason goes to die. Hence the refusal of empathy for Trump’s supporters. Insofar as it marks a demand that we not abandon antiracist principle and practice for the sake of winning over a mythicized white working class, the refusal is unimpeachable. But like the know-nothing disavowal of knowledge after 9/11, when explanations of terrorism were construed as exonerations of terrorism, the refusal of empathy since 11/9 is a will to ignorance. Far simpler to imagine Trump voters as possessed by a kind of demonic intelligence, or anti-intelligence, transcending all the rules of the established order. Rather than treat Trump as the outgrowth of normal politics and traditional institutions — it is the Electoral College, after all, not some beating heart of darkness, that sent Trump to the White House — there is a disabling insistence that he and his forces are like no political formation we’ve seen. By encouraging us to see only novelty in his monstrosity, analyses of this kind may prove as crippling as the neocons’ assessment of Saddam’s regime. That, too, was held to be like no tyranny we’d seen, a despotism where the ordinary rules of politics didn’t apply and knowledge of the subject was therefore useless.

I pursued this line of argument about the need to view Trump politically in a piece that appeared in n+1 in January, several weeks before Trump’s Inauguration. Like several other scholars—most notably, Jack Balkin and Julia Azari—I deployed Steve Skowronek’s theory of the presidency, exploring the possibilities that Trump’s presidency might turn out to be like Jimmy Carter’s. I had been pondering the Carter scenario as early as last June on Facebook, though as most of you know, using the same broad theory, I wound up making the ultimately mistaken argument (more on this below) that Trump was like McGovern. (NB: This is not a comparison between the personalities or talents or skill sets or ideological agendas of these men; it’s a comparison of the structural positions they find themselves in, as presidents presiding over weak regimes.)

In any event, while the scenarios I set out in my n+1 piece were speculative, I thought there was significant enough evidence accumulating in the weeks after his election to show that Trump’s presidency might be as disjunctive as Carter’s.

THE INTERREGNUM BETWEEN Trump’s election and his inauguration has occasioned a fever dream of authoritarianism—a procession of nightmares from faraway lands and distant times, from Hitler and Mussolini to Putin and Erdogan. But what if Trump’s antecedents are more prosaic, the historical analogies nearer to hand? What if the best clues to the Trump presidency are to be found in that most un-Trump-like of figures: Jimmy Carter?

THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN CARTER and Trump are many and obvious: Carter shyly confessed to having “committed adultery in my heart”; Trump brags about grabbing pussy. Carter was a moralist and a technocrat; Trump, an immoralist and a demagogue. Carter was a state senator and a governor; Trump has no political experience. Carter wouldn’t hurt a fly (or a rabbit). Trump takes pleasure in humiliating others, particularly women and people of color.

The parallels between Carter and Trump are also many, if less obvious.


Though many objected to this piece when it came out, claiming that I was not alert enough to the strongman authoritarianism, even fascism, that Trump was organizing around him, subsequent events, I think, have shown that his presidency is as incoherent, and as weak, as I speculated it might be. Frankly, even weaker: it’s an innovative fascist who, when given total control of the state apparatus, consistently and electively fails to consolidate that apparatus, particularly its security sectors. Or who responds to challenges to his power with a phlegmatic  ”I’ll see you in court.” (And, yes, I know about the Leipzig Trial, but that was a response to an alleged criminal act; with Trump, we’re talking about how he copes with challenges to his policies.)  Despite the rhetoric and bravado, the tweets and tantrums, Trump remains very much a captive of the institutions he rails against, with little sign, it seems, of being able to do much about them. At least FDR, when faced with challenges from the courts, had the wherewithal to try and pack the Supreme Court; Trump’s greatest threat is…to take it to the Supreme Court.

In any event, the debacle over the repeal of Obamacare fully reveals the extent of the incoherence and disjunction of the regime. I examine some of the deeper, long-term dynamics underlying the disjunction in a lengthy oped in yesterday’s New York Times:


When confronting an enemy that controls the state or the terms of political debate, insurgent movements [like the American right between the 1950s and 1970s] are disciplined by the combination of their ambition and their weakness. Because they are in the minority, the movement’s true believers understand that their primary task is to win converts. That task forces them to cajole and confront, to engage and entertain, the other side. If they win converts, if they see their movement grow, they’ll confidently accept a temporary compromise with their newfound, perhaps softer allies as the price of power — and the promise of greater power to come. The movement thus develops a suppleness, a buoyancy, that enables it to smooth over the inevitable differences and fissures that accompany any expansion beyond its base.


Movements on the rise are also forced to shape and sharpen their ideas, to formulate and test their policies in the news media and academia, or out of the spotlight in local precincts and party primaries. The philosopher and economist Friedrich A. Hayek, whose writings helped shape the modern right, said the free-market ideal most “progressed” when it was “on the defensive.” That encounter with reality, of trying to proselytize and govern amid an enemy more powerful than you, is a vital teacher. In that classroom, movements learn what to think, what to do, and how to do it. Once they graduate, they’re ready not only to seize power but also to exercise it.


Movements long ensconced and habituated to power — such that when their leaders are out of office, their ideas still dominate — get out of that practice. They lose touch with that external reality of their opponents. The impulsion outward disappears; they grow isolated and doctrinaire, more sectarian than evangelical. Arguments their predecessors had to sweat their way through soften into lazy nostrums or harden into rigid dogmas. The free-market ideal, Hayek says, “became stationary when it was most influential.”



It’s no surprise, then, that the Republican Party should now find itself uncertain about what to do. After 40 years in Zion, it has lost the will and clarity it acquired while wandering in the desert. The movement has lost the constraint of circumstance.



After my oped appeared yesterday, I speculated a little further about what the defeat means going forward, as we start examining the question of tax cuts and the debt ceiling, the second and third point of what what I call the “Bermuda Triangle” of Trump’s regime.
If you go back to the best reporting on this issue, it’s clear that repealing Obamacare was never, simply, about an ideological antipathy to government-provided or government-subsidized insurance—though that of course played a role. What really was driving the repeal—and why Ryan insisted it had to be done first (that was no duping of Trump, as some are claiming, nor was it Bannon setting up the Freedom Caucus, as some are even more fantastically claiming)—was the tax cuts: not only the massive tax cuts that the repeal contained within itself, but also, and more important, the permanent tax cuts that repeal would make possible down the road this year (in a way that George W. Bush’s tax cuts were not permanent, much to the chagrin of the right). There was, in other words, a very rational reason to take on healthcare first; in some ways, given the ultimate long-term goals of the GOP (where cutting taxes has always proven to be the most tried and true method for keeping entitlement spending under control), they had no choice but to move on healthcare first.

You’ll recall that this issue dogged Obama like the plague: whether you think it was the GOP that controlled him on this issue or he who allowed himself to be controlled by the GOP, it was a real constraint on his presidency from 2010 onward. So as soon as Trump was elected I began to wonder to myself whether this same GOP, and particularly these meshuga Tea Partiers, would allow Trump simply to increase the debt ceiling without exacting some sort of price from him, the way they did with Obama.

Leftists alarmed by Trump tend to think the GOP will naturally fall in line with him and with Bannon’s vision of a different kind of GOP. So the debt ceiling from this perspective won’t even be an issue. I myself really didn’t know what would happen: would these Tea Party types really have the gumption to oppose Trump on the debt, to force him to come around to their priorities? I was dubious.

After what happened this past week, I’m no longer dubious. I still have no idea what the GOP will do, but I think it not impossible that the Unfreedom Caucus and their allies (a much wider group in the GOP) will replay with Trump what they did with Obama: demand concessions from Trump on taxes and spending in order to justify their voting to raise the debt ceiling. The difference this time around is that unlike Obama, Trump has far less room to maneuver: Obama had the entire Democratic Party vote and only needed a certain number of GOP votes; Trump has an uncertain number of GOP votes and will almost definitely have to reach out to the Democratic Party.


As I mentioned, I took a long break from the internet after November, in which I thought a lot about what and why I got wrong in the election. I wrote about that here.
Part of my failure, of course, was that I didn’t read the polls carefully enough. A lot of the polls, as my more attentive readers pointed out, showed Clinton’s margin over Trump, particularly in key states, to be well within the margin of error. That should have been a warning.

But to be honest, I wasn’t so much influenced by the polls as I was by two other things: first, my understanding of conservatism as a reactionary movement of the right; second, my understanding of the presidency as an institution.

One possibility is that I was wrong about the weaknesses of the Reagan regime. Rather than being weak, perhaps it was strong, which would make Trump an ideal candidate for election. In support of that possibility, people will point to the widespread control the Republicans have over state legislatures today, though as I said at the time this McGovern issue came up, the Democrats also had widespread control over state legislatures in the 1970s, and their control over Congress, particularly the House, was legendary and long-standing.

Another possibility is that I wasn’t wrong about the weaknesses of the Reagan regime but that I was wrong about Trump. Unlike conservatives or Republicans, he was doing something different: he was populist, he was revanchist, he was racist, he was outrageous, he was a demagogue, he reached out to the white working class. He was, in other words, the expression of an utterly new formation, not captured by the nostrums of conservatism. For a thousand different reasons, most of which I explore in my book, I think that argument couldn’t be more wrong. Virtually all the things that people point to that supposedly make Trump not like your typical Republican or conservative are, from my point of view, the emblematic features of what it means to be a conservative. And nothing anyone has said has convinced me otherwise.

But there is still another possibility: I wasn’t so much wrong about Trump or the Republicans; what I got wrong was the Democrats….


Since the election, I haven’t been posting at Crooked Timber. It’s difficult juggling so many conversation threads on social media, at my blog, and here. But you can always catch what I’m saying on Facebook (I’m maxed out on friends, but most of my posts are public, so you can sign up to follow them), on Twitter, or on my blog.

{ 333 comments }

1

Z 03.27.17 at 2:19 pm

Welcome back, Corey!

But there is still another possibility: I wasn’t so much wrong about Trump or the Republicans; what I got wrong was the Democrats….

I don’t remember you weighing in on John Quiggin’s three-party system theory of contemporary politic (which I take to be a model of electorates, not necessarily of candidates or parties) but if one subscribes both to it and to your definition of conservatism, then the biggest shift in American politics might be happening on the Democratic side, with the pro-corporate neoliberal group increasingly separated from the social left group, in terms of favored policies but also more mundanely in terms of objective conditions of living (with diversity questions being essentially the last thing in common hence, perhaps, their extreme prevalence among the American left).

Trump has far less room to maneuver

Honest question: can’t Trump and the Republican Congress just cut taxes for the rich, hand out money to the military and savagely slash everything else? Is the prevailing view that this has become politically too risky (meaning that the capacity of the conservative American electorate to tolerate the destruction of the lives of poor people is not infinite, as I thought)? Or is it the case that the demands in terms of tax cuts and savage slashing will be too extreme to obey the law of arithmetics? And if the latter, would that be a feature or a bug?

2

Patrick 03.27.17 at 3:14 pm

I have a similar view but with a few key differences.

I think that “explaining Trump’s win” in terms of explaining why people who like Trump do so is missing half the picture. Conservatives vote for the conservative candidate if they can. I know staunch conservative midwestern households that wrote in third parties rather than vote for Trump. I know a woman who voted straight ticket Republican by checking the box on the top of the ballot rather than the box next to Trumps name because she felt that would give her some moral distance from a candidate she preferred but didn’t like. In a two party First Lady the post system with low turnout you don’t have to be widely liked to win.

So while Trump has his supporters, I think it’s worth remembering that a big part of his victory came from people who aren’t any different than they were in 2012 or 2008. They’re conservatives who vote for the conservative candidate. So the question isn’t how Trump appealed to them, it’s why he didn’t repel enough of them quite so far enough. And whether, having seen him in office, will they rally around him because their only option? Or will they be repelled further?

I agree that a liberalism that needs monsters to fight can’t convince the other side because understanding the other side becomes impossible, but I think you might be taking it too far and accidentally enabling what I think you mean to combat.

If you ant left wing explanations of right wing views, they’re a dime a dozen. Any given left winger is NOT going to see him or herself reflected in your description of a liberal who sees their opponents as inexplicable intellectual and moral black holes. They’ve got theories like privilege threat, patriarchy, unconscious racism, and more, all designed to give explanations for conservative behavior OTHER than the explanations the conservatives themselves would offer if asked, and all without any reference to any facts or evidence a conservative might muster in support of his or her beliefs.

But I tend of convincing people this is no better than the intellectual and moral black hole perspective. It certainly isn’t going to convince anyone. And worse I think it gives ammunition to conservatives.

Few political movements are intellectually spotless in all arguments and activities. They’ll include mistakes somewhere, and they’ll overreach at times and claim more than can be justified. And if you respond to people who call those moments out by lecturing about privilege threat, they’re going to look at the valid point they just made, your choice to respond by ignoring it and going after them as a person, and conclude that they’re speaking truth to power. After all, you made an argument, they correctly pointed out a flaw in it, and you responded by trying to shame them into silence. That sure LOOKS like someone speaking truth to power.

So if you want to understand and convince conservatives, make a list of isssues. And ask yourself why a rational adult might hold the conservative position on them, AND what talking points you’ve seen from your side that a conservative could reject. You don’t have to change your mind on them. But if you can’t even write it you have a problem.

3

NickS 03.27.17 at 3:41 pm

Corey,

I have enjoyed your essays on CrookedTimber, while not always agreeing with you, but reading this set I feel like it raises the question, “what is the point of looking for a historical analogue? Why not just take events at face value and understand them as an evolving situation some of which we can understand and predict and some of which we can’t?” I think it is obviously useful to have an understanding of history to have a sense of perspective and avoid overreacting to incidental features of the present. But I worry, reading your Carter comparison that it does more to serve the need for a narrative than it does to illuminate important elements of the Trump administration.

Off the top of my head I can think of a couple of reasons why historical analogues are interesting — in no particular order: (1) Pure entertainment; humans are storytelling animals, and part of how we make sense of anything is by trying to fit it into familiar stories. (2) An attempt to separate signal from noise; to use historical reference points to judge which of the daily up and downs are likely to be important. (3) To broaden the scope of our thinking and consider a wider range of possibilities than we might based on day to day events. (4) To make predictions.

Your McGovern analogy did all of those things; it just turned out that the predictions it made were wrong. As far as the Carter analogy, I understand how it accomplishes (1), but I don’t (yet) see how it adds value, and perhaps I’m just not fully understanding it.

I think there’s a chance that Trump is a fairly weak president, and I’m certainly hoping that will be the case. I also think it’s been obvious that there are significant divides within the Republican Congress since, at least, Boehner resigned. I think it’s worth pushing back against the idea that Trump is an unstoppable force (while recognizing his danger as well), but I think that is part of standard news — On February 2nd an article in Vox described the grassroots opposition to Republican Health Care policy by saying, “Early successes are fueling a movement.”

Given that you conclude by wondering if you misunderstood the Democrats I am curious if you think that the Carter analogy helps on read the relationship between Trump/Trumpism and the Democratic party? I’m curious how I would use that analogy to improve my understanding of what’s going on.

4

politicalfootball 03.27.17 at 4:02 pm

A liberalism that needs monsters to destroy can never politically engage with its enemies.

A liberalism that fails to confront monsters enables them, as every left-oriented critic of Barack Obama will tell you. That is, they’ll tell you that unless they are talking about Donald Trump, whose supporters, they say, need to be understood and empathized with.

One can empathize with people who are manipulated, but it’s unwise to downplay the fact that Trump voters are complicit in their own victimization. They have significant agency. You can’t con an honest man.

Anyway, Job One right now is destroying monsters. A liberalism that pays insufficient attention to that responsibility is the liberalism that brought us GW Bush and Donald Trump.

5

nastywoman 03.27.17 at 4:20 pm

– and you write:

‘Virtually all the things that people point to that supposedly make Trump not like your typical Republican or conservative are, from my point of view, the emblematic features of what it means to be a conservative. And nothing anyone has said has convinced me otherwise.’

I suggest watching every single program John Oliver. Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert and SNL has done about Trump and then… reconsider?
-(and please don’t delete this comment – it is a nice and friendly comment)

6

Suzanne 03.27.17 at 4:57 pm

“it is the Electoral College, after all, not some beating heart of darkness,”

I suggest that “a beating heart of darkness” is a splendid way to describe the Electoral College as it functions today. It was created to keep the slave states happy and it continues to perform satisfactorily for the same forces in their modern form by sending to the White House in recent years two conservative presidents who lost the popular vote, the second losing by a huge margin.

I am afraid I don’t follow the Carter-Trump analogy at all, although I do hope that Trump is also a one-termer.

7

roger gathmann 03.27.17 at 6:08 pm

The problem with the meme that Trump was a different Republican was that it was endorsed by and run by the peeps who ran HRC’s campaign. Hence, the astonishing amount of time praising Reagan at the Dem convention, and supposed liberals punditing about how Reagan was a reasonable guy who ‘d never do the things Trump did.

What if you took that meme seriously, and you were a union person in Ohio looking to vote? Well, Trump – according to the Dems! – isn’t your normal republican. So take a chance! And Trump played with the cards the Dems dealt him, especially about healthcare. He wasn’t “republican”, as he said in a very well distributed TV interview, about healthcare. He wanted everybody to have it. Turns out, of course, that he lied. Since he lies about everything, that is no surprise. But hearting Reagan wasn’t the way to that fictitious union person in Ohio’s heart. Pointing to Trump’s policies and pushing the policies articulated in the Dem program (which seems to have been constructed to be forgotten) probably was. At least, it worked for Obama. In my opinion, what is happening now is a big split between the DIY movement – Dem it yourself – and the Dem honchos in DC, who are still aiming at those mythical moderate GOP voters in the suburbs. Depressing evidence for this comes from the American Prospect’s new article that was obviously juiced by political insiders in DC just aching to share their political genius. http://prospect.org/article/will-suburban-activism-pave-democratic-path-house, The political insiders evidently still think Schumer was right when he crowed, last year, that for every blue collar voter they lost in PA, they’d gain three moderate Republican suburban voters. That worked out for them, huh? But I think the DIY movement shows that politics is alive outside the usual networks that deal in it – the lobby shops, the consultants, the big data boys. That gives me hope.

8

Anarcissie 03.27.17 at 6:31 pm

Trump seems different from the usual ‘conservative’ Republican-reactionary-racist sort to me in that he does not work from principles and logic but rather from rather randomized intuition. That has advantages and disadvantages for combat. One significant advantage is that his movements and targets can’t be predicted. A disadvantage is that one play (event, move, battle) does not add advantage to others down the line, as in chess. In the fog and chaos of political struggle, the former may outweigh the latter. Trump’s dodging of the health care / medical insurance bullet was characteristic. To actually conservative people, this sort of individual in power must indeed be a nightmare.

The fact that someone like this got to the presidency strikes me as evidence that the ruling class (or whatever you want to call it) has lost collective control of the Federal government, a new situation given the policy continuities since World War 2. So not only is Trump doing random stuff, but there is not much to stop him at the moment.

9

politicalfootball 03.27.17 at 7:37 pm

Both things are true: That Trump exists on a continuum with other Republicans, and that he constitutes a break with the past in some key respects.

For example, white nationalism has always been Republican subtext. Trump has made it the text. Contempt for women? That’s the old subtext. Pussy-grabbing? The new text

These are important changes, whether or not you choose to emphasize the change or the continuity.

Sure, W. Bush made up a causus belli for the Iraq War, but Trump launched his political career with the claim that Obama was born in Kenya, and he tells crazy lies pretty much every day.

Will Trump’s lies do as much damage as Bush’s? Beats me. But Trump has pushed significantly past the prior boundaries of decency.

10

Z 03.27.17 at 8:46 pm

what is the point of looking for a historical analogue?

I guess I agree with Nick S: if the American society, the making of its electorate and the policies emerging from it are all significantly changing, past comparisons might obscure as much as they illuminate.

11

J-D 03.27.17 at 8:59 pm

What if you took that meme seriously, and you were a union person in Ohio looking to vote? Well, Trump – according to the Dems! – isn’t your normal republican. So take a chance! And Trump played with the cards the Dems dealt him, especially about healthcare. He wasn’t “republican”, as he said in a very well distributed TV interview, about healthcare. He wanted everybody to have it. Turns out, of course, that he lied. Since he lies about everything, that is no surprise. But hearting Reagan wasn’t the way to that fictitious union person in Ohio’s heart.

You’re right about your Ohio voters being fictitious. Reagan carried Ohio by 10.6 points in 1980 and by 18.8 points in 1984. Trump carried Ohio by 8.1 points. Reagan appealed to the voters of Ohio more than Trump did. Trump appealed to them less than Reagan did.

If you want to look at States where Trump out-performed Reagan electorally, you should be looking at Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia.

12

phenomenal cat 03.27.17 at 10:10 pm

“A liberalism that fails to confront monsters enables them, as every left-oriented critic of Barack Obama will tell you. That is, they’ll tell you that unless they are talking about Donald Trump, whose supporters, they say, need to be understood and empathized with.”

Careful there, politicalfootball, your ressentiment is leaking all over the place.

Did it ever occur to you, and the countless others who’ve picked up this sclerotic meme and run to the ends of the earth with it, that for at least a certain percentage of “left-oriented” critics BO and most Democratic leadership types are already well understood–and in many ways empathized with? And thus what the criticism expresses is much less haughty holier-than-thou-ism than radical disappointment and disillusionment in the utterly gutless, self-satisfied, status quo Democratic politics?

But really, are you actually claiming that, say, Clinton or Obama (or their patrons) are in greater need of sympathy and “understanding” than a random Trump voter in Ohio? How does that make sense from either a moral or strategic perspective?

I’ll say it again for the thousandth time: Trump is merely a symptom, a glaring one, of the massive rot overtaking our political system. That the R establishment could not put him down during the primary demonstrates this. That the D establishment could not put him down during the general demonstrates this. That the media could not put him down during either demonstrates this. That elements of the security state/IC apparatus have thus far failed to put him down demonstrates this. Above all, what is demonstrated is that much of electorate has no faith in the political establishment as such. Thus, the political establishment has no backing and no public will to support its actions against Trump. Trump–a real estate media-hustler, more clown than man– as head of state is living proof. He is an outcome, a result, not a cause, much less a purpose or direction. He is what happens when the coherence of ruling political and economic discourses falls apart. He does not represent anything–not an ideology nor a political will. He’s a figurehead of legitimacy collapse. He’s what you get when the most pervasive and powerful social lies are no longer believed. You get a clown who, wittingly or unwittingly, lays bare the absurdity of the declining arrangements.

The problem our entire political system faces is not that “you can’t con an honest man.” The problem is there are literally no more honest liars left–Democrat or Republican. I mean, as Robin kind of alludes to in the post, it is becoming obvious that only an intransigent and transparent rump of Republican lawmakers actually believe in and/or are willing to go to the mat on the feed-the-rich political-economic prescriptions that were ascendant 40 years ago. Their ideology is coming apart at the seams, undone by the actual impacts and effects it has had on the vast majority of the public.

Stunningly, losing the white house to a carnival act has not yet seemed to convince Democrats that the neoliberal restructuring of economy and society (runaway financialization of everything is fine; transnational capital flows do god’s work; job retraining heals all wounds) will no longer fly. No, it seems the Democratic strategy is to pull a page from the Bush-Delay-McConnell playbook in order to distract under the guise of patriotism–patriotism!–and cold war senility. I wonder why? Leave it to modern Democrats to be perpetually a day late and a dollar short when it comes to Beltway knife-fighting though. It’s hard to imagine a more consistent, focus-grouped, set of political cowards.

It’s true Trump is the problem. It’s even more true that Trump is a mere indication of the problem.

13

Alan White 03.28.17 at 2:26 am

Because of the electoral college Trump was elected by 0.067% of all votes cast–about 80K out of 120 million in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, which put him over the top– such a tiny margin could reasonably be accounted for by both the influence of Russia and the questionable competence of Comey’s decision to release statements about Clinton’s emails (twice) and yet withhold the fact that the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia were currently under investigation at the same time. Trump is not a legitimate president–he is the product of deliberate action and (by maximum charity) poor decisions of forces that added to the force of demagoguery already abetted by wretched capitalist inequality that just barely pushed him into office. He is as intellectually bankrupt as many of his business ventures were, and stands a half-witted puppet to forces close around him who wish to push a racist, plutocratic, and authoritarian agenda.

14

nastywoman 03.28.17 at 4:29 am

– and as somebody who never refused empathy for Trump’s supporters and even learned how to deconstruct a Harley Motor ‘for the sake of winning over a mythicized white working class’ I just don’t understand why Americas comedians are so much better in classifying, characterizing or defining Trump – than so called ‘political’ observers?

All these histerical analogues and especially the Carter one are just not… funny?
And it’s not that they should be ‘funny’ – but they let Trump appear so… important or let’s say even ‘presidential’.
And that’s a type of empathy he really doesn’t deserve and if the two comments I posted before disappeared because I called Trump by his ‘real name’ – and that was understood as ‘a liberalism that needs monsters to destroy and which ‘never can politically engage with its enemies’ – there is no better way than to call ‘monsters’ by their real names in order
‘to understand those enemies as political actors, making calculations, taking advantage of opportunities, and responding to constraints.’

15

Val 03.28.17 at 6:21 am

Interesting that no one seems to consider the influence of sexism.

16

John Holbo 03.28.17 at 9:37 am

Welcome back, Corey!

17

JimV 03.28.17 at 1:15 pm

Carter had a degree in engineering and served in the navy. He ran a very successful peanut-farming business, which went into financial difficulties while it was in a blind trust during his presidency. It recovered under his leadership after he left office. In office two of his priorities were reducing USA dependency on oil and peace between Israel and Egypt, both of which were successful (the former was overturned by Reagan). If you live in the USA, most of us, including me, have seen one of his Habitat for Humanity houses being built, and maybe pitched in. His Carter Foundation is eliminating guinea worm in Africa.

Trump is like Carter. Lies are like truth. Where have I heard this before?

I’m sorry, I can’t (don’t want to) get past the obvious incongruity. The votes I am happiest about in my life were the two I cast for Jimmy Carter.

18

politicalfootball 03.28.17 at 2:21 pm

Val @15: I generally consider myself pretty savvy about what is and isn’t talked about in public discourse, but (being a man) I still find it very easy to overlook the obvious sexism at work here.

In addition to the media silence, part of my problem, I think, is that Hillary herself had to approach the topic delicately.

Another part of the problem is that the impact of sexism is complicated. It’s easy and accurate to talk about the Clinton Rules — the unfair standards that Bill was also subject to — but the impact of sexism is tougher to tease out.

19

Z 03.28.17 at 2:53 pm

Stunningly, losing the white house to a carnival act has not yet seemed to convince Democrats that the neoliberal restructuring of economy and society (runaway financialization of everything is fine; transnational capital flows do god’s work; job retraining heals all wounds) will no longer fly.

For highly qualified professionals in cities benefitting from transnational capital flows and working in financial services, it flies very well, and this group (broadly construed) 1) is not negligible in size 2) votes 3) has become the core of the Democratic constituency and 4) staffs Democratic administrations (local and national). So pushing the neoliberal restructuring of society is a feature, not a bug.

If the American electorate is increasingly structured around three groups (neoliberal/left/reactionaries; or in mock form Suits/Hippies/Rednecks), then the neoliberal and left/ecologist group have to join rank to defeat reactionary nationalists, but that is equally true for both groups. As the neoliberal group is socially and electorally stronger (if not necessarily numerically), it does not feel it is the one which has to make the concessions (in practice, this translated into “Vote for Clinton or else Trump” and I fear that 2018 and 2020 will be “Vote for this pro-corporate Dem or else More Trump”; again a feature, not a bug).

20

politicalfootball 03.28.17 at 2:55 pm

Careful there, politicalfootball, your ressentiment is leaking all over the place.

No, that’s just plain old English-language resentment. I resent Trump. He’s a bad person, and he has made no secret of that fact. To the extent that his voters were dupes, I pity them. To the extent that they weren’t, I resent them.

But really, are you actually claiming that, say, Clinton or Obama (or their patrons) are in greater need of sympathy and “understanding” than a random Trump voter in Ohio?

Of course not. I didn’t say that. I didn’t say anything that could be mistaken for that by someone reading in good faith. What I did say was this:

A liberalism that fails to confront monsters enables them, as every left-oriented critic of Barack Obama will tell you. That is, they’ll tell you that unless they are talking about Donald Trump, whose supporters, they say, need to be understood and empathized with.

Seems quite clear to me. You show the same reading comprehension problem later, when you characterize my view this way:

Did it ever occur to you, and the countless others who’ve picked up this sclerotic meme and run to the ends of the earth with it, that for at least a certain percentage of “left-oriented” critics BO and most Democratic leadership types are already well understood

Read it again:

A liberalism that fails to confront monsters enables them, as every left-oriented critic of Barack Obama will tell you. That is, they’ll tell you that unless they are talking about Donald Trump, whose supporters, they say, need to be understood and empathized with.

Leftist critics of Obama understood quite accurately that silence on the subject of, say, drone attacks on civilians, enabled monstrous behavior. What some of them can’t get a grip on is that this does nothing to justify Trump. Less than nothing, because it’s clear that on every axis where Obama was bad, Trump will be worse, and Trump made it clear in advance that he would be worse.

You think voters went for Trump because Obama was too indulgent of bankers? Because Obama made war carelessly? Because he favored the rich? Because he was insufficiently interested in improving healthcare? Because he failed to act on the environment? Because he did too little for women and minorities?

If that’s what you think, I don’t share the contempt you have for Trump voters. I think, by and large, they had a pretty good idea what they were voting for, especially in a race where Bernie Sanders was available.

I get why you approach my comment the way that you did. That sort of mischaracterization is a powerful technique, as Trump has shown us, and I can see why you emulate it: It can be effective in politics and in the comments of blogs.

But I still resent it.

21

Mike Furlan 03.28.17 at 3:15 pm

http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/27/middleeast/mosul-civilian-deaths/index.html

If we had just one day like this in the US, what would Trump do?

22

Raven Onthill 03.28.17 at 3:42 pm

Val, I’ve been writing about sexism in this election since long before this election, saying that there are very few things in American reactionary politics that cannot be explained in whole or part as expressions of threatened masculinity. As you say, I have not seen this, which seems as plain as the nose on anyone’s face, discussed much at all.

Prof. Robin, this president you call weak still commands the most powerful military in history and the vast internal police force of the Department of Homeland Security, which has gone rogue. Half the reason the AHCA went down to defeat is that it was not cruel enough for the fascist wing of the Republican Party, and Trump will seek revenge for that humiliation. The Middle East is likely to explode in war soon (watch Yemen.) If so, that will provide the Trump administration and the various factions of the Republican Party with more excuses to expand their fascist domestic policy.

Engage, engage. Denial does you and us no favors.

23

T 03.28.17 at 4:27 pm

Corey-

Hiding in plain sight. Welcome back. And hat tip for the admission.

Being a man of ideas I think you particularly underestimated the effect of personality on the election. The visceral disgust with HRC among many working class people in the Midwest was just palpable. If Biden ran he would have walked and we wouldn’t be having this discussion. You should get out more.

btw-is it a coincidence that the daughters of Trump and Clinton are married to sons of incredibly wealthy convicted felons? I think the answer is no and I think the question isn’t trivial.

24

T 03.28.17 at 4:59 pm

As to the success of the Trump agenda, a lot of policy is going to be made through regulation, not legislation. We’re already seeing this with environmental regulation. Antitrust will likely become even more permissive. The private Obamacare insurance markets will get a push over the cliff. And on and on. My guess is that inequality measures have already surpassed the 1928 peak having just fallen short in 2007 and will just get worse. The top 0.01% and above are making out like bandits with the stock market increase.

He was in over his head on day one. If you’re not aware, real estate development shops are tiny(and he’s pretty much a branding operation now). Many have less that 100 people. The architects, contractors, etc are all outside. He’s never run anything big. Hell, many government departments and agencies have offices and divisions that are larger than his firm. That doesn’t mean he can’t do a vast amount of damage which he will. We’ve only seen hints of the mess he’ll make of foreign affairs. And when the domestic agenda isn’t going well? There’s always time for a war.

Finally, if his goal is to do well by himself, his family and his friends, he might consider his presidency very successful indeed. You keep measuring success by you’re standards, not his.

25

Trivial 03.28.17 at 5:29 pm

Right or wrong, I find many of your posts compelling.

26

bruce wilder 03.28.17 at 5:52 pm

phenomenal cat @ 12

Yep. It is a legitimacy crisis. It was always going to be a legitimacy crisis. (I thought Clinton would win — I was wrong; but I think her prospective election and the narratives attached to it also had the markings of a legitimacy crisis.) Trump is in the hot seat and his clownishness maybe flavors it a bit, but a legitimacy crisis was close to inevitable, even if the outcome of the election in terms of who was elected, was chancier.

Trump’s defects of character are not causing the legitimacy crisis — this can be hard to see given how clownish he is and how relentlessly he is attacked, but this recognition may turn out to be important to understand what comes next, as events unfold.

politicalfootball @ 20

“A liberalism that fails to confront monsters enables them, as every left-oriented critic of Barack Obama will tell you. That is, they’ll tell you that unless they are talking about Donald Trump, whose supporters, they say, need to be understood and empathized with.”

I have to say I have read that paragraph several times and I do not understand what you are trying to say. Maybe it does seem plain to you, but I cannot make sense of it. The first sentence seems plain enough a declaration — no problem there. But, then, I have to connect the first sentence to the second and I am at a loss. Left-wing critics of Obama will not tell you “a liberalism that fails to confront monsters enables them” with regard to Trump? Huh? And, then that second sentence switches to what left-wing critics of Obama would say about Trump’s supporters (not otherwise identified) and I am lost without navigational aids. Is Trump the monster? The people who voted for Trump? The people who voted for Clinton? (I voted for neither.)

Your explanation, offered @ 20: What some of [left critics of Obama] can’t get a grip on is that this does nothing to justify Trump. Less than nothing, because it’s clear that on every axis where Obama was bad, Trump will be worse, and Trump made it clear in advance that he would be worse.

How does anything justify Trump? would be my question (as a left critic of Obama). Trump is not “just” in any common sense of the term. And, how are differences between Obama and Trump relevant, here? (There is a leftish meme that points to the fact that some key counties and states that voted for Obama voted for Trump — are you trying to confront some particular analysis associated with that meme? Just guessing here.)

P.S. Sanders was not a choice in the general election and was arguably disabled, along with the Democratic Party as a whole, by Obama and Clinton. That’s a whole ‘nother line of argument engaged in by “left critics of Obama” but I cannot tell whether you are taking a particular view on that line or not.

27

politicalfootball 03.28.17 at 9:19 pm

As I mentioned, I took a long break from the internet after November, in which I thought a lot about what and why I got wrong in the election. I wrote about that here.

Many, many people — myself included — underestimated Trump, mostly for banal reasons. Trump defied conventional wisdom regarding public presentation, and the polls persistently had him behind.

Me, I figured that there was maybe a 5% chance that he’d win. I regarded that as a national emergency that required responsible citizens to rally behind Hillary — independent of her considerable personal merit. So perhaps it’s easy for me to acknowledge being too accepting of the conventional wisdom.

You have a different burden, though, because you need to explain his defeat in such a way that exonerates you for repeatedly urging people to not worry about a Trump victory — for telling people that the urgent issue in the last campaign involved the shortcomings of Hillary and other Democrats, and not the possibility that Trump would win.

You solve your problem here:

The real story of the 2016 election, in other words, was not that Trump won—he did, after all, lose the popular vote—but that Clinton lost … the Democratic base: either among people who stayed home or among a tiny, tiny group of swing voters in a few Rust Belt states who jumped to Trump.

The real story was the media, which grotesquely exaggerated or invented Hillary’s misdeeds. I mean, it would be lovely if she had been rejected for being a neoliberal or whatever, but people voted against her because the message that she conveyed in every speech — her policy priorities and personal attributes — was suppressed by a media that instead wanted to cover Trump’s outrage of the day.

Any time the media was disintermediated — three debates, the convention — Hillary crushed it, both as a matter of substance and style.

28

Val 03.28.17 at 9:22 pm

Thanks Raven and politicalfootball. We had a phenomenon here where Julia Gillard was attacked repeatedly by men (and a few women) on her side of politics, who seemed much more emotionally invested in attacking her than attacking Tony Abbott, even though he was far worse on all counts. It was this irrationality, as much as anything, that made me aware of the deep influence of sexism in politics here.

