Russia or California ?

by John Quiggin on November 23, 2019

Would Republican voters rather live under a government like that of Russia, or one like that of California? This sounds a bit like those polling questions we used to laugh at, such as the 2009 finding that 14% of New Jersey Republicans thought Obama was Antichrist and 15% weren’t sure. But it actually reflects the choice Republican voters may well be facing.

Update: I was worried that I might be going over the top with this post. Immediately after putting it up, I found Bret Stephens saying much the same thing, (substituting Ukraine for Russia) in the New York Times. Not that I need Stephens’ endorsement, but obviously these thoughts are in the air. Also, I think Noah Smith mentioned the California scenario a while back, but I couldn’t find where. End update

First, suppose that Trump is re-elected in 2020. That would give him sufficient time to eliminate the last residues of pre-Trumpist thinking within the Republican party and to comprehensively pack the courts with compliant appointees. By 2024, even if he did not seek to ignore the two-term limit, he would be in a position to appoint one of his children as the Republican nominee. As regards the election result, the Republicans have relied on voter suppression for a long time, and would surely not resist Trump’s adoption of more extreme measures, along the lines of Putin, in order to ensure the right outcome. After that, Trumpism would be permanently established. The likelihood that not a single Republican politician will vote to impeach or convict Trump shows that even overt criminality is not going to be a problem.

On the other hand, if Trump is defeated (and yields power), the prospect of California looms large. The defeat would certainly lead to a revival of never-Trumpism and a long period of disarray, making a second loss in 2024 highly likely. By 2028, the combination of demographic change and restoration of voting rights would have the potential to put the Republicans into semi-permanent minority. While that’s never happened in US federal politics, it’s commonplace at the state level, so there are no clear balancing processes that would ensure a return swing of the pendulum.

Neither of these is inevitable. A severe depression in the early 2020s, for example, could derail whichever party won in 2020. But each is more likely, in my view, than the idea of a return to the relative normality of the pre-Trump 2000s, let alone a return to 20th century bipartisanship.

And while this of most direct concern to Americans, it matters everywhere. Trump is the natural friend of dictators everywhere, even if they inevitably fall out from time to time. It’s hard to see democracy surviving anywhere if it fails in the US. Conversely, the defeat of Trump would shatter the idea of inevitable advance that helps to motivate Trumpists everywhere, and would present Putin, Erdogan, Netanyahu and the rest with a US Administration that would (at the very least) be happy to see them depart the scene.

Coming back to the original question, my guess is that a poll along these lines would produce a plurality in favor of Russia, and that actual voting will produce overwhelming majority support for every step along the way. But it’s not necessary to convince the Republican base of the danger here. The defection of a few million Republican-leaning independents would be sufficient to beat Trump, as long as Democratic turnout is maintained, and voter suppression is successfully resisted.

Most Republican voters don’t yet realise the path they are following. But if you had told them, in 2015, that they would be cheering Trump a few years later, they would have laughed. There’s no sign yet of any improvement.

In this context, it’s interesting to look back at the claims of Jonathan Haidt that conservatives understood liberals better than vice versa. His method was to compare the views liberals imputed to conservatives (essentially that they were Trumpists) with the self-descriptions of conservatives. As it’s turned out, liberals knew conservatives better than conservatives knew themselves*. Haidt’s own trajectory, from progressive concern troll to the “Intellectual Dark Web” illustrates this.

{ 97 comments }

1

Alan White 11.23.19 at 5:16 am

Just a glancing comment apropos of your as usual insightful and angst-inspiring posts: today I happened to run into a former wonderful and downright brilliant student who knows something about these things. He’s a Chinese national who came to the US as an adult and became a citizen. He (near quote) said “I thought when I left China I would never again see the kind of repressive authoritarianism I grew up with–but now I see it every day in the news about the Trump administration. I fear for this country’s future.” But of course, he’s just an ignorant immigrant according to FOX. My own life-long optimism about progress is now a trudging zombie looking for enough good brains to make a real difference.

2

Doctor Science 11.23.19 at 5:26 am

John:

The link to the Obama-Antichrist poll is borked. When I have talked to Republicans about similar gobsmacking poll results (going back to “is torture OK?” under Bush II), they’ve said that it’s not a statement about what they REALLY believe, it’s a statement of tribal solidarity.

But what I saw, over the years, is that beliefs that are “just to mess with you & the pollsters” get repeated and repeated until they’re *really* believed.
Link fixed now, I hope

3

Alex SL 11.23.19 at 6:04 am

Indeed, “they don’t really mean that”, “they would never do that, that would be too unpopular”, “surely somebody will stop them if they try that”, and “that cannot happen here / anymore” accompany the slow descent into authoritarianism everywhere.

Or in other words, psychological projection works both ways: The authoritarian reactionaries believe that liberals are conspiring to destroy the constitutional order and force their values on everybody else *precisely because* that is what they would do themselves if they could, and that belief also justifies fighting dirty in the first place. Liberals believe that the authoritarian reactionaries don’t really mean what they say and are clearly trying to achieve *precisely because* they would not think of destroying the constitutional order and forcing their values on everybody else themselves, and that belief also makes them complacent.

One thing though: It’s hard to see democracy surviving anywhere if it fails in the US. Sorry, but that vastly over-estimates the power of the USA. They couldn’t defeat communism everywhere when they tried, they couldn’t defeat Islamist theocracies everywhere when they tried, and it is unlikely that they will be able to defeat democracy everywhere if they try.

4

ph 11.23.19 at 6:11 am

John, “First, suppose that Trump is re-elected in 2020. That would give him sufficient time to eliminate the last residues of pre-Trumpist thinking within the Republican party and to comprehensively pack the courts with compliant appointees.

“eliminate the last residues of pre-Trumpist thinking within the Republican party” what exactly is Trumpist thinking, beyond lying one’s ass off on a regular basis of the “if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor” – “read my lips, no new taxes” variety. Surely, you’re under some obligation to defined how Trump differs from other politicians, or what “Trumpism.” The second half of your claim is, forgive me, the rhetorical equivalent of stepping from on rake onto another: “…so that he can comprehensively pack the court with compliant appointees.” Trump survives to fight and win precisely because he is not at all at odds with “pre-Trump” Republicans, if you’ll indulge my correction. What distinguishes Trump from other Republicans is his (current) support for social security and for (appearing to) protect American workers from globalist practices.

You were right to think twice about posting this. Suffice to say that when you’re on the same page as Bret Stephens, that alone is worth waiting a day or two to think the argument through.

As the impeachment theatre unfolds (seen now by increasing numbers of independents as “let’s forget about elections”), we’re seeing less and less rational discourse on the phenomena we’re observing. The simple bread and butter issues of “will I have a job” and “will be kid have a chance at a better job” have all but disappeared, and these are (almost) always the issues most voters care about most.

“By 2024, even if he did not seek to ignore the two-term limit, he would be in a position to appoint one of his children as the Republican nominee.”

Is this “Bret Stephens, Max Boot, Jim Clapper, David Brooks, Nicole Wallace, Andy McCabe” style of discussion really what we need more of? Trump won’t be elected by Republicans, (as you point out) he’ll be elected by democrats and independents who read Trump is Hitler (shorter you) as they have for the last 4 years, shrug, and pull the lever for pretty good and getting better. If minorities vote with their wallets, 2020 could be more than an electoral college wipe-out. Improvements for minorities under Trump are substantially better in real terms than under Obama.

Most white liberals here refused to believe that conditions for African-Americans under Obama deteriorated dramatically, especially among those African-American homeowners victimized by predatory lenders. Don’t imagine that those voters somehow ignored the fact that they lost their homes under Obama while the bankers got their bonuses.

The lesson of 2018 is that Democrats can win if they focus on fixing potholes. The GOP is stupid, and or evil is just another variation of the Koch Konspiracy tale, self-indulgent preening while Trump chalks up win after win. He’s far stronger going into 2020 than in 2016. He’ll get all the GOP voters and a substantial number of others if all the Democrats can offer is impeachment theater (Russia, Ukraine, Bribery, Collusion) all-caps.

I read the tic-toc on Biden Burisma (no link). I’ve no interest in debating that. However, CNN is already talking about confirmed reports that a senior FBI official at the center of this debacle doctored documents to obtain a FISA warrant. I’ll link to the now sanitized CNN account https://edition.cnn.com/2019/11/21/politics/fbi-fisa-russia-investigation/index.html

The original video may be online somewhere on the Tubes, but be clear, hoping that Santa Mueller, or mocking Republicans, or never-Trumpers, are riding to the rescue is what got Democrats into this mess into the first place. The ACA created billions for big Pharma and turned millions of Americans into Oxy addicts. That’s just one part of the reality that those living in bubble-land figure isn’t going to factor in the 2020 election.

My guess is that most voters don’t want to hear another word about Russia, or the Ukraine from anyone.

5

ph 11.23.19 at 6:26 am

Hi John, my orginal comment is remarkably garbled even by my own appalling standards.

I know that few here will read RCP, but Bret Stephens couldn’t find a regular Trump supporter’s ass with both hands. He’s an idiot. These are exactly the same folks who promised Trump is going to lose, and that the GOP will suffer horrific down-ballot losses in 2016. As with Clapper and Hillary swill: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice…

As for the rest: pure self-indulgence. Sorry!

6

John Quiggin 11.23.19 at 6:52 am

ph I’ll extract this from your garbled comment “Trump won’t be elected by Republicans, (as you point out) he’ll be elected by democrats and independents”

and observe that this is pretty much the opposite of what I said, and the opposite of the truth. If Trump wins it will be overwhelmingly on the votes of “conservatives” who previously voted for the globalist plutocrat Romney, and with less support from Democrats than any Repub in history. The hope is that a small number of independents changing their minds, combined with strong Dem turnout will tip the balance.

7

ph 11.23.19 at 7:18 am

Hi John, Thanks for the reply. And, again, apologies for the garble.

I’ll be clear (he said!): there is no “Trumpism” outside of what critics hostile to the office-holder construct as cudgels. Most GOP voters turned up in 2016 and turned up in record numbers outside of urban centers to offset the small losses of never-Trumpers. Trump has negotiated a workable relationship of self-interest with all GOP factions, including the globalists. The story of his first term is not his battle with the Dems, but his battle with GOP leaders hostile to his election – see Comey, et al. Most of the snivel servants in Russiagate involved lean GOP, and the original dossier was commissioned by Saint McCain.

The GOP is going to turn out in droves for Trump. Here are the latest “the walls are closing in numbers” from Emerson: “The economy is the number one issue for Republicans (50%) and Independents (35%), while for Democrats, healthcare ranked highest at 25%. Overall, the economy continues to be the most important issue for one in three voters (34%) in deciding who they will vote for President. Healthcare is the second most important overall at 18%, followed by immigration and social issues at 10% each. The environment and impeachment were next at 7% apiece, with foreign policy being the least important issue for voters at 3%.”

Environment, impeachment 7% apiece, and foreign policy coming last at 3%. These are deadly numbers for the “surely” Trump will lose crowd. Will Dems wake-up and listen to voters? My guess is no! Because, but, but, but….

Trump approval is climbing back up to 48 percent during the Impeachment “this time HE’S GOING DOWN!!!!!” episode n° billionty. Beating Biden, tied with Warren. One poll, but. Not even the most die-hard Trump critics can muster more than a whimper these days after 4 years of “IT’S OVER!!” and who can blame them.

https://emersonpolling.reportablenews.com/pr/november-national-poll-support-for-impeachment-declines-biden-and-sanders-lead-democratic-primary/

Hope this is better. Over and out.

8

nastywoman 11.23.19 at 7:45 am

@
”The standard defense now is that conservatives were so outraged at being called racists that they became racists just so they could trigger the libs”.

How true:

as –
Look – What We Made somebody like Ph Do.

9

nastywoman 11.23.19 at 7:59 am

AND about
”Russia or California”
I had the pleasure this year to enjoy both -(with a bunch of friends) – again – from Laguna Beach all the way up to Seattle AND a truly enjoy full wedding in St.Pete (Russia)

But I think – WE have to go for ”California”?
-(even if the new Russian Relatives made a lot of fun of ”Naive Californians”…)

10

Hidari 11.23.19 at 8:37 am

@1
Well for various reasons I was in a room full of young Chinese people immediately after the election of Trump. I asked what their opinion was, and one piped up (with the obvious support of the rest) that they thought it would be very good, as Trump was obviously a deranged lunatic and imbecile whose shambolic rule (this was not how he expressed it, of course, but this was the gist) would weaken the United States, and ‘America’s weakness is China’s opportunity’.

While I agree with the basic points that this post is making, obviously, I am very wary of opinions in which it is assumed that the ‘threat’ to a Western country is that it might ‘sink’ to the level of some non-Western country (assuming you conceptualise Russia as being non-Western…which is a highly debatable point).

‘Trump is the natural friend of dictators everywhere,’

As opposed to precisely which American President?

‘It’s hard to see democracy surviving anywhere if it fails in the US.’

