Moon of Alabama

by Corey Robin on December 16, 2017

My weekly digest for The Guardian, looking back on Tuesday’s Senate election in Alabama with the help of Brecht and Weill, Sheldon Wolin, Matt Bruenig, and Eddie Glaude.

Some excerpts:

Since Tuesday’s Senate election in Alabama, when the mild centrist Doug Jones defeated the menacing racist Roy Moore, social media has been spinning two tunes. Politicians tweeted Lynyrd Skyrnyrd’s Sweet Home, Alabama. Historians tweeted the 1934 classic Stars Fell on Alabama.

My mind’s been drifting to The Alabama Song. Not the obvious reference from The Doors/Bowie version – “Oh, show us the way to the next little girl” – but two other lines that recur throughout the song: “We now must say goodbye … I tell you we must die.”

It’s a lyric for the left, which can’t seem to let go of its sense of defeat, even when the right loses.

After every defeat of the right, after every poll shows dangerously low approval ratings for Trump or the Republican, I hear the same response from the left, especially on social media: what about the minority of voters who still support the right? How can they do it? What is wrong with them?

Even though Tuesday’s election showed signs of a fairly large switch in the white vote of Alabama, from red to blue, even though 24% of the American people approved of Richard Nixon the day he resigned – eight points lower, incidentally, than Trump’s current approval rating – the left can’t let go of the voters who remain committed to Trumpism. Even when the candidates of those voters lose major statewide elections twice in a row. In southern states.

But the left doesn’t need to convince every last Republican of the error of their ways. It doesn’t need to put all Republican voters in the public square, forcing them to recant their beliefs. It doesn’t need Christian suasion, encouraging rightwingers to apologize and confess their sins.

In an electoral democracy, the way to break your opponents – especially opponents like these – is to demoralize them, to make them feel they are a small and isolated minority, that their cause is a loser.

On election day, the left needs to convince the right – not through voter suppression or intimidation but through rhetoric and speech – that their movement is going nowhere, so they shouldn’t either. That’s exactly what happened in Alabama, where “the biggest reason for the shift” in counties that voted for Trump last November going for Jones this December is that “GOP voters stayed home”, according to MCIMaps.

What black voters, particularly black women, have gotten instead is a lot of thank-yous. From liberals and Democrats, on Twitter and Facebook: thank youblack people, for saving “us” or America or democracy from “ourselves”.

It’s a weird move, with weird overtones. Rather than treating black people as political agents in their own right, acting in their own interest, rather than viewing black people as part of an inclusive movement of the left, the thank-you-note writers treat African Americans as if they were the indispensable helpmates of an addled white upper-middle class, a class that’s too harried, busy, or distracted to deal with the hassle of everyday life, the drudgery of daily upkeep, the housekeeping of democracy.


 Keep reading, there’s a lot more!

{ 119 comments }

1

Howard 12.16.17 at 6:47 pm

Nice piece of snark, but how was the white upper-middle class too busy to deal with Moore? The “thank yous” are saying “We recognize the centrality of high black turnout, and we’ll think differently about electoral strategy inthe future.” But let’s not miss a chance to take a shot at white liberals– how dare they say thank you! Denying agency to blacks! Racism! Give it rest– weren’t you just complaining about people who refuse to accept wins?

2

Sandwichman 12.16.17 at 6:56 pm

Who is this “left” that “can’t let go of the voters who remain committed to Trumpism”? Sounds like something one might read in the New York Times (if one still read the New York Times).

Electoral “victories” don’t mean a thing if they are not backed up with direct action — the readiness and willingness to exercise extra-parliamentary power. The only decisive power that “the left” could have is the withholding of labour power. As long as the political discourse is confined to palaver about popularity polls, there can be no challenge to a status quo that only progressively gets worse.

What people who want positive change need to realize is that a GENERAL STRIKE doesn’t need to be “won” like a voting contest to have leverage. All that is needed is a demonstration of a credible threat to the uninterrupted accumulation of surplus value.

Why have “social democratic” governments been such shit for the last 40 years or so? Because finance has threatened them with the withdrawal of credit. Withholding capital is the substantive power of the political right; withholding labour power is the substantive power of the political left. Voting is only meaningful to the extent it represents something substantive. Otherwise it is a hollow symbol.

3

Omega Centauri 12.16.17 at 8:29 pm

My understanding is that there wasn’t much change in voter turnout by group, but roughly 20% of white voters who normally vote Republican voted against Moore.
At least that was my takeaway from this:
http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/12/alabamas-white-voters-abandoned-roy-moore-in-large-numbers/

So rather than 10%ish of whites voting D, we had roughly 30%, a pretty substantial swing.

4

Layman 12.16.17 at 9:17 pm

“My understanding is that there wasn’t much change in voter turnout by group…”

Voter turnout was dramatically different when you compare with the last year there was no President on the ballot, e.g. 2014. Turnout in the cities was up 31%, turnout in white suburbs was up 18%, and turnout in college towns up 24%. Turnout in white rural counties was down 5%, while turnout in black rural counties was up 10%.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/12/13/us/politics/alabama-senate-election-roy-moore.html

5

Heliopause 12.16.17 at 9:56 pm

“On election day, the left needs to convince the right – not through voter suppression or intimidation but through rhetoric and speech – that their movement is going nowhere, so they shouldn’t either.”

Thing is, crabby old conservative white people are the most reliable voting bloc.

“That’s exactly what happened in Alabama”

What happened in Alabama was a sustained, weeks-long campaign of negative publicity, virtually 100% directed at Moore (who by the way was an extremely controversial character long before these sex allegations), which was unprecedented in scope for a Senate race. Even so he just barely lost. If you think you can replicate this hundreds of times over across the country, hey, go for it.

More realistically, what the left needs to do is give the tens of millions of non-voters something to vote FOR, rather than praying that all your opponents will be extremist theocrat sex fiends.

6

ph 12.16.17 at 10:38 pm

Interesting. Moore’s primary win was itself a rejection of GOP cronyism. The president and the national party supported the candidate of the establishment. Moore’s victory then was touted as a ‘defeat’ for Trump, and now his ‘defeat’ is also a ‘defeat’ for Trump. The GOP establishment rejected Trump and Moore, so if it was a victory for anybody I’d say they have grounds for celebration. Moore added nothing for Trump other than headaches, so I’m certain he’s utterly indifferent to the success, or failure, of anyone but himself.

Yes, GOP voters stayed home, as you point out in the article, but offer scant evidence that they did because they are ‘dis-spirited’ or see their ideas ‘going nowhere.’ GOP voters are winning across the board with the tax cut of their dreams arriving in time to celebrate Christmas. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, climate change is no longer a national threat, and the better informed understand that the GOP is remaking the judiciary.

Congress has never been popular among GOP voters and it’s probably a mistake to read too much into one atypical election. I do think that there’s a good chance that GOP success and loathing of the president and the congress, combined, could depress turnout in 2018.

7

alfredlordbleep 12.16.17 at 11:13 pm

ph@6: GOP voters are winning across the board with the tax cut of their dreams arriving in time to celebrate Christmas. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, climate change is no longer a national threat, and the better informed understand that the GOP is remaking the judiciary.

Omits the savaging of healthcare of the neediest*. It’s amazing that the no. 1 issue for Va voters (exit? poll) was healthcare, but reporters/analysts rather write about anything else.
Rightwing fell a vote short of cutting Medicaid by $800B/10yrs, but they get an estimate of, say, $300B/10yrs for tax cut numbers game by killing ACA’s mandate, eh?

*Oh, yes, ask the White Christians’ Party how they square it. . . Once again, it’s a White Christmas.

8

John Quiggin 12.17.17 at 2:40 am

There was a big shift among non-evangelical white voters. Self-described evangelicals had slightly lower turnout but voted 80 per cent for Moore when they turned out. The response to the outcome certainly seems to have included a shift towards a much more negative treatment of evangelicals as a group. Most notably, it’s now being routinely observed that, for white people, evangelicalism isn’t Christian at all, but a cultural label attached to a mixture of white nationalism and the prosperity gospel. This piece in the NY Times hits most of the main points.

9

Omega Centauri 12.17.17 at 3:03 am

I enthusiastically endorse Heliopause @5.

10

John Holbo 12.17.17 at 3:27 am

Damn. Why didn’t I think of that Kurt Weill joke? That’s a good Kurt Weill joke, and I love jokes and I love Kurt Weill. Ah, well.

11

John Quiggin 12.17.17 at 5:59 am

@5 If we could replicate that, across the country, the Republican Party would be wiped off the electoral map. Anything within 10 percentage points of the Alabama outcome would be enough for a big win.

But on the bigger issue, my reading of the responses to Alabama is that it’s now generally agreed that the problem is to get Democratic voters to turn out, rather than to try to be understanding about what makes white racists vote for the Republicans. As you say, that entails giving current non-voters something to vote for.

12

rogergathmann 12.17.17 at 9:20 am

2. Sandwichman, you are so right!

However, to go out of the question of political power for a moment, I don’t see the question about Trump voters as one of “how can we convert them.” Rather, the question is about the existential conditions in the U.S. that have not only produced this reactionary class, but endowed it with such enormous power. Personally, I would say that their power stems from the enormous failure of American liberalism to pursue, after the 60s, its promises – a failure that can be measured by the enormous disparity between white and black household wealth, the destruction of unions, the advent of law and order policies that were thinly disguised apartheid gestures, and the takeover of the two parties by a managerial class completely connected to the patterns in capitalism traced by Piketty and Saenz – a class that has succeeded in creating the acceptance of corporations as vessels for looting by upper management, with all its consequences. To my mind, these are all consequences of the way mid-century American liberalism fell victim to its own contradictions, and its collapse has left a vast vacuum.

13

Heliopause 12.17.17 at 5:44 pm

@11
“If we could replicate that, across the country, the Republican Party would be wiped off the electoral map.”

Let’s do it. I look forward to every election henceforth being decided on the basis of whether one of the candidates groped teenagers or not. Might want to mix in some different sex acts, though, just to keep people from getting bored.

14

bruce wilder 12.17.17 at 7:32 pm

I read your Guardian piece, again and backwards or from the bottom up — a method consonant with its themes — and liked it better.

That “addled white upper-middle class”, self-satisfied that racism is something impolite and unattractive that other people do, obsessed with CNN’s daily attempts to rhyme russiagate with Watergate and Mueller with Starr, stumbles on in its media-driven fog. The mercenary consultants who have the apparatus of the Democratic Party firmly in their neoliberal deathgrip will read the exit polls and send silent lovenotes to the suburban white Republican women voters, not desperately poor blacks (who mostly do not vote and have nothing to gain from voting). I cannot say I feel “the left” won; it looks like the Right won, in an intramural tussle in which “the left” participated only in cheering from the bleachers, not playing on the field. The “mild centrist” will go to Washington and do as he is bid, when the bid is high enough.

The Marshall Project dutifully tends to my cognitive dissonance, assuring me Doug Jones’s election is a victory for sentencing reform. The waiter is assuring me that the dish being served was a great choice from a menu written by people completely disinterested in my views, tastes or welfare.

Who is rightly convinced here that his cause is a loser?

The targets are many and multifarious. The poor blacks? I suspect the hopelessness of democracy in Alabama from their viewpoint remains undisturbed. (At least they got thank you’s on Facebook!)

