Provocations

by Daniel A. Kaufman

Though I voted for Hillary Clinton in the last election, I predicted that Donald Trump would win.  Indeed, I was predicting his victory months before, when everyone was convinced he would lose.  I even capitalized on this overconfidence, winning $160, on a $20 bet in which my challenger gave me 8-1 odds.  After the election was over, I identified the most right wing county that I could find in the rural South and made him donate the money to a local charity there.  The frisson was better than cocaine.

I feel sort of like James Caan in Thief or Al Pacino in The Godfather 3, but in reverse.  Rather than people from my old gang trying to drag me back, after I’ve decided to leave,  the people in the new gang I’ve joined are doing everything they can to shove me back into the arms of my old one.  I left the conservative movement because I couldn’t stomach the Moral Majority and their cretinous offspring, the Christian Coalition.  Now I’m finding I can’t stomach the left’s new Moral Minority, with their lampoonable pronoun crusades and safe spaces and other pitiful crap.  But even worse is the way we’ve collectively reacted to our devastating and revealing loss to the Republicans and to Donald Trump.

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With regard to the young people involved, to whose education I’ve devoted more than half of my life, it’s more sad than anything else.  You can see that they desperately want to have some cause to rally around; to man the barricades; to play 1968, with protests and sit-ins, and megaphones and whatnot.  The trouble is that the issues just aren’t there.  They’re not facing being shipped off to Vietnam.  They’re not getting shot to death by soldiers at Kent State.  They’re not living at a time when the only women in offices were secretaries; or when violent crime rates were so high, you couldn’t walk down streets in big cities without getting mugged or worse; or when there was legal segregation; or when even super-rich, mega pop stars had to hide their homosexuality for fear of their careers being ruined.   Most of these battles  have been won or mostly won, to the point that what’s left are moral and legal crumbs, important to be sure, but for which loud agitprop of the sort we’re seeing at Yale and Middlebury and Evergreen just comes off as histrionic and stupid.  The one thing that they should be really outraged about, namely, that their economic futures have been fucked (largely by the Baby Boomers) and that their wildly expensive educations are going to turn out to be useless, yielded nothing but the stillbirth that was the “Occupy” movement.  But it’s not really their fault.  They’re entirely ignorant of recent history – I’ve been saying for years that we should teach students history since the Second World War and then the rest, going backwards from there, as time permits – and lack any sort of grit or fortitude, their parents and teachers having been busy filling their heads with save-the-world bullshit, a saccharine ethos, and an “all must have prizes” mentality that has turned them into a bunch of pious, triggered twits.

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The adults, however, have no excuse.  None.  Indeed, it’s gotten so bad that I can’t even stand talking about politics with the grownups in my own party anymore.  We lost an election in a way that demonstrates not just the rottenness of our party’s hierarchy, but that our political coalition, as it stands, is not politically viable.   In a Federal system like ours, what matters is not how many people support you, in a numerical sense, but how well-supported you are across the various regions of the country, and what we’ve discovered is that while our platform is appealing to a lot of people, numerically speaking, it is only to people living in a handful of high-population, cosmopolitan areas, essentially the Boston-NY-DC corridor, LA county, the Bay Area, and the Pacific Northwest.  This shouldn’t surprise us, given our current most visible raft of issues – environmentalism, identity politics, and globalization – but it should be immediately obvious that it’s far too narrow and elitist to successfully win elections in and govern an enormous and diverse country like the United States.  When the party of FDR loses Labor to the party of Nelson Rockefeller – when you lose Michigan and Wisconsin to the goddamned Republicans – and when the best candidate you can cough up is the sclerotic Hillary Clinton, you should realize you have a serious problem; one that requires a thorough re-conceptualization of your party and a rebuilding of it from the ground up.  The McGovernite coalition, with a sprinkling of global capitalists and technocrats added on top, just isn’t going to cut it – it never did, which is why Bill Clinton is the only really successful president the Democrats have had since FDR – and we should know that.

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And yet, what are all my fellow adult Democrats talking about?  Impeaching Trump.  Arresting Trump.  Driving Trump from office.  Praying that Trump dies before he finishes his term.  Someway, somehow, somewhere fucking that fucking Trump.  And beyond that?  Doubling down on identity politics.  Marching.  Joining cringe-inducing groups like “Pantsuit Nation,” whose optics are precisely the sort of thing that made Hillary Clinton so viscerally unappealing to voters living anywhere that wasn’t New York or California.  Oh and busily knifing one another.  They’re doing that with great efficiency and glee. Trans activists going after feminists.  BLM supporters going after white progressives.  Global warming obsessives going after anyone who isn’t absolutely convinced that Florida will be underwater next week.  In short, doing everything that lost us the damned election in the first place, but even more so, and doing none of the things we desperately must do if we are to win the next one.  Indeed, doing everything they can think of to make it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible to do so.

