A new two party system?

by John Quiggin on July 5, 2019

Recent elections (notably including those for the European Parliament) have shown the evolution of what I’ve called a three-party system, replacing the alternation between soft and hard versions of neoliberalism dominant since the 1980s. The three parties in this analysis are the (a) remaining elements of the neoliberal consensus, (b) Trumpists[1], and© leftists, defined as broadly as possible to encompass greens, feminist, social democrats, old-style US liberals, as well as those who would consciously embrace the label “Left”.

When I wrote in 2016, the biggest loser from this process seemed to be the kind of soft neoliberalism exemplified by Blair, and many of the European social democratic parties. But that was before Trump and Brexit.

The striking development of the past few years has been the capitulation of the mainstream rightwing parties to various forms of Trumpism. That’s most obvious with the US Republicans. And, while some advocates of Brexit may still hope for a free-market utopia, its pretty clear now that this is unlikely to happen. The continuing desire to get Brexit done at all costs is all about culture wars, with Leavers cast as the British people and Remainers as out of touch elites. The same pattern is evident in Australia, where free market policies have been abandoned in favour of culture wars, to the extent that the government is seriously considering building coal-fired power stations, just to make a point.

I’m not well enough attuned to the nuances of European politics to discuss developments at the national level. In aggregate, though, it seems clear not only that the mainstream conservatives are losing ground electorally, but that they are moving towards Trumpism.

This suggests that the current three-party system might rapidly resolve itself into a new two-party system: Trumpists against everyone else, with the remnants of the old neoliberal duopoly being forced to take sides. This is already happening to some extent.

In this context, it was striking to read a piece in the Washington Post, of all places, slamming the “economically conservative, socially liberal” centrism of Howard Schultz, and pointing out that

Centrism,” in other words, has become a byword for the politics of the business elite. Defined left to right, on an x-axis, it may approximate the center of the political spectrum. But on a y-axis that represents socioeconomic status, it sits at the very top.

It’s hard to say where centrists will end up. On the one hand, they mostly benefit from the regressive tax policies and weak regulation that Trumpists have carried over from hard neoliberalism. On the other hand, the Trumpists have abandoned free markets for crony capitalism, typically favoring well-connected national insiders, exemplified by the US First Family. That poses problems for global corporations and fans of globalized capitalism like Tom Friedman, who still yearn for the halcyon days of the 1990s.

As ought to be obvious, I’m still working this out, so I’ll leave it to commenters from here.

fn1. I previously called this group “tribalists”, which was problematic. The Key characteristic is the identity politics of a formerly unchallenged dominant group facing the real or perceived prospect of becoming a politically weak minority, as with white Christians in the US. As Trump and others have shown, this kind of politics leads naturally to support for demagogic dictators and would-be dictators.

{ 141 comments }

1

nastywoman 07.05.19 at 5:50 am

– as the European reality -(without the UK) – is ”the five Party system” – this idea of a ”three party system” might be just a bit too ”Anglo-Saxon” –
because – why? –
again – do these AngloSaxonCountries always have this… this ”duo play”?
-(they never seem to be able to get over with – or if they try to ”get over with” they always – alway talk ”third party” – and hardly ever ”fourth” or ”fifth” – or even sixth or seventh)
– and btw – a member of the German Greens really isn’t a member of the ”SPD” or der Linke – or der AFD or der CDU!
-(and about the same goes for France and Italy and most of the Scandinavian Countries)

Or just look at the EU Parliament?

2

Jim Andrakakis 07.05.19 at 6:09 am

To add a local perspective, I don’t think “Trumpian” and “left-ist” (both somewhat loosely defined) are mutually exclusive. In Greece we have seen very “Trump-like” behavior from some parts of SYRIZA.

3

reason 07.05.19 at 7:18 am

I’m with nastywoman on this one, 3 parties is too few. There is a definite splintering in all directions apparent. Macron’s party is a bit of an eye-opener in that regard in that a party created from nothing and representing nothing could win so decisively and then lose support so rapidly.

I think the issue is that we have been following a set of policies in the western world that have not worked and more importantly are now obviously leading to disaster (not least environmentally). This is combined with the disillusionment of a large post-communist generation in large parts of the world. Communism was not all bad, it removed existential angst and supported female independence at the cost of self-determination and self-actualization. This is now obvious to people and they are hunting for solutions without being offered any.

So in a sense there are two camps which could be called nostalgia and futurism, but both are splintered about how to achieve those goals with no clear policy prescription being offered on either side, nor even as far as I can see really by any of the splinters.

I get the feeling that we need academia to provide genuine blueprints, for somebody who recognizes what the problems are charts a path forward. At the moment I’m not seeing it. Tactics aren’t going cut it, we need strategy.

4

reason 07.05.19 at 7:28 am

oops … what the problems are AND charts …

By the way as the father of two idealistic young daughters who are disillusioned with political parties (so much so that my elder daughter voted for the satire party “DIE PARTEI” in the EU elections) what I see is that we are still moving in the wrong direction (things are getting worse) and people are suggesting policies to merely slow down the deterioration. NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

5

reason 07.05.19 at 7:52 am

PPS. I forgot to mention that the two obvious serious issues that all the world can now see clearly are environmental deterioration and perniciously rising inequality (so great that large segments of the population suffer from the environment and social costs of growth but receive none of the benefits).

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bad Jim 07.05.19 at 7:56 am

The U.S., because of its legacy of slavery and segregation, has always been hostile to policies which treat its citizens equally, decrying them as socialist threats to our god-given liberties, which makes comparisons to European states, which generally speaking have taken care of straightforward problems like health care more economically, somewhat problematic.

Racism can be found on the right wing of any party, but in few other nations are the formerly enslaved a substantial fraction of the polity. Here their emancipation is still so fraught an issue that free health care is refused by most of the states that fought to keep them in chains.

There seems to be no limit to American exceptionalism. We’re running a race between tax cuts and war spending to see which can run up the bigger debt. No other country could do this.

If I have a point, it’s that centrism in the U.S. is an ill-defined position; choices made in 1932, 1948 and 1964 remain in dispute.

7

Matt 07.05.19 at 8:00 am

Communism … supported female independence

This is part right and part wrong. Communist countries certainly had high rates of participation by women in jobs formerly dominated by men (although some of those then became “feminized”) and had, in many ways, more equal education systems. This is important and good! But, on the other hand, women in communist countries tended to still do the vast majority of domestic work, and without most modern labor-saving devices, or at least much worse ones. Also, basic female hygiene products were often difficult, if not impossible, to get. It’s hard to be fully independent if you can’t a pad or a tampon. (Slavenka Drakulic is excellent on this, among other topics.) And, when normal birth control is super hard to get – and so an average woman has 4-5 abortions – which were not so fun! – independence is also greatly reduced. (In countries like Romania, this was even more of a horror show, of course.) It is, perhaps, unsurprising, that when “consumer products” are not given a focus, some people’s consumer products are more ignored than others. So, we should give the proper dues to the former communist countries, but give them their well-earned knocks on treatment of women, too. (At least in the Soviet Union – and in Russia still – domestic violence was and is a very serious problem, too – one take less seriously than in most western countries.)

8

SusanC 07.05.19 at 10:05 am

Some decades back, the left-right divide shifted so that issues such as anti-racism, feminism, gay rights etc. Gained siginificance.

In the current shift, these issues continue to be relevant to political affiliation. It’s like both sides have dropped their support for the economic aspects of neoliberalism, while maintaining position on social issues.

9

reason 07.05.19 at 10:24 am

Matt @7
Fair enough, I was specifically thinking a East Germany where women in the East specifically missed the child care offered by the DDR and had much higher labour force participation rates than the West.

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Z 07.05.19 at 10:31 am

This suggests that the current three-party system might rapidly resolve itself into a new two-party system: Trumpists against everyone else, with the remnants of the old neoliberal duopoly being forced to take sides.

I don’t buy it. Even in the US, the country in which the “Trump against everyone else” narrative is most believable, it is at the moment still unclear how the neoliberal group will react if Bernie Sanders wins the nomination and the least that can be said is that it is not obvious that the behavior of the electorate (or for that matter, the political establishment) with respect to AOC or Ilhan Omar can be characterized as “with them against Trump”. In Western Europe, I don’t see that the “Trumpist against everybody else” narrative really prevails. In terms of concrete policies, for instance, trumpists and neoliberals find large domain of agreements when it comes to immigration, tax and labor policy or not caring about the environment (see the recent blocking of the carbon neutrality strategy at EU level) while trumpists and leftists agree on opposing the EU and privatisations. In terms of actual electoral contests, in Italy, France and the UK at least, it seems by now clear that a large part of the electorate (perhaps a majority) is in bitter opposition to at least two of the three party system components, so lumping any two of them together seems an analytic mistake.

There is some underlying point with which I agree. In the face of environmental destruction and extreme inequalities, it is very hard to maintain the 1990s standard neoliberal discourse (growth is good, inequalities are OK as long as they reflect merits, all boats are being lifted…). But the political and social groups are there, and distinct.

@reason Macron’s party is a bit of an eye-opener in that regard in that a party created from nothing and representing nothing could win so decisively and then lose support so rapidly.

I don’t think I agree. Macron’s party did not represent nothing: it represented (quite explicitly) educated professionals in dynamic urban centers. Since then, it managed to attract the support of affluent elderly voters. So it got (and gets) about 60% of support of a group that is about 20% of the population, but a group that actually votes, so this translates into 20 to 25% of actual votes. That’s what he got in 2017. That’s what he got in the European election. He did lose some support from traditional Parti Socialiste voters who believed more in the fact that he was a former minister in a socialist government than in his actual program, but (at present) this has been more than compensated by his getting the elderly vote.

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Dipper 07.05.19 at 10:39 am

As we all know, there are two kinds of people; those who believe there are two kinds of people, and those who don’t.

I’d argue that most democracies face a single defining issue, and the parties cluster on a particular side of this divide with the factions and groups vying to decide secondary issues within the primary grouping based round the big split. What is happening in the UK is that the previous issue, which was big state vs little state, is being replaced with a constitutional question; stand apart, or be a component of the EU. Scotland has had a similar switch from left/right to independent/union.

I’m interested in what the new dividing line in the USA is. What is the question that has Trump or the woke Democrats under Warren/Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as the two possible answers?

12

eg 07.05.19 at 12:09 pm

In Canada there has been a three party system here (Conservative, Liberal and New Democrat) since at least the ’70s, though the third party never actually ever governs Federally — it has occasionally held the balance of power for minority Parliaments and governs some of the Provinces now and then. Quebec traditionally elects several members of a separatist party, the Bloc, and the Greens currently have one seat (their first).

To outsiders I don’t imagine that the distinction between the two parties that hand governance back and forth (Liberals and Conservatives) would appear very considerable — they are both utterly captive to the neoliberal hegemony.

13

SusanC 07.05.19 at 12:33 pm

The British Conservative party has been an unstable coalition of conflicting interests for decades: conservative prime ministers nearly always run into trouble over Europe.

Trumpism seems to me to be an obvious continuation of the US Republican’s Southern Strategy since the 1970’s, so maybe the Republicans were also doomed. (If you recruit the Confederate Flag waving element in order to get your party elected, the danger is they will vote for Trump in the primaries).

14

Zamfir 07.05.19 at 2:16 pm

Speaking for my own Netherlands: I recognize some of this but only very vaguely . It feels too Anglo, really. Our politics just keeps on gaining parties – 13 in parliament at the moment, and most have proven staying power.

If anything, the liberals have been the beneficiaries of this. One could call them neoliberals, but they have been around since forever. The “neo” feels a bit silly in that light. They haven’t grown much, but haven’t shrunk either and can now rule through divide-and-conquer. They have arguably taken over from the Christian Democrats as the default conservative party . A different dynamic compared to their German brethren, which should be a warning against too much international generalization.

There are parties that you could call “trumpist”, in the sense that they are much more openly anti-foreigner than parties used to be, with an anti-establishment flavour. Though much like “neoliberal”, that label feels like a Anglo lens that obscures as much as it clarifies. They might still grow larger from here, but I don’t see them becoming one-half of a duopoly anytime soon.

The social-democrats are definitely on the long-term defensive (somewhat like the Christian Democrats), and I do think this resembles a similar process in some other European countries. On the other hand, it might just be the outcome of a more general splinterization that affects all the formerly-large parties. Then again, in 2010 people were discussing how the upcoming duopoly of social-democrats and liberals would sweep the smaller parties aside.

15

Cian 07.05.19 at 3:06 pm

@bad Jim:
> The U.S., because of its legacy of slavery and segregation, has always been hostile to policies which treat its citizens equally, decrying them as socialist threats to our god-given liberties, which makes comparisons to European states, which generally speaking have taken care of straightforward problems like health care more economically, somewhat problematic.

I see this argument a lot and I don’t think it’s true. Yes slavery and segregation are important, but so also is the violence conquest of NW Mexico and the ways in which those native populations were forcably subjegated (a process that is still ongoing today), and the insanely violent history surrounding labour battles in the C19th and early C20th.

Like all things it really comes down to power. In the US the elites have been able to hang on a lot more of it due to the undemocratic nature of the US state. In places where elites have less power, things are generally better. In places that are essentially run like a S. American aristocratic post settler state (S. Carolina, Alabama, etc) – things are pretty terrible for most people no matter what the colour of their skin. One of the things that changed in the US over the past 40 years is that the Southern aristocratic states have become a lot more powerful, than the more democratic northern states. Similarly southern ideals about authority and subservience have come to dominate in the workplace.

16

Dwight L. Cramer 07.05.19 at 3:26 pm

Something about early 19th century technology and political organization seems to have favored the creation of two party systems, and if that’s when a nation’s political culture jelled, it gets carried forward. Also, I suppose, it matters much that the nation has a’federal’ component (or, as in the UK, is a union of culture polities–England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland), so that the side picking always has a zero-sum element–North vs. South, LA vs. New York.

That said, the technology and social culture of today seems to strongly favor fragmentation, and the larger the entity, the greater those tendencies within it.

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steven t johnson 07.05.19 at 3:45 pm

The notion that Brexit is all about the culture wars strikes me as an us vs. them story that casts “us” as moral and “them” as deliberately immoral. Brexit seems to me to be very much about sticking with the US, this doesn’t seem to be useful. And the so-called “populists” in Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, the Baltic republics are very much about joining the US in another crusade. The rise of yet more fascists in Spain and Italy are, I suspect, apt to try to turn against the EU (ostensibly on “culture”) as the German-French imperial consortium gets more and more SYRIZA on the their ass.

Jim Andrakakis@2 seems to think that SYRIZA was ever very much left, rather than “left moving right as fast as possible,” even though its core policy was anti-KKE, i.e., no Grexit, no matter what. “OXO” always meant no to the KKE, which is why the KKE tried to finesse the referendum without openly signing a suicide note.

The general trend is the slow working out of the implications of the defeat of socialism, not least the reversion to the bourgeoisie doing what it has always wanted to do, free from the burden of trying to look humane. It’s like there was a seesaw, with fascism on one end and communism on the other. One end goes down, the other goes up. Matt@7 has upheld the banner of reaction, on the unstated grounds that wife beating must, must, must be better under capitalism, because culture. I think being a wife being able to support herself (and maybe kids too) without relying on a man does far more than “culture” which means a bunch of fine words repeated at every opportunity. In my view, “culture” is the way of life, and abortion is not an atrocity.

18

Jim Harrison 07.05.19 at 4:14 pm

Neoliberalism is rather like the ancien régime. It isn’t just a bunch of free market purists, but an often uncomfortable coalition of corporate interests and technocrats, just as the old order in Europe wasn’t just a bunch of reactionary aristos but included many men who wanted to rationalize law and government and though of themselves, with some justification, as continuing the Enlightenment. The Emperor Joseph was a failed reformer rather like Hilary Clinton. As de Tocqueville pointed out, many of the lasting and positive effects of the Revolutions realized the goals they didn’t have the political skills to achieve. .

Obviously nobody knows how the current political crises will sort itself out, but I hope we don’t end up throwing out the progressive features of neoliberalism. American reactionaries certainly don’t have a problem with drastic inequality, but they hate the administrative state and its reliance on science. In effect they want to preserve and strengthen the bad features of the old system while stifling the good. This time, let’s not kill Lavoisier.

19

Pseudo Georgia’s 07.05.19 at 5:09 pm

It’s hard to say where centrists will end up. On the one hand, they mostly benefit from the regressive tax policies and weak regulation that Trumpists have carried over from hard neoliberalism.

This is easy. They will go full trump. Many already have.

20

mary s 07.05.19 at 6:56 pm

Well, sure, the Republican Party is willing to put up with Trump because for most part he is enacting their long-standing agenda. In other words: Trump is a symptom, not a cause.

Relatedly, I agree with bad Jim: To put it bluntly, our political structure was set up to maximize the power of the slave states. Any movement toward progressive change (for lack of a better term) has always had to compromise with or somehow overcome this overrepresented segment of the country. Nowadays, we call it “the heartland.”

21

Orange Watch 07.05.19 at 8:43 pm

JA@2:

I’m not overly fond of the “Trumpist” label because while there’s a certain appealing slur-like quality to it, it isn’t an informative label, and as you point out, the behaviors pointed to as being most characteristic of it are associated with other parts of the spectrum that are antithetical to the best examples of “Trumpism”. I’m tempted to suggest something like “elite populism”, “astroturf populism”, “crony populism”, or “opportunistic populism”. It feels wrong not to call “Trumpism” populism, because that’s the core feature even if its adherents might need huge amounts of cognitive dissonance to support it.

It might be simpler still to label Trump-like behaviors demagoguery, and then just call the broader movement JQ labels Trumpist as nationalist demagoguery or RW demagoguery.

22

J-D 07.05.19 at 10:18 pm

reason

the two obvious serious issues that all the world can now see clearly are environmental deterioration and perniciously rising inequality (so great that large segments of the population suffer from the environment and social costs of growth but receive none of the benefits).

You perceive these as serious issues; so do I; but what is the evidence that the perceptions are universal, or nearly so?

23

Howard Frant 07.05.19 at 10:47 pm

Hate to be Johnny-One-Note, but it’s really hard to say something coherent while wielding a concept as incoherent, at least as applied to the US, as “soft neoliberalism.” It appears to have none of the characteristics of hard neoliberalism, except perhaps a belief in free trade. In fact, in 2016 it seemed to be exactly coextensive with the Democratic Party (of which Bernie Sanders is not a member, and it is literally axiomatic that he is not a soft neoliberal and Hillary Clinton is).

So why not just say so? See how much clearer your category (a) is if we say “the remaining elements of the Democratic and Republican Parties.” Unfortunately, what’s much clearer is that this is nonsense. There might be a few migrants from the the Republican to the Democratic Party, but they will not form a party with the “remnants” of the Democratic Party, nor will Greens and feminists and vegans form a new party.

24

Howard Frant 07.05.19 at 11:09 pm

Sorry– one “the” per noun or fewer was my intent.

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John Quiggin 07.06.19 at 12:48 am

@Howard “It appears to have none of the characteristics of hard neoliberalism, except perhaps a belief in free trade.” How about charter schools, financial sector boosterism and welfare reform?

@OrangeWatch: The characteristics of Trumpism listed in the OP go beyond nationalist demagoguery. You could say something like “crony capitalist demagoguery based on appeals to a dominant identity”, but why bother when Trump exemplifies all of these things and is recognised globally as the leading exemplar?

