Viva Las Vegas!

by Corey Robin on November 6, 2016

As we head into the final days of the election, some thoughts, observations, rants, speculations, and provocations—by turns, cantankerous, narrow, and crabby, and, I hope, generous, capacious, and open to the future.


One of the things we’ve been seeing more and more of this past decade, and now in this election, is that state institutions that many thought (wrongly) were above politics—the Supreme Court, the security establishment, the Senate filibuster—are in fact the crassest instruments of partisan politics, sites of circus antics of the sort the Framers (and their hagiographers) traditionally associated with the lower house of a legislative body.

This, I’ve argued before, has been increasingly the case since the end of the Cold War.

Think of the Clarence Thomas hearings, impeachment over a blow job, Bush v. Gore, the manipulation of the security establishment and intelligence (and the sullying of national icon Colin Powell) going into the Iraq War, the rise of the filibuster-proof majority, the comments of Ginsburg on Trump that she had to retract, and now, today, the revelation of possible FBI interference in the election.

Let’s set aside the question of how new any of this is (I’ve argued that most of it is not). What is new, maybe, is an increasing brazenness and openness about it all, as if it simply doesn’t matter to the fate of the republic if our elites reveal themselves to be the most self-serving tools of whatever cause they proclaim as their own.

And here I think there may be something worth thinking about.

Prior to the Bolshevik Revolution, the American state was, relatively speaking, a young thing, still a fledgling (compared to those elder civilizations in Europe or Asia) that had undergone a catastrophic civil war and had—again, relative to Europe—only the most recently acquired sense of international standing. And suddenly it found itself catapulted, in the late 1910s, onto a truly global stage (not just across the Pacific but across the globe) with a commanding international presence. A republic fated (and feted) to fend off tyranny.

And for 70 years, thanks to communism, the US managed to keep its shit together, to maintain its sorry-ass, jerry-rigged state apparatus, legitimated as it all was by the fear of the Soviet alternative.

And then that all ended in 1989.

Suddenly those institutions no longer felt the need to be quite as disciplined by an external threat as they once perhaps were. Suddenly, Supreme Court justices, Wise Men and Women of the national security establishment, and wielders of the counter-majoritarian veto were freed of their historic constraints. Suddenly, people were freed to talk about domestic fascism, to name the leader of one of the two major political parties as a Hitler, and his millions of followers as Nazis, in a way that they would have been terrified to do when communism was still an alternative and such rhetorical moves could have devastating international consequences.

The United States has certainly seen major and fundamental challenges to the legitimacy of its institutions before. So much so that Samuel Huntington would speak, in recent memory, of a crisis of governability here (though he cleverly called it a “crisis of democracy,” when he clearly thought democracy itself was the problem).

But where Huntington thought the threat lay in the citizenry, and the crisis acute and immediate, I’m seeing, maybe, something else: a slow-motion erosion, over decades, of legitimacy, brought about not by a cynical or radicalized citizenry but by a ruling class that seems to have lost all sense of responsibility. As if there simply were no country left for it to govern.

The US: Is she come undun?


As the polls tighten, there’s a lot of left-blaming and left-fretting among Clinton supporters. That fits with a long-standing psycho-political syndrome among liberals of attacking the left—a syndrome in which the left often plays its own not so healthy part.

But there’s little basis for that syndrome in reality, at least in this election. Not that this particular reality has much impact on the self-styled reality-based community. But it’s important to register that reality nonetheless:

“The problems Hillary Clinton is having do not have to do with the left,” says Matt Grossmann, a political scientist at Michigan State, in an interview….”There is not much of any evidence of a drop-off in support for her from the left-wing of the ideological spectrum.”….Like Jill Stein or not, the drag she has been on Clinton basically amounts to a rounding error.


A story Jacob Levy reported on Facebook today leaves me with this embittered thought.