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Of course, this isn’t entirely surprising.  Party-building is brutally difficult, divisive, risky work.  One may have to compromise on some of one’s most cherished issues for the sake of the party’s long-term success.  One may have to form partnerships with those whom one really dislikes, because on five or six out of ten issues, you have common interests.  In short, it’s the sort of thing that requires one to be and to act like a fucking adult.  And the trouble is that our adults don’t want to be or act like adults.  (Which, by the way, should be the subject of an entire essay of its own.)  After all, it’s much easier to shout and march and shake your fist and join hashtag campaigns and have Comey-hearing-watching parties and plaster your car with stickers, than it is to do the work necessary to beat your opponent in an open contest, and you get cheap, easy kudos from your peeps to boot.  Put another way, what most of the (chronological) adults in my party seem to be doing most of the time in the days that have passed since the election is pose, posture, and signal to one another, with a periodic, ritual purging of the insufficiently pure to top it all off.  And while that’s something I expect sixteen year olds to do, when forty, fifty, and sixty year olds do it, it’s not just regressive, but grotesque, as well as being completely, utterly, totally counterproductive.  Not to mention infuriating.  So much so, that it almost makes me almost want to become a Republican again, just to spite them.

Fortunately, I have enough control over myself not to do that.

100 Comments »

  1. As further backing of my take on Bernie? Per what I just posted on FB:

    Sweet! #Berniecrats have their own Clinton Foundation after semi-bashing Bill & Hill’s. Can’t wait to see Lockheed F35 funding https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2017/06/07/sanders-institute-jane-sanders-launches-new-progressive-think-tank/102594476/

    Retread hacks like Robert Reich and newly self-created hacks like Islamophobe Tulsi Gabbard are among “founding fellows.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. @dbholmes

    The problem is not just the Democratic establishment, there are (at least) two problems that extend further down to the grassroots level:

    1. You can’t have a viable national party that doesn’t think borders matter both legally *and* morally. This belief extends to all levels of the party, in fact some establishment types might support the idea as a cynical ploy to get more votes but those at the lower levels are more likely to actually believe borders are an inherently bad thing.

    2. Going back to my first comment on this page, the Democrats won’t make progress until there is a reckoning with Obama’s disastrous presidency. In case anyone has forgotten, Obama came into office with massive popular support and the Democrats had large majorities in both houses of Congress. After 8 years Trump is POTUS and GOP controls the House and the Senate. What happened? Having some sort of major reform or legislative accomplishment with the huge political capital Democrats had in 2008 would at least be a consolation prize but Barack Obama has nothing to show for his entire presidency. I don’t see this type of critical reflection happening anytime soon for a variety of reasons (Obama’s personal popularity and the toxic identity politics that labels those who criticized his $400,000 speeches as racist are two reasons that come to mind).

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  3. @ejwinner

    Sorry to be blunt but I don’t get your complaints about Trump’s foreign policy.

    1. Trump campaigned on those positions and won, you can’t complain when he is delivering on what he said he would do before the election.

    2. Trump might be inarticulate but he has a point, is it too much to ask of Germany, the most prosperous nation in Europe, to increase their military spending to 2% of GDP in the face of the Russian threat? I think it is a reasonable request and if the Germans don’t want to do that there should be repercussions. That many western countries have been free riding on American security guarantee is a well-known fact, pre-Trump it was mostly brought up by libertarians and anti-war left as an argument for decreasing American military expenditure.

    3. Treaties *are* business deals, remember Lord Palmerston’s quote (later rephrased for the American context by Henry Kissinger): “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual”. Now what a nation’s interests are is a political question and the President as the political leader gets to define those.

    4. Sorry I don’t buy anything about Trump being unique in violating the dignity of the office. When I asked what has he done that is worse than Bill Clinton or Bush 43 I was being serious. What has he done that is worse than anything those two did in their political career? In the middle of the 1992 primaries Bill Clinton executed a mentally deficient man just to score a political point. Top that.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Socratic, Parallax,
    Here’s the problem: Basically you guys got nowhere to go. Your insistence on perfection, your willingness to raise and lower the bar so that no one can meet the standard, is such that what you’re saying is that there’s nothing to be done. I’m a pessimist and think that probably nothing *will* be done, But if we move goal posts back and forth to appeal to what we wish to believe, there is no longer any way to talk about the game.