It seems very much the same in the USA. I saw men (and a very few women) on CT and elsewhere responding to Hillary Clinton in a similar way, even though Trump was far, far worse. Their emotional energy seemed to go into attacking her far more than into attacking Trump, who was normalised as just a normal Republican, just another politician (cf Corey Robin here and previously).

It’s depressing.

29

John Quiggin 03.29.17 at 12:49 am

“Both things are true: That Trump exists on a continuum with other Republicans, and that he constitutes a break with the past in some key respects”

This is exactly right

30

nastywoman 03.29.17 at 2:19 am

‘It’s depressing.’

It’s ‘most’ depressing that Trump was (is) normalised as ‘just a normal Republican, just another politician (cf Corey Robin here and previously) -as there are far more precise definitions existing.

Let me remind everybody with the list one of Americas premier (female) Poets – and even if the list is NOT complete – censoring this list -(like my comments about Trumps ‘real name) – will be considered as another ‘interesting sign that no one seems to consider the influence of sexism’.

What is ‘Trump’ by Samantha Bee:

‘Sentient caps-lock button
Freshly sandpapered reality star
Two-bit wall salesman
Melting hunk of uninformed apricot Jell-O
Erratic rage quasar
America’s first appendix
Backfired wish that Republicans made on a cursed monkey’s paw
Agent Orange
Bigoted See ’n SayDauphin of Breitbartistan
Demagoguing bag of candy corn
George Wallace in a wig
Cheap National Front knockoff
Muddled asshole yearning to scream free
Big hairy orange villain
Leering dildo
M. Night Orangeman
Grotesque caterpillar turning into a somehow even more grotesque butterfly
Heretical billionaire bully
Nativist foghorn
Crotch-fondling slab of rancid meatloaf
Casino Mussolini
Monstrous apricot bulb
Hometown embarrassment
Screaming carrot demon
First-grader with a head injury
16-month Hindenburg explosion
Orange supremacist
Sociopathic 70-year-old toddler
Failed QVC steak salesman
Nasty garbage monster
The white power movement’s orange ally
Thrice-married foul-mouthed tit judge who likes Planned Parenthood and thinks Corinthians is a type of car upholstery
Two-bit used hate salesman
The asteroid that just destroyed a party of dinosaurs
Dick-waving Berlusconi knockoff
Fat Elvis
Large-mouthed ass
Creamsicle
Rich asshole who wants to be king of America
Tangerine tinted trash can fire
Tax-cheating, investor-swindling, worker-shafting, dictator-loving, pathologically lying, attorneys general–bribing, philandering, mobbed up, narcissistic serial con artist
The least qualified candidate ever to lurch into the public spotlight and shit on Gold Star moms while cradling Putin’s sweaty sack’

31

JimV 03.29.17 at 4:21 am

“I have to say I have read that paragraph several times and I do not understand what you are trying to say.”

It seemed clear to me: left critics of Obama are, in some cases, the same people who are unwilling to strongly criticize Trump supporters; enabling of Trump supporters is as bad as, if not much worse than, enabling Obama’s bad actions.

For my part, any plausible Democrat candidate would have been a better choice than any plausible Republican candidate, in the present state of play; and any plausible Democrat would have merited enthusiastic support vs. Trump, not phony propaganda about emails and foundations and wanting to start a war with Russia. Where there’s smoke there may be fire, but there may also be mirrors, and it didn’t take much Internet searching to distinguish the two, either for HRC or for Trump.

32

nastywoman 03.29.17 at 6:54 am

– and as Roger Cohen of the NYT has added ‘Offender of the Free World’ to the long list of more precise ‘expressions’ for Trump – let’s… ponder for a moment – what would have happened if Trumps real name – the name Jon Stewart found out – would have been on the ballot?

Or the NYT and every single other newspaper – or blog or journalist or ‘political’ observer would have called Trump from the beginning by his ‘real’ name?
And there is this silly theory that Hillary Clinton lost because she attacked Trump ‘personally’ and not about his ‘politics’ – completely ignoring that Trump never had any ‘politics’ besides being what he always was – and is – his ‘real name’ Clinton and every journalist and every ‘political’ observer in the US should have used over and over again – and which should have been on the ballot – as I highly doubt it – if the name would have been (‘lawfully!) on the ballot a lot less Americans would have voted for him.

33

Lee A. Arnold 03.29.17 at 11:30 am

I take it practically, not theoretically. Seven years ago I wrote here, there and everywhere, that Obamacare should be passed, even without a public option, because it will automatically drive the path to a single payer.

It will do this by first hobbling the GOP, by forcing them to choose between tax cuts and universal care, a divide they cannot bridge. (I wrote that we all demand that any tax-cut legislation the Republicans propose, be linked to the spending cuts to cover it, in the SAME piece of legislation: so the public can see their choice. Then, as now, the Republicans always try the “dynamic scoring” excuse — the falsehood that tax cuts “pay for themselves” by causing economic growth in in the future.)

Also, years ago I thought Trump could be the opportunist to insert himself into the Republican crack-up. But I thought would lose this election because the polls put Hillary ahead by 2-3%, and because the voters would see through Trump’s braggadocio, and be repelled by his dishonesty & immorality.

Maybe Hillary did actually win, because the Russians hacked into the voting booths too — who knows? Certainly, every Congressperson who goes into a closed-door session with the intelligence community, comes back out, looking like they’ve been hit by a bomb.

It may be better this way. If Hillary had won, the GOP would still be in full blockade, still causing frustration in the voters, and still coming back to take control in a future election. So let’s have the poisons all come out, now…

The Wall Street Democrats have been dealt a substantial setback with the ejection of Hillary — and Sanders, an Independent, is now the voice of the opposition party. Sanders is the most popular politician in the U.S., he gets 6 TV cameras on an hour’s notice. This is fun! Meanwhile the GOP has to deal with Trump, whose lack of ideology is allowing their internal divide to grow wider. The Democrats, having almost no power, can sit back and enjoy the spectacle (although not for much longer).

There are two problems for the Republicans, in Congress and in the White House: 1. The aforementioned Congressional crack-up between the “moderates” and the Freedom Caucus. Next, they have to get together to deal with the automatic gov’t shutdown in less than a month, unless they push up the debt ceiling. And, 2. the Administration’s split into the Wall Street crooks in the cabinet, and the “economic nationalist” fantasies of Bannon and the bananans.

I think that the President whom Trump is most like, is Reagan: Trump has a few crackpot ideas, otherwise no attention span, he just wants to be loved in the spotlights. He needs caretakers to run the White House. But there is no one of the expertise of a James Baker, to do it.

My comment under a post by Henry, 7 years ago:
http://crookedtimber.org/2010/07/25/keynesianism-as-an-inadequate-substitute-for-social-democracy/#comment-325240

34

Trader Joe 03.29.17 at 1:08 pm

At this point in time, I agree with the assertion that Trump is a weak president. He strikes me almost as more of a third party candidate with no influence whatsoever in the Democratic party (Bush 1 and 2 at least had a few Blue-dogs) and only partial influence within the various created Republican caucuses.

That said, as has been well documented Trump has no previous political experience – he’s the equivalent of a 10-year old kid playing his brand new X-Box, he understands a few really cool features like Executive Orders, but hasn’t really learned what all the buttons do, he only understands re-set.

He’s already wrecked pretty good havoc with what he understands, the danger is the strength he might accumulate (and the momentum that could generate) if he figures out how to work all the buttons on the game conrtoller within his hands.

35

Anarcissie 03.29.17 at 2:24 pm

JimV 03.29.17 at 4:21 am @ 31 —
I don’t see the point of criticizing Trump or Trump supporters (other than such technical entertainments as determining whether they are fascists or not ). They are not going to listen to the critiques, and the Established Order along with their submissive proggie sidekicks have already done what they can by visiting a torrent of name-calling and tribal abuse on them. You can’t complain about the voting: the near Left (liberals, progressives) caved in as usual and gave Clinton a nearly three-million-vote plurality, while the far Left don’t matter because it is marginalized and extremely weak in numbers and money.

And, by the way, my propaganda about starting a war with Russia is not phony.

36

Donald Johnson 03.29.17 at 4:10 pm

Much of the DC establishment back in 2016 complained that Obama hadn’t been tough enough on Assad and the Russians. That’s where the “propaganda” about Clinton wanting a war with Russia comes from. It was widespread. There was much talk about the brutality of Aleppo (far more than about the brutality we were supporting in Yemen). It will be interesting to see if Trump’s increase in civilian deaths in Mosul will lead to the same cries of war crimes. This is an actual case where Trump really is doing something as bad as Putin, but it’s not qualitatively distinct from what Obama was doing, just an increase.

Getting back to Russia, talk of no fly zones meant war in Syria, which risked confrontation with Russia. And Michael Morell had just endorsed Clinton a few days before he advocated killing Russians in Syria on the Charlie Rose show–

37

JimV 03.29.17 at 5:40 pm

Anarassie: thanks for the reply. To clear up a possible misunderstanding, in my first paragraph I gave my understanding of what I thought politicalfootball was saying, not my personal opinion. I don’t know for sure, but probably some of my relatives and best friends voted for Trump.

That HRC wants to start a war with Russia is phony propaganda is my opinion: a) I have seen no evidence of it that can’t be more plausibly explained in another way; and b) I don’t think she is crazy.

For example, some have said that her proposal to negotiate a no-fly-zone among the air-powers involved in the Syria conflict, to provide a corridor for refugees and humanitarian aide, was aimed at starting a war with Russia.

I will of course accept that your own view is neither phony nor propaganda to you, since you apparently believe in it. I believe it is propaganda on the part of some (probably no one here), and phony because it is not the truth. (How I wish there were reliable lie-detectors which all candidates and pundits had to pass.)

Oh, and kudos to Lee Arnold for his analysis of the ACA issue. I hope he is also prescient about getting all the poison out of our system in the next four years.

38

bruce wilder 03.29.17 at 6:13 pm

JimV@31

I do not particularly want to (re-)litigate the election or the politics of lesser evils in the comments of Crooked Timber.

Once we are emotionally committed to some narrative, it can be hard to hear some of what other people are saying, on the terms of the people saying it. I, personally, can say I do not understand what the disputes are that are splitting the Republicans. I have no feel for them at all, but in my ignorance, I pay attention to what CR has to say, to learn if I can. I do have more confidence in my understanding of the major splits among Democrats. I am not saying I have much sympathy for “any Democrat” politics of the kind you espouse. I was a “more and better Democrats” kind of guy for a long time, but you “any Democrat” types prevailed with predictable results and you do not want to own any responsibility for the horrifying result. Imho, of course. I do not propose to hash that out. “More and better” lost and as far as I can tell Sanders is still coming up short; the Obama-Clinton establishment holds fast, able to play a louder media Wurlitzer than I thought they had, and the “any Dems” left in Congress do not look any more effective now than they ever were. As for heaping tribal abuse on Trump voters, I say, have at it, for whatever personal satisfaction it gives. I cannot imagine why you think “left Obama critics” (like me) are somehow inhibiting you or our lack of sufficient enthusiasm for pre-adolescent name calling is a moral deficiency.

39

Suzanne 03.29.17 at 8:06 pm

@26: “Trump’s defects of character are not causing the legitimacy crisis — this can be hard to see given how clownish he is and how relentlessly he is attacked,”

People are certainly being really mean to Orange Julius Caesar by criticizing things he does and says. But they can turn on a dime. Remember how “presidential” Trump was after he managed to get through an address to Congress without making fun of Arnold Schwarzenegger or biting the head off a chicken?

“Clownish” makes him sound rather harmless. A pol can be “clownish” and still be a decent man who is good at his job. Trump is an ignorant and irresponsible grifter who is shamelessly profiteering off the presidency while catering to the most vicious and destructive right-wing elements in American culture. That may be “clownish” to you, but nobody else is laughing.

40

Lee A. Arnold 03.29.17 at 9:19 pm

JimV #37: “getting all the poison out of our system in the next four years”

That time frame is optimistic!

41

Donald Johnson 03.29.17 at 10:42 pm

JimV– I don’t want to post any more on this after this second post, but the point about Syria and the no fly zone and Morell and so forth is not that the foreign policy mainstream wants an all out war with Russia, which would be global suicide, but that they pushed for dangerous policies. Morell obviously wanted a sort of proxy war in Syria, like the good old days in Afghanistan. I have also seen similar claims that the Beltway crowd wanted a tougher policy in Eastern Europe and the Ukraine, but I haven’t followed that closely enough to argue it. I think it is legitimate to point to the proposed policies in Syria as ones that might increase the risk of war with Russia.

The irony is that some of Trump’s appointments are also militantly anti- Russian, anti- Iranian, and pro- Saudi. I think some of this Russia gate criticism on the part of Trump’s critics is in part a way of pressuring Trump ( who probably has no opinions of his own that go beyond self – interest) to get with the New Cold War program. It will probably work.

42

nastywoman 03.30.17 at 12:18 am

‘Trump is an ignorant and irresponsible grifter who is shamelessly profiteering off the presidency while catering to the most vicious and destructive right-wing elements in American culture.’

How true – but somehow I’m still more impressed about the power of Samantha Bee’s analyzes – as her analyzes are also so much more ‘up to date’ – while reading all the comments on this threat leave the impression that (most?) commenters are (still) more interested in (still) fighting some battle about who (was) is the better candidate for the US presidential election.

The election is over and WE erected a ‘Pick-Any-Insult-You-Prefer’ for so called ‘President. And this erection has lots and lots of current consequences. Very, very bad ones – currently for the climate climate and (surprisingly) also very ‘good’ ones as it seems to save at least Europe from ‘irresponsible grifters who shamelessly profiteering off the power while catering to the most vicious and destructive right-wing elements in World- Wide culture.’

43

Ogden Wernstrom 03.30.17 at 12:19 am

An aside: I think that The Electoral College is not quite the demon it is made out to be. Without “winner-take-all” – which 48 states practice for their Electoral-College votes – we would have results that are more-representative of the people. If all states were to apportion their EC votes (maybe not in the same manner as Maine and Nebraska do), that would reduce the number of “safe” EC votes. Even the reddest states could have a few blue electors – a “swing state” would no longer be a thing. Sorry, Nevada. (Caution: California is a lot more Republican than one might think.)

The calculus for campaigns would no longer be to throw vast resources at a few key states, since EC votes might be gained in any state. If apportionment is by-House-district, a smallish number might suffice if targeted in the right house district.

However, The US Constitution calls for each state to decide-for-itself how to apportion EC votes. If we’re going to have to amend The US Constitution, I’m sure there are other
changes that could be made to improve the Presidential election process. I have not given much thought to whether apportionment-by-Congressional-District would work well – but my first impression is that it would turn out to be a more-granular, only-slightly-less-flawed version of the current process. Under that method, Maine and Nebraska have had only one candidate get all their electors in each election…until 2016, when Maine gave Drumpf one of their 4 votes.

I have not given much thought to how other methods of apportionment might work; we might have a recount-a-rama each time a state’s votes are near a threshold. (The recount logistics of a national popular vote are left as an exercise for the reader.)

I have not given a lot of thought to the range of possible reasons to keep or eliminate the Electoral College, and I do not intend to hijack this thread in that direction.

My point here is that the combination of Electoral College with winner-take-all creates the results we complain about, and I think that winnner-take-all* is the bigger evil.

*So much winning.

44

Dave Maier 03.30.17 at 12:54 am

Lee@33: “It may be better this way. If Hillary had won, the GOP would still be in full blockade, still causing frustration in the voters, and still coming back to take control in a future election. So let’s have the poisons all come out, now…”

I’ve been telling myself this since November. I was certainly not looking forward to 4 years of HRC, that’s for sure. But still, Trump’s cabinet and other appointments have me wanting to commit seppuku. (This too shall pass, though, I suppose …).

45

J-D 03.30.17 at 2:57 am

Trump is an ignorant and irresponsible grifter who is shamelessly profiteering off the presidency while catering to the most vicious and destructive right-wing elements in American culture.

In other words, a typical modern Republican.

46

Hidari 03.30.17 at 6:08 am

‘ to negotiate a no-fly-zone among the air-powers involved in the Syria conflict, to provide a corridor for refugees and humanitarian aide’.

I don’t see the connection between these two clauses.

47

Layman 03.30.17 at 12:07 pm

Lee Arnold: “It may be better this way. If Hillary had won, the GOP would still be in full blockade, still causing frustration in the voters, and still coming back to take control in a future election.”

I can’t see that conclusion. Even if the GOP were still in full bockade, even if the voters were still frustrated, so many other things would different. Gorsuch would not be headed to the Court in place of someone like Garland. The EPA would not be in the process of being dismantled. ICE would not be performing their goon act. It may be that, in an HRC presidency, nothing would make it through Congress, but that ‘nothing’ would be vastly preferable to the things most likely to make it through now: A big tax cut for the wealthy and/or a scheme to destroy Medicaid by block granting it to the states at a fixed permanent amount while permitting states to regulate people off of the program. I don’t think they can manage to privatize Medicare and Social Security, but they will certainly try under the guise of ‘saving’ them, and as unlikely as they are to succeed, they are infinitely more likely to do so than they would be under Clinton. These harms are more or less forever when viewed from the perspective of a single individual. And I don’t see any mechanism whereby suffering these harms causes individual voters enamored of the conservative and Trump agendas to decide they were wrong. These people overwhelmingly believe Trump told the truth when accusing Obama of wiretapping him. Trump’s approval rating among Republicans at this stage in his term is as high as that of any Republican President in modern history. They appear to be immune to facts. How will a Trump regime change that?

48

JimV 03.30.17 at 1:41 pm

Very belated acknowledgement to Donald Johnson: I have good memories of the Iraq debates at “Deltoid” and the part you played in them.

I’m not complaining, but noting that there has been a lot of crossing of comments due to moderation delays, which may contribute to misunderstandings. There are usually at least two or three comments which I didn’t see when I submitted a comment, which appear before mine. Maybe I’ll start mentioning the last comment number I saw before posting (#44 currently).

And now for something completely different: I recently finished Kim Stanley Robinson’s “New York 2140” and think it would make an interesting topic for a CT seminar.

49

politicalfootball 03.30.17 at 1:45 pm

Sanders was not a choice in the general election and was arguably disabled, along with the Democratic Party as a whole, by Obama and Clinton. That’s a whole ‘nother line of argument engaged in by “left critics of Obama” but I cannot tell whether you are taking a particular view on that line or not.

Republicans absolutely have a choice in this country to belong to a political party that is sympathetic to Sanders’ goals. To say that they couldn’t possibly vote for Sanders because they have never been sympathetic to his goals seems a bit … unhelpful.

Unlike Democrats, however, the Republicans have a very hierarchical party that hadn’t seen a real insurgency in decades. Trump thrashed his party establishment. Sanders, facing much more muted opposition from Obama, Clinton and the party machinery, couldn’t do it. Warren didn’t even try.

People who supported Trump rather than Sanders did so, by and large, out of ignorance, hatred or a wildly different set of policy priorities. Believing otherwise is wishful thinking.

50

engels 03.30.17 at 3:29 pm

Both things are true: That Trump exists on a continuum with other Republicans, and that he constitutes a break with the past in some key respects

By definition, a continuum can’t contain a break.

continuum noun something that changes in character gradually or in very slight stages without any clear dividing points

51

engels 03.30.17 at 3:42 pm

Trump isn’t just another Republican but he’s the inevitable culmination of the inexorable devolution of American reaction that has continued at least since Nixon and reached a horrifying new low with George W. Bush. He’s also a deranged projection of American late-capitalist culture and subjectivity at its worst, which is in many ways now simply Western culture and subjectivity. In a very real sense, he is the world leader we all deserve.

52

Matt_L 03.30.17 at 3:48 pm

Corey,

Thanks for the post and I liked the Carter analogy. Historical analogies are good to think. The act of setting up a comparison, outlining the similarities and delving into the differences help us think through both Carter and Trump. As a historian. I recommend ignoring historians’ predictions about the future, we are usually wrong because history never repeats itself. But sometimes it rhymes. A good comparison might help us write the next couplet.

53

Donald Johnson 03.30.17 at 4:30 pm

“hile reading all the comments on this threat leave the impression that (most?) commenters are (still) more interested in (still) fighting some battle about who (was) is the better candidate for the US presidential election.”

The others in the category of “most commenters” can speak for themselves. I voted for Clinton. The hobby horse I am riding–well, actually, there are two of them–is on foreign policy. Trump is an awful President in every way. I can’t think of anything good he is likely to do. There are a couple of things he might not do and that’s why I think some in the foreign policy establishment are mad at him. One of those things was trying to overthrow Assad by supporting moderate rebels. It didn’t work–much of the weapons ended up in the hands of extremists and the war just dragged on and killed hundreds of thousands of Syrians, but to the interventionist crowd the cure for this is more intervention. Trump doesn’t want to intervene to overthrow Assad, so they hate him. He is intervening against ISIS on a larger scale and the civilian death rate is rising as a result. He may pick a fight with Iran or North Korea. Trump is going to be a terrible President, but I think some of his opponents on foreign policy are just terrible in different ways. They might even overlap–there are others who want a fight with Iran.

My other hobby horse–one of the many bad things about Trump is that his awfulness gives cover for less bad Democrats to seem good in comparison. I worry we are going to “unite” behind some other corporate warmonger in 2020. I will hold my nose and vote for him or her. But a lot of us don’t want this to happen.

On global warming–the Real Climate blog had a post on that right after the election. The point was that if you were worried by a Trump victory, you should only have been slightly less worried by a Trump loss.

54

Marc 03.30.17 at 5:30 pm

@47: This touches on one of the most depressing things about the last election for me: my deep pessimism about how a Clinton presidency would have played out in practice. This ties into Corey’s point about context.

For better or worse, the US system features regular shifts in party control of the executive branch. We’ve had 3 consecutive terms in one party only once since 1952 (1980-1992 GOP), and a party held the white for one term only once (1976-1980). Otherwise the pattern has been 2 terms D – 2 terms R continuously. The bottom line is clear: if the republicans didn’t get the White House in 2016 they would have been very likely to do so in 2020. This is especially true because the contours of a Clinton presidency would be likely to ripe for a a very strong republican showing in 2018 and 2020: third term fatigue, a hostile legislature, gridlock, and what would undoubtedly have been continuous congressional investigations and scandals, real and imagined.

If Trump is ineffective (the Carter mold), and deeply unpopular, then Democrats can do something that would have been utterly impossible with a Clinton win, namely to capture a lot of seats in congress, governorships, and state legislatures; there will be redistricting in 2020, so the outcome of the 2018 elections will have long-term consequences. If you also believe that he won’t be able to accomplish much (see “ineffective” above), then the short term harm is mitigated.

The bottom line for me is that you can’t expect to keep the republicans out of the white house indefinitely, because that isn’t how our system works; and that we were either going to face a reckoning in 2016 or 2020, and the latter could very well have been much worse. That’s not an endorsement of Trump, but the alternative was just not going to be Democrats elected to the White House forever.

55

roger gathmann 03.30.17 at 6:56 pm

43 – to reform EC would be easy. Create 20 or thirty equal EC areas, each containing ten to twenty million peeps. Or name the number. There is no reason we should use state boundaries to achieve the one thing EC has going for it, which is that it makes underpopulated regions powerful enough that politicians have to pay attention to them. There would be none given an EC map in which every region had an equal number of votes.

56

JimV 03.30.17 at 7:11 pm

(Last comment seen before posting: #53)
Hidari 03.30.17 at 6:08 am
‘ to negotiate a no-fly-zone among the air-powers involved in the Syria conflict, to provide a corridor for refugees and humanitarian aide’.

I don’t see the connection between these two clauses.”

HRC made a proposal to negotiate a no-fly zone with Russia in some part of Syria. The purpose of the no-fly zone would be to provide a corridor … (aide should have been aid).

One of the things in “New York 2140” which CTers might like to debate is that a local activist who dislikes politicians and politics decides to run for Congress to help pass financial system reforms, and chooses the Democrat party as the best (least bad) alternative. This is a person who refuses to give up.

57

Hidari 03.30.17 at 8:54 pm

Not sure if anyone cares but here’s what Noam Chomsky thinks about Trump. It seems to me to be eminently sane and sensible, but then, I would say that.

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/40011-noam-chomsky-trump-s-first-100-days-are-undermining-our-prospects-for-survival

58

Patrick 03.30.17 at 10:30 pm

OP talks about the need to understand Trump supporters as something other than a black hole of evil.

The comments contain, in significant part, people falling over themselves to demonstrate ideological purity by insisting that they scorned Trump voters harder and better than anyone else, and before it was even cool. The usual ‘isms are trotted out, in the usual amounts and under the usual rules, namely, the more aggressively you can scorn them the more points you earn. You get the most points for insisting that this MUST have driven his election… even while in other parts of the same thread while discussing democrats people are happy to admit that its easy to see the best in a candidate if that candidate is at least in your party… suggesting other explanations that might fit, unless your starting point is an insistence that all conservatives are black holes of evil, full stop, no debate.

Further, Trump is record breakingly unpopular, and what little evidence is available suggests that his unpopularity isn’t being driven by a “critique from the right” view of him as insufficiently conservative. A good part of it is conservatives getting a taste of him as president and not liking it.

So presumably there are people who like conservative politics, but don’t like Trump, and don’t like the recent direction of the Republican Party.

Either now is the opportunity to convert them, or converting people is impossible.

59

Ronan(rf) 03.30.17 at 10:37 pm

Bring back Puchalsky. And js. (ordering here is not necessarily preferential, but works from the premise that someone always has to come first)

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Suzanne 03.30.17 at 11:22 pm

54: “If Trump is ineffective (the Carter mold), and deeply unpopular, then Democrats can do something that would have been utterly impossible with a Clinton win, namely to capture a lot of seats in congress, governorships, and state legislatures; there will be redistricting in 2020, so the outcome of the 2018 elections will have long-term consequences. If you also believe that he won’t be able to accomplish much (see “ineffective” above), then the short term harm is mitigated.”

HRC spoke often of her commitment to building up the party on the local and state levels, which had been neglected during the Obama years. Having control of the White House would have been beneficial for that, especially as the Democrats control little else.

Right now things are going “better” than Democrats could possibly have hoped for, but we still have two years to go. The “best-case scenario” is that Trump lurches from failure to failure (which would not be at all like Carter, who accomplished some big things), with voters in 2018 responding appropriately by voting for the Democrats in droves. I hope that will happen, but I see no reason to assume that it will, particularly if the economy is doing well. Trump is already deeply unpopular, but he’s not deeply unpopular among Republicans, who are much more reliable midterm voters. On the hopeful side, the Democratic base is up in arms. They need to stay that way and they also need to get out and vote. It could happen.

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Layman 03.31.17 at 10:36 am

Patrick: “The comments contain, in significant part, people falling over themselves to demonstrate ideological purity by insisting that they scorned Trump voters harder and better than anyone else, and before it was even cool.”

Oddly, I can’t find a single comment I’d describe that way. Can you point to the ones you say that resulted in this assessment?

“Either now is the opportunity to convert them, or converting people is impossible.”

…or the only way to convert people who like conservative politics but don’t like Trump is to become an advocate of conservative politics on behalf of a conservative party, leaving us with two and nothing else. Another way of describing that sort of victory is ‘losing’.

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politicalfootball 03.31.17 at 1:43 pm

Either now is the opportunity to convert them, or converting people is impossible.

You point out that the status quo is converting people, then say that we need to change the status quo in order to convert them. I’m sympathetic to the idea that there are times when liberals have to compromise on principles for political reasons. This is unambiguously NOT one of those times.

Sure, we don’t need to demonize Trump supporters, but we can’t ignore it when they demonize themselves.

63

J-D 03.31.17 at 7:50 pm

Ogden Wernstrom

I have not given much thought to whether apportionment-by-Congressional-District would work well – but my first impression is that it would turn out to be a more-granular, only-slightly-less-flawed version of the current process. Under that method, Maine and Nebraska have had only one candidate get all their electors in each election…until 2016, when Maine gave Drumpf one of their 4 votes.

Since you mention it, that’s not completely accurate; Nebraska gave Obama one of their five votes in 2008.
And since you mention it, if the system used by Maine and Nebraska had been applied nationwide to the actual 2016 vote totals, the result would have been 290 Republican electors and 248 Democratic ones (I won’t say electoral votes for Trump and Clinton because I don’t know what effect this hypothetical counterfactual might have had on the number of faithless electors). That’s based on 230 Congressional districts and 30 States for the Republicans, and for the Democrats 205 Congressional districts and 20 States plus the District of Columbia.

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Suzanne 04.01.17 at 12:13 am

From the Harper’s piece: “Hence the refusal of empathy for Trump’s supporters.”

“…….that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.”

65

nastywoman 04.01.17 at 5:31 am

– after interviewing hundred of Americans in 2009 and 2010 – who felt that the government had let them down, the economy had let them down, nobody cared about them, nobody worried about what happened to their lives and their futures, and they expressed, that they were just desperate for change – a lot of people who saw and read those interviews got really worried that these Americans would go for… let’s call it: ‘the wrong way of change’ – but enough of them didn’t – until they did – with the election of y’all know who… but there are all of these… signs – that they -(our fellow Americans) slowly understand what’s… let’s call it: ‘the wrong way of change’ really means…

66

js. 04.01.17 at 5:47 am

Out of curiosity — why did my comment get modded?

67

J-D 04.01.17 at 6:00 am

Marc

For those people who (like me) think it makes a difference who wins elections, it is important to keep in mind during the period after any election defeat that your side can’t win all the elections (this is true no matter which side is your side), as a way of maintaining a rational perspective and not treating a defeat as an occasion for despair. Despair is not a helpful state of mind.

But since despair is not a helpful state of mind, it is also important when looking towards a future election never to regard a bad result as inevitable. I suppose hypothetically it’s true that some elections will turn out, in retrospect, to be good elections to have lost, judging by some subsequent chain of consequences, but you can’t tell in advance which elections those ones will be. If you think it makes a difference who wins elections, then going into any election you should be wanting your side to win. We are not smart enough to do the kind of predictive modelling that would tell us that it’s shrewd to throw an election this time round because the outcome will be to set us up with advantages for subsequent cycles. We shouldn’t expect to win every election (that’s unrealistic), but we should try to win each election.

68

RichardM 04.01.17 at 12:32 pm

Not sure if anyone cares but here’s what Noam Chomsky thinks about Trump.

I think you can blame Chomsky for Trump. He wrote the book _Manufacturing Consent_, and that gave people ideas.

So while you can still buy artisan hand-printed American consent, for the most part the consent factories have been shut down and shipped off overseas. There are some protectionist holdouts who complain about the imported consent containing a lower truth content than they are used to, but you can’t argue with economics.

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Anarcissie 04.01.17 at 2:37 pm

politicalfootball 03.31.17 at 1:43 pm @ 62:
‘Sure, we don’t need to demonize Trump supporters, but we can’t ignore it when they demonize themselves.’

Hate the sin, love the sinner.

70

bruce wilder 04.01.17 at 6:44 pm

J-D: I suppose hypothetically it’s true that some elections will turn out, in retrospect, to be good elections to have lost, judging by some subsequent chain of consequences, but you can’t tell in advance which elections those ones will be.

I call this the “existential problem” of electoral politics. It sits alongside the problem of one vote among millions being insignificant.

In our personal lives, we don’t know if choosing to cross the street will take us like the proverbial chicken and as we intend, to the other side of the road, or if . . . as actually happens to a few thousand each year in the U.S. . . . crossing the street results in unexpected, unintended life-altering injury or death.

In electoral politics, our individual action is attenuated by many more steps, because electoral politics is a team sport, where our vote matters only as a drop of water in a river matters or a grain of sand on a beach, and because our vote accomplishes, if it accomplishes anything at all, is the election of one person in place of another and that representative person then acts for a term within the confines of office, typically also in a highly attenuated way, on the architecture and management of policy, policy itself often being some attenuated apparatus of rules for influencing the behavior of large groups of people.

In retrospective, historical perspective, we can have some fair degree of confidence that electoral politics and the policies that flow from it constitute collective choice and have consequences. History only happens one way, as I am fond of saying, and quoting some wag, historians can remember the future and imagine the past to suit. In retrospect, pretty much everyone’s life can seem like the unfolding of a novel, complete with pre-figuring events driving a plot toward a dramatic and meaningful climax; so, too, the life of a nation or a civilization.

It does seem to me that Corey Robin’s historical analogies are an attempt to pick up narrative threads and plot motifs from the past as a way to orient ourselves to the present. I have mixed feelings about the appropriateness of the method, though I appreciate the way it can bring to our attention the way our feelings about the moment can help create meaning and in the creation of meaning drive the consequences of events, especially the retrospective meaning assigned, which may be among the most consequential of consequences.

Political leaders and their minions contest elections and debates over policy with the rhetorical armoury of narrative drama. These contested dramatics are the means by which pundits and propagandists, electoral consultants and marketing mavens herd we sheep into the slaughterhouses known as the voting booth or opinion poll (or supermarket, for that matter). Except we are not so much like sheep as cats and we don’t form a single manageable herd very often. That people we admire like Brand X or people we resent like Brand Y may influence us strongly; not understanding or trusting much in our understanding of policy, we project onto televised images, our personal worldview and understanding of personalities. And, in this struggle to process a paucity of information in solving the jumbled Rubik’s Cube of politics into a recognizable pattern, we are not left alone; we are manipulated with a never-ending, alternately boring or entertaining flood of assertions, slogans and images, few of them entirely trustworthy.

The effort to choose for whom to vote or to root for (becoming part of a rooting crowd may be more political than the inconsequential act of casting a vote that may or may not be counted at all, let alone in favor of a winning candidate) blends into the struggle of individual to maintain a sane perspective on an insane world. On the whole — meaning from a perspective that can see the swirling kaleidoscope of shifting political allegiances and shibboleths among the millions — people vote at random, like unruly herds of cats, with expectations grounded in a fog of manufactured myths, eyes on patterns in the clouds or constellations in the skies.

I would like to think that there is some limit to the susceptibility of thoughtful people to manipulation. I certainly wouldn’t come away from a CT current politics comments thread confident in that opinion. You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but . . . or something to that effect. And, some of the hot buttons do wear out over time. And, the on-going contest itself places limits even as it enables. But, what limits?

I wanted to say something to Suzanne @ 60 about this: HRC spoke often of her commitment to building up the party on the local and state levels, which had been neglected during the Obama years. Having control of the White House would have been beneficial for that, especially as the Democrats control little else. But, really what could I say? That one comment just made me despair of ever locating an island of common reality.

I get that everyone, including especially me, is engaged in trying to assemble an image representing reality from a flood of contested information (really, “information”), but is there really no critical method or discriminating intelligence that could help us find some common reality, some common set of shared values and aspirations?

Apparently not and the CIA is a pillar of the Republic. Or something. I think if you want to keep your sanity, it might be better not to think about voting. Vote as it is your duty as a citizen. But, don’t think about it, before or after.

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engels 04.01.17 at 7:17 pm

An alternative view: Neofascism in the White House

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Suzanne 04.01.17 at 7:27 pm

62: “Hate the sin, love the sinner”

These days I usually see that shibboleth in the context of people trying to justify their opposition to gay rights or abortion rights. It doesn’t work well there, either. I imagine Trump voters aren’t interested in lefties wanting to pat them on the head.

“…Whether these complaints are real or not, they are deeply felt. The “real” gains that white working men have won through unions and party politics do not produce eternal gratitude, nor do they alter the objective frustrations of blue-collar life. Now, from the well of these frustrations, bubbles of racism and anti-communism are exploding on the surface, and it is hardly surprising: America gives that gas to everyone. But for many blue-collar workers, the Wallace campaign is the first new means of expression they have found in years.”

— Andrew Kopkind, “Blue Collars and White Racism,” October 1968.

73

J-D 04.01.17 at 8:42 pm

bruce wilder
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

But try again.

74

Lee A. Arnold 04.01.17 at 9:00 pm

Layman #47: “These harms are more or less forever when viewed from the perspective of a single individual.”

Greater horror is being demonstrated in foreign policy. Two hundred individuals in Mosul would agree with you, if they were alive.