26

PQuincy 07.06.19 at 1:48 am

Two thoughts occurred to me on reading the essay and the (as always) informative comments.

1. In both US Trumpism and British Brexitism, we are clearly seeing a reactionary moment and movement (with the historically typical combination of highly manipulative elite elements and deep popular anxiety among a rather definable group. In the US, this group is exactly “a formerly unchallenged dominant group facing the real or perceived prospect of becoming a politically weak minority, as with white Christians in the US.” It’s interesting that the site of declines anxiety is now primarily defined in cultural terms, rather than in economic terms as is was from the late 19th-century through the 1940s, when the ‘petit bourgeoisie’ (as I understand it) adopted reactionary positions (including cultural ones, of course) in the face of manifest loss economic hegemony (or at least the sense of relative economic hegemony perceived as the foundation of their security). Reactionary movements have been the most dangerous and destructive since the emergence of mass politics in the late 18th century in Europe, though I’m not sure the US (for reasons not too hard to speculate about: in shorthand, race, though one could easily view post-1877 as reactionary) has every seen a very serious one before, though.

2. The second thought emerged as I read the discussions of 2-, 3-, etc. way political realignments. Yes, ideological change matters in understanding this: but the infrastructure that massively biases any given system towards a certain range of partisan groupings is election mechanics. Winner-take-all (plurality or majority), party lists, primaries, district formation, etc., all have a huge influence on partisan landscapes, and very small differences can lead to quite large differences, too, it seems. So rather than argue about the ‘real’ number of parties in ideological terms, it’s important to understand national mechanics first. This point also raises the question: which electoral mechanics (given that all are imperfect) favor certain kinds of chaos, reactionary coalescence, or other ideological landscapes? It’s hard to deny that the peculiar combination of 2-party rule, candidate-choice machinery, and federal as well as discretionary gerrymandering have had a tremendous effect on US electoral politics (including the ideological dimension). Then again, the US trajectory shows that a winner-take all majoritarian system may have more than one stable equilibrium, too… wildly incoherent non-ideological coalitions (through the 1960s), elite-and-donor dominated machines using ideological difference largely as electoral chaff while sharing neo-liberal policy outcomes, or polarized and highly personalized splits with authoritarian potential all seem to be quite possible.

27

nastywoman 07.06.19 at 4:10 am

– and I just don’t get? – as I always thought that ”Trumpism” –
(if there is something like that – outside of ”Trump” and the US – and being simply ”a…holery”) – IS –
”total and absolute confusion”?

And because ”there is just total and absolute confusion” – so many New ”Parties” show up – like in the EU Parliament there are sooo many different Parties that the parliament has a hell of a time to regroup them just into 8 -(in words ”eight” groups)

And then – how is it possible to believe and write:

”Recent elections (notably including those for the European Parliament) have shown the evolution of what I’ve called a three-party system, replacing the alternation between soft and hard versions of neoliberalism dominant since the 1980s”.

And I understand the wish -(or need?) to simplify such a chaotic party system BUT it’s totally absolutely impossible to reduce it to:
”The three parties in this analysis are the (a) remaining elements of the neoliberal consensus, (b) Trumpists[1], and© leftists, defined as broadly as possible to encompass greens, feminist, social democrats, old-style US liberals, as well as those who would consciously embrace the label “Left”.

That might be understandable from the perspective of somebody who has been grown up with the Anglo-Duoplay BUT from a European perspective it is just like an American saying he is ”a social democrat” and then we find out that he -(or she) believes in ”policies” -(or stuff) which is totally, absolutely contradictionary to the program of a ”social-democratic Party”.

And so – would there be a way… to somehow… discuss all of this – NOT being so… confused?

28

nastywoman 07.06.19 at 4:23 am

Or – let’s say it the way a European once told US in an interview:

”All these old Parties have failed us – and we would prefer to have no political Parties at all – just what the people want – but as we don’t get what we want without being organised in some ”Parties” we will start one new Party after another – until we will have one which get’s it right”!

29

ph 07.06.19 at 5:17 am

Thank you for this, John. I think efforts to understand what is actually happening are very useful. Until this occurs, prescriptive strategies and “solutions” are premature, at best.

The current norm is read any utterance from those we cast as the “enemy” in the worst possible light. That’s fine for rhetorical and/or tactical purposes.

However, internalizing our own propaganda and then mistaking this dross for actual observed data or behavior can only lead to (continued) catastrophic results. Case in point, not everyone agrees climate change is regarded is a priority problem. That fact might distress “us.” But operating as though the opposite is “true” produces the results of the recent Australian election. Ditto Brexit. Ditto Trump.

Culture matters, as many are just now discovering. Let’s be quite clear, CT was the only “liberal” site I’m aware of in 2016 that permitted open disagreement outside the set of culturally normative discourse modes. The percentage of people willing to listen to others while being called “racist” etc. is likely to be extremely small in most western societies.

What is happening in Europe is that left-leaning parties are listening to middle-class voters concerned with culture and social economies. Canada, Australia, and Japan have extremely restrictive immigration policies already. Arguing that “racism” is a switch that gets turned on and off is ludicrous. America elected Obama twice, and the same voters who made him president twice in the north-east stayed home or voted for a clearly damaged candidate. Why? Understanding that question would be good place to start.

The key difference for me between 2016 and 2020 is that at least a few sensible academics, such as JQ, are keen to avoid the errors of the past and present, and are trying to do a better job of asking questions and analyzing data, which I suppose is what academics should actually be doing like, all the time? Too few, however, and the echo chambers of the left and right even in many parts of academia are drum-tight shut.

Trump can and will say anything. Voters will look at the job numbers and the economy, shrug, and pull the lever. Tub-thumping doesn’t cut it.

30

mclaren 07.06.19 at 5:59 am

Instead of using the code word “Trumpism,” can’t we just call it fascism?

https://thinkprogress.org/60000-people-march-in-massive-nazi-rally-in-poland-afd1cb406363/

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/may/26/marine-le-pen-national-rally-ahead-of-macron-centrist-party-french-exit-polls

Economist Mark Blyth predicted all this years ago, by the way. So did Karl Polanyi in The Great Transformation, 1944.

“Yet the victory of fascism was made practically unavoidable by the liberals’ obstruction of any reform involving planning, regulation, or control.” — Karl Polanyi

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casmilus 07.06.19 at 7:18 am

I think Rod Dreher is your best guide to the “Fear of an SJW gulag” mindset right now. As ever, he is useful for illustrating the broad topic of what I suppose we should call “problems of liberalism”, but not much use as a commentator in himself. “Cultural conservatism” was the original “identity politics”, so far as that term has any use.

To be honest, whenever I see Americans sounding off about British politics, I just think “Christ, is this how bad we are, when we talk about them?”

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nastywoman 07.06.19 at 7:55 am

”Instead of using the code word “Trumpism,” can’t we just call it fascism”?

We shouldn’t –
as we finally should stop calling very different things – comparable.
For example calling ”Neo-Faschisten” in Europe – ”Trumpists” – or ”Neo-Faschism” in Europe ”Trumpism”
– or calling Trump ”a Republican” –
or as some Republicans like to call Trump ”a Democrat” –
or as American right-wingers like to call ”Libs” – ”Fascists” –
– or to call US right-wingers ”fascists”.

”Trump” and Trumps Fans are something new -(”a US specific phenomena of the 21 century”) and only a US comedian had it figured out right away by calling Trump:
”FF von Clownstick”.

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nastywoman 07.06.19 at 8:06 am

– and about this one:
“Yet the victory of fascism was made practically unavoidable by the liberals’ obstruction of any reform involving planning, regulation, or control.” — Karl Polanyi

He wrote that in 1944. – Right?

And there is NOTHING more tragic – than the believe of so many Americans that some ”Liberals” -(or Hillary) made Von Clownstick unavoidable!

NO! NO! and thousand times NO!! –
As you REALLY can’t excuse the existence of Hitler with the Weimar Republic or some Versailler Verträge – YOU can’t excuse the ”erection” of an moronic Idiot like Trump – by suggesting it was the fault of somebody who didn’t manage to control – regulate or beat him.

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Hidari 07.06.19 at 8:48 am

@30
You can call it fascism if you want, and in a loose, metaphorical sense, I have no problems with that (although we have to remember that, since about 1950, ALL British and American leaders have been ‘fascist’ in that sense), but if you are actually making the claim that modern day right wing ‘populists’ are genuinely and literally fascists, Nazis, then that’s going to be a difficult claim to substantiate. Whichever way you parse it, the foreign and even domestic policies of the ‘populists’* are wildly different from the policies of Hitler, Mussolini and even ‘softer’ analogues closer to our own time, Franco, Salazar, Pinochet etc. Despite sleazy and underhand politics (Republican gerrymandering, restrictions on the media, ‘stacking’ the supreme court, using the police as a political agent) none of the Trumpists (not even the worst of them, like Netanyahu or Erdogan) has talked about literally cancelling elections, banning political parties, setting up concentration camps for political opponents, let along engaging in mass genocide within the national borders, which were all key aims of the Nazis and fascists between the wars.

Moreover, what is the absolute key feature of the fascists and the Nazis, which sharply differentiate them from more traditional strong men/dictators, like Franco, the Colonels, Pinochet, Salazar, Attaturk etc? Simply put: war.

Nazis loved war, not just as an end in itself (though that too) but as a means to build an Empire, and in fact, almost all of the iconography of fascism (the fascist salute, the name ‘fascism’, the neoclassical architecture, the racial theorising taken over directly from 19th century racial theories used to justify colonialism) had an explicit aim: to justify Empire.

Modern day right wing extremists on the other hand, are obsessed with something different: immigration, or, in other words, not pushing ‘out’ the frontiers of the country, but keeping them where they are, and keeping the foreigners out. The Nazis did that too, in the very early days, but that was just a ‘foot in the door’ to the longer term plan of ‘lebensraum’ and building an Eastern European Empire (just as Mussolini wanted to build a North African Empire and the Japanese an Asian Empire).

Leftists have to be careful of this language, as it’s often used duplicitously with an obvious political aim: who, for example, in their right mind, would vote for Joe Biden, assuming he gets the Democratic nomination? No one. Obviously. But if Trump were literally a Nazi, if he were literally to be on the point of declaring himself dictator…well…then you might.

This liberal tactic was pioneered in France when the (minimal) odds of Le Pen becoming President were hysterically over-egged, in order to persuade undecided voters that it was Macron or The New Hitler.

Current problems aside, there are few parallels between 1933 and 2019, politically (let alone financially/monetarily, so to speak): our own problems have their own specific flavour, and for radicals to fall into the trap of positing an ‘alliance’ between the left and the centre (which was necessary to stop fascism/Nazism before WW2, but is simply not necessary or desirable now to stop Trump, or anyone) is to fall into a liberal trap. Imagine such an alliance were to happen. Who do we think would hold the whip hand? The radical left or the liberals? The question answers itself, and suggests who is suggesting this ‘alliance’ to stop ‘fascism’, and in whose interests it would function.

*I use the word in inverted commas because ‘populist’, like ‘totalitarian’ (i.e. as the word ‘totalitarian’ has been used in the post-war liberal lexicon) is a made up, essentially meaningless word, invented by liberals to create a spurious link between the radical right and the radical left and also to implicitly posit the political ‘centre’ as the locus of political virtue.

35

steven t johnson 07.06.19 at 11:17 am

Hidari@34 is correct about the intimate connection between fascism and war. The comment even notes the essential continuity of colonial ideology and fascism. Hitler’s war aims being so similar to imperial Germany’s for example is inevitable.

But I think there are a couple of implications overlooked. Fascism is the program for mass mobilization for war, which disciplines the masses especially the labor movement, dividing them by hysteria about enemies threatening the nation, targeting a minority both legally and illegally, quelling disagreements among the ruling class by elevating a strong man who uses force of some kind (the interwar use of assassination in imperial Japan was extreme in this regard, I think) to suppress elite dissent as well as left wing opposition. Historically, in the interwar period it was the losers of the Great War who needed to resort to the fascist program to prepare for war to reverse the defeats.

But…if the mobilization is of powers that are losing their grip economically, but still are very strong in military terms, why would the fascism look the same? In WWI, the largest fraction of casualties were from soldiers fighting each other. In WWII, the generals did learn something and began targeting the civilian populations, much easier targets. WWII exposed the costs of colonies so neo-colonialism became the preferred method of empire. (Again, who says no one learns anything from the last war?)

Today’s fascism doesn’t want to recreate the inefficient colonial system. I think today’s fascism is far more apt to be weakening imperial powers terrorizing humanity by assaults on weaker nations using quasi-genocidal tactics. The fascist leaders of course start these wars as their choice, regardless of legal verbiage in deference to parliamentary piety. It begins now with economic warfare on the enemy people, and results in the re-division of the world. Domestically, being already powerful, the winners of WWII, would the mobilization for war require an expensive and ungainly concentration camp system when a simple Red Scare can purge the labor movement?

The complex diplomacy like that of the days of colonial empires is meant to prevent general conflagration, but like all complex systems, in time it will fail. It will be perceived as a ludicrous accident, an unheard of concatenation of wickedness on the part of selected enemies and the mysteriously frustrated good will of selected allies. Nonetheless it’s failure is inevitable. I suspect when the rattletrap device breaks down the world will become the playground of genocides. Democracy is us (the nation) vs. them, and if victory means killing all of them, the democrats will do what the nation needs.

The first implication of fascism as a program for war is that much of what is happening now is fascism-lite, fascism adjacent, cryptofasicsm, and simply fascism with an unexpected outward appearance. The second implication is that the historical continuity of fascism puts in into the same spectrum as democracy. Historically there is no sharp dividing line between fascism and democracy. I’ve imagined one could write a useful pamphlet about democracy and genocide. [“Genocide” in many ways is an unfortunate term, raising irrelevant issues about the intentions of individuals and the degree to which murder is industrialized. Most real world “genocide” is conquest and ethnic cleansing.]

There are no clear lines between what is flatteringly called democracy and what is usually insulted as fascism. It’s like the imaginary distinction between good capitalism and crony capitalism. The difficulty with tactical alliance between the left and the center is finding the supposedly anti-fascist center.

Consider the current example of Venezuela. Quite aside from longtime unofficial support for resistance by the oligarchs of Venezuela, even to the point of openly endorsing a coup, the US has engaged in organizing economic warfare on the people of Venezuela. The fall in oil prices plus the neither fish nor fowl economic policies of Chavismo no doubt have contributed to a deteriorating situation. But the simple truth is everyone knows that the economic war on the people of Venezuela has to some degree achieved its purpose, hurting the people of Venezuela. Despite that, it is entirely unacceptable to oppose this war—even though nobody really knows why this war instead of say, one against Colombia which has slaughtered a couple hundred thousand of its citizens! Instead, it is the war itself that is held to be the democratic imperative.

In a way, I agree. It’s just that democracy isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

36

nastywoman 07.06.19 at 12:38 pm

@
”But if Trump were literally a Nazi, if he were literally to be on the point of declaring himself dictator…well…then you might”.

You mean if Trump were literally ”FF von Clownstick – the dumbest moron on earth” on the point to damaging the ”US Label” -(and ”image” and ”business model” beyond any repair)… well… then you might?

37

MisterMr 07.06.19 at 2:16 pm

I live in northern Italy, and here the Lega party is dominant since I was old enough to think about politics.
Later we had various Berlusconi governments (that included the Lega), with intermittence of center-left “soft-neoliberal” governments.

Now we have a M5s-Lega government, where the Lega is largely dominant (even though Lega had half the votes of the M5s and therefore has much less parlamentarians).

As Trump, Farage etc. remind me closely of Berlusconi and the Lega, from my poinbt of view it’s like if the rest of the world is becoming more and more similar to Italy, which is a bit funny.

I propose to call the Trump-Berlusconi-Lega etc. politicians “rightwing populists”, that has the advantage of being a clearly understandable label.

I propose to consider Mussolini, Hitler etc. also as part of the “rightwing populist” team, although quite extreme ones; this has the advantage of highlighting the similarities without necessariously implying that Trump is the same as Hitler, which luckily he is not at least as far as we are now[*].

In Italy, what happened is that thwe highly polarizing figures of Berlusconi and currently Salvini pushed everyone who wasn’t for them to become part of a unified opposition, which however when it comes into power is a bit of a mixed bag of different political philosophies. This spelled the death of more “extreme” (in relative terms” parties of the left, that could only support center-left (soft-neoliberal) parties or, when they didn’t, be blamed for the ascent of the right[**]. If the world continues to follow Italy’s path, I expect this to happen elsewhere too.

@steven t johnson 17
I see that there are many lefties that, as the EU is clearly a neoliberal institution, think that true lefties are against the EU (implying that those who are pro aren’t really lefties).
But, for some reason they expect post-EU coutries to turn fully non-export oriented, self enclosed state-controlled economies. I have no idea why they think this would happen.
I rather think we would have a USSR breakup style situation whith a lot of asset stripping, ramped up privatisations etc. (though probably not as bad as with the USSR).
I’m very pro EU, for this and for other reasons, even though the EU has a strong neoliberal bias.
Currently an italian politician, Rizzo, resurrected the old communist party (he got the right to use the logo etc.), and in the late european elections he had a strongly anti-EU, anti-NATO campaign, with wich he got less than 1% of the votes (while the party I voted, supported by Varoufakis, got 1.4%, ha ha, so much better!).
I’m not sure why one would see Rizzo as the true left. If he is the choice, though, I would be forced to vote for the soft-neoliberals because I think he is a smoke seller. I don’t think I’m less leftish for this.
____________________
[*] While we look in bewilderment to the past generations who supported Hitler or Mussolini (some of them I met), or maybe the confederates, from their point of view they were actually defending their countries (because their point of view was quite detached from reality), so they were quite normal people.
This is because I suspect many people assume thyat only madmen would support such “evil regimes”, but in reality it is not so.
So it is possible that current rightwing populists morph into full-blown fascists.
However, it just didn’t happen yet.

[**] Shades of late Weimar. Ouch!

38

b9n10nt 07.06.19 at 2:20 pm

Related: Luis Monroy-Gomez-F. summarizing a recent Piketty presentation in advance of P’s new book.

https://twitter.com/MGF91/status/1147115227168878599

“The evolution of higher education and income inequality has led to the rise of a multi-elite political system: the left caters the highly educated elite, the right the business-high income elite”

“Key result: at the beginning of the period (1956) the more educated you were, the more likely you would vote for the right in France.”

“By 2012, the more educated, the more likely you would vote for the left”

“Votes for the Democratic party by educational level. Again, in the fifties, the more educated you were, the less likely you would vote for the left.”

“2016, the more educated, the more likely you would vote for Democrats.”

“Aaaand 2016 was weird. Both the top 10% of the income and of the educational distribution voted largely for Clinton. Before that, Democrats only had the vote of the intellectual elite.”