The US ‘leads the world’ in gerrymandering and voter suppression (https://www.gregpalast.com/crosscheck-not-just-crooked-criminal/), and this is almost invariably racially tinged, which the equivalent in Russia is not (or at least not so openly). Congressional seats are openly gerrymandered (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerrymandering_in_the_United_States#Modern_implementation_(2000_-_))

And the Senate is even worse: https://www.answers.com/Q/Why_is_the_US_Senate_is_considered_undemocratic

The electoral college is grotesque and racist: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/11/electoral-college-racist-origins/601918/

As everyone has pointed out, Hilary in fact won the last Presidential election in terms of votes. It is almost unheard of in an advanced ‘democracy’ for the Head of State to ‘win’ an election via a minority of the votes.

On top of these things one has the increasing powergrab by the non-democratic Supreme Court, which has simply decreed that it is the major ‘power in the land’ with a ‘lock’ on what laws get passed and which do not, and the populace be damned.

Not to mention the de facto chokehold that corporations have on who can run for office and what positions they can hold (Sanders, with his ‘new’ way of raising money, is challenging this. We shall see what happens).

It is not at all clear to me that the US is in any objective sense more democratic than, say, Iran (although it is a lot more FREE than Iran….but that’s not the same thing).

So Trump is likely to exacerbate and intensify trends that have been going on for decades.

11

Hidari 11.23.19 at 10:36 am

A bit more about what I wrote about the Supreme Court (and the American ‘justice’ system) more generally, which CT commentator Corey Robin has been noting tirelessly, to widespread apathy amongst Democratic elites.

‘The Supreme Court will probably overrule decades of progressive precedents and strike down the next Democratic president’s reforms. You would not know this from watching the 2020 Democratic presidential debates. Wednesday’s showdown in Atlanta, the fifth so far, did not include a single question about the courts. Earlier debates allowed for brief discussions of the Supreme Court, but every candidate dramatically underestimated the threat it poses to the Democratic Party. Both the candidates and the moderators appear to be astonishingly naïve about the judiciary’s lurch to the right under Donald Trump. And it is pointless to discuss the Democrats’ ambitious proposals without explaining how they are going to survive at SCOTUS.

It’s not just the debates—Democratic politicians rarely talk about the courts at all. There is an enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to the judiciary: GOP voters are more likely to be motivated by the opportunity to fill judicial vacancies, which is why Trump ran on a promise of appointing archconservative judges. Democratic voters focus more on individual political issues, and their party has never prioritized judges—or campaigned on the fact that every political dispute is ultimately resolved as a judicial question. This complacency will prove catastrophic for progressives now that Justice Brett Kavanaugh has replaced Justice Anthony Kennedy, shoring up a conservative majority that will obstruct liberal policies for a generation.’

THIS is the threat to progressivism (well, all the other things that I mentioned are threats too, but this is the one that’s liable to be the ‘straw that breaks the camels’ back’).

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/11/democratic-candidates-supreme-court-trump-judiciary.html

12

John Quiggin 11.23.19 at 11:09 am

@Hidari Most of the Democratic candidates have signalled willingness to pack the SC if it rules in a partisan way. Even Booker and Klobuchar are saying “wait and see” rather than opposing outright. . I’m sure Roberts doesn’t need reminders, so the absence of much discussion doesn’t seem like a problem to me.
https://www.politico.com/story/2019/03/18/2020-democrats-supreme-court-1223625

As regards the lower courts, they can only interpret legislation. A determined Congressional majority can respond to any adverse interpreation with legislation that repudiates it. It’s only gridlock and Congressional cowardice that has given US courts so much power.

13

Robert Zannelli 11.23.19 at 11:17 am

An Excellent analysis, I am happy to see the pseudo intellectual Jonathan Haidt called out for what he is. He’s the king of false equivalencies , a disease we suffer from these days. Haidt is a conservative pretending to be a neutral observer to legitimize the toxic ideology of conservatism. Maybe someone should send Haidt Corey Robin’s book ” The Reactionary Mind ” not that he would read it

14

nastywoman 11.23.19 at 12:36 pm

and about
@7
”These are deadly numbers for the “surely” Trump will lose crowd”.
and
”The GOP is going to turn out in droves for Trump. Here are the latest “the walls are closing in numbers” from Emerson”:

Can anybody here explain – why it is so important for every Fan of the Clownstick -(and the Clownstick himself) – that ”he for sure will be reelected” BUT than when taken by these Ph-words – they always chicken out?

As now I have running bets with three more ”Gamblers” – who believe and hope (like the Chinese Hidari mentioned) – that Trump will be reelected – ”in order to finish off America” – and one of them is a so called ”Black American-Japanese” -(who had moved to Japan – just to find out that for a ”black” American-Japanese – California is… let’s say:
”preferable”!

And could it be that Ph never took my offer for a bet against another Trump ”erection” -because he doesn’t believe his ”own believes”?

15

Everett 11.23.19 at 1:46 pm

” If minorities vote with their wallets, 2020 could be more than an electoral college wipe-out. Improvements for minorities under Trump are substantially better in real terms than under Obama. “

I keep seeing Trumpster drones repeat this little tidbit, but I haven’t seen either a) the metric by which progress is being measured, or b) polling to suggest this is an opinion shared among the “minorities.”

As for the courts, and more specifically the Court, if the federal judicial system begins to run sideways to both political majorities AND democratic party elites (i.e., unlike the Lochner era, when both sets of party elites were just fine with a revanchist judiciary), you can bet your sweet tushy that the relevance of the first clause of Article III will become a subject of Democratic debate and the Marbury vs. Madison two-step will come under intense scrutiny.

16

PhilippeO 11.23.19 at 2:12 pm

What I’m worried is that Trumpism is inevitable, regardless of 2020 result
– as pH has pointed out, Trump do get support of “ordinary” Republican, Republicans always use dog-whistle since Nixon Southern Strategy. Like it or not, One party in this country always use White Supremacy as their core ideology.
– most “White Hispanic” or mixed White – Hispanic marriage speak English, see themselves as “Whites”, and had hostile attitude toward those darker skinned than them. California is unusual because it is only region within country that national climate still hostile to ” White Hispanic”. In the end, just like Italian and Irish, they would eventually become “White”
– Latin America show how conservatives liberal conflict could last centuries. Just like Brazil and Colombia, conservative would seek maintain their power in anyway, if necessary by suppression and coups.

17

politicalfootball 11.23.19 at 3:13 pm

lying one’s ass off on a regular basis of the “if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor”

I think this nicely captures Trumpism. Somebody once said something that was only 97% true, so it’s okay to lie constantly. Not really just okay, but necessary and desirable.

18

politicalfootball 11.23.19 at 3:28 pm

In this context, it’s interesting to look back at the claims of Jonathan Haidt that conservatives understood liberals better than vice versa.

Prof. Quiggin offered my favorite formulation on this topic:

My impression of Haidt’s big finding is that liberals perceived conservatives as hypocritical bigots, Trumpists avant le nom, whereas Haidt found them to have a strong moral code the liberals didn’t understand. I guess we know how that worked out.

19

Anarcissie 11.23.19 at 3:44 pm

John Quiggin 11.23.19 at 11:09 am @ 12:
‘A determined Congressional majority can respond….’

True enough. Therefore, I’d say the capture of the Democratic Party by the Right is more significant than the capture of the courts by the Right (although the two are not unrelated). We’ve now had the spectacle of one of the major leaders of the party accuse another prominent member of the party, an elected Congressional representative and army officer, of being a traitor to both her country and her party. This is not how one wins elections, but I read that some (many?) conservative Democrats would rather see Trump elected than Sanders, who is not an actual socialist but a latter-day New Dealer, so maybe it all makes sense.

20

steven t johnson 11.23.19 at 4:00 pm

I was so astonished at the notion Trump cares (or trusts?) his children enough to appoint one president I rather forgot the rest of the post.

But fascism is just a different way of mobilizing the nation for war than democracy. So the real issue with Trumpian fascism is who he’s going to fight and how. I believe economic warfare waged against the masses in a foreign country is an atrocity. Venezuela, Iran and as ever North Korea are targets. The goal in the economic war on China is the restoration of capitalism and/or the division of the country. But do democrats/Democrats really disagree with this? Except that they want more use of weapons and a better deal for the EU?

21

Lobsterman 11.23.19 at 5:50 pm

Based on our experience with Obama in 2009-2016, if Biden wins in 2020, it’ll be for the purpose of getting a lot of Republicans elected and keeping the chair warm for whichever thing is worse than Trump that comes after Trump.

22

RobinM 11.23.19 at 6:54 pm

Re ph’s citing of the Emerson polls @7, here’s a question and response at today’s electoral-vote.com

“Q: What’s with the Emerson national poll of the major Democratic candidates vs. Trump? It has Trump ahead of most of them, whereas most national polls indicate Biden, Warren, Sanders, and often Buttigieg all ahead of Trump by numbers outside the margin of error. They’re more Rasmussen than Rasmussen. Is this the mother of all outliers? S.Y., Philadelphia, PA

A: Normally, Emerson is pretty good, but something wonky has been going on there this year. Using Biden as our baseline, the last five Emerson polls, in chronological order, have him -2 to Trump, +2, +8, +2, and +6. That means their results are not only out of line with most other polls, but that they are also all over the place. Just a reminder that you can’t put too much stock in any one poll, or even in any one pollster. Unless it’s Ann Selzer, that is.”

23

Mary S 11.23.19 at 7:05 pm

Not sure what you mean by pre-Trumpism in the Republican Party. Trump is the culmination of the modern Republican Party’s way to thinking and acting. The party supports him because he is giving them (mostly) what they have wanted for many decades. The combination of white nationalist culture warring, election rigging, tax cuts and crony capitalism, climate change denialism on behalf of cronies, and so on — that is what the Republican Party is all about. For the most part, the “moderates” in the media and the political sphere are capitulators to white supremacy (and, by extension, the wealthy — just as they have always been, going back to the beginnings of this country.

The one thing I would say about “owning the libs” is that conservatives do have a point when they taunt liberals for their hypocrisy — e.g., claiming to be against white supremacy while perpetuating it in various ways.

24

Lee A. Arnold 11.23.19 at 9:53 pm

Likeliest scenario is that Trump is impeached by a party-line vote in the House and then the Senate votes to remove him at the end of a riveting Senate trial without the Senate GOP stating their intention beforehand. Trump’s voters forgive their Senators in three months, and march behind a pseudo-resentful Pence/Haley ticket preaching “MAGA + Morals” that regains enough independents to beat any Dem contender in Nov. 2020 except for Biden/Abrams who would win handily. Either way, the US returns to its wobbly centrism and gingerly attempts to repair the foreign policy damage that Trump has inflicted upon it.

25

Vergil Iliescu 11.23.19 at 11:21 pm

This article reminds me of an essay in the book “Philosophy and Social Hope” published in 1996 by American pragmatist philosopher Richard Rorty. He imagines himself in the year 2096, reflecting on the the history of the 21st century. Note the reference to the “dark years”, 2014 – 2044. The essay is hopeful, in the end, but it seems he correctly anticipated the dark years back in 1996.

These are the opening paragraphs:
“Chapter 18. Looking Backwards from the Year 2096.

This essay attempts to look back at twentieth-century America from a vantage point at the end of the twenty-first century. It is written in the form of an excerpt from the article on ‘Fraternity’ in the seventh edition of A Companion to American Thought, published in 2095 and edited by Cynthia Rodriguez, S J and Youzheng Patel.

Our long, hesitant, painful recovery, over the last five decades, from the breakdown of democratic institutions during the Dark Years (2014-2044) has changed our political vocabulary, as well as our sense of the relation between the moral order and the economic order.

Just as twentieth-century Americans had trouble imagining how their pre-Civil War ancestors could have stomached slavery, so we at the end of the twenty-first century have trouble imagining how our great-grandparents could have legally permitted a CEO to get 20 times more than her lowest paid employees.

We cannot understand how Americans a hundred years ago could have tolerated the horrific contrast between a childhood spent in the suburbs and one spent in the ghettos. Such inequalities seem to us evident moral abominations, but the vast majority of our ancestors took them to be regrettable necessities.

As long as their political discourse was dominated by the notion of ‘rights’ – whether ‘individual’ or ‘civil’ – it was hard for Americans to think of the results of unequal distribution of wealth and income as immoral. Such rights talk, common among late-twentieth-century liberals, gave conservative opponents of redistributionist policies a tremendous advantage: ‘the right to a job’ (or ‘to a decent wage’) had none of the resonance of ‘the right to sit in the front of the bus’ or ‘the right to vote’ or even ‘the right to equal pay for equal work’. “

26

Orange Watch 11.23.19 at 11:47 pm

stj@20:

The single most important thing WRT the presidency at this point appears to be using executive privilege to protect against the consequences of heightened scrutiny on the family grifts. To that effect, it could be useful to have another Trump offering privilege to the family constellation of organizations.

27

J-D 11.24.19 at 3:12 am

Hidari

‘Trump is the natural friend of dictators everywhere,’

As opposed to precisely which American President?