75

engels 04.01.17 at 9:12 pm

Another good ‘un: Notes on Late Fascism

76

J-D 04.02.17 at 2:11 am

Why do I feel that the two pieces engels has just linked to

https://monthlyreview.org/2017/04/01/neofascism-in-the-white-house/
http://www.historicalmaterialism.org/blog/notes-late-fascism

are written in different languages from each other?

77

Suzanne 04.02.17 at 2:43 am

@74: Civilian casualties were rising in the last months of Obama’s administration, be it noted. There is no question that Trump has begun to let the Pentagon off the leash, however, and the Trumpistas are entirely free of what they regard as the squeamishness and micromanagement of the old regime. Also, although the caps that Obama put on American troop numbers are still nominally in place, they no longer have any meaning. Trump is sending them out in the hundreds, keeping under the radar. It’ll get interesting when the body bags start coming in.

78

Hidari 04.02.17 at 7:49 am

@71
Not to spoil anyone’s history (or hysteria) party, but the comparison (at least at the moment) between Trump and Hitler is, not to put too fine a point on it, demented.

We are not 100 days into Trump’s shambling tenure, and all that has happened is that the ‘standard’ Republican policies (i.e. the policies that any Republican would have put in place)* have gone through, and all the ‘special’ policies that are unique to Trump, have failed to go through. If the United States really was a dictatorship (or even on the way to dictatorship) then all the things we have seen (the failure of Ryancare, the judges kicking out the Muslim Ban) would simply not be happening, and if they were, judges and rebellious Congressmen would now be on their way to the re-education camps. Obviously nothing like that is on the horizon (I stress, at the moment), and the comparison between a weak and unpopular President shouting at the Press (who openly despise him, while, so far, not incurring any penalties for that stance) like Nixon did, and Hitler having all the independent newspapers shut down and their editors shot, is, again, not to put too fine a point on it, out to lunch.

A comparison between what Trump has ‘achieved’ in his first 100 days, and what Hitler managed in his first 100 days is instructive.

http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/riseofhitler/burns.htm

*And it’s worthwhile reiterating that, as someone pointed out above, this was always going to happen. I got the victory of Trump wrong, but I do remember pointing out to people before the election that at some point a Republican would again stand in the White House. I just didn’t think it would be Trump. The ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’ which only the Democrats knew about where the Republicans got the Senate and Congress and the Democrats got the White House was always a Democratic fantasy.

Hence the bizarre nervous breakdown of the Democratic establishment at the moment, as if, somehow, they were entitled to the White House and as if the Republicans were somehow ‘not allowed’ to take it. The US is a democracy of a sort, and that’s what happens in democracies: you win some, you lose some. All the ‘radical’ policies that ‘Trump’ is pushing through (the climate change denial, the privatisation of education) are in fact mainstream Republican positions and have been for years. Any Republican candidate who won the White House (and to repeat, it is inevitable that this would happen someday) would now be doing exactly what Trump is doing. Except for the crazy stuff, which Trump is not getting away with. I might also add that John Bellamy Foster, in concentrating on the anti-democratic tendencies of the Republicans and only the Republicans seems to me to be being slightly naïve about the motivations of the Deep State (e.g. the CIA etc.). in opposing Trump. The way Foster tells it Trump spontaneously decided to attack the Deep State (i.e. the Washington bureaucracy, the ‘intelligence’ agencies) for no other reason than they stand in the way of his absolute lust for power. The historical record shows a rather different timeline of events.

79

Hidari 04.02.17 at 8:09 am

I know that I have, so to speak, whipped this one out before, but this article is worth reading for context.

http://www.vox.com/2015/3/2/8120063/american-democracy-doomed

(as is this, incidentally http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/11/7/12315574/electoral-college-explained-presidential-elections-2016).

There are, almost literally, no possible (sane) comparisons that can be made between Hitler and Trump. There are, however, quite a lot of comparisons that could be made between Trump and, say Crassus, or the other oligarchs who came to power in the dying days of the Roman Republic. Indeed, the way the Roman Republic broke down is very similar to the way that the American ‘Republic’ is now going. One thing that strikes me from the outside is that, on all sides of the political debate, there are imperial arguments, albeit by default. Or to be clearer, there are no anti-imperial arguments. Even ‘rebels’ like Sanders implicitly accept the facts of the American Empire and this is the link between political debates in the Roman Republic. As the Romans got richer and richer ‘cos of their Empire the divide between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ got wider and wider and wider. There was an obvious solution to this problem which was ‘ditch the Empire’ but no one (not even people on the Left) were going to argue that by the 1st century BC. Likewise in the United States (this is why the comparisons between fascism and the current situation are bizarre: the key point about the fascists is that they didn’t have Empires and they wanted them: the Americans already have one. The debates in the US are about how it is managed and ‘cui bono’).

The American Constitution is, with all its flaws, an anti-imperial document, and the American political set-up was set up to manage a small Republic with few or no foreign entanglements. It was simply not designed to cope with a gigantic world Empire that dominates almost every country on Planet Earth, and we are now seeing the political infrastructure starting to creak as it fails to cope with its new task. The Electoral College, the ‘Supreme’ Court, the constitutionally undefined but essentially unlimited power of the Deep State, the (very much alleged) limits on Presidential Power simply do not work very well in this new political reality. Eventually the whole system will disintegrate, not tomorrow, not next week, but in 30, 40, 50 years because it is all simply not working. Any political analysis that sees Trump as a cause and not a symptom of American political dysfunction is doomed to irrelevance.

Of course there are a number of ways the current constitutional set up can fall apart. It can go like the French Fourth Republic. Or it can go like the way the American political set up did before the Civil War. Or it can go the same way as the Russian set up before 1917. Or (and this seems to me the most likely of all) it can go the way the political set up of the Roman Republic went.

Tl; dr
What Americans should fear is not Hitler but Augustus.

80

William Timberman 04.02.17 at 12:19 pm

As I judge these matters, it may be best to keep our mouths shut and our powder dry — at least insofar as grand theories or strategies are concerned. Whatever else he is, Trump is an epiphenomenon. Although we have some idea of the underlying social, economic, and political forces which have created him, the resolution of the crisis he represents is not something that even the most august analysis can foresee, or, frankly, do much to bring about. We’re in that crisis up to our necks, and would do well to admit that we can’t see all the way to the horizon. Never mind the narrative for now, in other words, let’s, just get on with doing what we have to do. This is a time for tactics, not for strategy, and only a lack of humility about our own situation prevents us from acting accordingly.

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bruce wilder 04.02.17 at 5:09 pm

J-D @ 73: try again

You completely missed my point, which is that you didn’t try the last time; you were simply manipulated; otherwise you have no role. You are controlled, not controlling and “trying” is an illusion, a mastubatory fantasy. We are put into a condition of information overload, with gaslighting pervasive, and then given various designer options for reducing that information overload into some digestible nugget: a slogan, an anecdote, a joke, a chiche, an unsupported supposition, none of which may be fairly or even unfairly representative of reality.

It might be a nonsensical MoDo anecdote about Romney tying the family dog to the roof of the car, repeated 38 times. It might be a rote claim that everyone Obama (now Trump) blows up with drones at weddings and funerals is a terrorist, even if the “intelligence” agencies cannot identify such persons by name. Or, that Hillary Clinton was worried about strengthening the Democratic Party at the state and local level, a task she was going to get on, right after spending a billion dollars on a losing campaign, a big chunk of that money diverted from State Parties in a circumvention of the campaign finance laws of which she, of course, was a reliable champion, speaking about them frequently and all. Many of us are just now recovering from Trump=Hitler or the Russians “interfered” (wonderfully non-specific verb which might mean financing the RT cable news network watched by 14 people nation-wide, but) leaving lots of people thinking the Russkies hacked voting machines across Michigan and Pennsylvania. Of course, before that, millions of those “other” people were worried about whether Obama was born in the U.S. (Not that those people worried much about John McCain or Ted Cruz being born in the U.S. — they weren’t.)

If you got sucked into thinking Hillary Clinton was something other than an irresponsible, corrupt war-monger by some lesser-evil calculus that said she was some shades better than the authoritarian clown, Donald Trump, therefore “good”, you weren’t trying. That’s not trying.

Trying, at a minimum, would require some discrimination. It would require asking, “is this true?” “Is this a stampede I should join?”

It may be that our times are too much, too confusing. Just admitting that would be closer to trying than what most people have been doing on the internets lately.

82

Suzanne 04.02.17 at 6:26 pm

78: “The US is a democracy of a sort, and that’s what happens in democracies: you win some, you lose some.”

Astutely observed, but there were some troubling elements, to put it mildly, surrounding this election, and it’s not only Democrats who are disturbed and angered by them. I hope.

Also, it’s the Democratic base that is fired up, or as you put it, having a nervous breakdown, and carrying their elected representatives along with them.

83

Omega Centauri 04.02.17 at 8:35 pm

74,77
We have to have the intellectual humility to recognize that a problem like taking Mosul, is a not only a trolley problem, but a trolley problem under conditions of massive uncertainty.

Trying to get the balance right between being too eager to undertake a requested strike, and too reticent to make one, you can err both ways.

(1) Be too eager, and there may be substantial civilian collateral casualties.

(2) Be too reticent, and civilians may die because you took too long, and they either starved hiding in a basement, or were executed by the enemy.

Choosing to not be involved at all, is just another way of selecting door number 2.

So, while I suspect we are already starting to see the effects of a new and careless attitude (the heck with civilian casualties bomb the “enemy”), its impossible to know in other than a probabilistic way the counterfactual results. And even guessing at those probabilities ise highly fraught.

Similar issues are involved discussing Williams smart post at 80. We don’t know how things are going to transpire, and what the tipping points might be, and what actions might trigger them. That shouldn’t mean we can’t do anything to prepare to be able to influence things, just that a great deal of intellectual humility is called for.

84

nastywoman 04.02.17 at 11:06 pm

@81
‘It may be that our times are too much, too confusing.’

Admitted.

Trying to differentiate?

If you got sucked into thinking Hillary Clinton was NOT some shades better than the authoritarian clown, Donald Trump, therefore a lot of shades better than the ‘F…face’, you weren’t trying. ‘That’s not trying’.

85

nastywoman 04.02.17 at 11:28 pm

– in other words – there were a lot of efforts to find comparisons between Trump and Carter or Trump and Hitler or Trump and the Romans but not so much efforts to find the differences – like Trump never harvested peanuts – and Hitler never said what Trump said and the Romans had no SNL – that seems to make it so confusing?

86

Lee A. Arnold 04.02.17 at 11:33 pm

Omega Centauri #83: “its impossible to know”

It’s quite possible that the military knows.

87

Suzanne 04.03.17 at 12:23 am

83: The accusations of micromanagement on the part of the Obama White House seem to be justified, to some extent. The danger here is that Trump is too distracted by his distractions to keep much of an eye on the Pentagon, insofar as he even wants to or is capable of doing so.

88

J-D 04.03.17 at 1:54 am

bruce wilder

You completely missed my point

I’m curious at this stage about whether you want me to get your point. If you don’t want me to get your point, then presumably congratulations are in order for your achievement. On the other hand, if you do want me to get your point, you are going about it the wrong way.

89

JimV 04.03.17 at 2:03 am

“an irresponsible, corrupt war-monger” Similar things were said about FDR and Lincoln (and both had flaws, as does everyone).

One party wants to pass campaign-finance-reform legislation and seat SC Justices who will accept that as constitutional. The other party doesn’t. One party wants to go to war with Iran. The other doesn’t. Meanwhile, despite all the hearings and special prosecutors and journalistic investigations, nobody has proved anything against HRC – except I did get an email saying that she had once represented two black defendants against murder charges, pro bono, and gotten them acquitted – the horror!

(If the moderators want to delete every comment re-litigating the campaign, that would be fine with me but I hope it includes both sides.)

I am reading “Anomaly” a biographical account of scientists doing experimental physics to discover the top quark. They did a lot a trying and failing and insulting each other and accusing rival groups of corruption also. It seems to be a human characteristic, even in physics. As usual, those who kept trying were the ones who succeeded – sometimes by accident.

90

faustusnotes 04.03.17 at 3:23 am

The people here advocating being nice to Trump voters and not using -isms to describe them in order to convert dissatisfied Republicans are, by and large, the same people who accused Clinton of being a neoliberal sellout for attempting to appeal to disaffected Republicans during the election.

Trump is meeting with Xi Jinping on Thursday and Friday, and has been firing off preparatory tweets about how evil China is. I’m hoping for his presidency to produce a long list of failures and non-achievement, but I’m more than a little concerned that he’s going to start a trade war, a cold war or even a real war with China. Presumably if anyone besides Trump is to blame for the resulting economic and/or physical destruction, it will be the people who voted for him. But around here, we get admonished for pointing this out, or for accepting the obvious fact that Clinton would not have started any kind of war with China.

91

J-D 04.03.17 at 5:26 am

faustusnotes
‘The people here advocating being nice to Trump voters’ don’t exist. There are no people here advocating being nice to Trump voters. You’re making that up. Why?

92

Hidari 04.03.17 at 6:01 am

@83 ‘Choosing to not be involved at all, is just another way of selecting door number 2.’

I believe Osama Bin Laden came to a similar conclusion.

93

Hidari 04.03.17 at 6:11 am

@82

No the Democratic base are furious that the Democratic leadership will end up kowtowing to the Republicans and facilitating their extreme right wing agenda as they always have in the past.*

The Democratic leadership are having a nervous breakdown about very different issues, which we shall not speak of here, I think.

*Just imagine that Trump is a 2 term President. Horrific I know, but imagine. And imagine he wins his war with the American Deep State (this is slightly less plausible). And imagine that the President after that is a Democrat. What will happen?

Why we will have a Trump Presidency in all but name but with the rough edges taken off. All the nasty words, the ridiculous hairstyles, the conspiracy theories will go, but the basic lineaments of the Trump world view will remain. In other words, the Trump revolution will be normalised and institutionalised, by a Democrat. Cos that’s what they always do. The Reagan Revolution was cleaned up and made pretty and institutionalised by Clinton. The Bush Jr. development of the War/Surveillance State had a pretty face put on it by Obama. And everyone knows this and that’s what is riling up the Democratic base, and why they are putting pressure on their ‘elected’ representatives not to do what they normally do.

You will notice it never words the other way, by the way, at least not since Lyndon Johnson. The Republicans set the framework of debate, and the Democrats then accommodate themselves to working within that framework.

94

bruce wilder 04.03.17 at 9:05 am

FDR and Lincoln were war mongers; their partisans including me might say they sold war as being in a just cause, but objectively, they sold war. There is the possibility of telling the truth and sharing reality with people would do not share your point of view or evaluate everything and everyone the same way you do. People can disagree because, say, they have opposing interests or different philosophies, without making up stories with little or no basis in reality.

Hillary Clinton is a neoliberal sellout who attempted to appeal to disaffected Republicans in the recent election campaign. That is an objectively accurate characterization of her conduct. Highly compressed and judgmental, perhaps, but also in general accord with widely reported facts.

Clinton “would not have started any kind of war” is not a fact, obvious or otherwise. It just isn’t. It is a counterfactual and as such it might express a theory or speculation, but any such theory ought to make some contact with Clinton’s well-documented belligerent rhetoric and the actual facts of her ill-considered support for war in Iraq, Libya and elsewhere.

JimV’s smug assertions that one Party wants campaign finance and the other doesn’t or that one Party wants an Iran war and the other doesn’t flies in the face of the Democratic candidate’s circumvention of campaign finance laws and her very belligerent rhetoric on Iran.

I do not think CT comments are a good place to carry on or rehearse partisan contests. We should take this opportunity to reflect intelligently on events and developments, not just make shit up.

95

Anarcissie 04.03.17 at 2:50 pm

Lee A. Arnold 04.02.17 at 11:33 pm @ 86 — The military does not know ‘how things are going to transpire, and what the tipping points might be, and what actions might trigger them.’ They’re guessing like everyone else.

faustusnotes 04.03.17 at 3:23 am @ 90:
‘But around here, we get admonished … for accepting the obvious fact that Clinton would not have started any kind of war with China.’

This fact is not obvious to me. I’m old enough to remember the slide into Vietnam, engineered as you may recall by ‘the brightest and the best’ (although I would not have called them that).

96

engels 04.03.17 at 4:28 pm

Hidari, if your response to either the Bellamy Foster or the Toscano essay I linked is that it is ‘demented’ ‘hysteria’ then I don’t really know what to say.

97

RD 04.03.17 at 4:50 pm

WT @ 80:
I hate being up to my neck and not being able to see the horizon!

98

Z 04.03.17 at 5:58 pm

Virtually all the things that people point to that supposedly make Trump not like your typical Republican or conservative are, from my point of view, the emblematic features of what it means to be a conservative.

Granting this is true, isn’t it nevertheless the case that the making of the conservative electorate changed deeply? Pursuing the analogy with Carter, the electoral maps of 1976 and 2012 or 2016 are starkly different (almost flipped). Isn’t that reflective of a real change?

99

Anarcissie 04.03.17 at 6:38 pm

J-D 04.03.17 at 5:26 am @ 91:
‘The people here advocating being nice to Trump voters don’t exist. There are no people here advocating being nice to Trump voters. You’re making that up. Why?’

I advocated it. ‘Hate the sin and love the sinner,’ I said.

100

Suzanne 04.03.17 at 6:47 pm

94: “We should take this opportunity to reflect intelligently on events and developments, not just make shit up.”

I suggest with all courtesy that you might well consider taking your own admonition to heart.

“Despite the rhetoric and bravado, the tweets and tantrums, Trump remains very much a captive of the institutions he rails against, with little sign, it seems, of being able to do much about them. At least FDR, when faced with challenges from the courts, had the wherewithal to try and pack the Supreme Court; Trump’s greatest threat is…to take it to the Supreme Court.”

He is lacking “the wherewithal” but more simply he’s just in over his head. Let’s hope he stays that way.

Leaving that aside, taking things to the Supreme Court may prove to be one of Trump’s better options going forward, particularly if Gorsuch takes Scalia’s place and ingratiates himself with Anthony Kennedy……

101

engels 04.03.17 at 8:11 pm

I agree with Anarcissie.

102

Patrick 04.03.17 at 8:25 pm

I’m half advocating it. But I was pro Clinton reaching out, not against.

I’m not personally suited, temperamentally, for reaching out. I’m just really glad at least some people (Bernie Sanders, and… *crickets*) are trying. And I don’t like when that’s attacked as a lack of liberal backbone. I want to win elections, not debate purity of ideology. I don’t care about fights between “the left” and “neoliberalism” and I usually write off people I see engaged in them. I’m fine with ejecting a compromised Party that is at least the home of the only people who want to do certain necessary things, like actually treat health care for the poor as a worthwhile priority. I don’t expect a pure and perfect faction, this is politics. The role of an election is to get as many of the best people through the door as you can, so that the issue driven fights are stacked in your favor. You still have to have them and you’re still going to lose some. I don’t know any better alternative to trying.

Meanwhile, over at lawyers guns and money, they’ve got an author going after the Times for being weak on Trump. The Times described Trump prior to the election as unprepared, unsuited for the job, and said his election would be a catastrophe. Apparently this is what passes for not being sufficiently anti Trump, because, after the election, they “clung to a slim hope” that Trump wouldn’t be as bad as they expected, and are now saying that their “slim hope” has fallen through and Trump is even worse.

The “falling over ourselves to condemn” thing is real and unhelpful.

My emotional instincts are to grab Trump voters by the lapels and shake them and yell “this is what you did!” every time I read a newspaper.

But that’s probably not going to accomplish anything and I admire people who are being more productive about this than I am.

103

Patrick 04.03.17 at 8:25 pm

“Ejecting” should be electing. Auto correct error. Reverses the meanings of sentences. Sorry.

104

J-D 04.03.17 at 8:55 pm

Anarcissie

J-D 04.03.17 at 5:26 am @ 91:
‘The people here advocating being nice to Trump voters don’t exist. There are no people here advocating being nice to Trump voters. You’re making that up. Why?’

I advocated it. ‘Hate the sin and love the sinner,’ I said.

I apologise for my error. Presumably faustusnotes meant you and you alone, but did not use your screen-name to identify you, possibly on account of finding it difficult to spell.

So how do you feel about the rest of what faustusnotes has to say about you? Do you think it’s fair?

105

Pavel 04.03.17 at 8:57 pm

“We find that opinions about how increasing racial diversity will affect American society had much more impact on support for Trump during the 2016 election compared to support for the Republican candidates in the two previous presidential elections. We also find that individuals with high levels of racial resentment were more likely to switch from Obama to Trump, but those with low racial resentment and more positive views about rising diversity voted for Romney but not Trump.”

https://www.thenation.com/article/fear-of-diversity-made-people-more-likely-to-vote-trump/

Yes, economic anxiety makes these views more visceral and pronounced but the thesis about Trump voters voting the way they did due primarily to economic anxiety or a desire for change in Washington really needs to be contextualized. Trump voters see economic anxiety and Washington’s absence of inertia primarily in racial terms. Economic anxiety due to the fact that the government is stealing their hard-earned tax dollars and transferring them to undeserving minorities, or the government disadvantaging native-born (white) Americans in the jobs market by favoring any kind of immigration policy. The only desire for change they’re truly dying to see is a government as white, vulgar and racist as they are. It’s a big change, but not in the way that it is often presented (i.e. as a revolt against corruption, neoliberalism or incompetence).

So the act of empathizing with Trump supporters is fraught with danger. The only problems they see with neoliberalism is that it has currently tilted towards benefiting some minorities (or foreigners in the case of job exports), some of the time. How do you empathize with someone’s anxiety when it’s basically about how minorities aren’t getting screwed enough? Perhaps there is a way, but it’s difficult to find.

The unanswered question is whether addressing issues of economy or race will prove to be more fruitful.

@bruce wilder
“If you got sucked into thinking Hillary Clinton was something other than an irresponsible, corrupt war-monger” Give it a rest man. If Hillary were President, I doubt we would be riling up China over Taiwan, have boots on the ground or loosening ROEs in Syria, dissolving NATO, or convincing many of our former allies that they need to get their own nuclear arsenals. Oh… and claiming that we can resolve the North Korea issue militarily and without China. Yeah, these all sound like things she would do. Get a damn grip and focus on the looming nuclear mushroom in the near future.

106

bruce wilder 04.03.17 at 10:00 pm

Hidari: “the Democratic base are furious that the Democratic leadership will end up kowtowing to the Republicans and facilitating their extreme right wing agenda as they always have in the past. . . . that’s what is riling up the Democratic base”

It seems to me that there must be two bases, yours and Suzanne’s (@82), roughly corresponding to the shadows cast by the Sanders and Clinton campaigns respectively.

For one the economic issues are primary and for the other, maybe not quite so much. For one, medicare-for-all, $15/hr minimum wage, college debt relief and so on, are goals and financialization and globalization are serious problems that need to be addressed, preferably with a wrecking ball; for the other, these goals represent nice sentiments and good directions, but not practical politics — there are complicated reasons, you see, why these things are never going to happen, while financialization and globalization are features of a cosmopolitan and hopeful future and class contempt is a moral imperative.

Neither base is electorally large enough, well-organized or reliable. If Democratic politicians seem to lack backbone, maybe it is because so much of their electoral constituency doesn’t vote often enough, doesn’t provide other resources and isn’t invested enough to be informed enough to detect let alone punish defection.

The “Sanders base” (for lack of a better short-hand term) for populist social democracy and working class solidarity, in my observation, is on the whole not so much “riled up” as deeply discouraged and apathetic, with only an idealist minority ready to rally. The “Sanders base” lacks ready leadership — that its nominal leader is 74 years old and not even a member of the Democratic Party ought to indicate the difficulty they have in finding champions among politicians and pundits in a political and media environment where powerful business corporations distribute resources and careers.

It wouldn’t be implausible to me, if “the Clinton base” (again for lack of a better term; I do not imagine that either elite nor base belong to the Clintons anymore) bet that the country’s owners will want a return to more competent technocratic management after 4 years of the Donald Trump / Paul Ryan / Mike Pence clown show. In class terms, this “base” are drawn from the professional and managerial elite that outsource and finance and generally make miserable the lives of everyone else, feeling good about themselves the whole time because of their enlightened views on race and gender.

I don’t like to be a total pessimist about these things, but I don’t see how the economically dispossessed ever get organized, ever find even half-way competent leadership (and keep that leadership from being hired away) without some kind of epiphany occurring within the ranks of “the Clinton base” of professionals and middle-managers. I do not see how that happens; it is not in their class interest to dismantle the instruments of oppression that they themselves makes a good living administering and apologizing for.

107

faustusnotes 04.04.17 at 1:26 am

Bruce Wilder at 38:

As for heaping tribal abuse on Trump voters, I say, have at it, for whatever personal satisfaction it gives. I cannot imagine why you think “left Obama critics” (like me) are somehow inhibiting you or our lack of sufficient enthusiasm for pre-adolescent name calling is a moral deficiency.

i.e. we shouldn’t abuse people who voted for Trump, we should reach out to them.

Bruce Wilder at 94:

Hillary Clinton is a neoliberal sellout who attempted to appeal to disaffected Republicans in the recent election campaign.

i.e. any Democrat who reaches out to republicans is a neoliberal sellout.

Or perhaps it was Clinton’s desire to add a public option to the ACA, and to protect the massive redistribution of money from the wealthy to the poor, that makes her a neoliberal sellout? But as Bruce says at 94, CT comments are not “a good place to carry on or rehearse partisan contests”. Evidence from his own screeds to the contrary.

108

J-D 04.04.17 at 1:32 am

bruce wilder

I do not think CT comments are a good place to carry on or rehearse partisan contests. We should take this opportunity to reflect intelligently on events and developments, not just make shit up.

If I make the following assertions:
(i) Human beings make choices;
(ii) Election outcomes are the result of choices made by human beings;
(ii) It makes a difference who wins elections;
which (if any) of the following do you think I’m doing?
(a) Carrying on or rehearsing partisan contests;
(b) Reflecting intelligently on events and developments;
(c) Making stuff up.

109

Anarcissie 04.04.17 at 3:58 am

J-D 04.03.17 at 8:55 pm @ 104 —
I don’t think faustusnotes reads my little contributions. Too pious, perhaps. I can assure you all that my piety has not recently extended to speaking with suburban Republicans, much less converting them to anything — what an idea! — but it is true I might have been relatively inoffensive in their presence at some time in the past, especially if there were a lot of them about and I did not have a good escape route.

110

bruce wilder 04.04.17 at 10:38 am

faustusnotes

“have at it” equals “do not abuse” and “reach out”??!

That is some reading comprehension fail you have going.

I do not have much respect for the Fox News addled brains that would vote for Trump, deducing from his 3rd grader’s vocabulary and stream of consciousness some bizarre expectation of competence in high and powerful office and if you want to abuse such morons for your own amusement, you will get little objection from me. These are politically stupid and ignorant people.

It was not my intention to argue that the campaign strategy of reaching out to dissatisfied Republicans — particularly suburban Republican women — caused her to become a neoliberal sellout. Her commitment to neoliberalism was long-standing, part of the third way DLC branding she and her husband pioneered more than twenty years ago. Her money making and fund raising activities are also notorious.

J-D

If you understand that i, ii, iii do not combine neatly as axioms for a deductive proof of rational and intentional collective choice by means of electoral politics, then (b) Reflecting intelligently on events and developments

111

politicalfootball 04.04.17 at 2:16 pm

any Democrat who reaches out to republicans is a neoliberal sellout.

To be fair, Hillary was reaching out to Republicans who were (she believed) appalled by Trump’s racism and sexism. She famously focused her advertising on Trump’s ignorance and bigotry. The argument seems to be that she (and the Democrats) lost the election by focusing on Republican racism and sexism, which don’t exist in any meaningful way; voters selected a billionaire liar who intended to transfer wealth to the wealthy because they were tired of being lied to and treated unfairly.

112

JimV 04.04.17 at 3:46 pm

“JimV’s smug assertions that one Party wants campaign finance and the other doesn’t or that one Party wants an Iran war and the other doesn’t flies in the face of the Democratic candidate’s circumvention of campaign finance laws and her very belligerent rhetoric on Iran.”

1) I take exeption to “smug”. I don’t like disagreeing with CT commenters and try to research their claims and only respond when my sense of fairness seems to demand it; and when I do I try to avoid personal insults.

2) I agree Democrats take full advantage of the present CF law and its gaming opportunities; however the implied contradition is a logical fallacy – similar to when Warren Buffet complained about unfairness in the tax system and some thought that “then why doesn’t he voluntarily pay more taxes?” was a valid rebuttal.

3) Here is what I consider a reasonable summary of HRC’s position on Iran:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/hillary-clinton-iran-sanctions_us_5728dc4ce4b096e9f08f46b3

“It’s impossible to say what effect Clinton would have had on the nuclear negotiations had she remained in office. Her allies suggest that her willingness to ramp up the pressure against Iran wouldn’t have precluded her from reaching an agreement with the long-time U.S. adversary — and actually might have pressured the Iranians to offer more concessions. Her detractors say that her approach would have presented political challenges for Rouhani to continue the talks and could have tanked the negotiations entirely.”

I personally prefer President Obama’s approach, and agree that there may be a character flaw involved. However, I do not consider it prima facie evidence of a disqualifying flaw.

4) I will refrain from further comments on this issue, but my silence will not imply consent.

113

J-D 04.05.17 at 2:04 am

bruce wilder
What if I add the following assertions?
(iv) People have reasons for the choices they make and (v) comparative evaluation of these reasons is not universally meaningless (or, equivalently, it can at least sometimes be meaningful to describe some of those reasons as better reasons and others as worse)
(vi) Comparative evaluation of election outcomes is not universally meaningless (or, equivalently, it can at least sometimes be meaningful to describe some election outcomes as better and others as worse)
(vii) People who choose to vote Democrat in US elections have a variety of reasons for doing so, and so do people who choose to vote Republican, and people who choose to vote for other candidates, and people who choose not to vote, so that information about how a person chose to vote (or not to) cannot automatically tell us the reasons for that choice
(viii) The general historical experience since the US Civil War has been that the election of Democrats to the Presidency has produced better outcomes than the election of Republicans to the Presidency and (ix) this would be a good reason to vote Democrat in Presidential elections

114

faustusnotes 04.05.17 at 3:12 am

Bruce it appears you don’t understand your own saracasm – that quote clearly says that you think that heaping abuse on Trump voters is counter-productive, i.e. that you favour reaching out to them.

We’ve been going over this accusation of yours for a year now but you still don’t have any evidence to support it. How is the woman who campaigned on a promise to defend and expand the biggest transfer of wealth from rich to poor in recent Democrat history a neoliberal sellout? Because of something her husband did 20 years ago? Is that all you’ve got?

115

Hidari 04.05.17 at 5:51 am

@106

‘I do not see how that happens; it is not in their class interest to dismantle the instruments of oppression that they themselves makes a good living administering and apologizing for.’

Well, quite. This is why revolutions are so rare (successful ones even rarer). The people in power never really have an incentive to revolt because they, by definition, have profited from the system. Even wealthy ‘liberals’ who decry the system (in the media, in academia, in ‘left wing’ parties like the Democrats, the Labour Party in the UK) are generally holding up the wall with one hand while trying to knock it down by the other. Because no matter how much they apparently decry the system, their dependence on their paycheque tells them to hold their tongue, water down their policies, moderate their language, tone down their demands. In other words to pursue what Jaroslav Hašek contemptuously referred to as ‘moderate progress within the boundaries of the law’. Hence the vast majority of ‘left wing’ politics, even radical left wing politics, in capitalist societies is simply posturing, rhetoric, writing vast cheques that the people writing them have no intention of cashing.

The only difference now is that people saw through this after a while and now the people at the top don’t even pretend to be against the system. Where are the genuine revolutionaries in the American media, American academia, American politics? Essentially, they don’t exist. Few people even pretend to have radical objections to the system any more. It’s very similar to the situation in the USSR in the 1970s where almost everyone you have heard of is reprehensible because they have all made peace with the system to a greater or lesser extent. Those dreadful late night comedians entertaining white liberals with hilarious incisive remarks about Trump having funny hair are just as much part of the system as anyone else and fundamentally support it as much as any other wealthy person.

As for the people at the bottom, obviously they have the incentive, but as George Orwell so rightly pointed out ‘until they revolt they can’t become conscious, until they become conscious they won’t revolt’.

So that’s where we are, in the year of our Lord 2017.

116

J-D 04.05.17 at 11:37 am

faustusnotes

Bruce it appears you don’t understand your own saracasm – that quote clearly says that you think that heaping abuse on Trump voters is counter-productive, i.e. that you favour reaching out to them.

You are reasoning by false dichotomy.

I don’t think ‘heap abuse on Trump voters’ is a good strategic choice, but I also don’t think ‘be nice to Trump voters’ is a strategic priority. Avoiding one does not commit you to the other.

117

J-D 04.05.17 at 11:42 am

Hidari

In other words to pursue what Jaroslav Hašek contemptuously referred to as ‘moderate progress within the boundaries of the law’.

Moderate progress within the boundaries of the law is something that does actually happen (sometimes) and that does (when it happens) make people’s lives better; it’s not clear to me what justification there would be for holding it in contempt.

118

Lee A. Arnold 04.05.17 at 12:46 pm

Anarcissie #95: “The military does not know ‘how things are going to transpire, and what the tipping points might be, and what actions might trigger them.’ They’re guessing like everyone else.”

Almost everybody already understands that the future is generally unpredictable. (On the other hand, some commenters here persist in the error that Hillary Clinton’s responses in the future are necessarily pre-programmed as the responses of a “corrupt neoliberal sellout warmonger”.) I pointed to something else: #83’s comment that it is “impossible to know in other than a probabilistic way”. When applied to a single event in Mosul, this might be false. (Further, the victims would not care to be told to exercise “intellectual humility”, so the response seems emotionally wrong as well.)

119

john c. halasz 04.05.17 at 6:14 pm

@114:

” the woman who campaigned on a promise to defend and expand the biggest transfer of wealth from rich to poor “

I’m puzzled as to what this claim refers too, given long-standing tends in growing wealth and income inequality, i.e. upward redistribution, which have only increased since the crisis thank to Obama’s austerity proclivities and Fed QE policies among other things.

120

Hidari 04.05.17 at 7:21 pm

@117

If only you’d been around in 1911, there would have been a party you could have voted for!

“A million candidates rose up
To hoodwink honest people.
The electorate would give them votes
And they would gladly take them.
Let others call for violent progress,
By force, world order (to) overturn.
Moderate progress is our aim
And Jaroslav Hašek is our man”

http://www.brnrd.net/blog/archive/2012/05/01/the-party-of-moderate-progress-within-the-bounds-of-the-law

As it is, you’re stuck with the Democrats, who aren’t nearly so amusing.

121

Layman 04.05.17 at 7:33 pm

“I’m puzzled as to what this claim refers too…”

It is widely acknowledged that the essence of the Affordable Care Act was the imposition of taxes on more wealthy Americans in order to fund health care for less wealthy Americans, whether through Medicaid expansion or subsidies for private insurance premiums. This is in fact why Republicans hated it and vowed to repeal it, and why they still want to repeal it despite having no workable alternative solution. HRC campaigned in a pledge to defend it, therefore she is “the woman who campaigned on a promise to defend and expand the biggest transfer of wealth from rich to poor”.

122

J-D 04.06.17 at 1:43 am

Hidari
You are mistaken. I can’t vote for the Democrats. I’m puzzled to know what made you think I could. Do you just assume by default that everybody you read is an American? That’s not sensible.

That said, I did put forward in an earlier comment what seems to me a good reason to vote Democrat (for those who, unlike me, are US voters); none of your remarks seem to me to cast doubt on the reasoning I outlined.

You also seem to have made the elementary mistake of confusing the invocation of a name with the performance of the action named. Jaroslav Hašek and his fellow-pranksters used ‘moderate progress within the bounds of the law’ to title their party without doing anything to achieve any such progress; the fact that their mentioning it did not make it happen does not prove that it cannot happen. Some people (and perhaps you are one of them) imagine that nothing good can be achieved without revolution, and find comical any suggestion to the contrary; they may enjoy their mocking laughter, but it doesn’t prove them right.

123

Faustusnotes 04.06.17 at 2:10 am

John c halasz, I was referring to Obamacare’s massive taxes on the rich to finance subsidies to poor and middle class Americans, and the Medicaid expansion. Classic leftist redistribution, to which Clinton planned to add a public option and which trump immediately tried to roll back. This is evidence that people like Bruce consistently ignore when attacking Clinton as a neoliberal sellout.