At least in France, Piketty proposes a “political quadrant”:

egalitarian(pro-poor) / inegalitarian (pro-rich) vs. internationalist (pro-migrant) / nativist (anti-migrant)

39

Orange Watch 07.06.19 at 3:58 pm

Z@10:

Even in the US, the country in which the “Trump against everyone else” narrative is most believable, it is at the moment still unclear how the neoliberal group will react if Bernie Sanders wins the nomination

It’s instructive to remember September and October 2016. Clinton’s victory was immanent, and US centrists were crowing about the approaching deathblow to the Republican party, which would leave a racist, anti-elitist, no-nothing rump and a bunch of basically decent disillusioned moderate Republicans with no party to call home. This is the part of Clinton’s “deplorable” gaff that gets forgotten: for all that #resistance adherents now talk about how anyone who voted for Trump was an irredeemable racist, an awful lot of them were salivating in early fall ’16 at the prospect of welcoming the well-heeled portion of the Republican party into the coming Democratic one-party state – which was going to finally let them stop relying on DFHs to get votes. Moderate essentialist identity politics and all the donors would grant them a permanent majority, and they could be rid of the millstone of leftists.

If you go to centrist echo chambers now, there is a strong tendency to equate support for Sanders as support for Trump, and generally to dismiss leftists as reactionaries wearing very thin masks. If Sanders were nominated, elected, and managed to institute any appreciable amount of socio-economic reform, it seems pretty clear that the neoliberal centrists would tearfully tear up their Democratic party memberships and bitterly complain they hadn’t left the party, the party left them. It’s unlikely they’d embrace the hard neoliberals in the GOP because those neoliberals are for the moment managing to ride their populist tiger successfully; I think it would be more likely to see the wealthier portions attempting to pull a Macron. Alternately, they might try push through new anti-democratic “reforms” to “save the party from itself”.

I don’t think Sanders is going to win, though. We’ll probably see Warren or Harris nominated, and little change because of a Republican Senate even if elected. In that case, with much handwringing, they’ll seek to have more power concentrated into the imperial presidency, but take modest ACA-like measures instead of dramatic ones, and the centrists will continue trying to separate the progressives from the leftists so the former can be used as a firewall to insulate liberal power in the party. And if the party dies because of it, it dies. The liberal centrists obey the Iron Law of Institutions above all others, and they can always follow Macron’s good example if this ship starts sinking.

JQ@25:

Half that formulation is redundant; crony demagoguery retains pretty much all the unique information between connotation and denotation. Nazism is distinct within faschism, and while we still throw around Maoist/Stalinist/Leninist as labels, we also throw around communism as the overarching movement those fall under. If you really want to work Trump into the name, I’d go with Trumpist populism or Trumpist demagoguery, but the Trumpist part identifies the grifter, not the type of grift.

40

Orange Watch 07.06.19 at 10:54 pm

MisterMr@37:

Well said. You articulate what I muddled around with @21; Trumpism isn’t new or novel, it’s just cruder, franker iPopulism 2.0. And the connection you propose by lumping all this under right-wing populism is one that should be obvious but is still worth stating outright; (Trump -> RW populist) && (Hilter -> RW populist) allows for more clearly communicating how Trump and Hitler are related, but Trump is not actually a fascist leader (even though he’d probably love to be one and could yet become one), just a wildly abusive and nepotistic democratic one who has only as much restraint as a liberal interpretation of hard and fast, letter-of-the-law rules provides. There’s plenty of room for dramatic abuse within the laws of the US system, and the restraint typically shown is a result of unwritten norms rather than laws.

41

J-D 07.07.19 at 1:07 am

Orange Watch

Immanent, imminent? Imminent, immanent?

42

J-D 07.07.19 at 1:35 am

MisterMr

Now we have a M5s-Lega government, where the Lega is largely dominant (even though Lega had half the votes of the M5s and therefore has much less parlamentarians).

I read only a little about what’s happening in Italy, not enough to judge for myself how much one partner or the other in the current Italian government is dominating it. One thing I have studies are the opinion polls: I don’t know how reliable they are, but for whatever they’re worth, they show support for the Lega spiking and support for the M5S tanking. The polls reveal nothing about why that’s happening, when the two are partners in the same government. If the government were generally perceived as a success, it might lead to support for both government parties rising; if it were generally perceived as a failure, it might lead to support for both government parties falling. Since the polls show the League ascending somewhat faster than M5S is declining, one explanation that is consistent with the pattern is that the government’s performance is winning it somewhat more approval than disapproval, but that one group that disapproves is made up of people who were previously M5S voters. In turn, that might be the case if the M5S had proved largely ineffective in government and the Lega had largely seized control of the government’s affirmative agenda. That’s only one possible explanation, though.

If the Lega does largely dominate the government’s agenda, despite having entered the coalition with the M5S as the smaller partner, that is itself a phenomenon which requires some explanation.

In Italy, what happened is that thwe highly polarizing figures of Berlusconi and currently Salvini pushed everyone who wasn’t for them to become part of a unified opposition, which however when it comes into power is a bit of a mixed bag of different political philosophies.

That’s not what happened at the 2018 election, though. The M5S did not go into that election as supporters of Berlusconi and/or Salvini (and/or their parties), but they came out of it into a government partnership with Salvini and his party, not as part of a unified opposition.

43

divelly 07.07.19 at 1:37 am

So while you are earnestly deciding which lever to pull, the wild fire is rushing up the hill, and the mud slide is rolling down the hill toward your polling booth.

44

ph 07.07.19 at 2:38 am

Lawrence Tribe (Harvard) writes that the Fourth of July celebrations reminded him of Tienamin Square.

In Rise of the Vulcans, we learned that the architects of the Iraq War (see cakewalk Dick Cheney), and supporters such as Francis Fukuyama, Bernard Lewis, et were demonstrably among the best-educated fools to wield power and influence in history. (Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Cornell, etc.)

When Harvard Law prof Tribe looks at America and sees China (and let’s take him at his word), Larry isn’t telling us anything credible about America, he’s telling us about his biases. Britain loves military parades, the monarch participates. Trump may be imitating muscle displays in Russia, or France, or he may be trolling his critics. Would he do that?

I can’t imagine many Chinese dissidents confusing 45’s 4th of July celebrations with a Chinese military parade, in particular, because in America one can still openly mock and attack authority, thank goodness.

Intellectuals are not respected because too frequently intellectuals say profoundly stupid things. Suggesting America is like Weimar Germany is really stupid. Comparing holding centers built and used by a succession of governments in a wide variety of countries on their borders as “concentration camps” is not just stupid, it’s obscene.

Call “Trumpism” whatever you like. Call it fascism, peer into our intellectually-informed mind-reading devices and discern a stranger’s motivations and desires. Real fascists are proud of fascism. Fascists believe in ending elections, not winning them. Believing that all/most/many of those who disagree with us are evil might make us feel superior. But perhaps most folks we disagree with just see the world differently.

If we can’t see that much, what does that make us?

45

Howard Frant 07.07.19 at 3:14 am

@JQ
“How about charter schools, financial sector boosterism and welfare reform?”

John, this just illustrates the problem of incoherence I was talking about.

1. I have never seen these things you mention described as characteristics of hard neoliberalism. What happened to a belief in laissez-faire? (Hayek didn’t have this belief, but almost everyone thinks he did.) Or I’ve often seen austerity described as characteristic of neoliberalism. But while Paul Krugman has written recently about how fixing the deficit became unassailable consensus, Democrats were never warmly enthusiastic about it.

2. No less a leftie than you yourself has been, tepidly, in favor of nonprofit charter schools. Please name a single “soft neoliberal” (i.e., Democrat) who has been in favor of for-profit charter schools.

3. Ah, now the cat’s out of the bag. Are there other soft-neoliberals associated with financial-sector boosterism besides HRC? But HRC was a senator from New York state, which has something like 400,000 jobs in financial services. This is about as informative as finding a senator from Vermont who’s a booster of the dairy industry. Note that no one seems bothered whether the garment of neoliberalism is capacious enough to hold the entire Democratic Party or narrow enough to hold just one, as long as that one starts with an H.

4. Again, what soft neoliberals are associated with welfare reform besides, um, HRC’s husband? BTW, I know two people who resigned from the Bill Clinton administration over welfare reform, and I don’t think either would decribe themselves as “left.”

No, the whole point of the misguided effort to apply the term “neoliberal” to the US was to serve as a useful piece of invective in the 2016 election campaign, which purpose it has now served, and to simplify argument by just lumping together the Democratic and Republican parties. If people were using it for serious analysis, you would see the word “neoliberal” applied ten times as often to Paul Ryan as to Hillary Clinton. My impression is that the actual ratio is the reverse. It’s not an aid to analysis, it’s a substitute for analysis.

46

John Quiggin 07.07.19 at 4:54 am

Howard, we seem to live in different universes. As Krugman says, this was the dominant view in the Democratic party up to and including Obama, at least before the Repubs mugged him with reality. In particular, Obama was enthusiastic about a “grand bargain” to fix the deficit, and was willing to meet the Repubs more than half way to get it.

2. Most obviously, Arne Duncan – many of the New Orleans charters he enthused about were either openly for-profit or run by for-profit management companies https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2018/09/04/real-story-new-orleans-its-charter-schools/?utm_term=.7dc0fc48b833. And of course, Rahm Emanuel https://theintercept.com/2019/05/20/chicago-mayor-rahm-emanuel-failures/

3. Not just HRC, but most of the New York Dem delegation until recently (notably, Schumer and Gillibrand). Beyond that, a search for “Wall Street friendly Democrats” reveals plenty of names, even now.
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-10-31/wall-street-gets-behind-blue-wave-with-bet-on-friendly-democrats
Before the financial crisis, it was taken for granted that (after Silicon Valley) Wall Street was the sector of business closest to the Dems

4. Bill Clinton was, you know, President. Two people may have resigned over welfare reform, but that leaves an awful lot who helped it along. Again, the name “Rahm Emanuel” springs to mind, but he was just the most obnoxious among many.

47

nastywoman 07.07.19 at 5:48 am

@44
”Call “Trumpism” whatever you like”.

Thank you! –

And why of all commenters on CT – Ph has to tell US?!
And when he writes:
”Intellectuals are not respected because too frequently intellectuals say profoundly stupid things. Suggesting America is like Weimar Germany is really stupid”.

WE couldn’t agree more –
even if Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven already in 1920 (Weimar Republic) ”channeled” Trumps famous ”Covfefe” Poem. And WE -(a whole group of ”Non-Intellectuals” – residing currently in Germany) – have undeniable proof – that Baron von Clownstick was ”deeply influenced” by another artist from ”Weimar Times” – the Great Kurt Schwitters and his ”Ursonate”:

”Fümms bö wö tää zää Uu, pögiff, kwii Ee”.

48

bad Jim 07.07.19 at 6:01 am

Yascha Mounk at the Atlantic: The More You Watch, the More You Vote Populist

According to the authors, regular consumers of entertainment television preferred Berlusconi because they had poor cognitive skills. That sounds like a dumb Ivy League joke—but the study did find that Italians who watched a lot of Mediaset before the age of 10 performed worse on a series of numeracy and literacy tests. And the more exposure conscripts to Italy’s army had to entertainment television, the more likely they were to be exempted from military service because they had failed to meet its minimum intelligence requirements.

In the early 60’s Californians had lots of TV channels to watch, not just the three national networks. On channel 9 we could watch the same movie over and over for a week. Perhaps it’s no surprise that George Murphy was elected senator in 1964, Ronald Reagan governor in 1966, and Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003. See also Jesse Ventura and Donald Trump.

It used to be said that politics is show business for ugly people, but by now it should be clear that B-list celebrities do best at politics, for all that anyone cares. In this respect, at least, Americans are not exceptional, whether Boomer or Millennial.

49

nastywoman 07.07.19 at 6:06 am

– and at @
”Before the financial crisis, it was taken for granted that (after Silicon Valley) Wall Street was the sector of business closest to the Dems”

That’s where my Californian ”Granddad” –
(a lifelong Republican and member of ”the Boehemians”)
always got his YUUGEST ”kick” from.
He absolutely loved it – ”that after Obama so many Democrats couldn’t differentiate between Republicans and D’s anymore” – and thought ”it was all the same” – by ”lumping together the Democratic and Republican parties”.

And – how true – the very ”un-differentiated” word ”Neo-liberalism” played a YUUGE role in the ongoing confusion of US – so called ”Progressives”!

50

nastywoman 07.07.19 at 6:16 am

”And – how true – the very ”un-differentiated” word ”Neo-liberalism” played a YUUGE role in the ongoing confusion of US – so called ”Progressives”!

Even as the idea – that (my!) Bernie has ”something to do” with Von Clownstick –
as the thought went – that both of them were ”Populists” – and thusly ”had to be anti-neo-liberal” – was probably the utmost stupid idea? –
Which had some ”intellectuals” so confused – that they invented the even YUUUGER stupidity of NOT voting for some ”lesser evil”.

51

nastywoman 07.07.19 at 6:29 am

WHICH! –
could bring US (all?) to the final conclusion how important it is to have more than just one – two – or even ”three” parties.

As when YOU have five – or even more parties – you HAVE to learn how to differentiate between different policies and politics – and you HAVE to learn that – for example – ”the Greens are NOT just another Party of the Left –
AND – you have to learn especially about the meaning of the world ”Liberal” and that you can’t use this world just willy nilly and in combination with all kind of confusion add – or pre-ons.

BE-cause – there is pretty big ”group” of (growing) ”Liberal” Parties -(which – again – are NOT ”all the same”) – and you need to know them – very intimately! –
In order to fight them successfully!

Capisce!

52

GW 07.07.19 at 9:55 am

The number of viable — and, potentially, coalitionable — parties within a political system varies with the threshold for proportional representation (whether directly or via a transferable vote system.) Thus first-past-the-post systems will tend to have two parties (with third parties tending to act as release valves for the frustrated, at best, and skew results towards one or the other of the larger parties, see how the Conservative party in the UK has traditionally benefited from the Liberals (in whichever form) spoiling the Labour vote) and systems with thresholds around 5%, four, five, or six viable parties requiring two or three party coalitions, while lower thresholds invite greater numbers of parties (compare, in Germany, party representation in the Bundestag, with 6 factions, to that of city parliaments, with 1% thresholds, frequently having a dozen or more parties. In practice, this means that coalitions are built, in the US, within parties (thus the Republicans have pro-business types, propertarians, nationalist populists, and the religious right while Democrats have social democrats/labor, social liberals, minorities, and greens) which interests get weighted among the elected individual party members in internal party dynamics before elections, and the coalitions in systems with larger numbers of parties are negotiated formally only after elections. (Note also the German saying “there is no coalition in the opposition”; parties not participating in a governing coalition tend to better protect their individual identities than those in government in preparation for future elections.)

There is some fear that the tendency in Europe towards an increasingly fractional party landscape could create a Weimar-style weakness, but an opposing positive view is that this represents a greater opportunity for voters to fine-tune their policy preferences and that we are in an information environment that, for all its well-known faults, also permits access to greater detail and hence, invites higher specificity of political opinions which are necessarily reflected in voting distributed among a larger number of parties. It remains to be seen which is the more correct viewpoint.

53

faustusnotes 07.07.19 at 12:11 pm

The linked Washington Post article, the OP and many of the comments are wrong because they completely misunderstand what “centrism” is. “Centrism” isn’t the ideological position of compromised weak-left or soft-neoliberal leftists, it’s a cover for fascism. “Centrism” was never the ideology of the democrats, and their policies were a reaction to a “centrist” movement that was made up out of whole cloth to fool leftists into compromising on their goals while the fascists looted the joint. This is why “centrism” has become more and more right wing as the Republicans became more unhinged. “Centrism” is just plausible deniability for fascism, which plays on the existence of the swing voter to con leftists into thinking that they need to compromise to win elections. These “centrists” – the Bobos and Bari Weiss’s and Bret Stephens and Megan Mcardles and all the other lying scumbags of the mainstream press – aren’t representatives of an ideological position, they’re simply a smokescreen for fascism, the mask it wears until it has control of the institutions of power. They all absolutely hated Clinton and did everything they could to undermine her, as well as Obama, and now that Trump is in they have one single story they’re all singing from: that the leftist radicalism of Clinton and Obama is the reason we have Trump and oh I’m so sorry but if you keep pushing me with your leftist radicalism I’ll have no choice but to vote for Trump again! It’s a scam, and a lot of people on here have fallen for it hook line and sinker. Democrat weakness is a response to this, and Democrats are weak and compromised to the exact extent that they’re fooled by it. This is why AOC and Ilhan Omar are “radical” – because they see the “centrists” for what they are and refuse to water down their politics to give into a scam they know they can’t beat. Obama fell for this and so did Bill in his time, but the new generation have seen through it.

Also while I’m here can we ditch this junk about “when Bernie wins the dems will panic.” He is far from the most radical person in the running, and he isn’t going to win – it will be someone like Warren or Harris who is much more radical than him, and if you think Bernie is radical you’re falling for another scam. He’s a show pony, and his policies are poor compared to Warren or Harris.

And also while I’m here can I take on (again) the crusty old leftist idea that if fascism comes around again it will have to do so in the same form it took in the 1930s. It won’t, and for obvious reasons. Modern fascism isn’t going to be openly enthusiastic about war the way that 1930s futurists were because now we have nukes, and everyone knows you can’t win a modern land war with the US army because it’s so crappy. Modern fascism therefore won’t be about expanding living space since it can’t, and instead will be about racial purity at home and punishing deviance – as it has always been – without the expansionist overlay. So what? It’s still fascism. It’s hilarious to see Hidari writing about how America isn’t fascist because it doesn’t glorify war or have concentration camps for political opponents in the same week that we see Trump doing his 4th July parade and locking migrant children in concentration camps. The fact that he can’t organize a root in a brothel and hasn’t got to his political opponents yet doesn’t mean he’s not a fascist, and if he can get his job done by taking control of the courts and the legislature by stealth rather than by violence that doesn’t mean he’s not a fascist. Also what’s this stuff about Republicans haven’t talked about suspending elections? Trump has openly floated the idea, and the Republicans don’t need to suspend elections if they can stop anyone they don’t like from voting. Just because people aren’t goose-stepping into your living room wearing swastikas, doesn’t mean you haven’t gone fascist.

The American left is facing a huge crisis at the moment but it’s not a crisis of “centrism.” The real crisis is that the far left – which should be holding these people to account, and which has as its central most fundamental tenet the opposition to fascism – has no grounding in theory, no idea about the issues, and no ability to adapt to the changing context. If you don’t have a robust class analysis, a good intersectional politics, a sense of history and a bit of adaptability of course you won’t see the jackbooted thugs when they come for you, because you won’t recognize the uniforms or the targets. But that’s because you lack a basic understanding of politics, not because it’s not fascism. An additional problem the US left faces is the dirtbag left, who are just the millenial US reincarnation of Spiked! but who get their ideas amplified by the “centrists” because they’re useful idiots. And then we have all the Russia-apologists and Trump-curious Putin-fluffers, whose real animus is against earnest moderate leftists rather than the nazis who’re coming for them. When the Day of the Rope comes, Tulsi Gabbard isn’t going to be spared because she got a bit of Russian money.

Don’t be fooled by this “centrist” smoke screen, don’t let these liars divide the far left from the electoral left, and don’t think fascism isn’t coming for you just because it’s wearing a polo shirt rather than Calvin Klein.

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steven t johnson 07.07.19 at 1:27 pm

MisterMr@37 tells me to support the EU lest asset stripping and rampant privatization, which to me reads like hard money austerianism, take place. I remember SYRIZA in Greece and I conclude being pro-EU means being for all these things.

