Trumpism after Trump

by John Quiggin on June 29, 2020

Predicting election outcomes is always risky (for example, the People’s Action Party could lose the current election in Singapore), but life involves taking some risks. So I’m going to predict that Trump is going to lose in November, and lose badly*. He is far behind in the polls, substantially further than in 2016. More relevantly perhaps, the resurgence of the pandemic in Arizona, Florida and Texas has ended any chance that the economy will be successfully reopened and the pandemic clearly under control by November, not to mention giving the citizens of those states very personal reasons to vote against him.

What will happen to Trumpism after Trump’s defeat, in the US and globally? Here are some very disorganised thoughts.

A big part of Trump’s appeal is that he is a winner, and a big part of Trumpist mythology comes from wins against the odds, as with Brexit and Johnson and, more periphally, with the re-election of the Morrison government in Australia (which had the good sense to dump most of its ideology for the duration of the crisis, but is now returning to its roots). With that gone, Trump’s support will be much weakened So, the stage will be set for a fight in which the hard neoliberals who controlled the party before Trump attempt to reassert themselves, breaking with Trump’s explicit racism while still trying to keep the Repubs white voting base behind them.

On the other hand, Trump has lots of supporters who will refuse to accept the reality of a defeat (not enough, I think, and particularly not enough in positions of power, for him to stop the election or overturn its result). And there are more competent Trumpists, in the mould of Viktor Orban, keen to push an ethnonationlist, racist and authoritarian policy program without Trump’s clownish demagoguery.

Internationally, a defeat for Trump probably won’t make much difference to the ethnonationalist voting base of the Trumpist right. That base has always been there, ready to turn out whenever some other group can be identified as the enemy. But it will, I think, have a significant effect on the right wing of the political class. Some of them will find themselves outside the bounds of legitimate discussion (this is already happening in a small way in Australia), while others will engage in some quick reinvention.

The big question is whether hard neoliberalism can recover. On the one hand, the financial sector still has huge economic power, which usually translates into political power. And the common-sense economics of the Swabian housewife still retains its grip on many. On the other hand, just about everything that is identified with hard neoliberalism (globalisation of trade and financial flows, the hypertrophic growth of the financial sector, trickle-down economics and more) is massively unpopular. That’s particularly true of those under 40, who never experienced the illusory prosperity of the 1990s, or the crises of the 1970s (minor by comparison with the last decade, but a massive shock to expectations conditioned by the postwar boom).

The best hope for the US right is that Biden and the Democrats are unable to fix the catastrophic mess they will inherit. More on this soon, perhaps.

  • I meant to have a footnote about the possibility of Trump rejecting the election outcome, but covered it with a parenthetical statement.

{ 112 comments }

1

Hidari 06.29.20 at 6:47 am

Two points, not particularly profound, but which both support points made in the OP.

First, to stress the point made in paragraph 4, it is, and has been for years, a point of honour amongst ‘Normie Dems’ that Trump is an aspiring dictator* (no evidence for this has ever been produced, although it is probably true that some of Trump’s, shall we say, more enthusiastic supporters, would probably like him to be).

Given that Trump has turned out to be an unusually weak (not strong) President, as Corey Robin predicted on these very pages (the comparisons with Jimmy Carter seem better and better, especially, of course, in terms of him being a 1 term President) the current form this takes is that if/when Trump loses, he will ‘refuse to leave office’ and the US will finally become a fascist dictatorship and etc. and so on.

Here is Fred Kaplan (hardly the most radical of writers) stating why that simply cannot happen.

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/06/trump-election-refusal-leave.html

If Trump loses, he will leave office. End of story. And Trump’s grotesque mismanagement of the Coronavirus has happened because he was too ‘weak’ not too ‘strong’ (as not a few people pointed out, if Trump really was an aspiring dictator, the virus was his ‘Reichstag Fire’ moment, when he could easily have suspended core civil liberties, or even postponed/cancelled the election. Of course he never did anything of the sort, and nor did he plan to, at any point).

Second point: last paragraph of the OP. Yes this has occurred to me as well. When Labour (unexpectedly) lost the GE in 1992, people (consoling themselves) argued that this ‘was a good election to lose’ as the economic fallout of the ERM decision was so bad that it would ‘tar’ the Tories with the ‘brush’ of economic incompetence.

Unlike most of these ‘feelgood’ stories, this one turned out to be actually true, and the Tories’ loss of their reputation for economic competence directly led to the 3 term Blair administration under Labour.

The Republicans (many of whom have, let’s face it, always been fairly equivocal about Trump) won’t be happy losing the election (who would be?) but they may well feel that, on balance, it’s a ‘good election to lose’. The US economy is presumably going to be a smoking charred wreck by November. What is needed to fix it is radical action, the likes of which we haven’t seen since FDR. Hence the writings of pro-Biden propagandists that Biden ‘realises the depth of the problem’ and ‘sees himself as a new FDR’.

Do we really believe this? Well it’s a test of your gullibility, I guess.

But, yes, as JQ writes: if the economic situation in 2021 is as bad as it currently looks like being, and if Biden fails to rise to the challenge, it may well lead to a huge backlash in the Congressional elections of 2022. With Congress back in the hands of the Republicans, they may well be able to stymie any ‘progressive’ aspect to Biden’s Presidency (assuming there is any) as they did to Obama’s, and this may well lead to a massive backlash against Biden (assuming the economic situation continues to get worse) which would mean that Biden becomes a 1 term President. This is all very hypothetical, but it’s the Republicans’ best shot.

Finally, this all assumes that Trump loses. As the Democrats would like you to forget, before Covid-19 Trump looked as if he was going to cruise to victory in 2020 (and Democrats might well want to spend a bit more time thinking about why that was). Obviously Covid-19 has put a stop to that, at least for now, but it just shows how quickly things can change in a few months. ‘Events, dear boy, events’.

*And why would be it Normie Dems who most assiduously put forward this theory? Cui Bono?

2

nobody 06.29.20 at 7:18 am

I am not optimistic that the death toll from COVID-19 in R-leaning swing states will tip the balance against Trump.

Current COVID-19 fatality statistics show that the pandemic is primarily killing Democratic-leaning demographics. A few hundred thousand dead African-Americans, Hispanics, poor, and (given the current shift in infection demographics) under-40s won’t bother Trump’s base at all. Indeed, much of the Trump base will be pleased by it. Mass death among groups identified as the other by the GOP base will not turn the base against Trump.

Further, if the worst case COVID-19 fatality scenario (~1% population death rate) materializes in the swing states–and there is no reason, at this point, to assume that it won’t–it’s possible that the pandemic will simply kill enough Democrats to tip the states firmly red.

It’s far from beyond the bounds of possibility that the kinds of _________ who lead Republican election strategy are banking on the pandemic to ‘cleanse’ (in the ‘ethnic cleansing’ sense) critical states of Democrats, and they are possibly even obstructing pandemic response to make sure it happens.

I will, of course, be pleased if Trump is defeated in November, but I feel the US is too far beyond the point of no return for that to happen.

Even if Trump goes, Biden, like Obama and Clinton, will fail to accomplish anything positive for the median American. The root of American rot will still be in place in the form of the over-representation of rural states in the Senate (and in the person of Mitch McConnell) and there’s nothing that can be done about that without tearing up the constitution and replacing it with one that honors the concept of one person, one vote. Unless the constitution is fundamentally changed, white ethnonationalism will ultimately win no matter how many speedbump Democratic presidents are put in its way.

3

ph 06.29.20 at 8:34 am

Many thanks for the great post. I’m looking forward to the comments, the asterisk explained, and whatever you add next Congrats!

4

J-D 06.29.20 at 8:37 am

I will, of course, be pleased if Trump is defeated in November, but I feel the US is too far beyond the point of no return for that to happen.

Even if Trump goes, Biden, like Obama and Clinton, will fail to accomplish anything positive for the median American. The root of American rot will still be in place in the form of the over-representation of rural states in the Senate (and in the person of Mitch McConnell) and there’s nothing that can be done about that without tearing up the constitution and replacing it with one that honors the concept of one person, one vote. Unless the constitution is fundamentally changed, white ethnonationalism will ultimately win no matter how many speedbump Democratic presidents are put in its way.

At this stage, the realistic possibilities include all of the following:
Trump is re-elected President;
Biden is elected President, but the Republicans retain their Senate majority and use it to block any Democratic legislative agenda;
Biden is elected President, the Democrats achieve a Senate majority, but they are unwilling to use it to cut back the power of a Senate minority (of over two-fifths), and any Democratic legislative agenda is still blocked;
Biden is elected President, the Democrats achieve a Senate majority, and they use it to place some limits on the filibuster and push through a moderate legislative agenda;
Biden is elected President, the Democrats achieve Senate majority, and they use it to limit the filibuster drastically or eliminate it entirely and then push through a dramatic legislative agenda.

(To this should be added that one thing the Trump Presidency has reconfirmed (if it needed reconfirmation) that there are some things a President can’t do with legislation, but a lot that a President can do without legislation.)

I wouldn’t put money on any of the possibilities I have listed, but I wouldn’t bet against any of them, either.

5

Matt 06.29.20 at 9:23 am

a big part of Trumpist mythology comes from wins against the odds, as with …more periphally, with the re-election of the Morrison government in Australia

Because I can’t vote (not being a citizen) I don’t follow Australian politics as closely as I might, but my impression was that Morrison and the “Liberals” were expected to win, and the only surprise is that they won quite as big as they did. Is that wrong? It wasn’t a surprise to me – Australia is a pretty conservative country that has mostly been governed by conservatives, and the Labor party was pretty mealy-mouthed, even more so than the Democrats are often portrayed as being.

Sadly, I don’t think Trump’s defeat will have too much effect on the global scene. He was a lagging indicator, behind many European governments, for example, and many of his very bad developments on immigration have been essentially copies of Australian policy from the late 90s on, to take a concrete example. It would be great if he (and the possible defeat of the right-wing government in Poland) is an indicator of things to come, but he was more following the trend globally than leading in. (The one exception is perhaps Brazil. Let’s hope they throw out their Trump soon, too.)

6

nastywoman 06.29.20 at 9:58 am

As there is this theory that ”Trumpism” is – ”Teh Rule Of The Utmost STUPID” –
there for sure will be a lot less stupidity in my US homeland after Trump is gone – but still enough – that it might not change the suicidal stupidity of far too many of my fellow Americans in their… let’s call it: ”Very Individualistic Approach to teh Virus” –

BUT at least so many now have learned – with the help of the Birther Trump – that ”Racism” is a very, very bad idea – and let’s predict that the HUUUGEST change (ATD – After The Idiot”) – will come from the BLM movement – as it also has energised so many of my ”white friends” -(or ”Mutt’s”- like me) – AND not only in America – but ”in the Whole Wide World”!

AND – Yes! – Trump will be ”gone back golfing”!
-(as I have far too many bet’s on it – and never ever lost a bet – about ”US Presidential Erections”)

AND about the… weird? – discussion if Trump has been a ”strong” or a ”week” President…

He has been far more ”stronger” than any President of my Lifetime in ”just doing whatever the f… he felt like doing” – and as I sometimes have to watch a toddler too – and he is far more ”exzentrisch” as Trump – we just taught him – that he HAS to wait for the second Marshmallow –
(if you guys know what I mean)
AND as:
”Don’t be a Trump”! –
OR:
”Warte, warte nur ein Weilchen denn kommt Trump auch zu dir –
mit dem kleinen Hackebeilchen und macht Hackfleisch auch aus dir’!-
has become the scariest threat for children -(and Grown-Ups alike)
Trump also helped a lot – to successfully push back against the other Right-WingIdiots
of this Planet!

7

tm 06.29.20 at 9:59 am

Hidari: “before Covid-19 Trump looked as if he was going to cruise to victory in 2020”

Trump is and was, at any point in his presidency, unpopular. He was and is a minority president who was never able to muster substantially more than 40% approval. All presidents have bouts of low approval numbers but only Trump has managed to keep his numbers consistently low (https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/trump-approval-ratings/). Trump can only “win” the election by gaming the system and manipulation, as he managed to do spectacularly in 2016. It is still not impossible that he “wins” again in this way but an honest electoral majority was always out of reach, and he and his party are well aware of that fact, which is why the usual strategies of vote suppression are being used massively.

I generally do not think that discussing poll numbers is a fruitful use of our time (I thought so in 2016 as well), and so I’ll stop here. But please stop the mythologizing of Trump.

“Trump has turned out to be an unusually weak (not strong) President”

“Weak” or strong” defined how exactly? One can imagine a number of definitions (try for a moment to think how to apply a conistent set of criteria to statesmen of the past), for example the persistence of the legacy left by that president. That can only be assessed in hindsight but Trump’s merits with respect to hastening the burning of the planet will very likely be recognized by future generations, if they manage to survive.

8

Cranky Observer 06.29.20 at 11:39 am

As I USian I had thought that Gulf War II and its aftermath had probably set the American Empire on an irreversible road to decline and exit, and that seems to be playing out. The Trump reign now also seems to me to have done irrecoverable damage to US prestige and standing throughout the world. I don’t see how Biden or anyone else can reverse those trends no matter how avuncular they may be since the rest of the world cannot trust that he/she won’t be followed by another Trump or worse.

Hidari – if passing a $3 trillion tax cut that permanantly cripples the Federal Government, packing the courts with like-minded ideologues, whacking off ~50% of the already very weak ACA, destroying the CFPB, EPA, Park Service, and Justice Departments among others, and selling off millions of acres of irreplaceable public land constitutes weakness perhaps it is better that we didn’t see strength.

9

J-D 06.29.20 at 11:41 am

… Australia is a pretty conservative country that has mostly been governed by conservatives …

If you’re thinking in terms of who wins elections, it depends on which countries you use for the comparison. For example, the Australian Labor Party (ALP)has been less successful in winning elections than its Swedish equivalent but more successful than its UK equivalent. It also depends on which parties you use for the comparison. For example, the ALP has been less successful in winning elections than the Liberal Party in Canada, but more successful than the New Democratic Party: which do you consider the closer equivalent?

10

Neel Krishnaswami 06.29.20 at 11:46 am

That’s particularly true of those under 40, who never experienced the illusory prosperity of the 1990s[…]

At least in the US, the 90s boom was real, not illusory. The technological basis of this boom was real: this was the period of the first large-scale adoption of the Internet and GUI interfaces to computers. Furthermore, prosperity was genuinely widely shared, because the US reached its highest recorded levels of labour force participation, which resulted in substantial wage pressure including at the bottom of the income distribution.

11

Hidari 06.29.20 at 12:05 pm

One other thing occurs to me. The OP states:

‘So, the stage will be set for a fight in which the hard neoliberals who controlled the party before Trump attempt to reassert themselves…’

I wonder if this fight won’t break out sooner. Trump’s ratings, considering his historical unpopularity and his mismanagement of the Covid-19 crisis haven’t been too bad so far. Part of the reason for this is the huge amount of help available to the unemployed etc.

But this help runs out in August, (https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/28/extra-600-dollars-in-weekly-unemployment-benefits-runs-out-in-july.html) and various neoliberals (and others ‘concerned’ about the ‘deficit’) want to cut back these benefits, hard. If this happens, not to put too fine a point on it, Trump will lose and lose big. So there is a huge political incentive for Trump to face down neoliberal Republicans and keep the ‘stimulus’ going (and indeed, it is very much in Trump’s interests right now to ditch the rulebook and go full Keynesian…’dying for a principle’ is completely alien to Trump’s mindset, which, as the OP correctly states, is all about ‘winning’ and being seen to win).

I wonder who will win this battle. If the ‘grown ups’ and ‘fiscally responsible Conservatives’ win then Trump is toast.

12

Lee A. Arnold 06.29.20 at 1:03 pm

Hard neoliberalism is poised to reassert austerity to cure government budget deficits. In the US the entire Republican Party and much of the Democratic Party will fall into line. Meanwhile increasing global complexity and crowding will frustrate and defeat the comprehension of individuals, and so authoritarianism will be a constant factor.

People will continue to blame globalization and immigration for job losses without acknowledging that industrial jobs are declining worldwide. Nowadays even service sector careers are volatile and incomes are limited. Rates of new business formation have declined for decades — at the same time as interest rates have declined, so there’s been no lack of investment that was available.

This is all because, absent shocks like the financial crash or covid-19, we are entering an era in which we can produce enough supply for everyone’s basic needs to be met. That is “post-scarcity.”

We can do this in a way which does not harm the remaining natural areas of the biosphere, and which restores other spoiled areas to ecosystemic health. There are a couple of keys to this: 1. Innovation in materials science and energy science (because economic growth does not have to increase material throughput nor poisonous forms of entropy waste; Buckminster Fuller was correct). 2. Creation of institutions which focus directly on the distribution of human necessities. These institutions could be non-market or part-market (such as single-payers, i.e. government monopsonies) and their working structures are political questions that may change with circumstance. 3. Social acceptance of individual careers which are creative but do not generate a market income.

Against the coming authoritarian austerity, it will be a fight over the meaning of money and the ownership of the monetary system.