124

kidneystones 04.06.17 at 5:04 am

Trump equals Hitler and all monsters must be destroyed.

“The “big fight is between nationalists and the West Wing Democrats,” said a person familiar with Bannon’s thinking.”

Trump isn’t conservative and he isn’t a ‘Republican.’ He’s a race-baiting, bombastic, rodeo-clown who’s still riding the bull.

Go figure.

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/04/bannon-resign-mercer-trump-236939

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Lee A. Arnold 04.06.17 at 12:05 pm

There exists no convincing plan to fight neoliberalism. The wish to devolve to decentralized markets is unrealistic, unnecessary, resource-wasting. Resource-wasting, because it leads to a lot of duplicated work, in order to preserve the illusion of human freedom. Unnecessary, because we can now produce necessary goods and services to satiation. Unrealistic, because under the rubric of individual freedom, it will allow private uses of money that lead us — guess where? — right back to neoliberalism. Neoliberalism isn’t “new”; it’s been lurking for 275 years.

The only way to fight this, is for the human population to EMOTIONALLY accept the reality that there is ever-less necessary work, and that this is a good thing, and that we don’t need to be paid in a marketplace for free creativity. This leads to the premise of a central-payer that prints the money to provide the necessary goods and services, and makes a closed-money loop for these goods and services. Money is an emotional thing, it is the emblem of the trustworthiness of one’s fellow beings.

Emotions change slowly, generationally. In the United States, which is particularly backward emotionally, we have yet to provide universal healthcare, as one of the first steps toward emotional implicature of a non-neoliberal future. Obamacare moves this a little closer. That is why even “neoliberal” politicians who are willing to defend it, should be strongly supported, & elected. It is all about the structure of long-term emotions. There will be no intellectual plan that changes the emotions: it is the other way around.

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Z 04.06.17 at 2:30 pm

@Suzanne HRC spoke often of her commitment to building up the party on the local and state levels, which had been neglected during the Obama years.

Back at his own blog, Corey Robin has written what I find a very perceptive commentary of the discussion of the role of intents in politics. Here is a sample quote (with Obama substituted by Clinton)

“(And again the same kind of discourse often dominated our discussions of [Clinton]: not on the field of action in which [s]he led, but on [her] deepest intentions and motives, what [s]he really wanted or not.) That just seems like an extraordinarily unhelpful—and from an Arendtian view, entirely apolitical and antipolitical—way of viewing things.”

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john c. halasz 04.06.17 at 3:06 pm

@121 & 123:

Yes, that was what I was afraid of. The lameness of calling the ACA the largest downward redistribution of wealth in recent memory speaks for itself. It was a Republican plan, originating with the Heritage Foundation, and was passed through negotiated compromises with reigning corporate interests. What’s more the partial unraveling of the scheme, with premium rises of 22% announced just before the election, was a major factor in Trump’s narrow election win. Health care costs are now approaching 18% of U.S. GDP, are a major strain on ordinary household budgets with limited discretionary income, and amount to a further component of the upward redistribution of income. The hyperbole of calling the ACA the most important redistributive program in recent history only speaks to the utter absence of any policies in offer to address and reverse the upward redistribution of wealth and income that has been the continuous trend of the neo-liberal era for over a generation now, which only accelerated under Obama.

128

bruce wilder 04.06.17 at 6:58 pm

I am not unaware that Obamacare is a mixed bag, so to speak, and regard the Medicaid expansion, where it has gone forward, as in my state, California, with administrative dispatch and good will, as among its best features (along with the legal constraints imposed on insurance companies regarding coverage of so-called pre-existing conditions and related measures).

Faustusnotes claims I ignore the shiny goodness of Obamacare — the surtaxes on high incomes used to finance the subsidies given to for-profit insurance companies features high on his list — when I attack Clinton as “a neoliberal sellout.”

I think I am attacking the politics (and economics) of neoliberalism, of which the Clintons are progenitors, organizers, advocates and exemplars. To read Faustusnotes’ polemical comments, one might think I was using the “neoliberal” label as an unfounded slander, rather than as . . . well, a label for a political pattern and tendency that has come to dominate centre-left ideology and policymaking for over thirty years or more (not incidentally symbiotically complementing a conservative libertarian right neoliberalism), during which time the Clintons have been among the most prominent neoliberal political leaders.

Obamacare is neoliberal policy, exemplifying neoliberalism’s emphasis on complex administrative apparatus to make “markets” (meaning profit-maximizing financialized corporate business) implement public policy and provide what would otherwise be public goods, incentivized (may the lord forgive my use of that bastard word) by government payments and tax subsidies, and studied indifference to fraud and corruption. There is a lot for a leftist to dislike in Obamacare, qua neoliberal policy.

Here’s the the thing about neoliberal politics and the lesser evilism of Hillary Clinton: it becomes very difficult to critique Obamacare from the left and be heard or acknowledged. In a less pathological political dynamic, Obamacare would be a stepping stone on the path to single-payer, as Lee A. Arnold hopes, but contra Arnold, Obamacare is not going to “automatically” lead to single-payer. The automatic machinery of neoliberal politics is designed to frustrate and subvert that political and policy-making progression, while continuing to create and conserve many, many opportunities for a parasitic financial sector to harvest the soylent green of what remains of middle-class and working class incomes.

Or, at least, that’s my view of it.

I do not think Obamacare can be fairly represented, on net, as a practically significant redistribution of income (and certainly not wealth, as Faustusnotes carelessly claims). First of all, Obamacare has been implemented in the context of an on-going and truly massive and accelerating redistribution of income upward, and away from labor and to capital, which has been on-going for 40 years and which neoliberalism has aided and abetted. Two aspects of that redistribution of income and wealth (especially wealth, since a significant aspect of this redistribution is the shift in share of national income away from labor and to capital, particularly financial capital). At best, Obamacare is a patch on a system that is rapidly becoming untenable as a result of the falling share of labor income (and rising share of financialized capital income) and the increasing concentration of income at the top. I say, “patch” advisedly, as Obamacare qua policymaking design, did very little that is credible to contain or reduce the costs (aka prices) of medical care in the U.S. or to improve the quality and effectiveness of delivered medical care judged from a socially-conscious public policy perspective. U.S. health care is, by developed world standards, very very expensive and is failing enough people that the U.S. may not even be maintaining life expectancy — that’s pretty bad.

For-profit health insurance plays a critical role in the dynamic that has made health care finance into a hotbed for control frauds in insurance, administration and the delivery of specialty care. Obamacare preserves and expands the scope of for-profit insurance. The vaunted subsidies go to the for-profit insurers, not directly to the insured. The vast majority of those in the individual insurance market will receive pretty much nothing in the way of health care services they do not pay for out-of-pocket, and the payments for health services provided to the unfortunate few who need a lot of care will go to the providers of health services; Medicaid puts limits on those payments; the for-profit insurance companies are notoriously lax or inconsistent about restraining abuses by health care service providers. Medicaid is being privatized in a number of states, so for-profit insurers can get a larger cut.

I do not want to get bogged down in a wonky discussion of health care policy. Wonky discussions are a neoliberal trope, by the way. When Ezra Klein or Paul Krugman get “wonky”, the shell game has gone into overtime and there’s no telling where the pea will disappear, except you are going to lose any bet you placed on their integrity or good will. Such is neoliberal advocacy.

One reason to use the neoliberal label is remind people of the 30 year pattern. I see a number of people on the internets trying to normalize Hillary Clinton as the most left, liberal good person (she thinks of the children!!!) evah, the hapless victim of right-wing slurs indistinguishable from left-wing slurs. The follow-up is trying to rationalize neoliberal corruption and subversion as incremental progressivism. We are making everything worse, crapifying everything, redistributing income and wealth upward, step-by-step. And, that moderated step-by-step descent, the ratchet that has moved left politics steadily toward the center, moved the center steadily toward the right and now toward the far right — that pattern is an excuse for “half-a-loaf” tropes of not making the perfect the enemy of the good. As if neoliberal descent is indistinguishable from the half-remembered liberal or progressive ascents of decades ago.

Bill and Hilary Clinton and the Clinton’s Democratic Party faction, blending neatly with Obama’s Democratic Party faction — Democratic Party neoliberalism in other words — has gone a long way to create the dystopia of runaway financial parasitism which is the American political economy in the Age of Trump. They did their part in enacting critical measures deregulating banking and finance, NAFTA, the dismantling of welfare aid to the poor and some of the signal reforms that have helped to give the U.S. the largest prison population in the world. Against that pattern, it is perfectly reasonable to question the meaning of what Hillary Clinton — or any neoliberal politician or pundit — says. Neoliberal ideology and its outcomes to date are essential context that gives what is said meaning.

Faustusnotes wants to deny the neoliberal label and to latch onto one or two aspects of Obamacare’s policy design in isolation and proclaim it a massive redistribution of income downward, when in the full context of the times, almost all economic growth during the economic recovery since 2008 has been transferred upward — a remarkably extreme result compared to earlier post-WWII economic cycles. And, even within the full context of the Obamacare policy design, the redistributive incidence is quite ambiguous, with a lot of funds being directed toward entities of parasitic Finance and predatory Medicine.

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bob mcmanus 04.06.17 at 8:56 pm

128 is excellent. Superb. Thank you.

The System or late-capitalism has become so all-encompassing and the Spectacle so complete and the bs so sophisticated that analysis and comprehension has become almost impossible, or a Baudrillard might say, there is no reality under the representations. One can only with a full acceptance of how inadequate and even unfair it might be, look at what happens and try to determine intent and motivations, and to a degree methods from that. IOW, under Obama, rich got richer and black wealth was decimated, so this is what Obama wanted and then we look to see how he did it. Ignore completely whatever he might have said.

Blaming the other side for the results is well, to wax analogous,politics is like watching the football game, using advanced statistical techniques and measures of passing rating to decide who won and who should win, and forgetting the real purpose of both teams was to get fans in the seats and screens and take their money. Republicans are at home with the ball this time, but Democrats are still getting their percentage of the gate.

130

Layman 04.06.17 at 9:25 pm

john c. halasz : “The lameness of calling the ACA the largest downward redistribution of wealth in recent memory speaks for itself.”

If it is so lame, then of course it will be easy for you to come up with a recent example of a downward redistribution of wealth which was larger. If you can’t, then I gather what you mean to say is that it was an accurate decription, just one that irritated you somehow.

131

Layman 04.06.17 at 9:27 pm

bruce wilder: “Wonky discussions are a neoliberal trope, by the way.”

Yes, why should anyone want to understand the implications of political choices? How could that help?

132

J-D 04.06.17 at 9:38 pm

bruce wilder

Here’s the the thing about neoliberal politics and the lesser evilism of Hillary Clinton: it becomes very difficult to critique Obamacare from the left and be heard or acknowledged.

Taken in isolation, ‘it is difficult to critique Obamacare from the left’ is trivially false; so it’s the ‘be heard or acknowledged’ part that’s key, and this leads inescapably to this question: who is that you want to hear or acknowledge those critiques but is not doing so? People are making those left critiques, there’s no doubt about that, and they are being read, too — but not by …? Please, fill in the blank.

I see a number of people on the internets trying to normalize Hillary Clinton as the most left, liberal good person (she thinks of the children!!!) evah

Even if it’s true that there are people who take this incorrect approach (and, yes, I know it’s incorrect), that doesn’t affect the merits of the argument that in the moment when you’re in the voting booth and have to choose, voting for the Democratic candidate is the best choice available. Voting is a chess move, not a love letter, and when you’re looking at the chessboard and have to make a move, complaining that you don’t like the position and wish you had a better one doesn’t help you with the decision that you actually have to make. You can’t work up any enthusiasm about voting Democrat? Then don’t feel enthusiasm, just vote, as quickly as you can, and get on with something better.

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kidneystones 04.06.17 at 11:12 pm

Elizabeth Warren refused to meet with top Trump White House economic advisors today, declaring that “Trump is a fascist and a monster. No decent, patriotic American can tolerate a Manchurian agent of the KGB in the White House. Democrats will not sit down at the table with any Republican on any issue. All Republicans are racist and lie about everything, including the concerns for the country and its citizens.”

Or, Gary Cohen backs restoring Glass-Steegall, complicating life for Republican stooges of the banks and for Dimwits determined to hold their breath for the next four-eight years.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/gary-cohn-backs-breaking-up-big-banks-1491491219

PS. Welcome back Corey, haters gonna hate, don’t let them get to you.

134

Faustusnotes 04.07.17 at 12:41 am

John c halasz, Obamacare is not the heritage plan – this alternative fact has been roundly debunked and yet here still people who claim to understand politics and public policy still regularly spout it. Please do us all the favour of researching basic facts before you spout them. The only thing it has in common with the heritage plan is the presence of a kind of exchange.

Obamacare has been around for several years now and was legislated over an 18 month period starting 7 years ago. Yet its left wing critics still don’t understand either it’s basic functions or its shortcomings, preferring instead to recycle lies from the pages of jacobin mag. Is this how you do policy analysis?

Bruce, it’s a plain fact that Obamacare is the biggest redistribution in a generation. This isn’t something you can dispute – numerically it simply is. Yet you give no credit to Obamacare or Clinton or the democrats for this achievement, instead preferring to pretend it’s not a redistribution at all because it isn’t single payer. I’ve observed repeatedly hereabouts that it’s not single payer because of a bunch of right wing dems in states that voted for trump were unable to accept that policy. But you consistently refuse to engage with the fact that a large portion of the us electorate – many in swing states – won’t tolerate that level of socialism. While assuring us sanders would have won those states. Go figure.

Also Obamacare is not exploding and the price rises are not unusual. Again, we have a supposedly educated and aware left wing critic of Obama recycling the worst right wing fallacies. Why don’t you even try to research these lies before you swallow them?

135

Val 04.07.17 at 1:43 am

Pavel
‘@bruce wilder
“If you got sucked into thinking Hillary Clinton was something other than an irresponsible, corrupt war-monger” Give it a rest man’

I wonder if direct attacks on Syria today are enough to make Bruce wilder think about the consequences of what he’s been saying about HRC as a “warmonger”? I saw, and personally know, people who used that rhetoric to justify their obsession with attacking Hillary Clinton even when the clear and present danger was Trump.

That’s why I suggest we look at sexism here – because this is not rational behaviour. This is some kind of obsession. It was – and is – more important to Bruce and his ilk to hate Hillary than to combine with others in opposing Trump.

(And BW don’t tell me again how you supported Stein – having your favoured female candidate is no defence)

136

Donald Johnson 04.07.17 at 5:42 am

Actually Val, what Trump is doing in Syria is what many people in both parties, including Clinton, have been wanting to do for years. Obama came under heavy criticism for not intervening as his critics put it. In reality he poured money into arming Syrian rebels, but they wanted bombs. And Clinton has a long record of supporting interventions, like a great many Beltway types.

And here is a former Obama Administration official applauding Trump’s action —

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/07/opinion/after-the-missiles-we-need-smart-diplomacy.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region&region=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region

I have never understood why this isn’t obvious to everyone. There are plenty of people in both parties that favor intervention and while there are many many reasons to criticize Trump, some of the criticism on foreign affairs came from people who were disappointed with Obama already and really hated Trump’s ( former) decision to stop trying to overthrow Assad. Well, the interventionists have won the battle for Trump’s tiny little mind as I suggested they would upthread. And if the intervention goes wrong, as all of our Mideast interventions do, the interventionist set has a ready made incompetent they can blame.

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Val 04.07.17 at 5:56 am

And just seconding what J-D said @ 132, ‘lesser evil’ means ‘lesser evil’. It doesn’t mean ‘Hillary Clinton is a saint’. It means ‘Hillary Clinton is not as bad as Donald Trump’, and in what is essentially a two horse race, the sensible course of action is:
– try to defeat the worse alternative
– vote for the less bad alternative.

And yes, I do also think there were some good things about HRC, as well as some I didn’t agree with or support.

138

Donald Johnson 04.07.17 at 5:58 am

And guess who else called for the bombing of Syrian airfields?

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-people-hillary-clinton-idUSKBN179058

139

john c. halasz 04.07.17 at 6:51 am

140

engels 04.07.17 at 9:35 am

Just checking in to see if everyone is still arguing about Hillary Clinton

141

bob mcmanus 04.07.17 at 9:56 am

Bruce, it’s a plain fact that Obamacare is the biggest redistribution in a generation. This isn’t something you can dispute – numerically it simply is.

Wilder dealt with that a little, but in order to really say that, you would have to show actual redistribution in detail. Obamacare predictably also affected healthcare, insurance and pharm stocks, the administration was very tolerant of mergers and acquisitions, etc. The old pattern of medical-related bankruptcies cost the industry quite a lot of money and lowered the number of useful debtors. And so on.

Before you can claim redistribution, either as intent or result, you have to show it, in numbers like Piketty shows for the trente glorieuse or Great Compression of 1930-75.

Your claim is very much like claiming the student loan program is redistributive, because it gives money and education to students, and then not looking st graduates and non-graduates actual economic circumstances and the various profit centers. By this time, we know who really benefit from student loans.

As Wilder says, both are examples of how giving money to people that will almost immediately be passed through to capitalists is neoliberalism and about concentrating wealth. Hello, basic income.

142

Another Nick 04.07.17 at 10:54 am

Val @ 135, you’re pretty much suggesting that if Sanders was a woman and Clinton a man, “Bruce and his ilk” would have preferred the economically right-leaning Democrat, or at the very least been much less critical of him.

That doesn’t gel with anything I’ve read from Bruce. I think he makes his political leanings clear, and they are not towards the pro-military, pro-wall street candidate who receives exorbitant fees to speak at bankers’ dinners.

Did Prime Minister Gillard ever speak at bankers’ dinners in Australia? I don’t know for sure, but because her politics are rather significantly to the left of Hillary Clinton’s, I have a strong suspicion she wouldn’t have been caught dead at one.

I also don’t remember Bruce advocating that anybody should vote for Trump. And maintaining your political beliefs over time doesn’t make them “an obsession.”

The only positive outcome from the 2016 US election was that a woman very convincingly won the popular vote. I have no doubt Bruce is as happy as anybody here about that fact, and what it signifies for future women contesting. The US is quite clearly ready and willing to elect a woman as President. I honestly don’t think that’s his gripe.

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Faustusnotes 04.07.17 at 11:24 am

Oh how ridiculous bob. The AHCA block granted Medicaid and massively cut subsidies for poorer people while delivering a huge tax cut to the rich. These figures are all over the web, there are helpful charts explaining the exact details of what diffeeent people on different levels of income lose, maps of which states would suffer. The CBO showed AHCA would cause 24 million people to lose their insurance, with all the consequences that entails, and the price of insurance for the poorer would skyrocket. It’s trivial to find this shit with a basic search but here you are spinning vague stories about what might be happening with no robust facts to back up your insinuations. Have you bought the right wing lies that Medicaid doesn’t help people based on a deliberate misreading of a poorly designed and implemented study? Is there anything the right says about Obamacare that you have actually bothered to check?

your complaint boils down to “it’s not redistributive because it’s not single payer.” It’s such a ridiculous complaint in the American context, it ignores he massive redistribution actually taking place, and it’s breathtakingly ignorant of the actual state of understanding of UHC globally.

If you aren’t capable of understanding health financing policy, can’t be bothered listening to people who do, and willfully believe the worst lies of the con artists who just tried to bully through a massively unpopular act of daylight robbery, you really haven’t got much to add to the debate. This applies to halasz, puchalsky, wilder and all the other RT faithful on here who will believe any lies they’re told about a left wing policy introduced by a black man and a woman. With such obstinate unwillingness to deal with facts and such an obvious affection for lies told by your political enemies, you come across as hacks motivated by something far removed from socialist thought.

Pleas try harder.

144

kidneystones 04.07.17 at 12:04 pm

The liberal NYT is delighted that the US president launched a missile attack on a sovereign state in the Middle East declaring it ‘the right thing to do.’ That’s the first NYT headline in one hundred days praising the new president and somehow this puts the ‘change’ in precisely the right context.
The headline is one that has been used for Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, Obama, and now Trump. So, it might have taken one hundred days for the tensions of the election to burn off a bit, but with Warren and Trump at least expressing willingness to break up the big banks (again to the praises of the NYT) we’re starting to see the clearer contours of a Trump presidency.
I’m surprised, frankly, that nobody has examined the first hundred days for what it is: the first few challenges of “Political Apprentice” in which a serious of contenders do their best to make to the next round.
Thanks to a relentless campaign by the media to demonize the president as the most inept candidate/president evah, a day when he manages to tie his shoelaces is the new metric for success. His enemies on the right (yes, Ryan and company still hate Trump’s guts) flail in the legislative branch as the more practically-minded Democrats in Trump’s inner circle – that would be Ivanka and Jared, ensure a more even road towards regulatory reform, and other issues.
Even Nick Kristoff has noticed that calling Trump supporters a bunch of racist bigots has done nothing but drive the wedges separating these voters from Dems even deeper.
So, the first hundred days looks exactly like the first hundred days of Trump’s campaign – a virtually unanimous chorus of experts serving up their view that every single thing the president does is wrong, just as candidate Trump was doing everything wrong. Until he won.
On first evidence Trump is off to an excellent start. The media has even less credibility in 2017 than they did in 2016. The geriatric Democratic leadership shows no sign of relinquishing power. Some continue to look to the Clinton’s for ‘leadership’ and the fact that so many still credit Russian hacking with the lost election confirms ‘more of the same’ is all Dems have to offer to voters who’ve just rejected exactly that.
It’s possible Trump’s numbers will go down, but they’ve already been pretty low. He’ll get a bump for doing what O only threatened to do – actually attack Assad for using chemical weapons. My guess is the media will continue to claim the president is already a lame duck and nobody will much care, especially Trump supporters. Should he find common ground with Warren on bank reform he’ll get an even bigger bounce. Then what?

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Val 04.07.17 at 1:28 pm

@139
I know that. Again you are focusing on what’s wrong with Clinton instead of looking at Trump. You can’t see that, can you? Why not?

@ 142
I’m not talking about Clinton vs Sanders. I’m talking about Clinton vs Trump.

The fact that so many of you guys just cannot get that, no matter how many times I say it, does seem to confirm my theory, doesn’t it? You seem to be unable to say ‘Clinton was flawed, but a better alternative than Trump’.

There is endless, endless, endless pontificating and distracting to avoid saying that simple thing.

Just to make it quite clear, including for halasz (who seems to think what he said was a big gotcha), the comparison is: Hillary Clinton vs Donald Trump. And when someone says, IN THAT CONTEXT, ‘Hillary Clinton is a warmonger’, what is the logical conclusion about her opponent? (Let me tell you, because I’m sure some people still won’t get it: the logical conclusion is that her opponent is either not a warmonger, or less of a warmonger)

And what does this bombing of Syria signify, IN THAT CONTEXT? Is Donald Trump a warmonger? And if he is, what was the point of going on (and still going on now) about how Clinton was a warmonger, when the contest was between HER AND TRUMP?

I cannot make this any clearer. You would think people would have a little capacity for self reflection.

146

Katsue 04.07.17 at 1:40 pm

Actually, I think Val has made a fair point about Hillary being the lesser of two evils. If Hillary and Donald Trump are ad idem on foreign policy, then it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Donald Trump is worse than Hillary Clinton, particularly if, as expected, he follows a neoliberal line in the NAFTA renegotiations.

147

Layman 04.07.17 at 2:15 pm

Donald Johnson: “And guess who else called for the bombing of Syrian airfields?”

Even after the Clintons are dead and buried, apparently the Clinton Rules will continue to apply, and whenever anything at all happens, that will be yet another opportunity to blame them for it.

148

Layman 04.07.17 at 2:22 pm

bob mcmanus: “Wilder dealt with that a little, but in order to really say that, you would have to show actual redistribution in detail.”

This strikes me as petty weak. The law raised taxes on those with higher incomes and better health care employment benefits for the purposes of funding the expansion of Medicaid and paying a substantial portion of health care premiums for those with lower incomes who were not reached by the Medicaid expansion. It is on its face redistributive, and if you want to say it isn’t, I think the burden is on you to show the hidden factors that counteract its redistribution mechanisms. I think you will find this difficult to do.

149

Donald Johnson 04.07.17 at 7:31 pm

Layman–. Clinton and a great many other people in both political parties favor military intervention. That’s the issue here. Trump figured out he could be popular if he did what they wanted, pretended to care about Syrian children (even as he helps the Saudis kill children in Yemen) and bombed Syria. Now McCain and Graham applaud and Clinton had already said she favored bombing. In other words, there is a consensus in DC in favor of endless military intervention and Trump not surprisingly, figured out he would be more popular if he joined it.

But to you and others all this boils down to the endless stupid boring kneejerk arguments people have about the Clintons and not the bigger picture. I brought Clinton up because Val for some reason thought that Trump’s actions were different from what Clinton would have done. Well, no. Trump joined the Washington consensus with all the other leading Democrats and Republicans.

I think I was clear about this all along.

150

Hidari 04.07.17 at 9:01 pm

Not that anyone asked me, but a word about ‘Lesser of Two Evils-ism’.

There was once a CT piece that was at least implicitly about Karl Kraus, so I take it that most people would have at least some ideas who he was…if not he was an Austro-Hungarian satirist. Often perceived to be on the Left. And, self-proclaimedly about the ‘cut and thrust’ of ‘normal’ politics. He coined the aphorism: ‘When asked to choose the lesser of two evils, I choose neither.’

Except, when push came to shove, he did. In Austria in he ended up supporting the anti-semite and dictator Dollfus in the 1930s, attacking those ‘Idealists’ who argued against it. These people, thought Kraus failed to realise that when push comes to shove you have to choose The Lesser of Two Evils. The ‘greater evil’ was Hitler. Only support for Dollfus could keep Hitler out.

And what happened?

First Kraus lost his entire moral reputation. As someone who had self-professedly stood above politics, he was now seen as someone who was just part of the game, another power-player who couldn’t be trusted.

Secondly he ended up, however ‘implicitly’, giving support to the brutal Dollfus, and thus helping to reconcile the Austrian intelligentsia to anti-semitism and authoritariainism.

And finally, it didn’t even work. Dollfus was assassinated, and of course Hitler marched in anyway.

And this, it seems to me, is where ‘Lesser-of-Two-Evilisism’, tends to lead. To begin with, by even playing that game, you morally compromise yourself. You tell yourself that you are not doing so (indeed, that you are taking some kind of ‘high moral path’) but you are doing what Sartre termed ‘getting your hands dirty’ to engage in ‘normal’ politics. Sartre agonised about how much this was necessary (and of course some would argue that Sartre himself went far too far in dirtying his own hands) but at least he was aware that by doing so you morally pollute yourself. It might be a necessary thing (or not) but it’s not a good thing. And you’re not a good person for doing it.

Secondly by getting people’s hopes and expectations down and helping them get used to immoral situations, more often than not it prepares the ground for the Greater Evil you told yourself you were trying to prevent.

And finally, again, more often than not, it doesn’t even bloody work. No matter how much you compromise and ‘sell out’, you frequently still end up getting the Greater Evil you told yourself your self-abnegation was going to stop.

Dollfus or Hitler? Khruschev or Stalin? A kind slave owner or a nasty slave owner? Of course you can always argue the toss, and give reasons as to why one is ‘less evil’ than the other. On another and deeper level I think a better question is: ‘who gives a shit’? What do you really care if the person who oppresses you is more or less evil than some other hypothetical person who would also oppress you?

In an American context, few people* would have the balls to take ‘Lesser of Two Evilsism’ (LOTE) to its logical end conclusion and argue that Martin Luther King should have devoted his life to putting kinder and more liberal people in charge of Jim Crow, but that’s where the logic leads.

I might also add that despite the regretful tone of those who pretend they don’t like playing that game (and would ‘really’ like to vote for someone good, but gosh who is there?) when someone who really stands outside the sordid political game comes on the scene, more often than not the LOTE gang band together and attack them with far greater savagery than they ever attacked the Greater Evil they sold their political souls to allegedly prevent.

* now. Of course a lot of white liberals spent the 1950s and 1960s telling MLK precisely that. That’s now quite how they phrased it (they claimed that of course wanted democracy in the South ‘but not just yet’ and only if MLK sharply differentiated himself from the ‘radicals’). But that’s what they meant.

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Anarcissie 04.07.17 at 9:41 pm

Katsue 04.07.17 at 1:40 pm @ 146 —
That has been said before. But sometimes when two choices are offered by the game, both are unacceptable. You have to start trying to break up the game.

Val 04.07.17 at 1:28 pm @ 143 —
In the pre-election context, there seemed to be some outside chance that Trump might be less of a warmonger than Clinton, who seemed strongly committed to warmongering. A long shot, but when the slaughter of thousands or millions is being contemplated, one might reasonably think of taking long shots.

152

Hidari 04.07.17 at 10:02 pm

Incidentally a reminder to those who have any faith left in America’s political system (and you really shouldn’t by now): Bernie Sanders’ comments* on Trump’s racist terrorist attack on Syria were fundamentally not really all that better than HRC’s blatherings.

*at time of writing.

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Z 04.07.17 at 10:55 pm

what was the point of going on (and still going on now) about how Clinton was a warmonger, when the contest was between HER AND TRUMP?

Oddly enough, this question has something to do with the OP. The point is to get the Democrats to understand that they cannot keep campaigning on “I will wage pointless and bloody wars and increase inequalities but less than my opponent who is crazy anyway.” Granted, this point is antithetical to “vote for the lesser evil”, so you might disagree with it, vigorously maybe. That in itself doesn’t make it absurd or stupid.

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Cranky Observer 04.07.17 at 11:48 pm

= = = Layman@2:22: “It is on its face redistributive, and if you want to say it isn’t, I think the burden is on you to show the hidden factors that counteract its redistribution mechanisms. I think you will find this difficult to do.”= = =

The ACA also solidified the role of large health-claim processing corporations as gatekeepers and processors of health care dollars, limited their skimming from that cash flow a little bit while substantially expanding the pool of people who were required to use it and nominally making it illegal to not do so. The health-claim processing industry in the US rakes off a huge amount of the national wealth (I’ve seen estimates of 5% of GDP over and above the actual value of physically processing claims) and as with most industries over the last 30 years has transformed itself into a vehicle for enriching the 1%. For example, locally-operated Blue Cross mutual organizations being transformed into national profit-making corporations without paying a cent to their nominal owners in the process, whilst increasing chief executive salaries from $500,000/year to $200 million/year to “stay competitive on talent”.

I cannot say whether the net effect of enmeshing the health-claims processing industry, drug industry, hospital industry etc into a fantastically complex system (cf Duncan Black), one part of which includes Medicaid expansion, has had a net downward or net upward wealth distribution effect – doing so would require a very detailed and complex study that AFAIK does not exist and I doubt very much would ever be funded.

Had the ACA included reduction of full Medicare eligibility age to 55 + the Medicaid expansion, and had Roberts not gutted said Medicaid expansion, then it would clearly be a net win for the lower 67%. As it stands, not clear. Which isn’t to say that we aren’t somewhat better off with ACA than without it, but the gains are not as crystalline as claimed in this thread.

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Val 04.08.17 at 12:34 am

Thanks Katsue @ 146, and sorry about the all caps shouting in my last, but I do find it is incredibly difficult to keep people on track in these discussions.

Also Another Nick @ 142 – much the same stuff happened with Julia Gillard here – there were lots of men (and a few women) on the ‘left’ here who were so busy attacking Gillard that they couldn’t be bothered even thinking about Tony Abbott. (I picture some of these guys still sitting in a pub somewhere muttering about ‘that woman’.)

In the lead up to the American election, there were a number of people on CT, including me, who were saying:
– arguing or implying that Trump would be better than HRC on war or inequality was deluded, and
– those who kept attacking HRC on those grounds were probably making a Trump victory more likely.

It’s not the joy of saying ‘I told you so’ that I’m aiming for here – far from it – but really wishing that some people here could be more reflective, and admit their mistakes. Or maybe American political culture is just doomed, which is what it sometimes looks like to an outsider.

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engels 04.08.17 at 1:19 am

Clinton was flawed, but a better alternative than Trump

Neoliberalism v neofascism

But I get the impression a lot of media Clintonites have just decided Trump isn’t Hitler after all, now that he’s started killing people.

157

kidneystones 04.08.17 at 1:48 am

Closing comment for the quarter. The number one story at RCP and the Daily Beast was written before Trump’s attack on the Syria airfield rallied the NYT and other liberal critics around the flag. Lewis gets the big story right – Trump is winning the same way he won during the campaign – allowing the media to fixate on bright, shiny objects while steadily building the foundation for a second term. Lewis fumbles the ball with his football game analogy focusing on one game than on a season, or a series of seasons.

Trump isn’t that interested in week to week ratings, although that may change. He’s doing what he did during the campaign learning and adapting. He ordered the strikes, for example, before dinner with the Chinese government. Something for everyone to digest. The timing was excellent, both in the short-term and to underline his accomplishments for his first 100 days in office. His Supreme Court victory and his promise to hit Assad again are significant whether one approves or disapproves.

The problem for Democrats remains. Nothing new to offer voters. Trump will continue to get pounded by a press few read, for the most part. However, Reuters is calling Trump’s supreme court victory a ‘big win.’ As for Trump the devil, he’s going to take credit for bipartisan support for his attack on Syria. Maxine Waters will remain the face of never-Trumpism on the Dem left. Nuff said. The more pragmatic, such as the three Dems who voted for confirmation, will join Warren on big bank reform.

Trump failed every single day during his campaign according to the experts here and elsewhere right up until he won. Trump failed every single day during his first one hundred days right up until Dems caved and gave him his Supreme Court victory and his attack on Assad’s air bases an empty threat under O.

The grand finale of ‘Political Apprentice’ occurs in four years. A gripping drama needs pitfalls to keep the audience engaged. Snatching victory from the jaws of certain defeat make the victory all that much sweeter for the victors, and galling for the defeated – that would be all the Trump haters.
Trump needed to defeat some of his enemies in the first hundred days and retain his allies. He allowed Ryan and company to screw up, after all the empty threats Dems caved, the media scored focused on bright shiny objects and continue to serve Trump.
The next hundred days should be every bit as exciting.
See you then!
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/04/07/trump-screws-up-glitz-racks-up-wins.html

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bruce wilder 04.08.17 at 4:53 am

J-D @ 132

Why do you suppose people argue, not particularly about politics but including politics? Serious question, though I do not have an answer I find completely satisfactory. I am curious if you have considered any hypotheses while developing your understanding of politics and collective choice.

. . . who is [it] that you want to hear or acknowledge those critiques but is not doing so?

I think you can see the dynamic in microcosm on this thread. There’s a split on the left and not much generosity in interpreting interlocutors among those most determined to defend the record of the Obama-Clinton establishment.

the merits of the argument that in the moment when you’re in the voting booth and have to choose, voting for the Democratic candidate is the best choice available.

My objection to the Lesser Evil Argument has always been to the distorting psychological effect on the target’s political perceptions and appreciation. The LEA is a tactic in persuasion that I think has become pathological in the hands of neoliberals.

I have no problem with someone doing as you described, coldly assessing the choice in November and exercising personal judgment in choosing the Democrat and moving on, without much enthusiasm (because realistically there’s no cause for enthusiasm).

My objection to the Lesser Evil Argument begins with a demur to the notion that a vote is a morally significant choice presented to the individual. The connection to consequences, as I commented earlier, is so highly attenuated in so many ways that it is scarcely credible to rely on a speculative projection. If you are acting in solidarity and concert with a political movement of some kind, that changes the calculus; you are putting faith in the movement, and if the movement is large enough, the group acting in concert may affect the outcome of both the immediate election and other events to follow by concerted action. But, the Lesser Evil Argument is not addressed to collective movements in the sense of purposeful membership organizations; the Lesser Evil Argument is addressed to the individual perhaps thru that individual’s social identity, which is not the same as membership in a purposeful, formal organization. The Lesser Evil Argument is addressed — to leave aside the varnish — to people who are powerless and do not want to admit it, people who are trapped by decisions and choices made much earlier in the electoral process by others, and (this is vitally important) will be trapped by choices made much later by the elected and those who are politically organized and will continue to participate in political processes long after election day.