I don’t know. John Quincy Adams? Abraham Lincoln? Grover Cleveland?

It is almost unheard of in an advanced ‘democracy’ for the Head of State to ‘win’ an election via a minority of the votes.

I’ll hazard a guess that you’re haven’t studied the standard definition of ‘Head of State’, but that’s not really the point so I’ll skip past that to real point and observe that there’s nothing unusual about governments that have ‘won’ elections without receiving a majority of votes cast. A few examples:
German election 1969: the combination of the SPD and the FDP forms government with a majority in the Bundestag, despite having received less than half of votes cast
UK election 1992: Conservative government continues in office with a majority in the House of Commons, despite having received less than half of votes cast
Spanish election 1982: PSOE forms government with a majority in the Congress of Deputies, despite having received less than half of votes case
Canadian election 2015: Liberals form government with a majority in the House of Commons, despite having received less than half of votes cast

It is not at all clear to me that the US is in any objective sense more democratic than, say, Iran

Alternation in government as the result of an election is a regular event in the US but has never happened in Iran.

Lobsterman

I bet you didn’t say in 2008 ‘All these people voting for Obama are going to make Donald Trump President in 2017’. I bet the number of people who voted for Obama in 2008 with the purpose of making Donald Trump (or somebody like him) President in 2017 was nil.

28

John Quiggin 11.24.19 at 3:30 am

@Mary S In most respects, as you say, Trump is a continuation of previous trends for the Repubs, though even here incremental change can become qualitative transformation, as with the shift from dog-whistle appeals to overt racism.

But the distinctively new element, central to the argument of the OP, is support for personal dictatorship. Before Trump, the Repubs followed orderly succession of leadership, with no real cult of the individual. That’s obviously changed.

29

bad Jim 11.24.19 at 5:17 am

It should no go unremarked that the Republicans in red states have been systematically cementing their grip on power through voter suppression, whether by purging the rolls, restricting registration or voting opportunities, and of course by gerrymandering. When, as sometimes happens, a Democratic governor is elected, the rump Republican legislatures often act to strip the executive of its powers.

Our laboratories of democracy demonstrate their pro-life values by denying health care to their most vulnerable citizens, resulting in the country’s highest infant and maternal mortality rates*.

The point is that Trump isn’t actually an outlier in his assaults upon democracy, at least compared to state governments. In other respects, apart from immigration, where he seems to be intent on reversing the Kennedy/Johnson administration and taking us back to the 1920’s, his policies are unsurprising. The judges he’s appointed are much the same as those Bush gave us. His environmental stance is hardly distinguishable from that of any Republican since Nixon.

It’s easy to forget that at one point George Bush was adored; mere civilians were admonished for not acceding to “our commander-in-chief”. Ronald Reagan remains an object of veneration to this day. It should not be controversial to observe that conservatives, many if not most of whom have authoritarian tendencies, are inclined to hero worship.

*Alabama actually does well on maternal mortality. Good for them!

30

ph 11.24.19 at 6:42 am

RobinM Thank you. This is useful and as you point out it’s just one poll.

I’ve just read the Nation, the New Yorker, and actually managed to watch a Donny Deutsch clip on the impeachment non-story. Deutsch was the most realistic, describing the impeachment as an event only for those in bubble-land. Most of America has already tuned out. The rest of the clip was the usual nonsense – looking for just the right buzz-word – ‘traitor-betrayor’ etc. which can be trotted out to ‘convince’ an audience of independents pretty much immune by now to political hyperbole and messaging of all kinds, and especially of the “you’ll never, ever, ever believe what MWW, did between 8:58:51 am today and 8:59!!! You’re never ever going to believe it!

Four years of forcing Republicans to choose between liberal opprobrium and the president has had the effect of removing the faint of heart from the field. Mickey Kaus (yes, I know) recently stated clearly that he’d drop Trump in a heartbeat if somebody promoting the same program comes along. There is no Trump permanent base, anymore than there was ever a community of travellers who would only stay in Trump hotels, or never change channels or get tired of watching the Apprentice.

Bailing out the world forever had to end, however. Trump is the expression of an American trait that is not in the slightest new – why should Americans get excited about what happens beyond America’s borders. For all the talk of WWII and fighting Hitler, plenty of elites and regular folks in Britain, France, and the US were totally cool with Herr H. Shit only became real when France, and England realized their Empires were under attack literally by Germany and then Japan, which is btw, a big part of why Obama and Clinton supported regime change in Libya, to help Sarkozy fend off the economic threat to French hegemony in west Africa a peaceful and economically powerful Libya posed, according to at least one key Hillary aide.

A sizeable number of Americans (as the Emerson poll shows) couldn’t give a rat’s ass about what happens outside the US. And in this respect my guess is that the Emerson poll is in no sense an exception. Shrieking about Missing White Woman, by which I mean Orange Man Bad, is just a convenient way of avoiding the fact that plenty of Americans are totally on board with what Trump is doing for and to America and the world.

Trump is actually a net good for liberals, because at least they can imagine trying to do the right thing now and then, rather than spend their energy trying to convince themselves and others that Obama and Hillary never lied, didn’t lock children up in cages, or bomb the hell out of brown folks in the ME. Besides, it’s not like we’re reading news reports each week about the horrific conditions inside US prisons and public schools. Where’s the fun in that, I ask you?

Oh yeah, and “Liberals” cheering for senior spooks and mis-information spinners at the CIA and FBI who actually orchestrated the invasion of Iraq and the illegal surveillance of Congress? Never a good look.

31

Hidari 11.24.19 at 8:50 am

@27 ‘John Quincy Adams? Abraham Lincoln? Grover Cleveland?’

Since there were literally no political leaders who were democratically elected by our standards in the 19th century all three of those leaders did nothing but deal with ‘dictators’, every day, in terms of their foreign policy. Moreover, all three of those leaders would be considered dictators by our standards. or at least, their leadership would be clearly seen to lack democratic legitimacy.

‘I’ll hazard a guess that you’re haven’t studied the standard definition of ‘Head of State’,’

I apologise. I didn’t know that the definition of ‘Head of State’ was a degree subject. Please share with us what the ‘standard’ definition’ is.

‘that’s not really the point’

Yes it is. The point is that the election of a HoS is a binary decision: either person A or person B. So in that sense it’s more similar to a referendum. So imagine that (e.g.) in the Brexit referendum it was simply decreed that, despite the fact that Leave got the higher number of votes, Remain ‘really’ won because something something electoral college something. How would we all react to that? (or, if you are a fervent remainer, imagine it the other way round).

Another key point is that due to demographic changes, the key issues of democratic legitimacy (electoral college, the situation vis a vis the Senate) are all getting worse. Governments like Trump’s (i.e. with no real democratic legitimacy) are still ‘one-offs’. By the mid to late 21st century, unless someone does something about it, they will be the norm.

Given that rural ‘non-cosmpolitan’ areas tend to lean towards the political right, this has obvious political implications too.

@12

From the article I quoted from: ‘It’s not that Biden, Buttigieg, Harris, Klobuchar, Warren, and the gang don’t understand that the Supreme Court is a problem. It’s that they appear utterly delusional about the extent of the court’s threat to Democratic policy, and short on solutions to the peril they face. Harris and Warren have said they are “open” to adding justices to the Supreme Court to restore a liberal majority. (Whether it’s wise, court packing is undoubtedly constitutional.) Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders have floated a scheme to expand the court to 15 seats, rotating five appellate judges on and off the bench. (This scheme is almost certainly unconstitutional.) Biden seems uninterested in any kind of court reform.

These half-baked, scattershot responses suggest that the 2020 candidates have not seriously grappled with a looming crisis. The judiciary is now packed with Trump nominees who operate under the principle that Republicans can do anything they want and Democrats can’t do bupkis. These judges are poised to invalidate the next Democratic president’s signature policies. The Supreme Court is more conservative than it has been since the days when it tore down the New Deal. At future debates, every time a candidate touts some proposal, the moderators should ask what they’ll do when the courts strike it down. If the candidate has no answer, it’s safe to assume that plan will be dead on arrival. ‘

32

nastywoman 11.24.19 at 8:54 am

@30
”Trump is actually a net good for liberals, because at least they can imagine trying to do the right thing now”

How true – as it proves Susan (Sarandon) – and my German dad – right – who so cynical said in 2016 –

”America is NOT ready yet for ”social” and ”sane” politics – and it needs a completely corrupt and criminal Clownstick – as President – to scare the American people to such an extension that in 2020 they – finally – erect somebody like Bernie or Warren.

Which – sorry – @24 –
– makes ”the likeliest scenario” the least likely – but I absolutely LOVE you –
and your way of thinking – Mr. Arnold –
(if it is hopefully allowed to declare something like that – on CT?)

33

J-D 11.24.19 at 10:46 am

The point is that the election of a HoS is a binary decision: either person A or person B.

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Examples where it’s no:
1949 election of the President of Germany: number of candidates, seven
1989 election of the President of Germany: number of candidates, one
1986 election of the President of Portugal: number of candiates, four
1951 election of the President of Austria: number of candidates, six
2019 election of the President of Malta: number of candidates, one

34

Hidari 11.24.19 at 1:23 pm

I would have thought from context that it would have been obvious that when I was talking about the election of a Head of State I was talking about in the United States (given that that is what the OP is about, and, y’know, the entire thread)* but apparently some people need to have things spelled out for them.

On a genuinely unrelated note, isn’t it interesting how the George Bush jr coup d’etat, in which Bush was simply appointed by a right-leaning (and non-democratically appointed) supreme court in 2000 has simply been erased from the historical record?

If one wished to talk about the ‘end of American democracy’ that would seem like a good place to start, but it seems that that (and all that followed from it: e.g. the illegal wars, the Orwellianly named ‘Patriot Act’, the new Gulag Archipelago of concentration camps (‘black sites’) etc.) has simply been expunged from the historical record.

*de jure this is not true, but de facto it definitely is.

35

Cranky Observer 11.24.19 at 2:54 pm

= = = Hidari @ 1:23 pm: I would have thought from context that it would have been obvious that when I was talking about the election of a Head of State I was talking about in the United States = = =

I think your interlocutors are trying to make the point that in the United States the Head of State and the Head of Government are embodied in the same office, the Presidency, whereas in many other democracies those functions are split between a President/Prime Minister or a Symbolic King/Prime Minister, etc. But since that distinction is not important for your argument I’m not sure why they are going on about it.

36

Lee A. Arnold 11.24.19 at 4:10 pm

nastywoman #32: “…makes ‘the likeliest scenario’ the least likely…”

I give affection in return and I will try to give you my logic, starting from the originating premises. Ten years ago I pointed out here that the Republicans have entered into an historical cul de sac for a very simple reason:

They are trying to propagate Reagan’s falsehood that economic libertarianism can shrink government. But this must increasingly collide with reality, due to the need for more government to deal with the growing scale and complexity of various issues (social, environmental, inequality). Eventually this collision will make their rhetoric self-contradictory and unreasonable.

And indeed as soon as Reagan was gone, there was no one with the persuasiveness of his avuncular folksy baloney. This pitched them into an insanely negative emotional rhetoric that was unsuited to any real adjustments. Speaker Newt Gingrich (1994) and Fox News (a propaganda operation started in 1996) began a worshipful Reagan cult accompanied by a resentful, accusatory, nasty defense of the libertarian falsehood (and with an “enemy” readily at hand to viciously despise: the Clintons. Bill was elected in 1992). It has continued to this day; this is still the Republicans’ basic approach to politics. They have no intellectual ability to answer the economic-libertarian collision with reality.

Eight years ago (in the 2011 primary season) I pointed out that Donald Trump might become the populist opportunist to insert himself successfully into this disaster, when in a big speech (in Las Vegas) he blamed China for the US’s economic difficulties (using the “f” word), and the crowd went wild. The mainstream Reagan Republicans had no moderating counterargument.

The Democrats had no response either (although Romney became the nominee and Obama won re-election). But you can leave the US left’s favorite whipping post (the Democratic Party) out of this, unless you start from the correct premises. The Democratic Party has always been less organized than the Republicans (although now the GOP may be smashing into the concrete wall at the end of the cul de sac). And the Democrats have not provided an alternative to “The System” because there is no alternative that is intellectually simply formulated and rhetorically believable. So they take a mixed-economy approach overall, which is rhetorically a disadvantageous jumble. Indeed probably ¾ (?) of Democrats (along with all of the Republicans) can be persuaded that the magic freemarket elixir will cure all aches and pains.

We can skip over the reawakening of rightwing populism and fascistic tendencies which are germane to the current story, because the etiology is described basically and succinctly, and perhaps for all time, in chapter 20 of Polanyi’s The Great Transformation. But, as a side bar: Presently no one seems to have noticed that the current “Intellectual Dark Web” is mostly a center-right reaction AGAINST this fascistic reawakening. It’s as if most of the IDWers horrified themselves by voting for Trump, when they now realize they should have voted for Hillary, but they cannot admit this to themselves much less to anyone else, and so they’re blaming the “libruls” instead. (We can also detect some of this self-exculpatory sentiment in some comments in this thread. Never blame yourself!) The point is, a lot of the right feel caught between Trump and the left.