13

Mike Huben 06.29.20 at 1:34 pm

There is no Trumpism. There IS a plutocratic and neoliberal coalition that controls the Republican party and its ideology. For decades that coalition has been training right-wingers to believe confident liars, and when Trump came along as the most confident liar around, he hijacked the nomination. Trump himself has no policies that could be called Trumpism: he only has self-aggrandizement.

What we will see post-Trump is that there will be hagiographic glorification of Trump, complete with an extensive conspiracy apologetics explaining the stacked deck against the great man. Because the right cannot admit to failures and needs mythology instead.

14

steven t johnson 06.29.20 at 2:03 pm

The thing about Merkel isn’t being a housewife, which she isn’t and apparently never was. The thing about Merkel is being a PK (Preacher’s Kid,) complete with a mind corrupted with nonsense basically about God arranges the world and it’s sinful for men to defy His will in the name of justice; fundamental attribution errors about the evil wills of whole categories of people; inability to imagine God would inflict catastrophe on good people; a host of other defects of intellect that are all the more damaging for being unconscious. And, yes, you can have an advanced degree in a science and still compartmentalize, especially if you have been trained by religion to disbelieve in reality, which is what believing in God means.

Hidari@1 foolishly relies on Corey Robin to deny reality. It is entirely unclear how Trump’s military budget shows him as a weak leader. It is entirely unclear how the actual conduct of US foreign policy in trade shows him as a weak leader. It is entirely unclear how anyone but faux populists think Trump really wanted to end wars and thus his “failure” shows he is a weak leader. It is entirely unclear how his judicial appointments show him as a weak leader. It is, somehow, even more unclear why his campaign to trash government and disrupt legislative oversight isn’t seen as a goal, much less how his success in this shows him to be a weak leader. As to the general notion that Trump “aspires” to be a dictator, he has clearly shown that he thinks the presidency is far more like a dictatorship in practice than any sensible person thinks. Why he should want to say he’s so unamerican as to be a dictator is beyond me. That would be confessing and winners never confess!

Hidari is also incorrect that Obama was stymied by a Republican backlash in his first mid-terms. Obama reneged on his admittedly vague promise for change. He stymied his supposed program. The Republican surge was partly a direct consequence of that (along with the usual reasons the presidential party frequently does worse in the first mid-terms.)

tm@7 is correct about Trump’s popularity (which has nothing to do with his strength or weakness as a “leader.” But the notion Trump gamed the system in 2016 is pro-Trump mythologizing, or Hilary hate. He just got lucky. The thing is, the game is rigged. Polls now are irrelevant, save in helping to drive the rich donor class to return to the Democratic Party…but I don’t think it’ll work. Rich advertisers are still giving Trump a safe

Typically polling isn’t reliable until people start finalizing their decision. That decision specifically includes whether to vote at all. The current wave of protests is already failing to provoke significant change and is as likely to end with repudiation of all white candidates, by not voting for them. Turnout is everything. But there is no guarantee of a large turnout, especially from minorities. The drop in the black turnout appears to have been a major factor in Clinton’s defeat in 2016.

15

Chip Daniels 06.29.20 at 2:08 pm

I think the fact that appeals to “Law & Order” are failing, and the response to Covid 19 exemplify that the Trumpists are the revolutionary insurgent party, even when they hold power.

They hold the minority viewpoint in all the critical political and cultural issues and the future is not looking favorably to them. This explains their increasing need for authoritarian solutions to impose their minority viewpoints.

For insurgents, chaos and instability, not law and order are paths to success. In 2016, the Russian meddling, the trolling, the ability to create division and suspicion were ways to weaken the Democratic regime of which Hillary was the heir and banner carrier.

Insurgents don’t need a positive or even coherent message to storm the castle; But once inside, they do need the ability to transition from insurgency to governing. Trumpism has an ideology of white supremacy, but no desire to build a governing coalition; His various Cabinet heads have no interest in their departments, no idea of what they might want to do with them other then stock them with loyal apparatchiks.

Trumpism can be compared to the Seattle CHOP or Occupy; They captured the territory, but now have no idea what to do with it. And at some point the revolution needs to deliver the goods.

16

nastywoman 06.29.20 at 2:39 pm

@
”but Trump’s merits with respect to hastening the burning of the planet will very likely be recognized by future generations, if they manage to survive”.

As it already has been recognized by recognizing Trump as absolutely – totally –
”FIRST”!
as ”the planet’s climate diligent destroyer” –
and perhaps I should NOT quote the other ”nicknames” – he already is known by –
far and white at Fridays for Future – as ”BabyTrump” probably would be very, velly hurt AND… ”sad” – if IT would hear them?

17

david 06.29.20 at 3:10 pm

There’s an asterisk. Where’s the footnote? :p

18

hix 06.29.20 at 4:10 pm

At least Johnson had the decency to flip flop after roundabout 30000 unecessary death. Florida alone is already set for a similar unecessary death toll among 22 instead of 64 million and there is still no sign at all for a change in course. What are they thinking. Right now their delusional fans still fall for their lies, sure. That can´t possible be the case anymore once the predictable death toll is there in a couple of weaks. Once everybody knows someone who died the economy should be the least of considerations even for hardcore Trumpists. This makes no sense, not even in terms of a cynical power calculus. One really has to start thinking those Republican elites in charge all are just extremly incompetent, all of them not just Trump.

19

Andres 06.29.20 at 4:37 pm

While the nice possibilities that John talks about are more likely, let me inject some (warranted?) pessimism. John does not mention the worst possibility, which is even worse than an outright Trump victory: That Trump loses the popular vote by a similar or larger margin than in 2016 but the Republicans still manage to actively suppress enough Democratic votes (and possibly pull off one or more Florida 2000 shenanigans) in the swing states to have the electoral college declare him president, while control of Congress is unchanged.

If that happens, it becomes evident to everyone who is not mind-controlled that the U.S. is a de facto dictatorship not simply of the Republican party but of its nationalist/white-supremacist wing, with the neoliberal/neocon wing tagging along because they think the Democrats are worse. Which domestically, means more of the same: Continued spread of and deaths from COVID-19 until a vaccine is found, more violent police counter-demonstrations, an increasingly visible white supremacist movement acting in parallel opposition to BLM demonstrations and a state of cold, undeclared civil war throughout the country.

Globally, another four years for the Clownstick means more murderous misbehavior by not-so democratic U.S. allies, including an acceleration of war in Yemen and suppression of opposition in Brazil, among other nice possibilities. And Russia and China becoming even more intransigent, with a likely violent suppression of HK protesters as a possibility.

I find the comparison between Trump and other weak one-term presidents to be misleading, whether or not it is correct. Carter may have been a weak president, but he didn’t damage the country because he led a stable political party that was not entering an ideological death spiral the way the Republicans started to do so in the 1970’s. By contrast James Buchanan may have been the weakest president in U.S. history, but the two things he managed to do–persuading a swing SCOTUS justice to provide a broad pro-Southern decision on Dred Scott v. Sandford and looking the other way while some in his cabinet armed the future confederate army–nearly destroyed the U.S. It is not the man in the White House that matters so much as the faction he speaks for and the party it controls; a weak president will actually be worse than a strong one if the faction he represents is driving off a cliff, so to speak.

20

mary s 06.29.20 at 5:45 pm

I’m not buying the premise that there’s a real difference between Trump and the “neoliberals.” Though I’m sure the Republican elites would (now) like to think so — or, more importantly, would like the rest of us to believe. The reign of Trump is the ultimate expression of modern Republican values and goals, which boil down to perpetuating the culture war (aka white supremacy) and rigging the dysfunctional US political system in various ways so that the government can continue to funnel wealth to the wealthy.

I do think that Trumpism is a kind of cult. I’m not sure what the cult members will do if he loses in November.

21

bianca steele 06.29.20 at 6:10 pm

Here’s a prediction for 2024: Biden and Trump will both be too old to run, and they represent the last of the generation of men who can successfully perform the role of “responsible leader” to masses of people from conservative to left-centrist, and on down into the farther left, including those sensible souls who-don’t-like-it-but-know-what-the-electorate-will-accept.

There is no possibility of a continuance of this style. Those younger than the Clinton-GWB generation (who will also be too old) who are intellectually and temperamentally closest to it don’t look like it. They don’t act in a way the world expects it to act. They don’t have the personal histories the world expects it to have. If they’re white and male, they’re missing something essential to it. If they’re conservative enough to come close to it, they’re probably not white and male. Clinton, GWB, and Obama were as far as the electorate was willing to go away from it, and the reaction was swift.

I’m not going to speculate on what happened in the world, largely during my lifetime, to create this state of affairs. But our unwillingness to support people who don’t look like Biden or Conrad Hilton is not going to make leaders in that mold miraculously appear. We see this in the effort to pretend Trump is what people pretend he is. In the best case, we’ll see it after the Biden administration when a successor can’t be found who lives up to it. The right will probably fall in line behind doofus libertarians who give lip service to religion even if they sound too individualistic and unserious. The left and liberals will have to decide whether they prefer the manly, superficially compassionate style of a white male pol who isn’t smart enough to choose competent advisers or choose his words carefully, or someone from one of the mutually incompatible groupings non-white-male progressive leaders will be coming from.

22

chedolf 06.29.20 at 6:59 pm

nobody: I will, of course, be pleased if Trump is defeated in November, but I feel the US is too far beyond the point of no return for that to happen.

If it makes you feel better, I predicted just after Trump announced his candidacy in 2015 that he would destroy the GOP field and then beat Hillary in the general election, but I think he will lose this year.

23

Mike 06.29.20 at 7:24 pm

“The big question is whether hard neoliberalism can recover.”

Yes, and also: what can be done to prevent it from recovering?

As you say, some of the right wing will go down with the ship, but “others will engage in some quick reinvention”. I think the thing to do, then, is make that reinvention as difficult as possible, starting now while they’re still stuck with Trump. Make the GOP’s showing in 2016-2020 (and 2020 in particular) their brand. Don’t let anyone forget their cowardice and servility towards Trump, nor their cruelty and incompetence.

Joseph O’Neill had a good NYRB piece recently on how the Democrats should approach branding (paywalled, sorry: https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2020/05/28/brand-new-democrats/ ). Much of what he says about negative branding there is relevant:

“The party of Trump,” however potent, is transitory. When Trump leaves the scene, the GOP will find itself stuck with an identity and raison d’être that will have lost its basic logic. (It’s true that dynastic fantasies abound, but neither Don Jr. nor Ivanka Trump has their father’s unique appeal and dominance.) Second, Trumpism has made explicit the GOP’s hatred of, rather than disagreement with, people who oppose it. Of course, partisan disparagement has long been a Republican tactic. The word “liberal” became such an effective term of abuse that by the 1990s even many liberals were embarrassed by it. Belittlement signals solidarity to the base, conveys the impression of Democrats as weaklings and illegitimates, and tacitly asserts the über-legitimacy of Republican ideology and interests. But before 2016 the ideological viciousness of the GOP—its abhorrence of minorities, of “coastal elites,” of the poor—was obscured by a certain corporate deportment, talk of “compassionate conservatism,” and fables of market forces. Trump has changed that. The Republican Party is now visibly and authentically aligned with racism, vulgarity, sexism, and brutality. That may excite its base, but a lot of Americans don’t like it. That’s a big problem for the GOP, which has long based its marketing on “values.”

The most vulnerable part of the Trump–GOP brand, however, may not be how Republicans comport themselves but what they do when in power. The much-touted great economy has crashed—and in any case it was essentially the Obama economy plus greatly increased deficits, plunging industrial production, trade chaos, and enormous farming bailouts. Our national security is shockingly compromised by the corrupt influence of foreign despots and the disastrous federal and gubernatorial mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic. Our energy policy is owned by fossil fuel interests. To cap it all, the Republican Party is bent on undermining the American commitment to the rule of law and fair elections. Registered voters approved of Senator Mitt Romney’s impeachment vote to convict Trump by eleven points.

The current Republican “product” is historically terrible. At this moment of liberal outrage and GOP brand instability, Democrats have an extraordinary opportunity to cement in the minds of Americans that Democrats can be trusted to govern and Republicans cannot.

The Democratic story about the GOP would be designed for a particular audience. The audience isn’t the Democratic base, which already has a strongly negative perception of the GOP. Nor can it be the Republican base, whose gut feelings are fixed. The audience for negative branding is squishy voters who occasionally check the (R) box, which they associate with competence and patriotism. Currently, that audience may be smaller than usual, but it is crucial. We’re talking, as always, about winning at the margins and winning for years. Democrats want marginal Republican voters to feel that they can’t trust the Republican Party—not anymore. There’s something off about those guys.

There’s your master narrative, by the way: Republicans can’t be trusted anymore. “Anymore” is important, because your audience may have a history or culture of trusting them. The nature of your audience also dictates that your messaging can’t consist of trashing the other side. That would backfire. Your messaging goal is simply to make your audience feel uncomfortable about what (R) now stands for.

When, at some point in the future, the GOP tries to distance itself from Trumpism, Democrats should already have affixed in people’s minds that the GOP, not Trump, is the problem. What Democrats cannot do, at any point, is help the GOP rehabilitate its own brand.

24

Andres 06.29.20 at 8:42 pm

tm @7: “Trump can only “win” the election by gaming the system and manipulation, as he managed to do spectacularly in 2016. It is still not impossible that he “wins” again in this way but an honest electoral majority was always out of reach, and he and his party are well aware of that fact, which is why the usual strategies of vote suppression are being used massively.”

I wish I could agree with this, but I can’t. Everything I’ve read on 2016 indicates that while there was voter suppression on the Republican part, what put Trump over the top in Michigan, etc. was a low turnout of potential Democratic voters and even non-negligible Democratic-to-Republican switchovers compared to 2012. So 2016 was an honest victory for Trump insofar as one can call the Electoral College (and the compulsion of all of a state’s electors to vote for their state’s popular vote winner) an honest institution along with the rest of the Constitution.

It is possible that we may get a 2000 election repeat, where Trump only gets re-elected because one or more states put him over the top by (a) suppressing Democratic votes Florida-style through disenfranchising people with alleged criminal records, (b) suppressing Democratic votes by prohibiting mail-in-ballots while the pandemic rages, or even (c) in close states, having the Republican state election officials certify a Republican victory even though Democrats can provide documentation that the result went narrowly the other way. If such suppression gives Trump the margin of victory in one or more of the swing states and this gets him over the top in the electoral college, then Trump and the Republicans will once again have won by stealing the election and will bring the U.S. one step closer to an us vs. them blowup.

But I think it also still possible for Trump to win a non-stolen electoral college victory if Democratic turnout is low. Let’s face it: the people who have been energized by the BLM protests and/or outraged by the botched response to COVID-19 and police brutality were already going to vote Democratic. It is the on-the-fence, apolitical swing voters who just might vote Democratic (Mike @23’s “squishy voters”) who will be the deciding factor, and while such a voter might blame recent events on Trump, it is also possible that he/she will be distinctly uninspired by the Democratic presidential ticket. In other words an honest 2016-style Trump victory could still happen. Which would highlight that the problem is just as much the Constitution’s setup of the Senate/electoral college/SCOTUS as it is the Republicans themselves.

There is a further possibility: more incidents of police brutality lead to further social explosions not just of mass demonstrations, but also of looting and even retaliatory violence against police. In which case the squishy voters could well swing back to Law and Order voting and pull Trump over the top in the key states.

So while I wish I could say that Trump can only win by voter suppression, that is far from being the case.

25

Hidari 06.29.20 at 8:53 pm

@21

Here’s Andrew O’Hehir on why, long-term, the Republicans are fucked, but (surprise!) the Democrats are fucked too, for the same reason.

‘Are Joe Biden and the Democrats poised to win a sweeping victory this fall, repudiating the legacy of Donald Trump and winning control of both houses of Congress for the first time in a decade? Yes, or at least that’s how it looks right now. But don’t let that fool you: They’re still a total mess, internally divided, ideologically rudderless, committed to symbolism over substance and run by a feeble and delusional gerontocracy. Other than that, though, everything’s great. Vote blue no matter who!…

Democrats are once again chasing public opinion like a dimwitted Labrador chasing a minivan — this time on coronavirus relief, national health care and law enforcement reform — just as they previously did on marriage equality and marijuana legalization. To be fair, their confusion is understandable: Who do they really represent: the white suburban moderates who elected 40 new Democrats to the House in the 2018 midterms, and who poured out in extraordinary numbers to support Biden over Sanders? Or the rebellious progressives who seem intent on overthrowing the establishment in local and state elections?

Amid the pandemic and the national explosion of outrage against police brutality, Joe Biden is nearly irrelevant. He’s a placeholder, the guy who happens to be standing there and is more or less capable of adult behavior at a moment when the public (understandably enough) yearns for it. He may become president, but he will never be more than a historical footnote….

It’s the Republicans who are conventionally regarded as the party for fearful older people, suckered in by Sean Hannity and late-night gold-bug infomercials. But nearly the entire Democratic congressional leadership now consists of multi-millionaires over 70 — the top two House Democrats, Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, are 80 and 81, respectively — and their 2020 nominee will become the oldest president in history on the day of his inauguration, should that event occur.