For those using it as a persuasion tactic, there are two important features to the LEA: one is that differences can be exaggerated or misrepresented in favor of one candidate by conventional means of broadcast marketing; the other is that the formula is laden with irony, an effective emetic for those nauseous with cognitive dissonance or other dissatisfactions.

Since the target of the LEA is not a member of anything and will be powerless after the vote is cast, the target is invited to resolve any doubts into differences with a net positive for the favored candidate and indulge in projective speculations that further reduce anxiety and doubt. It is a prescription for an inverted totalitarianism peopled by zombie voters. (Cf Sheldon Wolin)

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nastywoman 04.08.17 at 5:16 am

@157

‘The next hundred days should be every bit as exciting.’

For sure – as with the exception of his latest… lets call it ‘bombing’ – Trump is without any doubt the most… let’s call it ‘hilarious’? or ‘entertaining’? so called ‘President we ever had.
And he never will fail in the coming years to make Americas Comedians so ‘great’ again -that comedy finally will become the most relevant political commentary -(if it IS not already)
And as you ‘rightly’ write – ‘with a press who few read’ readers like me who are really not interested in ‘politics’ get everything we need from the daily funny failings of over… how should we call him to make sure that this comment will be posted? – ‘Clown-stick’?

And as serious as his ‘bombing’ -(in both meanings) – truly is – I had to read the comments at the Breitbart comment section yesterday – which you must have completely missed as these… let’s call them Trump-fans bemoaned his ‘fail’ to the utmost degree – and in ways a very polite -(and serious NYT) never would.
And I couldn’t resist asking these Breitbart commenters if they really believed what they believed – as you do?! And their answers were… let’s call it: ‘very entertaining’.

So – Yes — ‘See you then’!

And as I never could believe

See you then!’

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nastywoman 04.08.17 at 5:30 am

– and to 157 –
if I may?

There is no ‘Lesser Evil Argument’ –
There is only the argument: ‘Don’t vote for the bigger idiot’ or you might be considered as big as an idiot as ‘the bigger idiot’.

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nastywoman 04.08.17 at 5:44 am

– but perhaps a last question for Nr.157 who wrote: ‘a gripping drama needs pitfalls to keep the audience engaged. Snatching victory from the jaws of certain defeat make the victory all that much sweeter for the victors, and galling for the defeated – that would be all the Trump haters.’

Not from Europe -(where I’m writing from)
Here the ‘winnings’ of Trump already turning into wonderful defeats of the nasty right-wingers – and so the only question remains: How long will it take until – besides California and NY – also the rest of ‘teh homeland’ comes to it’s true senses?

Really eight years?

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SusanC 04.08.17 at 8:39 am

@bruce wilder.

I also have deep misgivings about the lesser evil argument, on the grounds that it is morally corrupting. (E.g. In the uk, MPs who have pitched themselves to the voters as the Lesser Evil are on tricky ground when they try to oppose Ken Livingston, as theyve already argued that you should vote for someone you think is “evil” if they claim to be able to give you something you want).

However, I think the LEA is just as easily deployed to members of organozations. The way it goes is that the member is encouraged to remain a member, even thiugh they have deep misgivings about some of the organizations policies, on the grounds that this is the only way to get what you want.

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J-D 04.08.17 at 8:47 am

Hidari

A line of reasoning which goes like this —
Premise: Supporting the Dollfuss coup in 1934 was a worse choice than not supporting it
Conclusion: Voting Democratic in a US Presidential election is a worse choice than not voting
— is obviously hopelessly inadequate. The gap between premise and conclusion is so great that it doesn’t matter whether the premise is true.

I can’t see any evidence or any line of reasoning to support the conclusion that not voting Democratic in a US Presidential election produces better outcomes than voting Democratic.

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Hidari 04.08.17 at 9:46 am

@156
To the liberal elite*, Trump was Hitler when he wasn’t killing people (or at least saying that he wasn’t going to kill people).

Now that he’s killing people, he’s not Hitler any more.

HRC was never Hitler ‘cos she was always upfront that she was going to kill people.

*by which I mean those associated with the upper echelons of the NYT, the Guardian, the Clintonites in the ironically named ‘Democratic’ Party, and the Blairites in the ironically named ‘Labour’ Party.

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J-D 04.08.17 at 11:06 am

bruce wilder

Why do you suppose people argue, not particularly about politics but including politics? Serious question, though I do not have an answer I find completely satisfactory. I am curious if you have considered any hypotheses while developing your understanding of politics and collective choice.

A little; I’m afraid my first answer may disappoint you because it is that people argue, including about politics, for a variety of reasons. If you want me to go into this further, I’m going to request that you explain why you’re asking me the question, because it’s not clear to me how it relates to the foregoing discussion.

. . . who is [it] that you want to hear or acknowledge those critiques but is not doing so?

I think you can see the dynamic in microcosm on this thread. There’s a split on the left and not much generosity in interpreting interlocutors among those most determined to defend the record of the Obama-Clinton establishment.

That’s not a direct answer to my question, but if you mean that it’s commenters on Crooked Timber that you want to hear and acknowledge leftist critiques of Obamacare, then I have to point out that some commenters here are doing that, and some even agreeing with you. Is your complaint really that some people disagree, even vehemently, with your critique of Obamacare? or if not, how is your complaing different from that?

My objection to the Lesser Evil Argument has always been …

If you study my comments, you should note that I have made no reference to ‘evil’ of any extent, scale, or dimension, great or small.

Are you a US voter? If so, then you are faced periodically with the same choices as every other US voter: to vote Democratic, to vote Republican, to vote for some other candidate, or not to vote at all. How do you decide which of those to do?

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J-D 04.08.17 at 11:58 am

Anarcissie

That has been said before. But sometimes when two choices are offered by the game, both are unacceptable. You have to start trying to break up the game.

If, by the time the next election comes round, efforts to break up the game have not yet achieved success, how are you going to choose (if you are a US voter) between the available choices: vote Democratic; vote Republican; vote for somebody else; don’t vote?

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Layman 04.08.17 at 12:26 pm

cranky observer: “The ACA also solidified the role of large health-claim processing corporations as gatekeepers and processors of health care dollars…”

It would take a bizzare distortion of reality to argue that, pre-ACA, health-claim processing corporations weren’t already solidified as gatekeepers and processors of health claim dollars for millions or that absent the ACA, they would have lost that role.

“Had the ACA included reduction of full Medicare eligibility age to 55…”

Why stop there? Is should have included free ponies for everyone. I’m sure Susan Collins would have voted for that!

for those people not covered by government expenditures, or that

168

Val 04.08.17 at 1:57 pm

bruce wilder @ 158
“If you are acting in solidarity and concert with a political movement of some kind, that changes the calculus; you are putting faith in the movement, and if the movement is large enough, the group acting in concert may affect the outcome of both the immediate election and other events to follow by concerted action.”

I have always seen myself as part of a movement, or something which is bigger than me alone. Perhaps your problem is that you don’t, that you understand yourself as the ‘individual’ of liberal, neoliberal and libertarian ideology.

It’s meaningless. You are part of an ecosystem that encompasses society and community. The individual, as a comprehensive way of understanding society or politics, is a fallacy, even though a persistent one. It’s only ever a partial understanding.

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Anarcissie 04.08.17 at 2:37 pm

J-D 04.08.17 at 11:58 am @ 166 —
Since I don’t believe my votes have any practical effect, I vote, if I vote, aesthetically or intuitively, just like most of my fellow citizens. For example, I strongly feel that it is bad to kill, maim, terrorize, etc., innocent, unthreatening people in large numbers (or even in small numbers) so I won’t vote for someone who supports aggressive war as a policy. But that’s how I feel; there is no calculation I can think of that could be relied on to produce that result if it didn’t start with it as an axiom. I suppose this pretty much excludes me from mainstream American politics, but we all have our deficits and disabilities. Indeed, it surprises me that so many people seem completely free of mine.

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engels 04.08.17 at 2:58 pm

I have always seen myself as part of a movement, or something which is bigger than me alone. Perhaps your problem is that you don’t, that you understand yourself as the ‘individual’ of liberal, neoliberal and libertarian ideology.

I rarely with Val but fwiw this is why I find about 80% of the ‘anti-managerial-financial-global-elite’ politics here annoying.

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William Timberman 04.08.17 at 3:20 pm

Val @ 168

Perhaps your problem is that you don’t, that you understand yourself as the ‘individual’ of liberal, neoliberal and libertarian ideology.

Has it really been established that it’s bruce wilder who has the problem here, and not Val? On the merits of your respective arguments as I understand them, it doesn’t seem so to me. On the contrary, the passage quoted above assumes its conclusion, advances a passive-aggressive insult clothed in the language of an innocent-seeming perhaps, and overall is far nastier than it needs to be given what it appears to take as a provocation. I understand that the pervasiveness, the subtlety, and the cluelessness of patriarchy can be frustrating to those trying to counter its malign influence, but honestly, if you’ve decided that BW is the enemy, I’d say your targeting software needs recalibration.

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Yan 04.08.17 at 3:46 pm

J-D

“I can’t see any evidence or any line of reasoning to support the conclusion that not voting Democratic in a US Presidential election produces better outcomes than voting Democratic.”

The majority of all voters (except 2004), fas well as the majority ofcentrist Democrats, and left Democrats have voted Democrat for 25 years. The long term outcome is Donald Trump.

The best outcomes along the way have been two, two-term centrists who have aggravated the carcarel state, the surveillance state, and the authoritarian military state, which is now in the hands of Donald Trump.

The more interesting question, since we’ve only ever tried voting Democratic in recent history, is how good is the evidence that it has worked better? Obviously, particular policies and candidates are better, but if the swings back to the right are worse, and the swings to the left often weaker, is that sufficient evidence?

FWIW, I’ve never remotely gotten the impression from BW’s posts that he is either liberal, neoliberal, or libertarian. My impression is quite the opposite. It seems a pretty surprising charge.

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engels 04.08.17 at 6:39 pm

By which I mean there’s no sense of class (or race, gender, etc) and willful disintetrst in any of the class (/gender/race) based oppositional movements that, however embattled, do in fact exist—even in US. (Not taking aim Bruce specifically, whose comments are always interesting even if I don’t really feel I agree with the underlying politics. Btw claiming Bruce is a neoliberal seems absurd but I’m pretty sure he himself has said he’s a liberal—it was Puchalsky iirc who vehemently denied this, despite seeming to me to have very similar opinions).

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engels 04.08.17 at 6:50 pm

(Reminds me a bit of the Greenwald/Intercept weltanschauung, which I also respect as far as it goes)

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bruce wilder 04.08.17 at 8:56 pm

Val @ 168

I am alarmed by the extremes of economic inequality we have reached in the U.S. and the unresponsiveness of the political system to these problems.

Since the neoliberal takeover of the Democratic Party in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Democratic Party has gradually ceased to defend the economic interests of the people against the bosses. Both Parties have competed for the support the richest of the rich and very powerful business corporations. They have cooperated in adopting policies that have made economic inequality and precarity much much worse, facilitating economic predation and parasitism.

The two Parties differ primarily on the mostly symbolic politics of cultural and social progress in the wake of the civil rights triumphs and sexual revolution of the 1960s. The Democrats have transformed their historical legacy as a party of out-groups into an identity politics of race and gender; the Republicans have tried to herd theocrats together with libertarians. So, the Parties are not the same by any means, but neither Party establishment is willing to respond adequately or proportionately to the economic interests or needs of their electoral constituencies and chronic unaddressed economic problems are creating a crisis of legitimacy for the system as a whole.

With you and some of the other commenters, I feel like I am caught in some variation on the classic Monty Python Dead Parrot skit. I have brought in the Dead Parrot — the neoliberal Democratic Party establishment (Clinton-Obama) as vehicle for populist redress of economic grievances — and am saying, “It’s dead” which it is. And, you are denying that it is dead and making all kinds of absurd excuses. I know if I keep repeating myself and piling up evidence and examples, it will all end with you telling me I sound like a broken record and I should just get over it.

It is partly a matter of deliberate manipulation by propaganda. There’s still a formidable Clinton organization and media wurlitzer trying to drive a narrative that will keep their aspirations to power alive. Blaming “racism and sexism” (or more desperately “the Russkies stole my email”) serves their purposes, which center on a denial that economics mattered most. The last thing they want people talking about is how policy decisions in the Clinton or Obama Administration got us here, with an epidemic rate of deaths of despair. They need to keep up the pretense that Clinton is a champion of ordinary people (women and children first on the sinking SS Clinton!). The reality, and the management of appearances, is exemplified by this
https://theintercept.com/2016/10/19/a-peek-into-the-clinton-campaign-in-damage-control-mode-from-the-podesta-emails/

More uncomfortably, I expect it is also a matter of class. Neoliberalism has become the ideology of the professional and managerial classes — the 10% or 20% who benefit from their roles facilitating the 1/10th of 1% neglect and predation. These are the people who hear the neoliberal “it’s complicated” and feel needed. They like the cosmopolitanism of globalism as well as the job opportunities. They aren’t sure how finance works, but they want to defend their home equity even if they know it is inflated and their inheritance, too. For these people, horizontal equality is important personally: breaking glass ceilings and all means openings for the fulfillment of personal ambition. They are kind of ambivalent about labor unions and even a higher minimum wage, but love to hear about how more higher education is a solution, because they have those kinds of credentials and want the legitimacy of their claims to a comfortable life confirmed and reinforced.

We are a long way down the road with regard to principles of racial equality or sexual liberation, so it is easier to feel like you are part of something, because there is something, something with a history and a well-worked out doctrine and analysis. But there’s very little yet in the way of political vehicles for movements on fundamental economic issues. Sanders attempt at the Democratic nomination is not nothing, but at 75, I do not expect he will succeed in taking over the Democratic Party from the outside. If Puchalsky was still hanging around, he would say a viable movement an economic ideology, too, and I agree with that. Neoliberalism had neoclassical economics with its grip on generations of college students; we’ve mostly seem to have vague memories of snippets of Marx from 150 years ago — certainly nothing like the vigorous ideologies of socialism at the beginning of the 20th century.

A crisis of legitimacy may well morph into a crisis of a more serious nature. Increasing numbers of people with less and less to lose may serve to focus attention in the event of a discrediting failure.

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SusanC 04.08.17 at 9:00 pm

There’s something almost paradoxical about the Lesser Evil Argument:

– If only a few voters think both candidates are “evil”, the candidates wouldn’t be bothering to deploy the Lesser Evil Argument: it would only win them a few votes, and possibly lose them some support

– But if a large portion of the voters think both candidates are “evil”: why didn’t a “non-evil” candidate get onto the ballot?

– A variant of this paradox: if there are three candidates, and one of two front-runners is deploying the LEA against the third. the very fact that that they’re deploying the LEA suggests that the third candidate has a substantial degree of support, contra to what the candidate deploying the LEA would have you believe.

So, Ok, it’s not quite a formal paradox, and there a several possible resolutions to it, but still.

One possible reaction to the LEA is that its a symptom of serious dysfunction in the organization, and that rather than choosing to vote A or vote C, what is called for is some political action over the earlier stages of the process by which candidates get on to the ballot on the first place.

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J-D 04.08.17 at 10:28 pm

Anarcissie
What leads you to believe that votes don’t have any practical effects? and if you believe that they have no practical effects, why would you ever vote at all?

If you don’t believe that election results are produced by the way people choose to vote, then what do you suppose does produce them? or do you not believe that election results have any practical effects?

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Val 04.08.17 at 11:52 pm

@171 and 172
I wasn’t trying to be nasty to bw, or passive-aggressive, or suggest that he is the patriarchal enemy, or that he is a liberal, neoliberal or libertarian. I was suggesting something more like false consciousness, which wasn’t meant offensively. In fact I thought there was a certain pathos in his comment, as if he would have liked to experience solidarity.

The “problem” I was referring to was his perceived lack of political power, the sense that his vote doesn’t count for anything.

Practically, the reason bw’s vote mightn’t in fact count (if he wanted to vote for the Greens, say) is because of your first-past-the-post voting system. I’ve suggested before that might be the first thing to organise around, but it seems people think it’s too hard.

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J-D 04.09.17 at 12:03 am

Yan
Every event in human affairs, including Donald Trump’s becoming President of the United States, is, from one perspective, affected by a combination of a large number of human choices; in the case of Donald Trump’s becoming President of the United States, the relevant choices include many US voters at many different US elections, choosing variously to vote for Democratic candidates, for Republican candidates, for other candidates, or not at all. In this sense it is true that people voting Democratic are part of the explanation for Donald Trump becoming President, but only because in this sense everything is part of the explanation for Donald Trump becoming President. From a different, closer, perspective, Donald Trump becoming President is (plainly) the result of people voting Republican and not the result of people voting Democratic. Any suggestion that people voting Democratic is the primary or principal cause of Donald Trump becoming President would be either so shamelessly dishonest or so grotesquely deluded that it would have the effect of making serious discussion impossible.

It is, obviously, impossible to compare the outcomes of Democratic Presidencies with the outcomes of Republican Presidencies if you only consider the Democrats’ recent remarkable extended winning streak (the length of which, I remind you, is two), because over that period of (I remind you again) two terms, there are no Republican Presidencies to form part of the evidence base. If you want to compare the outcomes of Democratic Presidencies with the outcomes of Republican Presidencies, I can’t think of any good reason not to look back a century and a half, to get a more extensive evidential basis for drawing conclusions. If you look back over that century and a half, do you find that Republican Presidencies produce better outcomes than Democratic Presidencies, or that both come out about the same, or that comparisons are meaningless, or what?

Or, if you do not want to compare the outcomes of Democratic Presidencies with the outcomes of Republican Presidencies, why not?

If you are a US voter, how do you choose, at election time, between the available choices: vote Democratic; vote Republican; vote for somebody else; don’t vote?

FWIW, I’ve never remotely gotten the impression from BW’s posts that he is either liberal, neoliberal, or libertarian. My impression is quite the opposite. It seems a pretty surprising charge.

I endorsed no such charge.

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engels 04.09.17 at 12:53 am

Also to be clear think Clinton and her cult followers amply deserve all the contempt CTers can muster; it’s the obsession with managers and neoliberalism (which takes the place of any thoroughgoing critique of capitalism) and the periodic shitting on the organised Left and Marxism in particular which rubs me up the wrong way.

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engels 04.09.17 at 1:03 am

Also may have got this wrong but it seemed like the left-Trump line before the election was basically Trump would be less hawkish in ME and he was beholden to Goldman. From the vantage point of April 2017 that is really looking assinine.

182

engels 04.09.17 at 1:03 am

_not beholden_

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J-D 04.09.17 at 2:20 am

SusanC
The resolution of the paradox (or conundrum, or quandary, or whatever it is) is simple: you’re discussing something that doesn’t actually happen. Candidates don’t deploy any Lesser Evil Argument. Nobody ever made a serious attempt to be elected President of the US (or to any other significant elective office) with the appeal ‘Vote for me because I am the Lesser Evil’.

184

Val 04.09.17 at 2:26 am

bruce wilder @ 175
Thanks for your detailed response. I’d be happy to try talking to you if you were prepared to at least try to understand what is wrong with terms like “identity politics”.

If you analyse your own comments, you will see that you set up a dichotomy where there are people like you (sensible rational people) on one side, and practitioners of “identity politics” on the other. It makes meaningful communication impossible.

185

Cian 04.09.17 at 3:17 am

Hillary Clinton didn’t lose because of lesser evilism, or purity. She lost because she was a bad candidate who couldn’t motivate working class, black and lower middle class voters to turn out. The Democrats lost nationally because they don’t have any policies that can motivate working class, black and lower middle class voters to vote for them. Moral lectures about duty, or Nazi Germany, are not going to change that. The fact that so many Democrat activists believe otherwise demonstrates how politically naive the Democrat party has become. The Democrat party is currently a party that loses elections against cartoonishly stupid and corrupt politicans, who push deeply unpopular hard right policies in a country that is moving politically to the left. The Democrats are so politically astute that when faced with a politician as incompetent and unpopular as Trump, decide to focus their political energies on Russian conspiracy theories. At this point critiques of the Democrat party have moved from ideological differences to focus on questions of basic competence.

The only way that the neoliberal wing of the Democrat party can win elections is when they have unusually charismatic politicians like Bill Clinton, or Obama. Whereas the politics of Bernie Sanders are so popular that Bernie Sanders, a man with the charisma of a black hole, can become a viable political candidate.

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JimV 04.09.17 at 4:24 am

Personally, I think the anti-HRC contingent has more of the markings of a cult than the pro- (they seem to believe a lot of things without good evidence, such as that she murdered people, or they dislike her because she doesn’t agree with their pure ideology); and that she is flawed but not evil. Off-hand I don’t know of any USA Presidents who haven’t been flawed. I am less sure of other countries but suspect that may be true of them as well. So for me it isn’t the choice of the lesser evil but the lesser flawed/more competent. I have been happier voting for other presidential candidates than for her, but I would roughly 100 times rather have her in office than Trump.

When I joined GE the Schenectady plant had 28,000 workers, mostly factory workers, with a strong and hostile union (IEEE) which went on strike for one to six months every three years when their contract expired. When I left the plant had 4000 workers, and was one of the only two remaining stream turbine plants out of the seven that had existed. This was one department of GE, and not the one hit hardest. NAFTA exacerbated the process, but Welch made more than half his cuts before NAFTA. The jobs were outsourced to Germany, Japan, and South Korea; only the last lot went to Mexico. Conventional wisdom at GE prior to Welch was that you plowed your profits back into Research and Development. R&D was Welch’s #1 place to start cutting.

Which is to say, short-sighted management and short-sighted unions accounted for much of GE’s contribution to the lack of good jobs, and Welch’s methods became popular in other large companies. I’m not sure what the government could have done to recognize and prevent this before it was too late, given our society’s prediction for capitalism; or what it will do about it now. Those factory jobs are not coming back. (Infrastructure spending would be a good start; but current indications are that the only infrastructure Trump wants to fund is military.)

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Val 04.09.17 at 7:25 am

bruce wilder @ 175
Actually I take back my previous response. Your comment deserved better. I think I’ve just spent so long on CT arguing against the use of the term ‘identity politics’ that I switch off when I see it.

Nevertheless, your comment seems to suggest that those concerned with issues of race and gender are not concerned with economic inequality. Is this what you meant?

Also the whole reflexive anti-Clinton thing annoys me – I suggest her position was much more nuanced than you allow, and I think this dividing CT commenters into pro- or anti-Clinton camps is a barrier to useful discussion (engels please note).

I used the ‘lesser evil’ terminology myself, but I wish I hadn’t because it clearly confuses people. I should have stuck with my original terminology of ‘flawed candidate but clearly better than Trump’.

Also I’m not going to start shouting on the internet again, but I do want to remind you that the Clinton/Trump comparisons were being made in the context of an election in which the choice was between them. People can say ‘I support Clinton’ in that context without in any sense meaning they agree with her on every issue.

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faustusnotes 04.09.17 at 8:38 am

Bruce Wilder:

the Parties are not the same by any means, but neither Party establishment is willing to respond adequately or proportionately to the economic interests or needs of their electoral constituencies

Here he carefully ignores Obamacare, the greatest redistributive program in generations. But Obama’s democrats were not “willing to respond adequately” to the economic interests of their constituency.

On Obamacare, Cranky Observer observes crankily that

The ACA also solidified the role of large health-claim processing corporations

and goes on to describe the problems this causes. This is certainly an aspect of Obamacare that is a problem, and other countries with multiple insurers (e.g. Singapore and Japan) tend to manage this by rigorously regulating the activities of those insurers. But this isn’t a fault that Obama could just solve overnight, or that Clinton will solve in the immediate future, because there is no constituency in America for regulation of private insurers to the extent required. Obama could never pass this idea – or single payer – past the Blue Dog Democrats, so complaining that Obamacare doesn’t do this is the same as complaining that Americans don’t like socialism. We know that, but it is the preference of the brocialists hereabouts to pretend that there is a big appetite for this in the USA, and only Clinton stands between the socialist masses and their inevitable victory. This might be a nice story but it’s irrelevant to the reality, which is that a large slab of the American population – probably the majority – don’t like government interfering in their healthcare because of Freedumb. As we have seen from the staggering ignorance on display here, understanding healthcare policy is difficult and it’s very easy for the Republicans and Fox news to scare middle class Americans into believing that things we in the rest of the world think of as normal are the first step to granny being forced in front of a death panel.

When I see a coherent plan for how to fix that from any of the brocialists on here, then I might be a little more receptive to their obssessive whining about Killery. In the meantime, blaming the lesser evil for the fact that Americans have no appetite for Actual Good is unproductive at best. Which brings us to hidari with this gem:

In an American context, few people* would have the balls to take ‘Lesser of Two Evilsism’ (LOTE) to its logical end conclusion and argue that Martin Luther King should have devoted his life to putting kinder and more liberal people in charge of Jim Crow, but that’s where the logic leads.

I suspect few people would have the balls to do this because a) half of all people have no balls and b) it’s complete bullshit. It was easy for Martin Luther King to advocate abolishing Jim Crow because he had a supportive constituency, and Jim Crow laws are easy to confront by simply breaking them. There is no constituency to regulate the big insurers, or to have the government negotiate drug prices en bloc, or to have a single payer health insurance system, and even if there was you won’t get that constituency’s goals enacted through MLK style activism because there are no laws to break and no confrontations to be had. You get these things through slow, careful attention to policy-making, compromise, defending established gains, and winning small battles. i.e. through lesser evilism and managerialism.

Of course this kind of process isn’t macho, it doesn’t involve masked men on the barricades, there is no role for beardy theorists with entourages of young radicals willing to die for a cause. In short, it’s women’s work. And we’ve seen clearly over the past year what the brocialists think of women’s work. They don’t want to do the hard, slow, boring work of dragging Americans to a sensible position on bland, boring issues like who should regulate drug prices. They want to storm the barricades and throw it all down and start again with socialized medicine and health insurance executives hanging from lamp posts. Everything they want to see is the antithesis of an old woman working carefully to make compromises that will improve the health of millions by incremental change.

And since there’s no one in America who agrees with them on what should be achieved, they want to blame their failure on the old woman who has made it her life’s work to change America piece by careful piece.

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Val 04.09.17 at 10:17 am

Stirring rhetoric, fn.

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Val 04.09.17 at 10:23 am

Cian @ 185
“Hillary Clinton didn’t lose because of lesser evilism, or purity. She lost because she was a bad candidate who couldn’t motivate working class, black and lower middle class voters to turn out.”

Always useful to remember that the very slight differences (in proportional terms) that you are talking about could have been caused by simple old sexism. America has one of the lowest rates of female representation in politics of all wealthy countries, though Americans here don’t seem very willing to reflect on that.

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engels 04.09.17 at 10:42 am

they seem to believe a lot of things without good evidence, such as that she murdered people

Yep she was US Secretary of State for four years, which she spent holding hands with people and hugging trees

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engels 04.09.17 at 11:09 am

pro- or anti-Clinton camps is a barrier to useful discussion (engels please note)

But like it or not, that’s the fault line in this tedious, never-ending debate. Should ‘leftists’ support HRC as the ‘lesser evil’ in the face of Trump?

In the blue corner: you, js, rnb, layman, …
In the red corner: wilder, puchalsky, lupita, abb1’s various avatars, …

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engels 04.09.17 at 12:22 pm

Other possible contenders for this endless series of Hobson’s choices::
(left) neoliberalism v. populism,
reformism v. doomerism,
race-and-gender-only liberalism v. ‘class-only’ populism

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Hidari 04.09.17 at 3:10 pm

@188

‘ You get these things through …. compromise…’

Yes of course. Always through compromise. Compromise after compromise after compromise.

‘Of course this kind of process isn’t macho, it doesn’t involve masked men on the barricades, there is no role for beardy theorists with entourages of young radicals willing to die for a cause. In short, it’s women’s work. ‘

Golly.

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bruce wilder 04.09.17 at 3:18 pm

Val @ 175: . . . your comment seems to suggest that those concerned with issues of race and gender are not concerned with economic inequality. Is this what you meant?

No. Emphatically no.

I think that if you are genuinely and thoughtfully concerned with issues of race and gender, you are genuinely concerned with issues of economic inequality — the issues are so intertwined foundationally in the social and political order that the human faculties of empathy must motivate both sorts of concerns together. Foundationally.

That said, in the vast superstructure of designer propaganda that is our global political discourse, are progressive concerns with race and gender used rhetorically to undermine progressive organizing around issues of economic inequality?

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Cian 04.09.17 at 3:41 pm

Always useful to remember that the very slight differences (in proportional terms) that you are talking about could have been caused by simple old sexism.

It seems unlikely, given the many many problems with her campaign that this was the single issue that cost her the campaign. Could it have contributed? Sure, maybe. But a better female candidate would have won. Hell, a more likable female candidate would have won.

I’m baffled at this point that this is remotely controversial, but she ran a terrible campaign against a candidate who should have been easy to beat. In addition she handed her opponents plenty of ammunition that they could use (such as the emails – an offsite email server. How bad does your political judgement have to be to think that’s a good idea).

The US is a sexist, classist, racist country with a deeply unrepresentative, corrupt and undemocratic political system, where voter suppression is tacitly accepted. You might want to look at institutional problems first, rather than assuming voter sexism for this problem. Just a thought.

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bruce wilder 04.09.17 at 3:44 pm

faustusnotes @ 188
the old woman who has made it her life’s work to change America piece by careful piece.

Closing in on thirty years of her efforts, she and her husband have an established record of changing America. Ending welfare as we knew it. Taking super predators off the streets. Repealing Glass-Steagall. NAFTA. Reforming bankruptcy to facilitate ripping off the middle class. Intervening militarily without a plan. Building up the Democratic Party to lose control of Congress and most States. (Also changed Honduras, Libya in a bonus round. And, did you know Haiti is open for business? So charitable!)

But, sure MLK had it easy, while our lady of the pant suit has been fighting the good fight in detail for mom, Apple pie, Goldman Sachs and all that is good and decent in a good bombing run in the mideast or a bronze plan with no in-network physicians within 30 miles.

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Cian 04.09.17 at 3:48 pm

JimV: Personally, I think the anti-HRC contingent has more of the markings of a cult than the pro- (they seem to believe a lot of things without good evidence, such as that she murdered people, or they dislike her because she doesn’t agree with their pure ideology)

I have yet to meet any anti-HRC person on the left who believes she murdered people.

And yes, disliking a candidate because they have a different ideology to yours is called POLITICS. Hillary Clinton is not on the left, she’s a neoliberal centrist. Strangely, people who are not neoliberals DO NOT LIKE HER POLITICS. Any more than Hillary Clinton supporters like the politics of Paul Ryan. Is this really hard to understand? Is it really necessary to make asinine arguments about purity?

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Cian 04.09.17 at 4:02 pm

Here he carefully ignores Obamacare, the greatest redistributive program in generations. But Obama’s democrats were not “willing to respond adequately” to the economic interests of their constituency.

I think there have been some pretty effective redistributive programs on the right. Bill Clinton’s welfare reform and Wall Street ‘reforms’ also probably count. Of course those went in the other direction.

Obama could never pass this idea – or single payer – past the Blue Dog Democrats, so complaining that Obamacare doesn’t do this is the same as complaining that Americans don’t like socialism.

The majority of the US popular want medicare for all. I live in a red state and I know plenty of Republicans who want that. Such a policy would also have the advantage of being easy to explain and sell.

When I see a coherent plan for how to fix that from any of the brocialists on here, then I might be a little more receptive to their obssessive whining about Killery.

When you use silly names for people you disagree with, it makes your arguments seem less serious and you seem frivilous.

There is no constituency to regulate the big insurers, or to have the government negotiate drug prices en bloc, or to have a single payer health insurance system,

This is bullshit. Opinion polling and focus groups are pretty clear on this, as is the academic research. Medicare for all, and a public option both are popular ideas.

You get these things through slow, careful attention to policy-making, compromise, defending established gains, and winning small battles. i.e. through lesser evilism and managerialism.

No, you get it through a mass movement that puts pressure on politicians. You get it by proposing something simple and easy to understand, that resonates with what people want. Lesser evilism and managerialism gave us complicated policies that fail to resonate with voters. They’re terrible politics.

Of course this kind of process isn’t macho, it doesn’t involve masked men on the barricades, there is no role for beardy theorists with entourages of young radicals willing to die for a cause.

Hmm. You know that the Bernie Sanders supporters are out there organizing at a local level, trying to get better candidates at a state level, organizing mass campaigns and rebuilding unions. In otherwords hard unglamorous work.

Also, the ‘Macho Brocialist’ contingency has slightly more women than men. So maybe you should stop with the sexist erasure of women.

In short, it’s women’s work.

I’m sorry, but what? You’re talking about managerialism and committees. Things dominated by men in suits. You’re defending working within a political system dominated by men in suits.

And we’ve seen clearly over the past year what the brocialists think of women’s work.

I have no idea what you mean. Why don’t you enlighten us about what female socialists think of women’s work.

They don’t want to do the hard, slow, boring work of dragging Americans to a sensible position on bland, boring issues like who should regulate drug prices. They want to storm the barricades and throw it all down and start again with socialized medicine and health insurance executives hanging from lamp posts.

Evidence please.

And since there’s no one in America who agrees with them on what should be achieved, they want to blame their failure on the old woman who has made it her life’s work to change America piece by careful piece.

Yes, Hillary Clinton who used to be on the board of Walmart, has made it her life’s work to help the lower middle and working classes.

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Yan 04.09.17 at 4:07 pm

J-D,

“Or, if you do not want to compare the outcomes of Democratic Presidencies with the outcomes of Republican Presidencies, why not?”

I want to include *all* outcomes, particularly *long term* ones, which includes the way Democratic failures reinforce successes of the far right.

The question, and I don’t claim to answer, is: which is a better long term strategy?
1) continue doing what has failed, for 25 years, to prevent both the rightward lurch and frequent success of ever more dangerous right wing politicians, as well as prevent the rightward drift of the left party. I.e., actively support things getting worse more slowly on the untested assumption that the alternative would be worse still.
2) strategically boycott the Democrats and build a competing party to force them to reform or replace them.

Frankly, they both seem equally hopeless to me, but it’s not at all obvious that (1) is less hopeless.

“Any suggestion that people voting Democratic is the primary or principal cause of Donald Trump becoming President would be either so shamelessly dishonest or so grotesquely deluded that it would have the effect of making serious discussion impossible.”

No one suggested anything remotely of the kind. Here’s a story:

Shitty Cola named their product for its two ingredients: soda and dog excrement.
Their competitor Shit Cola named theirs less accurately: its only ingredient is dog excrement.

Consumers decided to organize to encourage everyone to buy Shitty. After all, Shit was clearly worse, and maybe with success, the makers of Shitty would decide to reduce their shit to Cola ratio.

For a while Shitty took off, but then began to increase its excrement content. over time it began losing customers. Some thought they should cut the shit, but they decided to change the message instead with a new ad campaign: “we’ll cut the shit if enough of you buy it.”

Their competitor responded with a new ad: “unlike our competitor, we give you exactly what we promised: shit.” They quickly cornered the market.

Question: did the campaign to promote Shitty Cola–in contrast to, say, a boycott–contribute causally to the success of Shit Cola?

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nastywoman 04.09.17 at 4:07 pm

@193 and every comment that follows – these ‘Hobson’s things – are they really necessary?

As an avid student of history I know that things approved tremendously since the Middle Ages – and I don’t have to be afraid to be burned as a witch anymore -(at least in the so called ‘advanced democracies) – so life is ‘good’ – and about alle of these ‘ism’s – y’all might take them far to seriously – as it takes just one Clownstick to render them all ad absurdum – and about this ‘voting-thing’ in democracies – you know that people vote for what they think is ‘the best’ candidate -(for anything) – and this idea of the lesser evil is more or less a weird idea of cranky -(and old?) Americans who walk around yelling f… this and f… that… and is that the right way to do it?
Nooo!

So try to improve!

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Cian 04.09.17 at 4:27 pm

nastywoman – I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but I find your posts incomprehensible.

203

Anarcissie 04.09.17 at 5:05 pm

J-D 04.08.17 at 10:28 pm @ 177:
‘What leads you to believe that votes don’t have any practical effects? and if you believe that they have no practical effects, why would you ever vote at all?’