The ones I would like to convince of the hopelessness of politics are not the rebellious populists in the Republican electorate who rejected Luther Strange, but the ones who proposed Luther Strange. Or, who put forward Doug Jones, “mild centrist”. Neither group is likely to read reasons to give up into these results. And both constitute “the Right” in a practical, pro-plutocracy sense.

Pessimism on the left has many flavors, but seems to me to be appropriate to the political climate. Doug Jones’s election is evidence that “the system works” — at least it can be interpreted that way by people who really need to be disabused of their complacency that the system is working and their conviction that the only people who think otherwise are either irredeemable racists and fools or silly impractical idealistic socialists.

The American political drama takes place on a stage, where the abundant evidence that the political system as a whole is failing to properly govern or enable fundamental reform is ignored. The outcries of those alarmed are ignored and muffled, channeled away from anything to do with electoral politics. The echo chamber of the Media silences with its noise.

I get the reasons why the impulse among the authoritarian followers of the Right to see demolition done is alarming. Also, why handing the nitro to Trump, Bannon or Moore might compound the reasons for alarm. But, the Right figuring out how to handle this rebellion does not help “our” rebellion on the left.

15

Pavel A 12.17.17 at 10:08 pm

Doug Jones, while being a decent, boring guy, is not in any way representative of the kinds of races that are going to be run in 2018. Most GOPers know how to dog whistle and keep their dicks in their pants. Meanwhile, Jones is already listing slowly to the right, with his bullshit overtures to bipartisanship, voting in line with the senate Republicans and putting all that sexual harassment stuff behind us (also see Northam in VA). The corporate Dems’ new holy incantation is “Ich bin ein centrist!” and it’s not likely to get them a lot of wins against racists and kleptocapitalist looters, particularly in states with a lower proportion of PoC voters.

16

Fu Ko 12.18.17 at 4:04 pm

This article has some informative numbers and analysis in it:

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/republicans-shouldnt-assume-roy-moore-was-an-outlier/

Here’s a quote:

We can go through a similar exercise in Alabama. By the way we usually calculate these things, Alabama is 28 or 29 percentage points more Republican than the country as a whole, but Jones just won an election there by 1 or 2 points,2 representing a 30-point swing from the norm. That is, we have about 30 percentage points worth of blame to assign. So how to divvy them up? Consider:

(1) First, we can assign about 10 points to the national political environment. That’s because the generic congressional ballot favors Democrats by about 10 points, meaning that you’d expect the Democrat to win the typical swing seat by about 10 points in this political climate.3

(2) Next, we can assign about 10 points to Moore’s problems as a candidate other than the sexual misconduct allegations. If Republicans ordinarily win in Alabama by 25 or 30 points and the national environment favors Democrats by 10 points, you’d expect a “generic” Republican candidate to be ahead by 15 or 20 points. Instead, Moore’s lead was in the range of 5 to 10 points in polls before the sexual misconduct allegations came to light.4

(3) And finally, we can assign another 10 points to shifts in voter preferences and turnout patterns because of the misconduct allegations. That roughly matches the swing from the pre-allegation polls to Jones’s eventual margin of victory. It also lines up with empirical research on the electoral effects of scandals. Although many voters didn’t believe the allegations, many others did, and it affected Moore’s campaign in a variety of ways, such as by decreasing Republican enthusiasm.

Unless all three of these factors had lined up perfectly for Jones, he would have lost — perhaps by a significant margin. For instance, if Trump were more popular and the Republican brand were in better shape, the GOP could have willed more of its voters to the polls and Trump’s last-minute endorsement of Moore might have been more effective. Instead, Trump’s approval rating was only 48 percent (against 48 percent disapproving) among special election participants in one of the country’s reddest states.

17

Suzanne 12.18.17 at 5:34 pm

@6: Moore’s victory was a defeat for Trump because Trump campaigned actively for his rival. Moore’s loss was a defeat for Trump because Trump campaigned actively for Moore and was also a vocal defender. When the candidate the president support loses, it’s a defeat for the president. That’s how it works. Moore would have been a headache for Mitch McConnell, not Trump. However, the GOP Congresspersons understand what a big hit they took in Alabama even if their president does not, and they are scurrying to tinker with their “tax reform” bill accordingly to avoid damage in the midterms.

Also, GOP voters are not getting the tax cut of their dreams. GOP donors are getting the tax cut of their dreams.

You are quite right about the judiciary.

@15: The conservative Democrats in Congress have held the line on defense of the ACA and the tax bill. If Jones votes with the party on the big things, he will get a lot of leeway on others, and so he should.

Jones’s victory happened because Jones was there in the first place – that is, he was a strong candidate who entered the race long before it looked as if it was going to be competitive. If the Dems had had a weaker candidate in the race, Moore might still have won.

18

TM 12.18.17 at 7:33 pm

“the way to break your opponents – especially opponents like these – is to demoralize them, to make them feel they are a small and isolated minority, that their cause is a loser… the left needs to convince the right … that their movement is going nowhere, so they shouldn’t either.”

That is very true and it is the strongest case you could have made for voting Hillary in 2016: You need to defeat the fascists decisively so they will crawl back into their holes. For some reason, defeating the fascists wasn’t a priority for CR and many other self-identified leftists in 2016. And that is why we are now happy to celebrate the “miracle” of a fascist apologist for slavery who is also a religious fanatic and has been credibly accused of sex crimes against teenage girls losing an election for US Senate by all of 1.5 percentage points.

“What black voters, particularly black women, have gotten instead is a lot of thank-yous. From liberals and Democrats, on Twitter and Facebook”

They shouldn’t have gotten thank-yous? Their vote should have been taken for granted instead because of course they will vote against a racist, whereas the 30% or so of Whites who voted against Moore acted out of commendable generosity? This whole framing makes no sense for me.

19

alfredlordbleep 12.18.17 at 11:26 pm

These excellent comments take on some more basic issues.
rogergathmann@12 and Sandwichman@2 respectively:

Personally, I would say that their power stems from the enormous failure of American liberalism to pursue, after the 60s, its promises – a failure that can be measured by the enormous disparity between white and black household wealth, the destruction of unions, the advent of law and order policies that were thinly disguised apartheid gestures, and the takeover of the two parties by a managerial class completely connected to the patterns in capitalism traced by Piketty and Saenz – a class that has succeeded in creating the acceptance of corporations as vessels for looting by upper management, with all its consequences.

and @2 going for remedy:

What people who want positive change need to realize is that a GENERAL STRIKE doesn’t need to be “won” like a voting contest to have leverage. All that is needed is a demonstration of a credible threat to the uninterrupted accumulation of surplus value.

I would like to elaborate on key points, but maybe won’t, before this thread is closed.

20

Mario 12.19.17 at 12:02 am

But the left doesn’t need to convince every last Republican of the error of their ways. It doesn’t need to put all Republican voters in the public square, forcing them to recant their beliefs. It doesn’t need Christian suasion, encouraging rightwingers to apologize and confess their sins.

That seems correct to me, but it seems obvious to me too that that’s exactly what they want!. The vision is not to find a common ground or a live-and-let-live arrangement, but a complete eradication of evil (e.g. racism).

I am really looking forward to finding out who they are going to nominate to run against Big Orange. Given the incredibly high moral standards and representation requirements, the task of finding actual political talent will probably be very hard.

21

novakant 12.19.17 at 10:38 am

For some reason, defeating the fascists wasn’t a priority for CR and many other self-identified leftists in 2016. And that is why …

It’s been more than a year and you’re still blaming people like Corey Robin and a nebulous group of “self-identified leftists” for Clinton’s electoral disaster, people who in the end very likely voted for her anyway despite their misgivings.

If you keep this up and fail to analyze the reasons for the DNC’s/Clinton’s electoral debacle, then Trump’s second term is becoming more and more likely. Now is the time to move on and think hard about what to change to avoid repeating the same mistakes.

Happy Christmas!

22

Layman 12.19.17 at 11:27 am

Mario: “The vision is not to find a common ground or a live-and-let-live arrangement, but a complete eradication of evil (e.g. racism).”

Describe your proposal for the common ground, live-and-let-live arrangement with racism. I’ll wait.

23

Layman 12.19.17 at 1:50 pm

TM: “This whole framing makes no sense for me.”

If you think the framing of CR’s piece was that black women ‘shouldn’t have gotten thank-yous’ and that their votes ‘should have been taken for granted instead’ and that whites who voted against Moore ‘acted out of commendable generosity’ then either your reading comprehension skills are so poor as to render any comment you make irrelevant, or you read something other than CR’s piece.

24

TM 12.19.17 at 1:57 pm

21: “Now is the time to move on and think hard about what to change”

Moving on from Trump is not an option just yet but learning from past mistakes sounds like a worthwhile concept. But why shouldn’t that apply to the people I’m criticizing?

25

Pavel A 12.19.17 at 2:14 pm

@TM
“That is very true and it is the strongest case you could have made for voting Hillary in 2016: You need to defeat the fascists decisively so they will crawl back into their holes. For some reason, defeating the fascists wasn’t a priority for CR and many other self-identified leftists in 2016.”

This is hilarious. You can’t *decisively* defeat fascists by electing a centrist neoliberal do-nothing (cf. Macron). Sorry, you’re going to have to do better than “we’re not Nazis but we’ll still let the capitalist system destroy your livelihoods, albeit maybe with a bit less racism in the process”.

“They shouldn’t have gotten thank-yous?”

The thank yous are misplaced and are a cover for more corporate Dem do-nothingism. People are waiting for Jones (and Northam) to improve their actual material well-being, not tell us about the joys of bipartisanship, how he doesn’t think Trump should be prosecuted for sexual assault (even though he just won because his opponent was a racist pedophile) and how he plans to vote with the other wolves to figure out how best to eat the sheep.

Dems want turnout but keep forgetting the basic formula: get elected, deliver shit to your base, try again. The GOP has this strategy down pretty well.

26

Pavel A 12.19.17 at 2:21 pm

@Mario

“The vision is not to find a common ground or a live-and-let-live arrangement, but a complete eradication of evil (e.g. racism).”

There is no common ground between white supremacist capitalists and the rest of us. There is no compromise with people who do not want to compromise, for fuck’s sake.

There is some seriously insane worship of bipartisanship here. Bipartisanship works when you actually have some common goals and values and both sides are actually capable of compromise to reach those common goals. It does not work when:
a) one side is utterly insincere with what it is willing to compromise
b) you have no common values or goals (white supremacist capitalism has nothing anyone should ever want)

27

Whirrlaway 12.19.17 at 4:02 pm

“Complete eradication” has worked so well with reefer, graffiti, street crime, satanic rituals, and the insolence of small children, why not also racism, sexual assault, and all doubleplussungood thinking?

28

Pavel A 12.19.17 at 4:31 pm

This is an existential war. Mann gegen Mann. There is no compromise. There is no surrender.

You cannot win by folding like a wet napkin.

You cannot win by myopically worshiping The Discourse™.

You cannot win through compromise or begging or owning someone in The Marketplace of Ideas™.

You cannot win by offering warmed over capitalism to people dying from warmed over capitalism.

You cannot win through half-measures, through incrementalism, through mild palliatives to a crushing system of endless, global exploitation.

The world is on fire. We stand on yet another precipice, facing automation, mass unemployment, kleptocapitalist oligarchy, the global rise of white supremacy, climate change. If all you can offer in the face of this array of species-ending events is “compromise”, you may as well pick up a shovel and start digging your own grave.