One way to understand the Democrats’ dilemma in confronting both Donald Trump and Black Lives Matter is that the first major generational conflict since the 1960s has suddenly broken out. Both our major political parties stand with old people now, and they’re running out of time.’

https://www.salon.com/2020/06/29/the-democrats-dilemma-supposedly-theyre-winning–but-their-leaders-keep-on-losing/

In the same issue, Matthew Rozsa on why, even if Biden is good, he is unlikely to be good enough.

https://www.salon.com/2020/06/28/joe-biden-wants-to-be-the-next-fdr–but-that-wont-be-enough-to-solve-our-crises/

We come to a fundamental problem: neoconservatism and neoliberalism are both dead: Trumpism has a future but (probably) mainly outside the US, and the left, in the United States and the UK is simply dead, at least for the time being. Meanwhile we are faced with deeper and more complex problems than perhaps any generation in human history and our political system, at least with the present leadership and the current system, is simply not up to the challenge.

26

Mr Spoon 06.29.20 at 8:57 pm

My prophetic viscera tell me Trump will win in 2020 along the lines of the GWB win in 2000. A close election with enough disputed returns due to generational Republican gerrymandering and control of judiciaries will bring him back from the dead, smug, orange and embalmed. The 2024 election: Junior. After that, based on the close parallels between the Decline and Fall of the American Empire and the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a succession of coups with actors from various parts of the military, and then the Canadians will invade.

27

nastywoman 06.29.20 at 9:24 pm

and nearly all of these comments here read – as if the World wouldn’t have seen the HUUUUGEST Revolution of our Lifetime – with all of these – political labels – from the ”Ancient Times B.V. (Before the Virus) obsolete…

AND I really wonder:
Haven’t y’all’s lives completely turned UP Side down?!
Everybody – I know – knows that nothing – NADA will be like B.V. EVER again –
and especially NOT… ancient (political?) labels like ”Trumpism” –
(what was/is that anywhoo?)
Or
”Neoliberalism” –
(what is/was that anywhoo?!)

And so – as complete chaos rules -(especially in my homeland) can’t you guys come up at least with some basic wisdom of a Dr. Fauci – who said – kind of – if y’all don’t believe in (some kind) of Science – and… Structure? – y’all ”Trumped”.

While – as @14 forgot to tell US –
”The thing about Merkel is NOT ”being a PK (Preacher’s Kid)” -which might have come ”complete with a mind corrupted with nonsense basically about God arranges the world and it’s sinful for men to defy”.
NO! –
the very pleasant… thing about Merkel -(who I never liked – because I thought her ”politics” were far too ”conservative”)… so the very pleasant thing about her was/is – that in the face of a crisis – which has turned ALL of our Lives completely UP Side down – she really proved NOT to be STUPID!
(and that saved a lot of lives – Right?)

28

Kiwanda 06.29.20 at 11:03 pm

One certainty, if Trump loses, is that Republicans will once again find the fiscal probity and deep concern about the deficit that is their bedrock principle, when the president is a Democrat. We will once again hear from the media the grave warnings about ballooning deficits that are an enduring feature of Democratic presidential terms. The critical urgency of limiting the power of the presidency, of ensuring that the president be confined to the solemn duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed”, will once again be a hallmark of Republican governing philosophy. The profound importance of character, of respect for the office as expressed in suit color, of saluting crisply, of not playing golf, of low reliance on teleprompters, of using secure email servers, and of vacationing in the U.S. and not Hawaii, will return to their central position in Republican discourse. As always.

29

Anarcissie 06.29.20 at 11:11 pm

Mr. O’Neill’s article reads like a sales letter from an Advertising Man. One is reminded that the only thing advertising has to sell is itself. And so, all the client needs is a new look, a new label, a new brand, and all will be well. However, that kind of thing is not going to cure the problems of the Democratic Party. It is truly odd, this late in the day, to see this kind of gesticulating and shadow-boxing going on. There is nothing left to vote for but image and tribe, and in a country that is still mostly White, fantasies to the contrary notwithstanding, I fear the outcome may be rather unpleasant.

30

Chetan Murthy 06.30.20 at 12:30 am

I often butt heads with Andres @ 19, but this time he is right, and Hidari @ 1 is …. so far away from reality as to not even be wrong.

“weak leader” != “not a dictator”

Kaiser Quisling is an incompetent leader, and so far (until sometime in January 2020) we all thanked our lucky stars for that, b/c we (up till then rightly concluded “he’s too incompetent to get his authoritarian visions enacted”). But then, well, turned out that the Rona didn’t care if your leader was authoritarian: what it cared about was whether he was competent. Ah, well.

He has displayed again and again all the signs of wanting to be a dictator in the mold of Hitler, right down wanting mass pogroms of people of color. And he’s tried as much as he can manage, to make those things happen, too. He’s just not that competent, and (as Dunning&Kruger predicted) he doesn’t hire competent people very often, either. And Andres is 100% right, that one of the things we have to be aware of, is that they will try to steal this election. And if it happens, then it’s no longer a cold civil war: it’ll start heating up, and the soft, comfortable, middle-class citizenry will have to start making the sorts of hard choices heretofore only demanded of the undocumented and the poor. Because shit will get real.

31

Chetan Murthy 06.30.20 at 12:30 am

I should have said “heretofore only demanded of the undocumented, the poor, and people of color”. Sorry about that.

32

Robert Weston 06.30.20 at 2:10 am

OP: “The big question is whether hard neoliberalism can recover.”

If the GOP reacts to a defeat the way it has since the 1990s – i.e. doubling down – and regains Congress in 2022, then, hard neoliberalism is what we’ll have in the short term, in the form of brinksmanship, shutdowns, etc.

OP #2: “…just about everything that is identified with hard neoliberalism (globalisation of trade and financial flows, the hypertrophic growth of the financial sector, trickle-down economics and more) is massively unpopular. That’s particularly true of those under 40, who never experienced the illusory prosperity of the 1990s….”

Might be a while until they’re in a position to do anything about it, though. Their elders, who are now running things, seemingly won’t.

‘steven t johnson #14: “The current wave of protests is already failing to provoke significant change….”

That’s a strong statement. Proposed cuts to police budgets (see NYC), greater scrutiny of police union privileges, enhanced responsiveness to brutality complaints, renaming of buildings and/or institutions, the NFL’s reversal on player protests, all those were just about unthinkable two months ago. The extent of acceptance of “Black Lives Matter,” or “White Privilege,” terms that until now prompted angry, defensive reactions from most Caucasians, is just breathtaking. But here also, people under 40 are key: They’re driving this movement and how much change does occur may well depend on what happens once their generation takes the helm.

Mike @ 23: “What Democrats cannot do, at any point, is help the GOP rehabilitate its own brand.”

Good luck with that. It’s harder for the US to sell itself as the stable anchor of the international system if the world sees one party as a reliable partner and the other as a threat. If he wins, Biden will face tremendous pressure to adhere to the “America needs a strong Republican Party” narrative, something he’s probably inclined to do in any event.

Internationally, the one good thing that might have come from Trump’s presidency would have been allies thinking about alternatives to Pax Americana. Little or nothing of the sort has happened. Tom McTague was right to note in the Atlantic that European response to Trump’s presidency has been as lamentable as that sad character’s ascent.

33

J-D 06.30.20 at 3:31 am

It is possible that we may get a 2000 election repeat, where Trump only gets re-elected because one or more states put him over the top by (a) … (b) … or even (c) in close states, having the Republican state election officials certify a Republican victory even though Democrats can provide documentation that the result went narrowly the other way.

Pennsylvania has a Democratic Governor and a Democratic Secretary of State: they are not going to steal the State’s electoral votes for Trump. Michigan has a Democratic Governor and a Democratic Secretary of State: they are not going to steal the State’s electoral votes for Trump. North Carolina has a Democratic Governor and a Democratic Secretary of State: they are not going to steal the State’s electoral votes for Trump. Wisconsin has a Democratic Governor and a Democratic Secretary of State: they are not going to steal the State’s electoral votes for Trump.

34

bianca steele 06.30.20 at 3:52 am

@25

Not only is Andrew O’Hehir a film critic, he thought Melancholia was good.

There are plenty of younger Democratic politicians. O’Hehir is free to champion one or more of them if his intention is to participate in the process instead of mocking it from the sidelines. The problem is precisely that the national press jumps on anyone who deviates from their image of a white upper class father figure and decides they can’t possibly be presidential material. The one thing they won’t do is change the casting concept they’ve had in mind for close to a hundred years. Interesting that he doesn’t throw the “millionaire” jab at Biden, who he’s presumably attacking. His supposed argument against Biden is that he’s a safe pick to win the election. His supposed argument against the Democrats is that they’re pursuing reasonable policies. Devastating!

As for Rosza, that it’s supposedly news that the left in the US is dead is just stunning.

35

John Quiggin 06.30.20 at 4:05 am

@5 Polls before the Australian election consistently (too consistently, because of herding effects) predicted a very narrow win for Labor.

36

Peter T 06.30.20 at 4:14 am

“European response to Trump’s presidency has been as lamentable as that sad character’s ascent.”
One does not easily or hastily uncouple from the world’s largest economy, greatest military power and essential financial backstop (on this last point, it’s worth reading Adam Tooze on just how many trillions the US Federal Reserve made available to European and selected Asian banks and governments both in the 2008 GFC and the latest pandemic meltdown).

European leaders are making quiet moves – eg see the (weak but hitherto unprecedented) arrangements to continue the Iran deal, exploration of alternatives to dollar clearing, various diplomatic stand-offs (Nordstream, G8). The US will be lucky if Biden arrests the slide, or if it continues as Europe puts in place more insurance in fear of a repeat of Trump.

37

nastywoman 06.30.20 at 4:53 am

And – as I still love predictions – and Mr-Spoon @26 predicted that Trump will be reelected and ”The 2024 election: Junior. After that, based on the close parallels between the Decline and Fall of the American Empire and the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a succession of coups with actors from various parts of the military”
let me make the serious predictions that – whoever will be the new D-President – there will be a ”Coloured” (Female) Vice President who will run ”the show” – and my homeland will be on the way to a more ”equal” society – which also includes ”economics” as the millions of coming evictions will NOT be tolerated by ”the people” –
and so there will be as much pressure economical-wise as the already existing pressure from a ”all inclusive” BLM movement –
which –
by the way –
like OUR Fight against the Climate Crisis –
will ”Rock y’alls World” –
as don’t old dudes say that…?
Or something… like it?

38

J-D 06.30.20 at 5:24 am

What we will see post-Trump is that there will be hagiographic glorification of Trump, complete with an extensive conspiracy apologetics explaining the stacked deck against the great man.

This is certainly one thing that will happen, but it is equally certainly not the only thing that will happen.

39

bad Jim 06.30.20 at 7:07 am

Much as it pains me to agree with nastywoman, it seems more likely than not that the pandemic will be the major concern facing President Biden next January, with much of the economy remaining in suspended animation. The scale of the nearly reflexive Keynesian responses to the crisis leaves me cautiously optimistic that a turn to austerity is far in the future, and the buoyancy of the stock market suggests that I’m not alone in that delusion.

Trump’s delinquency has exposed the inadequacy of America’s erstwhile allies, the absence of an alternative center of power. Much of the world runs on American infrastructure. While there are advantages to redundancy, is it necessarily the case that Europe needs Galileo as an alternative to GPS, or that the UK needs an alternative to Galileo?

Consider nuclear proliferation. It was probably a lot of fun for the British and French to design and test their own thermonuclear weapons, but what good came of it?

However, American withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and its control over SWIFT left Europeans scrambling to cobble together an alternative. That tells us something. On the one hand you have shiny boy’s toys, bombs and satellites; on the other you have something that matters.

40

J-D 06.30.20 at 7:57 am

My prophetic viscera tell me …

I wonder whether your prophetic viscera came up with the right answer the last time you called a coin toss; and I wonder whether that made you think them likelier to be right the next time.

41

Hidari 06.30.20 at 8:34 am

@28
Yes this is unquestionably correct. Also, don’t forget, impeachment. I don’t think Democrats are aware of how angry Republicans are about the impeachment ‘thing’ that happened a few months ago (seems like a lot longer doesn’t it?). What we have seen in recent decades is an ‘arms race’ vis a vis impeachment: something that was simply not used in the early to mid 20th century. But, (from the point of view of the Republicans) the Democrats ‘started it’ by impeaching (or trying to) that nice man Nixon. What the Republicans did to Clinton was just payback. Then the Democrats impeached Trump! And so I would imagine that the Republicans will want payback and soon.

Biden is a man with so many skeletons in his closet it’s a miracle he can get it shut, and so it wouldn’t surprise me if Republicans attempt to get him impeached in his first term (always assuming he wins of course!) although whether or not this results in him being removed from office is much more dubious. But in any case, radical reform of the American system requires bipartisanship and that simply doesn’t exist any more.

@32 ‘If the GOP reacts to a defeat the way it has since the 1990s – i.e. doubling down – and regains Congress in 2022, then, hard neoliberalism is what we’ll have in the short term, in the form of brinksmanship, shutdowns, etc.’

Yes. This is precisely what will happen. De facto (if not de jure) neoliberalism will continue, purely because it’s in the Republicans’ interests to ensure that the Democrats can’t govern. Also Biden has literally devoted his life to neoliberalism: it’s hard for me to believe that at the age of 79 he will turn on a dime and change into FDR, even if the Republicans will allow that, which they won’t.

‘Internationally, the one good thing that might have come from Trump’s presidency would have been allies thinking about alternatives to Pax Americana. Little or nothing of the sort has happened. Tom McTague was right to note in the Atlantic that European response to Trump’s presidency has been as lamentable as that sad character’s ascent.’

The ‘Decline of the American Empire’ thesis is very fashionable right now, but overdone. The objective facts are that at the moment, the American Empire faces no real competitors. The only serious possible competitor is China, but that is a good 20 or even 30 years away from economic parity with the US and, of course, it will take even longer for it to power ahead of the US. So the Europeans are simply living in the real world.

Even assuming Biden wins (and that’s still highly questionable) I wouldn’t imagine there will be a huge change from the situation that existed under Trump. In an era of Covid-19 the Open Borders movement is simply dead, and so Trump has ‘won’ that argument, albeit for completely the wrong reasons, and in a deliciously ironic ways (in the immediate future, the issue will be other countries passing laws to keep the Americans out, not the Americans keeping ‘others’ out).

Vis a vis the dominant issues of our time (the rise of China, the Middle East, Israel), Biden’s views are more or less identical to Trump’s, and when he differs, he is slightly more to the Right than Trump (there was a tweet recently by Biden’s campaign manager in which he accused Trump of being ‘weak on China’). On Global Warming, Biden is obviously better than Trump, but the American political system is broken, so it’s not clear what Biden will actually be able to do. Maybe rejoin that talking shop they had a few years ago where the global leaders jet in (on their fossil fueled planes) and write a toothless declaration which everyone then ignores.

Even domestically, it’s not clear what Biden can or will be able to do: e.g. the BLM movement has made clear that American policing needs fundamental root and branch reform. Will Biden be able to do anything about that? Does he want to?

It’s very hard to make predictions, and also pointless. But the parallels at the moment with the decay of Roman Republic are very very obvious. Given that is the case, history may see Trump as a weak, 1 term President, followed by Joe Biden as another weak, 1 term President, and then maybe another Republican, weak, 1 term President and so on for the next 10 or 20 years, as the problems faced by the American Republic/Empire become more and more insurmountable and the (broken) American political system becomes increasingly obviously unable to solve them.

But all predictions are pointless (who could have predicted Covid-19?) and this one is no more or no less likely to be correct than anyone else’s.

42

tm 06.30.20 at 8:41 am

Mary S 20: “Trumpism is a kind of cult.”

Exactly. This is why political analysts’ attempts to explain the Trump phenomenon in political terms always fail, just as it wasn’t possible to understand historical fascism in purely political terms. It also explains why Trump’s approval ratings, while historically low, aren’t even worse than they are. He has a dedicated cult followership.

43

ph 06.30.20 at 1:21 pm

Thanks for the clarification on the asterisk. Thanks, too, for the often insightful comments. A couple of points. First: Trumpism is an insult – you know that, don’t you? I’m fine with the term as such, but the term obscures what is and what will remain irrespective of the outcome of the November election. What is has been amply and succinctly addressed in the OP and in a number of comments – morally and politically bankrupt political parties run by a corrupt geritocracy of mischief-makers and the self-interested. Thankfully, no country is the sum total of its political class. There’s plenty right with the more sober-minded African-American BLM supporters who offer useful critiques about inequality. In terms of solutions, however, there’s an unwillingness, by some, to acknowledge the appeal capitalism and conservative policies have for a substantial subsection of minority voters, both those African-American and Hispanic.