My single vote has not, to my knowledge, ever decisively altered the outcome of any election or referendum in which I have participated, nor does it seem likely to; nor, when I have participated in coherent group actions related to voting, have the results been any different. In theory, of course, such an outcome would be very unlikely in a large election. However, voting does offer the possibility of increasing the vote for small-party candidates, which might indirectly affect other political processes of interest to me. Also, I do believe the routine practice of voting might be useful in that it offers a mild threat to the ruling class which could become significant if they seem, to the people, to have become unusually predatory, corrupt, or inefficient. Finally, it is often aesthetically or intuitively gratifying to offer one’s opinion.

I suppose there is also a possibility that my vote mystically affects things in general, but so might prayer, the chanting of mantras, or sacrifice to the ancient gods, so this is not a very good explanation even if I do experience that kind of motivation.

People’s choices do decide elections, but the collective choice of a multitude is arrived at differently from the choice of a single individual even though they affect each other.

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nastywoman 04.09.17 at 5:26 pm

Cian – that’s fine – as I finally find posts about why Hillary lost – incomprehensible.

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nastywoman 04.09.17 at 5:27 pm

– I forgot to add: – ‘As We Near the 100-Day Mark of the Trump Regime’.

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Cian 04.09.17 at 7:49 pm

Nastywoman – you misunderstand me. It’s not that I don’t understand how somebody could hold your beliefs – it’s that I don’t understand what your beliefs are, or what you’re arguing for. They just seem to be angry streams of consciousness about…something.

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J-D 04.09.17 at 8:36 pm

Yan

“Or, if you do not want to compare the outcomes of Democratic Presidencies with the outcomes of Republican Presidencies, why not?”

I want to include *all* outcomes, particularly *long term* ones, which includes the way Democratic failures reinforce successes of the far right.

If you include everything that happens in your evaluation as being an outcome of Democratic Presidencies, but you do not include in your evaluation anything as an outcome of Republican Presidencies, then whatever it is you are doing you are not comparing the outcomes of Democratic Presidencies with the outcomes of Republican Presidencies. Why would you not want to do that?

The question, and I don’t claim to answer, is: which is a better long term strategy?
1) continue doing what has failed, for 25 years, to prevent both the rightward lurch and frequent success of ever more dangerous right wing politicians, as well as prevent the rightward drift of the left party. I.e., actively support things getting worse more slowly on the untested assumption that the alternative would be worse still.
2) strategically boycott the Democrats and build a competing party to force them to reform or replace them.

Trying to build a new party that will be better than both the Republicans and the Democrats could be a good plan (have you made any efforts in this direction so far?), but it’s not a strategy that requires avoiding voting Democratic. Do you remember my earlier question:
‘If you are a US voter, how do you choose, at election time, between the available choices: vote Democratic; vote Republican; vote for somebody else; don’t vote?’
Is your answer ‘I vote for the [Insert Name] party because I think building up its strength offers the best hope for the future’? If not, how is your answer different from that?

Question: did the campaign to promote Shitty Cola–in contrast to, say, a boycott–contribute causally to the success of Shit Cola?

You are asking whether an event that never happened contributed causally to another event that never happened, so obviously the answer is No. If you’re asking me questions about things taking place purely in your imagination, obviously I can’t answer them.

In the real world, which can be observed by me as well as by you, the Democratic Party does not campaign on any slogan that could be considered an analogue of the slogan from your fantasy, and neither does the Republican Party campaign on any slogan that could be considered an analogue of the slogan from your fantasy. In real life, if the advertising campaign for any product referred to the presence of dogshit as an ingredient, sales would fall to nil, and if two competing products both advertised the presence of dogshit as an ingredient, the sales of both would fall to nil; just as, in real life, nobody seriously attempts to appeal for votes with a campaign slogan of ‘We are the lesser evil’ — that’s another fantasy.

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Faustusnotes 04.09.17 at 11:31 pm

I find it fascinating that people like wilder and cian claim not to oppose Clinton for sexist reasons while judging her adequacy as a candidate by her husbands actions in 1994 and not the policies she campaigned on in 2016.

I also note that today the “equally evil” trump is going to reintroduce mandatory minimums and the criminal justice policies of the 1980s. So I find the crocodile tears about clintons husbands policies of 20 years ago a little too melodramatic.

And I wonder where is this mass movement for single payer? You talk about it but where are its marches and rallies, it’s barricades and newspapers and graffiti slogans and angry young representatives being misrepresented on Fox News? It’s a remarkably invisible movement, which might mean it’s ineffective and useless (perhaps because the ct brocialists are running it?) or might be because it doesn’t exist … And the brocialists are confusing “polls I agree with” with “mass movement”. Hint: the only mass movement of the last few years was BLM, and you all hate them for being obsessed with identity politics.

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bruce wilder 04.09.17 at 11:33 pm

Anarcissie @ 203

I admired the elegance of your comment. Appreciated.

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Val 04.10.17 at 12:58 am

Arnacissie @ 203
“My single vote has not, to my knowledge, ever decisively altered the outcome of any election or referendum in which I have participated, nor does it seem likely to; …”

I’ve been puzzling a lot over this and similar statements by you and others. At first glance it seems like a form of heightened individualism, as if you think your vote is somehow ‘special’. I’ve seen a lot of sarcasm about this at places like LGM and Balloon Juice.

However, according you a bit more respect, it could be either:
a) you don’t understand the nature of representative democracy (seems unlikely)
b) you prefer some other form of governance (seems likely given your nom)

If b), maybe you would like to expand a bit? It would be more useful than the remarks above, which are irrelevant to an actual election in a representative democracy. What system do you actually want?

The Greens here, when I was a member, often used a system of consensual decision making. It has good and bad points, though I don’t quite see how it could apply to large scale politics like an American election.

However even in a consensual decision making form of governance – even in one that worked in practice as it should in theory – your individual view or voice would not count any more than anyone else’s, which might mean you would never get exactly what you want. In any form of collective decision making, that can happen.

So perhaps you could clarify what you want and how it would work?

In the meantime, when you are talking about current American elections, I note again that the first post the past system does disempower individuals much more than transferrable or proportional systems – other than that, however, your comments about your individual vote seem misguided and irrelevant to the situation actually being discussed.

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Cranky Observer 04.10.17 at 2:18 am

Given that the health care situation in 2008 was moving rapidly toward intolerable (particularly as millions were dumped from their corporate plans due to being fired during the recession), if the Affordable Care Act was the best achievable legislation and congruent with so many goals of the Democratic Party why did essentially the entire Democratic congressional corps run so hard away from it in 2010? To the point where Barack Obama was told not to even appear in many congressional districts? Keeping in mind that Obama won what amounted to a landslide victory in 2008 with votes from many areas that had been “Reagan Democrat” (i.e. Republican) for 20 years, why did the party run away from the achievement of the ACA?

[not that President Obama was much of a salesman for his own achievement at that time]

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J-D 04.10.17 at 2:32 am

Anarcissie

You write that ‘the collective choice of a multitude is arrived at differently from the choice of a single individual even though they affect each other’. If that is true, it seems to follow that your single choice affects the collective choice of the multitude; why would you not consider that to be a practical effect of your vote?

You also write that ‘the routine practice of voting might be useful in that it offers a mild threat to the ruling class which could become significant if they seem, to the people, to have become unusually predatory, corrupt, or inefficient’. Is that in practice one of your reasons for voting, and if you vote for that reason, how do you decide whom to vote for?

You also write that ‘voting does offer the possibility of increasing the vote for small-party candidates, which might indirectly affect other political processes of interest to me’. Why would you not consider that to be a practical effect of your vote? and do you actually and not just hypothetically vote for small-party candidates and, if not, why not?

213

Cian 04.10.17 at 3:18 am

I find it fascinating that people like wilder and cian claim not to oppose Clinton for sexist reasons while judging her adequacy as a candidate by her husbands actions in 1994 and not the policies she campaigned on in 2016.

So let me get this straight. Hillary Clinton is one of the most qualified candidates for the whitehouse ever, but we’re not counting her experience in the whitehouse. So that leaves, what? A mediocre senatorship and a stint as secretary of state? Whatever dude.

In everything I’ve ever read she was Bill’s right hand man, and helped him craft many of his policies herself. Personally I think that Bill would never have made it to the whitehouse without her, but that’s probably my sexism kicking in. She was a hardly a typical first lady (contrast with Michelle for example), which I rather admire about her.

As for her policies… Look, I’m an adult and I don’t trust politician’s promises. Politicians are known to lie and deceive to get elected. Even the female ones. When I see a politician with a long political history, I judge them by that history. To do otherwise would seem deeply naive.

I also note that today the “equally evil” trump is going to reintroduce mandatory minimums and the criminal justice policies of the 1980s.

You should probably explain that to the black voters who didn’t bother voting for Hillary then. Because they’re the people who apparently couldn’t see a difference between the candidates (I wanted Hillary to win incidentally, despite loathing her politics).

So I find the crocodile tears about clintons husbands policies of 20 years ago a little too melodramatic.

Oh sod off. I thought the Clintons policies on crime and welfare were disgusting 20 years ago. I also thought Hillary’s comments on super predators were disgusting when she made them. Some of us have a political memory that goes back more than 4 years.

And I wonder where is this mass movement for single payer?

I don’t know. You seem to have manufactured this argument out of thin air. I never claimed there was one.

And the brocialists are confusing “polls I agree with” with “mass movement”.

To be clear, are we including the female brocialists here?

Hint: the only mass movement of the last few years was BLM, and you all hate them for being obsessed with identity politics.

Oh absolutely. I mean if you ignore the immigrant rights movement. The gay rights movement. The trans movement. Occupy. I mean if you ignore all of those, and a couple of movements on the right, then the only mass movement is BLM I guess…

Because I take BLM seriously as a movement, I have paid attention to what various leaders in it are demanding. They have said a lot about economic issues including minimum wage, single payer and college education. So strangely, while I apparently ‘hate’ them, I also share their politics. It’s a funny old world really…

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nastywoman 04.10.17 at 6:36 am

@206
‘you misunderstand me’

That could be the problem? –
as I’m mainly posting about Trump and one time about ‘these Hobson’s things’ – and you are mainly posting about Hillary Clinton and your believes about Russia and that you ‘have no idea what Val -(a woman?) means – and you want to be enlightened ‘about what female socialists think of women’s work’.

Now I consider myself to be a bit of a ‘female socialist’ but also try very hard to be a bit of a ‘comedian’ and so let me repeat what another (perhaps) ‘socialist’ ‘female comedian said:
“There are plenty of people who won’t tune in because a woman’s voice bothers their eardrums. Their ear canals can’t handle the sound of my shrill voice talking at them about a subject.“

– and that wasn’t ‘angry’ -(as you might misunderstand?)
That was ‘funny’!

And about womens ‘work’ –
“What is the point of encouraging little girls to dream big if any career puts them in the path of boob honkers? There’s not a workplace on land or sea or even at the bottom of a big deep hole in the ground where we’re actually keeping women safe. … Wouldn’t it be so nice if they could go to work without carrying bear spray? Except for the park ranger…

– and that wasn’t angry either – It was hilarious and so finally:

‘America is still a great country and it is still worth fighting for. It has Shonda Rhimes shows and peanut butter and Beyoncé and Lin-Manuel Miranda rap-weeping at awards shows, and it has the beautiful U.S. constitution, which we should probably start teaching in schools. We still get to take pride in the peaceful transfer of power. And if Ms. Rodham’s not in the White House that’s okay — one of those girls is going to be. We still have millions of Nasty Women who aren’t going away,“…

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faustusnotes 04.10.17 at 6:55 am

Val I think Anarcissie is referencing a stupid economics “proof” that no individual vote counts – one of those trivially stupid gotcha stories that economists like to think are a deep and insightful paradox provided you don’t understand the concept of group action.

Cian, if you don’t trust politicians and their promises you will always be deceived and fooled by politicians, who typically do what they say they’re going to do, to the best ability they’re able. That’s why some of us here were pointing out that Trump was going to do mass deportations, and those on CT opposing “lesser evilism” said that was bullshit, then everyone was suddenly surprised when Trump introduced his refugee ban and the ICE started upping their deportation tempo. That’s why no one is surprised that a white supremacist who campaigned on white supremacism has appointed Jeff Sessions attorney general, and is reintroducing laws that differentially punish black people. Because most politicians do what they say they’ll do, and Clinton is no exception, and would have been far far to the left of your febrile imagined killery.

And if you dig around a little in the last year I think you’ll find plenty of commentary from Bruce Wilder and Puchalsky and McManus about how terrible BLM is for focusing on black issues and not class, and sneering asides about where were all those black people when the cops were being violent towards occupy protesters. The veneer of concern-trolling is paper thin in those comments. Hence my comment. Boo for you if you weren’t so contemptuous.

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Cian 04.10.17 at 12:38 pm

Cian, if you don’t trust politicians and their promises you will always be deceived and fooled by politicians, who typically do what they say they’re going to do, to the best ability they’re able.

I didn’t believe Hillary when she was making promises that were inconsistent with things she had said and done in a long political career. Particularly when those promises were made in a campaign against an insurgent candidate from the left of the party. I believed her when she made promises that were consistent with her career. She just wasn’t promising anything I wanted.

I didn’t hold any opinion on what Trump would do, other than it would be fairly authoritarian and stupid, because he was clearly saying the first thing that came into his head. The man’s pavlovian – if it gets a cheer he’ll repeat it. Which probably means we’re now going to have 8 years of pointless cruise missile strikes now that liberals have declared this latest bombing ‘presidential’.

The irony of Trump is that after all the sound and noise we have a fairly typical Republican in power, albeit a particularly incompetent one. A typical Republican is an awful thing these days, but I’d rather have an incompetent one. And given Hillary couldn’t even defeat Trump, maybe we should be glad that one of the more competent Republicans didn’t get in.

And dude, Obama carried out mass deportations.

And if you dig around a little in the last year I think you’ll find plenty of commentary from Bruce Wilder and Puchalsky and McManus about how terrible BLM is for focusing on black issues and not class, and sneering asides about where were all those black people when the cops were being violent towards occupy protesters. The veneer of concern-trolling is paper thin in those comments. Hence my comment. Boo for you if you weren’t so contemptuous.

Despite your insinuations, most people on the left who did not like Clinton supported BLM. Sure there were some criticisms, but that’s normal.

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Anarcissie 04.10.17 at 4:23 pm

Val 04.10.17 at 12:58 am @ 210 —
It is kind of hard to answer your question in the comments section of another article, ostensibly about our sociopath-in-chief. I think I would prefer to live in a communist anarchy, but I’ve never actually done so (although I’ve come pretty close) and I’m now getting a bit long in the tooth for radical lifestyle changes. In any event, the overwhelming majority of my fellow citizens appear not to desire or be prepared for the responsibilities and difficulties of actual freedom and equality, so I have to live with that and do the best I can.

J-D 04.10.17 at 2:32 am @ 212:
‘You write that ‘the collective choice of a multitude is arrived at differently from the choice of a single individual even though they affect each other’. If that is true, it seems to follow that your single choice affects the collective choice of the multitude; why would you not consider that to be a practical effect of your vote?’

The effect of the individual vote is trivial. Someone once said something like ‘When a baby throws its toy out of its cradle, it affects the balance of the stars,’ and this is true, but we do not take notice of an alteration in the business of Arcturus and Betelgeuse because of it. It would tend to make astronomy very complicated, given the number of babies.

‘You also write that ‘the routine practice of voting might be useful in that it offers a mild threat to the ruling class which could become significant if they seem, to the people, to have become unusually predatory, corrupt, or inefficient’. Is that in practice one of your reasons for voting, and if you vote for that reason, how do you decide whom to vote for?’

Yes to the first question. The answer to the second is complicated because every election is different. I would exclude candidates who proposed murder and torture, for instance, and in a national election this might force me to write something in. I recognize the validity of the charge that voting is participation in a coercive system, but I think under present conditions, where violence has already been initiated and institutionalized, the good (threat to the ruling class, etc.) may outweigh the bad.

‘You also write that ‘voting does offer the possibility of increasing the vote for small-party candidates, which might indirectly affect other political processes of interest to me’. Why would you not consider that to be a practical effect of your vote? and do you actually and not just hypothetically vote for small-party candidates and, if not, why not?

I think I said, or meant to say, that individual votes did not have a decisive effect on a large election. Of course, everything affects everything else; see that baby above. I know of one case where my vote might have had a kind of secondary effect: during the war in Vietnam, in 1968, I voted for David McReynolds, then a Peace and Freedom Party candidate who was running against Leonard Farbstein, an organization Democrat who was in favor of the war. Of course McReynolds lost, but he got enough votes to suggest that Farbstein could be beaten, and he subsequently was, by Bella Abzug whose numerous virtues I am sure I need not recite. However, I think my main reason for voting for McReynolds was to leave a tiny mark on history that said, ‘There was at least one person down here who did not go along with your atrocities,’ a guilty, self-indulgent pleasure to be sure.

faustusnotes 04.10.17 at 6:55 am @ 215 —
If my theories are stupid, as you say, it should be easy to disprove them, something I would probably find very interesting.

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Yan 04.10.17 at 5:04 pm

faustusnotes,

My memory may be faulty, but this sounds egregiously, offensively false. I can’t imagine any of these posters sneering about BLM or calling them terrible.

“And if you dig around a little in the last year I think you’ll find plenty of commentary from Bruce Wilder and Puchalsky and McManus about how terrible BLM is for focusing on black issues and not class, and sneering asides about where were all those black people when the cops were being violent towards occupy protesters.”

In general, my experience has been:
Hillary liberals are mostly critical of BLM, to varying degrees.
The Sanders-left is mostly supportive, to varying degrees.

This was also reflected in their Hillary and Sander’s responses to BLM protestors–both made very uncomfortable and a little angry, but Sanders let them speak.

Obviously it varies by individual case, but FN’s overall characterization is certainly false.

Given how often FN mischaracterizes those he disagrees with, I no longer have any confidence that it’s unintentional.

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engels 04.10.17 at 5:15 pm

Anarcissie is referencing a stupid economics “proof” that no individual vote counts

Easy for you to refute if you disagree: give some examples of recent elections which were decided by one citizen’s vote (Supreme Court judges don’t count…)

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Z 04.10.17 at 7:02 pm

@Yan My memory may be faulty, but this sounds egregiously, offensively false. I can’t imagine any of these posters sneering about BLM or calling them terrible.

Your memory is not faulty. In fact, since Rich Puchalsky is not around to set the record straight himself, I’ll quote him from the thread Thoughts on Charleston here at CT.

If we’re going to honor this church, let’s at least honor Black Lives Matter, which they seem to have been involved with in some way and which is the closest thing to a mass movement that the U.S. has right now.

in the same thread he quotes very approvingly of BLM’s platform of shifting from law enforcement to issues of poverty and education. The following is from his own blog in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s election.

If you’re not [into electoral politics], join […] the local chapter of BLM or something else. Stop putting your personal energy into organizations that will disempower you and start putting them into ones in which your allies are your actual allies.

That’s some nasty sneering right there from you, Rich! And since we are apparently talking about him, I recall that he was one of the very few person here who clearly and consistently articulated the risk of invoking the existential danger of a fascist takeover every election year while doing business-as-usual politics the rest of the time, his only mistake being that he was right sooner than he himself expected; a small one compared to the vast majority of us here (including me) who were talking of demographic changes ensuring permanent majority and landslide victories right into November.

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john c. halasz 04.10.17 at 7:28 pm

Most of the pro-Clinton commenters on this thread show themselves to be rather shallow and naive thinkers who deny the obvious, sticking to a pseudo-rationalist intentionalist perspective, without evincing much if any awareness of power apparatuses, (of which elected politicians are only a part, and which are most obviously dominated in the U.S. party duopoly by huge amounts of corporate money), and underlying social structures, which constrain and even constitute choices and intentions. (The claim that lesser evil arguments don’t exist because no politicians explicitly campaign on them is naive to the point of stupidity. Aside from the fact that negative campaigning predominates, never more so than in the recent presidential election, such talk has been around forever and, in fact, it was Bill Clinton with his triangulation strategy who explicitly argued that minorities and left-liberals would have no place else to go, hence effectively a captive “base”).

But FaustNotes stands out as something else. Those posts consist in slurs, sneers, sophistries, polemical misrepresentations, an arrogant sense of entitlement, unfounded claims to superior knowledge, and most of all fierce boundary patrolling with a paranoid-hysterical edge whenever challenged. I’ve met with such Dembot ideologues before, not just on-line, but in real life. They’re utterly lacking in self-awareness as to just how off-putting and counterproductive their attitude is. ANd most of all, desperately evading their own responsibility for the abject political failures they’ve served to bring about. But since s/he is into “role-playing, maybe it’s all just cos-play.

For the rest, Tulsi Gabbard for president! She’s congenitally correct, partly colored, and non-Christian, a three-fer. But most of all, she’s a politician who has displayed public-political courage based on actual conviction, a rarity amongst today’s electoral politicians.

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William Timberman 04.10.17 at 8:15 pm

jch, it’s always seemed to me that faustusnotes has been looking for a job, a comfortable sinecure somewhere in the back offices of the DLC’s Disinformation Subcommitee, if indeed there really is such a thing. Then again, hard as he (or, it must be said, I suppose, she) works at it, maybe he/she already has one — with an armband and Facebook page as recompense, no doubt, as outfits like that tend not to pay very much.

Ah, well…. I used to think that villainy had to be subtle to be effective, but if modern political discourse teaches us anything, it’s that villainy in the modern age can work well enough if it’s merely loud, indefatigable, and inordinately proud of itself. The bantam rooster on a dunghill has no need of a public relations consultancy — an audience of the disaffected, however small — and deaf — is all that’s required.

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JimV 04.10.17 at 8:42 pm

“Those posts consist in slurs, sneers, sophistries, polemical misrepresentations, an arrogant sense of entitlement, unfounded claims to superior knowledge, and most of all fierce boundary patrolling with a paranoid-hysterical edge whenever challenged. I’ve met with such … ideologues before, not just on-line, but in real life. They’re utterly lacking in self-awareness as to just how off-putting and counterproductive their attitude is. ANd most of all, desperately evading their own responsibility for the abject political failures they’ve served to bring about.”

I tend to agree with that, and would cite that very post as some of the evidence. Again, it seems to me we are in the wrong room – those of us who were looking for the Argument Room. (It does help to read the post in a Monty Python voice.)

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Hidari 04.10.17 at 8:58 pm

Vis a vis the interminable HRC misogyny debate I was wondering if anyone saw this:

https://www.nyu.edu/about/news-publications/news/2017/march/trump-clinton-debates-gender-reversal.html

Not saying I agree with it, just adding something more to the pot.

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Yan 04.10.17 at 10:33 pm

The reverse debate story is really interesting.

Speaking of Hillary supporters on BLM, Louise Mensch, who was recently featured in the NYT, thinks The Ferguson riots were a Putin plot.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2017/4/9/1651782/-Louise-Mensch-thinks-Ferguson-was-a-Russian-conspiracy

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/17/opinion/what-to-ask-about-russian-hacking.html

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Faustusnotes 04.10.17 at 11:30 pm

In this one thread we can see McManus saying that Clinton isn’t a real leftist because she “let” her daughter marry a rich banker, that the democrats lost because of feminism, we have another brocialist (Engels I think) saying he wants to see a real left wing party, not one that focuses on sexism and racism, we have hidari claiming the alt right are anti war. This is post election so it’s after the worst of the heat and light died down; in not going to bother going further back to find the thread where rich puchalsky and I argued about how blm are an identity movement because if they were serious they would have supported occupy (and comparing police violence against the occupy movement with police violence against black people!) or the many long, pointless arguments between Val and wilder about how the dems are useless because they’re obsessed with “identity”.

I’ve already done a lot of your homework for you on this thread helping you to understand basic details about the ACA, which you criticize trenchantly though you appear to know nothing about it. I don’t see why I should do your homework for you on identity politics and your own vociferous contribution to the Clinton is evil don’t vote canon. You all know what you said and the positions you influenced the campaign on, and we can all see now the consequences of sneering at voting for the lesser evil. But at least thanks to your fine contributions to political debate the bankers no longer have power in Washington, and then warmongers have been kept away from the red button – right?

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engels 04.10.17 at 11:46 pm

Welcome back, Mr Halasz!

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J-D 04.11.17 at 12:01 am

engels

Anarcissie is referencing a stupid economics “proof” that no individual vote counts

Easy for you to refute if you disagree: give some examples of recent elections which were decided by one citizen’s vote (Supreme Court judges don’t count…)

Gangway! Knowledge coming through!
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_close_election_results
http://mentalfloss.com/article/59873/10-elections-decided-one-vote-or-less

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J-D 04.11.17 at 12:19 am

Anarcissie

‘You also write that ‘the routine practice of voting might be useful in that it offers a mild threat to the ruling class which could become significant if they seem, to the people, to have become unusually predatory, corrupt, or inefficient’. Is that in practice one of your reasons for voting, and if you vote for that reason, how do you decide whom to vote for?’

Yes to the first question. The answer to the second is complicated because every election is different. I would exclude candidates who proposed murder and torture, for instance, …

For what reason?

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Faustusnotes 04.11.17 at 12:41 am

Earlier at 211 cranky observer asked (rhetorically I guess):

if the Affordable Care Act was the best achievable legislation and congruent with so many goals of the Democratic Party why did essentially the entire Democratic congressional corps run so hard away from it in 2010?

Which I would like to answer since I think it tells us a lot about the political landscape.

In 2010 the law was passed but hadn’t been enacted – that started in 2013. So the dems weren’t being punished over that two years on the basis of its effects but its ideology. The republicans attacked it viciously in all their media outlets for the entire two year period, but they attacked it on ideological grounds from the right. Except perhaps in Jacobin there was very little complaint from the left, it wasn’t attacked for being too neoliberal and not having single payer. The dems weren’t running from angry news about the paucity of its subsidies or the iniquity of competition on the exchanges. It was attacked for being socialized medicine, death panels, the government deciding your treatment, it was too expensive, too much regulation. The mandate and the Cadillac tax were flogged ruthlessly. All its most socialist components were used to scare democrat voters in democrat districts. The problem the dems faced in passing health reform is that their voters are vulnerable to neoliberal criticism of their policies but not to socialist criticism. They know that to win they have to keep their white working and middle class voters engaged but those voters are implacably opposed to socialism.

If you don’t agree with this assessment of the political landscape then you can’t answer cranky observers question. But if you accept this then you have to acknowledge single payer has no serious constituency in the us and you also have to acknowledge that appealing to those “white working class” voters is going to make the dems less radical, not more radical. So ask yourself how you can have a political movement that eschews “identity politics” and doesn’t “pander” to “minority ” issues (like feminism ha) to please these people, but also has any radicalism in its platform? Because the compromises made on Obamacare suggest you can’t, and while the electoral college and the senate are stacked in favour of the whitest, most neoliberal electorates, you’re never going to get socialism or single payer.

So how are you going to make the dems more radically left wing knowing that that project will alienate the people they need to vote for them?

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Anarcissie 04.11.17 at 3:21 am

J-D 04.11.17 at 12:19 am @ 229:
A: ‘… The answer to the second is complicated because every election is different. I would exclude candidates who proposed murder and torture, for instance, …’

For what reason?

Oh, the aesthetics, I guess. The whisperings of the spirits. How about you?

In regard to the close elections: the Wikipedia list constitute the numerator; now we need the denominator. Also, I think I specified, or should have specified, large elections. If, say, a thousand people are voting, there is certainly a small but non-trivial chance that one person, or a coherent group, could cast decisive votes. Life in New York City offers few opportunities for such a cosy electoral experience.

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J-D 04.11.17 at 4:03 am

john c. halasz

The claim that lesser evil arguments don’t exist because no politicians explicitly campaign on them is naive to the point of stupidity.

Nobody has made that claim in this discussion. You’re making that up. Why?

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engels 04.11.17 at 5:57 am

Thanks for the knowledge J-D:

…the only modern instance of a United Kingdom parliamentary election being decided by a single vote also occurred in 1910…

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john c. halasz 04.11.17 at 6:58 am

@232:

I’m not going to re-read the entire thread, but yes, that claim was mooted somewhere above. Sorry, I’m not just making sh*t up.

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lurker 04.11.17 at 9:26 am

‘while the electoral college and the senate are stacked in favour of the whitest, most neoliberal electorates, you’re never going to get socialism or single payer.’
Well, that’s not your problem as a Liberal, so why the concern trolling? Your problem is how to get the mythical ‘decent Republicans’ to vote Dem rather than raving racist loonies like Trump. This failed in 2016, so you might consider dumping anything or anyone that might drive away your natural elderly white centrist voters. Like, Hillary Clinton and anything that might be called indentity politics.

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Faustusnotes 04.11.17 at 10:38 am

No lurker, that is not my problem. I don’t live in the USA, I live in a country with single payer and would do my best to avoid living in a country without UHC. I would really like Americans to vote for the lesser evil so that you don’t destroy the earth through your reckless stupidity. Hence the concern trolling. Your idiotic debates about whether maybe the republican conman will be to the left of the earnest democratic lesser evil are a simple example of how dumb your politics is, and why the rest of the world is despairing of having to deal with the fallout of your stupidity.

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SusanC 04.11.17 at 10:49 am

There’s a difference between making a Lesser Evil Argument, and actually referring to it as “the Lesser Evil Argument”. The term is a bit pejorative, so someone deploying a LEA might be prudent to not refer to it as such.

Candidates typically believe in their own policies, or at least try to pretend that they do[*], so a candidate will not usually say that they consider themselves to be the lesser evil: they will say that what they are proposing is the better policy, even if they are aware that a large proportion (or even the majority) of their own party don’t agree with them.

[*] feel free to consider Theresa May an exception to this, along the lines of “I thought Brexit was a stupid idea, but we lost the referendum so we’re going to have to go through with it”. This is not an instance of the LEA.

The actual term “Lesser Evil Argument” has been used by the candidate’s internal opponents (e.g. Jill Stein opposing Hilary Clinton) and by the candidate’s lukewarm supporters (e.g. Noam Chomsky arguing in support of Hilary Clinton).

What distinguishes the LEA, if the person deploying it typically avoids describing it as such? A few possibilities come to mind:

– Negative campaigning, in a contest between two candidates, The candidate makes much of their opponents bad qualities, while swiftly passing over the aspects of their own policies that they know are objectionable to the people they’re trying to persuade to vote for them.

– An appeal to tactical voting, in a race between more than two candidates or a multi-phase election where primaries/leadership contests precede the final election. The candidate implicitly acknowledges that the voters they are addressing actually prefer someone else, but appeals to tactical voting to keep out someone they like even less.

Either way, the LEA is an implicit admission that the candidate’s proposed policies lack popular support.

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Hidari 04.11.17 at 11:24 am

@237

My understanding is that Chomsky only argued that one might want to vote for HRC only in ‘swing’ states. In ‘safe’ seats you should ‘vote for the … third party candidate you prefer, or not vote at all.’

That’s a bit different from the blanket ‘everyone must vote for HRC’ position.

https://chomsky.info/an-eight-point-brief-for-lev-lesser-evil-voting/

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Val 04.11.17 at 11:27 am

Susan I don’t think any of us outside America who are talking here actually think about it in terms of “lesser evil”. In using that term, we are probably trying to empathise with the ‘berniebros’, perhaps misguidedly. As I said, I think o was mistaken to use it. HRC was flawed, but far better than Trump.

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nastywoman 04.11.17 at 12:18 pm

@236
‘Your idiotic debates about whether maybe the republican conman will be to the left of the earnest democratic lesser evil are a simple example of how dumb your politics is, and why the rest of the world is despairing of having to deal with the fallout of your stupidity.’

Well – Hey!! – there is a statement me too -(living mostly outside of teh homeland) wholeheartedly can agree with.

Where I reside – and a few thousand miles around it the people vote for what they think and believe is ‘the best politician’ – and a lot of these voters also might have this simplistic and dumb attitude that ‘all politicians are evil – or think – like supposedly – the majority of
my fellow Americans that ‘teh gubernment’ is their enemy – but still – voters vote for ‘the best choice’ –

And who came up with this stupid and demented idea of ‘the lesser evil’?

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Mario 04.11.17 at 12:21 pm

So how are you going to make the dems more radically left wing knowing that that project will alienate the people they need to vote for them?

(Faustusnotes @230)

From my armchair here, I would surmise that there are many ways to talk about at least some of the outcomes that the left wants without using the incendiary vocabulary of social justice warriors.

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engels 04.11.17 at 2:06 pm

Chomsky’s version of the ‘lesser evil’ policy is very hard to argue with imo and every lefty I can think of IRL (i.e. not on CT) would endorse it.

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Faustusnotes 04.11.17 at 2:26 pm

Marionmy question was about how to discuss basic socialist ideas – like single payer health insurance- without alienating these people. The reality is that in America the people most likely to support single payer are your “social justice warriors” (btw that’s an incendiary term), and the people the dems need to keep in their coalition are white older workers who see occupy as socialist trouble makers and Blm as criminals, and don’t want their tax dollars supporting “those people”. The brocialists want us to stop talking about the issues hat matter to the people most supportive of single payer so that we don’t alienate the older whiter people who don’t want singlenpayer anyway. That won’t work, but the alternative- dragging the older white working people left – is boring, hard work. So they blame the election failure on the identity crowd and then whine that the old white womab trying to manage this coalition of conflicting ideals is a sellout.

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Anarcissie 04.11.17 at 2:38 pm

@232, @234: See @183. (Apologies if this becomes redundant while awaiting moderation.)

Google’s ngram shows that ‘lesser evil argument’ has been around for a long time; usage is fairly steady between 1800 and now.

My favorite is the one with the picture of Satan and the legend ‘Why settle for the lesser evil?’

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engels 04.11.17 at 3:52 pm

Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy: the gift that keeps on giving
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/10/libya-public-slave-auctions-un-migration

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Cian 04.11.17 at 4:59 pm

#230 I don’t really agree with any of your assessment of the political landscape, so the idea that this tells us anything about socialism and its chances (whatever that’s supposed to mean) stries me as dubious.

The reason the healthcare law did badly was because it was complex, wonky and confusing. In addition it contained the kind of market mechanisms that centrist liberals in the US like, but which are politically toxic. And because it involved a market, it required all kinds of enforcement mechanisms that were always going to be a hard sell.

In particular it forced people to buy insurance. Nobody likes being forced to buy something from a private company, particularly when that thing is expensive and the companies are loathed. Secondly the lost union support with the Cadillac tax (again very obvious, very predictable – and something the genius wonks said wouldn’t be a problem).

Then on top of this, because the Democrats SUCK at politics (we’ve just had yet another demonstration this week with the fillibuster), they allowed the Republicans to control the message. Instead of making it about how we’re going to force Insurance companies to sell decent products, they allowed the Republicans to turn it into a debate about how “you’re going to lose your insurance”. Even the death panels thing was an unforced error gleefully seized upon by the Republicans.

The dominant wing of the Democrat part are obsessed with two types of policy that are deeply unpopular all over the world. Complex, bureacratic, market mechanisms – and means testing. The fact that they cling to these mechanisms (neither of which work well) is pure ideology. The compromises in Obamacare exist because it’s a ‘fake market’ based solution. And ‘fake market’ based solutions are always complex and byzantine.

Incidentally, people on lower incomes who’ve had to use Obamacare also don’t like it much as they can’t afford to use the thing. The deductables basically make it useless for people on low incomes. But gotta have that skin in the game, right?

Medicare for All is a popular suggestion. I live in a deep red state and I now regularly hear Republicans ask why this isn’t an option. People know what it is, people who have it like it. Older people are often desperately hanging on until they get it. There are even easy first steps – it would be very cheap to put everyone under the age of 28 on Medicare, as the young are cheap to insure (and it would do wonders for job mobility).

One of the major reasons that the US government is so stacked with Republicans, is that half the population don’t vote. The reason that they don’t vote is that don’t think the Democrats are offering them anything. Some might see that as a huge political problem/opportunity to be addressed.

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Cian 04.11.17 at 5:05 pm

More than 50% of Bernie Sanders support was female. He did better with minorities and the working class, than he did with white and the middle classes. Black Lives Matter supporters made it clear that they preferred Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton. If you call his supporters ‘Bernie Bros’ or Brocialists, you are basically saying that their views don’t matter. You are treating them as if they are invisible. You are also presuming to speak on their behalf.

So hey, unless you want to be treated like a dumb ass racist/sexist – stop it. If you must infantilize political debates this way, come up with something accurate. People under 45 tended to support Bernie. Maybe we should call Hillary supporters ‘Oldsters’.