As for the notion that the goal of communist parties is isolation, I think that’s actually the goal of the bourgeoisie and their weapons, states. I think it’s best to think of this kind of autarky not as the goal but a refusal to surrender. I suppose one could argue that a kind of half-in, half-out engagement with capital a la Venezuela might be regarded as morally superior by some. But I think even then you get the siege. As to the notion that supporting NATO, or even an “independent” EU military, is in any way left, I have to disagree. I suppose the moral is that the Berlusconis and the Salvinis are just inexplicable accidents while being against wars—economic wars are still wars in my opinion—is unacceptably evil. Not seeing it, sorry.

I think Hidari’s observation that fascism is about mobilization for war, to build an empire or to save one. And I think with the EU we get the wars too, rendering the supposed moral superiority in the culture “wars” moot. But again, I disagree with Hidari that fascism in the victors of WWII requires violence against elites not wholeheartedly serving the war plan. It may not even require blatant illegality to put order into the ranks of capital. When you start at the top, instead of among the losers of WWI as in the interwar period, you have many more soft power weapons to use in domestic wars, just like the foreign ones.

ph@44 seems to think Weimar Germany was something else, rather than the government that connived at fascist violence when useful while brutalizing the worker left. Well before the end Weimar democracy was rule by decree. And it was just more Weimar politics that ended up recruiting Adolf Hitler to fix things, to get efficient in doing the dirty work. The US is very much like Weimar in that it too is a dysfunctional “democracy,” a failing state with a lot of noble verbiage.

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MisterMr 07.07.19 at 2:27 pm

@J-D 42

My understanding is this:

– The M5s are a transversal party that managed to catch the disaffected vote from both left and right; although for some reason people outside of Italy assume that the M5s are lefties, they themselves deny it explicitly. They do have both an internal right wing and left wing.

– They got votes mostly by throwing mud on the PD (italian main center-left, soft neoliberal party), and to a lesser extent throwing mud on Berlusconi (though they often used sentence like “the PD is as corrupt as Berlusconi”, which implies that B. is at least as corrupt as the PD, in practical terms they campaigned more against the PD because it was in power in the last electoral cycles).

– They won a lot of votes in the last elections, but not enough to govern alone. The PD somewhat logically[*] gave them the cold shoulder, and the M5s refused Berlusconi on principle (to their merit), so the only choice was an alliance with the Lega, which is quite explicitly a rightwing populist party, but it can’t completely pretend that it’s a new party since was part of all Berlusconi’s governments (I think Lega is the currently existing party with more total time in government in italy) and has some disadvantages in southern Italy because up to yesterday they spent their time being racist against southern italians.

– But the Lega outclassed the M5s in the department of being an evil, antagonising axehole against immigrants and evil globalist organisations like the EU. Consider that many italians believe that the EU is forcing Italy to accept all migrants (as opposed to Italy having an obligation to accept refugees and other EU countries not wanting to take a considerable number of said refugees on their territory).

– By being an aggressive axehole against migrants and offensive to the EU every time he can, Salvini shows that he is honest and trustable (to people who dislike migrants and the EU), so this is a big vote winner; the M5s act much less aggressively (because they have different wings, so as a party they don’t take such excessive positions).
Thus those people from the right who went from Berlusconi to the M5s probably are going back to the Lega, which appears more aggressive and believable (in the political dynamic of right wing populism).

– By being strongly anti-immigrant, the Lega can appropriate a nationalist “Italians first” retoric (yes, he stole the motto from Trump). Southern italians, who wherewary of the Lega because until recently it was racist against them, apparently accept the idea that the Lega turned the racist beam against someone else, and can happily get behind it, so the Lega is getting a lot of new votes from southern italy.

– Also I suspect that some of the leftish disaffected voters who voted M5s might be reconsidering, because of the alliance with the Lega.

So the M5s appear to be royally scr-ed, in particular because I doubt they can seriously attempt an alliance with the PD at the next elections, and salvini can, at the nex elections, go back to the alliance with Berluscony and Fratelli d’Italia (another nationalist party), so Salvini can ditch the M5s, but the M5s can’t ditch Salvini, even though on paper the M5s looks like the bigger party.

So, to your last observation:

“The M5S did not go into that election as supporters of Berlusconi and/or Salvini (and/or their parties), but they came out of it into a government partnership with Salvini and his party, not as part of a unified opposition.”

In my view, the M5s “won” because in reality, for all their boosterism, they are an even more centrist party than the PD.
There are certainly reasons to say the opposite (for example, the M5s are more keynesian than the PD), but anyway:
Since they cut the bridges with the rest of the opposition they are going to lose big, hence I doubt that there is another choice that isn’t the sort of ragtag opposition that once it is in power squabbles a lot with itself.

Ideally, if one party, say the M5s, could win the elections alone, this might be different, but I think they could do this only by pandering to so different voters that they would become a ragtag by themselves (that in part they already are).

________
[*] I don’t mean that I approve of this choice, in pratice the PD acting this way put the Lega in power, but the M5s asked as a condition for creating a government with the PD that the PD changed leadership, and a large part of the M5s campaign was about dismantling stuff that the PD did in the last legislature, and furthermore the M5s ate a lot of former PD votes, so obviously in terms of self preservation the PD wants the M5s to fail, so in the end it’s quite natural that the PD and the M5s didn’t ally. In the previous election, in a similar but specular situation, the PD offered an alliance to the M5s (with less strings attached) and the M5s refused.

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Orange Watch 07.07.19 at 4:25 pm

”Call “Trumpism” whatever you like”.

And why of all commenters on CT – Ph has to tell US?!

“Trumpism” pre-dated Trump’s rise, and it will march on after Trump’s fall (whenever and however that is). Many of the same things that many liberals determined were an existential threat on 9 Nov 2016 had been dismissed as fodder for jokes on 8 Nov. There are far too many such people who want everything to go back to “normal”, and by labeling right-wing populism as “Trumpism”, the suggestion is made that getting rid of Trump gets rid of the problem. Trump is a symptom. A grotesque, cancerous, possibly lethal symptom, but a symptom. RWP supporters will continue to work to bring it about even after their champions quit the field.

(And if all that sounds US-centric: that’s another reason to avoid the “Trumpist” label.)

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Hidari 07.07.19 at 8:08 pm

‘ It’s hilarious to see Hidari writing about how America isn’t fascist because it doesn’t glorify war or have concentration camps for political opponents in the same week that we see Trump doing his 4th July parade and locking migrant children in concentration camps. ‘

Not that anyone cares, least of all me, but obviously I would not, nor have I ever denied that America glorifies wars and puts immigrant kids in concentration camps.

The difference between Trump and Hitler is that Hitler put senior leaders of the legal opposition in concentration camps as well (and then banned all other parties except his own, and put all the leaders of all the other political parties in concentration camps).

Again, to repeat, I have no problems with calling America ‘fascist’ in a loose metaphorical sense, although it must be pointed out that American has always been fascist in that sense. Indeed, it was one of the key points of the American New Left analysis that the US Empire represented a sort of fascism-lite.

My problem comes when people literally and with a straight face state that there is no difference between the Berlin of 1937, and the Washington of 2019. (and before people say that’s a straw man…I can assure you it’s not. People really do say that, unironically. Or try and weasel out of it by saying ‘Of course there are differences there’s (blah blah blah blah blah, incomprehensible self-refuting nonsense leading to the conclusion that, in the eyes of the speaker, actually, no there’s no difference)’

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nastywoman 07.07.19 at 8:53 pm

@53+54+55
– are such wonderful examples that ”Fascism” never ever will be able to make any type of ”comeback”.

As my German Grandfather liked to ”philosophise”:

Nobody will be able to ”organise” Faschismus as we Germans did –
as Italy already has proven – and to believe that any other ”Conglomerate” of people will be less ”confused” – or let’s say it more ”positively”:
Will be less ”improvisational” – haven’t read comments on Internet threads.

Well – he didn’t say the… thing about the Internet – I made that up – but anywhoo a while ago I was at an opening of a Schwitter exhibition in Zürich – and a dude from the Club Voltaire said something about ”the Merz stage” -(we’re all on) – and that might be ”the problem”?
Or ”the joy”? –
However you guys want to see this… thing… with these parties?
And about ”Trumpism”?
Why don’t y’all follow ME – by calling it ”BaronvonClownstickism”?

59

nastywoman 07.07.19 at 9:00 pm

or to be more precise – eat this:

– Schwitters even goes so far as to state that the Merz stage would be connected through wires and have its surfaces smoothed over, an idea that came to be reality as the Merzbau progressed. Perhaps the most interesting connection to the idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk is the title itself. The two great reoccurring symbols of the Gesamtkunstwerk were the cathedral and the theater. The first of these is already alluded to Schwitters’ alternate title for the Merzbau, The Cathedral of Erotic Misery. However, it is the second symbol, the theater, with which Schwitters identifies as his aim in the essay “Merz” in his quest for the Merz stage. This is significant. While the cathedral is typically associated with the fusion of plastic arts (painting, sculpture, architecture), the theater is linked to the synthesis of the temporal arts (poetry, music). Yet the very nature of the Gesamtkunstwerk resists such a division, and we are led to contemplate whether or not the plastic environments created to host temporal expressions can ever be fully complete without each other. For example, a church is created to host religious activity, and a music hall is constructed to provide a space for music. The plastic and the temporal can be appreciated separately, but reach a greater unity through their intended purpose. It is possible to view the Merzbau as an iteration of this greater synthesis. The plastic environment, the Cathedral of Erotic Misery, was the realization of the Merz stage, which Schwitters indicated in his essay “Merz,” “serves for the performance of the Merz drama.”

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nastywoman 07.07.19 at 9:08 pm

Ups – and I forgot ”the Punch Line”:

– ”resulting in a work of (P)art(y) – that celebrated chaos and order, fragmentation and unity AT THE SAME TIME.

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bt 07.07.19 at 10:06 pm

““Trumpism” pre-dated Trump’s rise, and it will march on after Trump’s fall (whenever and however that is).”

——

It certainly will march on, because Trump’s not really an aberation. He’s currently the most popular Republican President among Republican voters in many, many years. He is the most popular Republican in America among Republican voters. They love him, he says the things they love to hear, and he says it loud and ugly. Which is the way they like it.

Trump takes all the things that Republicans like to whisper about and belts them out full voice. Fk your feelings AND he’s anointed by God to save America. It is pure Republican id.

It’s amazing just how well Trump has pushed all of the GOP voter’s buttons and how much they love it. It is essentially his only observable skill.

62

J-D 07.08.19 at 1:11 am

Preliminary results are available for the election of a new Βουλή (Voulí, or Parliament) in Greece.

Eight groups won seats when the outgoing Βουλή was elected. Two of these did not contest the current election: the Independent Greeks, who were a junior partner in the outgoing government coalition, and the River. Another two contested the election but (probably) lost all their seats: Golden Dawn (a party described by its leader as racist and nationalist), which was the third largest group in the outgoing Βουλή, and on current figures has narrowly fallen short of the threshold for electing members, and the Union of Centrists. The biggest gains were made by New Democracy, previously the main opposition party, which will (it appears) have enough seats on its own to form a majority government. ΣΥΡΙΖΑ (SYRIZA), which led the outgoing government, came second and will be the main opposition party. The new grouping led by the Panhellenic Socialist Party (once the dominant party, in the 1980s and 1990s) made gains to take third place ahead of the Communists. Rounding out the results are two groups with (probably) members elected for the first time, the Greek Solution (aligned with the Orthodox Church) and ΜέΡΑ25 (MeRA25), led by former ΣΥΡΙΖΑ Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis.

So, in sum, there will be (probably) six groups instead of eight, four continuing and two new (which will be the two smallest): the two largest groups remain the same, but exchanging first and second place, and there will presumably be a single-party majority government instead of a coalition.

63

Howard Frant 07.08.19 at 1:32 am

@JQ

I obviously didn’t get across my point about finance. Here’s the point: Around 10% of NYC’s employment, and 20% of its payroll, comes from the financial services industry. So any New York senator, and a good chunk of its Representatives, will be big boosters of the industry. There is nothing “neo-” about this, and it’s not an “-ism”. Did Gillibrand suddenly get more interested in financial services, at the same as she was moving to the left in general, when she went from being an upstate Representative to a statewide senator? It’s not because she suddenly acquirede a new idelogy.

Similarly, it is an unfortunate peculiarity of US electoral politics that politicians constantly need money, and those who can supply it have influence. The finance industry has a lot of money. Occam weeps if you look at that and say: “Aha! Mont Pelerin!”

Sorry, I wasn’t able to carry out the experiment of moving NYC’s financial industry to Vermont to see what the political consequences are, but here’s an article entitled, “Bernie Sanders, Animal Agribusiness Stooge?” Who knew that neocarnivorism had spread so far?

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/bernie-sanders-animal-agr_b_9402158

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J-D 07.08.19 at 2:00 am

MisterMr

I don’t mean that I approve of this choice, in pratice the PD acting this way put the Lega in power, but the M5s asked as a condition for creating a government with the PD that the PD changed leadership, and a large part of the M5s campaign was about dismantling stuff that the PD did in the last legislature, and furthermore the M5s ate a lot of former PD votes, so obviously in terms of self preservation the PD wants the M5s to fail, so in the end it’s quite natural that the PD and the M5s didn’t ally. In the previous election, in a similar but specular situation, the PD offered an alliance to the M5s (with less strings attached) and the M5s refused.

Specular? Conducted with a speculum?

There’s no definitive way of verifying what would have happened if a government coalition had been formed by the PD and the M5S, but it can be discussed. Some of the questions that occur to me are about how such a government would have been received by Italian voters: if it was evaluated favourably, how would the credit have been distributed between the two partners? if it was evaluated unfavourably, how would the blame have been distributed between the two partners? One possibility is that the outcome might have resembled a mirror-image of what it seems we might be experiencing now: the PD might have succeeded in taking control of the government agenda and won support as a result, while the M5S might have lost support because of a perception of its ineffectuality. That’s not a foregone conclusion, though.

As things stand, so far as the opinion polls are reliably informative, support for the PD is increasing, but it’s not increasing as steeply as support for the Lega. We don’t know, however, whether either or both of those increases will be maintained.

65

Alan White 07.08.19 at 2:50 am

bt @ 61

As I have argued here before, Trump is a truly unwitting but functional metaethical emotivist. (Emotivism: the use of language to manipulate emotional attitudes to produce alignment in such attitudes. Facts, truth, etc. are irrelevant with respect to that goal.) He doesn’t realize any of that of course, but his success does show that in a pragmatic metaethical way, emotivism can “Trump” moral realism in terms of the regard for truth. In an interesting way, 2020 will be a electoral (college) referendum on the pragmatics of metaethical emotivism versus realism, or at least something other than emotivism. Of course that pronouncement completely disregards other factors like Russian meddling, the self-interested overlords of political contributions, etc.

66

CDT 07.08.19 at 2:58 am

Faustusnotes is correct. To answer Dipper@11, the current battle in the U.S. is whether anyone will stop Trump from establishing a white nationalist authoritarian state with only the pretense of democracy. The GOP clearly won’t. The Supreme Court likely won’t. That leaves the House. Unfortunately, House Speaker Pelosi seems to think we are merely fighting, as usual, about increasing economic inequality.

67

John Quiggin 07.08.19 at 4:17 am

Howard Frant: You got your point across just fine. That’s why I pointed to Wall Street friendly Dems whose constituencies are a long way from New York. And of course, both Clintons were friends of finance long before Hillary moved to NY. Your point about US politics and money seems to be in furious agreement with me. As long as the parties are dependent on corporate money, they are stuck with neoliberalism in one form or another. It’s only with the emergence of non-corporate donations (lots of small money donors or individual billionaires) that the room for alternatives on the right and left emerges.

68

faustusnotes 07.08.19 at 4:52 am

Hidari, do you not like the flow of time and causality? The difference between Hitler and 1937 and Hitler in 1923 is that Hitler in 1937 had put his political opponents in prison. That doesn’t mean 1923 Hitler wasn’t a fascist. If you wait until a fascist is locking you up to call them a fascist, it’s too late, isn’t it? Hitler didn’t become a fascist in 1937 when he finally succeeded in putting his opponents in prison. He became a fascist the day he became the leader of a political party that advocated fascist goals.

To remind you, Trump has repeatedly advocated for locking his political opponents in prison, for physical violence against their supporters, and for direct political repression of media who report on him. He is supported by a band of polo-wearing thugs who attack his political opponents. If you wait until he gets to actually enact what he says he wants to do, it will be too late. He is a fascist now, and if he is never successful then we can all breath a sign of relief and dismiss him as an unsuccessful fascist. But may I remind you that every fascist impulse he has laid claim to, he has attempted to act on. Mitch McConnell has already effectively dissolved the Senate, and Trump has repeatedly discussed going beyond two terms. I don’t care that some twerp on the internet thinks it’s already 1937 but you said none of the modern leaders “had even talked about” doing these things (at 34 you said this) and you are flat out wrong. They have talked about all of these things, and have started doing them.

John Quiggin, the article you linked to lists 3 Democrats, two of whom come from very close to New York, probably where the finance industry’s workers have homes. Also, if you go down that rabbit hole a little you’ll see there are 27 democrats who are pro-wall street, called the New Democrats. This is a tiny number, and you should take that as a sign that the democrats are not actually the party of neo-liberalism.

We’ve discussed this before here and it is just too simplistic to call the parties of the social democratic left “neoliberal”, so your analysis doesn’t work outside America; and even in America, a nuanced assessment of the Democrats’ policies doesn’t support your claim. Remember, Obamacare was the biggest transfer of wealth from the rich to the poor, and the biggest expansion of the welfare state, in something like 50 years (possibly since WW2), and its largest single component was straight public aid (the Medicaid Expansion). You just can’t call the Democrats neoliberal until you deal with that issue, which you consistently have refused to do.

69

nastywoman 07.08.19 at 5:13 am

– and as Von Clownstick yesterday lost to the Women’s American Soccer Team – we will have to recognise the importance of ”the Great American Soccer Party” for the last 48 hours.

Emotionally they for sure beat also the ”We own the Libs Party” -(some here call ”Trumpism”) – for at least the last 24 hours – so a lot will depend how they keep enplaning against the Von Clownstick team -(and if ”the Great American Soccer Party” can be a ”sustainable fourth US Party” – for more than 48 hours?)

70

Zamfir 07.08.19 at 6:30 am

J-D asks : “Specular? Conducted with a speculum?”

Yes, as in Latin speculum, “mirror”

71

ph 07.08.19 at 7:18 am

All the reasonable people – Biden, HRC, Bushco, etc. authored Iraq, Bill Clinton paved the way for the banking housing crisis which Bushco ensured would happen. 44, the so-much better candidate gave Americans banker bonuses and the hollowing out of the middle-class, Libya, and big pharma run-a-mock.

Boy, those were the days.

72

nastywoman 07.08.19 at 8:41 am

– and@
”Trump is a truly unwitting but functional metaethical emotivist. (Emotivism: the use of language to manipulate emotional attitudes to produce alignment in such attitudes. Facts, truth, etc. are irrelevant with respect to that goal.”)

Is that explanation of ”Trump” more or less absurd – than defining Von Clownstick as a ”Distributer of Urlaute”?