I find some truth and merit in every critique of the current president. If climate-change mattered to voters he’d never have been elected in the first place. 53 percent of white women can live with his foot-in-mouth tweeting persona. Like it or not, I can’t see the American public trusting a Democratic president (at least the current nominee) to propose anything but a big-spending, ineffective bail-out, most of which will be funnelled to prop up Dem special interests. Dismissing the accomplishments of any president or politician is a mistake. Ditto: treating all of her/his supporters as dunces and cult-members. Plenty of people had sound reasons for voting for HRC and for Trump in 2016. 1/5 who pulled the lever for Trump didn’t like him, or believed him unfit for office. Contra the popular memes, the COVID crisis is going to strengthen Trump’s chances of bring re-elected. The economy is going to improve somewhat before November – which means voters are going to be faced with a choice between a sitting president who oversaw the most successful economy of recent history, and yesterday’s failed candidate. People forget clearly why and how Biden ended up being the nominee. He was nobody’s choice, the DNC just needed to stop Bernie.

That’s still the reality. I expect most voters made up their minds well before March. The riots, as some here note, haven’t helped the Dem cause in the slightest, especially when only 1/6 in the street are actually people of color.The Dems ruled by executive privilege under Obama for 8 years, and in the process bled out at the state and local level. There are plenty of great young Dem politicians, but they can’t get any traction in the current climate of cancel hysteria – indeed, as I noted elsewhere, the toxicity of cancel culture, coupled with white grifters making millions selling mandatory diversity trainings to corporate America, while the real problems of average African-Americans (see school choice/literacy rates) couldn’t be more unhelpful.

Neo-liberalism is alive and well and hasn’t gone anywhere. As others have noted, it’s that or America-first populism, which is really what much of what many don’t like is all about. Making American supremacy into white supremacy blinds critics to the appeal capitalism and opportunity hold for immigrants, many of whom do not see America as a land of oppression, or a pre-fascist state, perhaps because so many have experienced corrupt authoritarian governments first-hand. Until Democrats learn to love America, capitalism, and the America of Washington, Jefferson, and Betsy Ross, warts and all, they’ll face an uphill struggle even against a deeply and obviously flawed candidate such as Trump.

That’s been my retort for the last two years – if Trump is so obviously inept, why can’t Dems find a couple of dozen candidates who could beat him easily? Dems can’t. No solid candidates (thanks to 44 depleting the Dem bench) and no really good ideas. That’s why Bernie (not a Dem) nearly won. The only recourse Dems had was to rally around a permanent senior’s moment as their ‘best chance’ of beating Trump. Speaks volumes.

America first stays, as does neo-liberalism. Neo-conservatism? Not so much, thank god.

44

Anarcissie 06.30.20 at 2:39 pm

@41 — ‘But all predictions are pointless (who could have predicted Covid-19?)’ Well, I went around saying the bacteria were going to do something, for instance, they’ve learned to eat plastic, and they mutate and exchange genes constantly. And so did and do a lot of other people. And they almost certainly will, but a virus beat them this time. Still, biological. It’s pretty hard to predict the exact timing of such events because so much of what goes on in that world is invisible to us. As ‘we’ continue to damage our habitat, though, more is certainly coming.

@42 — Isn’t the Trump ‘cult’ simply good old tribalism? Many people look at Trump and see someone who looks like them and acts like them, or like people they know; certainly more like them than what they see of the ruling class and lesser attach sub-elites. Herding into tribes seems to me like one of the most basic political instincts. The r.c. was supposed to capture, control and channel that instinct into one official party or another, but it has become too incompetent, so Trump escaped into the upper realms. I don’t see anything mystical or religious in it.

45

steven t johnson 06.30.20 at 3:42 pm

Robert Weston@32 objects to my assessment there is no significant reform yet accomplished. “That’s a strong statement. Proposed cuts to police budgets (see NYC), greater scrutiny of police union privileges, enhanced responsiveness to brutality complaints, renaming of buildings and/or institutions, the NFL’s reversal on player protests, all those were just about unthinkable two months ago. The extent of acceptance of ‘Black Lives Matter,’ or ‘White Privilege,’ terms that until now prompted angry, defensive reactions from most Caucasians, is just breathtaking. But here also, people under 40 are key: They’re driving this movement and how much change does occur may well depend on what happens once their generation takes the helm.”

It may be a strong statement but my response is simply symbolic victories are meaningless. In particular, proposed (!) cuts to police budgets are not “Defunding the police.” They are the denial of the demand, cloaked as acceptance. True, the swindle is easily accomplished because there is no political content, no political movement, just chatter.

But the people who really imagined “Defunding the police” meant something are not going to be satisfied, save for the handful of who somehow actually get some gravy. (For instance, if some of the Chicago PD police budget gets sent to community centers, the people who run them will benefit. The trickle down theory of social democracy is that enough of that will cure racism.)

If an Eleanor Holmes Norton attacks Abraham Lincoln in the name of feeling black agency, why should any supporter of this movement vote for Biden? (There’s a statue of Lincoln and a slave rising to his feet, which as I understand it was paid for by freedmen, that is condemned as racist, like that statue of Grant. John Wilkes Booth is a fellow critic of the white savior.)

In particular, the notion that prattle about “White Privilege” actually means something politically assumes that systemic racism is a mental phenomenon in the depraved brains of white people. There’s no contesting that minds are messed up on race, as essentially no one is immune to the ideas taught by their environment. But the proposition that social arrangements are the products of people’s psychology and that they will change if people talk differently is essentially superstition. Or economics, a la Hayek. It is the same reasoning as in claims that only people truly converting to Christianity can improve the world. Psychological determinism may be very popular, but it is reactionary ideology.

Also the notion of White Privilege depends exclusively on the premise that white supremacy is the systemic racism of all white people. White Privilege is something all white people have without acting to create it; exercise without choosing to; something that makes them victorious at the expense of black people, no matter how hard it is to see their rewards from their villainy; there is zero agreement on how to divest oneself of White Privilege. None of this is amenable to a political program, beyond putting a bullet in the defective brains of white people. Since essentially nobody really wants this, the solemn incantation of White Privilege is diversion.

The notion that the best politics is leaderless enthusiasm without political organization, political principles, political discourse, mass action that exalts the pure minds of youth was perhaps last best exemplified by Syriza? The current movement pretends to be about systemic racism, but refuses to acknowledge anything but, not just words and actions, but unconscious feelings! It is guaranteed to fail, and, no, I do not think it’s too early to say that. Stupidity never helped anyone, not even self-righteous stupidity.

The idea there will be a massive left-wing turnout of youth voting for Biden in the general when they know he will not enact their program is strange.

Andres@24 is correct I think to acknowledge that low Democratic turnout was the most important factor. The insistence on stolen elections was entirely about Russian election fraud, which is as stupid as insisting Clinton’s email server was treasonous. But this stuff is very much about trying to criticize Trump from the right. This might strike sensible people as absurdly difficult, and decent people as shameful in itself. But political hacks have neither common sense nor common decency in my opinion, for what it’s worth.

So, yes, it is true the Trump has an excellent chance of winning the Electoral College, though it’s hard to imagine he won’t lose again, likely enough by even more. At this point, I can only say it is no accident that reforming the system is the real third rail of US politics. After all, one can’t say Social Security is an outright failure, can you?

As for the long run prospects after Trump, well, if all the people want a world run like Hong Kong, the most predatory capitalist city in China, then the long term prospects of neo-liberals or austerians or plutocrats or whatever are rosy indeed.

46

Tm 06.30.20 at 8:06 pm

Anarcissie: „Many people look at Trump and see someone who looks like them and acts like them, or like people they know; certainly more like them than what they see of the ruling class and lesser attach sub-elites.“

This piece of Trumpology is fascinating. Trump very clearly doesn’t look, much less act like his followers. Very few of his followers use a gilded toilet bowl and cheat their wife with a porn star. Very few have TV shows, own real estate, pay no taxes, run fraudulent charities and fraudulent universities and declare bankruptcy multiple times. Shall I go on?

Why do so obviously wrong claims even exist? What does it take to believe such a ridiculous nonsense?

47

John Quiggin 06.30.20 at 8:10 pm

“who could have predicted Covid-19?”

At least in general terms, anyone who was paying attention knew that this was an ever-present possibility

https://crookedtimber.org/2020/02/28/planning-for-pandemics-repost-from-2005/

48

Alan White 06.30.20 at 11:21 pm

Why people continue to defend President Bone-Spurs aka Agent Orange–even indirectly–is beyond me. He’s a completely virtueless narcissist (as I’ve argued here without any good rejoinder–go ahead, what virtue of character does he manifest?) who couldn’t care less about anyone other than himself, even his so-called base. Those who do not see him for this are beyond the ken of caring for anything like what constitutes a competent leader. He apparently doesn’t even read his daily briefings for crissakes. Say what you may about Biden, he has genuine empathy for someone other than himself, and reads more than the subtitles of FOX.

49

Collin Street 06.30.20 at 11:48 pm

I’ve been saying it for years, but trump’s not having empathy is the selling point to people who themselves don’t have empathy (and so can’t understand how a lack of empathy leads to negative outcomes for the affected)

50

Chetan Murthy 07.01.20 at 1:07 am

JQ @ 47: you left out that Covid-19 was only one of a large number of possible disasters that could have befallen the US (and still could, hurricane season is just starting) and to which it was clear early on that Shitmidas would have no coherent response Like Hurricane Maria. Many, many people pointed out that he was skating on a massive run of luck, and that if and when that luck ran out for our country, he would be utterly incapable of rising to the occasion.

So sure, a pandemic was one of the things on the list, that’s the one that came up.

51

J-D 07.01.20 at 1:11 am

Why people continue to defend President Bone-Spurs aka Agent Orange–even indirectly–is beyond me.

When there is a mismatch between what is happening in reality and what a person expects to happen on the basis of that person’s understanding of reality, reality is not at fault. Personally I like to think I have some understanding of why people support Donald Trump, but I’m sure there are points I’ve missed so I’m interested in other ideas.

52

derrida derider 07.01.20 at 3:34 am

The entire premise of this post is, IMO, wrong. Trump is a shoo-in despite the current polls. The Dems needed to pick a candidate that would excite hope (even, as with Obama, false hope) rather than trying to get more angry supporters than Trump.

Biden – a harmless old white male insider – was a truly terrible choice to go up against Trump. They needed to get as polarising a figure as Trump himself; Sanders, even as another old white male insider, would have had more chance.

Hope or anger are the only two emotions that get people to the polls – especially so when one party is able to make sure only the really hopeful or angry among their opponents can get to the polls. This is going to be another election that highlights the virtues of compulsory voting and independent election commissions.

53

Hidari 07.01.20 at 6:14 am

@48

‘Why people continue to defend President Bone-Spurs aka Agent Orange–even indirectly–is beyond me. ‘

Far be it from me to defend Trump who is as awful as everyone says he is. But as John Bolton’s latest book shows, there are actually worse people out there than Trump. The irony of Bolton’s book (which has been given lots of free publicity on lots of ‘liberal’ TV channels, apparently….I wouldn’t know) is that Bolton makes Trump look better and saner than him (i.e. Bolton)…and Bolton doesn’t realise this.

As a few people have pointed out, almost every American President since Vietnam has, at some point in their Presidency, started a new war. Trump hasn’t……yet.

Do we think President Biden will?

Covid-19 has obviously changed everything (and yes to be fair, as a few commentators have pointed out, this was predictable, but it wasn’t predictable right now ) but before that, and BLM erupted, the stock market was booming, unemployment was low, the US wasn’t involved in any new wars….it’s simply ridiculous for Democrats to sit around and scratch their heads and go ‘gosh why would anyone think Trump is a good President?’ when the reasons are self-evident.

We still don’t know what will happen in November, although it does look now like Trump is a long shot. But if Covid-19 and the death of George Floyd had happened next year, not this year, Trump would have won, and, as I said above, Democrats might take a minute to reflect on why this is.

54

nastywoman 07.01.20 at 6:16 am

@48 Alan White
”Why people continue to defend President Bone-Spurs aka Agent Orange–even indirectly–is beyond me. He’s a completely virtueless narcissist”
The answer from Anarcissie: „Many people look at Trump and see someone who looks like them and acts like them, or like people they know…

AND I’m a completely virtueless AMERICAN narcissist – too – BUT compared to the Clownstick… as somebody hinted here – ”a softie” – ”a nice one” – while Trump very obviously is ”very, very mean or actually even worst as he has absolutely NO humour and only became President – because Obama made fun of him.
AND if one makes fun of mean virtueless American narcissists their revenge always is utmost evil – especially if they are ”dumb as a brick too”

https://youtu.be/-2Emz3riEyI

AND so it… went – that the mean Idiot Trump also wanted to take revenge on all these people who laughed together with Obama about the Idiot Trump – and as that included – and especially A.V. -(AFTER THE VIRUS)- includes a lot of Americans – who are ”Poor” – as any ”supposedly rich completely virtueless AMERICAN narcissist hates the Poor anyhow – because they can’t afford golden toilets…

AND as even B.V. so many Poor Americans couldn’t afford to live in their homeland the US anymore and in the coming month millions more of them will get evicted and thrown out of their shelters – there is absolutely NO way that ”Neoliberalism” will make any type of comeback – as I looked up ”Neoliberalism” and it said ”Neoliberalism” is ”associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism and free market capitalism” – and A.V. there can’t be any ”economic liberalism and free market capitalism” anymore –
AT ALL.

BE-cause – if even the US government is paying for all these ”business-models” which don’t work anymore – that’s ”Socialism” – Right?
(like in Germany)
Where Swabian Housewives –
(not Merkel as she is NOT from ”Schwaben”)
BUT real ”Swabian Housewives” -(and ”Green Housemen like m Ministerpräsident Kretschmann) made sure that I got my C19 Help in time – and that I still will have a secure job – and payable Universal Health Care – and affordable housing – you can’t get evicted from – and the very loooong vacations I will – again – enjoy this summer – AND free education AND my beautiful NEW Green Deal.

AND all of the Anglo-Saxon narcissists -(current company excluded) are just ”neidisch”
AND they are so ”envious” – because A.V non of their utmost successful ”business models” will work anymore – as how do you do Disneyland with Social Distancing – or if you do it – you always will run under the capacity you need to make it ”profitable”.

And so A.V. there is so little profit in so many Anglo-Saxon Business-models that ”Neoliberalism” can’t come back – and we HAVE to go back to the utmost ”social” ”business-models” of a ”Well Working Italian Hilltown”.

Capisce??!

55

notGoodenough 07.01.20 at 11:12 am

A thought:

As a non-USian with little understanding of the system, I certainly cannot comment with any degree of confidence. But it seems to me that Trump is hardly a bastion of popularity if he got ca. 2million fewer votes than HRC.

In that case, surely the question is not “is Trump unpopular” but “is Trump sufficiently unpopular so as to get so many less votes that the EC is forced to elect Biden”. To that end, perhaps someone could enlighten me as to where that limit is – i.e. at what point of having more votes (if any) would Biden have to be elected (or is it theoretically possible for the EC to elect Trump regardless of the popular vote)?

Apologies if this is a stupid question, but my google-fu appears to be insufficient for this.

56

Colin R 07.01.20 at 1:52 pm

@46 tm

I think it depends on what you mean by ‘like them,’ right? The median Trump voter isn’t working class–they’re dentists, or they own their own HVAC company. They have employees, and probably do have some real estate. Trump is something of an aspirational figure for the member of the owner class who doesn’t feel wealthy, but can see it just over the horizon if it wasn’t for TAXES! In his garish and pedestrian tastes, he certainly feels closer to them than a Koch brother who donates to the Met Opera or something.

On the other side of the coin, Trump is also obviously and above all else a stupid asshole. Apparently there are a lot of them around, and they see him as speaking their truth.

57

James 07.01.20 at 4:13 pm

“The People’s Action Party could lose the current election in Singapore”. Unlikely. They just had a TV debate in which the PAP was given as much time to talk as the opposition parties together. However, I for one would welcome seeing less of their fascist-derived logo around our streets.

58

Robert Weston 07.01.20 at 4:13 pm

steven t johnson @45, thank you.

“In particular, proposed (!) cuts to police budgets are not “Defunding the police.” They are the denial of the demand, cloaked as acceptance. True, the swindle is easily accomplished because there is no political content, no political movement, just chatter.”

Not true.

https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2020/06/19/what-does-defund-the-police-mean-and-does-it-have-merit/

“In particular, the notion that prattle about “White Privilege” actually means something politically assumes that systemic racism is a mental phenomenon in the depraved brains of white people. There’s no contesting that minds are messed up on race, as essentially no one is immune to the ideas taught by their environment. But the proposition that social arrangements are the products of people’s psychology and that they will change if people talk differently is essentially superstition. Or economics, a la Hayek. It is the same reasoning as in claims that only people truly converting to Christianity can improve the world. Psychological determinism may be very popular, but it is reactionary ideology.”

Not sure I follow you entirely, but: Both POC activists and those Whites who acknowledge they have Privilege – at least those I know – view it as concrete societal advantage, not as a “mental phenomenon.” The same people believe Privilege is a very specific position of power that enables them to do, or get away with, things that would not be considered acceptable for a POC. Drive without a license, raise your voice at a coworker, be snide to a police officer, openly carry a gun, etc. I happen to think they’re right.