Also, the group MOST likely to vote for Hillary were the people who supported Bernie – the young. So again, maybe you should do some basic research on what just happened in the election and recalibrate your scolding so it’s at least accurately targetted.

Thanks y’all.

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Cian 04.11.17 at 5:17 pm

@226 FaustusNotes
Your summary of what people said in that thread is completely inaccurate. At best it’s a very simplistic rendering of nuanced arguments – Hidari for example merely observing that the Alt-Right tend to make anti-war statements, stating “I don’t know what to make of this…perhaps it’s just meat for the dogs: after all, even Hitler portrayed himself as a ‘man of peace’ at times”. Whereas you accused hidari of claiming the alt right are anti war. Engels made a pretty standard socialist argument for focusing on feminist issues from a class perspective – and one which is shared by many feminists (how do I know this – well partly because I read feminists). And McManus was demanding that the Democrats focus on the issues faced by poor women, rather than the barriers faced by elite women. As in, focusing on the issues faced by most women, rather than a tiny minority. One can disagree with any, or all, of these issues. But they are manifestly not the sexist, or racist, arguments that you are making them out to be.

At this point I can’t tell if you are just dishonest, or you just are unable to grasp nuance in arguments. Either way you’re seriously blowing any credibility you might have with these kinds of stunts. Argue with what people actually say, rather than these flimsy strawmen you keep creating.

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Cian 04.11.17 at 5:18 pm

@237 Susan C – That is a brilliant way to ‘Lesser Evilism’. Thank you.

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Yan 04.11.17 at 5:39 pm

Faustus notes:

“The reality is that in America the people most likely to support single payer are your “social justice warriors””

This is not true. 58% of all Americans and 41% of Republicans support it:
http://www.gallup.com/poll/191504/majority-support-idea-fed-funded-healthcare-system.aspx

On a related note, here’s a room full of Trump-voting WV miners cheering for universal healthcare:
https://trofire.com/2017/03/15/amazing-bernie-convinces-room-full-w-v-trump-voters-cheer-universal-healthcare/

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bruce wilder 04.11.17 at 8:54 pm

the old white woman, hillary clinton, had one job: to win the election she managed her coalition to satisfy her donors, or at least her largest donors, and she failed i do not blame her failure to get herself elected “on the identity crowd” whoever they might be — i blame her

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nastywoman 04.11.17 at 10:12 pm

@251
– ‘i blame her’

I did too – that she did ‘win’ against Bernie I voted for – and so I never could blame her for losing against Von Clownstick.

How can anybody blame ‘the loser’?
Is that one of these crazy things – like supposedly voting for some ‘lesser evil’?

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Faustusnotes 04.11.17 at 11:00 pm

Xuan and Yan you’re heading into false consciousness levels of denial now. Everyone secretly supports single payer but they all were convinced to hate the ACA by neoliberal criticisms of it? That argument makes no sense and it especially makes no sense given that there is no evidence single payer is popular. Yan cites a single poll now but omits the broad historical evidence that it was highly unpopular when the ACA was passed. Sure the electorate is open to more socialist options now – because Obamacare softened them up. Which is why Clinton was advocating a public option, the first step on the way (Medicare for all below 28 wouldikelg be a disaster as a starting point btw because of its effect on the cost of plans on the individual market).

Another way to think about this is to ask yourself why the republicans were willing to even countenance arguments against the ACA that would never fly in any other high income country. Their propaganda would never be taken seriously in any other high income country but even democrat voters believed it in the USA. What is unique about the USA that dishonest arguments from the capitalist right can sink an idea, but honest arguments from the socialist left can’t bolster it? One answer is Americans are easily fooled and the dems are terrible at politics. Another is that Americans love god, guns and freedumb, and hate socialism. Call me naive but I think the people who crafted americas first health reform and its biggest redistribution of wealth in generations and passed it and defended it are better judges of the truth if that than you.

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Val 04.12.17 at 12:57 am

Cian, I don’t think you are being fair to faustusnotes. I agree he is overstating his case, but I suggest he is understandably exasperated with a group of people on CT who keep misrepresenting HRC. They did it in the election and they are still doing it now.

It is well known that one form of sexist bias is to exaggerate the failings of women and exaggerate the strengths of men. This is one reason I suggest sexism is operating here, though I feel there may also be other, more unpleasant reasons too.

There is clear evidence, presented repeatedly at LGM for example, that the public got a negative view of Clinton based on relatively minor failings like email management. Whether the repeated attacks on her from the ‘left’ in social media contributed to her losing the election (particularly by potential Democrat voters staying home) I can’t say for sure, and absent really comprehensive high quality qualitative research, I doubt you or anyone else can either. But it certainly seems possible.

I reckon a lot of people involved in these debates are being less than honest, and it annoys me a lot, because Trump winning the election is a really serious matter with potentially disastrous consequences for climate change and social justice, amongst other things, which don’t only affect Americans. So I can understand faustusnotes getting fed up.

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john c. halasz 04.12.17 at 3:25 am

@244 Anarcissie:

Thanks for doing my “homework” for me. So it turns out the very person who denied anyone having said that was the very one who said it. Who would thunk it? But to your favorite, I’ll just respond with a quote from Baudelaire that it’s the devil’s greatest triumph to have convinced everyone (or the world, tout le monde) that he doesn’t exist.

For the rest it turns out that FaustNotes is a non-American who enjoys UHC. What’s good for me is not for thee, you dumb ‘Merikans. Such perfect hypocrisy. S/he does such a perfect imitation of a Dembot, with all those hysterically incoherent sneers and smears, that maybe it’s all just cos-play after all. (My favorite one was blaming Jacobin magazine for the political failure of ObamaCare in the 2010 mid-term election. I checked and the magazine had just started in Sept. 2010. Yet the 2010 mid-terms had the lowest voter turnout since the 1942 mid-terms. You’d think some alternative explanation for that might be in order, as well as being an indication of their serial political failures based on their policy “expertise” that have resulted in our current catastrophic impasse).

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engels 04.12.17 at 8:20 am

we have another brocialist (Engels I think) saying he wants to see a real left wing party, not one that focuses on sexism and racism

And here’s what I said;

identity politics isn’t the same thing as feminism, anti-racism, LGBT politics, etc. They’re all needed now more than ever. What we don’t need more of imo is a particular liberal/middle-class form of those things with particular assumptions (meritocratic and individualist), epistemology (strongly subjectivist) and rhetorical style (which often aims humiliating opponents from a position of relative knowledge/status rather than verbal engagement)

HTH

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faustusnotes 04.12.17 at 9:19 am

I’m all for Americans getting UHC, john c. halasz. I just happen to be aware that the type of UHC you get depends on the system you get it in – I’ve lived in three countries with very very different systems and they all have very different good and bad points, and I recognize (and the current generally accepted position on progress to UHC is) that every country gets there by its own unique procedure. For the USA that means the first steps are going to be market based. I’ve just put a post on my blog about this, since coincidentally to this argument JAMA has published a brief overview of three countries that got UHC through market systems.

FTR I think Obamacare is a deeply flawed system that needs major change in order to achieve the underlying goal, but every system was when it was first introduced, and given how long and hard the battle has been to get any progress on UHC I don’t think you should be pretending that a more radical politician than Obama would have got a better outcome. This idea that Obama should have shown leaderly leadership to get single payer and a pony is just inconsistent with the political realities he was dealing with. There is no significant constituency for single payer and there is no evidence of a constituency for single payer. If the Blue Dog Dems seriously thought their electorate wanted single payer, you would have single payer now. And I think they knew their electorate better than you do. It’s a miracle that Obama got any compromise past them, but he did, and instead of dismissing it as a neoliberal gift to the insurance industry you should be seeing it for the massive achievement it was.

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Yan 04.12.17 at 11:48 am

Oh noes! Unfairness to the honorable faustusnotes!

Cian, I don’t know how long you’ve been around, but don’t worry. If anything, you’re being far to kind to FN. Outrageously brazen strawmanning is his standard procedure. It’s so frequent and over the top, I have a hard time believing FN totally lacks self awareness about it, and suspect it’s an intentional strategy. Maybe he enjoys seeing people respond seriously to characterizations he doesn’t even believe.

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Cian 04.12.17 at 1:05 pm

Faustusnotes you might want to stop and recalibrate your argument.

There’s nothing secret about public support for single payer, there’s been solid polling/focus group evidence for it for a while now. Now being 2017, rather than 2010, in case you were confused.

The ACA is not single payer. And Obamacare only became popular when it became clear that the Republicans were going to replace it with nothing. In and of itself it is not particularly popular because coverage is expensive, doesn’t cover all that much (the deductables essentially make a lot of healthcare unattainable to people on lower incomes) and is very bureacratic. For example my friend has it and has a lot of trouble finding a family practice that would take her insurance. I know of several people who’ve been hit by huge out of network charges for hospital stays that were apparently not covered. Yes it is better than the terrible private healthcare plans that were available before. We now have bad insurance plans available at high cost, with a healthcare system with rampant rent seeking by hospitals/the AMA.

2010 incidentally was the year when I finally realized how bad the Democrats are at politics. Faced with extremely dishonest attacks from the right they retreated into wonky arguments that spoke to noone. At this point my criticisms of the Democrat party have less to do with policies/ideology, and more to do with basic competence. If the Democrat party can’t win elections – really, what is the point of them?

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Cian 04.12.17 at 2:28 pm

Val, Faustusnotes accused them of being racist and sexist because they didn’t share his opinion of Hillary Clinton. That’s beyond dishonest and moving into libelous. And what you characterise as ‘misrepresentation’, I’d describe as a ‘disagreement’. If you read Doug Henwood’s book on HRC, or the excellent ‘False Choices: The Faux Feminism of HRC’ that was put together by feminist critics of HRC, you’ll see that there’s some pretty solid evidence backing up these opinions. One can disagree of course, but it’s hardly groundless.

It is well known that one form of sexist bias is to exaggerate the failings of women and exaggerate the strengths of men. This is one reason I suggest sexism is operating here, though I feel there may also be other, more unpleasant reasons too.

Maybe. I’ve always thought that Bill Clinton was an unprincipled sleazeball/possible rapist and that John Kerry was an airhead. If I had to choose one of them (and I’d rather not) I’d choose HRC. She is very good at backroom politics, and creating political machines. Taken for what it was, a patronage machine, the Clinton Foundation is an impressive achievement. However, she seems to be a bad manager, has dreadful political instincts and is a terrible campaigner. She is a formidable power broker, but is a terrible politician. The signs were all there in the campaign she ran in 2008 – that was mismanaged and profligate. Then in 2016, having apparently learnt nothing from that debacle, she ran an equally bad campaign repeating many of the mistakes from the first time round. In another year she might have overcome these things – but 2016 was always going to be a difficult one for establishment politicians.

I don’t think it’s sexist to point these things out. I think a lot of older people, particularly women, have (understandably) so much invested in the idea of the first female president that they don’t want to admit/see these things. As an example of this is the email thing. Even people in her campaign didn’t believe it

The ‘clearest’ evidence I’ve seen is that HRC lost because of lower voter turnout among black and low income voters in swing states. Some of which she didn’t campaign in. The turnout on the left was no different from any other election. Democrats who voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary mostly voted for HRC in the election. The reasons for low turnout ‘seem’ to be due a combination of two things:
+ Massive voter supression by the Republicans (which the Democrat party, and HRC in particular, have been largely silent on).
+ low income/minnority Voters not seeing anything in HRC’s manifesto that they wanted to vote for. Or in many cases even knowing what she stood for. This is based solely on journalist’s interviews before, during and after the election (I’m not aware of any academic research on this unfortunately), but it seems consistent with the research generally on voter preferences.

I reckon a lot of people involved in these debates are being less than honest, and it annoys me a lot, because Trump winning the election is a really serious matter with potentially disastrous consequences for climate change and social justice, amongst other things, which don’t only affect Americans.

Val, we have just seen a total rout of the Democrats at every level of the political system. We saw a presidential campaign that did _not_ campaign in critical swing states. In a year when Republicans are deeply unpopular, against a presidential candidate who breaks records for unpopularity and distrust, they could not win.

And how do HRC supporters react? They blame Putin with Fox News style conspiracy theories. They blame Bernie Sanders. In fact they will do anything rather than critically examine what HRC might have done wrong – and maybe think about how to reverse this catastrophic rout. While the decline of DLC style liberalism was probably inevitable post-2007 – such an utter intellectual collapse was not inevitable.

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faustusnotes 04.12.17 at 3:07 pm

Taken for what it was, a patronage machine, the Clinton Foundation is an impressive achievement

Haha, you’ve learnt nothing and forgotten nothing. Truly this is stupid.

For what it’s worth, while you guys (Cian, Yan, Wilder, Engels, Hidari et al) are sneering at me and making accusations about my motives and background, my responses are being held up and delayed in moderation – I can see responses written after mine being cleared while mine is held up in moderation. You’ve had an easy run here for at least the past 18 months, which is why CT has become a haven for your RT conspiracy theories and for reproducing every right wing conspiracy theory of Obamacare.

Clinton lost by a very narrow amount in competitive states. I wonder why?

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William Timberman 04.12.17 at 3:35 pm

Val @ 254

Hmm…. Accusations of crypto-sexism because the group of people on CT who keep misrepresenting HRC are a) old white guys, and b) when they look at Hillary, they don’t see someone who’s labored her whole life in defense of the downtrodden.

Maybe you have a point, Val. No doubt as old white guys they do have some subconscious demons which they’ll only be able to recognize and master by paying rapt attention to your analysis, but it shouldn’t surprise you if they ask, as a matter of fairness, that perform a similar analysis on yourself.

Anyway, being an old white guy myself, and figuring I might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb, here’s my own take on the Donald/Hillary matrix, written back in September, a month before the elections:

Trump is a bundle of pathologies, none of them admirable. How dangerous they’d be in a President Trump — current liberal hysteria aside — is at least debatable. His advisors might well choose to fence him off the way their counterparts did with Reagan once the Great Communicator’s advancing senility emerged as a threat to their own ambitions. Alternatively, advisors with agendas of their own might manipulate his nibs the way Cheney apparently manipulated GW Bush. This would undoubtedly be a Bad Thing, but we really have no way of telling en avant just what kind of Bad Thing we’re talking about. In any event, what seems clear is that not every bit of bombast issuing from a President Trump’s big mouth would straightaway become policy, any more than has been the case with other Presidents.

As for Hillary — and Bill, Chelsea, and the rest of Clinton inc. — my question is what they amount to beyond their patently obvious ambition. To put it bluntly, we all understand how the Game of Thrones is played. Plausible deniability is its first principle. We earnest reformers do sometimes find the bodies afterwards, but since by definition there are no smoking guns in such matters, we are never, ever, going to find any. (Well, there was Watergate, but that was something of a fluke, and the cover-up very nearly succeeded. These days, I suspect no one would actually give a tinker’s damn who was being stabbed behind the arras. It’s all just part of the game, right?)

So, smoking guns aside, what do I make of Hillary? I’d say she’s a creature of our decadence, no more nor less so than anyone with political ambitions is who’s aware of the real power relationships in our society. Having been outflanked to her right early on, and at the same time made painfully aware of the weakness of the Left, she did what she had to do. Cozied up to the bankers and corporate leaders, made sure they knew that their interests would be safe with her. Made sure that the Pentagon and the CIA were aware that as Secretary of State, she’d learned not to challenge their takeover of diplomacy and foreign policy in general. Reassured AIPAC et al. that whatever Israel wanted, Israel would get. Countered the Republican machinery of character assassination by setting up and controlling up her own lines of communication, as, for example, with the introduction of her own private e-mail server — illegal and all that, but arguably necessary. Faced with the historical Republican advantages of Super PACs, Cato Institutes, ALEC, talk radio, etc., she countered with a money-laundering and influence-peddling machine of her own, the Clinton Foundation, which had the added advantage of giving Big Bill a harmless platform for his seemingly tireless schmoozing, keeping him on the golf course and out of trouble, and providing Chelsea with a leg up on her own political career, should she ever actually want one.

Mind you, I don’t really blame Hillary for all this. Politicians are like cops; they do the dirty work of our society, allowing us to ignore them when they manage to control things, and blame them when they can’t. My problem is that as long as the game goes on, and the energies of our smartest people are engaged in it to the detriment of their own integrity, and more to the point, to the rest of us, their supposed constituents, Hillary is probably the best we can hope for. In my opinion, this is a colossal waste of talent, and given the real issues facing us, we can’t afford to have our most savvy politicians decide to go into business strictly for themselves. Winning in that context is, in my opinion, more or less meaningless. Frankly, I’m not much impressed with the accusation that not voting for Hillary will make me complicit in any future crimes of the Donald and his yahoo followers. It’s a specious argument, manipulative and intentionally demeaning to those of us try to see things as they are, and act accordingly. As I see it, the US has reached the end of its historical rope. Whatever follows is likely to be a lot more chaotic than we’ve been used to, and may well be more violent than we hope for. If so, Hillary’s campaign, successful or not, won’t amount to much more than the swan song of the status quo, which, by any honest assessment, is already long past its sell-by date.

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john c. halasz 04.12.17 at 4:17 pm

@255: Sorry, I made a slip. It was the 2014, not the 2010 mid-terms that had the lowest turnout. (Jacobin magazine still didn’t have anything to due with the 2010 results though). Though mid-terms are usually hard on the Presidential party, Obama’s failure to adequately address the financial/economic crisis and his bailing out of Wall St. not the mortgagors, which should have been strategically his first and only priority, instead of quickly turning to health care reform and premature fiscal consolidation after a minimal fiscal stimulus, thereby squandering his so-called “political capital”, are largely to blame. If he had pursued fundamental economic reform, then health care reform would have been much easier. But Obama was both a neophyte and a thoroughly vetted neo-liberal, so the Democratic party went into continuous decline during his terms, resulting in the current debacle.

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Anarcissie 04.12.17 at 4:50 pm

I am kind of surprised that the ACA is being described as a transfer of wealth from the rich to the less-rich, since it compels people to buy insurance from companies which are operated for profit, that is, with the purpose of extracting wealth from one set of people for the benefit of another, better-off and more powerful set. Those who in theory cannot pay are subsidized by the government, which at least pretends to get its money from taxation. Going by the visible distribution of the social product, I’d say the rich don’t pay taxes, so the subsidies come from the somewhat better-off working people (insofar as they are not funny money.) None of this is surprising in a program which, I am told, was originally constructed by Republicans. As a friend of mine who is sort of a social democrat said, ‘This is the best we can do. We have to pay the rich to be permitted to support the poor.’

In other news, I think you all are being too hard on H.R. Clinton. She’s not that different from the other big-ticket Democrats. The things I object to, like a casual attitude towards killing and maiming foreigners, total surveillance, militarization of the police, industrialization of the prisons, accelerating wealth inequality, cosy relations with bankers and brokers, etc. etc. etc., are evidently just fine with almost all of them. Anyone who doesn’t go along with these things is going to be kicked out of the company of the blessed and electable by the owners and operators thereof. Why blame one if not the others?

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engels 04.12.17 at 7:03 pm

Why blame one if not the others?

On a moral level she’s banally evil but she stands out for being an exceptionally lousy politician.

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engels 04.12.17 at 8:15 pm

To be fair, I might have ended hating her more than I once did, and more than is strictly justified, because of the sheer arseholishness of her liberal defenders.

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Cian 04.12.17 at 8:47 pm

Anarcissie: well there was some mild redistribution in that it was partially paid for by taxes on more expensive employee health care plans.

More generally, it’s inarguable that expanding medicaid is redistribution. And I suppose you could argue that the subsidies for insurance plans are a redistribution, though in a typical neolib annoy everyone kind of way.

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Anarcissie 04.12.17 at 11:33 pm

Cian 04.12.17 at 8:47 pm @ 267 —
faustusnotes @ 107 mentions ‘…. Clinton’s desire … to protect the massive redistribution of money from the wealthy to the poor….’ Moving some money from the upper end of the working class to the lower end, or off the edge of the cliff to the poor, does not strike me as a ‘massive redistribution’ in its context, unless maybe the redistribution is actually upward. (After all, it appears to compel people to do business with profit-making institutions, that is, to be disadvantageously exploited.) What am I missing? What are the profit margins of the insurance companies, the medical industry, big pharma? Didn’t I read that they now take 18% of the GDP?

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Faustusnotes 04.12.17 at 11:57 pm

Anarccissie, the ACA includes a very large tax hike on investment incomes that is loathed by the super rich- repealing this was the central goal of the republicans AHCA, and that tax alone was sufficient to finance he Medicaid expansion and a large chunk of the subsidies (which the AHCA reversed and/or significantly reduced in size as a result). Hence it’s redistributional properties, which are more than the minor taxes Cian alludes to. Also it was not “designed by republicans ” – it has almost nothing in common with the heritage plan and includes a bunch of redistribution measures that no modern republican would countenance. (This “designed by republicans” “heritage plan” meme is bullshit and you could dismiss it as a lie yourself with five seconds of googling).

Yes it requires people to participate in a capitalist market, but almost every UHC plan does – it’s a rare country where doctors and hospital admin are paid the same as the majority of their patients. In the long term the ACA could provide a vehicle to constrain and ultimately civilize those markets, but first the public have to be convinced that regulating healthcare markets isn’t going to slap their granny in front of a death panel. The USA seems to still be a long way from such enlightenment…

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faustusnotes 04.13.17 at 7:54 am

Anarcissie, this is a simple explainer about the redistributive properties of the ACA. A key point from a speech by one of Obama’s policy advisers:

In concert with the effects of the ACA coverage provisions, changes in tax policy since 2009 will by 2017 boost incomes for families in the bottom quintile by 18 percent, or $2,200 (the equivalent to about a decade of income gains), and in the second quintile by about 6 percent, or $1,500, relative to what they would have been under the continuation of 2008 policies,

Also healthcare is 18% of GDP – including all the components of government spending and public health (e.g. medicaid and medicare). I don’t know about whether pharmaceutical companies are included in that number but their turnover is from global sales, not just services provided to the US consumer. And if you are going to have a health care system in a non-socialist setting you need to accept that some of that money – including compulsory spending through taxes or subsidies – will go to rent seekers. The same applies to car insurance, for god’s sake, or to subsidies for poor people to heat their homes. It’s a very strange definition of redistribution indeed if you have to ignore any redistribution which the recipients spend on privately purchased services.

I’m intrigued by how people here can say that Obamacare was a neoliberal sellout if they a) don’t actually know anything about its taxes and transfers, b) don’t know anything about its genesis, and c) don’t know anything about what laws it is similar to. On what basis do you make this claim, if you know nothing about the content of the law? And how can you expect us to believe you aren’t blathering out of simple prejudice?

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nastywoman 04.13.17 at 11:10 am

– and about this Health Care Thing… I always thought that it was just the (hardest) first step to get our fellow Americans used to the idea, that there can be health care insurance even for people who are sick?

And then – like in other civilized democracies – such a ‘law’ to at least ‘cover everybody’ – get’s more and more amended with all ‘the good stuff’ you really need to make Health Care work – and payable – and without crazily outrageous deductibles – like in the civilized countries Health Care always works very well.

And I always thought in the homeland everybody knows about teh above? –
Butbutbut now I find out that’s not the case?

How disappointing!

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MisterMr 04.13.17 at 12:43 pm

@Faustusnotes 269

I mostly agree with you, however I’ll point out that:

“Yes it requires people to participate in a capitalist market, but almost every UHC plan does – it’s a rare country where doctors and hospital admin are paid the same as the majority of their patients.”

is wrong. Italy, the UK and I think many other countries have government run systems (meaning, systems where doctors and nurses are government employees), though doctors are still paid more than their average patient.

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Cian 04.13.17 at 1:54 pm

I don’t hate Hillary anymore than I hate any of the other DLC types. I did get really annoyed with liberals trying to kid themselves (and others) that she was some kind of progressive though.

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Cian 04.13.17 at 3:11 pm

I think Faustusnotes is arguing that because doctors are paid salaries, it’s somehow a capitalist system. Even by his standards it’s a pretty asinine argument.

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Cian 04.13.17 at 3:18 pm

Faustusnotes: The ACA is built around the idea of market mechanisms. Not just in the use of private insurance, but also assumptions that patients will shop around and that market mechanisms will change hospital behavior. The architects of the plan are proud of this fact and have talked at considerable length about it.

When people are saying that it is a Heritage plan, they are observing that the foundation of the private insurance component is built upon a Heritage plan (a plan which was intended to derail public options) – that of forcing people to buy coverage, and expanding insurance markets. Take that away, and the ACA is just medicaid expansion. The rest of it would be impossible.

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faustusnotes 04.13.17 at 3:36 pm

MisterMr, if you check my most recent blog post (as of writing this) I have a report on three UHC systems that use private mechanisms. Also, even though the UK appears to be a government run system, in fact General Practitioners (GPs) in the UK are private contractors employed under a contract by the state – this isn’t a new innovation (like Foundation Trusts or some of their other weirder “market based” innovations), it harks back to the foundation of the NHS when Atlee said he would silence the GPs’ complaints by “stuffing their mouths with money”. Similarly Australia has a single payer insurer but its GPs and some of its hospitals are private run – Australia allows polyclinics, which are generally excellent quality services, while the UK generally does not. Also Japan, although the rules on who can run their providers and how are very strict (much much stricter than the US, unsurprisingly).

The key point is that you get to UHC by whatever is the mechanism most suited to your country’s politics, culture, economics and health situation, and you always have a transitional stage where it doesn’t work so well and you need politicians to work in good faith to fix it, and the public to support the effort. The US has neither of those conditions because the GOP won’t even try, and people like Cian and Yan can’t be bothered finding out how the system works but would prefer to believe the lies they see on RT. Sad!

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engels 04.13.17 at 3:43 pm

The thing that annoyed more than before was endless parroting of the line that anyone who didn’t like her had to be a misogynist. I don’t think that was the party line for Obama.

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engels 04.13.17 at 6:55 pm

Meme from the French election: “To defeat Trump, follow Sanders (Mélenchon) – don’t make the same mistake!”
https://mobile.twitter.com/jacobinmag/status/852593731257716739

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Faustusnotes 04.13.17 at 11:00 pm

You really are impervious to evidence aren’t you Cian? I describe market based mechanisms in multiple other systems and you ignore them; I point out that the heritage plan is a totally different plan and you just repeat that they’re the same; I point you to the details of the redistribution mechanism and you just wave it away. It’s really obvious that you know nothing about the policy or you don’t understand it but you don’t care, because you don’t like obama so his policy can’t be left wing.

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john c. halasz 04.13.17 at 11:50 pm

@269:

“(This “designed by republicans” “heritage plan” meme is bullshit and you could dismiss it as a lie yourself with five seconds of googling).”

Oh, jeez, do I have too? That’s too much homework!

http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2013/nov/15/ellen-qualls/aca-gop-health-care-plan-1993/

And then there’s this fierce critic of HRC:

https://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/27/conservative-origins-of-obamacare/

The tax surcharges involved are a .9% Medicare surcharge on incomes over $250,000 and a 3.8% surcharge on capital at the top rate, which is currently 20%, (i.e. far lower than earned income taxes). In addition, there are taxes on “cadillac plans” and on those who fail to provide themselves with insurance. The total tax increase amounts to ,5% of GDP, far from the largest increase evah.

In the meantime, between June of 2009 and the end of 2012, 115% of all increased income during the recovery has gone to the top 10%, and though that trend has abated somewhat, though not much, since, Fed QE has inflated financial assets and thus capital incomes far more than any tax increase on them. The exact tax incidence of ACA would be highly variable, let alone its effects on wealth distribution, but calling it the most progressive downward redistribution in a generation is dubious and only bespeaks how badly upward redistributive trends, (based on political policy choices, not economic inevitability), have been going for more than a generation. The patter of “progressive” baby steps hardly negates the speed at which the treadmill has been running in reverse.

Since FauatNotes is a self-declared UnAmerican, maybe s/he should just butt out and leave the issues up to us dumb ‘Merikans. Since s/he has shown forth as an unreliable, inaccurate, non-credible and maliciously polemical interlocutor, (with little grasp of basic economics to boot), I don’t think s/he is worth engaging with any further.

Goodbye!

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Anarcissie 04.14.17 at 1:15 am

I think I’ve already (tediously and redundantly) pointed out that normal market mechanisms between traders of unequal wealth and power tend to favor upward movement of wealth, just as the progress of poker games tends to favor those with deep pockets. And this is certainly the case if those who run big insurance, big medicine, and big pharma control a handle equal to 18% of the US GDP.

But there is an additional element in the case of medical insurance and care. Many years ago, the Scientific American ran a short article explaining why market forces don’t tend to reduce the prices of medical care and related goods and services. It’s because, unlike most other things people buy in markets, the consumers in this case have little or no idea what they’re buying, and are likely to be under various kinds of stress and pressure when buying it. The technology is complex to begin with, and many of its practitioners don’t want to explain it even in laymen’s terms. Hence it is arcane and very often administered in an authoritarian manner. On top of that, the insurance business finds it useful to add to the impenetrability of their business with contracts and schedules of formidable complexity. This is not a normal market; indeed, it is odd to call it a market at all.

As far as I know, the situation hasn’t changed any time recently. So the effect of forcing more people into the ‘market’, and of taxing some working people to pay for others who can’t pay for themselves, is to move money upward. Of course this is the way capitalism is supposed to work, so the result should not be a surprise. I agree that some wealth is being transferred downward from computer programmers, plumbers, electricians, steamfitters and teachers to people on Welfare, but overall it’s being distributed upward to those at the top of the system, and the volume of the transfer is increasing. Or at least this is what we seem to observe.

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faustusnotes 04.14.17 at 4:56 am

John c halasz, any plan which keeps private insurers in the health financing market place has to have the three legs of the stool that Krugman refers to – the “Republican plan” (that Republicans did not support) and Obamacare have this in common because they both stole the ideas from every functioning private marketplace in the world (e.g. Switzerland, Germany, Singapore). The differences are important though – the medicaid expansion, regulation of products the insurers can offer, and downward redistribution by increasing taxes on the rich to pay for the subsidies are all parts of the ACA that its critics often forget (or in the case of people here, don’t even know).

I don’t know why you’re trying to conflate health care reform with the basic flaws of capitalism as if they’re all Obama’s fault (actually I do, this is a rhetorical statement). Do you also oppose subsidizing elderly people’s heating bills because some of the money would go to an energy company? Better to let grandma freeze to death, eh?

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bruce wilder 04.14.17 at 6:17 am

Anarcissie: This is not a normal market; indeed, it is odd to call it a market at all.

This!

The genius of neoliberalism is to require us to speak a language of economics that excludes the concepts and terms necessary to even describe what is going on.

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nastywoman 04.14.17 at 1:25 pm

– ‘Since FauatNotes is a self-declared UnAmerican, maybe s/he should just butt out and leave the issues up to us dumb ‘Merikans.’

Yeah! –
‘Them UnAmericans know nutting bout them Healthstuff – they just should ‘butt out’ and leave the issues up to us dump ‘Mericans’.

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dave heasman 04.14.17 at 3:52 pm

fn “Atlee said he would silence the GPs’ complaints by “stuffing their mouths with money”.”

Bevan.
Gold.

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Cian 04.14.17 at 7:52 pm

FAUSTUSNOTES: You really are impervious to evidence aren’t you Cian? I describe market based mechanisms in multiple other systems

One of the ‘market mechanisms’ you described was that doctors in other systems get salaries. Which suggests you don’t really understand what a market mechanism is.

Let’s take one other system: the Netherlands. I’m focusing on it because I just happen to be familiar with it (and because my mate is a hospital administrator there). Everybody over 18 pays an identical premium, while private insurance companies all provide identical coverage (coverage being defined in considerable detail by the government). Insurance companies are only viable because the government acts as a reinsurer (in much the same way governments make nuclear power ‘commercially’ feasible), flattening the different risk profiles. In addition, all companies have to pay about half of the insurance costs (so it’s basically a payroll tax).

In practice it’s an inefficent way of delivering single payer, with the further disadvantage (for people on the left) of being a flat tax (albeit with some subsidies at the low end). Or, exactly what you’d expect from that particular Dutch coalition. It also (unsurpsing to anyone who’s ever studied these issues) does a poor job of controlling costs.

The heritage institute created the idea of the insurance mandate for the US insurance system as a way of keep US insurance companies as an integral part of the system, while preventing the US system from falling part. The Insurance mandate was crucial to the ACA. Take it away and you basically have medicaid expansion, and a few tweaks around the edges (because obviously none of the insurance regulation would have been possible without creating a lot of failed insurance pools).

But yes, you’re right in your incredibly banal way. The ACA is not a literal transcription of the Heritage plan.

Alternatives would have been medicare expansion, or a public option insurer (with a national pool). Both would have worked just fine within the existing system (with insurers offered the opportunity to either directly compete, or offer additional supplemental insurance) – and also would allow the US to focus on spiralling costs. The ACA has been very ineffective in this regard.

Do you also oppose subsidizing elderly people’s heating bills because some of the money would go to an energy company? Better to let grandma freeze to death, eh?

I think his point is that if the energy company is gouging customers, helping Grandma pay the inflated bills is a nice little subsidy to the energy company.

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engels 04.15.17 at 9:40 am

Quelle surprise

If the choice is Macron or Le Pen, many leftist supporters would rather not vote at all
https://mobile.twitter.com/POLITICOEurope/status/852975290691268610

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John Quiggin 04.15.17 at 10:38 am

@287 Sample size 10. Sampling strategy voxpop. Evidential value ?

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Chris Bertram 04.15.17 at 11:29 am

@engels, what people say they’ll do before round 1 and what they would actually do faced with a Macron/MLP runoff are different things, obv. Personally, I’d back Macron from the off, as the only one who is sure to beat MLP in round 2, imo.

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Z 04.15.17 at 1:19 pm

OK, let me increase the sample size by one. I’ll vote without hesitation for Macron on the second round if the second round is Macron/Le Pen or Macron/Fillon. I won’t vote at all if it is Fillon/Le Pen. For the first round, I’ll support the Left/Green in the sense of John’s three party system. At the moment, that means voting Mélenchon.

According to Wikipedia, Macron is indeed the candidate who wins over Marine Le Pen with the widest margin in the polls (not surprisingly, as they are polar opposites) but all polls have Marine Le Pen defeated in the second round against any other candidate, and by huge margins.

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liste_de_sondages_sur_l%27élection_présidentielle_française_de_2017#Sondages_de_second_tour

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LFC 04.15.17 at 2:52 pm

@W Timberman @262

Trump has already done considerable damage just w exec orders and appointments (and new ‘latitude’ for mil. commanders). And, e.g., the 20 million people facing famine in the world, plus those in countries w public-health crises, are the ones who will pay most immediately and seriously when/if T’s proposed slashing of US humanitarian/development budget (incl. conts. to UNICEF [!]; PEPFAR; etc) go through. (GW Bush has publicly pleaded for continuation of funding levels for PEPFAR.)

So the olympian tone of yr Sept. comment, reproduced above, strikes me as, to put it mildly, inapt, esp. now.

A severely malnourished person in South Sudan prob doesn’t care (or know) that HRC was in bed with Wall Street. That person’s chances of physical survival wd be higher w HRC in White Hse than w Trump, b.c the latter is proposing to decimate US humanitarian assistance. (I thought one mark of a leftist was caring about preventable human suffering.)

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john c. halasz 04.15.17 at 4:24 pm

Not to butt in where I don’t belong and where I don’t have any vote or influence, but, hey…everyone else is doing it, so it’s the fashion nowadays! According to the polls, today’s Delphic oracle, if Hamon would drop out, then Melenchon,- (IMHO the only credible candidate),- would likely make it to the run-off round. LePen vs. Melenchon: now that would be an election worth having!

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William Timberman 04.16.17 at 2:33 am

LFC @ 291

The specialists in after-the-fact neoliberal triage can never resist the moralizing impulse, can they? You want to elect yourself Hillary’s Crooked Timber cosmetologist, who am I to say you nay?

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Val 04.16.17 at 7:55 am

Cian et al
I think faustusnotes is trying to tell you that Obamacare was probably the best you could get at the time given that your political system is fucked, and for the same reason any improvement is likely to be incremental.

Your country has just elected Trump, but you’re still determined to tell faustusnotes he’s wrong. Just reflect a little, maybe?