Liberals in the media, academia, political circles, and on social media who support Clinton act as if your one vote—out of the more than 100 million cast—determines the fate of the republic. If you vote for Stein (whether in a safe state or not), you are personally responsible for Trump’s inauguration.

These voices are often the very same people who, when challenged about Clinton’s voting record in the Senate or Obama’s policies, will say: Clinton was only one voice in a Senate, out of…a hundred voices. Obama was one lonely man arrayed against…three veto points.

Somewhere in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith has a passage about how we identify with the trials and travails of a king, giving him all of our sympathy and understanding, yet are so repelled by the tribulations of the lowly that we can scarce understand what they’re going through.

The difficulties and challenges of the most elite sectors of the political class are acutely felt by liberal journalists and commentators. And the calculations and concerns of the lowly citizen? Fuhgettaboutit.


Someone, please, please, write a parody soon of the latest fashion of white men tweeting and posting about those intuitively sensible women and black people voting for Hillary—without any need to be organized because “they just get it”—and thereby “saving our democracy one more time.” The whole genre, with its pandering assumptions about the unschooled, hardheaded good sense of these authentic, sturdy souls who are uncorrupted by fancy ideas of social change because they studied at the school of hard knocks, makes me want to puke. It’s pure Nixonism for liberals.


Aside from Chris Christie—who terrified me at a visceral level, in the same way Trump scares a lot of other folks; I think it was the way Christie went after schoolteachers—the GOP candidate I was made most nervous by was Rubio. Not because Rubio was an especially good candidate—he wasn’t—but because it always has seemed that the only way the GOP could ever reverse its downward fall would be to appeal to Latino voters.

But there was a reason that’s never really frightened me much either. Because I’ve been hearing this line of bullshit for years: once the Republicans start appealing to Latin@s, all will be well. People forget the ballyhoo around the fact that George W. Bush could say hello in Spanish. That was going to change everything forever. (Though it’s true, as Joe Lowndes reminded me last night, that Bush did get a bit more than 40% of the Latin@ vote in 2004.) Or remember Romney’s son Craig, who was fluent in Spanish? That was going to win him Nevada.

There are two reasons Latin@s haven’t become a reliable part of the Republican coalition.

The first, of course, is the racism and revanchism of a considerable part of the GOP base. Just look how they took to Bush’s compassionate conservatism.

(Little tangent: In 2000, Irving Kristol said to me, in disgust, look at those idiots, arguing on the convention floor about the prescription drug benefit; it’s not Athens, it’s not Rome; give them the goddam benefit and be done with it. Well, they did, and it nearly destroyed the party.)

The second reason, though, is this: what GOP fantasists imagine creating is a multicultural, identity-friendly party of capital. The problem is we already have such a party. Who needs two?


Untimely meditations:

…to present hitler as particularly incompetent, as an aberration, a perversion, humbug, a pecuilar pathological case, while setting up other bourgeois politicians as models, models of something he has failed to attain, seems to me no way to combat hitler.

—Brecht, Journals, February 28, 1942


Two nights ago, I had a terrible anxiety dream that Trump won the election (defying all my claims in my waking life that Clinton will win handily.)

There I was, the day after the election, in the streets, watching some kind of militia or band of street fucks marching by and declaring, Pinochet-style, that from now on women had to wear skirts. (I think I got this from a scene in the movie Missing.)

While watching this thuggish display of misogynistic power, my heart pounding with fear, I found myself wondering, in the dream, what part of the Constitution the Trumpists would find most amenable to their purposes, and how they’d get around Article I, which in my dream, seemed like a major constraint on Congress.

I kept saying, in my dream, “enumerated powers, enumerated powers,” with that ghostly mantra “big boys don’t cry” from this classic 70s tune echoing throughout my head.


I once asked Steve Skowronek—who’s probably one of the four or five most fertile minds of the last quarter-century’s political science—what kind of role opposition parties play in toppling partisan/presidential regimes. What role did the 1932 Democrats play in overthrowing the Gilded Age regime? What role did the 1980 Republicans playing in overthrowing the New Deal regime?