I know of two ways in which said POC and Privilege-aware Whites suggest dealing with privilege:

Renouncing it; or
On the contrary, using and leveraging it as a tool with which to protect marginalized groups and shielding them from harm.

Case in point: One white woman I know recently joined a marijuana business in a Western U.S. state, where I believe pot laws are still on the books, but hardly or unevenly enforced. She was urged, and promised to “use her privilege” to help stop enforcement targeted at minorities, and things of that sort.

You may disagree with the definitions above, but there’s not question many of those involved in the conversation see Privilege not just as something concrete, but as an actual tool.

59

JimV 07.01.20 at 4:19 pm

The impression I get from Bolton’s book/PDF is that Trump is a spoiled child who never grew up; always wants to be the center of attention, always wants the universe to succumb to his willful impulses, doesn’t want to work hard at anything, has a basic strategy of lying his way out of problems, and doesn’t accept any rules or restrictions on his behavior without a tantrum. So to the extent someone sees something to identify with in him, it probably is their inner child which would like to be released and empowered similarly.

I also got the impression that many of the top-level people in his administration, chosen by him, are contemptuous of him but feel that by flattery and artful briefings in the form of video presentations they can direct him in accordance with their own agendas. They would rather have a competent President who understood and agreed with their personal agendas, but will settle for Trump against anyone with a progressive agenda. Fortunately they have different priorities that often conflict with each other, so little winds up getting done. I suppose that might be almost a defining feature of the conservative persona, the belief that one’s own innate feelings are paramount over all others’.

60

divelly 07.01.20 at 5:11 pm

Don’t forget that millions of Fundies believe that he is Cyrus.
And many (R)s say,”But he’s OUR virtueless narcissist!”

61

Hidari 07.02.20 at 7:36 am

@52
‘Biden – a harmless old white male insider – was a truly terrible choice to go up against Trump. They needed to get as polarising a figure as Trump himself; Sanders, even as another old white male insider, would have had more chance.’

Not so sure about that. The United States is a gerontocracy in which old white people vote for old white people and the major policy goal of all the ‘old white millionaire’s parties’ is how best to screw over the young.

Trump has been losing core support amongst elderly white people (not surprising considering Trump’s unusual ‘kill all the old people’ Covid-19 policy) who like the cut of Biden’s gib (which, considering Biden was the Democratic candidate who most closely resembles Trump is not really surprising). On the other hand Trump has been gaining Hispanic votes so go figure. Despite the fact that some people are trying to create a narrative that Trump’s defeat is inevitable (like Hilary Clinton’s was, remember?) it really all is still up in the air.

@56

Yes it’s interesting how many people in this thread buy into Trumpian propaganda and infer that Trump’s ‘core support’ is in the white working class. Actually as psephologists have tirelessly told us, the people who voted for Trump are basically the same people who voted for Romney and for much the same reasons (tax cuts, law and order etc.) and yet if Romney* had won no one would be talking about him or his supporters in the same derogatory terms. I wonder why that is.

*Particularly important given that there is very very little that Trump has done that Romney would not have done.

62

J-D 07.02.20 at 8:02 am

In that case, surely the question is not “is Trump unpopular” but “is Trump sufficiently unpopular so as to get so many less votes that the EC is forced to elect Biden”. To that end, perhaps someone could enlighten me as to where that limit is – i.e. at what point of having more votes (if any) would Biden have to be elected (or is it theoretically possible for the EC to elect Trump regardless of the popular vote)?

It’s not clear what question you’re asking.

If, for example, you mean ‘Is there a law which sets a threshold percentage such that, if a candidate receives a percentage of the popular vote which is higher than that threshold, the electoral college must elect that person as President?’ then the answer is ‘No, there is no such law’.

This is hardly surprising, however. If you search the text of the Constitution of the United States (which is easily enough findable online), you will discover in it no references whatever to ‘the electoral college’ and, that being so, I suspect there are no laws at all referring to ‘the electoral college’.

The relevant Constitutional provisions are the second, third, and fourth paragraphs of section 1 of Article 2 of the Constitution: have you read and understood those?

From a practical point of view, ignoring legal technicalities but taking into account how things actually happen, there is a positive correlation between the chance of a candidate being elected President and the percentage of the popular vote received. The probability of winning becomes arbitrarily close to 100% as the percentage of the popular vote increases and arbitrarily close to 0% as the percentage of the popular vote decreases, but in neither direction is there a fixed percentage, knowable in advance, where the probability becomes 100% or 0%.

63

J-D 07.02.20 at 8:05 am

Trump is a shoo-in despite the current polls.

To suppose that it can be known at this stage that Trump can’t lose; to suppose that it can be known at this stage that Trump can’t win; both are folly.

Even close to the election, the polls are an unreliable guide to what’s going to happen; now, they are a much more unreliable guide; but every other guide is even less reliable, especially including the subjective confidence levels of Internet prognosticators.

64

Hidari 07.02.20 at 9:02 am

@45

‘At this point, I can only say it is no accident that reforming the system is the real third rail of US politics.’

At this point I usually wheel out Matty Yglesias’ (no wide eyed revolutionary) seminal piece in Vox which for some reason didn’t go viral. Perhaps it’s too close to the bone. I’ve posted this a few times before in CT comments thread but no one seems to react (or care). But it’s so obviously true that I can’t even begin to imagine how anyone would deny it.

‘America’s constitutional democracy is going to collapse.

Some day — not tomorrow, not next year, but probably sometime before runaway climate change forces us to seek a new life in outer-space colonies — there is going to be a collapse of the legal and political order and its replacement by something else. If we’re lucky, it won’t be violent. If we’re very lucky, it will lead us to tackle the underlying problems and result in a better, more robust, political system. If we’re less lucky, well, then, something worse will happen…..’

The whole article is long and complex but highly convincing, IMHO.

Now, with Covid-19, a crisis that the American political system has simply been unable to fix (and please note, it’s only the American political system that can’t deal with it….even in the UK and Sweden, things aren’t nearly as bad as they are in the US) the idea that the US political system is totally dysfunctional and that the US is a failed state should be self-evident. And be under no illusions, as someone on Twitter pointed out (I won’t say who as it will derail the thread) it is highly possible that under President Biden or Clinton the Covid-19 situation might have been either worse, as the Republicans would have simply refused to cooperate with the Democrats, and the death toll might have been even higher.

So, Trump’s weakness is plain to see (Branko Milanovic has pointed out the obvious, which is that Covid-19 is likely to be seen, in the future, as Trump’s ‘Iranian Hostage Fiasco’, which doomed his Presidency as the Iran thing doomed Carter’s). But this time, there is no Reagan waiting in the wings, to ‘shunt’ American politics onto a new ‘path’. Biden is a kind of Trump-lite (or Trump-heavy, in foreign policy), who offers more of the same. So, to repeat, we are likely to drift on like this (again, the comparisons with the Soviet Union in the 1970s and early 198s0 are now a cliche) for a bit, maybe even 20 or 30 more years…..but this situation simply cannot go on forever.

The American political system does not work. It cannot continue forever. It will not go on forever.

And when something cannot go on forever eventually it will….stop.

65

tm 07.02.20 at 9:29 am

Hidari 53: Fact is that most Americans think Trump is not s good president. His approval ratings are historically low for a first term president and were low even before Covid-19, despite a favorable economy. Perhaps American voters aren’t as simpleminded as political analysts tend to think? Since Trump has become president, he and his party have lost all elections they could possibly lose, even the Kentucky governorship. Your claim that “before Covid-19 Trump looked as if he was going to cruise to victory in 2020” is just baseless. (Btw also your claim of an “‘arms race’ vis a vis impeachment” in 41 is baseless).

The best argument for Trump seems to be it could be worse, respectively all the things he hasn’t (yet) done but might have done (Bolton’s book is indeed revealing but don’t forget Trump hired Bolton knowing he was a war-monger). Perhaps the opposition deserves some credit for having managed to somewhat restrict Trump’s agency, and voters for depriving him of congressional control? In any case, the amount of damage that Trump has already done, mostly bypassing Congress, is staggering and shows that he is fiercely intent on pushing his anti-planet, anti-worker, anti-regulatory, anti-rule-of-law, pro-plutocracy, pro-white-supremacy agenda by any means at his disposal. And the fact of us having this conversation at all shows to what extent part of the public has already been numbed to the reality of Trump’s (and his party’s) horribleness.

66

tm 07.02.20 at 9:54 am

56: “Trump is something of an aspirational figure for the member of the owner class who doesn’t feel wealthy”

That might be true but it’s a very different claim from the one I took issue with. Trump’s followers admire him not because they think he looks and acts like them – he very obviously doesn’t and they know it. They admire him precisely because he’s so outrageous, a narcissistic asshole bully who doesn’t follow any rules and can get away with it. And perhaps part of their selves aspire to be like him but they know they will never. He represents an anti-bourgeois type in a reactionary sense. And all the petty bourgeois lap it up.

I’m fascinated by the white evangelicals, who represent his strongest base. I know there’s a lot of hypocrisy in that subculture but – the evangelical movement almost unanimously supporting an obviously godless serial adulterer for president, a self-centered bully who openly denies being bound by any moral code? The very opposite of what they claim to aspire to? Perhaps some kitchen psychology can help…

67

tm 07.02.20 at 9:56 am

P.S. I think we need to read Fromm’s Escape from Freedom to understand current politics.

68

J-D 07.02.20 at 12:20 pm

I’m fascinated by the white evangelicals, who represent his strongest base. I know there’s a lot of hypocrisy in that subculture but – the evangelical movement almost unanimously supporting an obviously godless serial adulterer for president, a self-centered bully who openly denies being bound by any moral code? The very opposite of what they claim to aspire to? Perhaps some kitchen psychology can help…

The biggest evangelical grouping in the US is the Southern Baptist Convention. It must have changed since it was founded, because everything changes, but it may still be worth noting how and why it was founded.

69

tm 07.02.20 at 12:26 pm

Further to 66: What Trump most clearly represents is privilege: the plutocratic privilege of a spoiled child born rich who thinks he doesn’t have to follow the rules like everybody else – and turns out he can get away with it. His petty bourgeois admirers will never have that kind of privilege but they do see in him a defender of their white and male privilege which they feel is under assault, and that is where they can identify most closely with the plutocrat. But it is a huge mistake to think that they have more than that in common.

The bourgeois ethos is characterized by hard work, following the rules, and equality before the law. As Marx pointed out, that bourgeois equality is hollow without economic equality, but it still represents progress compared to feudalism and absolutism (as Marx also knew). In that sense, Trump is anti-bourgeois in the reactionary, i. e. neofeudal, sense, and all the nonsense written about him being an “anti-elite, anti-establishment” figure is based on not understanding this. That’s also where Fromm’s analysis is relevant.

Hidari 61: “Yes it’s interesting how many people in this thread buy into Trumpian propaganda and infer that Trump’s ‘core support’ is in the white working class.”

Who in this thread has made such a claim? I don’t remember suchlike but I haven’t read all the longer comments. I do remember such claims having been made in the aftermath of the 2016 election, for example from the likes of Jacobin. I don’t know whether they are still caught in this delusion.

70

Hidari 07.02.20 at 12:26 pm

” Your claim that “before Covid-19 Trump looked as if he was going to cruise to victory in 2020” is just baseless.”

Er….no it’s not. Obviously I can’t ‘win’ this argument, since it’s a counterfactual, but although Trump’s approval rating were always low, they were also extraordinarily steady (very unusual for a President) and they were creeping up in January/February. Due to the insane American political system (i.e. the electoral college) the money was on a Trump victory (ask the bookies if you don’t believe me). Maybe he would have lost anyway, who knows? But it’s only really since the Covid-19 thing that he has really started to look like a loser, and even then, only really in the last few weeks.

” (Btw also your claim of an “‘arms race’ vis a vis impeachment” in 41 is baseless).”

I literally don’t know how to react to this. You claim to have foreknowledge of what the Republicans will do in 2022 It must be nice to have a crystal ball. But my reading of the situation is that the ‘dysfunction’ in the American political system is increasing, and the Republicans will do anything, literally anything in their power to prevent the Democrats from governing. They did it to Bill Clinton, and if it is at all possible, they will do it to President Biden, and Biden is particularly exposed here, as he has a lot of skeletons in the closet (like Clinton, and unlike Obama).

Does this mean the Republicans will definitely push for impeachment? I don’t know and neither do you. But if it is at all possible, they will, and their base will support them in this. I suspect you know this, incidentally.

71

notGoodenough 07.02.20 at 1:03 pm

J-D @ 62

Thank you for answering my question, and I apologise for my lack of clarity. I did attempt to understand the relevant constitutional text, but given that: a) I am not American, and have never had any pertinent civics classes; b) I have no real relevant legal expertise; and c) while the US does impact me, it does so only to the extent it impacts anyone living in Europe; I have not really dedicated the time and effort required to properly understand the topic (a personal failing, perhaps).

In essence, I was trying to understand if it is predictable how much more of the popular vote would be needed for a candidate to be statistically significantly likely become president. I understand there is a correlation between popular vote and election, but does not appear to be 100% given the results of several of the elections within my lifetime. Given that it seems not entirely implausible [1] that Biden could win the popular vote, I wondered if it was predictable to what degree that would need to occur before the chance of Biden becoming president was high enough to attribute a significant degree of confidence to it. If I understand your response, essentially there is no specific mechanism which would stop the electoral college electing a given candidate even if he got significantly [2] less votes than the opposing candidate, other than a reliance on norms, tradition, and potential consequences.

So, in short, if candidate A got 0% and candidate B got 100%, the probability of B becoming president would approach (but not necessarily reach) 1. As the percentage B commands decreases so too does the probability of them becoming president, but there is no real way to predict in advance how much of a greater % B would need to still be likely to become POTUS. Thus, while there may be evidence suggesting candidate B could receive X% more of the popular vote than A, this may be indicative but ultimately not particularly meaningful.

I believe I understand better now, and appreciate your explanation.

[1] With the usual caveats regarding unreliability of polls, the general lack of predictability, etc.

[2] for an unknowable value of “significant”

72

nastywoman 07.02.20 at 1:27 pm

”Perhaps some kitchen psychology can help…”

OR – just to know ”what’s trending”? –
As NOT being a racist a…hole is trending – very much so.
Or wearing a mask is trending –
Or handling the Virus the way Europe does – compared to the US.
AND being an UTMOST STUPID RIGHT-WINGER is NOT trending AT ALL anymore –
(even if it once was – for that ChaosCrew who thought they kill ”the mainstream” with it)

AND sooo – just by knowing what was/is ”trending” –
until now – WE won every bet – about the Chaotic American Political Erections – and don’t believe AT ALL in this idea that: ‘’America’s constitutional democracy is going to collapse”?
(even if it might be trending with some old dudes on teh Internet)
Or – perhaps we just say that – because WE grew up with the constant prediction that – any minute now – the UTMOST CHAOTIC democracy we know – Italy – is collapsing
any minute now –
BUT it just won’t…
So how could a system which is not even close the Italian Confusion collapse?

Impossible -@64

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ph 07.02.20 at 2:06 pm

Other things that will remain – media grifters moving from panic-crisis to panic-crisis. The media business model now demands on a state of permanent hysteria – see the last 4 years. The media can’t afford to go ‘back to normal’ no matter what happens. I suspect the public gets that. So, those who just want to get on with their lives can’t look to removing the current crisis of the day. A new crisis is certain to arrive within moments of the current madness whatever happens in November.

Re: the extreme awfulness of the current president. I agree. But that’s the problem. HRC was definitely worse in virtually every respect. The current crop of Dems are either Clinton clones (remember the hold her campaign had on DNC funds?), or AOC-type anti-American lunatics. Sanders bailed on class and embraced identity – which is why his 2016 rural support evaporated in the primaries. Trump is disliked by a significant subset of the voters planning to pull the lever for him in November.

Why, oh, why, I wonder? Perhaps because America first sounds a whole lot better than neoliberal globalism which saw real wages flatline for more than 30 years. Pelosi et al are no different than Paul Ryan and the rest the Mitt Romney types.

So, no – Mitt Romney would not have torched the trade deals that Trump did, that’s why Mitt is currently employed as a Never Trump GOP token on MSNBC and the ‘dummy’ is on track to win a second term.

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Hidari 07.02.20 at 2:20 pm

Didn’t post link for Yglesias article.

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

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Andres 07.02.20 at 2:53 pm

Hmm. Time for my own ruminations on the U.S. constitutional order. I normally tend to lean more to Hidari’s “things fall apart” outlook than to Chetan “Everything’s fine with the Dems, just nominate a centrist who will win some elections” Murthy’s myopia. But nevertheless I have to stake out some points of disagreement with the former:

@64: “Now, with Covid-19, a crisis that the American political system has simply been unable to fix (and please note, it’s only the American political system that can’t deal with it….even in the UK and Sweden, things aren’t nearly as bad as they are in the US) the idea that the US political system is totally dysfunctional and that the US is a failed state should be self-evident. And be under no illusions, as someone on Twitter pointed out (I won’t say who as it will derail the thread) it is highly possible that under President Biden or Clinton the Covid-19 situation might have been either worse, as the Republicans would have simply refused to cooperate with the Democrats, and the death toll might have been even higher.”