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Anarcissie 04.16.17 at 2:34 pm

Val 04.16.17 at 7:55 am @ 294 —
I was interested in his notion that the ACA represented a massive downward redistribution of wealth. For the last 25 years or so, I’ve lived among relatively poor urban Americans, and since I didn’t see this redistribution I was curious about it.

LFC 04.15.17 at 2:52 pm @ 291 —
Everyone cares about preventable human suffering. This is why, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, the United States government has been threatening, starving, bombing, and invading dozens of countries all over the world — to prevent human suffering. Just ask them.

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Z 04.16.17 at 5:25 pm

Personally, I’d back Macron from the off, as the only one who is sure to beat MLP in round 2, imo.

Honestly, I think you have it wrong here Chris. The reason many people on the left (in the sense of the three party system, not in the sense of the obsolete left/right divide) consider voting for Macron, as pure a soft neoliberal candidate as can be found (and consequently an especially unappealing one from a left/green point of view) is not primarily because he is the safest bet to defeat Marine Le Pen (every major candidate wins against her by safe margins), it is to ensure that the second round is not Fillon against Le Pen, which would be a choice between “la peste et le choléra” as we say here.

If Fillon was in position to reach the second round and if no candidate from the left/green bloc was in position to do so, then this argument would be very valid, imo, but it has been severely weakened by Mélenchon equalling Fillon in the polls and Hamon doing all he can within the bounds of the electoral procedure to make it clear to his electorate that he has conceded to Mélenchon. Personally, at present, I see no good reason to vote Macron if you are not inclined towards the neoliberal bloc (and every reason to vote for him if you are). More generally, there seems to be no good reason at present to vote strategically: whether you are from the traditional catholic hard right (French Romney), the nationalist populist far right (French Bannon), a soft neoliberal (French Clinton) or from the eco-socialist left (French Sanders), there is a candidate strongly and unambiguously defending your political priorities in position to reach the second round. Why vote somebody else?

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Layman 04.16.17 at 6:53 pm

Anarcissie: “I was interested in his notion that the ACA represented a massive downward redistribution of wealth. For the last 25 years or so, I’ve lived among relatively poor urban Americans, and since I didn’t see this redistribution I was curious about it.”

Let me get that for you.

https://www.brookings.edu/research/potential-effects-of-the-affordable-care-act-on-income-inequality/

(Maybe ‘the people I know don’t tell me that’ is a poor way to understand the impact?)

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engels 04.16.17 at 9:38 pm

Tried twice to post a link to a Piketty column (first in French then in English) and each time it got auto-zapped. Anyway: he doesn’t like Macron.

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Anarcissie 04.17.17 at 2:11 am

Layman 04.16.17 at 6:53 pm @ 297 —
In the spirit of ‘Who you gonna believe, me or your own two lying eyes,’ I start with direct observation and immediate report, and I would certainly believe my former neighbors ahead of two senior fellows at a think tank with important connections to the Established Order, a major political party, and a recent Federal administration: for they will know as they write, being senior fellows, on which side their bread is buttered.

But suppose their facts are all correct and in order, and are not artfully framed and filtered? The Brookings paper spends some time handling the fact that the ACA does not put substantial money in the pockets of any poor people; rather, it seeks to provide insurance for them. The money passes from one upper-class institution (the Federal government) to others (other governments, insurance companies, medical industry corporations, etc.) The result of this arrangement is that the poor person’s will, interests, judgement, and experience are removed from the equation. Thus, the medical care which actually results can be problematic. Here are some war stories: The mother of some of my neighbors broke her leg. She was taken to the hospital. The fracture was set and a cast was provided. Unfortunately, the leg turned gangrenous, but no one paid any attention to the woman’s complaints. As a result, she died, rather unpleasantly. In another case, I gave a sick child and her mother a ride to a medical facility to which the established order directs sick children of her type. At ten in the morning, there was a line in front of the building with hundreds of people on it. By observing the speed with which the line moved, I determined that the child would have to wait 12 to 14 hours to see anyone. They decided to go home and try the next day — at 4 a.m., I believe. So the value of the kind of medical care imparted to the poor is different from the value of the care the middle and upper classes receive, regardless of what you may have read in the Times. Part of the reason for the difference in value is that the poor cannot exert much of a choice about their medical practitioners. They are locked in. Some of the practitioners may be motivated to treat them reasonably, but the motivation is not economic.

Curiously I have seen this sort of argument given before: a long time ago, the National Review explained to me that the poor were really rolling in wealth because of the value of all the goodies they received — free medical insurance, free slum housing, free schools, free special education for the lead-poisoned and drug-addicted, free special attention from the police, even discounts on bus fares! — and so on. Perhaps the author of that ingenious piece has moved to the Brookings.

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Faustusnotes 04.17.17 at 9:53 am

Yes Anarcissie your system is broken, and a long way from being fixed. And yes the transfers in the ACA don’t give people cash. But in your current system just giving people cash won’t help them get health care – even lots of cash won’t- because the system needed regulating, and that’s what the ACA did. It introduced income based subsidies and ensured people could use them.

I note above someone complaining that the system doesn’t have a sliding income based payment system just moments after someone else complains that it uses means testing, which has been “shown not to work”. It can’t be both ways, and it appears that no one criticizing it understands how it works. Someone else complains that offering subsidies simply subsidizes price gouging, which is also untrue since the subsidies are determine by your income not the price of your health insurance (which incidentally is regulated – you will have heard that there is a deadline for the companies to make their insurance offers, right?)

The problem here is that you are literally refusing to believe the content of the bill – and disagreeing with each other over what its flaws are – while rejecting any information about it that comes from outside your own experience. How does this make you different from a fundy trump voter who insists that the country is being flooded with illegals and refuses to accept any evidence to the contrary? Am doing what does it say about you that all the lies you believe were sourced from the far right and laundered for you through RT and the pro putin left?

You’re being played, you’re being repeatedly told you’re being played, and you act no better than the born again Christian true believers. It would be laughable if the stakes weren’t so high for the rest of us.

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reason 04.17.17 at 10:15 am

Anarcissie @299
So the poor have gone from having no access to care to having acess to poor care.

But isn’t the real issue here, that in the US the supply is too low. Isn’t the high cost of university education, the artificial restriction on medical school places, the artificial restrictions on non doctor medical service provision (especially tests) and over servicing caused by poor incentive design the crux of this issue. All amenable to policy fixes independent of the ACA. But the ACA will still remain a step in the right direction.

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J-D 04.17.17 at 10:46 am

… the obsolete left/right divide …

People who think the political concepts of ‘left’ and ‘right’ are obsolete don’t understand what they meant in the first place.

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Layman 04.17.17 at 12:41 pm

Anarcissie @ 299, I confess I find your response largely incoherent.

First you claim that the authors of that study must be lying for personal gain, then you cite one of their claims about the situation (that the ACA doesn’t put money in the pockets of the law’s supposed beneficiaries) as corroborating your view.

You suggest that anecdotes are the better way to understand the impact of the law, then offer two anecdotes that don’t seem to be critiques of the law at all.

You complain that the law transfers money not to poor people but to doctors, hospitals, pharma companies, local governments; but you’ve previously criticized the ACA for not being a single-payer system (from which I infer you approve of such systems), and don’t seem to understand that what single-payer systems do is transfer money not to poor people but to doctors, hospitals, pharma companies, and local governments.

All of this seems to be a dance around the actual facts, which are that the ACA raised taxes on wealthier people in order to provide funding to deliver health care services to poorer people; that it is redistributive, redistributive to a degree which no other legislation has approached in decades.

How about addressing those facts? Does the ACA raise taxes on wealthier people or not? If it does, by how much? Are the taxes used to provide funding to offset health care costs for poorer people or not? If they are, how much funding is provided, to whom? Looking at those two factors, which law in recent decades has raised taxes as much on wealthy people while at the same time directed so much funding to poorer people?

It may be that you grant those facts, and your actual complaint is that the ACA fell short in some way; that it failed to transform health care in the US into a true public service, available to all with profiteering by none. That it should have produced something like Medicare for all (never mind that Medicare just transfers money to doctors, pharma companies, hospitals, etc), or that it didn’t transfer wealthy people’s money directly to poor people in the form of cash payments. I’ll grant it did none of those things, but if that is your critique, then I ask you to list the names of the 51 members of the Senate who you believe were ready to vote for that version of the Affordable Care Act.

If you don’t care to address those facts, that’s fine, of course, but then you’ll have to forgive me for thinking that you don’t actually have a serious critique my claim, that the law is redistributive, and redistributive than any other law in recent decades; that you’re just engaging in crankiness, or you believe in unicorns, or something.

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Cian 04.17.17 at 1:48 pm

Cian, I don’t think you can say anything about the bombing of the convoy in Syria because it is being reported to the western press by the Syria Conservatory for Human Rights, who you think can’t be trusted and are in any case just some dude in Coventry. Surely that bombing is just fake news?

It’s been

Layman, that’s a 3 year old forecast. While I would be surprised if there wasn’t a certain amount of redistribution, the problem with measuring this is that you have to make certain assumptions. If you give people 60% of the money they need to buy insurance, but then make them buy insurance, is this redistrubtion? There’s not really a clear answer. What if they can’t afford to make use of this insurance? Have they benefitted, and how would you even measure/estimate the ability to use insurance.

Faustusnotes, while I’m not entirely sure I understand what your latest argument is supposed to be, the problem with the subisidies in the ACA is that it requires poor people to estimate their income. If they get the estimate wrong, then the money will be clawed back from at the end of the year. If you don’t understand why that’s a problem for a program helping poor people, then your opinion on this matter is pretty worthless frankly. There’s a pretty large literature on the problems with means tested programs for poor people. Which I’m sure you’re completely unacquainted with.

It would be laughable if the stakes weren’t so high for the rest of us.

I would imagine the healthcare stakes are pretty low for you given that you don’t live in the US. The stakes for those of us here is that every year our insurance costs become that little bit less affordable. This is true for EVERYONE that I know. Locally the power of hospital systems increases as they consolidate. The big thing that hit Clinton in the fall was the increase in Insurance rates, something that the ACA seems to have done very little to have prevented (despite all the theory that went into it’s design).

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Cian 04.17.17 at 1:55 pm

Val:
I think faustusnotes is trying to tell you that Obamacare was probably the best you could get at the time given that your political system is fucked, and for the same reason any improvement is likely to be incremental.

Indeed, and I explained why I disagreed and then (s)he accused me of being a Russian stooge, told me I didn’t know what I was talking about and then spewed some inaccurate information about foreign healthcare systems.

Your country has just elected Trump, but you’re still determined to tell faustusnotes he’s wrong. Just reflect a little, maybe?

Right, because as someone who suspected Hillary was going to lose in the summer of last year (for the reasons she did lose) and who supported Bernie who would have won, I’m the one who has to reflect. The Democrats were obliterated. They didn’t just lose the presidency, they lost both houses and they lost the states. They lost at local elections. The Democrat strategy was a total failure. And yet Faustusnotes, who seems to think the Democrat political strategy is just fine, is the one who should be listened to?

No, you’re right. I’m wrong, Faustusnotes is correct. Hillary Clinton didn’t fail Democrats – the voters failed Hillary Clinton. People need to remember that going forward, and we need to build a political strategy around it. Flawless.

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Yan 04.17.17 at 5:04 pm

Val: “Your country has just elected Trump, but you’re still determined to tell faustusnotes he’s wrong. Just reflect a little, maybe?”

faustusnotes: “You’re being played, you’re being repeatedly told you’re being played, and you act no better than the born again Christian true believers.”

I find this thread so discouraging. It really endangers what little hope I have of the left consolidating its forces against the right and winning ground in future elections.

I literally cannot conceive how anyone could claim Cian is not very seriously reflecting on precisely the issue that Trump has won–in particular, on why he has won.

Can and others have reflected and have sincerely drawn a different conclusion, is that really so hard to imagine?

It’s unimaginable to me that anyone who disagrees with Cian’s posts could find them lacking in reflection, even if they were mistaken (which they aren’t). Just unimaginable.

If faustusnotes can’t tell the difference between Cian’s thoughtful, informed, reasonable disagreement and some imagined dogmatic born-again right-winger, then it tells us more about FT than Cian.

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john c. halasz 04.17.17 at 6:12 pm

Faustnotes is up to the same loopy sophistries again. There is no contradiction between objecting to means-testing, i.e. restricted minority programs, rather than universal welfare benefits, which on any decent reading would include sliding income features. In general, programs for fundamental, (rather than piece-meal, patchwork) reform should be fairly simple, so as to be readily understandable to everyday low-information voters, and universal, so as to provide at least some tangible benefit to the majority of the population, (such as significantly constraining the growth of healthcare costs). Layman offers a bespoke paper from 2014 on *potential* benefits from ACA, turning on how benefits are to be accounted as “income”, a vexed and wonky issue. But it doesn’t remotely address overall distributive issues, which might worsen, despite the claimed 6% aggregate redistribution to the bottom 20% counterfactual, (which would also involve redistribution from healthy to unhealthy poor people). And since the subsidies pass immediately to the insurance companies and thus to the overall corporate health care system, it is irrelevant that the subsidies are based in income, (though income does determine the level of insurance plan one could afford), such that price-gouging continues to occur. (One of the first features that was traded away in the ACA negotiations was across-the-board group negotiation on pharmaceutical and medical equipment prices). Furthermore, there is no acknowledgement that the partial failure of the ACA was a significant factor in Trump’s slight electoral victory, since, though there was community rating, there was no requirement that insurance companies provide their “offers” in any given community, if not profitable to them, despite the companies overall profitability via ACA, another version of adverse selection. And the withdrawals of such “offers” occurred especially in rural areas, Trumplandia, to go with the 22% announced rise in premiums.

Faustnotes has stated that other countries fund UHC systems with insurance exchanges, which is true. But in international comparisons, such systems tend to be the least effective in cost containment. In the case of Switzerland, they held a national referendum, (since that is how things are done in cantonal Switzerland), and the Swiss voted overwhelmingly to switch their exchange from a for-profit to a non-profit basis. But Faustnotes would rather impute ignorance to others than than account for his/her obfuscations. And the idea that there is a “pro-Putin left” in league with Trump fundies is laughable. This is just the neo-McCarthyite smear that the Clintonoid Dembots have indulged in for the past 5 months running, to throw shade and avoid taking any responsibility for their own abject failure, while keeping control of their power apparatus. (Their sense of entitlement would not allow for any such thing, ’cause their all winners!) As Bernie, (not a fan), succinctly put it, there are Democrats who would rather go down with the Titanic so long as they have a first class ticket, (Robert Michels’ “iron law of institutions”).

I ran into a long-time VT environmental activist while tabling at the farmers market last Sat., maybe 65, reliably green and left-leaning, but maybe not so reliably, (a problem with greenies), who said he’d given up on national politics, and preferred to focus on local projects and programs, where he might have some effect, (a typical VT sentiment). I remarked that this last election was not a lesser evil election, but a choice between equal if differently compounded evils, not a Hobson’s choice, Hillary or else The Donald, and he replied, yes, it was a Sophie’s choice election.

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engels 04.17.17 at 6:25 pm

France, run-off scenarios, Terrain poll:

#Mélenchon/#Macron: 42% / 58%
Mélenchon/#Le Pen: 64% / 36%
Mélenchon/#Fillon: 60% / 40%

#Sondage
https://mobile.twitter.com/EuropeElects/status/854034335657283586

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Anarcissie 04.17.17 at 7:13 pm

Layman 04.17.17 at 12:41 pm @
‘First you claim that the authors of that study must be lying for personal gain, then you cite one of their claims about the situation (that the ACA doesn’t put money in the pockets of the law’s supposed beneficiaries) as corroborating your view.’

I did not say anything about the veracity of the authors of the study you cited other than to make fun of their class position and the power structures their employer is embedded in. Then I stepped aside from this en passant, accepted their article as more or less true and pointed out the problem in the difference between receiving cash, and receiving a service of somewhat undetermined value, based not only on theory but my personal observation and experience. The anecdotes were supposed to illustrate this difference, but evidently failed. Nevertheless, the authors acknowledge the problem but sashay around it, as one would expect senior fellows to do.

In the matter of raising taxes on the rich: I am interested in the actual division of the social product and the size of accumulated wealth, of which overt taxes are only a part. As one goes up the economic food chain, more and more ways appear in which those above can extract value from those below. If the rich get richer (in terms of real-life experience (‘anecdotes’), not abstractions), and the poor get poorer, then either the taxes of the rich are a sham, or are ineffective.

I wasn’t complaining about the ACA in general — it is, as I and others have said, even right in this discussion, the best ‘we’ could do under the circumstances. I just don’t see it as a ‘massive redistribution’ (downward; it may well be part of a massive redistribution upward).

Faustusnotes 04.17.17 at 9:53 am @ 300 —
In a monopolistic situation, which is what the insurance – medical industry – big pharma aggregation amounts to, you are probably right: give the poor more cash, and the monopoly will simply raise its prices. On the other hand, if the poor do not receive disposable, transferable value, then the value of what they receive is compromised, sometimes very seriously. Hence my anecdotes above.

310

JimV 04.17.17 at 7:23 pm

To repeat what most reasonable people other than Cian and Yan have concluded, HRC won the popular vote by a non-negligible margin, but lost the Electoral vote due to Republican gerrymandering and voter suppression tactics, plus lack of appeal to those voters who voted against their interests for Reagan and Bush. Bernie Sanders lost the Democrat Primary by a significant margin and would likely have appealed less to minorities and women. What mud the Republican propaganda machine would have slung against him remains unknown but it would have certainly created some. The white evangelicals who were largely responsible for electing Trump might or might not have defected to a pro-choice socialist of Jewish heritage – but to assert that Sanders would have been elected (with strong emphasis) is hardly an appeal to reason. Reason does not assert unknowable hypotheses as fact – or so I imagine.

I do however share Yan’s despair over the human race’s inability to reach reasonable consensuses on policy – or on anything else.

As for the authority derivable from successful predictions, while I made no prediction on who would win the election, I did predict how bad a President Trump would be, and feel amply confirmed in that so far.

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engels 04.17.17 at 8:06 pm

France, Terrain poll:

Macron (EM-*): 24% ↓
Mélenchon (FG-LEFT): 22% ↑
Le Pen (FN-ENF): 22% ↓
Fillon (LR-EPP): 18
https://m.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=608555529341123

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engels 04.17.17 at 8:22 pm

“Your country has just elected Trump, but you’re still determined to tell faustusnotes he’s wrong. Just reflect a little, maybe?”

Iow: my preferred candidate lost the election to a wildly unpopular far right nutcase so perhaps you should shut up and listen to me now?

313

Val 04.17.17 at 9:48 pm

JimV thanks for trying.

engels your comment is ridiculous.

Faustusnotes and I were talking about why America got a cobbled together, imperfect attempt at healthcare reform. However I will try to respond to the broader points that people wish to discuss. It’s very difficult because there are people here who seem, as I’ve said, obsessed with blaming Hillary Clinton for reasons that don’t appear rational, instead of trying to reflect on their election debacle rationally.

So I will try arguing by analogy again because maybe people can see things when they are in a different context.

Following the loss of the 2013 federal election, the Labor party here in Australia elected a new leader. The system – new at that time – is a vote of membership, followed by a vote of the caucus (elected Labor MPs). The more left candidate, Anthony Albanese, won the membership vote, but the more right candidate, Bill Shorten, won the caucus vote and became leader.

Labor led by Shorten then narrowly lost the 2016 election. It was a respectable performance but Labor didn’t quite make it. No doubt there are people who blame Shorten and are still angry that Albanese didn’t become leader, but I have not seen anything said about that publicly, because one thing the Rudd-Gillard battles do seem to have taught the Labor party is that disunity really is death for a political party. One of the main reasons Labor lost the 2013 election was that they were divided and fighting amongst themselves, and there is evidence for that.

I will not speculate here on what part sexism plays in all this, though I think it is relevant.
The main point is for some here: your candidate (Sanders) did not win the party leadership and you seem to have engaged in infighting and blaming ever since. Well tough shit, get over it. A party is more than one person, even in a presidential system. The opposition to the left in America is the Republicans and Trump. Oppose them.

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Layman 04.17.17 at 10:47 pm

Cian: “Right, because as someone who suspected Hillary was going to lose in the summer of last year (for the reasons she did lose) and who supported Bernie who would have won, I’m the one who has to reflect.”

If any explanation was required as to why you need to reflect, you have provided it here. Of course a man who couldn’t even beat Clinton for the nomination was sure to win in the general. Of course having failed to appeal to more minority voters than did Clinton, he would somehow have energized those same minority voters in the general. Of course Republican voters who, in the next, did what they always do, which is join arms and in lockstep vote for the party candidate, would have been convinced to do otherwise by Sanders. It’s certain, as you say.

Yan: “It’s unimaginable to me that anyone who disagrees with Cian’s posts could find them lacking in reflection, even if they were mistaken (which they aren’t).”

Your imagination is poor, and some things Cian says are, indeed, both mistaken and lacking in reflection. Example provided.

Anarcissie: “I did not say anything about the veracity of the authors of the study you cited…”

The implication of what you wrote was perfectly clear. As to your anecdotes, I imagine you could think of many, many, many things you would not like to be decided based on a couple of anecdotes offered to you by a random internet interlocutor. You don’t like the study I offered? Fine, but I’ve offered something, whereas you’re offering nothing.

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faustusnotes 04.18.17 at 12:59 am

When you say you would not vote in a Fillon-lePen contest, you are stating that you prefer fascism to right wing managieralism in one of Europe’s biggest colonial powers. Opposition to fascism is a fundamental principle of the left. We don’t deal with fascists, we don’t accommodate them, and we certainly don’t let them win in preference to the mainstream right. This isn’t some weird ideological idiosyncracy from a Clinton dead-ender, it’s a fundamental principle of left wing politics since fascism was invented. When you say you don’t care about the outcome of lepen-fillon, or Clinton-Trump, you’re saying you’ve given up on a fundamental left wing principle. You cannot be left wing and support or accommodate fascism.

Anarcissie, the real life examples you give do not reflect on the health financing process per se, but on the total organization of the system. To be clear, UHC is not intended to guarantee a certain quality of care – it is intended to ensure access to care, coverage of a wide range of services, and financial risk protection (see here for a basic introduction to the concept). To give my own anecdotes in contrast to yours: My grandfather died of thirst in an NHS hospital, and my mother had to have an operation to remove a gauze left inside her by an NHS doctor when she had her hysterectomy. If you think single payer is great for quality, check the NHS choices website for reviews of specific hospitals – I had to when I was considering seeking care on my most recent trip to the UK and chose to avoid attending a hospital.

The reality is that UHC systems have to choose between the different dimensions of the system that work and don’t work, and the best way for that to happen is for the system to reflect the preferences of its population. In America this means no free lunch, god, guns and freedumb. Just take one look at the recent behavior of your flagship airline if you have any doubts about what your country’s preferences are.

I should also point out – again – that I posted direct evidence of Obamacare’s redistributive impact (equal to a decade of wage rises), gathered after the fact of its passing. You can argue that enabling the poor to afford health care – or get free health care – is not redistributive if you want, but this again is not a left wing position. Imagine Anarcissie in 1945, telling returning UK soldiers not to vote for Labour because free access to health care for all is not a redistributive policy – only higher wages matter. In such a case you would have been advocating a Tory vote. Where does that place you on the left/right spectrum, I wonder?

Finally, US elections matter far more to the rest of the world than they do to you. It’s the rest of us who have to labour under the yoke of your cruelty, your love of war, your religious extremism and your trenchant refusal to face up to global warming. I live way closer to the Korean front line than any of you lot, and I’m probably already in range of one of their missiles. Indians are highly dependent on the third pole for their water. South Koreans are 50kms away from a lunatic army with the power to destroy their capital. Your decisions matter to us a lot, which is why it’s so depressing to see you losing any sense of what it is to be left wing, and believing every right wing lie you’re told about left wing politicians at the most crucial juncture for the human race since we discovered fire.

But at least you have your purity, right?

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Cranky Observer 04.18.17 at 1:02 am

= = = JimV 04.17.17 at 7:23 pm “To repeat what most reasonable people other than Cian and Yan have concluded, HRC won the popular vote by a non-negligible margin, but lost the Electoral vote due to Republican gerrymandering and voter suppression tactics, plus lack of appeal to those voters who voted against their interests for Reagan and Bush.” = = =

FWIW, as a supporter of Obama from the Springfield candidacy announcement forward I think that Secretary Clinton ran a far better campaign than she did in 2008, and did make changes to her positions, staff, approach, etc based on that experience. Still, an alternate explanation of the popular vote/Electoral College difference in 2016 is that she made the exact same mistake she did in 2008 when Obama and his team read the primary/caucus rules in all 55 states [1] and HRC and her team did not. The popular vote win is fun, and can be politically useful if one actually takes the Presidency in a divisive election. Otherwise it is entirely meaningless under the US’ current system.

I tend to agree with Yan: this discussion has followed the same path as most I have seen on Democratic/liberal/progressive fora since about mid-December. With the high level of thought and argument which is CT at its best, but leading to the same cliff nonetheless. There is no agreement on what went wrong in the 2016 election. Or even what happened: there is as far as I am aware no detailed analysis on a precinct-by-precinct basis of how those who had voted for Sanders in the primary ultimately voted in the general, yet there is no end of opinions expressed on that topic. Very strong opinions.

Personally it seems inarguable to me that the 2016 election went very very badly. One weak point of CT is that one gets the impression that many regulars live in the Northeast/Pacific Coast or have secure positions in academic enclaves. Those few of us who actually live in flyover states and have watched them turn from reasonably rational/purple to fully in control of the hard Radical Right over the last 20 years do not have quite the cushion that residents of Massachusetts or California have.

It also seems inarguable that when things have gone that badly for a long period of time, and that affairs have been in the hands of a known and cohesive group for that period, that that group needs to step down, fully retire, and allow a new team to have a go. Yet those of us who carefully, politely, almost diffidently attempted to point out a few problems with the Democratic Party strategy and leading candidate in 2015-2016 are now facing severe counterattack from the architects and operators of that, losing, strategy for suggesting that new approaches are needed. As well as attacks on our intelligence, morals, and political experience from those who serve as the boundary maintainers of the (current) party elite.

We shall see what we shall see. I managed to maintain optimism through the entire W Bush Administration as did many progressives and Democrats I know/interacted with. I’m not sure that hoping for a Trump self-immolation that doesn’t somehow leave Pence in power is a good basis for trying again.

[fn1] in the primaries US Territories and registered party members living abroad with no declared home state have State primaries , raising the number above 50.

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Z 04.18.17 at 12:17 pm

@engels 311

I’d be glad if the poll you posted was accurate, but it does seem to be an outlier. At present, Mélenchon may beat Fillon and reach third place, but it still appears unlikely he makes it to the second round. Of course, he may yet gain the 2 to 3 points that would put him there before Sunday, but he’s not there yet.

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Z 04.18.17 at 12:58 pm

People who think the political concepts of ‘left’ and ‘right’ are obsolete don’t understand what they meant in the first place.

@J-D I take the (fairly conventional) position that the political history of the most educationally advanced societies of the 1800-1970 period has been shaped by the rise in political power of the alphabetized working class and reaction against it. In most western advanced democracies, universal literacy, quasi-universal secondary education, universal suffrage, open access to political positions and a politically dominant middle-class have all been achieved around the 1970s at the latest. I doubt the analytic categories forged to analyze political movements in 1917 remain pertinent in such societies.

Or if you prefer empirical arguments, the current overwhelming favorite for the next French presidential election is the former chief of staff of a socialist President and a former Economy minister of a socialist government. He is (successfully) campaigning on lower taxes, greater acceptance of diversity and multiculturalism, suppression of capital gain taxes, easy immigration, a longer working week, openness towards refugees, lower pensions for workers, strong European integration especially with Germany, financial deregulation, greater acceptance of gay people, a general preference for the private sector, significant cuts in the public sector etc. I see little value in describing this program (which I find highly ideologically coherent) in the usual terms of the left/right divide of the 1850-1970 period. Do you?

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engels 04.18.17 at 1:39 pm

Z, I agree it’s almost certainly an outlier but still interesting imo, as is the other poll showing Mélenchon handily beating Le Pen, rather undermining Chris’ popular front rationale for a Macron vote.

The opposition to the left in America is the Republicans and Trump. Oppose them.

Stop grousing USians and get behind your friends on the Left!

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Z 04.18.17 at 1:55 pm

As I see it, there are two good reasons to vote Macron in the first round: 1) adhering to his program 2) ensuring that the second round is not Fillon/Le Pen (the refined version of Chris’s argument). A crude estimation is that 20% vote for him primarily because of 1) and 3% primarily because of 2). I admit that I have been surprised by the margin of victory polls predict for Mélenchon in the (unlikely) eventuality of a second round Mélenchon/Le Pen and Mélenchon/Fillon. To some extent, this probably reflects the efficiency of his campaign (deemed quite universally exceptionally good), I guess.

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engels 04.18.17 at 2:01 pm

(Personally I’d vote for Mélenchon purely on the basis of the hologram thing.)

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Val 04.18.17 at 3:05 pm

engels @ 319
Are you trying to suggest that I am somehow associated with or supporting corporate business lobbyists in America? Because that suggestion is so out there, so completely ludicrous, that even you might conceivably be ashamed of making it, if you ever stopped to think about what you were saying.

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engels 04.18.17 at 5:02 pm

If you’re telling ‘the Left’ to unite behind the Clintonite Dems that’s exactly what you’re doing.

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Cian 04.18.17 at 5:15 pm

Cranky Observer made the point I would want to make better than I could. I live in the Deep South, though, so I’m probably a white racist.

I have zero sympathy for people who complain that Hillary lost because of the Electoral college, gerrymandering, or smears. Those are the rules of the game – she ran as an insider who know how to win in the real world. And then ran a campaign that ignored political and electoral realities. And when they lost they made excuses, including the ultimate excuse: the Russians. Pathetic, truly pathetic.

The Democratic party have done nothing to address voter suppression, or the gaping hole left by ACORN’s demise. Meanwhile the Republicans, who know how to win, have changed the rules, illegally supressed votes and massively gerrymandered states. And they got away with it because the Democrats. Did. Nothing.

And the Democrats lost against Trump. Who is massively unpopular. They lost against Republicans who are despised, whose policies are unpopular.

Layman: minority voter turnout in the primary was very low. Around 10% if memory serves (don’t have time to track the numbers down). Turn out for primaries is generally low, and is pretty unrepresentative of the country as a whole. Hillary also had the backing of almost the entire Democratic party, and the benefit of name recognition (most people didn’t know who he was until quite late in the process). Frankly Bernie Sanders should never even have been a contender.

Could Bernie Sanders have won? We will never know. Conventional wisdom says no, but conventional wisdom has just had a very bad election. Sanders appeal was strongest with Democrat voters who didn’t bother to vote this time (or who voted for Trump).

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Yan 04.18.17 at 6:39 pm

Liberals are already blaming Macron’s potential loss on leftists and Russians. You can’t make this shit up.

Politico: “Meet Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s army of abstainers
http://www.politico.eu/article/jean-luc-melenchon-president-france-election-army-of-abstainers-macron-le-pen/

NYT: “It’s France’s Turn to Worry About Election Meddling by Russia” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/17/world/europe/french-election-russia.html?_r=0)

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Layman 04.18.17 at 6:47 pm

Cian: “Could Bernie Sanders have won? We will never know.”

This is an improvement, thanks.

“minority voter turnout in the primary was very low.”

But there are polls, which consistently showed him doing poorly compared to Clinton among minority voters. Is that not so?

“Sanders appeal was strongest with Democrat voters who didn’t bother to vote…”

And weaker among those who did bother to vote, right? How does that help?

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Layman 04.18.17 at 6:54 pm

Cian: “The Democratic party have done nothing to address voter suppression…”

So you say, but here are Democrats in power suing Texas over discriminatory voting laws:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/justice-department-sues-texas-over-voter-id-law/2013/08/22/ac654a68-0b4b-11e3-9941-6711ed662e71_story.html?utm_term=.9ba17dc0b020

And here are Republicans in power dropping the suit:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/feb/27/justice-department-challenge-texas-voter-id-law/

It took me five seconds to find that. You would do well to rein in your rhetoric a bit, it does not enhance the quality of your arguments.

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Anarcissie 04.18.17 at 6:56 pm

Layman 04.17.17 at 10:47 pm @ 314 — If I may parody one of the Gnostic gospels: I offered you something, but you did not see it because you do not belong to it.

faustusnotes 04.18.17 at 12:59 am @ 315: ‘… purity….’

What’s this, I shouldn’t call ’em as I see ’em? But in any case, I think you can relax about any effect I might have on any election or other political gyration in the U.S. any time soon. Really. The state is safe from me.

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john c. halasz 04.18.17 at 7:13 pm

” for the system to reflect the preferences of its population. In America this means no free lunch, god, guns and freedumb. Just take one look at the recent behavior of your flagship airline if you have any doubts about what your country’s preferences are. “

Of all the sneers and smears that Faustnotes has emitted, this one deserves to be noted and preserved in amber for the ages. It’s not only the extreme reification it evinces and the utter contempt it expresses, (the very sort of self-righteous elite entitlement that lost HRC the election against all odds), but the fabrication that the recent United Airlines (flagship?) incident that went viral indicates popular preferences rather than corporate abuse, that’s so remarkably twisted. If anyone chooses to engage with this person’s emissions henceforth, please note that you’re dealing with a fantastical ideological delirium and not a rational and realistic commenter.

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engels 04.18.17 at 7:22 pm

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J-D 04.18.17 at 8:50 pm

Z

I suggested that you don’t understand what the political concepts of ‘left’ and ‘right’ meant in the first place, and your response tends to confirm me in that opinion inasmuch as there’s no sign that you’re even aware when ‘the first place’ was. It is not the case that they were (in your own words) ‘analytic categories forged to analyze political movements in 1917’, and it is also not the case that their original sense was (again in your own words) ‘the usual terms of the left/right divide of the 1850-1970 period’.

It also interests me that you refer to ‘analytic categories forged to analyse political movements in 1917’ and to ‘the usual terms of the left/right divide of the 1850-1970 period’ as if in both cases the categories and the terms are so obvious that there’s no need to explain them; whereas in fact the definitions you have in mind of those categories and terms is opaque to me.

It strikes me further that it doesn’t seem to have occurred to you that if the political concepts of ‘left’ and ‘right’ were in fact formulated (or ‘forged’ if you prefer) to analyse movements in 1917, they can’t possibly have been usual terms from 1850.

I’m sure your meaning is clear in your own mind, but so far you’re not succeeding in conveying it to me.

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Layman 04.18.17 at 10:45 pm

john c. halasz: “…but the fabrication that the recent United Airlines (flagship?) incident that went viral indicates popular preferences rather than corporate abuse…”

Pithy, but the corporate abuse doesn’t develop and prosper in a vacuum, it develops and prospers because of an ideology fostered by people who vote for Republicans so they can deregulate corporations and free them to abuse people; and put judges on the court, which judges support notions like the one which says corporations can use the threat of termination to compel their employees to freeze to death. And, if you really want to be a stickler for the facts here, I think it was public employees, police officers, who doled out the abuse, while the corporation was a bystander. Maybe check your facts before you call others on theirs?

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Faustusnotes 04.18.17 at 11:17 pm

John c halasz, yes that’s my point exactly: corporate cruelty and abuse are American preferences. why else do you think oreilly laughed at the YouTube video, and didn’t lose his job? Why else is his show so popular? This is how Americans have chosen to construct their society, so that things he rest of the world considers absolutely shocking – widespread gun use, sick people being denied insurance, poor people having no health care – get a plurality or majority of support in the USA.

And if you think this view of the USA is delusional you should try getting out a bit more and interacting with non Americans in non America. Then you might discover just how shocking and disgusting they think your country’s policies are, and just how worried we all are by your actions. Your country has no left, and no political support for a real left. Until you can propose a mechanism for building up that party and that constituency you need to accept that the dems are the best you’ve got and work with them for the sake of the rest of the world – we have no say in the politics of your cruel and stupid nation, but we are its biggest victims.

But instead you can’t even be bothered learning how your own policies work, and you eat up every right wing lie about the only politically feasible option you have, and wonder why the rest of us despair of you.

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