Or why can’t we finally ALL agree that Von Clownstick is some ”average non-political American a…hole” – who became President – completely by accident?
BE-cause ”the people” are sooo confused in this century -(and especially the American people) – that they vote completely willy nilly for anybody (new) who promise to help them – in order to find out that such promises are… let’s call them… ”unrealistic” – and then (just like over the weekend in Greece) – they vote for somebody else?

73

Orange Watch 07.08.19 at 5:21 pm

by@61:

The biggest problem with this sort of analysis is that it pretends the GOP is something it isn’t – indeed, can’t be. In the first-past-the-post US system, the GOP is and must be big tent. There are plenty of Republicans who find Trump crude and boorish, but support him anyway because he’s useful, and besides, he’s better than the alternative. Plenty of GOP voters held their noses, laid back, and thought of the judiciary. Indeed, the judiciary was a huge GOTV rallying point for GOP voters who despised Trump for all the reasons you argued they love him. McConnell (who is by appearances no fan of Trump’s transparent crudeness; nor was Ryan for that matter) made it clear that electing an automatic signing machine with a list of Federalist Society judges taped to it would be good enough to continue to advance the GOP’s long game.

There are plenty of Republicans who are “pwn teh libtards uber alles” – politics as football but better because you get to judge the opposing team’s fans as literally evil – but it’s a dangerous and self-satisfying mistake to assume that this is how all of them think. Not least because it means a GOP without Trump would appear less dangerous. It’s not. Trump is ostentatious and confrontational, but the the aloof imperiousness of the Old Boys Club GOP (which includes plenty of young men and women) is if anything more dangerous because it brings out some of the worst attributes of the Democrats’ own old guard – complacency, comity, and compromise for their own sakes.

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bt 07.08.19 at 5:39 pm

Alan:

“Trump is a truly unwitting but functional metaethical emotivist.”

I think this is quite right, especially the part about being uniwitting. When you see him at those rallies, and then he says something really awful and they clap – he just stops right there and says it again and they clap harder. This is literally the skill that got him elected. It doesn’t matter that he’s not invested in much of it, they clap, he says it and he enjoys being clapped at. He’s on tape a few times talking birtherism and it’s clear that he’s not really seeing it as factual, that’s clearly irrelevant to him, he’s doing it because they love to hear it.

He does not come to this stuff through any shrewd analysis, it really looked to me like trial-and-error on the campaign trail. If they clapped, he said it again. A bizzare performance, devoid of almost any content. Something to make you wonder if one person one vote is everything it’s cracked up to be.

But seriously regarding democracy. The best feature is NOT that you get to elect the best person each time – this clearly does not happen. It’s the fact that you have a process to remove the bad ones.

75

Doug K 07.08.19 at 7:43 pm

faustusnotes,
“These “centrists” – the Bobos and Bari Weiss’s and Bret Stephens and Megan Mcardles and all the other lying scumbags of the mainstream press – aren’t representatives of an ideological position, they’re simply a smokescreen for fascism, the mask it wears until it has control of the institutions of power. ”

Thank you for the post, it clarifies my thinking..

Will Self had a memorable phrase describing ‘sustainability’ as “that nauseating fig-leaf for priapic capitalism”.
‘Centrism’ is another such.

As Jan-Werner Muller observes in the LRB, “no right-wing populist has yet come to power anywhere in Western Europe or North America without the collaboration of established conservative elites.”
The centrists were Trump/Brexit/your rightwing populist of choice, collaborators all along. It seems likely they will stay the course.

76

bt 07.08.19 at 10:45 pm

“The centrists were Trump/Brexit/your rightwing populist of choice, collaborators all along. It seems likely they will stay the course.”

This is true. And the part that really burns is that they then turn around and blame the Libs for what they’ve done. Many a right-wing talking head has said that it was Hillary’s fault – She was so awful! What choice did they have? Why oh why did you make us do it?

–>If only we hadn’t gone and passed that Obamacare and let the gays get married, they wouldn’t have needed to vote for Trump and then none of this would have happened.

77

alfredlordbleep 07.08.19 at 11:31 pm

a footnote, somewhat topical

. . . Not long after his release, Mr. Epstein returned to New York and reminded a local reporter that, legally, he was a sexual “offender,” not a “predator.” He joked, “It’s the difference between a murderer and a person who steals a bagel.” NYT

(in the spirit of the bon vivant in the Oval Office)

78

Alan White 07.08.19 at 11:36 pm

bt @ 74

Thanks–I’ve just wished to analyze the Trump phenom in a fashion that tries to reveal how one can theoretically capture his success–if you want to call it that–in terms of how it might be understood in a metaethical way. He has no moral guide other than a moral egoism that he can translate into massaging that ego further by popular acclaim. His linguistic and behavioral manipulation is (I think) best captured by Stevenson’s classic account of emotivism, and I agree whole-heartedly with your analysis of his discovery of it by trial-and-error. What pains me is whether focus on something like metaethical realism–emphasizing the role of truth and fact and a durable moral narrative–can actually defeat Trump. Maybe mixing enough passion in with metaethically realist messages might pull enough votes to do the job.

79

Orange Watch 07.08.19 at 11:44 pm

Doug K@75:

Please don’t buy into fn’s exculpatory narrative. The people they label as the REAL centrists aren’t centrists; they’re right-wing centrist baiters who clutch pearls and hold Van Peltian footballs for the actual centrists (Pelosi, Obama, HRC, WJC, Biden, etc.) to perenially try to kick. They’re enablers leading sometimes-complicit Democratic centrists ever further down the garden path, but they themselves are not centrists, even if they’re who Democratic centrists might name as such to justify pandering to their criticisms in search of those crucial, elusive swing voters the left must eternally compromise with and attract.

It takes breathtaking chutzpah to claim politicians who literally advocated “Third Way” politics are left-wing radicals rather than centrists.

80

J-D 07.09.19 at 12:29 am

Globally, forthcoming scheduled elections include:
Japan, half the members of the House of Councillors (参議院 Sangiin), upper house of the bicameral National Diet (国会 Kokkai)
Ukraine, all members of the unicameral Verkhovna Rada (Верхо́вна Ра́да Украї́ни, literally Supreme Council of Ukraine)
Israel, all members of the unicameral Knesset (הַכְּנֶסֶת literally “the gathering” or “assembly”)
Afghanistan, President
Austria, all members of the National Council (Nationalrat), lower house of the bicameral Parliament
Portugal, all members of the unicameral Assembly of the Republic (Assembleia da República)
Mozambique, President and all members of the unicameral Assembly of the Republic (Assembleia da República)

What results can be expected from these elections, or what might be learned from them?

81

faustusnotes 07.09.19 at 12:53 am

I don’t like this “the GOP will be the same without Trump” line. They didn’t suspend the Senate before Trump, or set up concentration camps for migrants. They needed Trump – or someone special like him – to come forward and break the final barriers to their arseholery going fully florid.

I bet there were lots of Democratic Socialists and leftists in 1923 in Germany who were saying Hitler was just representative of German conservatism, or that Germany has always been anti-semitic so we shouldn’t say Hitler is special. That didn’t end well for those people.

Just because the party is a sewer of racism and authoritarianism doesn’t mean that it will become an openly fascist regime. Something is needed to make it get there, and Trump is that something. It’s not some kind of stochastic process that finally randomly flipped – Trump did it.

Until you recognize the specialness of this moment, you won’t realize how dangerous it is. You can accept that the party has always been a horrible cess-pit without downplaying the present crisis.

82

Chetan Murthy 07.09.19 at 3:43 am

ph:

All the reasonable people – Biden, HRC, Bushco, etc. authored Iraq

This is either imbecility, gaslighting, or straight-up trolling. (1) Bushco weren’t “reasoanble”, they wanted to and did start an illegal war by illegitimate means. (2) The Dems did try to pushback on it. But really, what did you expect them to do? Destroy themselves electorally by voting against (and losing anyway)?

It is sheer idiocy to expect leaders of a political party in a -democracy- to be out-of-step with their public supporters. And at the time it was NOT AT ALL clear that the Democratic electorate was sufficiently virulently anti-war, that they’d stand behind their leaders.

I mean really, maybe it’s time you stopped head-butting tree-trunks?

83

faustusnotes 07.09.19 at 5:35 am

Orange Watch, your narrative is as always completely skewed. You may recall that Obama was opposed to the Iraq war and introduced a Medicaid expansion that had it not been gutted by the Supreme Court would have been the most radically left-wing policy introduced in America since the war (and was still radical by American standards even after being gutted). The key thing is that he fell for the centrist pablum and weakened his own politics because of it (this was also the strategy with Merrick Garland).

Every single person who wants to claim Obama is a centrist needs to explain the Medicaid expansion before they go one step further. If you can find a way to finnagle away the most left wing policy since WW2 as centrism then you’re good to make the claim; otherwise you need to accept that the people you say are centrists are not, by any reasonable American standard, anything except left wing.

They are also not the centrists that the Washington Post article JQ cites are talking about. There’s a reason Schultz is not a Democrat. Please deal with the political facts before you start making claims about people’s political positions.

Chetan Murthy, everything ph says is trolling, just don’t even bother.

84

Dipper 07.09.19 at 7:00 am

@ faustusnotes “I bet there were lots of Democratic Socialists and leftists in 1923 in Germany who were saying Hitler was just representative of German conservatism, or that Germany has always been anti-semitic so we shouldn’t say Hitler is special. That didn’t end well for those people.”

Unusually, faustusnotes is bang on here. What we see in the whole Brexit business is that individual political leaders matter a lot. The ability to create a coalition round a group of issues, coalesce opinion round a course of action, create a quorum of people who support a particular political view, is central to how events unfold. Without Nigel Farage, I think it unlikely the UK would have had a referendum on the EU or voted to Leave.

This doesn’t mean that demagogic leaders have a free hand. They have to latch on to popular feelings of discontent and drag them in a particular direction. But the obvious danger is the leader who says ‘You are right to feel aggrieved, that you have been cheated. The people who did this to you are over there, and if you vote for me I will go and deal with them’ and there have been lots of them in different guises throughout history.

85

nastywoman 07.09.19 at 7:31 am

@
”What results can be expected from these elections, or what might be learned from them”?

We might learn from them what we learned again form the election in Greece on the weekend.

”The people” elected somebody who promised them to help them – as ”the dude” and the Party who promised them before have NOT helped them -(good enough) – so they are willing to give somebody else a try.
And as this ”somebody else” told them:
”I know what I’m doing” –
they hope – he will know what he is doing – and he doesn’t – next time they will elect another ”Party”? – and perhaps it will be a ”new” one – or even better ”a Party” which says ”it’s no ”Party” at all – just a bunch of ”people” who try ”to help people” –
but please:
”no Amateurs” anymore –
as ”Amateurs” also aren’t able to help ”the people”?

86

nastywoman 07.09.19 at 7:50 am

@
”Just because the party is a sewer of racism and authoritarianism doesn’t mean that it will become an openly fascist regime. Something is needed to make it get there, and Trump is that something”.

Let’s try to correct that?

”Something is needed to make it get there, and Trump is NOT that something”.
As it is a process that never can be done ”randomly” -(or in the way Americans do ”politics”) – It HAS to be done far more ”organised.’

And as Von Clownstick – soon will be -(shameful) history ”Trump” didn’t do IT.

87

ph 07.09.19 at 9:32 am

Labour in Britain is riven by open anti-Semitism. Jewish author Richard Zimmler was disinvited from two cultural events in the UK. Mike Pence is now fund-raising off the obscenity of describing detention facilities as “concentration camps.”

The old coalition Democrats relied upon is fracturing. 45 picked up 30 percent of the hispanic vote, his son-in-law and key advisor is Jewish. After a succession of US presidents promised to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, 45 did. Given the opportunity to visit Kim (axis-of-evil leader), he has; and decided to drop in on his pal and be the first US president to enter the gates of “hell.” Smiling and handshakes ensued. Record unemployment for African-Americans and Hispanics, most new jobs go to women, and small businesses are booming.

Leaked cables from Her Majesty’s Ambassador and top “diplomatic” representative of the May government describe the 45th president’s administration as “dysfunctional” and “inept.” A white Democratic governor in Virginia “can’t recall” if he was wearing black-face in “that” year-book picture, but boasts he gives a heck of Michael Jackson impression.

Claiming America in 2019 is really nazi Germany, three years after “Hitler” came to power, or always really has been, sounds like: a/ an astute analysis of the American political landscape; or b/ complete insanity.

In 2016, democrats took white-working class voters in the rust-belt for granted; as they did African-Americans in Michigan, particularly. Support for 45 among hispanics and African-Americans is steady or up from 2016. Democrats ask, who else can we piss-off? employ “final solution” rhetoric to ignore, alienate, and outrage Jewish voters in advance of 2020. And let’s not even go near late-term, you know what. Meanwhile, 45’s numbers are steady or inching up. 45 has his message honed already; he’s already on the stump. Dems can’t figure out what they stand for; or what to tell voters except orange man bad.

So, yes, the moment is special in that way.

88

William Timberman 07.09.19 at 1:40 pm

This discussion reminds me of a local Arizona Democratic Party meeting I attended fifteen years or so ago. There was a speaker at this meeting, an expert on water usage politics in the West, who was there to present possible strategies for a fight with developers over the watershed of a local river. During the Q & A period following the presentation, a man in what looked to be his late sixties stood up, and in a pronounced German accent, began with this: but surely this is a technical problem, not a political one.

German engineering. Vorsprung durch Technik, usw. Wim Wenders was right, the Yanks really did do a fine job of colonizing the West German subconscious. (For the record, this gentleman had been a naturalized U.S. citizen for twenty years, and retired from a job at IBM, as I remember, for almost ten of them — time enough, one would have thought, to understand how the sausage really gets made.)

So, yes, culture wars. From Pegida and Björn Höcke to Jordan Peterson, from Donald Trump and Viktor Orbán to anti-vaxxers, it’s probably going to be harder than any of us currently think to keep the machinery running, dependent as it is on global synchronizations which may very well turn out to be unmanageable under the kind of pressures now being applied to them.

89

steven t johnson 07.09.19 at 4:05 pm

Chetan Murthy@82 blames the people for not…actually it’s not quite clear. The requirement that the Democratic electorate (insofar as they can even be identified, registered Democrats? Party officials? Donors?) be “sufficiently virulently anti-war” is quite a strange one on reflection. Everybody knew that the majority of the people didn’t want an aggressive war and everybody who cared to admit it knew the administration was lying. ph is right for once in saying the Democratic Party in the person of its elected officials chose to ignore majority opinion and chose to roll over in the face of fraud.

The habit of the Democratic and Republican parties in making war regardless of whether the people really wanted it, is one of long standing. It used to be “Remember the Maine” or “Remember Pearl Harbor.” But then it was the Democratic Party and Truman who removed war from the tiresome need for a congressional declaration. And it was Eisenhower and his red-baiting friends who excised the left from US politics, so that it was unthinkable to disagree over foreign policy, because the domestic war against the left required foreign war against the left.

That said, the roots of the war with Iraq lay in the support to Saddam Hussein in his monstrous attack on Iran. Hostility to the Iranian revolution because it was a revolution (but not because the ayatollahs crushed Tudeh, which I suspect was regarded as their only good feature, and why Khomeini was regarded as suitable for haven in the West in the first place) required trashing the Middle East. Hussein’s defeat in Iran left a crippling debt, which had everything to do with the attempt to annex Kuwait.

90

Orange Watch 07.09.19 at 4:31 pm

bt@76:

Many a right-wing talking head has said that it was Hillary’s fault
[…]
If only we hadn’t gone and passed that Obamacare and let the gays get married, they wouldn’t have needed to vote for Trump and then none of this would have happened.

What does it say when you’re trying to get us to define someone by their enemy’s actions – and particularly by their enemy’s bad-faith characterizations of them – rather than their own actions and their self-descriptions? The definitely-not-centrists you’re defending took single payer off the table before starting to negotiate for the ACA. To make it more appealing to the right-wing. To achieve right-wing buy-in. This was not a fluke. This was not an anomaly. Third-way triangulating technocrats sought a synthesis and middle ground between left and right, in a center that the right gleefully dragged ever further rightwards by posing as being willing to accept the compromises in exchange for cooperation, but only if they conceded just a little bit more. And the totally-not-centrists bought into it time and again, all the while lecturing their base that this or that latest sell0out was an acceptable compromise because the base’s desires were not as important as the desires of elusive swing voters and mythical wavering, Dem-curious Republicans.

A lecture on how triangulators are the real radicals, and certainly aren’t dirty centrists, would work better if the audience was too young to remember how proudly those selfsame pols wore the badge of sensible centrist “adults in the room” for decades in order to demand that the captive left-wing voters sit down, shut up, and vote for who they were told to because they had no alternative. Nor how that bloc dropped their badges down the memory hole just as soon as their political posture became a liability as the electorate swung left again. I’ll again refer back to the first half of Clinton’s “deplorable” comment: it was pure centrist comity and seeking to reach out to half of Trump’s supporters. Specifically, the rich half rather than the crude, racist hicks and rubes. It backfired because tribalism meant that people other than who she intended to disparage as irredeemably evil identified with the hostile part of her comment, but it was pure, old-fashioned self-assured centrism in the final days before it went into hiding.

CM@82:
2001-2004 was an odd time politically in the US – the ease with which putatively dovish liberals became cheerleaders for transparently-pretextual war was frightening to those of us out marching against their complicity. It is, however, troubling to see you suggest that the electorate was warmongering but the ostensible Democratic hawks were merely reluctant followers of the polls. There’s nothing to indicate they were – not least their prior and subsequent behaviors. Iraq was not a fluke, and their actions then cannot and should not be judged in a vacuum. Centrist Democrats tend to be foreign policy hawks, and by all appearances that’s by both design and disposition. Suggesting we should give them credit for imputed but unseen and certainly un-acted-upon principles is a rather bold claim, especially when they likewise chose not to embrace those theoretical principles at times when the electorate was less bloodthirsty. To say nothing of how proudly they showed themselves to be courageous opinion leaders rather than craven poll followers in other policy areas – sadly and typically policy areas where the electorate was to the left of Beltway consensus.

91

Hidari 07.09.19 at 8:08 pm

‘Labour in Britain is riven by open anti-Semitism’

roflmao

92

Orange Watch 07.09.19 at 8:43 pm

fn@83:

The key thing is that he fell for the centrist pablum and weakened his own politics because of it (this was also the strategy with Merrick Garland).

So your best argument is that Obama wasn’t a centrist, he was just (fairly consistently) a naive useful idiot for the REAL centrists for his entire presidency? That seems to be the argument that gets trotted out to defend these sorts of “moderate Democrats” very frequently, and it’s hardly surprising. Judging them on their record is damning (and as pointed out above, also you’re asking us to ignore how they described themselves before centrist became a dirty word), so we must instead judge them as charitably as possible on unseen but imputed principles that they never actually get around to following, unlike their soft-neoliberal market economics which we’re NOT supposed to judge them on? That’s unconvincing, to put it mildly, and proposes a distinction without difference. I find it unsurprising that this sort of “intentions matter more than repeated actions and predictable/predicted consequences ” argument is raised in defense of pols who frequently endorse variants of the doctrine of double effect, albeit rarely in so many words.

Note that I’ll not deny Obama was less of a hawk than HRC – his record, while hawkish, falls far short of what she would have done as POTUS had she beat him judging by her time at State – but that’s a problem since you also argued HRC isn’t a third-way centrist liberal hawk.