Not much, he said, rather bleakly.

Regimes tend to collapse of their own weight, driven to destruction by the long-term consequences of the actions of their own elites and activists. While they ultimately need an opposition to topple them, the only reason the opposition can do that is that these regimes are already tipping over on their own. I think Skowronek ultimately got this from Skocpol’s (early Skocpol) theory of states and revolutions.

In any event, that’s how I see the GOP and conservatism today. When it goes, it won’t be because of the left; it’ll be, ultimately, because of George W. Bush, who more than anyone sowed the long-term seeds of the GOP’s decline, and whatever unlucky bastard—like Jimmy Carter or Herbert Hoover—happens to be the last guy or gal on the watch.


To paraphrase Hans Gruber: You asked for down-ballot evidence of the coming realignment. Theo, I give you the Silver State (see 11/5/16 update, 7 am).

Donald Trump will be in Reno on Saturday, but the Republicans almost certainly lost Nevada on Friday. Trump’s path was nearly impossible, as I have been telling you, before what happened in Clark County on Friday. But now he needs a Miracle in Vegas on Election Day — and a Buffalo Bills Super Bowl championship is more likely — to turn this around. The ripple effect down the ticket probably will cost the Republicans Harry Reid’s Senate seat, two GOP House seats and control of the Legislature.


Not only is Trump about to do on a national scale what Pete Wilson did in California—that is, drive up the Latin@ vote, consigning the GOP to a longterm decline—but Latin@s, who in many states gave Sanders the margin, or close to the margin, of victory, are set to play a similar role in the liberal/left coalition that southern and eastern European immigrants played during the New Deal years, reconstituting our sense of the working class, the middle class, and national identity.


One day, the story of the Culinary Union in Nevada will be told.

How a union whose membership is now 56% Latin@ was built from the bottom up, in Las Vegas, in a right-to-work state, and how that union is now poised to politically and economically transform this state in fundamental ways that go far beyond the election.

How this union was seeded back in the 1980s by organizers from New Haven, fresh from their victory in organizing women and people of color at Yale, organizers who had cut their teeth on the antiwar and civil rights struggles of the 1960s, organizers who had come to an understanding that the progressive future of this country lay in a reconstitution of organized labor as a multiracial and intersectional movement of men and women, rather than in the abandonment of organized labor as the alleged and archaic bastion of white working class men, which is what the neoliberal forces of the Democratic Party were coming to believe.

After Election Day, this will be the real question for liberals and the left: Will we settle for a corporate identity politics of symbols and circuses or will we create what the culinary workers in Nevada have created, a genuinely multiracial working class politics of justice and solidarity?



Daniel O'Neil 11.06.16 at 2:43 am

Damn right about the union. One of the reasons that the latino vote won’t be as strong in other states (albeit still strong)


navarro 11.06.16 at 2:48 am

you save your best for last. i’ve known that we needed to reconstitute the labor movement in the u.s. since reagan fired the air traffic controllers. my dad told me at the time that it was the most dangerous thing reagan had done and, unless he started a nuclear war, it was the most dangerous thing he was ever likely to do. my dad felt, as do i to this day, that without a strong labor movement to counterbalance corporate wealth it was going to become a rich person’s country. i’ve watched that happen over the intervening 35 years. good luck to us all.


JM Hatch 11.06.16 at 3:13 am

What ever happens, it will be a surprise. That State Apparatus and the Internet have convinced many that privacy outside their own minds does not exist. No one trusts pollsters to not have a virus on their network, or just to be dishonest; and thus many will not speak their minds on an issue which can have such severe impact on their work and social life. Anyone planning voting(or who has already voted) for Clinton in a Trump heavy environment or anyone voting(or who has already voted) for Trump in a Clinton heavy environment, is very likely to think twice about giving any information to an “anonymous” pollster, and if they do, they will probably lie in a way that protects them best from downstream consequences. The downside of honest is just too great.