To get back to impeachment, Senate Republicans have a very different, perhaps unique problem. They never wanted Trump to begin with, and now they’re afraid of him. They all know that the cheery-looking economic business cycle is ephemeral. Yes he’s given them tax cuts and judges (but any Republican would do that) and they need his voters, but he’s losing the future. He’s losing every demographic for the GOP except less-educated white males. His trade policy is misconceived. His foreign policy is increasing the chances of nuclear proliferation and war in the future (by denigrating allied democracies and allowing autocrats to advance). They think he’s psychopathically short-sighted and Mattis was the last person who could prevent his worst decisions. Pompeo is ineffective and Barr has gone rogue. The bad decisions will never end. But the Senate Republicans can’t say anything against him publicly because he’ll go ballistic and barricade himself in the White House, and then god only knows what will happen.

Yet the Senate Republicans really DON’T have to worry about his voters because almost all of Trump’s supporters know — and they will admit, when they are asked — that Trump is damaged goods, a disreputable lying character whom they continue to champion because he is “draining the swamp” and “owning the liberal snowflakes”. Thus they have a split psychology. Consequently most of his supporters will get over him in a few months, and they’ll be just as happy if someone else can slice the baloney (including the ressentiment, which is politically powerful).

In this situation, the logical course for the Senate GOP is: Do not breathe a word except to support Trump, and then convict and remove Trump en masse when the final vote arrives. Because then he’s out of power immediately, and all he can do is tweet.

I’m not saying they will be logical. But if they don’t do this, then the US will be in grave peril in foreign policy. Even if you predict that Trump will lose re-election in 2020 (it’s a big argument that I won’t get into) in the meantime the Republican Senators, and the United States they purport to represent, will further lose currency and credibility in the halls of foreign allies and other foreign powers (except for the Putin delegation). The big game is international stability against the accidental and rogue proliferation of nuclear weapons and the US has started to lose it.

37

anon/portly 11.24.19 at 4:23 pm

On a genuinely unrelated note, isn’t it interesting how the George Bush jr coup d’etat, in which Bush was simply appointed by a right-leaning (and non-democratically appointed) supreme court in 2000 has simply been erased from the historical record?

Try reading this carefully and tell me that’s a fair and reasonable characterization:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2000_United_States_presidential_election_recount_in_Florida

Especially, imagine a completely reversed situation, where Gore was ahead initially and a state court full of Republican appointees was making similar sorts of rulings and then the US Supreme Court came down and gave it to Gore 5 – 4. And where research suggests that if Bush had gotten what his lawyers were asking for, Gore should have won. If you really feel that your level of outrage would be the same, I say you are completely and utterly deluding yourself.

38

alfredlordbleep 11.24.19 at 4:48 pm

Lee A Arnold: http://crookedtimber.org/2019/11/23/russia-or-california/#comment-772232

Thanks. Entertaining as usual.
Keep tongue in cheek.

39

steven t johnson 11.24.19 at 4:50 pm

J-D@27 somehow imagines that Ahmadinejad to Rouhani was not a change of government in the sense of a significant change in a suite of policies. I think this is a fallacy of the excluded middle, where nothing less than, say, disestablishment of the mullahs screening candidates, counts as a “change of government.”

JQ@28 I think underestimates the lawlessness of Nixon and how much it centered on him personally. Trump publicly asked for Russian help in bugging Clinton, but Nixon simply had guys bug the DNC.

Hidari@34 suggests the end of democracy in America as starting more or less with Shrub. I suggest US democracy more or less started with Reconstruction, then was rolled back by the Compromise of 1876. The New Deal made some advances, but the political establishment has been devoted to rolling that back ever since, starting with Truman. The purge of the labor unions and the left were carried with sinister means, training a cadre of reactionaries. Aside from Nixon earning his spurs in this, the people taught by Nixon is the larger part of the Republican Party. Another junior cadre, Roy Cohn, carried the tradition to Trump. The supposed fringe elements like the John Birch Society or crazed libertarians or fascist emigres crept in and their “ideas” were slowly incorporated by people like Goldwater and Reagan.

Actually it’s harder to explain civil rights and the Great Society than to explain the continued assault on democracy. I think trying to fend off Soviet criticisms had a lot to do with it. Today of course everybody who counts endorses the great crusade against Communism…but then I think that’s an intrinsic part of the fight against democracy too. Anti-Communism is essential to fascism.

40

alfredlordbleep 11.24.19 at 4:54 pm

Hidari:
. . . e. g. the illegal wars, the Orwellianly named ‘Patriot Act’, the new Gulag Archipelago of concentration camps (‘black sites’) etc.) has simply been expunged from the historical record.

Again, it’s not for nothing that it’s called The United States of Amnesia. (as popularized by Gore Vidal among others)

41

anon/portly 11.24.19 at 5:04 pm

It’s easy to forget that at one point George Bush was adored; mere civilians were admonished for not acceding to “our commander-in-chief”. Ronald Reagan remains an object of veneration to this day. It should not be controversial to observe that conservatives, many if not most of whom have authoritarian tendencies, are inclined to hero worship.

Whereas, on the other hand, left-wingers are completely free of this sort of tendency. I have always found their view of JFK to be utterly free of any hero-worship tendencies. And if you were to sit through a typical American high-school history class taught by a left-wing history teacher, the treatment of FDR will be absolutely straight down the middle, guaranteed.

Or in a more recent context, no lefty would ever blame the voters for not liking Hillary. Or think that polls that show how much Americans like Obama and how little they like Hillary are some sort of weird mystery, only explainable by racist/sexist epicycles.

42

Orange Watch 11.24.19 at 5:16 pm

Hidari@31:

At future debates, every time a candidate touts some proposal, the moderators should ask what they’ll do when the courts strike it down. If the candidate has no answer, it’s safe to assume that plan will be dead on arrival.

They’re not going to do anything like that, because it would cut into their ratings. They’re also not going to ask how candidates will implement their very specific plans for everything in the face of a partially or fully opposed Congress, for the same reason. Large centralized federal elections are good for ratings because you can hope to hold the attention of a huge portion of the nation, but political power is not as centralized as the consolidated corporate media wants it to be to justify their “everyone needs to fixate on this one electoral race” angle. The fact of the matter is that so long as the Constitution holds, there’s still enough distribution of power between branches that it’s absurd to act as though presidential candidates talking about their (legislative) agenda is anything but aspirational – unless imperial presidency becomes the de facto rule, the presidency alone holds much less power than the media (and most Democrats) want to accord it. Trump got what he did done because the GOP has played a long game to coordinate a broad but shallow federal front backed by much deeper state organization. If his election hadn’t coincided with GOP control of Congress and their narrow Senate-orchestrated shift from ideological control of SCOTUS to partisan control, all Trump’s lofty decrees would have been frustrated. It’s worth noting exactly how much power McConnell (and by extension, the anti-populist elite faction of the GOP) had to shape and stymie Trump’s robber barron agenda. The presidency matters more than any single election, but right now any non-regulatory policy changes require the consent of 3 other bodies… and there’s been rumblings about the non-delegation doctrine being revisited, which would further narrow what an unsupported President could do through regulations. No single branch enjoys strong unilateral positive control of national policy, even if each has significant veto power. But the consolidated corporate media is no sooner going to point out how convincing America to overvalue the significance of Presidential elections by bringing up Congress than by mentioning SCOTUS. It’ll undermine their efforts to consolidate and hold a body of viewers for their advertisers.

43

Glen Tomkins 11.24.19 at 5:26 pm

“…there are no clear balancing processes that would ensure a return swing of the pendulum.”

Well, except that our political culture doesn’t do swings anymore. The Ds especially, but really conventional Rs as well, do nothing but tamp down any swings. We actively seek a muddle whenever presented with stark choices

If the Ds get the trifecta in 2020, any sense of urgency about the political machine the Rs are building will be lost. It will not be thought necessary to do anything at all radical, even anything marginal, to swing the pendulum our way, because we will have just won the trifecta despite all the measures that Rs have put in place to suppress the vote.

The Ds have the same response to both success and failure — refrain from carrying out, or even advocating for, any program of action. If we just lost, that’s taken as certain proof that any suspicion of a shadow of a program that we might favor has been rejected by the voters, so our only hope for the future is to repudiate any such program and become more like the Rs. If we win, it’s attributed to our wisely not having openly advocated anything even vaguely D, and we better keep that up if we are to have any hope of winning the next election.

And again, if we do win despite all the structural injustices in the system the Rs inherited and seek to expand, well, those injustices don’t really absolutely need to be corrected, because we will still have gotten the right result from the system as is. Maybe we’ll get around to doing something about the structural injustice if we keep winning huge majorities and the WH indefinitely — but then, of course,any change will be that more obviously unnecessary, so why rock the boat and risk alienating our electoral majority?

44

bianca steele 11.24.19 at 6:40 pm

Regarding Haidt, I’m tempted to see in the discourse surrounding him a precursor to fake news. Haidt reported that conservatives value purity a lot and fairness not at all, and announced that this meant conservatives are more moral than liberals are, and he persuaded thousands of people not only that it was reasonable to believe a liberal would say such a thing, but that there was something wrong and anti-intellectual with you if you applied some critical thinking to the idea.

I see no reason to believe anyone’s foresight has improved much since then.

45

J-D 11.24.19 at 7:12 pm

Hidari

I would have thought from context that it would have been obvious that when I was talking about the election of a Head of State I was talking about in the United States

You wrote earlier: http://crookedtimber.org/2019/11/23/russia-or-california/#comment-772122>’It is almost unheard of in an advanced ‘democracy’ for the Head of State to ‘win’ an election via a minority of the votes.’ It’s not clear why you would have thought it was obvious that the expression ‘an advanced “democracy”‘ was intended to refer only to the United States; besides which, it’s not unheard-of, or even almost unheard-of, for a President of the United States to win an election with a minority of the votes: it’s happened lots of times.

46

Kiwanda 11.24.19 at 7:52 pm

In this context, it’s interesting to look back at the claims of Jonathan Haidt that conservatives understood liberals better than vice versa. His method was to compare the views liberals imputed to conservatives (essentially that they were Trumpists) with the self-descriptions of conservatives. As it’s turned out, liberals knew conservatives better than conservatives knew themselves

This was apparently a specific study. Was that study faulty in some way? Has Haidt extrapolated from it too far? If so, when?

JQ: “Concern trolls: Jonathan Haidt is the leading example. Keep trying to explain how the extreme lunacy of the far right is really the fault of the left for pointing out the lunacy of the mainstream right.”

Bianca Steele: “Haidt reported that conservatives value purity a lot and fairness not at all, and announced that this meant conservatives are more moral than liberals are…”

I looked around for any evidence that Haidt gave such an explanation or made such an announcement, e.g. here, and did not find any. Is there some?

47

J-D 11.24.19 at 8:02 pm

Hidari

On a genuinely unrelated note, isn’t it interesting how the George Bush jr coup d’etat, in which Bush was simply appointed by a right-leaning (and non-democratically appointed) supreme court in 2000 has simply been erased from the historical record?

If one wished to talk about the ‘end of American democracy’ that would seem like a good place to start, but it seems that that (and all that followed from it: e.g. the illegal wars, the Orwellianly named ‘Patriot Act’, the new Gulag Archipelago of concentration camps (‘black sites’) etc.) has simply been expunged from the historical record.

It’s not clear which historical record you’re referring to. These things haven’t been erased or expunged from any historical record I’m familiar with.

48

Dave Heasman 11.24.19 at 8:34 pm

“Shit only became real when France, and England realized their Empires were under attack literally by Germany”

yes, Poland, that bastion of Empire…

49

Hidari 11.24.19 at 8:38 pm

@37 The fact is that, if one ignores, like most ‘serious commentators’ the ‘third parties’, who have zero chance of winning in any case, the closest analogy to an American Presidential election is a referendum, where you choose ‘A’ or ‘B’. It is grotesque, and would literally be the definition of being anti-democratic, were one to propose that the ‘choice’ that got the least votes won, in a referendum. And yet this happens all the time in the US. Dubya got less votes. In a democracy that would mean he lost. In the United States, on the other hand, he won. What does that tell us about the democratic credentials of the United States?

Trump lost the Presidential election. And yet he is President. Why?

I might add the obvious caveat that commentators who are eagle eyed, to the extent of being able to see things which do not in fact exist, about restrictions on democracy in Bolivia, Venezuela and Iran (and many other places outside the US) are mysteriously unable to see problems with the electoral college, an institution which was clearly and self-proclaimedly set up by racists in order to safeguard racism.

50

alfredlordbleep 11.24.19 at 8:44 pm

Lee A Arnold:
http://crookedtimber.org/2019/11/23/russia-or-california/#comment-772367

Apologies, Mr Arnold. You’ve done gone straight.
I had written in my comment above originally about your impeccable logic and peccable conclusion (before simplifying my comment) For the moment I applaud your concluding—

The big game is international stability against the accidental and rogue proliferation of nuclear weapons and the US has started to lose it.