29

Pavel A 12.19.17 at 5:04 pm

Guys, we haven’t eliminated murder and poverty (by constantly misunderstanding the nature of social ills and putting the onus on poor people with mental health issues, and lying about bootstrap and other capitalist propaganda). Close up shop. Give everyone their murder sticks back.

“Satanic rituals”
Are you a Jack Chick tract?

“doubleplussungood thinking”
I too read 1984 in 10th grade.

30

LFC 12.19.17 at 5:17 pm

Fu Ko @16, quoting Nate Silver:

“First, we can assign about 10 points to the national political environment.”

This makes rather little sense, b.c, as Silver himself weakly gestures at acknowledging in a footnote, Alabama does not “shift as much with the national tide as most states.” Put more bluntly, the ‘generic congressional ballot’ is of marginal relevance in Alabama, istm, just as it’s of marginal relevance in, say, Idaho or any other very Repub (or very Dem, for that matter) state. The ‘generic congressional ballot’ (i.e., nationwide polling on Dem v Rep preference) would be highly relevant in a swing state with lots of swing voters. Alabama is not that.

31

LFC 12.19.17 at 5:24 pm

P.s. Silver’s argument for its relevance is that if the Repub brand were in better shape, Trump’s endorsement of Moore wd have mattered more and more Repub voters wd have voted for him. Maybe, but I’m not convinced. I think Moore lost mainly b.c of the assault allegations and his own further defects as a candidate.

32

Layman 12.19.17 at 5:28 pm

Pavel A: “You can’t *decisively* defeat fascists by electing a centrist neoliberal do-nothing…”

In fact, you can, unless what you mean to do is abandon the meaning of words. When non-fascists defeat fascists at the polls, and then govern instead of the fascist, the fascists have been defeated, and the outcome has been decided.

33

Ogden Wernstrom 12.19.17 at 6:11 pm

@25 Pavel A 12.19.17 at 2:14 pm:

Dems want turnout but keep forgetting the basic formula: get elected, deliver shit to your base, try again. The GOP has this strategy down pretty well.

It is much easier to deliver after telling the base that government can’t do anything right. The GOP does have that part down.

34

bruce wilder 12.19.17 at 6:49 pm

Apparently the Republican brand is doing quite well in Alabama. Look at the number of write-in votes from people who could stomach neither Moore nor a D. Or, how quickly Jones announced he would vote with the Republicans in the Senate.

Moore is a devisive figure, who has accumulated as many who are repulsed by him, as fans.

Still, the number of non-voters was very large. Both Parties consistently fail to credibly promise or actually deliver the goods to their electoral bases. They take money from donors, use the money to finance manipulative propaganda, get in office and pose while power is exercised by and for the donor classes.

Moore got the nomination because so many Republican voters, loyal to the brand, feel betrayed by the Republican establishment. They do not know what to do about that betrayal, so they do Moore. Idiocy, sure, but Democratic voters are trapped in a similar vice. The Democratic Establishment is utterly cynical and recklessly irresponsible, taking donor money and spending money on propaganda that studiously avoids any policy issue that might even hint at doing something about economic predation / parasitism / deterioration. Why? Because those problems are feeding wealth to the donor class of one or both Parties. We cannot solve those problems, we cannot even address them seriously within partisan politics and partisan politics is the only mechanism to motivate the exercise of political authority and power.

Moore is a ripe horror. And, the Democrats used propaganda about events from 1979 to attack a man who has been happily married for 32 years to elect a “mild centrist” who assures everyone he is open to voting with the Republicans.

I do not think the world is on fire. Not the U.S. itself at least. Some places to be sure. But things are bad and getting worse and our politics is top-down with a top that is remarkably amoral and complacent. Cynical and cunning but not wise. And we let them get away with it. Because we feel powerless and in the present configuration, are powerless. I would not have any of us pretend “the left” won in Alabama. I think “the left” was never asked to play. They let us cheer. But, only on script.

35

Pavel A 12.19.17 at 8:03 pm

The “redistributive” tax bill passed. Gotta run more centrists though. Maybe more bipartisanship and compromise will help. All that Obama compromise should start paying off any second now. And second now…

36

Donald 12.19.17 at 8:24 pm

I feel no temptation whatsoever to enter into this discussion, but it does look to me like a few people are talking past each other. I might be wrong.

37

novakant 12.19.17 at 9:13 pm

Moving on from Trump is not an option just yet but learning from past mistakes sounds like a worthwhile concept. But why shouldn’t that apply to the people I’m criticizing?

It’s not about moving on from Trump, it’s about moving on from Clinton – the Democratic party has no lesser task ahead than to completely reinvent itself – and pronto. And yet, most of what I hear is passing of blame and licking of wounds, a complete inability to analyze where they went wrong. The people you are criticizing didn’t mess this up, the DNC unsurprisingly failed to win over enough voters with their arrogance and stupid GOP light shtick and lost against a terrible candidate – and will do so again I fear.

38

TM 12.19.17 at 9:17 pm

Pavel 25: You are making the argument of the KPD ca. 1930. And I think they were wrong, history proved them wrong (although they had far better reasons for their wrong strategy than did the Jacobin fools in 2016), and I think people should learn from history, but I get it, that’s a hopeless concept. Even, or maybe especially, among leftists intellectuals.

39

TM 12.19.17 at 9:20 pm

LFC 29: Silver points to the fact that Dems did far better than expected in special elections even in very red districts, and even without a Rep candidate as disgusting as Moore on the ballot. How do you explain this?

40

J-D 12.19.17 at 9:33 pm

LFC

This makes rather little sense, b.c, as Silver himself weakly gestures at acknowledging in a footnote, Alabama does not “shift as much with the national tide as most states.”

In the 2000 Presidential election, the country swung eight points and Alabama swung eight points; in 2004, the country swung three points and Alabama eleven; in 2008, the country swung ten points and Alabama four; in 2012, the country swung three points and Alabama one; in 2016, the country swung two points and Alabama six.

41

Mario 12.19.17 at 10:25 pm

Layman,

Describe your proposal for the common ground, live-and-let-live arrangement with racism. I’ll wait.

I can see many ways of improving life for people of color that do not require white people to change their minds. You can keep going in that direction until the whole thing doesn’t matter. You could actually sell such policies to racist whites if you make it mean that they can stay among themselves. Such things would actually mean net improvements for real human beings, unlike the turbomorality on twitter.

That said, I do not have a concrete plan.

But anyway, if you have a realistic, workable plan for eradicating racism, let it come through. I’ve not seen such a plan. Bloodshed won’t do.

Pavel A,

You cannot win by folding like a wet napkin.

No, but neither can you win by mindlessly banging your head against random units of masonry.

The world is on fire. We stand on yet another precipice, facing automation, mass unemployment, kleptocapitalist oligarchy, the global rise of white supremacy, climate change. If all you can offer in the face of this array of species-ending events is “compromise”, you may as well pick up a shovel and start digging your own grave.

Fine, but then the left would do well to focus on things that actually matter and not insisting on things that do not matter nearly as much but cause a lot of headwind. Or are simply crazy and self-defeating.

(The species, incidentally, is pretty likely to survive. I don’t know how large the population is going to be in a thousand years, though.)

42

J-D 12.19.17 at 10:30 pm

Pavel A
You have just told me five times that I cannot win. You didn’t tell me once that I can win. How is that supposed to be worthwhile?

43

LFC 12.19.17 at 11:16 pm

@J-D

The context here is congressional midterm elections, NOT presidential ones. So you’re doing apples and oranges.

The point I took Silver to be making in the footnote is that when the generic midterm election question “do you favor Dems or Repubs” is asked, Alabama doesn’t swing as much from cycle to cycle as the national responses do. I assume that’s correct since why wd Silver, whose statistical cred is his livelihood, make a basic mistake on the figures. Now he can, and doubtless does, make mistakes of interpretation, but that’s something else.

44

LFC 12.19.17 at 11:27 pm

TM @39

LFC 29: Silver points to the fact that Dems did far better than expected in special elections even in very red districts, and even without a Rep candidate as disgusting as Moore on the ballot. How do you explain this?

Well, it may be that there is a national Dem trend and it is affecting results even in “very red districts.” And it may be, as Silver suggests, that roughly 10 percent of the credit for Jones’s Alabama win should go to this national trend. I expressed skepticism re that, but I cd be wrong. Silver spends his life analyzing this sh*t and I don’t. (Of course, he got Trump v HRC wrong as I recall, but then so did virtually everyone else in his business.)

45

LFC 12.19.17 at 11:41 pm

Correction:
I should have referred to “one-third of the credit” for Jones’s win, since Silvers is talking here about explaining 10 percent of an overall 30 percent shift that resulted in Jones’s victory.

46

nastywoman 12.20.17 at 2:49 am

stop making ANY sense guys!
That’s the purpose of a Marry Christmas!

47

ph 12.20.17 at 8:51 am

@ 37 36 percent of Americans view Hillary favourably, an all-time low. and there’s no immediate sign her numbers are likely to rise.

”The campaign and its aftermath took the greatest toll on independents’ views of Clinton. She began with a 51% favorable rating among this group, which fell to 33% in November 2016 and now sits at 27%.”

Bill’s numbers are also down among Independents.

The notion that Republicans are losing ground is astonishing given the 1000 plus seats Democrats have ceded to Republicans on balance in recent years. Were Democrats supposed to cede 2000, perhaps? And the 1000 seat depletion at national, state, and local levels represents a victory of sorts?

A year is an eternity in politics, so it’s entirely possible that the landscape will look very different as the mid-terms approach. GOP turnout should be down. Not because the GOP is losing, but because they aren’t. The Supreme Court does not hang in the balance, the GOP control more state legislatures than Democrats. Hillary is not a threat, so there’s no reason for GOP voters to ‘come home’ to the party. Most GOP voters do not care enough about Trump to worry about impeachment, and the ones who would like to see Trump gone, would be doubly-delighted to see Pence replace Trump, as Pence would likely be a much tougher opponent than any Democrat not currently under the control of Clinton Inc, a brand that looks to be even more toxic in the future than it is now.

The best Democrats can home for entirely predictable mid-term gains, as the party out of power, although there’s no guarantee of even that much given the lay of the electoral land. Impeachment appeals most to Democratic party dunces keen to energise a Republican base currently content to digest their numerous victories. Impeachment is lose/lose because Pence may end up running either way. If Trump survives and is sufficiently damaged, he can easily hand the torch off to Pence. If Trump doesn’t survive, Pence becomes president in 2019 and doesn’t have to worry about alienating the Trump voters who will likely rally to the GOP as never before.

So, on balance, the Moore election means nothing. The economy will shape the contours of the electoral map and for the moment that map couldn’t look much better for Republicans than it does now.

The Dems face a great many problems discussed well here – most notably: no ideas and few candidates ready for the national stage. Money isn’t a problem, which is perhaps the biggest problem. Were Dems finding it difficult to raise funds from the donor class it might actually be a sign they’re ready to offer something other than GOP lite.

Recall all those predictions about the damage Corbyn would do to Labour? Perhaps integrity of a kind isn’t the liability many believe.

48

J-D 12.20.17 at 12:09 pm

novakant
When you write about the ‘task ahead’ for the Democratic Party, it’s not clear whether you mean what the Democratic Party has to do if it is to achieve its own purposes; or what it has to do if it is to achieve your purposes; or what.

49

Harry 12.20.17 at 4:27 pm

“(Of course, he got Trump v HRC wrong as I recall, but then so did virtually everyone else in his business.)”