As to the Medicare expansion… it’s interesting that you narrowly focus on that rather than the ACA as a whole. I’m sure that has nothing to do with it being a recycled moderate Republican counter-proposal (of a decidedly “third way” variety) to Democratic health care reform proposals floated in the 90s – proposals that HRC distanced herself from even though they’d gained significant support since then. This sort of selective but highly motivated blindness is why it’s so unproductive to engage with you.

The Democratic party is a big-tent party, and it includes an explicitly conservative wing, as well as centrist leadership immediately to their left who have spent the decades since the 70s pandering to those Blue Dogs (and the Republicans immediately to their right) more aggressively than listening to their base. The centrists are now re-branding themselves, but they can’t re-write history any more than you can.

93

nastywoman 07.09.19 at 8:56 pm

@
”it’s probably going to be harder than any of us currently think to keep the machinery running, dependent as it is on global synchronizations which may very well turn out to be unmanageable under the kind of pressures now being applied to them”.

Supposedly – or as ”the Elders” say – it was much, much more difficult to keep ”the machinery running” in the old times -(at least in Europe) –
as I never get tired to remark:
Over seventy years without any Germans marching into France -(or vice versa) is an amazing accomplishment of ”synchronisation” – and sometimes I think – IF my homeland (US) – right now – would -(like ”them Germans”) – focus just a little bit more on ”technical problems” -(than on political ones) – that could be a YUUUGE improvement?

Which doesn’t mean that I don’t know how sausage is made -(even with more then three Parties) – and there hardly is anything in sausage-making – which hasn’t been tried out in the last seventy years – and nearly all the results are IN – so why – still such crazy experiments?

Just try a lot harder to copy Dänemark – and that’s IT!
and there are these countries –

94

Chetan Murthy 07.09.19 at 9:51 pm

steven t johnson:

Everybody knew that the majority of the people didn’t want an aggressive war and everybody who cared to admit it knew the administration was lying.

*That* is some amazing 20/20 hindsight there. In the real world, people like John Kerry were so afraid of being seen as weak on national security that they ended up skewering themselves. The problem is that nobody seems to remember how united the nation appeared to be (and for a while there, *was*) behind Dubya and his regime. It wasn’t until *after* the Iraq war started coming apart at the seams, that Dems grew a spine again.

And sure, you can fault the Dems for not having a spine. But that’s all. Because you’ll have to explain why the highest-profile Dem with no political career, Al Gore, came out firmly against the Iraq War.

95

Howard Frant 07.09.19 at 10:25 pm

JQ

Well, all righty, then.

The remaining question is whether”soft neoliberalism” is a useful concept (other than rhetorically or as a piece of invective) or obscures more than it reveals. If we observe that when Rep. Gillirand become Sen. Gillibrand she moves to the left, but also becomes more neoliberal in her attitudes toward banks, then I’d say the latter: there’s a more useful description available. If we saw people who were bank boosters also favoring privatzation of services, that would be an argument for the former, but I don’t think you really do. Privatization was a fad among Democrats for a while, out of a desire to try something new, but it’s mainly Reublicans pushing it nowadays, often in the face of considerable resistance from Dems.

96

faustusnotes 07.10.19 at 2:03 am

Since Orange Watch has said this:

The definitely-not-centrists you’re defending took single payer off the table before starting to negotiate for the ACA

A few reminders about the ACA are in order:
– The original law included a “single payer” option for about 40 million Americans at no expense to them, paid for through a wealth tax, that was subsequently gutted by the Supreme Court and which Orange Watch strenuously avoids acknowledging because a welfare program that big doesn’t support the claim Dems are “centrist”
– It would have been political suicide for the Dems to abolish employer plans, which are perversely popular with the American public, and so “single payer” was never on the cards for any remotely rational politician. Abolishing employer plans would have led to a Romney presidency and the complete reversal of the ACA
– Joe Manchin and his blue dog rump mates made it clear they wouldn’t support single payer, and Obama needed their votes because he knew the GOP wouldn’t deliver
– abolishing private insurance would have been a policy nightmare that would in any case have been unraveled in the courts on spurious grounds, and any plan that put this at its centre to make way for single payer would have been DOA at the supreme court (which gutted the welfare expansion Orange Watch refuses to talk about)
– single payer is not actually a common UHC system and most countries don’t do it this way, so it’s not a measure of left vs. “centrist”. Even China doesn’t have single payer. Given the health financing landscape in the USA, medicaid + exchange + employer cover as a first step, followed by public option, is a completely sensible way to get to UHC and is what many other countries did to get to UHC
– attempting to introduce single payer in the USA would lead to a political campaign based on “we don’t want the NHS here”. Given that Obama’s moderate alternative led to a two year long campaign of lies based on NHS “death panels”, a more NHS-like policy would have been politically deadly.

The problem Orange Watch et al don’t want to deal with is that the US public is extremely conservative and nationalist, with a solid underpinning of very upfront racism, and you can’t introduce a single payer system to such a public without suffering political suicide. Orange Watch et al want to pretend that the Dems are operating in a political environment like Europe’s, and they’re not. Orange Watch et al also want to pretend that single payer is the definition of leftism when the rest of the world doesn’t think that way; and they want to ignore the role of the Supreme Court in destroying left wing policy in the USA. Thus they get to claim that Obama is a “centrist” for introducing the best law he could given the electorate and the opposition. It’s much easier than accepting you can’t always have what you want, and doing the hard work of convincing the American public to go left.

97

SusanC 07.10.19 at 8:04 am

There’s a question over whether history is influenced by chance factors of the personality of individual politians, or whether the electorate would have voted for someone similar if Trump did not exist.

There’s a whole literature of counter-historical science fiction on this topic, satirized in “Lenin is shot dead at Finland Station”.

As evidence for the hypothesis that a Trump-less alternate universe would have elected someone similar, I offer Boris Johnson. (Across the Atlantic rather than an alternate history).

98

Z 07.10.19 at 8:39 am

FWIW, the New York Times published maybe two weeks ago a visualization of the relative positions (on a left/right axis) of various political parties based on the data of the Manifesto Project, that is to say based on how the party choose to represent themselves.

Here are a few things that appear through this (of course debatable) lens
-The Democratic Party and British Labour Party moved sharply to the left in 2008 and 2009 respectively. They used to be well to the right of the median party, around 2013 they went to the left, and now are closed to the center of gravity of the left.
-One can discern quite clearly a Trumpist block, separated from a right neolibéral block which itself morphs into a centrist neoliberal block whose leftmost representatives are Ciudadanos and the Canadian Liberal Party.
-To the left of that is a somewhat long tail of socialist, green and eco-socialist parties, whose largest (and most rightwing) members are the Labour and the Democratic Party.
-(Macron’s En Marche sits squarely in the right neoliberal block, in a middle of a group composed of the Lega, the British Conservative Party and the Spanish Popular Party.)

99

ph 07.10.19 at 10:35 am

“Three Labour peers have resigned over the party’s handling of antisemitism complaints, with the former general secretary David Triesman arguing the party was “plainly institutionally antisemitic”. (20 hours ago)

@91 ‘Labour in Britain is riven by open anti-Semitism’ roflmao
Who, really is going to listen to the complaints of Labour party Jews? Not @91, we see!

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jul/09/labour-peers-resign-over-handling-of-antisemitism-complaints-triesman-darzi-turnberg:

100

nastywoman 07.10.19 at 11:12 am

– and – again – as it seems to be such a pleasure to discuss on the Intertubes what ”Party” is more to ”the left” -(or to the middle? – or to the right?) – and thanks god – Italy – already renders such ”pleasure” completely ad absurdum as there are already Italian Parties – who supposedly have a ”left” and ”a right” all at the same time – and while the German Greens supposedly struggle with the same… ”complexity”? and the whole Conservative and Republican part of my family always tells me Trump is ”a Democrat” -(because they don’t want to be blamed for the moron) – ”the people” are voting!

And what are they voting for?

They actually (would like to) – vote for – all the ”stuff” AOC and Bernie and Warren suggest -(y’all can read it in their programs and policy suggestions) – and one of the reason why they don’t vote for all this ”stuff” – they actually want to vote for BE-cause it really helps them) – IS – that so many of them get really confused – by people who tell them who is more to ”the right” – or ”the left” – to some ”centre” – and by the way –
Von Clownstick is an idiot who doesn’t have to do anything with all of this –

at all!

101

nastywoman 07.10.19 at 12:02 pm

– but as nobody – so obviously – wants to give up the ”Where-Is-My-Party-Game” – let’s try this… problem for once and for all – at least for Teh Homeland.

America has 5 Parties

1. The currently ”Ruling Party” called ”Republicans” – who are just a bunch of old white rich dudes who hate nothing more than any kind of change.

2. The ”Idiots and Racist Party” – called ”Trumpists” -(by confused Americans) – who supposedly are a part of the Republican Party – but actually hate the Republican Party because they are so confused that they think they are kind of ”anti-mainstream”.

3. The Democratic Party – who are just a bunch of old white -(and so called coloured) less richer than the Republicans dudes who are able to tolerate change.

4. The ”I hate every Party and every government Party” – which actually isn’t a actual Party – just a bunch of ”amateur anarchists” who only have a voice on the Internet as they don’t tend to vote .- and so they are pretty much ”irrelevant”.

5. ”The Greatest American Party of All” – with members like AOC and Bernie and Warren and even some Female Soccer Players and any women who are able to deconstruct idiots – in other words: a bunch of ”cool operators” who want to change the Country for the better and who will rule the homeland soon – after all ”the old dudes” are dead and gone…

102

Orange Watch 07.10.19 at 12:19 pm

fn@96:

The original law included a “single payer” option for about 40 million Americans

I think someone needs to explain to you what “single payer” means. There is no such thing as “single payer” that only covers 10% of the population.

It’s much easier than accepting you can’t always have what you want, and doing the hard work of convincing the American public to go left.

You describe the centrist position well. “It’s hard to convince the Americans to go left, so we’ll do the easier thing of convincing them that you can’t always get what you want and that they need to go right”.

I didn’t really think I needed to spell out the flaw in your “but piece-mail and separate Medicare expansion means they’re radicals!” assertion, but okay. They’re not right-wingers, they’re centrists. To use the term they used to describe themselves, they’re triangulators. They want a third way. They’re Democrats who want to pull their party to the right, while convincing Republicans to defect and join their middle-ground party. (This, BTW, is the most glaring flaw in your claim that the real centrists are the ones baiting the totally-not-centrists – the baiters are trying to get the other party to change its positions, not their own.) As the centrist bloc of Democrats is not a right-wing bloc, but rather the right wing of a left-wing big tent party, their goals are to maintain their power in the party while moving the party towards their preferred position (as with pretty much any sub-party faction). Hence, piece-mail and detachable Medicare expansion for up to 10% of the population structured in a way that was vulnerable in court as a sop to the leftward base, and a third-way compromise of more regulation in exchange for subsided market expansion as a way of controlling health care reform and preventing it from running counter to their cherished market principles.

You cite deeply ingrained political wisdom that can’t ever be challenged while arguing that centrists are cool pragmatists and the adults in the room. This is far more honest (and in keeping with traditional centrist self-characterization) than your earlier claims of radicalism, but it’s still as dubious as it has been for the entire history of the Third Way movement. Triangulators don’t seek to “only do what is possible” and “follow public opinion above all else”. They’re very willing to be opinion leaders, as has been shown time and again. They’re just not willing to be opinion leaders when it runs counter to their own political preferences; at that point they act as signal boost for the idea that “the US public is extremely conservative and nationalist, with a solid underpinning of very upfront racism”, and thus we must compromise and move right yet again to attract the wavering center rather than the childish but trapped, helpless, and by default loyally Democratic left. You’re presenting yourself as having a savvy and nuanced understanding of American politics, but it seems like you’ve spent too much time listening to the soundbites of certain factions without bothering to actually watch whether what they do is consistent with their public image. Let’s not forget that the US only has around 55% of its eligible voters participating in elections, with an overwhelmingly common reason cited not to is that “both parties are the same”. Where on earth could they possibly be getting that idea?

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faustusnotes 07.10.19 at 12:58 pm

Orange Watch, those two articles don’t say what you think they say. The first one shows that the Republican “plan” was just a grift and then goes on to say all the ways in which it is different to Obamacare; the second one states that the idea that Obamacare was based on the Heritage Foundation plan is (and I quote) “baloney”.

This Obamcare=Heritage Plan idea has been debunked multiple times and you really need to stop saying it. But if you are going to keep trotting out this tired right wing propaganda, you could at least avoid citing an article that says it’s “baloney”.

But riddle me this, Orange Watch: why do you think Sanders is not a “centrist”? He voted repeatedly for sanctions on Iraq. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that you aren’t aware of the recent finding that the research on the effects of the Iraq sanctions was fraudulent, and so you still think the sanctions killed 100,000 children. Yet you believe Sanders – who voted for the sanctions – is not a racist imperialist blood-soaked maniac like the rest of the Dems, and is not a “centrist”. After he voted to kill 100,000 kids. What is the price of centrism in your book? Is there a threshold?

Or riddle me this: Pelosi voted against the Iraq war (the vote you claim makes Clinton a “centrist”). So is she not a “centrist”? Is she a leftist?

Your definition of “centrist” appears to be: not Sanders. But Sanders has an abhorrent record on foreign interventions, and like the rest of your bloodthirsty country has a shameful history of supporting murder overseas. He voted for regime change in Libya (and supported it as far back as 2011). He voted for sanctions. He supported Marco Rubio’s ridiculous criticism of the UN and BDS. He voted for the AUMF in 2001 that has been used by the USA to attack many countries in Africa and Asia. That legislation is used to support Guantanamo. He voted against legislation to close Guantanamo Bay – legislation proposed by Obama, who you consider a “centrist”. He voted for the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998. He voted for the Clinton Crime Bill.

So what is a “centrist” if not that?

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William Timberman 07.10.19 at 1:48 pm

nastywoman @ 93 (07.09.19 at 8:56 pm)

You make the best case that can be made for the rational approach, but I’d say that history is more ambivalent on the subject than you seem willing to admit. It turns out that rationality as a control mechanism has limits that the 18th century hadn’t yet come to appreciate, but no one in the 21st century has any excuse to overlook.

Hitler didn’t actually make the trains run on time, but even if he had, that would hardly be the achievement that we’d remember him for. Taken altogether, anthropogenic global warming, the U.S. torture of refugee children and their parents, the commedia dell’arte of the Euro, or Italian attempts to sell the intentional drowning of Africans in the Mediterranean as benevolent public policy may not be the indictment of the supposedly rational control mechanisms of global capitalism or the U.S. Senate or the European Council that I think it is, but it does make you wonder.

This seems to be something that reasonable people can disagree about. Brad DeLong tells us that a larger percentage of the living are better off now than they ever were before in history, at least in economic terms. Stephen Pinker claims that the better angels of our nature are making significant inroads into our lust for butchering one another. Maybe so, but I remain skeptical, and I don’t think that neuroscience — or any other currently favored discipline — is going to deliver me from that skepticism anytime soon.

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steven t johnson 07.10.19 at 2:47 pm

Chetan Murthy@94 is misled by 20/200 hindsight. My belief that the supporters of the Iraq war knew it was all a pack of lies was formed then, not now. This was confirmed by the bland agreement that Bush should be impeached if he was lying. That shamelessness was a sly confession in itself. In addition, there were very large demonstrations. A moment’s googling shows a Huffington Post item from as recently as last year claiming the Feb. 3 2003 demo to be the largest anti-war protest ever. So, no, Democrats weren’t just weaklings afraid to face down the bloodthirsty mobs.

I’m not sure how Al Gore’s lack of a career can be attributed to anything but the way he rolled over to Bush over the election.

As to the back and forth about ACA being left wing, it’s not even clear to me that Bismarck was a left winger. George W. Bush also massively extended the welfare state by adding drug benefits to Medicare. Given the massive inequality of access to public discourse, where very extreme views (aka BS) held by vested interests can dominate because free speech is treasured by isegoria is hated, references to public opinion are often citations of the views of the elite stakeholders or the government or both.

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Dipper 07.10.19 at 7:27 pm

@ SusanC “As evidence for the hypothesis that a Trump-less alternate universe would have elected someone similar, I offer Boris Johnson. (Across the Atlantic rather than an alternate history).”

Just a reminder that Boris Johnson was castigated for saying that some people thought women in Burkas looked like letter boxes or bank-robbers in an article supporting the right of women to wear Burkas, in contrast to France where under super-centrist Macron the Burkha its banned, and that Boris Johnson as mayor of London supported diversity in all its forms and has supporters across society eg Nimco ali who regards Johnson as “real feminist”.

Johnson is a liberal centrist with an egotistical self-publicising clownish streak. He is pretty weak on many things. Conservative members are going to make him PM because they think he is the most likely candidate to get there UK out of the EU. That’s all, nothing more.

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J-D 07.11.19 at 1:43 am

The problem Orange Watch et al don’t want to deal with is that the US public is extremely conservative and nationalist, with a solid underpinning of very upfront racism, … Orange Watch et al want to pretend that the Dems are operating in a political environment like Europe’s, and they’re not. … Thus they get to claim that Obama is a “centrist” for introducing the best law he could given the electorate and the opposition. It’s much easier than accepting you can’t always have what you want, and doing the hard work of convincing the American public to go left.

Some people think (or at least this is the way it appears to me) that if only the Democratic Party (or possibly some hypothetical other party) presented to the American people a different kind of program, and campaigned for that program, then they could win the electoral support of the American people and implement it. (The kind of different program I am referring to here is the kind of program that might be described as more progressive, or more radical, or more leftist, at least to the degree of programs that are or have been successfully campaigned for and implemented by political parties in some other Western countries.) The people I’m referring to here take the view (or at least this is how it appears to me) that Democratic politicians are deliberately obstructing the adoption of this kind of program because they themselves do not prefer it to the more centrist/moderate Democratic programs of the past.

On the other hand, some people think (or at least this is the way it appears to me) that the Democratic party is constrained by the views of the American people to the kind of programs and policies they have advocated and implemented in the past, or to programs and policies which are not significantly more radical, or progressive, or leftist, and that if the Democratic party tried to move significantly further to the left the result would be decisive or even disastrous electoral defeat.

Maybe I have misunderstood, and nobody actually thinks these things, but nevertheless having defined both positions I contemplate them and I am not sure which has the greater element of truth in it.

In a nutshell, it seems to me that if the question is ‘Whose attitudes and opinions constrain the political positioning of the Democratic party: voters, or Democratic politicians?’ the answer is probably that both do.

More particularly, my best guess is that there is a majority of voters who are both further left than the current positioning of the Democratic party and also further left than most Democratic politicians suppose them to be, but probably only a little further left, by which I suppose I mean not as far left as I personally would like them to be.

That’s only a guess, though, and I wouldn’t be surprised to have it proved wrong. However, I do think it’s worth mentioning, even if only as a possibility, that if politicians position themselves differently from voters, it can be because they themselves have different preferences, but it can also be because of inaccuracy of their estimates of where the voters are. I can’t be sure it’s so, but it is at least possible that Democratic politicians fail to move to the left because they are genuinely and sincerely mistaken about how far left voters want them to move. If this is so, at least in part, there must be systemic/structural reasons for it.