As modified along the lines of Chomsky that becomes the accidental exchange of (exploding) H-bombs.

51

likbez 11.24.19 at 9:08 pm

While the discussion of this issue on emotional level is clearly fun, the key question here is: did the economic conditions in the USA changed in a way that the majority of population from now on will consistently support a far right party (or a far right faction within the Republican Party).

And to support far right (neofascist) ideas as a reaction to the process of sliding standard of living and the lack of job opportunities in conditions of the crisis of neoliberalism in the USA and the associated process of de-legitimization of neoliberal elite (Schiff)

Marxism used to teach us that the way people live define the way people think ;-)

I am also alarmed at the support of Ukrainegate among esteemed commentariat. When you consider “military assistance” as the way to pressure the country, the first think to discuss is whether this military assistance serves the USA national interests or not. This was not done.

IMHO, in Ukraine the USA deviated from its longstanding policy of supporting constitutional order governance, allied with far right nationalists and smashed the constitutional order installing marionette far right government ( Nulandgate ) . On the part of the USA this was done to achieve geopolitical goals of weakening Russia. On the part of UE this was done for expanding EU economic “Lebensraum” into xUSSR space.

This was the case, long before Trump, when the USA demonstrated clearly neofascist tendencies in foreign policy. In this sense, Obama, and especially Obama’s State Department, are a clear predecessors of Trump’s turn to the right. See the discussion by Professor Cohen:

52

faustusnotes 11.25.19 at 1:40 am

Wow, back in 2016 some of us on here pointed out that the Supreme Court was of fundamental importance and it was better to back the lesser evil (Clinton) than to see it lost, and a bunch of people currently commenting screamed bloody murder about “blackmail” and “threats” and how democracy is about more than the courts. Now here they are saying it doesn’t matter which Dem wins in 2020 because the real threat to democracy is the courts. I guess it’s good to have a new argument against voting for the Democrats, since the lesser evil one is now truly lost.

Also fun to see a bunch of people on here saying the real fault is with the Democrats. And Hidari wondering about how the 2000 Bush victory has been “wiped from history” as if we didn’t spend all of 2016 warning about the electoral college and the importance of the courts while the Putin-fluffing cynics on here talked about how none of that mattered and you should only give your vote away to a pure-hearted wunderkin.

And as for democracy losing everywhere if it loses in America wtf?

53

likbez 11.25.19 at 2:56 am

Glen Tomkins 11.24.19 at 5:26 pm @43

And again, if we do win despite all the structural injustices in the system the Rs inherited and seek to expand, well, those injustices don’t really absolutely need to be corrected, because we will still have gotten the right result from the system as is.

This is a pretty apt description of the mindset of Corporate Democrats. Thank you !

May I recommend you to listen to Chris Hedge 2011 talk On Death of the Liberal Class At least to the first part of it.

Corporate Dems definitely lack courage, and as such are probably doomed in 2020.
Of course, the impeachment process will weight on Trump, but the Senate hold all trump cards, and might reverse those effects very quickly and destroy, or at lease greatly diminish, any chances for Corporate Demorats even complete on equal footing in 2020 elections. IMHO Pelosi gambit is a really dangerous gambit, a desperate move, a kind of “Heil Mary” pass.

Despair is a very powerful factor in the resurgence of far right forces. And that’s what happening right now and that’s why I suspect that far right populism probably will be the decisive factor in 2020 elections.

IMHO Chris explains what the most probable result on 2020 elections with be with amazing clarity.

54

SamChevre 11.25.19 at 2:57 am

California vs Russia: in both cases, if you aren’t on the side of the establishment, mobilizing and winning the vote doesn’t change policy (see Proposition 187, Proposition 8–both won democratically). So if the choice is between California and Russia – in both cases your voice and vote are ignored – then “who hate me more?” seems like the one remaining question.

55

nastywoman 11.25.19 at 3:59 am

@36
”I will try to give you my logic, starting from the originating premises”.

– and I agree with nearly everything –
Up to the:
”Do not breathe a word except to support Trump, and then convict and remove Trump en masse when the final vote arrives. Because then he’s out of power immediately, and all he can do is tweet”.

As I believe – that even the Republicans – who never wanted Trump to begin with – wouldn’t dare risking to lose the hardcore Trumps Fans -(including somebody like Hannity and a YUUUGE Part of Fox) –
As Fox and these ”Fans” and Hannity still will be there – when Trump would be gone – and their fury and rage against ”the Evil Republican Establishment” would be soooo frightful – that ”we haven’t seen nothing yet”.

And I also don’t think – that any of it is – ”logical” – but if – anywhoo – your fascinating thought experiment would come to pass – we would have the utmost delightful self-destruction of the US Republicans.

56

anon 11.25.19 at 4:11 am

It sure is great fun to speculate on the 2020 Presidential outcome.

But I doubt a single person here thought on November 24th 2015 that Donald Trump would be number 45.

Personally, up until about 9PM on Election Eve 2016 I thought it was going to be Hillary.

57

RobinM 11.25.19 at 4:25 am

Anon/portly @ 41 has, of course, made the usual error of conflating the centrist Democrats with the left. In conequence, his two original paragraphs contain so many errors that it’s not really worth while trying to clarify things for him. But I will say that I know left-wing Americans who have never hero-worshipped JFK or any other President. Ditto for their views on Obama and both Clintons.

As to the injunction to kowtow to the “commander-in-chief,” that seems to be a very widespread political disease in the USA, which I always take to be a sign that it has become a highly militaristic system, at least since WW II. I can recall when a liberal Democrat admonished his primary opponent, back in the 1960s, Robert Scheer, that he, unlike Scheer, would support his “commander-in-chief” when it came to the war against Vietnam.

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in wanting NOT to be associated with a whole lot of the propagandistic garbage emanating from the centre as well as the right.

58

John Quiggin 11.25.19 at 7:25 am

“Was that study faulty in some way? “

As I pointed out in the OP, the fault was in accepting conservative self-descriptions at face value. When Trump came along, the conservatives acted exactly as liberals expected them to (or worse), and not all in the way Haidt’s description would imply. Most obviously, their supposed concern for purity went straight out the window when they found someone impure in every way who would stick it to their enemies. The only values listed by Haidt to which conservatives have consistently adhered are in-group loyalty and authoritarianism, as liberals suggested. Purity/disgust issues are entirely related to the out-group, with any kind of transgression accepted on their own side.

That’s pretty generally accepted now by those who still find Haidt useful eg https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/06/opinion/campaign-stops/purity-disgust-and-donald-trump.html?_r=1

59

reason 11.25.19 at 10:27 am

Lee Arnold @36
Agree with everything except:

“other foreign powers (except for the Putin delegation). “

Sorry, Putin just sees the US under Trump as a pathetic pushover, but no way he will trust that it will remain so in the future.

Also, I don’t believe the scenario about the senate. The Prisoner’s dilemma argues against it. Trump has too many lapdogs (e.g. Graham) in the senate for such a conspiracy to be possible. I’m more inclined to think if relief is to come it will come through Trump being incapacitated (either naturally or via CIA intervention). He has made many enemies.

60

Hickory Bow 11.25.19 at 11:27 am

“Heil Mary pass”@53…That’s the funniest thing ever written on CT…

61

bianca steele 11.25.19 at 1:05 pm

@49 If you care I’m sure you can find Haidt’s statements to the effect that “conservatives recognize all six moral values, while liberals only understand the value of four of those,” and “conservatives (make an effort to) understand liberals correctly, but liberals refuse to grant the same courtesy to conservatives.” Both those imply liberals possess moral flaws compared with conservatives, which goes hand in hand with Haidt’s work to persuade readers and scholars that they have a responsibility to elevate conservative scholars more than he felt they were.

To be fair, it’s easy to find self-proclaimed (or assumed) liberals saying similar things, though on closer examination they’re usually concern-trolling moderate Republicans who blame Democrats for not forcing Republicans to be their best selves.

If Haidt had wrote op-eds proclaiming that it’s useless to expect conservatives to care about accusations that they’re unfair, because they prioritize “higher” things like loyalty, that would have at least been useful.

62

Lee A. Arnold 11.25.19 at 2:52 pm

alfredlordbleep #50: “As modified along the lines of Chomsky that becomes the accidental exchange of (exploding) H-bombs.”

Not just Chomsky. It was and is a basic pillar of post-WWII foreign policy in the US and Europe. Yet it has been disregarded and forgotten among almost everyone both left and right since the end of the Soviet Union.

And it’s not just the threat of accidental exchange. There’s no telling what will happen in the future. An autocrat may push the button accidentally. On the other hand, he may decide that he wants more territory, and push the button deliberately. An autocrat can be more lunatic and more incompetent than any leader in any democracy. There are no checks and balances, and the autocrat can’t be voted out.

And the problem goes well beyond whether a crazy autocrat might accidentally or deliberately use nukes. Consider deliberate uncontrolled proliferation under autocracy:

The interior command structure of an autocracy is much more likely to be under unreliable management than in a democracy (which periodically renews itself), thus subject to more stupidity, self-dealing, corruption, greed, murder. Small, secretive proliferation of weapons for profit is easier to accomplish by some lower-ranking officers down the line. These weapons may arrive finally in the hands of non-state terror groups, whether rightwing terrorists, leftwing terrorists, religious terrorists: small groups of people who want to kill people of a different stripe, because of grievances real or imagined. They are going to get nuclear weapons, killer robots, nano weapons, genetic weapons.

The only way to reduce the probability of this endless nightmare of the future is to get all countries to be functioning democracies, NOW. Defending democracy across the globe is not only foreign policy idealism, it is urgent foreign policy realism.

It will continue to be a big mess. Democracy is the worst solution except for all the others (mangling Churchill’s famous remark) because democracies may give lousy results too as presently seen in the UK and US. And in the end, we really don’t know if democracy is going to work (the common trait of paleocons, royalists and fascists is the belief that it cannot) — but democracy is all we have, to protect from an even worse world. And of course the word “now”, in the preceding paragraph, means the next 50 or 100 years of foreign policy in which more compromises and mistakes will be made. It will be a steady, frustrating plod of promoting and staying with democratic allies, and protecting and encouraging the fledglings.

I seem to remember that John Quiggin wrote somewhere that the two greatest dangers are climate change and nuclear weapons. I think this is right if we expand the “nuclear” category to “all weapons of mass destruction including cyber”. Isolationism is dangerously wrong.

63

nastywoman 11.25.19 at 5:29 pm

@51
”On the part of UE this was done for expanding EU economic “Lebensraum” into xUSSR space”

I don’t know why – but the above phrase might be the utmost important phrase on this thread – as it answers the question ”Russia or California”? – in the ”deepest holistic philosophical” way – and could I ask if it would be possible to create 5 -(in words ”five”) different and separate blog posts about the most important parts of this phrase –

1.”On the part of UE”

2.”this was done for expanding EU economics”

3.”Lebensraum”

4.”xxUSSR space”

AND
5.“Belgium is a beautiful city.”

And as I once told @51 – that he was ”all over the map” and he wouldn’t accept that fact – I think I’m owed the right to demonstrate to everybody here – how far somebody can be ”all over the map”?

64

J-D 11.25.19 at 9:08 pm

Hidari

For the avoidance of doubt, I agree that it is grotesque the way the US electoral college permits a candidate with fewer votes to defeat a candidate with more votes, and it’s a good thing that no other country has copied that mechanism.

65

J-D 11.25.19 at 11:20 pm

Kiwanda

This was apparently a specific study. Was that study faulty in some way?

How were the key concepts validated?

66

PatinIowa 11.26.19 at 1:31 am

John Quiggin at 28, responding to Mary S at 23:

“But the distinctively new element, central to the argument of the OP, is support for personal dictatorship. Before Trump, the Repubs followed orderly succession of leadership, with no real cult of the individual. That’s obviously changed.”

It’s not so obvious to me. I was around in the early 80s, listening to the Christian Right talk about Ronald Reagan as the chosen one, and the “unitary executive” gobbledegook has been around at least that long. It all seems very much of a piece.

I don’t follow these things in as much detail as you do. Is it worth your time to expand?

67

Kiwanda 11.26.19 at 4:48 am

JQ: “His method was to compare the views liberals imputed to conservatives (essentially that they were Trumpists) with the self-descriptions of conservatives. As it’s turned out, liberals knew conservatives better than conservatives knew themselves”

me: “This was apparently a specific study. Was that study faulty in some way? Has Haidt extrapolated from it too far? If so, when?”

JQ: “As I pointed out in the OP, the fault was in accepting conservative self-descriptions at face value.”

Pointing out that conservatives could predict liberal responses more accurately than vice versa does not imply an opinion that conservatives would *behave* according to their own declared values. Indeed, he says: “Well, first of all, on Trump, yes. He is an incredible hypocrite. And if voters were consistent in their values, conservatives and Republicans would turn him out.”