Not really. Unlike everyone else in his business he was giving Trump a more than 30% chance before the day of the election, and his analyses insisted that everyone else was underestimating Trump’s chances (and gave compelling reasons for his own analysis). In the light of the result, Trump probably did have a 30% chance — surely not much more than that. So, Silver got it just about exactly right.

50

Suzanne 12.20.17 at 5:26 pm

34: ‘And, the Democrats used propaganda about events from 1979 to attack a man who has been happily married for 32 years to elect a “mild centrist” who assures everyone he is open to voting with the Republicans.’

Moore was likely banned from a local mall for pestering teenage girls in those ancient times. The women who talked to The Washington Post – who sought them out, not vice versa – finally spoke because now that Moore was running for national office there was an audience for their testimony and a chance they might actually be believed. While he was still only a state power they would have been dismissed or worse. Jones is a decent man with a fine record, running in the reddest of red states, who won with the support of an energized black constituency.

51

anon/portly 12.20.17 at 6:10 pm

Re 47, this was Silver’s final pre-election missive:

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/final-election-update-theres-a-wide-range-of-outcomes-and-most-of-them-come-up-clinton/

I actually think the “probability” that Silver cites – the 30% – is somewhat misleading. If Silver says there’s a 30% chance a team will win a football or basketball game, most of the relevant uncertainty about the outcome is in the future, as the game has yet to be played and we don’t know how the ball is going to bounce, as it were. But an eve-of-election forecast is like predicting who will win a football game at the 2 minute warning – most of the game has actually been played, only we can’t see exactly what’s going on.

I think in one of his pre-election pieces Silver tried to suggest that his 1/3 chance of Trump winning (which others were objecting to) was less of a “true” probability than it was a way of numerically characterizing the uncertainty inherent in forecasting that particular election (or something like that). (Maybe this is just my imagination).

I think if you were reading Silver carefully, and understanding the limitations of assigning a probability to an outcome that has largely already been determined, you weren’t the tiniest bit surprised by Trump’s victory. At least I wasn’t. I think Silver did a brilliant job of explaining this, but of course some of the people who wanted Clinton to win weren’t very happy with him for being right….

52

LFC 12.20.17 at 6:15 pm

Harry @47
ok, I stand corrected on that.

53

anon/portly 12.20.17 at 6:47 pm

In an electoral democracy, the way to break your opponents – especially opponents like these – is to demoralize them, to make them feel they are a small and isolated minority, that their cause is a loser.

On election day, the left needs to convince the right – not through voter suppression or intimidation but through rhetoric and speech – that their movement is going nowhere, so they shouldn’t either. That’s exactly what happened in Alabama, where “the biggest reason for the shift” in counties that voted for Trump last November going for Jones this December is that “GOP voters stayed home”, according to MCIMaps.

I don’t think this means anything at all. First of all, aren’t “break” and “demoralize” (and “make them feel their cause is a loser”) almost synonyms? I think you can demoralize someone by breaking them (breaking their spirit) as much as you can break them (break their spirit) by demoralizing them.

Second, was there one single Alabama Republican who stayed home because “the left” “convince[d]” them “through rhetoric and speech” “that their movement is going nowhere.” I say no. I think the ones who stayed home (or voted a write-in or voted for Jones) are even now looking forward to electing some non-Moore Republican in the next Senate election.

Third, why the triumphal tone anyway? I guess it’s nice that Jones lost, if you’re not a right-wing person, since the current Senate is pretty balanced, and it might help check some of the loonier stuff, but wouldn’t it also have been kind of nice (for the Dems) if he had won? I was thinking maybe Shelby didn’t come out against him out of some lofty principle….

It’s one thing to have Trump’s persona or presence to stimulate your GOTV efforts and write your campaign ads for you, adding Moore to the mix couldn’t hurt.

54

anon/portly 12.20.17 at 7:02 pm

When Democrats started wondering if Moore’s sexual predations might sink him, it seemed a case of either wishful thinking – why would the state that rewarded Donald Trump’s alleged harassment with 63% of its vote care about Moore’s harassment? – or defining deviancy downward.

In writing this for a UK audience especially, can a partisan Democrat not feel the slightest frisson or inklings (or whatever) of … shame? I mean, how are the attitudes of Alabama Republicans who voted for Moore significantly different from the attitudes of Democrats towards the charges against Bill Clinton? (In both cases mainly disbelief and/or “priorities,” I think, but correct me if I’m wrong). How can some acknowledgement of this point be completely elided?

55

J-D 12.20.17 at 8:11 pm

LFC

The context here is congressional midterm elections, NOT presidential ones. So you’re doing apples and oranges.

It’s not possible to do equivaent calculations for House elections, because there are no voting figures for the seats that go uncontested.

The point I took Silver to be making in the footnote is that when the generic midterm election question “do you favor Dems or Repubs” is asked, Alabama doesn’t swing as much from cycle to cycle as the national responses do.

Then you are mistaken. There is a link in the footnote to another article, in which Silver describes the construction of an intricate model. The model relates how people are likely to vote to their demographic characteristics, and then uses that relationship together with information on the demographic characteristics of States to produce a composite index estimating the sensitivity of each State to shifts in the general political climate. To give an idea, but much more roughly than is true in the actual model, States with high percentages of African-American voters are estimated to be less likely to shift than States with lower percentages, because African-American voters are so likely to vote Democratic. Although the intricacies of the model take into account a lot of demographic variables, you don’t need to know most of them to be unsurprised that the five States rated least sensitive to shifts in the general political climate are Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Georgia: they all have high percentages of African-Americans unlikely to switch to the Republicans and of rural white evangelicals unlikely to switch to the Democrats.

However, all the data the model uses to estimate the relationship between demographic characteristics and voting behaviour is from 2008 exit polls. There’s no diachronic component at all. There’s no information there about how long it’s been true (to continue using the same examples) that African-Americans have been unlikely to vote Republican and rural white evangelicals unlikely to vote Democrat. And we don’t need intricate modelling to know that if people keep voting the way they did in 2008, Democratic prospects in Alabama are negligible. But will people keep voting the way they did in 2008? Silver writes:

Alabama has some of the same qualities as Massachusetts, just with the parties swapped. Trump won Alabama by 28 points last November, and that in some ways understates the difficulties Democrats face there because Alabama votes Republican for pretty much every office, regardless of the candidate. (Massachusetts, on the other hand, has fairly often elected Republican governors.)

However, checking the record reveals that–apart from gubernatorial elections, granted, an interesting and presumably significan exception– Massachussetts has been far more reliably Democratic for far longer than Alabama has been reliably Republican. Specifically: in Alabama, Republicans won all Statewide States offices in 2010 and 2014, but not before that (and two elections in a row does not make a streak), whereas in Massachusetts, with the exception (granted, the big one) of the Governorship (and the Lieutenant-Governorship elected on the same ticket), no Republican has won a Statewide State office since 1994; the Republicans won majorities in both houses of the Alabama State legislature in 2010 and 2014 (but the Democrats held them before that, and two in a row does not make a streak), whereas the Democrats have held majorities in both houses of the Massachusetts legislature since 1958; there is still one Alabama Democrat in the US House, whereas the last time a Massachusetts Republican was elected to the US House was in 1994; the last time an Alabama Democrat was elected to the US Senate (except in a special election) was in 1992, whereas the last time a Massachusetts Republican was elected to the US Senate (except in a special election) was in 1972.

Evidently there was a change roughly a decade ago (presumably it was actually over a period of time, not just at one instant) that has made Alabama much more reliably Republican than it used to be. There’s no basis apparent for concluding that this change is likely to reverse (and I draw no such conclusion), but there’s also no basis apparent for concluding that it’s unlikely to do so; and there’s definitely no basis for concluding that Alabama is so resistant to changes in the national political climate that it can’t be a big factor in the recent special election result.

56

J-D 12.20.17 at 8:42 pm

Mario

That seems correct to me, but it seems obvious to me too that that’s exactly what they want!.

I’ve read that comment again and again, and I still can’t figure out the meaning. Which ‘they’ is being referred to? and which ‘that’ is it that they want? It’s like reading the poem from the trial of the Knave of Hearts in Alice In Wonderland; except that Lewis Carroll intended to write nonsense.

57

Omega Centauri 12.20.17 at 10:46 pm

I agree with Haryy@47. I rememeber Silver being attacked because he was giving that 30%. I thought there was enough uncertainty-energy -especially since the Comey October surprise, and the way the media played up that nothing-burger, that I was very nervous. I always thought Hillary was a terrible choice, that thirty years of being the target of riht-wing character assassination has to stick to at least some of the electorate. Maybe not stick to her asbestos hide, but within the emotional regions of the voters brains. So many, just vaguely reviled of her, even if they didn’t know why, and that made her vulnerable to character assassination shenanigans.

58

J-D 12.21.17 at 3:35 am

Mario

I can see many ways of improving life for people of color that do not require white people to change their minds.

If it’s true that you can see many of them, it doesn’t make sense that you haven’t told us about even one.

Fine, but then the left would do well to focus on things that actually matter and not insisting on things that do not matter nearly as much but cause a lot of headwind. Or are simply crazy and self-defeating.

Andrea Ramsey tells us that she was the Democrats’ best chance of winning that seat, but she would say that, wouldn’t she? That doesn’t mean we have to believe her.

59

J-D 12.21.17 at 3:38 am

Pavel A

Dems want turnout but keep forgetting the basic formula: get elected, deliver shit to your base, try again. The GOP has this strategy down pretty well.

I don’t who it is you think constitutes the Republican base, or what it is that you think the Republicans have delivered to that base. Is America great again yet?

60

ph 12.21.17 at 7:05 am

We can file this under ‘what have you done for me lately?’ But, in the short term, a one thousand dollar Christmas bonus to ever worker, is an extremely sensible way to win support for the GOP agenda.

Cue the ‘should have been more’ complaints. Most receiving the dough are likely to remember all those other years when they got less, or squat.

Here’s a thousand dollars -go have fun!

61

ph 12.21.17 at 10:15 am

‘If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.’ And you’ll save money! (TM).

The news cycle has already condemned the Moore election to the dustbin of history. I’m encouraged by the sober nature of many of the comments here, as in Democrats need to come up with some good, simple ideas fast. Why fast? Because the Trump/GOP tax-cut is going to need to fail pretty spectacularly in order not to be perceived as a success.

This Quinnipiac poll suggests that many Americans doubt they will benefit from the tax cuts. Which is fine as long as the negative expectations are born out. If, on the other hand, many do benefit, directly/indirectly from the plan, Dems are going to need to be able say something other than – “See!” Trump is a much better president than many, many expected. He still received 90 percent negative press, just as he did during the run-up to electoral victory. That narrative is going to be harder and harder to justify as life for most Americans continues to improve. That wasn’t supposed to happen.

Remember all the dire predictions about the end of democracy? Well, the OP is about Republican senator in Alabama (endorsed by Hitler himself) losing in an open election. There’s a hubris and complacency among the educated class that is strikingly reminiscent of the 2015 and 2016 gloating. Remember the hi-fives? Go to Youtube and watch some of the highlight reels of the best and brightest laughing openly at the prospect of a Trump candidacy, and flat-out promising that Trump could never become president.

The end of 2017 is starting to feel a lot like the end of 2015.

62

Layman 12.21.17 at 12:01 pm

Mario: “I can see many ways of improving life for people of color that do not require white people to change their minds…”

I assumed you could, so describe them, please.

“That said, I do not have a concrete plan.”