The U.S. is not a failed state. It is, rather, undergoing a transformation into a more openly oligarchic and quasi-dictatorial Latin American country. Indeed, it is Latin America as symbolized by Bolsonaro, Uribe, Macri, Pinera, Moreno (and if push comes to shove, Pinochet, Stroessner and Videla) which is the region that shows the U.S. its own future under the Republicans and even under centrist Democrats like Biden. The Clownstick is simply another Bolsonaro wannabe, and I predict that Brazil will end up having a higher per capita COVID19 death rate than the U.S., but with few if any serious political consequences. Sometimes though, the inequality, poverty, and corruption under Latin American oligarchies becomes too unbearable, and so we get Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, all of which are hamstrung by their lack of access to foreign capital.

Btw, someone pointed out that the Hispanic preference for Trump is starting to increase; I think that most of this is due to the increased share of rich and upper middle class Miami and California residents from Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia and Mexico (amazing how someone like AMLO can make the rich dudes decamp to north of the border, even though he’s been fairly ineffectual so far), combined with a falling rate of poor Latin Americans moving north thanks to Clownstick.

And Latin America also shows that provided the repressive mechanisms are strong enough to prevent a Cuba or Venezuela-style blowup, the openly oligarchic system is politically quite stable even though it has its ups and downs. Unless protests and demonstrations ramp up to a critical mass here in the U.S. (which is unlikely but still possible, especially if the police and/or white supremacists really start to go apeshit), politically the system in the U.S. will be stable with ugly Republican presidents continuing to alternate with less ugly but equally oligarchic Democratic presidents. It is only once the climate and the environment head south permanently (with pandemics and East Cost hurricanes and coastal flooding becoming more regular) that we might get the opportunity for the political-economic system to turn upside down, for better or worse.

There is a famous moment in Tolstoy’s War and Peace when Prince Andrei, lying wounded on the field of Austerlitz, sees Napoleon on horseback looking down at him. Against the sweep of the sky, Napoleon seems to Prince Andrei like a small insect crawling across the vast space of eternity. When I stop stressing about the headlines, that is what the Trumpstick seems like from the perspective of history.

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Andres 07.02.20 at 3:32 pm

nastywoman @54: Thanks to Phil Mirowski (https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2018/02/neoliberalism-movement-dare-not-speak-name/) among others, neoliberalism is one of the few things in life that doesn’t confuse me. Here is a brief primer on neoliberalism. It is NONE of the following:

Free-market, laissez faire economic policies.
Neoclassical economics.
Pro-small business capitalism policies/discourse.

Instead, neoliberalism is a blend of discourse, rhetoric, and policy advocacy (e.g. domestic financial bailouts 2008-style, clampdowns on recalcitrant debtor countries like Greece and Argentina, hostility to pro-environment regulations and to government-directed trade policy, etc.) whose purpose is to reinforce the global position of large corporations , especially financial ones. Such corporations will not hesitate to use the power of the state to create policies favorable to their own interests, regardless of any objections that Austrians like von Mises and anarcho-capitalist idiots like Rothbard might have. Neoliberalism uses free-market rhetoric as politically useful doublespeak.

Nor is neoliberalism any sort of coherent economic theory, especially not neoclassical economics. When applied with a decent respect to actual reality, neoclassical economics is in fact the discourse of social democracy, not of laissez faire capitalism. Of course, social democracy is simply the Dr. Jekyll face of capitalism whereas Mr. Hyde speaks in neoliberalese. It is more accurate to say that neoliberal rhetoric grabs whatever pieces of neoclassical, Austrian, or even Institutionalist/Historicist economics that it finds politically useful as the case may be. The later Chicago School (Friedman, Stigler, Becker et al) is the brand of neoclassical economics that has been totally distorted by the neoliberal agenda.

The one completely consistent aspect of neoliberalism is its rhetorical insistence that the market is the best way of establishing knowledge of consumer preferences, a view of markets inherited from Hayek. But Hayek aside, this turns out to be doublespeak as well. Corporations know full well that consumer preferences are theirs to mold like clay, and this extends even to political consumption, as Fox News has shown.

Neoliberalism never speaks in favor of white supremacy and neocon-style military aggression, and the vast majority of neoliberal-advocating economists are neither racists nor militarists. But a close study of the doings of the Kochtopus (and possibly J. Buchanan/public choice, though that’s still controversial) shows that some neoliberals are in complete agreement with Marxism about the role of racism: to divide the working class all the way up to the point where it doesn’t recognize its own collective interest. Many neoliberals think the same about militarism.

From the point of view of neoliberal advocates, Clownstick and his mind-controlled cult followers are useful dupes. And Clownstick doesn’t seem to be organized or focused enough to be a major threat to the global capitalist system. The great grandfathers of today’s neoliberals thought the same way about the Clownstickses of the 1930’s, and they were so wrong that their mistake cost millions of lives.

77

Cranky Observer 07.02.20 at 5:47 pm

Re:

<

blockquote> Hidari 07.02.20 at 9:02 am /blockquote>
I think you are underestimating the demographic situation in the Great Plains states specifically and the rural areas of the US generally. In approximately 10 years but no more than 20 seventy percent of Kansas, for example, with be completely depopulated. Under the current Constitution the state will retain two Senators but may be down to one Representative and those will no longer automatically be rural Republicans but will be elected in tug of war between the KCK [1] metro area (conservative, but not irrational) and Republican Wichita, with the Citizen children of the “illegals” who have run the food processing industry for the last 20 years reaching the age of voting. The situation in other states isn’t quite so stark as the Great Plains but a few weeks spent in rural Illinois, Iowa, etc will reveal that the generation now in their 60s-80s is not being replaced. That’s a lot of Republican-friendly districts and electoral college votes gone forever.

[1] not to be confused with the larger Kansas City, Missouri.

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anon/portly 07.02.20 at 8:20 pm

52 (not just to pick on him; many of the other comments als0) is amazing:

Trump is a shoo-in despite the current polls. …. Biden – a harmless old white male insider – was a truly terrible choice to go up against Trump. They needed to get as polarising a figure as Trump himself….

Back on planet Earth:

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/biden-has-a-historically-large-lead-over-trump-but-it-could-disappear/

Biden is the first candidate to be polling at over 50% at this point since Reagan! But no, let’s pick a more “polarising” figure … like we did with Hillary Clinton! Yes, having pointed the gun at our left foot and pulled the trigger (with disappointing results), let’s point the gun at our right foot and pull the trigger, and see what happens. Sure, why not?

Notice that Hillary’s 4 point lead at this point in 2016 turned out to be … almost exactly where things in ended up in November. But you know, polls never tell us anything useful!

Okay, things can change between now and November, they often do, but they don’t often change by the amount of change that Trump needs. Not only is he 9.5 points behind, but it appears unlikely that the EC will help him as much this time.

It’s true that the voters could learn to dislike Biden more – a lot more – than they do now, for some reason (e.g., Trump’s efforts to improve on “Sleepy Joe” coming to glorious fruition), but maybe – as the likes of Yglesias and Chait are claiming – he’s running a pretty smart campaign, the kind of campaign that makes voter disenchantment relatively unlikely.

And who thinks the voters are going to learn to like Trump? They didn’t like him in 2016, they didn’t like him in 2017, they didn’t like him in 2018, they didn’t like him in 2019, and they don’t like him in 2020. He’s got 4 months left to craft a new persona…. I’d be less surprised if the total nut job that comments … at a certain blog I read … managed to changed his persona.

I think someone above made the point that Trump was actually behind before his Coronavirus debacle. You can see here that Biden had a 4 point lead in late February:

https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/polls/president-general/national/?cid=_inlinerelated

79

Alan White 07.02.20 at 11:52 pm

Mike Huben @ 13 has it exactly right. And for those arguing there is no big-picture difference between Dems and Rethugs, then ask intelligent people who might just be a better advocate across the gender/caste spectrum, especially in appointing the judiciary.

80

J-D 07.03.20 at 4:13 am

Thank you for answering my question, and I apologise for my lack of clarity. I did attempt to understand the relevant constitutional text, but given that: a) I am not American, and have never had any pertinent civics classes; b) I have no real relevant legal expertise; and c) while the US does impact me, it does so only to the extent it impacts anyone living in Europe; I have not really dedicated the time and effort required to properly understand the topic (a personal failing, perhaps).

Well, I’m also not American and never had American civics classes, and I also have no real relevant legal expertise. But I have always included a percentage of history and politics in my personal leisure-time reading; if you have different tastes in leisure reading, it’s no personal failing. À chacun son goût.

One of the reasons that your question as originally framed was unclear is that there is no provision in the US Constitution that requires any form of popular vote for President. The Constitution stipulates that it’s up to each State to determine how it chooses its Presidential electors, and the rules are still not absolutely nationally uniform. In the earliest times it was common for a State’s presidential electors to be chosen by its legislature, and one State (the egregious South Carolina) maintained this system until the Civil War. There’s no legal barrier now to prevent States from reverting to this system, or some other that dispenses with a popular vote; but obviously under current political circumstances there’s no chance of the popular vote being abolished. (I specifically don’t say such a change is impossible. It’s possible, in the sense that anything’s possible; but there’s no current prospect of it, and there won’t be without a drastic change in circumstances.) It’s this point, and others like it, which need to be understood to give a full answer, but instead I’m going to skip to a conclusion about what is and isn’t possible without discussing how that’s so.

In 2016, Donald Trump was two percentage points behind Hillary Clinton in the popular vote. Clearly it was possible then for a Republican to defeat a Democrat in the presidential election while being two points behind in the popular vote, and it’s still possible now because nothing’s changed since then to make it impossible. Would it be possible for a Republican to defeat a Democrat in the Presidential election while being three points behind in the popular vote? If you take the State-by-State tallies for the 2016 election and apply proportionately a one-point reduction in the aggregate Republican vote, you find you’ve switched Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to the Democratic column, enough to give the Democrat (narrowly) the election. Still, I’d say it would be possible for a Republican to be elected even while three points behind: but it would be pushing close to the limits of what’s possible under current circumstances. Four points behind? I’m not prepared to commit myself on whether that’s possible. Five points behind? No, can’t be done.

All of that, to repeat, is about what’s possible without a drastic change in circumstances. Drastic changes in circumstances do happen, though; although most of the time it is possible to perceive warning signs in advance, and their not happening far more often than they do happen is what justifies calling them drastic. Anything can happen; but it probably won’t.

81

nastywoman 07.03.20 at 5:06 am

@76
”Here is a brief primer on neoliberalism. It is NONE of the following”

Aha?
But then we -(my Italian friend and me) – looked at the ”official” definition of Neoliberalism – again! – and it still said what we quoted – and when we read YOUR very extensive ”private” definition – we thought:

AHA!! That’s why we believe so much more in ”trending” as everybody on the Internet tends to construct his or hers own ”private” or subjective definition of anything and only it you look at all of this… confusion… ”holistically” – or as a famous German Philosopher once said: GESAMTKUNSTWERK – the ”trending” becomes BIGLY obvious – and one – suddenly – realises that ”Neoliberalism” is a ”B.V.”… label – which is of NOOO use anymore in the –

NEW WORLD A.V.

82

Hidari 07.03.20 at 6:44 am

I was expecting more pushback on my ‘Biden is Trump-lite’ statement, so…er…I’ll do it.

Here is Nate Silver arguing that Biden has moved to the left (under pressure) although there are very definite limits to how left he will move.

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-pandemic-has-pushed-biden-to-the-left-how-far-will-he-go/

What’s interesting is not so much what Silver says as what he doesn’t say. There is literally not one single word about foreign policy.

This makes me think that probably there will be more continuity than differences between the Biden regimes and the Trump regimes. Biden (as Trump did) will continue to ramp up tensions with China and Russia (in both cases, especially vis a vis China, following in the footsteps of Obama). The risks of nuclear war breaking out with one or both of these powers will (as Noam Chomsky has been essentially alone in pointing out) continue to increase.* I very much doubt Biden will be in a position to do anything serious about global warming/’the death of birth’/’the insect apocalypse’ and all the other ecological issues that are going to become increasingly important as we ‘progress’ into the 21st century. Reform of the police will involve taking on the cop unions so that won’t happen either.

In 10 years time (assuming he lives) Trump will be on MSNBC touting his new book and it will all be smiles and laughs again (remember what happened to Bush jr). And the smart money is on Tucker Carlson as the ‘Trumpist without Trump’ for 2024 or at least 20208.

*Indeed, war with China has already essentially started on the India/China border. If we are very lucky it will be a cold war (the last cold war with Russia having cost 20 million lives). If not, it will be a hot war and we know what that involves. But it has to happen before China ‘overtakes’ the Americans, in about 2050/2060, so it will probably happen sooner rather than later. The period between 2030 and 2040 will be the real danger period.

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derrida derider 07.03.20 at 6:59 am

“When applied with a decent respect to actual reality, neoclassical economics is in fact the discourse of social democracy, not of laissez faire capitalism.” – Andres@64

Indeed, as our OP – a fine neoclassical economist – has spent his professional lifetime pointing out.

But Trump, too, will pass. He represents only a slight hastening of US decline; as the original neoclassical economist said responding to claims England was ruined by the loss of America “there is a great deal of ruin in a nation”.

84

Hidari 07.03.20 at 7:04 am

I will shut up after this, I promise, but here’s another article that shows trends of long-term decline.

‘The most immediate cost of U.S. decline — and the most vivid demonstration — comes from the country’s disastrous response to the coronavirus pandemic. Leadership failures were pervasive and catastrophic at every level — the president, agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration, and state and local leaders all fumbled the response to the greatest health threat in a century. As a result, the U.S. is suffering a horrific surge of infections in states such as Arizona, Texas and Florida while states that were battered early on are still struggling. Countries such as Italy that are legendary for government dysfunction and were hit hard by the virus have crushed the curve of infection, while the U.S. just set a daily record for case growth and shows no sign of slowing down.

But the consequences of U.S. decline will far outlast coronavirus. With its high housing costs, poor infrastructure and transit, endemic gun violence, police brutality and bitter political and racial divisions, the U.S. will be a less appealing place for high-skilled workers to live. That means companies will find other countries in Europe, Asia and elsewhere a more attractive destination for investment, robbing the U.S. of jobs, depressing wages and draining away the local spending that powers the service economy. That in turn will exacerbate some of the worst trends of U.S. decline — less tax money means even more urban decay as infrastructure, education and social-welfare programs are forced to make big cuts. Anti-immigration policies will throw away the country’s most important source of skilled labor and weaken a university system already under tremendous pressure from state budget cuts.

Almost every systematic economic advantage possessed by the U.S. is under threat. ‘

Trump promised that ‘The American carnage stops here.’ Actually the American carnage is very much just beginning. If (as I am guessing here) even if the Democrats take Congress and (very much more doubtful) the Senate in November, I suspect that due to the disintegration of the American polity there will be a backlash, the Democrats will lose both again relatively soon, and the American political dysfunction will continue. In other words, I suspect that Biden will be, like Trump, another weak President, unable or unwilling to reverse long term trends of decline.

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2020-06-29/coronavirus-brings-american-decline-out-in-the-open

85

Tm 07.03.20 at 8:00 am

Hidari, if anybody made a prediction what Republicans will do in 2022, that would be you. Of course your scenario is possible but it’s unlikely the GOP will have two thirds of the Senate, and it‘s unlikely Biden will engage in conduct that would justify impeachment in the eyes of the electorate, as Trump and Nixon have done.

My comment referred also to the other parts of your claim. Do you really think a relevant number of living Republican voters consider Nixon a hero and are angry about his resignation (forced by bipartisan pressure) almost 50 years ago? You always seem very confident in your often generalizing proclamations, but usually unable to substantiate them.

That also applies to your claim about Trump cruising to victory without Covid. His chances of winning the EC were and are still intact as I never disputed but that is not the same as saying he would be cruising to victory.

The greatest for the left in this situation is complacency. This election must be fought with the fullest commitment. Nobody should delude themselves into thinking that the election is already won, or heaven forbid that a few third party votes won’t hurt since Biden is winning anyway. I am confident progressive Americans have learned from 2016 (and 2000).

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Tm 07.03.20 at 8:09 am

Finally, Hidari, your observation that the US political system is dysfunctional and cannot continue forever is obviously correct but it is unclear what if anything follows from it. Waiting for the „inevitable“ revolution is unlikely to be a productive strategy. What the left needs in my humble view isn’t grand proclamations but concrete political perspectives. Most CT threads I have to say are disappointing in that respect.