JQ: “Concern trolls: Jonathan Haidt is the leading example. Keep trying to explain how the extreme lunacy of the far right is really the fault of the left for pointing out the lunacy of the mainstream right.”

Still no answer on where exactly it is that Haidt keeps doing that.

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Nathanael 11.26.19 at 5:57 am

“While that’s never happened in US federal politics, “
A major party has been reduced to permanent unrecoverable minority status twice in US history.
(1) Federalists. (2) Whigs.

The Republicans are #3. They have no way out of this, because the demographics are against them.

Trump cannot win the 2020 election honestly. The polls are now showing him losing in *Georgia*, for goodness sake. To Sanders or Warren or Biden. Three different companies’ polls. After 2000’s election theft and the election theft of the Governor’s office in Georgia, Democrats are *very alert*. Voter suppression schemes have actually been forcibly turned back in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida just in the last year or so, off the top of my head — I’m probably missing some.

The demographics are fatal. It’s not so much voters abandoning the Republican Party and voting for the Democrats (though that is happening too, it amounts to 1%-2% swing every 4 years), it’s Republican voters dying and Democratic voters turning 18. Generation Z is the most politically lopsided in the history of US polling, and *hates* Trump, and the Republican Party is actually *less popular* than Trump.

If Trump somehow steals the 2020 election (and I don’t think he can — just too many states to steal), he will be ousted violently by the supporters of democracy — it’ll be a civil war. Remember how the last Civil War went? The right-wing authoritarians started it; the left-wingers finished it with total destruction of the slave power. It would happen that way again. There is no way for Trump to win that civil war — his base of support is all over 45, young people really *really* hate him, every single scientist and expert hates him, all the industrial tycoons of the new economy hate him, and every single city opposes him.

Pretty much the only way the Democrats can lose if they run a really really terrible candidate, like they did last time. And that means Biden — at this point I think anyone else who’s qualifying for the debates could wipe the floor with Trump. Even Biden might beat Trump, but I’m glad we’re having all these debates, because they’re showcasing his extreme weakness as a campaigner.

To those complaining about the corporate sellout do-nothing milquetoast Dems (like Biden): they’ve been aggressively pushed out of a lot of state legislatures and Congressional seats lately, and the remaining ones are starting to knuckle under to the new leadership. Ocasio-Cortez can pull more voters than any milquetoast do-nothing, and she’s quickly developing a reputation as an extremely competent Congressional horsetrader and dealmaker.

Don’t forgot how close the NY legislature came to turning off the power to ICE at Kennedy Airport during the first, most blatantly illegal Muslim ban. (Passed the Assembly, failed by 2 votes out of 63 in the State Senate. BTW, there are more Dems in the State Senate now.) Or that California’s CARB has threatened to outright ban fossil fuel cars.

The debates consisted of candidates competing to be more radical than each other — O’Rourke would ban guns, most of the candidates would abolish ICE, everyone wants socialized medicine, the *capitalist self-made multimillionaire* is advocating for basic minimum income, etc. The Clintonite milquetoast faction has *lost control decisively*.

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likbez 11.26.19 at 6:22 am

Hickory Bow 11.25.19 at 11:27 am @60

“Heil Mary pass”@53…That’s the funniest thing ever written on CT…

Thanks you. It does create associations (probably wrong) of Schiff investigation with Munich Beer Putch :-)

70

David 11.26.19 at 10:19 am

Doctor Science @2:

Lizardman’s Constant.

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nastywoman 11.26.19 at 10:41 am

so about the question:
”Would Republican voters rather live under a government like that of Russia, or one like that of California”? –

The answers are:
”Belgium is a beautiful city” -(as Belgium is NOT ”a city”)
or
”xxUSSR space” -(as ”xxUSSR space” doesn’t exist anymore)
or
”Lebensraum” -(as ”Lebensraum” is per definition a ”Raum, Umkreis, in dem sich jemand oder eine Gemeinschaft [frei] – in engl: ”FREE” – bewegen und entfalten kann)
or
”this was done for expanding EU economics” -(as efforts of the EU to help economically can not really be considered ”expanding EU economics”)
or
”On the part of UE” -(as it is as difficult to find on ”which part of the ”UE” -(or ”EU”) as it is to find out if ”Republican voters rather live under a government of a ”nice idiot” (like Reagan) or ”a nasty idiot” like Trump?)

And anybody who ever was in Russia knows – that the question: ”Would Republican voters rather live under a government like that of Russia, or one like that of California”? is kind of… am I allowed to say: ”silly”?
As the question: ”Would CALIFORNIAN Republican voters rather live under a government like that of Russia, or one like that of California”? – is so easy to answer.

Californian Republican voters never ever would ”rather live under a government like that of Russia” – because of –
”the weather”!

72

ph 11.26.19 at 10:42 am

As usual, Orange Watch presents a comment based on fact: namely that the damage done at the local and state level to Democrats shrinks the pool of experienced top-tier candidates to draw upon. The three front-runners are older than sixty by some distance, and they’re running against a guy who’s over seventy. Which leads to the cost of impeachment and the upcoming Senate trial. I just took a trip down memory lane to confirm the last time Democrats decided to go overboard without the fig-leaf of a view Republican votes.

I liked Russ Feingold. He took stands the Democratic elite didn’t like, but when push came to shove on the ACA, Feingold sucked it up and voted for ACA, which passed the Senate straight down partisan lines – without a single Republican vote. Sounding familiar? So what happens in 2010. Feingold gets hammered from the left and the right for being a ‘sell-out’ and a ‘big-pharma’ stooge. Lost in all the hoopla over the 2010 Tea Party, was the fact that Feingold and others lower-down the ticket paid the price for supporting a policy they mostly opposed. From the NYT, Nov. 4, 2010.

“…Mr. Feingold has served in the Senate for 18 years and was seeking his fourth term. Mr. Johnson, a plastics manufacturer who had never run for office, won with 52 percent of the vote, to Mr. Feingold’s 47 percent.

Mr. Feingold was caught in an avalanche that crushed Democrats nationwide. Apart from capturing Mr. Feingold’s seat, Republicans here made a clean sweep of state government, winning the governor’s office and control of both houses of the State Legislature. One poll found that Mr. Obama’s approval rating here had declined at a faster rate than in any other state.”

Re-read the second paragraph and then go back and read OW’s comment. Because, impeachment is forming along the same lines. Not one Republican vote of support in the House and likely zero in the Senate (unless of course one believes the fantasy that Republicans are going to toss one of the most successful Republican presidents ever.)

Most here, I suspect, believe that others share their view of the Republican party. That it’s become a pliant tool of something called ‘Trumpism.’ The opposite is true – Trump has made peace with the Republican establishment. Neither side surrendered and contra the fantasy above – all sides including Trump realize they’re better together. Why? Because the economy is booming and Republicans get to take credit for that, no new wars, better trade deals – we saw from the Emerson poll where the public is on the environment and impeachment. So, no Santa Mitch isn’t going to do for Dems what the 25th, the insurance policy, pee-dossier, and son-of-pee dossier didn’t do either – which is magically undo 2010.

Dems still haven’t recovered from 2010 and OW seems to be the only one who grasps that much. Permitting 44 to turn over the Democratic party to the Clinton machine in 2015 made a bad situation much worse. The same night that GOP bubble-heads and never-Trumpers were whining about Trump losing big, and dragging down-ballot GOP candidates with him, the opposite was occurring. Trump killed at the electoral college and his momentum helped sweep Republicans to one of their best nights ever.

James Carville observed that night in 2016, Democrats haven’t been this weak for more than half-a-century. Some Democrats learned the lesson and ran on ‘just fix the damn roads’ in 2018 and won. Impeachment is very, very likely to do what the ACA did to Dems in 2010. Rather than build on the hard-won victories of 2018, Democrats have decided to pursue a dead-end policy doomed to failure which will galvanize the GOP base and drive independents months before the election. Even a week ago, I wasn’t sure whether Trump will be elected. I’m much, much more certain now. I warned in 2017 of the opportunity costs of looking for silver stake solutions to what OW and Carville correctly understand as bad policy, poor candidates, identity politics, and bad messaging.

So, Russia? My guess is that after the stomping that may very well fall upon the Dems, we might very well see real reform in the Democratic party, just as we have in the GOP. Trump’s GOP protects businesses, individuals, Americans, opportunity, and social security. And all the bad shit that both parties always support. Dems need to figure out that Trump has stolen their message and is on the way to stealing their base. If minorities turn out for Trump (the GOP wet-dream) Dems are going to face a nightmare scenario. And 34 percent of African-Americans currently support Trump.

Bigly – the Bling President.

73

nastywoman 11.26.19 at 11:29 am

– or perhaps to make it easier to understand –
there was this dude on TV who asked a Republican Guest –

‘This is strange – there is no part of the Republican Party prior to 2015 that would knowingly be part of spreading Russian disinformation” and then this ”Guest” came up with all kind of ”logical” – ”reasonable” and ”political” answers – while -(as Mr. Arnold already wrote) there is absolutely not ”logic” -(or ”reason”) to it – and such questions – truthfully – only can be answered with completely unrelated ”responses” – like talking about ”the weather” or that ”Belgium is a beautiful city”.

As only such ”responses” mirror the ”answers” -(and questions) a ”Clownstick System” gives.

And the real crazy story is that a lot of Americans -(and even Non-Americans) discuss such a total random system – as it would have any… ”logic” or ”meaning” or ”structure”

Just if I ever would write anything so called ”coherent” here.

74

nastywoman 11.26.19 at 11:51 am

Or?
– perhaps the case of this very obvious ”War Criminal” –
(the Clownstick kind of ”reinstated”) is the best example for describing ”the problem.”

As ”structure” and ”logic” let to his… let’s call it ”definition” of being ”a war criminal” and then Trump ordered that ”Belgium is a beautiful city” – and the Clownsticks very obvious motivation – that ”nationalistic nasty idiots” LOVE their ”own” war criminals –
doesn’t deny the possibility – that Trump also could have hated ”the war criminal” – and ”fired” him – if he the war criminal wouldn’t have hanged up a Trump picture fast enough – or complained about bedbugs at Doral.

75

nastywoman 11.26.19 at 12:09 pm

AND so in conclusion -(before the train of thought might completely derail?)
it is like with this wonderful thought experiment of Mr. Arnold – that there might be
a kind of ”structured action” by the Republicans – in:
”not breathing a word except to support Trump, and then convict and remove Trump en masse when the final vote arrives”. –

while we should have learned that -(in a Clownstick system) – any complete ”random emotional” outcome has a higher possibility – and as I know (Californian) Republicans very well – the question ”Russia or California” always would have been treated as ”a silly question from a silly ”lib”?

76

WLGR 11.26.19 at 12:09 pm

J-D @ 27, just found it funny how a couple short paragraphs after making great hay of another commenter allegedly not understanding the meaning of “head of state,” you yourself seem entirely unaware of the difference between “head of state” and “head of government” with regards to the political system of Iran. Iran has an unelected head of state called the “Supreme Leader,” and an elected head of government called the “President,” the latter of which has repeatedly changed hands as the result of elections; most recently, in 2013 it passed from the conservative Ahmadinejad to the moderate Rouhani, who then used his moderate electoral mandate as political capital to help pass the controversial nuclear deal with the US under Obama, the subsequent failure of which under Trump may well help swing the electoral pendulum back toward his more hardline anti-US opponents.

Granted this system isn’t as relatively “democratic” as a system like the UK where the unelected head of state position is almost entirely ceremonial, it’d still be ridiculous to claim that the Islamic Republic is somehow less democratic than other regimes in the region with which the West has been happily allied, like the old Iranian absolute monarchy under the Shah, or Iraq under Saddam in the 80s, or Afghanistan under the Taliban in the 90s, or the absolute monarchies of the GCC (KSA, UAE, Bahrain, etc.) even today.

77

MisterMr 11.26.19 at 12:50 pm

@Kiwanda 46

From the link you gave:

When I speak to liberal audiences about the three “binding” foundations – Loyalty, Authority, Sanctity – I find that many in the audience don’t just fail to resonate; they actively reject these concerns as immoral. Loyalty to a group shrinks the moral circle; it is the basis of racism and exclusion, they say. Authority is oppression. Sanctity is religious mumbo-jumbo whose only function is to suppress female sexuality and justify homophobia.

Essentially Haidt sais that liberals are wrong and don’t understand conservatives, because thy just assume that “loyalty, authorithy, sanctity” are just a fascist thing.

This begs the question: are “loyalty, authorithy, sanctity” really what fascism is about or not? Because when I think of the relatives I had of older generations who were actually fascists, or to the people I know who self define af fascists, they totally ARE big on “loyalty, authorithy, sanctity”.