This is not a good start!

“But anyway, if you have a realistic, workable plan for eradicating racism, let it come through. ”

Why the false dichotomy? Recognizing that we can’t eradicate racism doesn’t lead me to the conclusion that we should seek ways to cooperate with it. Why not oppose it? Make efforts to marginalize it? Make adherents ashamed if it, or at least afraid to let it come out into the open in words and deeds? I mean, we can’t eradicate pedophilia either, but should we be seeking ways to make accommodations with pedophiles?

63

Layman 12.21.17 at 12:03 pm

anon/portly: “I mean, how are the attitudes of Alabama Republicans who voted for Moore significantly different from the attitudes of Democrats towards the charges against Bill Clinton?”

Abuse of children?

64

bruce wilder 12.21.17 at 5:02 pm

. . . the Trump/GOP tax-cut is going to need to fail pretty spectacularly in order not to be perceived as a success.

Not to pick on ph or anything, but the partisan cheerleading, with its sometimes epic tribalism, does seem to undermine the whole idea of politics as being about policy and policy being about consequences for society’s political economy and justice.

ph’s phrasing here just struck me as an odd form of pragmatism, where things “working” has a theatrical cast.

The tax cut will work like a lot of policy over the last 30 years for a few at the cost of the many. The political class (from which politicians and even more so, their supporting cast of campaign consultants and aides and policy entrepreneurs) are drawn are an irresponsible and reckless lot. Things fail to “work” over and over, quite spectacularly in many cases (GFC, Katrina, Middle East wars, obamacare, homelessness, college debt); the crisis comes, and the crisis becomes just another opportunity to loot. Because the elite political class would rather have root canals than champion the substantive interests of a democratic majority.

65

anon/portly 12.21.17 at 5:15 pm

63: Abuse of children?

Is that a serious answer or a frivolous one? I can’t honestly tell.

Perhaps the following descriptions need a trigger warning – they’re not fun reading.

Leigh Corfman was 14 in 1979 when she alleges Moore, then 32, took her to his house, removed most of her clothes, groped her and put her hand on his genitals. He took her back to her home when she told him she was uncomfortable and wanted to leave, but she was emotionally scarred for decades after, she said.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/nov/20/roy-moore-sexual-assault-accuser-tells-of-struggle-to-regain-self-esteem

As she tells the story, they spent only a few minutes chatting by the window — Clinton pointed to an old jail he wanted to renovate if he became governor — before he began kissing her. She resisted his advances, she said, but soon he pulled her back onto the bed and forcibly had sex with her. She said she did not scream because everything happened so quickly.

https://www.vox.com/2016/1/6/10722580/bill-clinton-juanita-broaddrick

66

Collin Street 12.21.17 at 8:37 pm

Why the false dichotomy? Recognizing that we can’t eradicate racism doesn’t lead me to the conclusion that we should seek ways to cooperate with it. Why not oppose it? Make efforts to marginalize it? Make adherents ashamed if it, or at least afraid to let it come out into the open in words and deeds? I mean, we can’t eradicate pedophilia either, but should we be seeking ways to make accommodations with pedophiles?

Because every single hard-right activist without exception displays obvious signs of badly-managed autism-spectrum cognitive problems, one of which is black-and-white/absolutist thinking. That’s why we get told we can’t do two things at once, or that we can’t respond with moderation.

67

Mario 12.21.17 at 11:12 pm

J-D,

I’ve read that comment again and again, and I still can’t figure out the meaning. Which ‘they’ is being referred to? and which ‘that’ is it that they want?

I was answering to the quoted assertions, which where among those that Corey made in his post. They were of the form “A doesn’t need B”. So I wrote that I agree with that (that A doesn’t need B) but that that’s exactly what they [ (A)want (that B thing). Does that make it clear?

I don’t think that *I* would have had trouble parsing that, had it come from someone else…

68

ph 12.22.17 at 5:14 am

@64 Hi Bruce, thanks for the reply.

With respect, we need to separate reality from the ideal, as you succinctly put elsewhere. The notion that there are not real, meaningful consequences of legislation is not one I’d believe you embrace.

Thus, the ACA, had very positive outcomes for a significant subset of people who are normally ignored. The problem was in design and implementation. The ACA contained pork and boondoggles, was conceived of as a tax, but marketed as a choice, etc. Yet, the end result was pretty good healthcare for some, and higher healthcare costs and fewer choices for many others, contrary to what was promised. Unwinding parts of the ACA, as this tax cut does, will have a negative impact on some who can afford it least.

My comment is about perception and theatricality which is what politics is, at least in part. Thus, Gitmo closed in the minds of millions the moment Obama signed his intent to close Gitmo as soon as he set foot in the WH, with the caveat that if he actually hoped to close Gitmo by the end of his second term. Twas enough for the adoring crowds. Examples are endless.

Moore’s dis-election is/was pure performance for the most part. The actual feelings and opinions of Alabama voters were largely ignored by the press. Like many, I do not want any US president to ‘fail.’ I’d be horrified if I believed that a lunatic like Obama, or Bush, were sitting in the Oval Office, again, ready to unleash expert opinion on the rest of us for the benefit of the richest. The best we can hope for, at present, is that compromises will not make our lot significantly worse. The politics you hope for belongs rightly in the world of dreams, an ideal to strive for, and invaluable as such.

A good start for me would be the US president avoiding violent regime change in another lucky country for even a single term in office. I’m not sure the ‘Hitler has taken over America fever will break,’ but it didn’t work in 2016! If the reality of Hitler’s candidate losing elections persists Democrats are going to need to be able offer solutions, rather than doubling down of fear. If the GOP gets a decent immigration amnesty bill to the floor, what exactly will Democrats offer in 2020?

69

J-D 12.22.17 at 9:59 am

Mario

I was answering to the quoted assertions, which where among those that Corey made in his post. They were of the form “A doesn’t need B”. So I wrote that I agree with that (that A doesn’t need B) but that that’s exactly what they [ (A)want (that B thing). Does that make it clear?

I don’t think that *I* would have had trouble parsing that, had it come from someone else…

A was ‘the left’ and B was ‘to convince every last Republican of the error of their ways’. Thus it appears that your point was that the left doesn’t need to convince every last Republican of the error of their ways, but that the left does want to convince every last Republican of the error of their ways. I’m not sure the second part is true, but even if it is I don’t understand what would make you think the point was worth making. People wanting something that they don’t need is common enough that it’s hard to tell why a particular instance of it would be worth remarking on.

70

J-D 12.22.17 at 10:04 am

bruce wilder

Pessimism on the left has many flavors, but seems to me to be appropriate to the political climate.

Does that mean that, in the current political climate, you are going to interpret any development as a defeat for the left? If so, each time you interpret one particular poltical development as a defeat for the left, no new informational content is provided. Something happens; we can all predict that, on the basis of your pessimism, you will interpret it as a defeat for the left; you then provide your interpretation of how it’s a defeat for the left; we can all say, ‘Yes, we knew you were going to say something like that’.

71

Layman 12.22.17 at 5:36 pm

anon/portly @65

I’m genuinely not following your argument.

The Democratic voters who nominated Bill Clinton in 1992 had no knowledge of any rape accusations. They may have been aware of his adultery, but that’s not child abuse or rape.

The Democratic voters who elected him in 1992 similarly had no knowledge of those allegations. They were surely aware of his adultery, but that’s not child abuse or rape.

The Democratic voters who re-electived him in 1996 had no knowledge of those allegations. They were surely aware of his adultery, but that’s not childe abuse or rape.

The Democrats who voiced support him during the lengthy Starr investigation and the impeachment process had no knowledge of those allegations. They were surely aware of his affair with Lewinsky and his lies about it, but that’s not child abuse or rape.

So I think you aren’t comparing Roy Moore voters to Bill Clinton voters. What, then, are you comparing? Is it your contention that Democrats would line up to vote for Bill Clinton today? If so, on what do you base that contention? You’re aware that his favorability rating and net favorable numbers have been declining, right? Why do you thinking that is?

72

Harry 12.22.17 at 6:14 pm

Layman said roughly what I was going to say.

The huge difference is not the age of the preyed-upon (though there’s certainly that), but the availability of reliable information about what Clinton and Moore did. Even the denials. When Clinton denied that he’d had sexual relations (or whatever) I thought he was lying. But I wasn’t sure, and couldn’t watch the denials at will to check my instincts. And I never at the time saw unadulterated testimony from women he had assaulted, as all Moore’s supporters have been easily able to. (I’m not making excuses for myself: I didn’t support Clinton, didn’t defend him, and was horrified by the energy with which people I otherwise respect continued to defend him for years, including on these pages where I have been upbraided from time to time for my criticisms of him — though as Layman says, this phenomenon seems to be in decline now…)

73

bruce wilder 12.22.17 at 10:51 pm

The huge commonality in the accusations against Moore recently and the accusations against Clinton back in the day was that they came packaged as manipulative propaganda in partisan contests for office and power.

Partisan political argument that takes the form of accusations of sexual misbehavior, with accompanying expressions of moral outrage to bolster the presumption that such behavior should be disqualifying, is aggressively manipulative. It takes the form of manipulative propaganda, amplified by repetition and exaggeration as well as the pose of outrage and moral certainty. The manipulative propaganda (and propaganda contra) will be proposed by people who have a stake in the contest for power, but may be amplified by those in Media for the commercial gain from conveying the propaganda, with near complete indifference to the contest for power (at least insofar as that contest implicates public policy choice) and no commitment to disinterested judgment.

It is genuinely hard to know how to cope with the onslaught. There is so much misinformation in the stream and so many tendentious judgments held up in the political media as models, it would be quite daunting to try to sort and sift thru it all. I suppose overload and distraction are as much or more the means of the propagandists and their enablers and the invocation of commonly shared moral standards for the pose of moral outrage merely a convenient fulcrum on which to bend their lever. I certainly do not mistake the campaign against Roy Moore as a campaign against pedophilia (or the campaign against Bill Clinton back in the day as a campaign against adultery or rape.) I do not think that those who chose to vote for Moore did so because they were objectively or subjectively pro-pedophilia. That seems petty and even ridiculous.

From my political perspective there are so many reasons to reject Roy Moore that alleged pedophilia more than 35 years ago could hardly enter the calculation, even if I had a vote in Alabama, which I do not. But, I do wonder, why this now? Why try so hard to make this election about sexual misconduct or hypocrisy?

There’s no apparent governor on political Media, to dampen the generation of gaseous waves of narrative speculation to inflate these exercises, overwhelming the cognitive capacity of anyone trying to pay attention. At this point, it is a process, supremely careless of content and bereft of genuine righteousness. I don’t know which is worse, honestly — that the Media elite stand ready to put on these shows or that these shows are what the minority of the adult population that votes, responds to. As happy as I am to see the back of Moore, hopefully for the last time, the process used — the same process that gave us Clinton’s impeachment and WMD in Iraq — gives me pause.

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Layman 12.22.17 at 11:27 pm

bruce wilder: “I certainly do not mistake the campaign against Roy Moore as a campaign against pedophilia (or the campaign against Bill Clinton back in the day as a campaign against adultery or rape.)”

That’s big of you, considering that back in the Bill Clinton campaign day there were no allegations about rape.

“I do not think that those who chose to vote for Moore did so because they were objectively or subjectively pro-pedophilia.”

Nor do I, nor anyone else for that matter. On the other hand, those who chose to vote for Moore did so for reasons that, in their view, trumped charges of pedophilia. Is that not craven enough for you?