Is the USA going to be the Next Syria, ie: a formerly stable balkanized state under a two party – one oligarchy dictatorship that will descend into internecine violence as the combination of economics, climate change, and demographics change hit at the same time the government loses moral authority. Don’t forget the enforcement part of that state system, the one with the monopoly on legal violence, is stacked solidly with Trump supporters.


politicalfootball 11.06.16 at 3:22 am

Someone, please, please, write a parody soon of the latest fashion of white men tweeting and posting about those intuitively sensible women and black people voting for Hillary—without any need to be organized because “they just get it”—and thereby “saving our democracy one more time.”

I don’t doubt that there’s a lot of patronizing stuff on Twitter, but the fact is, us old white men owe a huge debt to the kids and people of color. It’s only natural to look for ways to express gratitude.


magari 11.06.16 at 3:58 am

“multicultural, identity-friendly party of capital”

Nicely put. I will definitely be borrowing this phrasing.


Alan White 11.06.16 at 4:06 am

#11 is of course the point.

But #7–with 10cc running through my brain–xeroxed not just my recent troubled sleep, but my respect.


politicalfootball 11.06.16 at 4:14 am

As the polls tighten, there’s a lot of left-blaming and left-fretting among Clinton supporters. That fits with a long-standing psycho-political syndrome among liberals of attacking the left …

This is so true.If people don’t come out to vote for Clinton, that will be defiance of the left, not support of it. As the link in the original post makes clear, Sanders supporters like me are very typical of the left.


kidneystones 11.06.16 at 4:27 am

As the only Trump supporter here I do feel the responsibility to provide some push-back to what appears to be a more or less monochromatic take on the election and the outcome. I mean this in all sincerity and fully respect JH’s decision to restrict my contributions. I’ll provide just the one and then pretend I’m the Democratic candidate and take no questions. If this one comment is too much, I’ll certainly understand for whatever that’s worth.

First, I wholly applaud the movement to multi-ethnic/cultural movements. Where I part ways with almost all is that I believe the Republicans to be in much more desperate need of diversity than the Democrats which explains, in part, why there’s real utility in helping the current GOP presidential candidate destroy the party of Cruz/Bush. A vote for more of the same only much worse negates all the hard work Sanders and his supporters have done. Those looking to Warren as a savior are clearly impervious to her book-cooking, home-flipping, and story-telling. She’s not Sanders no matter how hard you squint.

Second, Nevada is the exception, not the rule. Trump is in Nevada not to win, though he might, but to rally support in all the other battle-ground states – like Michigan, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire. Adoring crowds and soaring poll numbers matter to voters who have yet to vote in Nevada, but more importantly outside Nevada.

Finally, (really) the most sensible comment I’ve heard from anyone comes from a fellow Canadian who loathes Trump. When HRC is elected, or defeated, nothing much will change. All the hard work begins.

My own view is that if Trump wins the necessary transformation of both political parties is extremely likely. Trump’s war is with Republicans, more than Democrats. If Hillary wins, the donor class have their candidate and the Democrats, Clinton Inc. will govern exactly as the donor class demands and has paid for Sanders supporters be damned. Think single-payer in 2009 in spades.

As someone who’s watched you folks elect Johnson to Obama this election doesn’t look at all scary to me. Other elections have looked far more dire. My Trump-loathing buddy is right: both Trump and Clinton are of the 1%. Neither candidate has workable solutions for what ails us. Which candidate will pretend to care better? We’ll find out in a few days.


Brett 11.06.16 at 5:02 am

2. I’m not seeing any left-blaming at all with the tightening polls. The animus is instead being aimed at the media for a perceived double standard when it comes to Trump and Hillary.

4. It’s rooted in truth, though, isn’t it?. A majority of white voters (especially men) lean to Trump, so it will be minority and women voters who make the difference. Odd that it bothers you, since nothing about that is new either – they leaned to Romney as well.