If “loyalty, authorithy, sanctity” really are fascist ideals, then libs are totally right to say that conservatives are fascists. When you go to something like:

The biggest errors in the whole study came when liberals answered the Care and Fairness questions while pretending to be conservatives. When faced with questions such as “One of the worst things a person could do is hurt a defenseless animal” or ”Justice is the most important requirement for a society,” liberals assumed that conservatives would disagree. If you have a moral matrix built primarily on intuitions about care and fairness (as equality), and you listen to the Reagan [i.e., conservative] narrative, what else could you think? Reagan seems completely unconcerned about the welfare of drug addicts, poor people, and gay people. He’s more interested in fighting wars and telling people how to run their sex lives.

it seems that the libs are actually describing what conservatives DO, whereas conservatives answer by what they SAY.
However Haidt just assumes that there can be never something wrong with “loyalty, authorithy, sanctity”, so he comes to the conclusion that the libs are wrong.

If you check, for example, Atlemeyer study on authoritarians ( https://www.theauthoritarians.org/ ) you will see that Atlemeyer says that conservatives currently tend to be way much authoritarian than liberals (he uses a variant of Adorno’s famous F scale that was supposed to show fascist personality traits).

Atlemeyer description of “high RWA” totally dovetails with Haidt’s “loyalty, authorithy, sanctity”, so if Haidt is right, Atlemeyer is also right, and if Atlemeier is right, then Haidt is also right on the fact that conservatives care more about “loyalty, authorithy, sanctity”.

However, since Haidt is a conservative he just puts a positive spin on “loyalty, authorithy, sanctity”, whereas Atlemeyer is more of a lib so he puts a negative spin on “high RWA”, so it seems that they are saying the opposite, but in reality they are saying the same thing.

So in the end the problem is, are “loyalty, authorithy, sanctity” actually fascist values? In my opinion largely yes, Haidt is correct on the idea that conservatives (currently) value these things more than liberals, but this just means that conservatives are more fascist than liberals, and therefore liberals understand conservatives better than how conservatives (in cluding Haidt) understand themselves.

78

anon/portly 11.26.19 at 6:35 pm

Anon/portly @ 41 has, of course, made the usual error of conflating the centrist Democrats with the left. In conequence, his two original paragraphs contain so many errors that it’s not really worth while trying to clarify things for him. But I will say that I know left-wing Americans who have never hero-worshipped JFK or any other President. Ditto for their views on Obama and both Clintons.

Well, naturally Robin M doesn’t point out any specific errors because I made none, and in fact if one reads 41 it’s hard to see how I could have made one, since I was being sarcastic and just belaboring the obvious.

Yes, there are many many many left-wing Americans that have never hero-worshiped JFK or any other Democratic president – I know or have known many of them myself. Just as anyone who is acquainted with a wide variety of right-wing people will know many who never hero-worshiped Reagan or any other Republican president. I was merely making the point, which really was too obvious to bother making, that just as there as lots of right-wingers that have viewed Reagan (and now view Trump) as heroes, so too many left-wingers have viewed people like JFK and FDR that way also.

(And let’s not even bring up people like FC or CG – wince). (Please please please if you think my point is to troll, don’t feed me).

My point about Hillary Clinton, if one reads carefully, wasn’t that she was worshiped as a hero, just that her flaws were, by many, overlooked. Maybe I’m wrong on that one, but that’s how it seems to me.

A classic example that comes up over and over involves the point made in 56. Why did so many people under-estimate Trump’s chances? I was reading 538 and was under no illusions. (Cue the commenters making the same old “grumble grumble grumble” false statements about 538).

And one thing that struck me at the time, beyond what 538 was saying, was this piece by Matt Yglesias:

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/11/7/13550068/nate-silver-forecast-wrong

I thought Yglesias’s arguments were very unconvincing, almost completely besides the point, and only served to make me far more worried about Trump winning. If someone as smart and “can see both sides”-ish as Yglesias was making this sort of argument…. I still wonder, if Clinton had hired a few Nate Silvers, would she have won?

I’m hoping whoever the nominee is in 2020, the general Democratic Party zeitgeist will be a little less “what we want to hear” and a little more “what we need to hear.” (I’m not seeing much sign of this, but then again maybe I don’t really pay that close of attention).

I just want to gently point out, to people that obviously don’t believe it, that left-wing people and right-wing people, despite the beliefs commonly expressed here that one of these groups wears the white hats and other wears the black hats, are really not so different when it comes to their human foibles. I know that the behavior and overall quality level of the Republican Party, especially over the past 20 years or so, makes this hard to believe, but it’s absolutely true.

79

J-D 11.26.19 at 9:22 pm

WLGR

Iran has an unelected head of state called the “Supreme Leader,” and an elected head of government called the “President,”

That’s not as clear as you might think. I have found several sources which state that the Leader is the head of state, but those sources are not explicit about the basis for this statement, and I have also discovered that the President formally receives letters of credence from foreign ambassadors, which is specifically a ceremonial function of the head of state (the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations is clear that ambassadors are accredited by and to heads of state).

Anyway, it makes no difference to my point who is Iran’s head of state. What does matter for my point is that there is nothing unusual in having a change in head of state and/or head of government without having a change of government: for example, it happened ten times in a row in Mexico between 1934 and 2000. Iran has had changes both in Leader and in President since 1979, but it hasn’t had a change of government.

… it’d still be ridiculous to claim that the Islamic Republic is somehow less democratic than other regimes in the region

Yes, it would, which is why I made no such claim.

80

Aubergine 11.27.19 at 2:23 am

It’s been a while since I’ve read up on Haidt, but I remember there being even deeper problems which taint his entire “moral foundations” theoretical edifice as well as the specific theories that he developed from it. Basically, he characterises the “conservative” values of authority, purity and loyalty in ways that encode a right-wing understanding of each, ignoring the possibility that non-conservatives have their own versions of those values.

For example, if you’re testing for the Authority value across political lines, you’re going to get very different results if you test agreement with “every citizen has a duty to pay their taxes” versus “every citizen has a duty to support the military”. Or if you’re testing Purity, “a political candidate who is recorded using racial slurs should resign” versus “a political candidate who is revealed to be in a homosexual relationship should resign”.

From what I remember all of the Moral Foundations stuff has a subtle but consistent bias towards the second kind of question, and is pretty worthless as a result. (I forget whether Haidt ever acknowledged the possibility of this kind of bias, but if he did I wasn’t convinced).

81

John Quiggin 11.27.19 at 6:52 am

Nathanael @68 Good point re Whigs and Federalists. What I should have said was something like “since the emergence of the current D vs R system, there has never been an extensive period of total dominance for either party”. But I guess the Roosevelt-Truman era went 20 years with only occasional wins for the Congressional Republicans.

82

John Quiggin 11.27.19 at 6:54 am

“t seems that the libs are actually describing what conservatives DO, whereas conservatives answer by what they SAY.’

Proved in spades since Trump was elected. That was the point of the OP.

83

likbez 11.27.19 at 6:59 am

MisterMr 11.26.19 at 12:50 pm @69

So in the end the problem is, are “loyalty, authority, sanctity” actually fascist values? In my opinion largely yes,

That’s a bridge too far. FYI fascism is an ideology of national socialism, or socialism for one privileged and racially defined group (eclectic, but still an ideology), not a system of badly defined personal traits, or values.

Moreover, loyalty (and a certain level of groupthink and conformism) can be legitimately viewed as a precondition of survival of any organized group. Look at religious group that adopt all those three values. Are all of them (or even most of them) fascist?

But one of the observable differences between Republican and Democratic Parties in the USA is the difference in the level of authoritarism of the average member of the party. That’s an interesting difference that has certain social implications as for policies that each of the parties favor most when in power (I abstract here from the sad fact that the USA Corporate Dems recently became the second pro-war militarist party, and learned to love intelligence agencies; two things unimaginable in 60th and 70th. )

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reason 11.27.19 at 9:14 am

JQ @82
Which makes me think again that it seems to me that the major Republican value is hypocrisy. I suppose they won’t admit to that but it seems that they really, really value the right to be hypocrites. It is was makes conversations with them so difficult. Accusing them of hypocrisy doesn’t work, they think it is a good thing.

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likbez 11.27.19 at 10:17 am

ph 11.26.19 at 10:42 am @72

James Carville observed that night in 2016, Democrats haven’t been this weak for more than half-a-century. Some Democrats learned the lesson and ran on ‘just fix the damn roads’ in 2018 and won. Impeachment is very, very likely to do what the ACA did to Dems in 2010.

Rather than build on the hard-won victories of 2018, Democrats have decided to pursue a dead-end policy doomed to failure which will galvanize the GOP base and drive independents months before the election. Even a week ago, I wasn’t sure whether Trump will be elected. I’m much, much more certain now. I warned in 2017 of the opportunity costs of looking for silver stake solutions to what OW and Carville correctly understand as bad policy, poor candidates, identity politics, and bad messaging.

So, Russia? My guess is that after the stomping that may very well fall upon the Dems, we might very well see real reform in the Democratic party, just as we have in the GOP. Trump’s GOP protects businesses, individuals, Americans, opportunity, and social security. And all the bad shit that both parties always support. Dems need to figure out that Trump has stolen their message and is on the way to stealing their base. If minorities turn out for Trump (the GOP wet-dream) Dems are going to face a nightmare scenario. And 34 percent of African-Americans currently support Trump.

That’s a very apt observation with one reservation: one major factor in 2018 success was Mueller investigation. Now there will be backlash against it, which favors Trump.

Moon of Alabama has a very interesting discussion of the Catch 22 style situation “Full of Schiff” Dems found themselves with “Pelosi impeachment gambit”: in no way they can allow Senate trial, and they can’t allow just a censure, or they lose the face (Schiff career is probably over at this point in any case)

— If more Democratic swing-state representatives defect from the impeachment camp, which seems likely, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will have a big problem. How can she proceed?

— If the House votes down impeachment Donald Trump wins.

— If the House holds no vote on the issue Donald Trump wins.

— If the House votes for censure Donald Trump will have won on points and the issue will be over.

— If the House votes for impeachment the case goes to the Senate for trial.

The Republican led Senate has two choices:

— It can decide to not open an impeachment trial by simply voting against impeachment. Trump wins.

— It can open a impeachment trial, use it to extensively hurt the Democrats and, in the end, vote against impeachment. Trump wins big time.

A senate impeachment trial would be a disaster for the Dems as Joe & Hunter and Adam Schiff get to testify under oath.

A censure means that Trump won on points and now can play victim in 2020 election. Situation which he likes and exploiting which he is a great master (that’s why he wants the Senate trial). And which increases chances of his reelection. In the latter case that most probably means the end of career (if not prosecution) for Vindman, Hill and other “accusers” (Pelosi sacrificial pawns in this gambit)

My feeling is that Clinton democrats are doomed to be a failure in 2020. And that Democratic Party needs to reform (which they failed to do after 2016 fiasco.)

For the Democrats to reform that need first to acknowledge that their alliance with Wall Street is a dead end and that they need to try to serve as a vehicle for opposing the absolute rule of capital. At a minimum they should be capable of acknowledging the conflict that exists between the interests of capital and the rest of the population (Warren); and of expressing a principled determination to take the side of the majority of the population in this conflict.

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Cian 11.27.19 at 2:24 pm

My right wing boss was complaining recently about healthcare. He said what we need is Medicare for everyone. He’s die hard Republican, but if even die hard Republicans…

Recently at a kid’s party, most people had “good” insurance. Everyone was complaining about it (the cost, the waiting times, the things that weren’t covered). People complaining about losing access to their doctors (regular occurrence), the ways in which everything is becoming more and bureaucratic and harder to navigate.

I live in the heart of the bloody bible belt. The Republicans dominate here. But the existing healthcare system is deeply unpopular. The obvious route back to electoral dominance is through some kind of national healthcare system. The Republicans actually know this, and their strategists have been warning the party about this. It is very popular. People despise their insurance companies.

The fact that only one Democratic candidate is seriously pushing such an agenda tells you everything about how we ended up here. The fact that leaders such as Pelosi are doing the best to prevent it tells you why the Democratic party is going nowhere.

In contrast I can count the number of people I know who care, or even can follow Russiagate, on the fingers of my hand. And they’re all politics junkie who would vote Democrat no matter what.

If Bernie fails to get the nomination, the Democrats are really going to struggle to make traction.

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nastywoman 11.27.19 at 2:52 pm

@68
”young people really *really* hate him, every single scientist and expert hates him, all the industrial tycoons of the new economy hate him, and every single city opposes him”.

How true – and everybody in the US – who doesn’t live ”under a rock” or just in front of a Laptop or a TV blasting ”fake news” – knows it – and then has to read on this thread something like that:
”Trump has made peace with the Republican establishment. Neither side surrendered and contra the fantasy above – all sides including Trump realize they’re better together. Why? Because the economy is booming and Republicans get to take credit for that, no new wars, better trade deals – we saw from the Emerson poll where the public is on the environment and impeachment…

…Impeachment is very, very likely to do what the ACA did to Dems in 2010. Rather than build on the hard-won victories of 2018, Democrats have decided to pursue a dead-end policy doomed to failure which will galvanize the GOP base and drive independents months before the election. Even a week ago, I wasn’t sure whether Trump will be elected. I’m much, much more certain now.