(Having read your comments for the better part of 10 years, I can only say that something has gone badly wrong.)

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bruce wilder 12.22.17 at 11:41 pm

J-D @ 70: Does that mean that, in the current political climate, you are going to interpret any development as a defeat for the left?

No.

Glad to clear up that mystery for you. Merry Christmas.

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ph 12.22.17 at 11:44 pm

@73 There’s a lot in this. The take-away is you’re right – the same processes are at work, and as many seem content with the current state of affairs, as aren’t. Without some form of non-partisan press the citizenry will turn to fringe sources magnified on social media for information. In the past radio served the same function, bypassing the generally conservative, but sober, press to go all wild-ass on the conspiracy theory of the day. And these hucksters grabbed good lucre preaching to the choir. The ditto-heads who tune religiously into Maddow, or Rush, for the ‘truth’ never quite figure out that ditto-head feed is relatively easy to produce, and requires no substantive connection to reality, but simply an eager audience.

We are currently at a particular atypical inflection point in modern media relations. A highly atypical president is being absorbed by the corporations that run America with some hiccups along the way. For the most part, he’s far exceeded elite expectations. America’s top bankers, Wall St., Silicon Valley moguls, etc. might privately and publicly disparage the president, but only the truly gullible believe that the ruling class cares about anything but getting richer. And they certainly are doing that.

What will come as a surprise to so many is not how radically America has changed under Trump, but rather how little. The poor can look forward to a good screwing and the rest of us are left to scramble upwards as best we can.

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LFC 12.23.17 at 2:06 am

Haven’t been following the thread closely lately, but since Roy Moore has again appeared as a topic I think it’s worth linking to a post (link below) by an Oxford researcher who points out correctly that pedophilia is a psychiatric disorder involving (involuntary) sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children. Pedophilia only becomes a matter of relevance, politically or judicially, if it leads to behavior, i.e. the crime of sexually assaulting or sexually molesting children. Not all pedophiles are child molesters (i.e., some pedophiles do not act on their desires), and not all child molesters are pedophiles.

The linked post makes the point that pedophiles “should be encouraged to seek treatment for their disorder before they cause harm to children — which will only happen if we can keep clear about the difference between” pedophilia (the disorder) and sexual assault (the behavior). [emphasis in original]

http://blog.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/2017/11/pedophilia-and-child-sexual-abuse-are-two-different-things-confusing-them-is-harmful-to-children/#more-13071

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ph 12.23.17 at 2:13 am

Arguing over the timing and credibility of one set of accusations hides the forest, which is that innuendo, sexual impropriety, and taboos were and are the throbbing undercurrent running through the FBI tapes of MLK, Roy Cohn’s and Hoover’s closeted sexuality, Kennedy’s hookers and pill-popping, Eleanor Roosevelt’s secret love-life, John McCain’s African-American illegitimate child, the sham-marriage of Slick Willie and his companion in avarice, Obama’s secret Muslim agenda, Bernie Sanders’ atheism, Rush’s pill-popping, Carville’s cocaine use, and the golden-showers dossier.

Bruce is entirely right, there were better reasons not to vote for Moore. The fact that few of these actually emerged is does not bode well. Bruce is correct on this point, too, the campaign against Moore is exactly how the ‘debate’ over invading Iraq unfolded.

Walter Pincus was at least then on the back pages. Where’s Walter now?

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ph 12.23.17 at 3:00 am

It’s not how many lies the Clintons tell (a few, I’d say) : it’s the questions.
CBS Sixty Minutes 1992

80

Alan White 12.23.17 at 3:23 am

Tonight I just re-watched the 1957 classic “The Incredible Shrinking Man” and was taken aback anew from a contemporary context by its message that enforced diminution of stature can be the road to wisdom–seeing oneself as a kind of libertarian monad of integrity no matter how vanishingly small and irrelevant one might actually and in real life become. Just as that message served to make the movie a success, the same message seems to serve the reality TV that modern political/media life has become. Watch ABC News as just one small example: superficial reportorial segments for about 13 minutes, commercials targeting Boomer ailments, one salacious/unnerving segment to tantalize you, more commercials targeting Boomer ailments, the “Index” of 3/4 briefs of outlandish good or bad to draw attention, more commercials targeting Boomer ailments, and finally one Made-in-America/individual human interest/person-of-the-week piece that’s all about plucking your heart strings. The news itself shrinks incredibly to be all about you! Rejoice!

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J-D 12.23.17 at 4:53 am

bruce wilder
Well, that partly clears up the mystery, but only partly. I’m still partly mystified about what kind of development, in the current political climate, you might regard as a victory for the left.

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J-D 12.23.17 at 5:07 am

bruce wilder
It would be a mistake to interpret (using your phrase) ‘accusations of sexual misbehavior’ solely or even primarily in terms of (again, using your phrase) ‘partisan contests for office and power’, because most such accusations are not made in the context of such contests. The reasons accusations are (in some instances) made public while partisan contests are taking place must be mostly if not entirely the same as the general reasons they are made public, regardless of any particular political context. To me it seems easy to understand that sometimes, but not always, when somebody’s name is in the news it may prompt people to make public accusations they had previously kept private, and obviously being a candidate in an election is one of the things that can get somebody’s name into the news; and yet, despite that, Juanita Broaddrick did not make public her accusations of rape against Bill Clinton in 1992, when he was running for election as President, or in 1996, when he was running for re-election, but in 1999, when he was no longer eligible.

By far the most likely explanation of the accusations against Roy Moore is that they are true, because that’s by far the most likely explanation of all such accusations, and that doesn’t cease to be the case just because they (unsurprisingly, as I mentioned) were made public when he was a candidate for election; and they do constitute a good reason not to vote for him, although (like you) if I had a vote in Alabama I personally would not have needed this additional reason to vote against him, which for me would have been a heavily over-determined decision.

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anon/portly 12.23.17 at 5:41 pm

Layman at 71: So I think you aren’t comparing Roy Moore voters to Bill Clinton voters. What, then, are you comparing?

Me at 54:I mean, how are the attitudes of Alabama Republicans who voted for Moore significantly different from the attitudes of Democrats towards the charges against Bill Clinton?

Layman’s comment at 71 painstakingly notices that I said “Democrats” and not (say) “Clinton voters.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juanita_Broaddrick

In March 1999, shortly after the allegations publicly aired, 56% of Americans believed the allegations were false, while a third believed that Broaddrick’s allegation of rape was at least possibly true. Similarly, 29% of the public felt the press should continue to cover the story, while 66% felt that the media should stop pursuing the story.

http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/stories/1999/03/01/poll/

There’s no partisan breakdown, but I think it’s somewhat likely that many or most of the “third” who at least somewhat believed the allegations were Republicans or Republican-leaners, although perhaps in this instance the partisan split that I would expect did not occur.

More Wikipedia:

Judgement on the Broaddrick matter has varied among book-length treatments of the Bill Clinton years. Joe Conason and Gene Lyons’ book The Hunting of the President argued that Broaddrick’s claim is not credible, noting that the FBI had found evidence for the allegations “inconclusive”.

Conason and Lyons, and their book, I believe are not poorly regarded among Democrats and liberals in general. How much flak did they take for making this argument?

One final point: if the attitudes of Democrats toward the charges had not been similar to the attitudes of Alabama Republicans toward Moore, as I suggested in 54, would or could Hillary Clinton have been a viable candidate in 2008 and 2016?

(I’m phrasing those last two as questions because I’m not entirely sure, my best guess would be “not much” for C&L and “no” for HRC, but my best guess is often wrong).

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Layman 12.23.17 at 6:04 pm

kidneystones: “Arguing over the timing and credibility of one set of accusations hides the forest, which is that innuendo, sexual impropriety, and taboos…”

If you can’t grasp the not-subtle difference between infidelity on the one hand, and rape or child abuse on the other, one can only hope you’ve got a public warning hanging around your neck.

85

anon/portly 12.23.17 at 6:50 pm

Harry at 72:

The huge difference is not the age of the preyed-upon (though there’s certainly that), but the availability of reliable information about what Clinton and Moore did. Even the denials. When Clinton denied that he’d had sexual relations (or whatever) I thought he was lying. But I wasn’t sure, and couldn’t watch the denials at will to check my instincts. And I never at the time saw unadulterated testimony from women he had assaulted, as all Moore’s supporters have been easily able to.

This seems to be at least partly responding to my comments, which have focused on Broaddrick, so I don’t at all understand where “never at the time saw unadulterated testimony” thing comes from. What exactly was “adulterated” about Broaddrick’s testimony?

I hesitate to say this, since it goes without saying that Harry is a much more thoughtful and insightful commenter than myself, but I wonder if the “reliability” issue is tangled up, at least a bit, with the idea than in one instance, the bad guys were attacking the good guys, and in the other, the good guys were attacking the bad guys. Naturally in the former case “reliability” is going to be more of an issue….

BW at 73:

I certainly do not mistake the campaign against Roy Moore as a campaign against pedophilia (or the campaign against Bill Clinton back in the day as a campaign against adultery or rape.) I do not think that those who chose to vote for Moore did so because they were objectively or subjectively pro-pedophilia.

I think this is put very adroitly. Probably not like anyone else on this thread, I would not overly criticize fervent Republicans in Alabama for voting for Moore. Who am I to say their fervent partisan leanings are wrong? Neither would I criticize fervent Democrats for their attitudes towards Bill Clinton. There are issues of “reliability” in both cases – neither man has had his “day in court,” obviously, and I think “reliability” is always hard (for all of us) to disentangle from BW’s “packaged as manipulative propaganda” issue. I admit I’m not 100% sure exactly how I should feel about either Clinton or Moore on this stuff – I doubt.

What I would criticize is any partisan Democrat who wants to criticize the Alabama Republicans for their attitudes towards Moore’s conduct, without also acknowledging the parallels to the recent attitudes of his or her own tribe.

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bruce wilder 12.23.17 at 7:50 pm

J-D @ 82

The context of my comment was a post about an electoral contest involving an accusation of (non-official) sexual misconduct. The general reasons for such accusations are not especially relevant istm, though we are in a political-cultural crescendo moment when accusations involving elites are getting a lot of public attention and (unusually) resulting in dramatic disgrace and removal from positions of power if not privilege for the accused — the drama of that moment seems directly relevant.

To say flatly, “the accusations against Roy Moore . . . are true”, both short-circuits the complexity of moral judgment and ignores the process by which accusations are amplified and broadcast, turned into propaganda by campaign operatives, journalists and pundits. The packaging of the accusations as manipulative propaganda is what concerned me in my comment @ 73. Such packaging doesn’t commonly happen outside of electoral politics, though, of course, it does happen sometimes for example in sensational trials, particularly when (as is the case in important electoral contests) there are significant resources invested by the litigants or their patrons in what is sometimes called public relations.

As I pointed out, the propaganda may invite us to form snap moral judgments about the alleged incidents and personalities involved and argue amongst ourselves or with people on teevee, as a form of entertainment. It is a distraction. Actual moral judgment is cognitively demanding and typically requires deliberation; what the pundits do, throwing feces at one another and the audience like monkeys at the zoo, is nothing of the sort. I had the misfortune to watch MSNBC for a few hours a week or two before the election, and neither the reporting nor the commentary was concerned with accuracy in describing the accusations. It was all about spinning out elaborate moral narratives, with often reckless disregard for any facts. I understand Fox accused one of the accusers of fabricating her story, based on the discovery that she had written something in her own high school yearbook, next to something inscribed by Roy Moore. I think this apparent dysfunction in the Media is an important cause of dysfunction in our politics and I want to draw attention to the fact of the dysfunction.