87

nastywoman 07.03.20 at 11:22 am

@84

‘The most immediate cost of U.S. decline — and the most vivid demonstration — comes from the country’s disastrous response to the coronavirus pandemic. Leadership failures were pervasive and catastrophic at every level — the president, agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration, and state and local leaders all fumbled the response to the greatest health threat in a century. As a result, the U.S. is suffering a horrific surge of infections in states such as Arizona, Texas and Florida while states that were battered early on are still struggling. Countries such as Italy that are legendary for government dysfunction and were hit hard by the virus have crushed the curve of infection, while the U.S. just set a daily record for case growth and shows no sign of slowing down”.

But the consequences of U.S. decline will far outlast coronavirus. With its high housing costs, poor infrastructure and transit, endemic gun violence, police brutality and bitter political and racial divisions, the U.S. will be a less appealing place for high-skilled workers to live. That means companies will find other countries in Europe, Asia and elsewhere a more attractive destination for investment, robbing the U.S. of jobs, depressing wages and draining away the local spending that powers the service economy. That in turn will exacerbate some of the worst trends of U.S. decline — less tax money means even more urban decay as infrastructure, education and social-welfare programs are forced to make big cuts. Anti-immigration policies will throw away the country’s most important source of skilled labor and weaken a university system already under tremendous pressure from state budget cuts.

Almost every systematic economic advantage possessed by the U.S. is under threat. ‘

How true! –
And we couldn’t agree more with this quote – but how could this ”threat” collapse ‘’America’s constitutional democracy”?

If ”Americas constitutional democracy” even survived a ”Civil War”?

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nastywoman 07.03.20 at 11:25 am

”but how could this ”threat” collapse ‘’America’s constitutional democracy”?

I mean all of my American friends know – that after this REVOLUTION we ALL have to ”make do” with at least 30 to 50 percent LESS!
(depending on y’alls professions)

89

tm 07.03.20 at 1:07 pm

Hidari once more: “I suspect that Biden will be, like Trump, another weak President, unable or unwilling to reverse long term trends of decline.”

And I suspect that this prediction is meaningless as long as you are not willing or able to offer a definition of the terms “weak president” and “decline”.

And I’d add that whether Biden will win, what he can accomplish if he wins, whether he can win and keep control of Congress, whether he will be hostile to China, and on and on, all of this isn’t some predetermined fate but it depends on the agency of American citizens, and if I were American, I would invest my energy into action that might make the outcomes I prefer more likely. As it stands, I am just one among the 7 billion people who cannot vote in the election but will be heavily affected by its outcome, and I can assure you that most of these 7 billion people pray for the Trump nightmare to end. (I’ve been telling this to American friends on the left who,when Sanders didn’t win the nomination, started talking about another third party vote. Believe me I’m frightened, and I can tell you if these assholes pull it off one more time to help a fascist win against a liberal because “what’s the difference really” and “we’ve had enough of lesser-evilism”, history’s judgment will not be kind.)

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Hidari 07.03.20 at 1:56 pm

@86
Yeah well this ain’t LGM, which seems to be in in-house internet based talking shop for the DNC or those who aspire to be in or at least hang around the DNC. I don’t have any ‘concrete political perspectives’.

From the point of view of the left there are three options:

1: Try and take over the Democratic party by ‘taking’ the Presidential nomination: cf Sanders. Well that didn’t work. Will it work in the future? Doubtful. And who would the candidate be?

2: A third party ‘attack’: e.g. the American Greens. Very very very difficult to do in the American system, which amounts to a two party dictatorship, and also will face ferocious pushback from ‘Normie Dems’ and ‘liberal’ gatekeepers.

3: ‘Entryism’ as previously tried by the Militant Tendency in the UK, and, in the US, by the DSA, in which you slowly try and take a party over ‘from the bottom up’. Has never worked.

All of these option seem equally implausible to me, and yet the current situation is clearly unstable and cannot last. What to do? Personally, I have no idea. Sorry.

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derrida derider 07.04.20 at 12:06 am

I suspect that Biden will be, like Trump, another weak President, unable or unwilling to reverse long term trends of decline. – Hidari @84

But on your own (correct) reckoning, US decline is structural, multifaceted and long term. Presidents really only hasten it a little (Bush the Lesser, Trump) or slow it a little (notably Obama).

Short of causing a nuclear war or a civil war they just do not make as much difference to the US, let alone the rest of the world, as many here seem to think. In fact as someone a long way from the US I can afford to enjoy Clown Trump for his entertainment value.

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Jerry Vinokurov 07.04.20 at 4:16 am

The answer to the question posed in the OP depends heavily on what we mean by “Trumpism.” Since, on my view, Trump is merely a kind of culmination of the inherent malevolence of the Republican Party, to ask what Trumpism will be after Trump is to ask what the Republicans will do. I won’t pretend to be a seer, but it does appear fairly clear to me that the short-list of people waiting in the wings to take over this whole operation includes Tom Cotton and Josh Hawley. Of these, I’d rate Hawley as the more serious threat based on the fact that he appears to be mostly coherent and has slightly more charisma than a plank of wood, contra Cotton, who has less. But either way, the Republican presidential nominee in 2024 is going to be a) young, b) completely on board with every element of Trumpism, up to and including the egregious racism, and c) a complete psychopath.

The problem for Republicans is formed by the double bind of having the rabid support of a rapidly dwindling population. For the last decade at least, if not longer, Republicans have punched above their weight, nationally, through a combination of gerrymandering and the fact that old people, who are mostly conservative, vote in higher proportion to their share of the population than everyone else. But if you hitch your wagon to a movement powered by the elderly, well, at some point they’re not going to be around to vote for you anymore. On the one hand, you have to keep feeding them stronger doses of the same stuff you were serving up 20 years ago because if you let up, the panic abates, but on the other hand, the number of people sticking around on this mortal plane that you can scare up into voting for you is diminishing.

The culture war is so important to Republicans not only because actual Republican policies are deeply unpopular, but also because decades of Republican politicians who live and breathe the culture war has resulted in a political class that is permanently high on its own supply. They don’t really know any other way to operate, and none of their voters (as opposed to their funders) respond to any other signals, so in the short term, it’s safe to assume that they’re going to keep on keeping on, trying to wring maybe another national election out of a dying generation. If that doesn’t work because enough boomers will have died by 2024, then maybe we’ll see some sort of reckoning, but if it does work… well, it’s been nice commenting here.

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J-D 07.04.20 at 8:18 am

The problem for Republicans is formed by the double bind of having the rabid support of a rapidly dwindling population. For the last decade at least, if not longer, Republicans have punched above their weight, nationally, through a combination of gerrymandering and the fact that old people, who are mostly conservative, vote in higher proportion to their share of the population than everyone else. But if you hitch your wagon to a movement powered by the elderly, well, at some point they’re not going to be around to vote for you anymore. On the one hand, you have to keep feeding them stronger doses of the same stuff you were serving up 20 years ago because if you let up, the panic abates, but on the other hand, the number of people sticking around on this mortal plane that you can scare up into voting for you is diminishing.

As far as I know, the phenomenon of a correlation between age and likelihood to vote for conservative politicians is a persistent one; that is, at any given point in time, going back for I don’t know how many decades but perhaps a century or even more, the cohort of people over (say) sixty have voted more conservatively than the cohort of people under (say) forty. If this is so, then it’s true that in (say) twenty years time the cohort of people currently over sixty will mostly have died, but they will have been replaced by a new cohort of people over sixty who will vote about as conservatively as their predecessors.

It’s certainly true that rich people vote more conservatively than poor people, and it’s also certainly true that rich people live longer than poor people: this must be at least part of the reason for the greater conservatism of the elderly cohort, and it may be the whole of the reason.

The cohort of people who will be aged over sixty in twenty years time will be made up mostly of people who are currently aged between forty and sixty (with the addition of a small number of people already aged over sixty who survive at least another twenty years); but it won’t include all the people currently aged between forty and sixty, because a substantial fraction of those will die over the next twenty years, and death will not take them equally from all demographic groups, but selectively, more of the poor than of the rich and therefore more of those who vote against conservative politicians than of those who vote for them.

It’s a reasonable default expectation that conservative politicians in twenty years time will be able to place much the same reliance as conservative politicians now on a conservatively voting cohort of the elderly.

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J-D 07.04.20 at 8:22 am

Hidari once more: “I suspect that Biden will be, like Trump, another weak President, unable or unwilling to reverse long term trends of decline.”

And I suspect that this prediction is meaningless as long as you are not willing or able to offer a definition of the terms “weak president” and “decline”.

The failure of the Delphic Oracle to define its terms was, as they say, a feature, not a bug. If you refuse to explain your meaning so that people can understand it, they can never prove you wrong and you can always appear prescient in retrospect.

95

Hidari 07.04.20 at 9:06 am

@92

‘Trumpism’ is not hard to define, although the ‘liberal’ media have muddied the waters a lot by shrieking about fascism and Hitler and whatnot.

1: ‘Economic nationalism’. Trumpists tend to be suspicious of trans-national economic entities like the EU and trade agreements like NAFTA. ‘America (or Britain, or Turkey, or Russia, or Israel) first.’ A certain suspicion of the nostrums of ‘free trade’ except insofar as they benefit (directly, economically) the nation.

2: Extreme hostility to immigration (which frequently slides into outright racism). ‘British jobs for British workers’ (an old NF slogan then propounded by Gordon Brown). Building walls where possible or, if not, an emphasis on having strong, secure borders.

3: Suspicion of foreign ‘entanglements’, especially of course military alliances, except insofar as they can be economically justified (this follows from ‘1’).

4: Suspicion of military action, except insofar as it is linked directly to economic goals (‘we should have taken the oil!’) . Again this follows from ‘1’. Total lack of interest in ‘spreading democracy’ or ‘ending tyranny round the world’ etc.

5: Stylistically a certain love of rhetoric, tropes, rituals and the creation of myths that demonstrate that the leader is not one of the ‘liberal establishment’, that he (sic) is an outsider, the use of ‘coarse’ language, never apologising, and a certain indifference to whether one’s actions as a leader are, strictly speaking, legal. The (mainly mythical) idea that the leader speaks for the ‘little guy’. Trying to create an image of a ‘Strong Nation’ (whatever the reality). But this is always, ultimately, justified via the ballot box. None of the Trumpists have cancelled elections, and (so far) none of them have expressed an interest in doing so. The worst they have done (cf Erdogan) is to accentuate corruption trends that were already there.

6: Keep the safety net and the welfare state for the core support (pensioners). A certain suspicion of the idea of ‘balanced budgets’ and other neoliberal ideas, in favour of directly helping (economically) one’s core support population.

I suspect the ‘populism train’ has a long way to run before it reaches its destination. With climate change (and the ecopalypse), spiralling inequality, the growth (since 2015) of worldwide absolute global poverty, and the increasing breakdown of the ‘liberal’ world order backed by American military power, and, of course, the global annihilation of the Left who would normally be the people that one would look to to solve these problems, there is very little way for popular anger against these trends to express itself.

@91

‘Short of causing a nuclear war or a civil war….’

Don’t discount the possibility of President Biden starting one or both of these. As I mentioned above, Noam Chomsky has been essentially alone in warning of the dangers of a nuclear war breaking out. Tensions with the Russians will presumably increase under President Biden (assuming he wins!) , even more than they did under Trump, so the Old New Cold War will keep going (and get worse) and the New New Cold War with China is also just beginning (and has in fact already broken out on the Indian Chinese border). Both China and Russia are of course nuclear powers.

In any case, we sail into the sea of chance. Our elected politicians have essentially given up on creating meaningful solutions to any of the problems above, so random chance will presumably decide whether or not there is a 22nd century.

So strap in, it’s going to be a helluva ride. Empires are frequently at their most dangerous in their declining years.

96

Fake Dave 07.04.20 at 10:53 am

I think our most likely short-term outcome is going to be a frustrating four years of trying to shove Biden in a progressive direction while he makes baffling concessions to Republicans on healthcare and social security, fails to regulate transnational capitalism, and tries to start at least one war in the Middle East. Then he’ll likely step down either because his health is failing or because his political moment has passed. Otherwise he would face a competitive primary that he could very well lose.

Schumer, Pelosi, Hoyer, Feinstein, and the other (quite) old guard are also very close to becoming lame ducks no matter how deep in denial they may be. “Resisting” the Republicans was enough to hold the coalition together under Trump, but what happens when that pressure is released and Democrats try to actually legislate again? The progressives in Congress have spent the past four years crafting a slate of reforms that, if taken together, would dwarf the War on Poverty and supplant the threadbare tatters of original New Deal as the basis for a democratic social contract. That’s not going to happen easily or all at once, especially with Biden around (that sort of transformational ambition is what made Sanders “too risky”), but the Berniecrats are the obvious future of the party, so something has to give.

I can’t help but think that Trump will be a one term president followed by another one and quite possibly a third failed presidency after that while the real action plays out in Congress. The sudden interest in statehood for DC and PR, plus Biden’s focus on ending the filibuster, tells me that Democrats are finally playing for keeps and we’ll see the same burst of “never again” reformism that followed other disastrous presidencies like Andrew Johnson and Richard Nixon. I think a more likely trend for the next few decades is going to be the decline of the imperial presidency, not the American empire as a whole. America loves a good political crisis. We thrive on it. Lately it’s been the complacent stagnation that’s killing us, but that’s obviously over now.

Covid has actually “changed everything” in the way 9/11 was supposed to but didn’t. If you think the cultural backlash to hordes of maskless idiots in red states waving their guns screaming about freedom is bad now, imagine what it will be like when everyone in America knows someone who’s gotten sick. People who live in Texas or Orange County are already tired of carrying water for corrupt racist idiots. Now they’re being asked to die for them too. A hundred million non-voters are suddenly paying attention to their local and state governments in a way they haven’t in years — maybe their whole lives. Most of them aren’t going to like what they see.

97

Hidari 07.04.20 at 11:26 am

‘The failure of the Delphic Oracle to define its terms was, as they say, a feature, not a bug. If you refuse to explain your meaning so that people can understand it, they can never prove you wrong and you can always appear prescient in retrospect.’

I haven’t defined Biden, Trump or President either. Clearly I am a fraud. And I would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for you pesky blog commentators.

98

afeman 07.04.20 at 11:29 am

notGoodenough:

Given a majority of votes in each individual state and the current convention of winner-take-all-electors in each state, the question of how much of a margin in the national vote tallies (which both Clinton and Gore won) in necessary to secure a de jur win is more deterministic than probabilistic, and depends on elector arithmetic. The math is, to quote oceanographer Joseph Pedlosky describing a several-dimensional but solvable matrix of fluid dynamics equations, straightforward but not trivial.

99

afeman 07.04.20 at 12:10 pm

3: ‘Entryism’ as previously tried by the Militant Tendency in the UK, and, in the US, by the DSA, in which you slowly try and take a party over ‘from the bottom up’. Has never worked.

What you describe is a common account of how the Republican party changed in the past several decades, leading to earlier speculation (maybe by Corey Robin) as to whether Sanders might be a Reagan or a Goldwater.

100

ph 07.04.20 at 12:56 pm

“We only kneel before Almighty God.”

Watched part of the Memorial Day Rally. He’s definitely older and less energetic than in 2015. Five years like he’s had would wear on anyone. That said, he’s crisper and clearer than Biden. Having watched both recently, there’s no question Joe is angrier, as if being questioned on anything is an insult.

What remains? Patriotism, love of God, family, flag, and country. The anti-history narratives of identity politics, cancel culture, and reparations, are making Trumpism in 2020 very easy for Trump define. His opponents want to destroy American history, silence dissent, and indoctrinate children against God and country – a form of left-fascism which is the very definition of totalitarianism. Quote/Unquote.

Make of Trump’s invocation to the American people what you will.

101

nastywoman 07.04.20 at 2:41 pm

@95
‘Trumpism’ is not hard to define”
and then it comes in 6 – (in words: ”sex”) – parts of ”one” STUPID?

And my dad – who is this very old ”Art Historian” once wrote even more ”parts” about the Art of an Ape – which he presented as the works of ”The Human Genius I.”
-(one of these typical ”Art-Happenings in the 70th”)
And after the exhibition was sold he told all the buyers that they had bought the Art of an Ape – and he offered to give the money back – but most of the buyers were just too embarrassed to take it…

102

Mike 07.04.20 at 3:37 pm

Hidari thinks Biden is Trump-lite, and will be as bad (or possibly worse?) on major issues like climate change and risk of nuclear war. I think this is a very bad mistake. Here’s Hidari defending it:

[The fact that Nate Silver doesn’t say anything about Biden moving left on foreign policy]
makes me think that probably there will be more continuity than differences between the Biden regimes and the Trump regimes. Biden (as Trump did) will continue to ramp up tensions with China and Russia (in both cases, especially vis a vis China, following in the footsteps of Obama). The risks of nuclear war breaking out with one or both of these powers will (as Noam Chomsky has been essentially alone in pointing out) continue to increase.* I very much doubt Biden will be in a position to do anything serious about global warming/’the death of birth’/’the insect apocalypse’ and all the other ecological issues that are going to become increasingly important as we ‘progress’ into the 21st century. Reform of the police will involve taking on the cop unions so that won’t happen either.