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faustusnotes 07.11.19 at 4:42 am

SusanC’s offering up of BoJo doesn’t achieve its intended goal, I think. BoJo ran for PM before and failed, when it was the pre-Trump era. Now he can succeed – so it would certainly appear that things were different for him without Trump.

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Genuine Hippie 07.11.19 at 1:09 pm

It’s not Trumpism all over the world, it’s more Caesarism: “Let’s put somebody in charge who’s a big loud macho man who’ll shake things up– break some rules and some eggs/pointy heads, and punish our enemies, foreign and/or domestic. And then: glory!”

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alfredlordbleep 07.11.19 at 1:20 pm

One footnote—to the healthcare discussion above—

Bush signed the Medicare Act of 2003, which added prescription drug coverage to Medicare (United States), subsidized pharmaceutical corporations, and prohibited the Federal government from negotiating discounts with drug companies.

wiki [emphasis added]

If memory serves, the drug coverage was fully un-funded (in the rightwing tradition of freebies, free-markets, and balderdash, but I won’t take time for lookup).

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Z 07.11.19 at 2:33 pm

@J-D Some people think (or at least this is the way it appears to me) that if only the Democratic Party (or possibly some hypothetical other party) presented to the American people a different kind of program, and campaigned for that program, then they could win the electoral support of the American people and implement it.

You speak hypothetically, but in 2016 a generally unknown jewish elderly guy ran on a socialist platform and made a surprisingly strong showing against the preferred candidate of the Democratic Party establishment in the primary. In 2018 a completely unknown young woman ran on a socialist platform and defeated the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus just as talk was building in Washington that he was a potential future speaker of the House. Two years later, 40% of Americans declare they would rather live in a socialist than in a capitalist country in some opinion polls. These are developments that I would have thought inimaginable 15 or even 10 years ago that seem to indicate that when (not if) the Democratic Party presents to the American people a different kind of program, and campaigns for that program, then they win significantly more electoral support than conventional wisdom predicted only a decade ago (if anybody thought Sanders could win states in the primary against Clinton on the day he announced his candidacy, I would like to see the evidence).

On the other hand, I think it is wrong to simply oppose ordinary democratic voters and the establishment of the party. The current constituency of the Democratic Party contains young latina bartenders and elderly socialist jew, but also financial analysts and computer programmers in Manhattan and Cupertino. All these people have some common interests and common political views, but also steep divergence. It is true that the Democratic Party establishment is so much more responsive to the needs and preferences of the second group that equating the establishment views and their views is tempting, but it would be wrong to conclude that the second group doesn’t not exist at all.

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Cian 07.11.19 at 4:02 pm

Faustusnotes: It’s always weird seeing an Australian who lives in Japan comment so confidently on what Americans think.

1) Americans don’t _love_ their employer plans. It’s just when offered a choice between something mediocre and something terrible they will choose the mediocre option. Prior to Obamacare you had a choice between:
+ An employee plan that would (if you were lucky) cover most things.
+ Whatever shitty insurance plan you could cobble together that would cover very little.

Prior to Obama Care Non employer plans were really really bad. I know this because I had to buy one in 2011 when I was in between jobs. In addition employer plans were typically a lot cheaper due to a combination of tax benefits and larger risk pools.

Obamacare fixed non-employer plans, which is a good thing, but they’re still more expensive than employer plans. So yes given a choice from the current alternatives people will pick employer plans. They’re not stupid. That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t give them up for something better.

The other thing that I’m assuming you don’t know because you live in Japan is that employer provided insurance has been getting worse since Obamacare. It covers less, it costs more. Every year my experience (and this seems typical from conversations with acquaintances) has been that fewer doctors are in network, and fewer things are covered. Five years ago people didn’t really talk about it that much, these days it somehow becomes a topic of conversation at every social affair I go to. Eyewatering out of network charges. “Do you have a recommendation for a family doctor, ours is no longer in network?” “I’m still waiting to see if they’ll cover the consult with the eye doctor…”

And to put the dumb media debate on this issue in perspective. My social circle is more Republican than Democrat (not my fault – I live in the south) and I hear lots of people talk about how they really wish somebody would implement single payer, or medicare for all.

Obamacare fixed a few things around the edges, but basically left healthcare the same mess it already was. Since then things have got worse faster. Yes some of this is due to the Republicans meddling, but most of it would have happened anyway. The rapid consolidation of hospitals, the (frankly terrifying) increase in for profit hospitals, the collapse of rural hospitals, the astonishing increase in drug prices. Obamacare didn’t even really manage to keep insurance costs within managable levels.

> The problem Orange Watch et al don’t want to deal with is that the US public is extremely conservative and nationalist.

Nationalist sure – conservative? No. This is a myth. Pew public surveys have shown this for 20 years. The vast majority of the public in the US support policies that are to the left of the Democrat party. AoC is much much closer to mainstream US opinion than Pelosi or Obama.

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Cian 07.11.19 at 4:05 pm

> I can’t be sure it’s so, but it is at least possible that Democratic politicians fail to move to the left because they are genuinely and sincerely mistaken about how far left voters want them to move. If this is so, at least in part, there must be systemic/structural reasons for it.

Democratic representatives spend most of their time phoning donors and talking to lobbyists. They spend very little time with ordinary constituents.

And every study has found that congressmen and senators think their constituents are way more right wing than they actually are. Or as someone else put it – US politicians are very good at representing the beliefs of their donors.

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Orange Watch 07.11.19 at 7:04 pm

fn@99:

This Obamcare=Heritage Plan idea has been debunked multiple times and you really need to stop saying it.

Well, lucky for me I didn’t say it. I said the ACA was “a recycled moderate Republican counter-proposal”. I’ll admit I figured you’d be thrilled to see me link that concise, enthusiastic moderate-right-wing description of the ACA’s third-way attributes, but the point of the second link was not the author’s opinion of the ACA, nor was it meant to back the Heritage claim you kindly put into my mouth alongside the rest of your strawmen. And unsurprisingly, you didn’t actually address what it DID say, which was to lay out the market-friendly/industry-friendly attributes that made the ACA a staunchly third-way proposal that would quite naturally be more appealing to center-right types than leftists.

So what is a “centrist” if not that?

A Democrat dedicated to pulling the center of gravity of the Democratic party towards a point between the median Democratic voter and the median Republican voter, even if that means an asymptotically rightward drift for the party. For the last 40-50 years, this has meant groups such as the Third Way movement, the DLC, and suchlike. They’re centrists because of what they do with relation to other Democrats, and how they value appealing to the interests of Democratic party members as compared with those of independents, swing voters, moderate Republicans, and other groups to their right. Pointedly, they are consistently guilty of telling Democrats to their left that “electability” is the most important characteristic of national candidates, and electability is defined as how appealing a candidate would be to the aforementioned non-Democrats – as well as the ability to attract large amounts of corporate donations, because “not scaring corporations” is presented proof positive of appeal to swing voters. The pathological desire to appeal to swing voters makes them more inclined to suicidal comity/compromise/capitulation and risk aversion when there’s the least risk they could be called “weak” on defense, Israeli-American relations, and to a thankfully shrinking degree, crime. Or risk of being called “socialists”.

As J-D@103 points out, these individuals are both constrained by the opinions of the electorate and constraining the opinions of the electorate. Obviously, I find the latter to be the controlling factor with them, though the former does certainly impact their actions. It’s certainly not for nothing the pols under discussion have outsized reputations of being slavish poll-followers. But paying attention to what centrists are and are not willing to expend political capital and take risks to promote paints a fairly clear picture of the latter eclipsing the former in importance.

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Cian 07.11.19 at 7:46 pm

Johnson is a liberal centrist with an egotistical self-publicising clownish streak. He is pretty weak on many things. Conservative members are going to make him PM because they think he is the most likely candidate to get there UK out of the EU. That’s all, nothing more.

I mean he’s a racist and very right wing on economic issues – but sure, believe that if it helps you sleep at night.

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Orange Watch 07.11.19 at 7:47 pm

Dipper@103

in contrast to France where under super-centrist Macron the Burkha its banned

This is not the apples-to-apples comparison you’re presenting it as. French republicanism is broadly monocultural, while the UK falls into the multiculturalism more dominant in Anglophonic nations. That significantly impacts exactly how welcome ostentatious signs of diversity and deviations from imputed cultural norms are across the political spectrum. Politics is not a simple one-dimensional affair even if our common political vocabulary seeks to reduce it to such, which is the main cause for the arguments in this thread.

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Dipper 07.11.19 at 9:39 pm

@ Cian – “I mean he’s a racist “ yes because obviously Nimco Ali is just deluded and needs racism mansplained to her. I mean, why listen to a brown-skinned woman who has worked with Boris Johnson on this issue when we can just listen to you. But if it helps you sleep at night…

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Faustusnotes 07.12.19 at 12:21 am

Orange watch, at no point have I denied that the ACA is a market-oriented right wing policy. The points I made above were intended to make this clear, and to show why politically nothing else is possible in the USA. What it is not is a “republican counter proposal”, as your article makes clear. It has little in common with the only serious republican proposal in 20 years (the heritage plan) and the proposal you linked to is a joke, as is every plan, because the republican counter proposal is “nothing.” And can I remind you that if you think the ACA is a republican idea then you think a major welfare program (the Medicaid expansion, funded by a wealth tax) is republican. Do you think that?

Cain, please don’t lecture people on the internet for having opinions on America. You guys dominate the internet and have opinions on every country you know nothing about, and in my experience of 20 years of the internet typically know nothing about your own governments polciies or how you compare globally (see eg my response to z below). I’m well aware that employer plans are bad which is why I said they are “perversely popular.” Do you think Obama promised in 2010 that no one would lose their plan because he knew they’re super unpopular and everyone wants to jump off them? Quite the contrary. And as for not being conservative and nationalist – remind me again what proportion of people polled after 9/11 supported nuking Iraq without evidence? Where did the MRA start? Is prostitution legal in any part of your country? Who pays on the first date? Is the pro life movement a big thing in your country? What proportion of your population is born again Christian? I don’t need to be an American to see how conservative and nationalist you are because the rest of us put up with it every day we work on any global policy issue, and very time we meet an American. Case in point:

Z, Bernie is not a socialist. Until he has a program to nationalize major industries and turn swords to ploughshares he is just a b grade Democratic socialist, who might be welcome in a Conservative party in Europe and might make it as a moderate in the uk Labour Party. He might scrape into the labour left in oz. Until this year he didn’t even have a plan for student debt! And he’s opposed to reparations for slavery ffs. Newsflash: supporting single payer is not radical socialism, and the fact you think it is tells us all everything we need to know about American politics. If you think he’s a socialist, how do you think normal Americans view single payer? How is it that the American left are so banboozled by this bloodstained hack, who has spent his career hiding from any legislative responsibility while voting for every centrist policy the dem leadership has put forward, including every one of your wars but one. You understand that being opposed to only the dumbest war doesn’t make you a pacifist, right? Does this imperialist running dog even oppose the death penalty? How come this committed socialist took until the age of 99000 to come up with a plan for student debt? Is it a surprise that this millionaire Chicago u alumni took until he was under pressure from the left in a primary to remember a basic tenet of socialism?

The fact that the American left are fooled by this bloodthirsty cookie cutter dem, and have built a whole fumbling rhetoric of centrism around his failed candidacies really does show how conservative and nationalist you are. Think about that when you wonder why you can’t change anything in your country. And instead of being taken to the cleaners by this show pony, vote for someone competent and left, and use her presidency to drag the country left – as you should have done under Obama, instead of carping on about how he didn’t push a single payer policy that was DOA because your nation is too conservative to think straight.

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eg 07.12.19 at 8:41 am

Orange Watch @99 notes only 55% of the US electorate votes

As an outside observer of US political behaviour this squares with the apparent disconnect between how Americans claim that they would prefer income to be distributed and the actual distribution as outlined in this article (and the studies it references)

http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2014/09/americans_have_no_idea_how_bad_inequality_is_new_harvard_business_school.html

To the extent that attitudes towards income distribution might serve as a proxy for one’s political inclinations, is it plausible to assume that the majority of the 45% of US citizen non-voters are to the left of the 55% who do? And if so, do the actions of the “centrist triangulators” to pull Democratic policy rightward actually harm the Dem “electability” about which they claim to be so concerned?

The only escape from the “Team Pepsi vs Team Coke” Hobson’s choice of eternal neoliberalism for the US public would appear to be a leftward shift within the Democratic Party, from where I’m sitting. As other posters have noted, however, it appears that the “captivity of the donors” where their leadership is concerned is preventing progress where this is concerned.

So it goes …

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Cian 07.12.19 at 11:55 am

SusanC’s offering up of BoJo doesn’t achieve its intended goal, I think. BoJo ran for PM before and failed, when it was the pre-Trump era. Now he can succeed – so it would certainly appear that things were different for him without Trump.

Boris Johnson has never run for PM before. He almost ran after Brexit, but characteristically bottled it.

The affect of Donald Trump on British politics is I think best described as negligible. On the other hand the affect of British populist Nigel Farage (who long predates Trump) has been huge, as has the effect of right wing populist newspapers as the Sun (which was writing anti-EU propaganda back in the early 80s). This ‘centrist’ delusion that anything that has happened in the UK has anything to do with external actors (unless we’re including Rupert Murdoch) is tiresome.

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Cian 07.12.19 at 12:04 pm

Orange Watch @39:
If you go to centrist echo chambers now, there is a strong tendency to equate support for Sanders as support for Trump, and generally to dismiss leftists as reactionaries wearing very thin masks. If Sanders were nominated, elected, and managed to institute any appreciable amount of socio-economic reform, it seems pretty clear that the neoliberal centrists would tearfully tear up their Democratic party memberships and bitterly complain they hadn’t left the party, the party left them. It’s unlikely they’d embrace the hard neoliberals in the GOP because those neoliberals are for the moment managing to ride their populist tiger successfully; I think it would be more likely to see the wealthier portions attempting to pull a Macron. Alternately, they might try push through new anti-democratic “reforms” to “save the party from itself”.

I think this is broadly correct, as can be seen by what’s happened in the UK since Corbyn won. You’d also see lots of articles in the more respectable press, MSNBC, etc about how the Democratic party was turning Stalinist, was anti-semitic, being controlled by Russia, etc. The degree to which that mattered would depend upon how successfully Sanders was able to democratize the party.

I agree that Sanders winning the nomination does seem unlikely – though I think if he does succeed it will be a surprise to most because of the type of campaign he’s running. They seem to be trying to pull off the same kind of strategy that AoC pulled off in New York – ignoring the wealthy minority that vote, and instead increasing turnout among those who don’t vote (most Democrat voters). If that strategy works it may not be picked up by polling.

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J-D 07.12.19 at 1:26 pm

Z

The 1972 Democratic platform has been described, more than once, as the most progressive/left-wing on which the party has ever run, and the results of that year’s Presidential election are not encouraging from that point of view; although this observation has to be qualified by noting that it’s obviously possible that McGovern’s defeat was caused by other factors and may actually have been in spite of the content of the platform rather than because of it and also by noting that it’s possible that a lot has changed in voters’ attitudes since 1972.

It’s possible that the Democrats would have done better in 2016 if the platform had been more like Bernie Sanders’s, or more like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s, but it’s also possible that the party would have done worse.

So your (accurate and important) observations still leave me with open questions (which is not a bad thing).

Cian

Democratic representatives spend most of their time phoning donors and talking to lobbyists. They spend very little time with ordinary constituents.

If this is true, there must be systemic/structural reasons for it.

Orange Watch

The pathological desire to appeal to swing voters …

Not every election candidate is interested in winning, but many of them are, and candidates interested in winning have to make strategic choices. If you want to win an election, any vote is worth having, but it’s not practicable to try to appeal to every potential voter equally, so you have to decide how to prioritise your campaigning efforts. What priority are you going to give to appealing to employees, employers, the self-employed, the unemployed, students, and retirees? to high-income voters, low-income voters, and those in the middle of that range? to highly educated voters, uneducated voters, and those in the middle of that range? to older voters, younger voters, and those in the middle of that range? The choices you might have to make will depend on the election in which you’re a candidate. In some elections you might be thinking about the varying linguistic, religious, and/or ethnic backgrounds of voters while setting your priorities, or about differences between urban and rural voters, while in others there might not be enough heterogeneity in those respects to be worth bothering about.

If you’re a Democratic candidate in a US election, one of the things that might be worth considering is whether you should give higher priority to attracting support from people who seldom vote but who generally vote Democratic when they do, or to attracting support from people who usually vote but who vote Democratic sometimes and Republican sometimes. It’s not immediately obvious which of those is more strategically advantageous, so it’s not immediately obvious that a candidate who decides to focus more on swing voters is making a poor choice, still less a pathological one, even though it’s obvious why it’s likely to be a disappointing choice from the point of view of many of the people who nearly always vote and nearly always vote Democrat.

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Cian 07.12.19 at 6:19 pm

Seeing Faustusnotes claim that Sanders is a centerist, but Kamala Harris is a radical, has been the most galaxy brained take on this whole thread.

The comparison of the ‘dirtbag left’ (*) to the RCP/LM/Spiked (+) crew is pretty funny though. I can’t wait for such future hot takes such as – crust punk anarchists are the same as ‘tankies’. Or libertarians are identical to Social Democrats.

(*) Not actually a real thing. See jokes, self-deprecation and people who do podcasts.
(+) Actually a real thing with leaders, membership lists, organization and a successful strategy of entryism including almost taking over the Economist Intelligence Unit. If I didn’t hate them so much I’d admire the bonkers ambition.

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Orange Watch 07.13.19 at 1:57 am

Cian@123:

As absurd as that was (and yes, it was grand), if the measure was clueless chutzpah it can’t match an Aussie expat in Japan lecturing someone who is – unless my memory fails me – French for being a typically foolish American who understands neither American nor European politics shortly after holding up that lecture as proof of their boast that 20y on the Internet has taught them how ignorant and presumptuous most Americans are. YMMV though.

FWIW I’ve found ‘dirtbag left’ to be a very earnestly-used epithet on centrists blogs – from both liberal and progressive centrists – though they usually just say Bernie Bros to convey the same dismissive contempt.

J-D@122:

Not every election candidate is interested in winning, but many of them are, and candidates interested in winning have to make strategic choices.

I wish I had only been referring to candidates in elections. The Democratic party had a soft coup following the 1972 election you reference; from then until 2016 the party leadership was under the control of explicit triangulators who openly advocated moving right to avoid another such result. It’s where the top-down control of superdelegates came from, and policy in office – even when election was far off – was too often crafted with an eye at appealing to independents (and donors) rather than the base. As much as centrists rankle at being called a lesser of two evils, for decades a cornerstone of their choke hold on the Democratic party has been to define themselves as better than their opponents rather than defining themselves. Clinton’s 2016 campaign stands as a painfully exquisite model of this strategy.

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faustusnotes 07.13.19 at 4:25 am

Sigh. I didn’t say that Bernie is a centrist and Harris a radical, I simply pointed out that Bernie is a war-mongering millionaire who votes with the Dems 98% of the time, and is not a socialist. I know it’s very uncool to criticize your Cool Uncle, but this guy is not a socialist. Why are you putting your faith for socialism in a millionaire johnny-come-lately who has never done serious policy work and has voted for almost every military adventure the US has ever done? And why do you think he is different from the rest of the dems when he votes with them almost all the time, and has never been in a position to act on his pronouncements?