If you are naïve enough to think the news Media are simply fairly reporting wholly spontaneous accusations, and these accusations as presented in the Media should be accepted as morally and factually “true”, I doubt my comments are going to make much sense to you.

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Harry 12.23.17 at 8:56 pm

“What exactly was “adulterated” about Broaddrick’s testimony?”

Sorry, I should have been clearer. For me, here’s a difference. I read her testimony at the time, but I never saw her give it. (So, the ‘saw’ here is about seeing the person giving the testimony, not seeing the testimony!) Looking it up now it seems she did speak to camera, but in 1999 one couldn’t watch something at will, and I wasn’t a great TV watcher. Whereas at least one of Roy Moore’s accusers spoke on camera, and it was easy to watch (if you missed it on tv, you could just go to youtube, which I did). For me that makes a difference in how confident I am in my judgement. (To be honest, if I had only heard, or read, Clinton’s lies about Lewinsky I might have believed them — it was seeing his face as he lied that left me in no doubt that he was lying, and gave rise to the sense of unreality as other people who had seen the same thing said they believed him; and then horrified by them when it turned out he had been lying and they didn’t care). Seeing someone say something gives you more reliable evidence than seeing what they said.

From my perspective, in the Clinton case, it was the bad guys attacking the bad guys. I’m not a Democrat. And, for sure, I acknowledge the parallels. But I think Democrats have much better excuses for not having seen Broaddrick make her accusations than Republicans have for not having seen Nelson’s.

88

Layman 12.23.17 at 9:51 pm

anon/portly: “One final point: if the attitudes of Democrats toward the charges had not been similar to the attitudes of Alabama Republicans toward Moore, as I suggested in 54, would or could Hillary Clinton have been a viable candidate in 2008 and 2016?”

Again, which ‘Democrats’ do you mean? Basically, no Democrat in the Bill Clinton era ever heard the charges. If they had, I doubt he wins the 1992 primary, and I doubt he wins the 1992 general election.

Do you mean to say that (some) Democrats in 1999 might have been no more enlightened on such charges than are (some) Republicans in 2017? Is there a point to that observation that I’m missing?

Also: Why should Hillary Clinton not be a viable candidate because of something her husband was accused of doing? If in fact her husband’s acts would have ruled her out as a candidate for some Democratic voters, do you approve of that sort of thinking, or do you disapprove?

Harry: “But I think Democrats have much better excuses for not having seen Broaddrick make her accusations than Republicans have for not having seen Nelson’s.”

Especially since Alabama Republicans didn’t claim to be ignorant of the charges. Instead, they claimed to be aware of them, even to have seen them; but either been convinced they were all lies, or took the view that those things happened long ago in a different time with different mores and it was all water under the bridge.

89

Layman 12.23.17 at 9:56 pm

bruce wilder: “The packaging of the accusations as manipulative propaganda is what concerned me in my comment @ 73. ”

If a former concentration camp commander – one who oversaw the mass executions of inmates – were to run for office, would campaigning by highlighting his or her past deeds be, in your view, a packaging of accusations as manipulative propaganda? When is reporting on a candidate’s past deeds manipulative propaganda, and when is it not?

90

Cranky Observer 12.23.17 at 11:09 pm

Just a reminder on how poor Roy Moore is an ordinary guy whose personal history has been misrepresented by a fiendish firestorm of Goebbels-style propaganda via the use of modern social media technology just as Goebbels and Riefenstahl used radio, film, and the brand-new television to the same ends:

= = = http://reason.com/blog/2017/10/24/constitutional-conservatives-for-defrock
Unfortunately for Cruz (and despite his blog post’s “For Liberty” salutation), the courage of Moore’s convictions frequently clash with both the plain language and contemporary interpretation of the Constitution. Such as that time, oh, LAST WEEK when Moore suggested that kneeling during the National Anthem is “against the law” (it’s not, and if such a law were passed, it would surely be declared unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds).

Or there was that famous time in 2003 when, after repeatedly defying court orders to remove a 5,000-pound granite sculpture of the Ten Commandments (which courts had ruled was in violation of the Constitution’s Establishment Clause), Moore was removed as Alabama Chief Justice by the state’s Court of the Judiciary (COJ). Or the sequel, on April 20 of this year, when the Alabama Supreme Court upheld the COJ’s 2016 removal of Moore from the bench (he had won election to chief justice again in 2012), for brazenly disregarding the Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage, prohibition of which the high court determined was in violation of the 14th Amendment.

Moore announced his candidacy for the Senate one week later. = = =

Constitutional Conservatives: gotta love ’em. Everyone knows is says right there in the First Amendment that the States may establish and enforce State Religions.

91

ph 12.23.17 at 11:12 pm

@84 Bill Clinton has been credibly accused of rape. You pretend otherwise.
If you unwilling to acknowledge what many women want you to acknowledge, please

92

ph 12.23.17 at 11:39 pm

@84 Bill Clinton has been credibly accused of rape. You pretend otherwise. Why?

On Clinton raping Juanita Broadderick:
Vox

On Clinton’s predatory behavior:

Yolanda Yu explains

”Democratic operative James Carville memorably said of Paula Jones: “If you drag a $100 bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find.” She and other Clinton accusers were branded as “nuts or sluts”

Hanging signs around people’s necks is what people do to deflect and discredit.

Bruce W. is correct. Plenty of anti-Moore propagandists are happy to imply/state the GOP supports assaulting children. The GOP makes equally ludicrous claims. Salacious crap sells. That’s not news. Bruce’s point, and my own, is that this is predictable and unhelpful.

93

J-D 12.24.17 at 12:13 am

LFC
Since you quote the psychiatrists’ definition of pedophilia as sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children, in the context of the accusations against Roy Moore, it may be relevant to add that there’s no evidence that Roy Moore is, or was, sexually attracted to pre-pubescent children; all the accusations against him are about his behaviour with post-pubescent teenagers.

94

J-D 12.24.17 at 12:23 am

bruce wilder

To say flatly, “the accusations against Roy Moore . . . are true” …

I did not say flatly that the accusations are true. I wrote ‘By far the most likely explanation of the accusations against Roy Moore is that they are true …’ When drawing that conclusion, I did not make an assumption that the news media are purely neutral transmitters of information; I am aware that they are not, and taking that into account I still reach the conclusion that the most likely explanation of the accusations is that they are true. If you have in mind some other likely explanation of them, you have not shared it with us, so you’ve given me no reason to revise my conclusion.

The fact of the accusations being made would be adequately explained if they are true; the truth or the probable truth of the accusations is not by itself enough to explain subsequent reactions, the behaviour of the news media, and so on, so if you are trying to make that point (or if anybody is), I agree.

95

Peter T 12.24.17 at 12:25 am

Bruce Wilder is right that media reporting of sexual misconduct is more entertainment than anything else. I don’t know why he expects anything different. I can’t speak to US history, but sex scandals have been a staple of British political history since forever. from Charles Dilke through Profumo to Damien Green. It’s a sure sign that a Tory administration is on its last legs when stories about spanking sessions or “love-children” are on the front page. We might prefer that policy and administrative competence are portrayed accurately and objectively, but our preferences have had little influence to date.

Nor was the media ever particularly pure – I recall reading the Times of London (that embodiment of establishment rectitude) for 1920/21. In between heavily slanted reporting of the Irish conflict it soberly told its readers that the Bolsheviks had made women communal property in Krasnoyarsk, no doubt as much for the titillation as the shock. Policy may be the bass line of politics, but scandal is the arresting high tenor.

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J-D 12.24.17 at 4:40 am

kidneystones

@84 Bill Clinton has been credibly accused of rape. You pretend otherwise. Why?

If you reread Layman’s comment carefully, you should be able to perceive that Layman’s point is different from the way you have just represented it. Layman has cast no doubt on the credibility of Juanita Broaddrick’s accusation against Bill Clinton; Layman has pointed out correctly that the accusation was not publicly known while Bill Clinton was a candidate for election, becoming public only in 1999. It is a hypothetical possibility that people would still have been prepared to vote for him after the accusation was publicly known, but it’s a matter of record that nobody did actually vote for him after the accusation became publicly known.

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J-D 12.24.17 at 5:21 am

Peter T
It is true that the way the press handled the stories about (for example) Profumo is not adequately explained solely by the fact that the stories were true; but that doesn’t change the fact that the stories were true.

98

Suzanne 12.24.17 at 6:06 am

@91: Bill Clinton may eventually be credibly accused of rape, but it’s going to have to be by someone other than Juanita Broaddrick. Even Ken Starr could make no use of her.

(Broaddrick has made some interesting claims. The one that really tied it for me was the one where she asserted that just weeks after Bill’s brutal assault, Hillary Clinton approached her at a rally and, in a very meaningful way, thanked her for “everything you do for Bill.” Sure, she did.)

@94: The media have actually been doing some very solid exposure of famous and powerful men who have been credibly accused of the most sordid kinds of sexual harassment and worse. (So far, they have shown far less interest in working class women who don’t get harassed by boldface or trendy names, but let it pass for now.)

Roy Moore is many varieties of creepy. Stories of his creepiness around teenage girls had been circulating in Alabama for some time, which is why The Washington Post approached the women who eventually spoke to them. The Alabama GOP rallied around him. A party chairman explained helpfully that “14-year-olds don’t make good decisions.” Yes, this is just like Bill Clinton and the Democrats……

99

Layman 12.24.17 at 11:39 am

ph: “Bill Clinton has been credibly accused of rape. You pretend otherwise. Why?”

This statement is false, as has been adequately explained by J-D. In any event, my objection to your comment was this: That you lump infidelity with rape and pedophilia – as if they were all similar things – when you describe them all collectively as ‘innuendo’, ‘sexual impropriety ‘, ‘taboos’. If you genuinely can’t tell the difference between them, it is for this reason I say you should come with a warning label, as a service to the public.

100

Layman 12.24.17 at 11:41 am

ph: “Plenty of anti-Moore propagandists are happy to imply/state the GOP supports assaulting children. ”

If there are plenty, then it should be easy to provide examples. Off you go. I’ll wait.

101

Harry 12.24.17 at 5:59 pm

“Especially since Alabama Republicans didn’t claim to be ignorant of the charges. Instead, they claimed to be aware of them, even to have seen them; but either been convinced they were all lies, or took the view that those things happened long ago in a different time with different mores and it was all water under the bridge.”

Or, in some cases, just flat out said that they didn’t care because it was evil versus evil.

102

Harry 12.24.17 at 5:59 pm

And he was the lesser evil.

103

anon/portly 12.24.17 at 6:51 pm

88

Again, which ‘Democrats’ do you mean? Basically, no Democrat in the Bill Clinton era ever heard the charges. If they had, I doubt he wins the 1992 primary, and I doubt he wins the 1992 general election.

This comment is responding to my comment 83, in which, by discussing the attitudes of Democrats after the Broaddrick allegations came out in 1999, I was – not unclearly, I think – responding to the very same point I described as being made “painstakingly” in 71. I was going to say “painstakingly and tirelessly” but I thought that was overdoing it. J-D helpfully reiterates the point in 96.

Do you mean to say that (some) Democrats in 1999 might have been no more enlightened on such charges than are (some) Republicans in 2017? Is there a point to that observation that I’m missing?