10. I’m hopeful for this as well. It appears to be enough almost to tilt Presidential races towards the Democrats, but it probably won’t be enough to sway total control of the federal government except in rare years – hispanic folks are still overwhelmingly concentrated in the Southwest, California, and southern Florida (with greater concentrations in various cities elsewhere).

11. There’s no “question” or choice that has to be made. If the folks organizing CWU-style unions and coalitions can mobilize and turn-out the vote better in party primaries and elections, they’ll win government and take over the Democratic Party like the Movement Conservatives coming out of the Cold War. If they don’t, they won’t and the party will be dominated by the mixed coalition it has already.


Chris Mealy 11.06.16 at 5:11 am

After 2012 somebody made a hypothetical electoral map for a whites-only Republican party. If I remember correctly it was meant to show how hopeless it would be. Republicans would have to win states like VT, ME, NH, OR, WA, WI, MN. I can’t remember who made it (Nate Silver? Vox?) but I bet somebody here does.


hix 11.06.16 at 5:36 am

The concept of a (real) communist threat keaping the US together is a bit odd to me. There is still an international public and an international elite out there whos opinon both are declining. But it doesnt really matter all that much now and it did not really matter during the cold war. Thats all marginal compared to the direct internal damage. Just as an example how to do things better, a randomly picked western European country today (or Australia, or Japan….) does a better job than the Sovjet block could ever be in its best time (yes i know US life expectancy only recently overtook Cuba, but the difference to western Europe was always higher and is still there).


ZM 11.06.16 at 7:05 am

Corey Robin,

I thought your point 1. was really interesting, I hope you write more about the impact of the end of the Cold War on American politics at some point.

I mostly think about it in terms of foreign policy, since I am not American and I would like global security to become more of a shared burden among countries, rather than being American-centric like it’s been since the end of the Cold War.

But what you have written here about the impact of the Cold War and end of the Cold War on internal American politics and institutions could be pretty convincing I think if you elaborated on your ideas more (maybe you’ve written about this elsewhere?).

“The second reason, though, is this: what GOP fantasists imagine creating is a multicultural, identity-friendly party of capital. The problem is we already have such a party. Who needs two?”

In Australia our right wing Liberal Party is that party, I think you are better off having the right wing party being a “multicultural, identity-friendly party of capital”, this would mean the Democratic Party would have to move leftwards.

Also I think its really bad that race is such a divisive political issue in mainstream politics in the USA. It would be much better for America if the Republican Party supported multiculturalism and more Republicans spoke out against racism, even if this cost the Democrats votes.


nastywoman 11.06.16 at 8:21 am

Untimely meditations:

As there is – after every US election this tendency to declare ‘this or that group’ as ‘the winners’ who finally tipped the scale -(remember Obamas voters?) Americas Latinos will be proclaimed ‘the ultimate winners’.
And about the Brecht quote – Marta Feuchtwanger the wife of Lion Feuchtwanger – Brechts BFF in US Exil – always expressed how much her husband and Brecht regretted – having underestimated the particularly incompetence, aberration, perversion, and pecuilar pathological case of Hitler – with no connection to ‘setting up other bourgeois politicians as models, models of something Hitler has failed to attain’.


Ronan(rf) 11.06.16 at 11:29 am

My understanding of the “Latino vote” is this, though I’m interested in anyone correcting any misconceptions I have:
(1) there is some evidence that Latino voters are more like whites than African Americans when you account for income and a non explicitly racist candidate (ie AAs significantly disproportionately vote Dem at all income levels, whereas Latinos (like whites, but not to the same extent), shift republican the more you move up income scale)
(2) there has, over the past two decades, lsrgely in response to republican nativism, been a shift in “political consciousness” from a relatively heterogeneous group of voters from Latin America, to what can now be reasonably called a “Latino vote”, ie a vote based on a larger, relatively coherent socio political identity.
(3) the Latino vote looks, in some ways, more republican on social issues, but on economics is to the left of the dems (ie generally supports more state intervention in the economy, are more concerned with inequality and wages etc than the median dem vote) So as long as economics and RW nativism drive their vote, they’ll remain democrat.