Why won’t you engage with either a) the substance of the Obama-era policies you criticize or b) any criticism of Bernie’s voting record? I’ve raised it here in detail, describing specific votes he took that further US imperialist goals and/or domestic oppression of minority groups, and you simply won’t speak of them. Either Bernie is something special and different, in which case you can engage with his voting record as evidence for or against this; or he is broadly the same as the other dems, in which case your whole “centrist” critique of the rest of them falls apart. You avoid this by simply refusing to engage on the substance of Bernie’s past actions. Why?

Get back to me in two years about the dirtbag left. But before you get too hot under the collar about it, I’ll just point out that the term “dirtbag left” comes from them, not their critics – a simple fact that is stated in the introduction to the Spiked article. Let’s see where they are in two years, eh?

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novakant 07.13.19 at 6:52 am

Boris Johnson has a long history of making racist remarks, which makes him – drumroll – a racist. His racism is an integral part of his worldview so unsurprisingly he also has a long history of sexist, homophobic and chauvinistic remarks. He’s also a serial liar and completely incompetent.

The fact that large parts of the Tory member- and leadership don’t care about this at all and want to make him the next prime minister is astounding.

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J-D 07.13.19 at 6:56 am

Orange Watch

French republicanism is broadly monocultural, while the UK falls into the multiculturalism more dominant in Anglophonic nations. That significantly impacts exactly how welcome ostentatious signs of diversity and deviations from imputed cultural norms are across the political spectrum.

My best guess is that the levels of hostility and negative reactions to burka-wearing are similar in the UK and in France. It is just a guess, but unless you can produce some evidence to the contrary you are also guessing and there’s no reason to prefer your guess to mine.

More generally, multiculturalism is the law in exactly one country, Canada (which is Anglophone, but also anyway at least partly Francophone), and it is declared government policy but not actually law in exactly one other country, Australia (also Anglophone). It is neither law not declared government policy in any other country, Anglophone or not, and specifically not in the UK, no matter how Anglophone.

(Why ‘Anglophonic’? Isn’t ‘Anglophone’ an adequate word?)

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J-D 07.13.19 at 7:05 am

eg

To the extent that attitudes towards income distribution might serve as a proxy for one’s political inclinations, is it plausible to assume that the majority of the 45% of US citizen non-voters are to the left of the 55% who do?

Even without specific information about attitudes, that is the default plausible assumption on general considerations: propensity to vote is strongly (although imperfectly) correlated with social and economic advantage generally, and right-wing political inclinations are also strongly (although imperfectly) correlated with social and economic advantage generally, so voters should generally be expected to be at least somewhat to the right, on average, of non-voters.

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J-D 07.13.19 at 7:30 am

Orange Watch

I am also under the impression that Z is French, and if Faustusnotes thinks Z is American I can’t guess why.

I wish I had only been referring to candidates in elections. The Democratic party had a soft coup following the 1972 election you reference; from then until 2016 the party leadership was under the control of explicit triangulators who openly advocated moving right to avoid another such result.

The point I was making can be applied just as readily to a broader context than one restricted to candidates in elections, as follows.

Not every political party aspires to control of or participation in government, but some do (and the Democrats in the US are certainly one such). A political party in a system where its access to control of or participation in government depends on election results has to make strategic choices about what priority to give to appealing to different groups of voters–the same choices I mentioned in my earlier comment. For the Democratic Party in the US, one of the choices that probably needs to be considered is the one I mentioned in my earlier comment, the choice of whether to give higher priority to attracting support from people who seldom vote but who generally vote Democratic when they do, or to attracting support from people who usually vote but who vote Democratic sometimes and Republican sometimes. It’s not immediately obvious which of those is more strategically advantageous, so it’s not immediately obvious that if the party decides to focus more on swing voters it is making a poor choice, still less a pathological one, even though it’s obvious why it’s likely to be a disappointing choice from the point of view of many of the people who nearly always vote and nearly always vote Democrat.

It’s not certain that the reason the Democrats did so badly in 1972 was that their platform was too progressive/radical/left-wing, but that proposition is also not obviously implausible. Since the 1972 election, the Democrats have won five out of eleven Presidential elections. It’s possible that if they’d steered further to the left over that period they would have done better, but it’s also possible that they would have done worse.

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nastywoman 07.13.19 at 9:02 am

– and I know it might be ”gnomic” or even ”silly” to repeat again- how very unhelpful it is for US -(the people) to have some kind of a (academic?) discussion about who is more -(or less) ”to the left”-
or a ”dirtbag left” or ”a centrist” (or ”not”- like Bernie?)
– or a ”radical” -(like Kamela – or not?)

And we know, we know our version of the US Party-Scene might have been a bit too… too… ”emotional”?

BUT to come to the main point (again) – there is no other way – then to read all of these confused comments – about ”what’s what” as proof for the inability to keep it just in a two or three Party System.

And at least this comment could be posted?

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Z 07.13.19 at 11:16 am

J-D The 1972 Democratic platform has been described, more than once, as the most progressive/left-wing on which the party has ever run, and the results of that year’s Presidential election are not encouraging from that point of view

I would definitely say I think that things have changed a lot in two generations. Things appear to me to have changed a lot in much less time than that. (Who would have thought in 2002 or even 2012 that socialism would be a thing in the US ? Who would have thought in 1999 that Trump would be president 20 years later, when he was getting 7% in opinion polls and starring in Sex and the City? Certainly not me and I don’t remember anybody else predicting it at the time. )

It’s possible that the Democrats would have done better in 2016 if the platform had been more like Bernie Sanders’s, or more like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s, but it’s also possible that the party would have done worse.

Certainly you are right. I would mention two things though.

1) I’m not claiming that the Democrats would have done better in 2016 if the platform had been more like Bernie Sanders’s, or more like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (I do believe it, but I don’t trust my judgment, because I’m sympathetic to their ideas). I’m claiming that people using these platforms have done better (much better!) than what was expected of them at the time (including by me, who is sympathetic to their ideas). So I’m applying some sort of Bayesian reasoning I guess: in recent years, I have several times underestimated the potential of platforms well to the left of what appeared to be the political center of gravity of the country in question (not only in the US, but also the UK and France). It seems to me that the mainstream press as well as sympathetic observers and analysts (for instance our hosts here at CT) by and large also underestimated that potential . Based on that experience, I think at least some caution is warranted in my (and perhaps others) future appreciations of the potential success of these platforms.

2) On a very different note, the Democratic party in the US is a very big tent party, and as I mentioned several times here and elsewhere, it seeks to represent constituencies which do stands together on several issues, but also stand apart or even in bitter oppositions on others. This means that analyzing the electoral success of that party is not a simple matter, because the same absolute electoral score can be achieved with very different combinations of electoral successes among the various constituencies. In that context, some people (including myself) will think that who voted for Democratic candidate X and why can be at least as important as if X won, and to be clear, this is not because I think neoliberalism is worse than trumpism, but because I think that trumpism is a reaction to neoliberalism, so that if we want to get rid of the latter (and not just of Trump), the power of the former must significantly decreased.

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Orange Watch 07.13.19 at 8:04 pm

fn@

I didn’t say that Bernie is a centrist and Harris a radical, I simply pointed out that Bernie is a war-mongering millionaire who votes with the Dems 98% of the time, and is not a socialist.

You say all of the above as though it is negative, and yet the same applies even moreso to the people you’ve lectured us about being leftier-than-us and also (yes) “more radical”. And more still about your claim you haven’t called these pols radical: did you forget when you described Obama’s policies as radical? You know, before you decided that how American pols compare to European and Australian pols should determine whether we view them as radical or centrist or even conservative… without bothering to acknowledge what that new standard does to your paeans to the staunch and/or radical leftism of Warren, Harris, Clinton, and/or Obama. To say nothing of what it says about your qualification to hold forth on US and international politics given your suggestion that Americans aren’t generally qualified to do so because we fail to understand our own politics as well as foreigners do, let alone other nations’ politics.

This is the sort of thing that inclines me to dismiss you as trolling – you’re not even making a pretense of holding your own claims to the standards you demand we hold ours to.

As to the ‘dirtbag left’ bit: you do realize people you disagree with aren’t monolithic, don’t you? A group of leftists embraced that term as an act of reclaiming something (and not without self-awareness and irony), yes, but a whole lot of centrists took it up even more gleefully because it meshes nicely with their classist worldview. Language is neither static nor owned by individuals; it’s possible to not be hostile to the intent of individuals who self-identify with it for using a pejorative word to empower themselves, while still being hostile to it being used as a slur by individuals who don’t identify as such to deride people they look down on. That’s really a pretty basic (and orthodox) idea within the socio-political movement you claim to adhere to, so it shouldn’t need explained. It’s very much of a piece with the older phrase ‘dirty f’n hippies’.

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Cian 07.13.19 at 8:51 pm

@117 Dipper – Right, there’s nothing racist about writing “regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies”, or referring to “the tribal warriors… [who] all break out in watermelon smiles”.

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Dipper 07.13.19 at 9:10 pm

@ novakant – “Boris Johnson has a long history of making racist remarks”. Which you couldn’t be bothered to provide.

In the one article that is continually referenced” Johnson is being satirical about colonial attitudes in the Blair government. But I’m sure you’ve got lots of other examples.

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steven t johnson 07.13.19 at 9:25 pm

In assessing the political appeal of the 1972 Democratic Party platform, it is useful to remember that it came after the political turmoil of the Sixties, up to and including major riots, open calls for revolution on campuses and campaigns by would-be guerrillas. It is not clear that the platform was very left in regards to the times. Nor is it clear that the turn to the right suggested by the re-election of Nixon isn’t more demoralization after defeat, compounded by divisions in popular leadership. Easy generalizations that this was the maximum left of the people are strikingly certain.

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Faustusnotes 07.13.19 at 9:56 pm

Z, I would be careful about your claim 1). The justice dems (from which AOC comes) haven’t actually had a good success rate (I see reports it’s 7% but don’t trust them) and the dems have lost seats overall at federal and state level since 2016. Some of the seats they have gained have been conservatives who flipped conservative seats (I think currently there is a spat on Twitter about one of these). AOC really just won a primary (it was a safe seat) and I think it also needs to be recognized that the few very publicly identifiable winners from the far left (AOC, Omar, Tlaub?) seem to have been genuinely excellent candidates, not the kind of mediocre hacks who make up the bulk of representatives in any parliament. Sanders appears to be going better now than in 2016 but he got eclipsed by Biden (who surely is the centrists centrist), and is losing ground to Harris and warren. How would he go if a genuinely popular “centrist” like Obama were to run, and what does it say about the democratic socialist project in America if that happens?

I know the claim will probably be that the DNC rigged it, because the American left cannot fail, it can only be failed (according to republican-funded Putin-fluffers like TYT) but if sanders gets smashed by a mealy-mouthed moderate again, what does that tell you about the electoral popularity of his project? If he can’t win the primaries against a moderate on his second try with no big names in the race, how will he win the general?

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Cian 07.13.19 at 10:34 pm

Faustusnotes:
I wasn’t lecturing people on the internet for having opinions on America, I was observing that your beliefs about what Americans believe are wrong. I’d be more polite about if you weren’t so patronizing with it.

I’m a British ex-pat who happens to live in the US. I’m not sure why we’re supposed to defer to your expertise about the US healthcare system. I wouldn’t describe myself as an expert, but I do know people who work in healthcare and insurance admin (at a reasonably senior level), have clients in various parts of the system (software) and also know a couple of healthcare policy academics. So I’m not entirely ignorant either. I also have passing familiarity with a few of the European systems, FWIW.

I know why Obama promised that nobody would lose their plan – because he lost control of the debate and people were scared they were going to get something worse. They weren’t wrong about that incidentally – the ACA plans are typically worse.

And as for not being conservative and nationalist

What has this got to do with people’s support for social welfare style policies?

Bernie Sanders would fit very comfortably in the soft left of the Labour party. He’s to the right of Corbyn, sure, but so is most of the party. Claiming that he would be a member of a conservative party in Europe just makes you look like an idiot frankly.

There has been a fairly rigorous debate about reparations on the left in the US for a while now. A lot of people on the left think it’s impractical, or bad strategy. Generally the people most opposed to it are the ones with the most experience in organizing, which I think is interesting. I’ve certainly not seen a very convincing plan for how it could be implemented.

If you think he’s a socialist, how do you think normal Americans view single payer?

In the socialist hell hole of South Carolina they mostly seem to think it’s a good idea.

How is it that the American left are so banboozled by this bloodstained hack

Given that the American left has quite robustly criticised Bernie on a bunch of things, has pushed him to the left on certain issues and has mostly stated that they think he is the best option out of all the alternatives.

Bloodstained is funny though. What do you call Hillary Clinton, or Obama then? What about all the Senators and representatives in the Democratic party who are constantly pushing for war, bombing and destruction. There is a lot to criticize Bernie for on foreign policy, but compared to most of his party, or Elizabeth Warren, he’s pretty good. Which is a sad reflection on US politics, but nonetheless only a hack would single out Bernie for this.

who has spent his career hiding from any legislative responsibility while voting for every centrist policy the dem leadership has put forward

Neither of these things are true. They sure are purty words though.

Does this imperialist running dog even oppose the death penalty?

Yes… you know it’s not hard to find this stuff out…

Is it a surprise that this millionaire Chicago u alumni took until he was under pressure from the left in a primary to remember a basic tenet of socialism?

LOL He’s a millionare because he wrote a best selling book. But thank you for repeating this common right wing talking point. Remember kids – you can only be commited to social change if you wear sack cloths and live under a bridge.

Think about that when you wonder why you can’t change anything in your country.

Right, nothing whatsoever to do with a corrupt and undemocratic political system. It’s all Bernie’s fault.

And instead of being taken to the cleaners by this show pony, vote for someone competent and left, and use her presidency to drag the country left

Hmm. You do know that Berie’s failed presidential run helped drag the country left, right? That all around the country alumni of his campaign are fighting at a local level to get left wing candidates elected. That in the house we have several left wing reps whose campaigns were built on the remains of the Sanders run. That there is an organized left, that didn’t exist before that run, which is trying to change things. That the campaign this time round has been sending resources to union campaigns and strikes all over the country. That there is a fight in the Democratic party between the new left (people like the very wonderful AoC), and the old guard (the not so wonderful Pelosi) – and that Bernie Sanders is a major player in that.

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Cian 07.13.19 at 11:25 pm

Get back to me in two years about the dirtbag left. But before you get too hot under the collar about it, I’ll just point out that the term “dirtbag left” comes from them, not their critics – a simple fact that is stated in the introduction to the Spiked article. Let’s see where they are in two years, eh?

Well yeah, Amber Lee Frost coined the term to describe the listeners of their podcast. The idea being that their listeners were not the usual left wing suspects, but instead dirtbags living in their parent’s basements, sofa surfing, or struggling in precarious employment. In other words they weren’t the usual people who listened to left wing podcasts. To the degree that the dirtbag left exists, it’s just a bunch of comedians, journalists and podcasters who mostly live in Brooklyn. To the degree that there’s any political organization there it’s through the DSA. If you think they’re important then you’re either a journalist in Manhattan, or you’re wasting way too much time on twitter.

The RCP (later Living Marxism/Spiked/other things) on the other hand was a highly organized Trotskyist sect. They dressed extremely well, were very focused on recruitment, they practised entryism with considerable skill and were also able to build a number of quite effective propaganda/front organizations (notably Insitute of Ideas). They were also highly theoretical (Frank Furedi wrote a number of books from his perch as professor of Sociology). If they had a sense of humour I never noticed it.

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Cian 07.13.19 at 11:30 pm

Sigh. I didn’t say that Bernie is a centrist and Harris a radical, I simply pointed out that Bernie is a war-mongering millionaire who votes with the Dems 98% of the time, and is not a socialist. I know it’s very uncool to criticize your Cool Uncle, but this guy is not a socialist.

Never said he was a socialist – if you’re trying to score cool points by pointing out he’s a social democrat, um okay, that’s not exactly a secret. But to then argue that Kamala Harris is more radical than, well, anyone running is hillarious. Of all the people to pick.

Fairly sure that you can be rich and a socialist, unless we’re kicking Engels out of the socialist club, so thanks for that. Not my cool uncle – simply the candidate that I think is the best out of the options available. You know – the pragmatic choice.

Legit question. What war has Bernie pushed for? Not voted for, pushed for. Because war-mongering suggests he’s actively trying to start wars, which I don’t think is true.

Why are you putting your faith for socialism in a millionaire johnny-come-lately

I’m putting my faith for socialism in people like jane mcalevey thanks for asking.

And why do you think he is different from the rest of the dems when he votes with them almost all the time, and has never been in a position to act on his pronouncements?

Dude disagree with him all you want, but it’s stupid to say he’s not different. If nothing else he’s not beholden to lobbyists and donors. Your criticisms might have more bite if you actually engaged with the person, rather than the strawman.

Why won’t you engage with… the substance of the Obama-era policies you criticize

What are you talking about? I’ve done it many times. To return to healthcare, Obamacare failed to control costs – and that has nothing to do with the Republicans. He sacrified homeowners to save banks. His foreign policy was awful.

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Orange Watch 07.14.19 at 12:31 am

J-D@129:

It is just a guess, but unless you can produce some evidence to the contrary you are also guessing and there’s no reason to prefer your guess to mine.

I’m basing my “guess” on having lived in France in the early aughts when the veil ban was being debated under Chiraq. The left was not unified in opposition to it by any means, and the reasons for individual and collective disagreement on the left were generally tied to a more traditionally Gaulic assimilationist understanding of French Republicanism (and secularism) vs. to more Anglo-Saxon multiculturalist conceptions of citizenship (and religious freedom). This particular divide between French and Anglo-Saxon cultures is not exactly a new observation, nor a controversial one, even if it’s new to you. France historically is closer to monocultural than Anglo-Saxon cultures (particularly the “melting pot” US, but not excluding the UK by any means) and French secularism is noticeably more militant than Anglo-Saxon conceptions thereof. It may help give context to point out that revolutionary France pushed to eliminate the local languages, and under the 3rd Republic the national education system fairly systematically did so in ways which bear a (not entirely passing) resemblance to US efforts to eradicate Native American culture.

The relationship between the citizen and the majority/state-sanctioned culture is not cleanly parallel in the UK and in France. That’s anecdata, but I have no interest in digging up citations for non-controversial, non-obscure information that you in particular don’t happen to be familiar with. If you’re really incapable of investigating it yourself, here’s a starting point: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_scarf_controversy_in_France

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nastywoman 07.14.19 at 9:08 am

@131
”On a very different note, the Democratic party in the US is a very big tent party, and as I mentioned several times here and elsewhere, it seeks to represent constituencies which do stands together on several issues, but also stand apart or even in bitter oppositions on others”.

and if I may ”translate” the above?

”On the least different note (related to the headline of this OP) – the Democratic party in the US is a few different parties, and as I mentioned several times here and elsewhere, the only way to represent constituencies which do stands together on several issues, but also stand apart or even in bitter oppositions on others” –
IS –
to put all the constituencies which do stand together on several issues – together in one Party –
and constituencies which do stand together on several other issues into another Party in order to avoid that in just one Party constituencies stand apart ”in bitter oppositions on others”.

Right?

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