Yes (without the aspersion in “no more enlightened”) and yes. But on the first question quite clearly I suggest not just 1999 but after that also – e.g. the part about C&L in 83. On the second question see – again, e.g. – the final paragraph of 85. If this point isn’t clear, I don’t know what to suggest. Maybe it’s such a poor point that it’s not recognizable as a point at all.

Also: Why should Hillary Clinton not be a viable candidate because of something her husband was accused of doing? If in fact her husband’s acts would have ruled her out as a candidate for some Democratic voters, do you approve of that sort of thinking, or do you disapprove?

As I said, this was my “best guess.” Maybe I’m wrong, but I think when voters look at Hillary Clinton they see Bill Clinton as “part of the package,” as it were, such that their attitudes towards the one affect their attitudes towards the other. Like with Jeb and George W, only whereas it seems George W. (and now George also!) was a liability for Jeb, I thought Bill was considered an asset for Hillary.

I thought it would be obvious that if the attitudes of Democrats towards Bill after 1999 were more disapproving, then this would have things more difficult for Hillary, as defending him would make Democrats like her less also. Maybe she would have found a work-around to this problem, but as it was she was (as we all know, I hope) unusually unpopular (for a major party candidate) with voters already – if not for Trump (maybe also Goldwater?) the most disliked in the “poll era.”

104

anon/portly 12.24.17 at 7:09 pm

87 For me [seeing an accuser on TV] makes a difference in how confident I am in my judgement.

That’s something that would never occur to me. I don’t watch a lot of TV news, just occasionally for the utility I get from being appalled, and have never seen any of Clinton’s or Moore’s accusers, except maybe fleetingly, nor would I have imagined that it would affect my view of their legitimacy, as it were. If someone is going to lie or embellish in the first place, they can’t do it convincingly on camera?

It’s an interesting idea, but I don’t think I would have my confidence in my own judgment in this way – more important to me is how Broaddrick’s and Corfman’s stories are buttressed by what they said to other people at the time. Corfman’s story is also buttressed by similar stories from other women, and perhaps Broaddrick’s story also.

105

ph 12.25.17 at 4:13 am

@102 Moore was the lesser evil to his supporters.

This is easily the most perceptive and important comment on the thread, re: Moore. Moore supporters and the evangelicals who (inexplicably!!!!) voted from the Access Hollywood candidate consider child murder in the womb a far, far greater crime than sex between a fourteen-year old and a thirty-two year old. And the big difference in favor of the Moore supporters is that some/many are quite willing to consign Moore’s bad behavior to bad morals from a different time.

Abortion on demand is for all, for ever, and the decision of the woman alone.

Doug Jones’ playbook

106

ph 12.25.17 at 3:45 pm

107

Layman 12.25.17 at 4:40 pm

anon/portly: “I thought it would be obvious that if the attitudes of Democrats towards Bill after 1999 were more disapproving.”

Again, I’m struggling to understand how the attitudes of Democrats in 1999 have anything to to with elections in 2016 or 2017, and why you insist on ignoring the attitudes of Democrats today when making comparisons to the attitudes of Moore voters today.

(BTW, 40% of Republicans approved of Bill Clinton in 2001. How does that impact the comparison you want to make?)

108

Mario 12.25.17 at 9:57 pm

Peter T,

Bruce Wilder is right that media reporting of sexual misconduct is more entertainment than anything else. I don’t know why he expects anything different.

Well, I disagree with both of you. It’s not entertainment but distraction, in the sense that it moves political discussion away from policy issues towards things that are irrelevant. And it is exactly to that end that such stories are dug up. Voting against your view of how the world should be because the one who is going to represent you is being accused of pedophilia/rape/sexual harassment seems to me clearly stupid. The punishment of such things is the responsibility of the courts, not the voters. Be it Clinton, Moore, Trump, Al Franken, etc.

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Collin Street 12.25.17 at 11:35 pm

Voting against your view of how the world should be because the one who is going to represent you is being accused of pedophilia/rape/sexual harassment seems to me clearly stupid.

OK. So, People take different actions because they have different knowledges/beliefs-about-how-the-world-is, which are sometimes correct and sometimes in error. We can simplify this down to four cases:
a: you know something they don’t
b: they know something you don’t
c: they “know” something you don’t, but their knowledge is erroneous
d: you think you know something they don’t, but your belief is in error.

Most of what people believe is true, so we can set aside explanations c: and d:; they’re possible, but they aren’t likely. True beliefs are more common than false ones. So. We’re left with situation a or situation b as likely explanations. In situation a, your knowledge is a superset of their knowledge: their actions will make sense within their knowledge, and you have all their knowledge, and explaining their actions is a simple matter of going through every piece of knowledge you have, setting it aside, and seeing if “what that person is doing” matches “what would be the sensible thing to do if you didn’t know X”.
And this is reasonably straightforward and you’ll usually be able to do this. If a person’s actions are a result of ignorance on their part, you’ll usually be able to see why and how.

In situation b, you can’t do this. “what knowledge do I not know that will make their actions make sense” isn’t a question you can do anything with, because definitionally you don’t know the knowledge that you’re lacking. You’ll be thrashing around trying to figure out something you don’t have the knowledge to explain and you’ll only get “stupid” results, stupid explanations.

So. If you can understand why a person is taking a choice you wouldn’t, you can kind of assume that you know everything they do and your choices are as-well or better informed as theirs are. If you can’t frame an explanation for their actions, almost certainly it’s a result of their having “more” knowledge than you do, and very likely — not certain, but likely — this knowledge is correct.

Argument from incredulity is a fairly reliable sign of error on your part. If you resort to it a lot… well, there are words for people who consistently come to false conclusions.

[But most of what makes a person “smart” or “clever” or even “intelligent” is learned skill, not talent; this trick I just told you about, you can use it work out things you have no direct evidence for, purely based on how other people act. That’s powerful! It means you can learn things from experiences you’ve never had… and it’s skill — training — not talent, that lets you do it.]

Merry Christmas.

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J-D 12.25.17 at 11:56 pm

Mario

The punishment of such things is the responsibility of the courts, not the voters.

I can find no justification for that assertion.

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bruce wilder 12.26.17 at 12:47 am

Mario @ 108

Yes. Thank you for articulating the point I was trying to make @ 73.

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J-D 12.26.17 at 8:09 am

Mario

Voting against your view of how the world should be because the one who is going to represent you is being accused of pedophilia/rape/sexual harassment seems to me clearly stupid.

Your analysis fails to take account of the high probability that there are some people who are reasoning in something like the following way, which is not clearly stupid:
‘The candidate’s view is that he should be allowed to molest women and get away with it. But my view is that he should not be allowed to molest women and get away with it. So if I vote for him I’m voting against my view of how the world should be; if I want to vote for my view of how the world should be, I need to vote against him.’

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J-D 12.26.17 at 9:24 am

Collin Street”
True beliefs are more common than false beliefs, and by a wide margin, but false beliefs are not rare; most people — probably all people — hold at least a few false beliefs, and false beliefs are part of the explanation for a significant fraction of human behaviour.

Beliefs/knowledge about how the world is do not by themselves determine people’s behaviour; people’s preferences for how the world should be must also play a part. People in similar situations and with the same knowledge/beliefs about how the world is may choose not to act in similar ways because they have different preferences for how the world should be.

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Layman 12.26.17 at 12:33 pm

Mario: “The punishment of such things is the responsibility of the courts, not the voters.”

Voting for someone else is punishment? Reporting the news is punishment? This is a bizarre idea, and I’m surprised to see anyone falling for it.

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Cranky Observer 12.26.17 at 5:26 pm

= = = Collin Street@11:35 pm: Most of what people believe is true, so we can set aside explanations c: and d:; they’re possible, but they aren’t likely. True beliefs are more common than false ones. = = =

Perhaps you could provide links to some substantial evidence supporting that assertion? Because everyday observation seems to provide many examples of contradicting evidence. Certainly when it comes to anything involving technology or science the everyday beliefs of most people are wrong, although they operate on heuristics that are close enough to let them get by for their purposes. On the political and economic arena it is a bit harder to judge but the seemingly unshakable belief in ~60% of the US population that we are experiencing an unprecedented and steadily increasing wave of violent crime when both the statistics and subjective observation shows that crime is decreasing and may be at its lowest point since the founding of the nation works against the idea that ‘most of what people believe is true’. That’s not even touching on macroeconomic theory, optimizing vs. satisficing vs. what people really do, etc.

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J-D 12.26.17 at 10:07 pm

Mario
Because attention is finite, drawing attention to anything at all must have the effect of drawing attention away from other things, but just because that has to be one effect doesn’t make it the purpose. I’m not sure what you mean by describing these stories as having been ‘dug up’ — they don’t seem to have been the product of investigative reporting — but even if they were, so what? When investigative reporters select a story to pursue, they don’t do it with the purpose of drawing attention away from some other story.

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Collin Street 12.26.17 at 10:11 pm

people’s preferences for how the world should be must also play a part.

Complete satori doesn’t exist outside buddhist fairytails; learning — and thus teaching — is always partial and focussed.

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bruce wilder 12.26.17 at 11:03 pm

CS: Most of what people believe is true, . . .

Have you met many people?

Many beliefs are explicitly held as counterfactual propositions, but nevertheless held by their bearers to be “true” in some moral sense. Many beliefs are so idiosyncratically value-laden (matters of taste) that what is “true” for one is not for another. Many beliefs are held on faith as badges of membership in a group. Many beliefs are adopted as corollary to belief in the credibility of the authority that propounds the propositions held as beliefs. Beliefs are commonly acquired by the believer without much cognitive effort to determine or confirm their truth value. Finally, sensible people act all the time in considerable doubt; their beliefs encapsulate risks in ways that may well violate strictly scientific analysis of probability, making the “truth value” of their beliefs impossible to define reliably.

Talk to people in intimate detail about almost anything outside the ambit of a hobby or professional interest works and you will find a crowded forest of unfounded beliefs. Ask how their smartphone works or how politics operates, and most people will respond with at least some ideas bordering on the fantastical: politics is infamous as a realm of persistent nonsense — surely you know this, even if you do not confess your own vast ignorance of other things?

Your dichotomies do not seem helpful at all, especially not applied to situations in which people are acting in considerable existential doubt about consequences and may not be investing much cognitive effort in rationalizing the details or basis of their beliefs.

In the Alabama election, propagandists pressed arguments about how people should rationalize their voting behavior in response to charges of immoral behavior (and vote in accord with the rationale). That propaganda did not constitute “truth” about either objective facts or a considered judgment regarding moral meaning. Whether or how people engaged with it in an individual instance is impossible to infer from behavior without testimony, and the testimony is likely to have little informational value beyond an indication of which propaganda memes were absorbed, not necessarily which were individually effective. Whether people should engage with particular propaganda memes and behave as prescribed when voting is, itself, a value-laden belief with no clear truth-value of its own. A pose of objective moral certainty may be useful in catapulting the propaganda, but merely processing a moral narrative without critical scrutiny of facts and circumstances does not justify. And, really, who sits down and spends hours going over claims and counterclaims? Certainly, very few voters and absolutely no teevee talking heads, who will have hours of airtime to fill but get better ratings from being good tribalists.

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Mario 12.26.17 at 11:11 pm

If it is more important to you that the world is run by pious people than by people capable of improving things then you are objectively stupid. Why are we even talking about this?

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