RichardM 11.06.16 at 1:01 pm

> because it always has seemed that the only way the GOP could ever reverse its downward fall would be to appeal to Latino voters.

That’s the ‘only way’, providing you assume ‘Latino voters’ continue to be a thing.

I see no historical justification for that assumption. Everything Trump and his supporters have done suggests a Trump presidency will not be following the rule of law. The requirement to have a election in which everyone can vote, and observe the result, is a matter of law. So why assume he will make an exception of that?

If he wins, and starts setting up a limited-franchise democracy, who’s going to stop him? The Republican Congress? European sanctions? The UN?


LFC 11.06.16 at 4:46 pm

from the OP:
Regimes tend to collapse of their own weight, driven to destruction by the long-term consequences of the actions of their own elites and activists. While they ultimately need an opposition to topple them, the only reason the opposition can do that is that these regimes are already tipping over on their own. I think Skowronek ultimately got this from Skocpol’s … theory of states and revolutions.

Skocpol argued that the largely agrarian-based old regimes that succumbed to social revolution (France 1789, Russia 1917, China 1911-1949) were facing severe pressures from international competition, notably war or its aftermath (as well as at home), that they couldn’t meet successfully b.c upper classes, much of whose wealth rested in land, resisted rulers’ and bureaucrats’ efforts at reform, e.g. to raise revenue etc. Under those conditions the regimes were vulnerable to revolution fueled by peasant revolts then leading to urban insurrections, w the result changing the class structure and the basic type of govt./state.

I guess Skowronek could have drawn the inference you suggest, though the ‘regimes’ he’s talking about are obviously different entities and the mechanism of their collapse is, I gather, electoral defeat and partisan realignment, not social revolution (which, with the arguable exception of the Civil War and its immediate aftermath, the U.S. has never experienced; and never experienced, period, on Skocpol’s definition of social revolution).


efcdons 11.06.16 at 5:19 pm

“Someone, please, please, write a parody soon of the latest fashion of white men tweeting and posting about those intuitively sensible women and black people voting for Hillary—without any need to be organized because “they just get it”—and thereby “saving our democracy one more time.””

Yeah, go check out LGM. It’s like a writing session for a crowd source screenplay of a political “The Legend of Bagger Vance”.


Tom West 11.07.16 at 4:54 am

> The problem is we already have such a party. Who needs two?

The problem is that you always need two sane parties. No party should be given power for an extended period – no matter how good their intentions on outset. Humans are human and *will* corrupt.

And if you don’t have a backup sane party, then you *must* vote in the insane one, simply to prevent the utter corruption of the sane party.


mds 11.07.16 at 3:19 pm

The whole genre, with its pandering assumptions about the unschooled, hardheaded good sense of these authentic, sturdy souls who are uncorrupted by fancy ideas of social change because they studied at the school of hard knocks, makes me want to puke.

I think this has increased of late primariy as a reaction to “Liberals need to engage more with white working-class Trump supporters, rather than dismissing his appeal as racism/sexism/xenophobia/tribalism/etc. , Part 5000.” Which has an awful lot of pandering built into it, too, along with implicit racism and classism. Out here in an elitist coastal enclave, the union locals don’t actually tend to support Trump. They also have a lot of non-white working-class members. Yet they’re somehow irrelevant to any attempt to understand working-class economic anxiety, because they don’t live in suburban Dayton, or Steve King’s congressional district, or Kansas? And aren’t all white? Pfui.