The question about the risks of nuclear war should be: under which administration will the chances of nuclear war (at some point in the future, not just while they are in office) be lower? Here are some things that needlessly increase the chance of nuclear war: withdrawing from arms treaties, erratic brinkmanship with other nuclear-armed states, and restarting nuclear testing. Who is more likely to do this? This is not a difficult question.
https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2020-06/news/trump-officials-consider-nuclear-testing
https://livableworld.org/nukevote2020/

Maybe Hidari would claim that Biden is significantly more likely to get us into a war with Russia or China, enough to outweigh the very clear additional risks that Trump adds in the above ways? I don’t see why we should believe this. Is the thought that Biden would, but Trump would not, send aircraft carriers to the South China Sea while China is conducting military drills nearby? https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-sends-two-aircraft-carriers-to-south-china-sea-for-exercises-as-china-holds-drills-nearby-11593816043
It’s possible, of course, that Biden will do similar things, and that it will somehow spiral out of control into an armed conflict. But this spiraling seems to me more likely to happen under Trump, especially given the “China virus” rhetoric and the kinds of advisors he has.

Now, about climate change. It is even less plausible here that Biden would be as bad, or even nearly as bad, as Trump.
https://climate-xchange.org/2020/05/27/biden-vs-trump-where-the-2020-candidates-stand-on-climate-issues/
The best case that can be made for Hidari’s position is just that even though Biden’s ambitions here would be much better than Trump’s, he wouldn’t be able to make a difference anyways. But this is implausible. Even without a Democratic Senate, there are various things that Biden can do that will compare very favorably to Trump on climate change, like not having Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA. And with Biden plus a Democratic Senate, there’s a chance of significant action in the right direction.

And on police reform: Biden won’t be able to implement (or even try to implement) all the changes that I and others would like to see. But I find it very hard to believe that the state of policing after four more years of Trump would be no worse than what it would be after four years of Biden. Police unions might be powerful, but the Department of Justice can still conduct civil rights investigations and issue consent decrees. They will be doing more of that under Biden than under Trump. Moreover, it is plausible that a Democratic congress might pass some more significant police reform legislation which Biden would sign into law. And with a Trump presidency and Republican senate, there is no chance of this.

And all of this is not to directly mention Trump’s autocratic aspirations (on which, see Masha Gessen’s recent book). Perhaps Hidari thinks there is not a significant enough risk here to worry about. I’d rather not roll the dice again.

Hidari is right that Chomsky has been ringing the alarm bells about nuclear war and climate change for some time. And what is Chomsky’s advice for dealing with these issues? “What should happen in 2020 is obvious. Priority number one: get rid of the malignancy. If Trump manages to win… we’re pretty much toast”. https://youtu.be/kwN5BV8vZUg?t=1827

Should our political ambitions and advocacy stop at voting Trump out? Should we be happy with whatever Biden does? Of course not. But acting like re-electing Trump wouldn’t be worse than electing Biden is wrong and dangerous. The fact that terrible things might happen under either politician does not mean the chances of bad things happening are the same either way. I hope this kind of mistake doesn’t keep people from the polls.

103

Andres 07.04.20 at 7:10 pm

JD@94:

<

blockquote cite=”Hidari once more: “I suspect that Biden will be, like Trump, another weak President, unable or unwilling to reverse long term trends of decline.”

And I suspect that this prediction is meaningless as long as you are not willing or able to offer a definition of the terms “weak president” and “decline”.”>

“The failure of the Delphic Oracle to define its terms was, as they say, a feature, not a bug. If you refuse to explain your meaning so that people can understand it, they can never prove you wrong and you can always appear prescient in retrospect.”

If you think that the terms “weak president” and “decline” are Delphic cyphers then either you haven’t done very much thinking about the U.S. political-economic system or you are just trying to score debating points. To belabor what should be completely obvious to most of us:

Weak president = POTUS who either (1) rightly or wrongly believes that he has little agency and must bend to the will of his campaign financers, party faction or voting base in the predominant majority of cases, or (2) is easily manipulated into taking the policy actions favored by his “advisors”. There is a tendency (with exceptions) for Republican leaders to fall into category (2) and Democratic presidents to fall into (1).

Decline = a combination of political and economic symptoms including (1) stagnant or even declining physical capital stock, caused by a combination of financially-driven caution by private businesses and fiscally driven lack of public investment, (2) a narrowing circle of individuals who can influence business investment or public policy (3) mostly because of (2), a succession of weak leaders (see above) at the higher levels of government, (4) stagnant or deteriorating demographic statistics, including but not limited to death rates from causes other than old age diseases (e.g. Case and Deaton’s “deaths of despair”) as well as chronic social pathologies such as alcoholism, drug addiction, etc. Also crime, though the U.S. has succeeded in suppressing crime thanks to a large carceral state.

Decline does not have to be an irreversible phenomenon. An intelligent but not acute observer in the early 1850’s might have said that the U.S. was in irreversible decline thanks to the growing power of the slave oligarchy which had cemented its power with the Fugitive Slave Act and was able to either put in its favored politicians into high office or else constrain the presidents it didn’t favor (and so we get Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan, three weak presidents in succession). Along with economic stagnation outside of major cities and large plantations, the rise of anti-foreigner Know-Nothingism as a political force (sound familiar?) All of which were acting to turn the U.S. into another banana republic (though cotton republic might be more accurate). But this observer would have been wrong because he underestimated the degree of popular backlash to the slave oligarchy, leading to a third party revolt, and the extent to which industrialization could drive the U.S. economy once slave agriculture was no longer an impediment.

The point is that no one who reads the news and is not mind-controlled would deny that the U.S. is in decline right now. The real argument is whether that decline can be reversed (I think it can) and if so how.

104

Andres 07.04.20 at 7:54 pm

Fake Dave @96 and Mike @102: I think the main sticking point is to what extent the Obama presidency will be the template for Biden. Let’s review the case again: On foreign policy, Obama didn’t get us into another Iraq war nor into nuclear war, and he gave us an agreement with Iran that had the fatal flaw of not being bipartisan. But that’s about the best that can be said. In most other respects, U.S. foreign policy in 2009-2016 was a disaster. Neither Obama, nor HRC nor Kerry was willing to overrule the national security establishment on Libya, Egypt and Syria, leading to thousands of death, dictatorship in Egypt, and civil war anarchy in Syria/Libya. No effective strategy for leaving Afghanistan was devised. The growing right-wing backlash in Latin America was ignored; Bolsonaro is one unhappy consequence. On the global environment Obama accomplishes nothing far-reaching other than maintaining

And domestically, the Obama administration governed as if (a) the Republican opposition was still a sane negotiator, whereas they had fallen off the deep end; so we get fiscal pullback after 2011 that slows down recovery, (b) nothing is done to punish the various perpetrators of the 2000’s debt bubble in part because they belong to the same economic class as the funding sources of the Democratic party, and (c) the political center is taken as given with no effort made to shift it; police violence against minorities is disapproved of but no far-ranging steps are taken against it, leading to 2020.

If Biden is elected and hews to the template, possibly because the Republicans still control the Senate, then we will see some improvements including the more frequent use of consent decrees to keep policing under control. But I doubt that there will be substantial economic change, real incomes outside of the large cities will continue to stagnate, and the stage will be set for another handoff to Republicans in 2024 or 2028 at best. To reverse a long-term political-economic decline requires more than voting for the lesser evil party.

105

Andres 07.04.20 at 8:05 pm

In the last comment, I hit submit before realizing one of my sentences was unfinished:

On the global environment, Obama accomplished nothing far-reaching other than maintaining the U.S. existing treaty commitments (including its nominal approval of but non -ratification of Kyoto; no attempt was made to get the treaty ratified during the Obama years, nor to hammer out a stronger global warming agreement) and passively agreeing to the Paris Accord targets, which were also promptly torn up by Trump.

106

Hidari 07.04.20 at 8:43 pm

@102

Won’t really comment on this, as it seems to buy into the myth that Democrats are less warlike than Republicans (this is obviously not true). Trump has obviously ramped up tensions with China and Russia, that’s not a secret (except to the New York Times and the ‘liberal’ ‘intelligentsia’ generally), but he hasn’t started up a new war (yet!). I was acting under the assumption that Biden will win the next election, and maybe he won’t. In which case, yes, war could break out under Trump as well. Is Biden any safer? Well, maybe, but given the Russiagate farce, the languorous fellatio of insane racist terrorist madman currently being given to John Bolton on ‘liberal’ TV shows, and the fact that Biden’s campaign manager accused Trump of being ‘soft on China’ there is reason to doubt it (https://www.businessinsider.com/joe-biden-ad-china-trump-coronavirus-racist-xenophobic-2020-4?r=US&IR=T).

The big threat is that war will break out by accident, and if you are asking me straight out, no I have no faith that Biden will react any better than Trump in a high pressure situation where there is immense pressure to ‘lash out’ and be seen to be ‘doing something’. Trump has increased tensions with China and Russia, but also made moves to wind down Obama’s Syrian war, has made a start on winding down in Afghanistan (currently on hold) and has not started any new wars. Obama also amped up tensions with China and Russia (the ‘pivot to China’ was Obama’s idea) but also annihilated Libya and made a damn good attempt at destroying Syria and Yemen.

To be absolutely clear: yes I think Trump, if he wins, will increase tensions with China and Russia, but I also think Biden will do this, and I am genuinely not clear who is better than whom here.

Biden is obviously and self-evidently slightly better than Trump on climate change, something no serious person would deny.

Biden is almost certainly going to be better for the American working class than Trump. But the US right now needs an FDR, as Biden himself recognises. Will Biden rise to the challenge? Highly debatable. A miss is a good as a mile. If you succeed, you get to be FDR. If not, Herbert Hoover. Which will Biden be? What do we all think, in our heart of hearts?

Last point before I bow out: Chomsky is a genius and always worth reading, but he is also 91, and there is some evidence that he suffers from ‘Trump Derangement Syndrome’ the belief that Trump is something fundamentally ‘other’ in the American political tradition, which is obviously not true.

107

J-D 07.04.20 at 11:55 pm

Given a majority of votes in each individual state and the current convention of winner-take-all-electors in each state, the question of how much of a margin in the national vote tallies (which both Clinton and Gore won) in necessary to secure a de jur win is more deterministic than probabilistic, and depends on elector arithmetic. The math is, to quote oceanographer Joseph Pedlosky describing a several-dimensional but solvable matrix of fluid dynamics equations, straightforward but not trivial.

No.

To go into more detail:

In 2016, the difference between the total Democratic vote and the total Republican vote nationally–what might be called the national Democratic margin–was 2.1% of total votes cast. The Democratic margin, in the same sense, in New Hampshire was 0.4% of total votes cast. Thus, New Hampshire voted 1.7% less Democratic than the country as a whole. Meanwhile, in Michigan, there was, in the same sense a Republican margin of 0.2%, so Michigan voted 2.3% more Republican than the country as a whole. A similar figure can be calculated for each State: some more Democratic than the country as a whole (Nevada by 0.3%; California by 28.0%), some more Republican (Florida by 3.3%; Wyoming by 44.2%).

If these State indicators were fixed from election to election, it would be possible to calculate directly the effect of a change in the national vote margin on each State. If the Democrats achieve a three-point margin in the national vote they’ll carry Michigan, a four-point margin and they’ll carry Florida; on the other hand, if the Republicans reduce the Democratic margin to one point they’ll carry New Hampshire and if they achieve a one-point margin of their own they’ll carry Nevada.

But these State indicators are not fixed from election to election. No matter which direction the national margin moves, some States will move further in the same direction, while others will move less far or even move in the opposite direction. If the movement was uniform across the States, we could predict (deterministically) that a movement of the national margin by one point towards the Democrats would give them Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin (and the ball game), while a movement half that would be insufficient (because it would deliver only Michigan). However, if the movement in critical States is less than the movement in the national margin (which is possible), a one-point movement might be insufficient; whereas if the movement in critical States is greater than the movement in the national margin (which is also possible), a national movement of half a point might be sufficient. (Critical States, in this context, means States which were close last time: there’s not a binary division, then, between critical States and others, but rather States are more or less critical, in this specific mathematical sense, as the margin last time was more or less close.)

The resulting relationship between the national popular vote margin and the final outcome can only be modelled probabilistically, and as a matter of fact I recently discovered that this has actually been done, and I might try to find the reference again if I can. (The model I saw contradicted my own seat-of-the-pants estimate in an earlier comment: in the model, the chance of a Republican victory only diminished to negligible levels when the Democratic margin in the national vote reached or exceeded six percentage points; with a Democratic margin of four or five points, in the model, went a small but not negligible chance of Republican victory. For added clarity, 53-47 would mean a six-point margin, but so would 51-45 or 50-44 with the rest of the vote going to candidates neither Democratic nor Republican, and something similar applies to other figures for the margin.)

108

Jerry Vinokurov 07.05.20 at 3:07 am

As far as I know, the phenomenon of a correlation between age and likelihood to vote for conservative politicians is a persistent one; that is, at any given point in time, going back for I don’t know how many decades but perhaps a century or even more, the cohort of people over (say) sixty have voted more conservatively than the cohort of people under (say) forty. If this is so, then it’s true that in (say) twenty years time the cohort of people currently over sixty will mostly have died, but they will have been replaced by a new cohort of people over sixty who will vote about as conservatively as their predecessors.

This is a common misperception, but in fact there’s good evidence that the events of one’s formative political years (i.e. late teens to mid-twenties) have a crystalizing effect on one’s political views. While it’s certainly possible that today’s progressives will be slightly more conservative relative to where they started out there’s no reason to believe that today’s 40-somethings are 20-years-from-now’s Trump voters.

With regard to nuclear war, anyone who genuinely thinks the risk of nuclear war is greater under Biden than Trump is not really a serious person and can be safely ignored.

109

J-D 07.05.20 at 6:00 am

If you think that the terms “weak president” and “decline” are Delphic cyphers then either you haven’t done very much thinking about the U.S. political-economic system or you are just trying to score debating points. To belabor what should be completely obvious to most of us:

Maybe the definitions you offer are the ones Hidari intended; but then again, maybe they aren’t. There’s not much point discussing them the problems with them as clear definitions of Hidari’s terms if it’s not established that they are the definitions Hidari intended (or close enough).

110

J-D 07.05.20 at 6:13 am

This is a common misperception

I referred to two statistical tendencies: for the rich to vote more conservatively than the poor, and for the poor to die younger than the rich. Do you consider either of those to be misperceptions? If those two tendencies are not disputed, it follows by mathematical necessity that each cohort votes more conservatively as it ages …

While it’s certainly possible that today’s progressives will be slightly more conservative relative to where they started out

… without any assumption about individuals becoming more conservative as they age. (If there is a statistical tendency for individuals to become more conservative as they age, as some believe, it would reinforce the pattern, but I make no such assumption.)

… in fact there’s good evidence that the events of one’s formative political years (i.e. late teens to mid-twenties) have a crystalizing effect on one’s political views

I would be interested in any such evidence, as I’m not so far aware of any. Even if it’s the case, however, it doesn’t automatically follow that the statistical effects of such a tendency are great enough to swamp the statistical effect of a tendency for a cohort to vote more conservatively as it ages.

… there’s no reason to believe that today’s 40-somethings are 20-years-from-now’s Trump voters.

Donald Trump won’t be a candidate for office twenty years from now, so nobody will be voting for him then: that’s not the point at issue.

To repeat myself: among people currently aged between forty and sixty there are both Democrats and Republicans; in the next twenty years, there will a higher mortality rate among the Democrats than among the Republicans, because both mortality rates and voting behaviour correlate with economic security.

111

nastywoman 07.05.20 at 8:15 am

@106
”Chomsky is a genius and always worth reading, but he is also 91, and there is some evidence that he suffers from ‘Trump Derangement Syndrome’ – the belief that Trump is something fundamentally ‘other’ in the American political tradition, which is obviously not true”.

As we had developed this very simple test how to identify ”a Trumper”
by getting then answer t o just two – very simple questions –

Do you support BLM?
Do you support wearing a mask?

are we allowed to add:

Do you use the words: Trump Derangement Syndrome?
Do you belief that Trump is NOT something fundamentally ‘other’-
(than all the other NOT STUPID US Presidents)

And we even would credit CT for the two additional questions – which will make ”the test” for sure a lot less simple – but perhaps we need these two additional questions to identify the ”lesser simple Trumpsters”?

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Tm 07.05.20 at 10:45 am

Thanks for talking some sense, Mike 102. Meanwhile Trump has made it clear that his number one campaign strategy is to whip up more racist hate against BLM, but heaven forbid anybody draws a parallel to other fascist movements.

Andres says a weak president is one who is “easily manipulated”. That is something resembling a definition but it doesn’t explain how it can be measured (are there any presidents that verifiably have not been manipulated?) , and more importantly the relevance of this concept eludes me. Suppose a president starts a nuclear war, what does it matter whether it was his own idea or that of his advisers? Will historians (provided there will be any left) judge the outcome differently depending on whether it happened to be a “weak” president?

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