Dems need to figure out that Trump has stolen their message and is on the way to stealing their base. If minorities turn out for Trump (the GOP wet-dream) Dems are going to face a nightmare scenario.”

And Ph – WHY don’t you want to bet on it?
-(or anybody else here?)

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Cian 11.27.19 at 3:08 pm

Nathaniel wrote:
The demographics are fatal. It’s not so much voters abandoning the Republican Party and voting for the Democrats (though that is happening too, it amounts to 1%-2% swing every 4 years), it’s Republican voters dying and Democratic voters turning 18. Generation Z is the most politically lopsided in the history of US polling, and *hates* Trump, and the Republican Party is actually *less popular* than Trump.

If Trump somehow steals the 2020 election (and I don’t think he can — just too many states to steal), he will be ousted violently by the supporters of democracy — it’ll be a civil war. Remember how the last Civil War went? The right-wing authoritarians started it; the left-wingers finished it with total destruction of the slave power. It would happen that way again. There is no way for Trump to win that civil war — his base of support is all over 45, young people really *really* hate him, every single scientist and expert hates him, all the industrial tycoons of the new economy hate him, and every single city opposes him.

Dude, have you been paying attention to the last 20 years. The Republicans have been stealing elections left right and center. In 2000 they had a bloody constitutional coup when the Supreme Court, in a judgement even they knew was bollocks (reading constitutional scholars on that ruling is very interesting), handed the election to Trump. Since they we’ve seen massive fraud, vote suppression (Hello Georgia) and massive gerrymandering (North Carolina is a Democratic state that is ruled by Republicans). And that’s before looking at the structure of the states, Supreme Court (which can be totally reformed – the constitution is pretty silent on it, and the Supreme Court can’t issue rulings on themselves), etc.

Waiting on demographics to save you isn’t going to work. Even if we didn’t have global warming in the wings meaning that we don’t actually have very long to save, well, civilization as we know it.

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anon/portly 11.27.19 at 7:08 pm

68: Trump cannot win the 2020 election honestly.

The demographics are fatal.

Pretty much the only way the Democrats can lose if they run a really really terrible candidate, like they did last time. And that means Biden — at this point I think anyone else who’s qualifying for the debates could wipe the floor with Trump.

First, as far as “demographics” arguments go, various people have been making various demographic arguments to predict Republican decline in the future for quite some time, but somehow the future never seems to arrive – in fact it almost seems like it keeps getting farther away:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_House_of_Representatives#/media/File:Historical_distribution_of_parties_in_US_House_of_Representatives.svg

Then, clearly the third quote contradicts the first two. But really, to anyone who views the Democratic candidates with any level of objectivity, it isn’t at all obvious that Biden would be a worse candidate than Sanders or Warren.

For just one piece of data, right now it appears that wrt “favorability,” Biden, Warren and Sanders are very close – all better than 2016 Clinton at this point, but not exactly brilliant, I don’t think, as far as it portends the D’s chances of winning.

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-2020-front-runners-arent-as-well-liked-as-past-contenders/

Or for another piece, look at betting markets. (Where, for someone like Nathanael, the “positive expected value” opportunities must seem endless). How “wipe the floor with Trump”-ish am I supposed to think candidates like Sanders and Warren are, when they can’t seem to wipe the floor with Pete Buttigieg (who I like a lot myself, but who obviously came in with nothing but disadvantages), let alone Biden?

And note that Trump’s chances of winning are under 50%, but not by that much. (Of course if we eliminated all efforts of the Republicans to rig the voting rules in their favor – a terrible, terrible thing no Democrat would ever countenance – no doubt they would just fall to zero).

https://www.predictit.org/markets/detail/3698/Who-will-win-the-2020-US-presidential-election

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-democrats-suppress-the-vote/

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Collin Street 11.27.19 at 8:20 pm

@J-D: Your disagreement, such as it is, hangs on the meaning of “change of government” rather than on any difference in understanding of phenomena.

(getting drawn into semantic arguments without realising it is something we all do unknowingly.)

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bt 11.28.19 at 3:48 am

This is very off-topic, but picking up on a little nugget in the main post: That Obama was the Anti-Christ.

This always puzzled me. If you believe in the Anti-Christ, and The Book of Revelation, wouldn’t Obama the Anti-Christ be a great thing? Wouldn’t those people want to vote for him? Bring it on!

Just a thought experiment, I know, but it always sticks in my mind when I see that Obama / Anti-Christ thing brought up.

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MisterMr 11.28.19 at 7:30 am

@likbez 83

I disagree. Fascism is not an ideology in the way we understand the term, it’s just too muddled, and certainly is not socialism for a single ethnic group : Hitler and Mussolini even more used a lot of socialist buzzwords because at the time socialism polled well, but in reality many if not most of their policies were in direct opposition to that of the socialist parties of the time, and they came to power by beating and literally killing socialists.
At best we could say that fascism is closer to ordoliberalism, as they never put in question the role of property, but they saw some behaviors as a form of excessive capitalism. But even there they put it in moral terms, economic crises happen because banks are run by Jews, who are evil or not part of the community, or because of a bolshevik Jewish American masonic conspiracy (Mussolini).

What happens IMO is that currently right leaning parties would lose big time if they fought elections on economics, so they have to fight elections on cultural values. If they fight on cultural values they can get the support of many people of the working class who would otherwise give them the middle finger.

At some point the conservative cultural values may become prevalent even on the economic interests, as we see in the case of brexit, but this happens because conservative parties bet on conservative cultural values early on.

When we get to conservative cultural values, these are not really a specific set of values, or actually every society has its own traditional values. The point is that the right wing populists bet on the values that are perceived as traditional in that point of time, because such values have an appeal that goes beyond social class.

The values of “loyalty, authorithy and sacred” are certainly part of the human psyche, because everyone is loyal to something, respects some authority and holds this or that thing as sacred, but if you take them in the abstract they just mean “I’m part of a group and I will follow it”, so in the way Haidt seems to discuss them they refer just to the perception of being part of a community and fighting off the outsiders, that dovetails with the weaponisation of traditional cultural values by the right.

So it’s not that fascism is a personality trait, but rather fascism, or more generally right wing populism, is a social phenomenon where some personality traits are weaponised.

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nastywoman 11.28.19 at 8:13 am

@
”Waiting on demographics to save you isn’t going to work”.

Now isn’t that THE question – and how true my homeland the US put’s up a YUUUGE battle against being save by demographics -(see the resistance against Greta and Fridays for Future) BUT that’s why we have Europe – where the saving the world through demographics works much better – and as it is ”trending” and indeed most young Americans hate the the Clownstick and the Republicans to such a dimension – that we just have to be a bit more patient with my homeland – until they all are able to vote.

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Cian 11.28.19 at 1:18 pm

Anon/portly:
Couple of things.
1) Biden can’t string a sentence together, gets confused easily and is one of the most gaffe prone politicians in the US. On top of that he has a reputation(going back years) for being a very lazy campaigner. He’s a terrible candidate. Trump would destroy him.

2) Democratic primaries are very unrepresentative of both the population and Democratic voters. Turnout is typically very low, the people who mostly vote are well off professionals. In particular they’re a Avery bad predictor of who can get their vote out. Turnout will be key in the presidential election – NOT floating voters. With high turnout the democrats win – Hillary lost primarily due to low turnout.

3) The polls are very unreliable currently. They assume models of turnout that are quite low, pollsters have trouble finding people in the under 45 range and so the data is unreliable. Their models also assume turnout levels that are maybe too low – and if they’re wrong sanders in particular will do a lot better than they’re assuming.

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Art Imhoff 11.28.19 at 10:00 pm

I once had a person approach me with the idea that Obama would not step down after two terms as President. Now I read this post saying Trump would ignore the two term limit. Who comes up with these silly ideas? What nonsense. I have confidence in the US Constitution.

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likbez 11.28.19 at 11:13 pm

MisterMr 11.28.19 at 7:30 am @92

This is a good comment that clarifies your views considerably. And with this clarification, I believe we are generally on the same page. Thank you.

At best, we could say that fascism is closer to ordoliberalism, as they never put in question the role of property, but they saw some behaviors as a form of excessive capitalism. But even there they put it in moral terms; economic crises happen because banks are run by Jews, who are evil or not part of the community, or because of a Bolshevik Jewish American Masonic conspiracy (Mussolini).

That’s a good analogy. But this only means that the financial oligarchy can be a privileged social group crossing racial lines. The term “Jews” as used by fascists was, at least initially, directly at financial oligarchy, where this ethnic group was overrepresented. In general, anti-Semitism can be viewed as a scapegoating, a primitive and misguided protest against the excesses of capitalism. In this sense, “economic crises happen because banks are run by Jews, who are evil or not part of the community” has the real meaning “economic crises happen because banks are run by the financial oligarchy, which is evil or not part of the community.”

What happens IMO is that, currently, right-leaning parties would lose big time if they fought elections on economics, so they have to fight elections on cultural values. If they fight on cultural values, they can get the support of many people of the working class who would otherwise give them the middle finger.

Not only right-leaning parties. All neoliberal parties. That’s why identity politics is as important under neoliberalism as it was under classic national socialism. That’s a classic application of “Divide and Conquer” principle in politics, which, in turn, is the Corollary of the Iron Law of Oligarchy, the way the oligarchic elite weakens threats to its rule by distracting population from actual issues, and imposing strict limits on what constitutes an ‘acceptable’ and ‘respectable’ political position. Neo-McCarthyism serves the same purpose.

At some point, the conservative cultural values may become prevalent even on the economic interests, as we see in the case of Brexit, but this happens because conservative parties bet on conservative cultural values early on.

I respectfully disagree. I see Brexit more of a spontaneous protest against neoliberal globalization, which is not that much connected with “conservative cultural values” but with more prosaic things like displacement of workers by foreigners, disappearance of good job due to relentless outsourcing/offshoring, automation and cost-cutting, reduction of national sovereignty (including inability to regulate labor flows) due to EU neoliberal policies, brazen betrayal by the New Labour of working and lower middle class economic and social interests, growth in inequality and gradual slide of the standard of living of working and lower middle class due to the redistribution of wealth up immanent under neoliberalism etc.

The same set of reasons which in the USA led to the election of Trump and decimation of the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party (Hillary fiasco). After almost 30 years, US workers managed to understand that Clinton’s democrats are essentially “wolfs in sheep’s clothing” and decided to show them the middle finger, which as a side effect of the two-party system led to the election of Trump.

And this process is irreversible, unless Democratic Party changes, and Clinton democrats brass is excluded from the party and sent to the dustbin of history, where they belong.

That’s why I am skeptical about Dem Party chances in 2020, unless one of the trio Warren/Sanders/Tulsi (who promote some level of changes) is the nominee. The train of history has left the station for the Corporate Democrats, and they are still standing on the old platform, hoping that it returns.

And I view the resurgence of the far-right nationalism as a primitive form of social protest, which of course is hijacked, exploited and misdirected by sleek demagogy from the second branch of oligarchy that does not like the results of globalization, and resent FIRE and Silicon Valley branch, in full accordance with the dialectical view on Oligarchy, where with time neoliberal oligarchy inevitably splits and factions start fighting with each other tooth and nail.

Russiagate and Ukrainegate (which is essentially Russiagate 2.0) are just two reflections of this internal political struggle within the USA oligarchy. Struggle that in some forms gradually became closer and closer to the civil war (or, at least, The War between Antony and Octavian) for political dominance as views on the ways to overcome the current crisis of neoliberalism in the USA of those two factions became more and more incompatible. Historically national socialism emerged as a way to overcome the crisis of capitalism at the beginning of the XX century.

…it’s not that fascism is a personality trait, but rather fascism, or more generally right wing populism, is a social phenomenon where some personality traits are weaponised.

I agree. That’s an interesting angle to view the current resurgence of the far right. But it does not explain the fact why in the USA many members of trade unions voted for Trump. Also, please take a look at the phenomenon of Tucker Carson.

Thank you again for your insights into this complex social phenomenon.

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likbez 11.29.19 at 1:37 am

@Cian 11.28.19 at 1:18 pm (94)

IMHO Biden is history. He can’t survive Ukrainegate.

Please do not forget the major effect of pushing Sanders under the bus in 2016 on Democratic and independent voters. So the conflict between DNC and Dem voters remains important, if not decisive, factor in 2020 elections. Attempts by DNC ( which is controlled by Clinton/Obama wing of Dems) to derail Sanders, or Warren and install Pete Buttigieg by pushing the selection into the second round where superdelegates come into play might well mean yet another defeat. Rumors are that Obama recently explicitly said that he will not support Sunders (https://ussanews.com/News1/2019/11/27/obama-allegedly-would-not-support-a-sanders-nomination/ )

Not that I am too exited about Warren, or Sanders. Warren probably will fold as quickly as Trump, if not quicker. Sanders played the role of a sheepdog in 2016 elections (not very successfully, but still he betrayed his voters by endorsing Clinton; Trump quipped that he ‘signed on with the devil’ . https://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/trump-sanders-sellout-clinton-endorsement )

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