UserGoogol 11.07.16 at 5:17 pm

Corey’s point (3) seems to look at it the wrong way. It is precisely because voters’ choice is so simple that we can easily criticize it. The president is heavily bound, but he’s bound by lots of different factors in different ways. So if something seemingly suboptimal happens, is it a tradeoff with bureaucracy, or trying to win over votes on some other issue? Who knows? Voting on the other hand is very simple: it’s a secret ballot, and each voter is too powerless to make any sort of backroom deals, and since it’s a symmetrical game across millions of people it’s pretty easy to calculate the optimal strategy. So it’s hard to say what Obama’s optimal strategy for maximizing progress would be, but it’s pretty easy to see what you should do in the voting booth.


WLGR 11.07.16 at 6:31 pm

politicalfootball: “I don’t doubt that there’s a lot of patronizing stuff on Twitter…”

As Corey is getting at, the message that members of marginalized groups don’t need all that fancy book-learnin’ to tell them the right thing to do (because they already know it intuitively) is much worse than patronizing. In fact it plays a not-so-subtle role in the oppressive narrative that when it comes to political theory, the oppressed must first and foremost identify as oppressed and any broader identity they might try to adopt is at best superfluous — we white men are the only true world-historical Subject empowered to act on the basis of universal human reason, whereas the rest of you act unthinkingly and reflexively on the basis of your narrow identities, and can only relate your political acts to any kind of universal worldview through the lens of our intellectual consideration. (A close cousin of the currently-in-vogue “brocialist” narrative, this racist/sexist idea that only privileged white men can continue to oppose liberalism from the left when threatened by the fascist right.) Patronizing ain’t the half of it.


LFC 11.07.16 at 8:43 pm

mds @19
True enough, except that unions, while still important political actors in certain parts of the country, only comprise a very small minority of the private-sector workforce; hence ‘organized labor’ does not, unfortunately, equal ‘working class’, unless one defines the latter phrase to mean union members, which, given the union density numbers, makes little sense.


Heliopause 11.07.16 at 9:33 pm

1. “possible FBI interference in the election.” Since Comey has inserted himself in the election three times now, and two of those were greeted as vindications of HRC by Dem partisans, one wonders what the answer to this question might be.

3. Unambiguously, the biggest electoral problem facing mainstream Dems is not Nader voters or Stein voters or Berniebros, it’s the 100 million+ who don’t vote at all. This represents a catastrophic failure by mainstream Dems, who would be virtually invincible on a national level if they motivated only a fraction of these people, but show practically no interest in doing so. The question of why don’t just take the advice of Willie Sutton and go where the votes are, instead ranting about marginal factors, is an interesting one.

10. Wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve been told this since the early 90s.


pete 11.07.16 at 10:56 pm

“Liberals in the media, academia, political circles, and on social media who support Clinton act as if your one vote—out of the more than 100 million cast—determines the fate of the republic. If you vote for Stein (whether in a safe state or not), you are personally responsible for Trump’s inauguration.”

Yes anyone saying this is clearly mistaken. However, it is most definitely correct to say anyone who would normally vote Dem that either does not vote or votes third party is providing a half-vote for Trump. Question then is whether such voters are really comfortable with that. That’s a legitimate point.


Raven Onthill 11.08.16 at 1:17 am

nastywoman@13: “how much her husband and Brecht regretted – having underestimated the particularly incompetence, aberration, perversion, and peculiar pathological case of Hitler”

Character counts, and the left seems to have no intellectual tools to engage it. I think every politically active woman has encountered the male activist or politician who says all the right policy things and is just wreathed in the odor of political sanctity and is, in fact, a total creeper, a sexual harasser or even a rapist, or if not that, the sort of hypocrite who only cares about women’s issues when women’s suffering advances his cause. It is far more difficult, I think, for women activists to ignore character, hence much of this election.


kidneystones 11.08.16 at 5:19 am

On this the last 24 hours I’ll stand by my prediction that Trump wins. A lot can happen in a day, or so, and that’s what we learned on Sunday.

However, should Hillary win I don’t expect to be posting here for some time. The gloating and abuse I can easily deal with. What actually makes me physically ill is the next 4-8 years of comments and posts demanding that ‘liberals’ defend donor-class policies, because ‘we’ don’t want to ‘surrender to Hitlers.’ Even worse will be ‘liberal’ defenses of violent-regime change of the kind liberals have been excusing, or actively supporting for the last 8 years, or longer.

The worst part of a Hillary victory will be the torrent ‘I could never support Hillary’ ass-covering from a community that has and will do exactly that in the unhappy event the donor-class candidate wins, again.

I linked elsewhere to this timely, humane, and illuminating interview of Arlie Hochschild.

She’s worth listening to:


nastywoman 11.08.16 at 10:55 pm

‘She’s worth listening to’

She is – but what has that to do with ‘gloating and abuse’ or ‘that ‘liberals’ defend donor-class policies, because ‘we’ don’t want to ‘surrender to Hitlers.’? -(or the other… ‘things’ you are writing about?)
It’s very confusing – as for my part – why would anybody ‘gloat’?
It’s kind of… sad that America had to defend herself against F…face von Clownsticks and as there was no ‘alternative’ to it – what does it even have to do with ‘Hillary asscovering’ or anything like that?


F. Foundling 11.09.16 at 2:09 am

@ 25

Apolitical questions of character are more accessible for most people than abstract ideological and policy issues, so the former are often used to obscure the latter; therefore, it is natural that a more ideologically conscious group will focus less on character than the population and the commentariat at large. Contrary to the everyday intuition that pop politics expolits, whether a politician is someone you’d like to, say, have a beer with, hang out with, marry etc. and whether s/he will benefit or harm the population are two very different questions. While there may be *some* connection between personality and policies, history is full of examples where progressive change or the cause of the oppressed was spearheaded by personally highly flawed figures. Someone can be, personally, ‘a total creeper’ or otherwise very much a prick and yet not only say but also *do* the right policy things – and that’s what will have consequences for the overwhelming majority of the population, not his creepiness or prickishness. Whether he ‘really’ cares about the issues, deep inside, matters little and is never possible to prove; what matters is that in his political career, he is trying to harness and represent (use and be used by) a certain social force and movement – or not. The fact is that most of the damage a politican can and is likely to do on a national or global level has little to do with his being, say, a ‘creeper’, and usually doesn’t stem from his character, or (in)competence for that matter. Competence and character mostly become important when the difference in policy between the candidates is negligible (which in itself is hardly a healthy situation): faced with a hypothetical choice between a (supposedly) virtuous and competent person who campaigns on making cuts to the welfare state and/or starting a war and an incompetent crook who campaigns on not doing either of these, I’ll take the crook every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Someone who virtuously and competently starts a world war will do more damage than someone who immorally and ignorantly doesn’t. And, for that matter, since people have mentioned the Third Reich, I’d also rather have an incompetent and/or completely cynical, unprincipled and valueless person in charge of the realisation of its policies, especially on the Jewish question for obvious reasons (the venality or lasciviousness of individual insufficiently idealistic and conscientious Nazis has been the salvation of many). In sum, focusing on whether the policies will be pursued competently or conscientiously presupposes that the policies themselves are good or self-evident.

The main cause of the horrors of the 30s and 40s wasn’t the unique personality of Hitler, it was Nazism as an ideology and a set of policies. Ethnic strife and dehumanising, demonising rhetoric result in mass murder, and have done so at the times and places where they have arisen (Rwanda, Turkey, Bosnia), not because some special snowflake or lunatic just happened to be in charge in each particular case; to the extent that mentally abnormal individuals have been involved in the relevant movements, that has been a consequence, not a cause.

Looking at voting data, there does seem to be a problem with American white men voting Republican, but that was the case already in 2012, when they would have elected Romney. The problem needs to be understood, but I definitely don’t think that it’s their insufficient interest in character. And likewise, I think there are much more important reasons to prefer Clinton to Trump than her ‘superior character’.

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