    Dan,
    In this respect, it’s dangerous to get snared into political debates about historical figures. Socratic’s interpretation of Johnson is not that far off – we did get the Civil Rights Act and Medicare thanks to him; but your view has validity too – besides Viet Nam, the rise of welfare without a long range solution coupled with urban renewal made a mess of many cities. So what is the proper adjudication between these views? That belongs to historians, that’s their job. In politics we never move forward by looking backward. Looking backward is useful in developing analogies, but this usefulness is always about what works and what doesn’t. Otherwise we’re just picking players for an imaginary ball team using bubble gum cards.

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  5. I didn’t say Johnson didn’t do any good things. I said that Bill Clinton was the most *Politically* successful Democrat since FDR. That seems to me a no-brainer, and to suggest that Johnson’s presidency was a success is just bizarre, especially given that he chose not to run again, for precisely the reason that it had been so disastrous in terms of Vietnam.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dan,
    Okay, that’s a fair use of the past in terms of the present. However, there are also some useful things to learn from Johnson’s early success in winning ’64 and in his dealings with Congress. I’m just concerned that debating the merits or demerits of past presidents distracts us from discussing this president and any strategy for electing a future president.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Agreed, it’s not a very important discussion. My point in saying it really was just to show how much the Republicans have dominated the Presidency after FDR, but especially since the Democrats switched from their old coalition to the McGovernite one.

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  8. Parallax,
    With all due respect, and not wanting to engage in a hopeless quarrel, I can only say that your first three points are so inconsistent with what I understand about the nature of American government and international politics that it would be a waste of time for both of us in unpacking them. Your fourth point has some truth to it, but engages a cynicism for which I have no time. Politics is what it is; it can be a dirty business. The question is whether you want to accomplish any good in engaging it. Whatever their mistakes, the Bushes did (however much I disagree with what they considered good), and Clinton did. The current president? Maybe not so much. Who am I to judge? A voter in a representative democracy, thus having the right to do what can be done to help effect determination of the best interests of my nation.

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  9. Socratic,
    my friend, some of that comment touches on your comment re.: Sanders. You seem to want to persuade us to be so cynical about the two party system that we will all vote Green. First, that’s not the way persuade us to the Green agenda, so, second, that goal is unlikely to be achieved.

    What will shake the nation to the point of allowing a third party to come into real influence, even national offices? I don’t know; but it won’t be because Sanders gets involved in a think tank, or because Clinton performed a function of his governorship strictly for political gain. Indeed, the country is so cynical now – and Trumpster feeds off that cynicism so well – that insistent, increasing cynicism will only keep bad situations bad, and spoiling good situations to turn bad.

    What the nation needs is hope – not a ‘leadership of hope,’ since that can sour, and we’ve seen it do so; but an agenda of hope, a plan for what we as a nation can do, and one concrete and practical and appealing.

    The Democratic Party once had that; it might yet pull another together, we’ll see. No third party has been able to come up with a truly viable alternative, given the current state of politics.

    I know the system is somewhat rigged against them, esp. in the media. But right now we need to find some way to engage people – new people, young people, people of widely varied backgrounds – in politics so they can contribute more than just their own vote; and only the two major parties have the resources for doing that. A third party might be able to acquire such resources in the future; but that would involve compromises – shaking hands with more than a few devils – and most third parties are notorious for their insistence on purity.

    Finally, in personal conversations, I can get far more pessimistic than I appear in a public forum such as this – my friend Dave says calling me about politics is a visit to the ‘dark side.’ After all, I’m an old man, and I can afford the luxury of sulking in my den. But in a public forum, I throw out possibilities for change, because there may be someone in the audience for whom my remarks trigger some positive idea, such that they can do some good in the world. Even when I write darkly, and wonder whether democracy is even worth saving, I do so largely to spark someone into saying, ‘no, there is still hope, this is what we can do about it.”

    But if all we’re doing is re-enforcing each other’s cynicism, that’s get very dull. I would sooner meditate, that at least offers the promise of enlightenment.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. @ejwinner

    From the three first points, #1 is a factual statement, I don’t know how you can object to that. For #2 & #3 you avoid any specifics which is frustrating because I don’t see anything controversial there. But I will explain my points further, hoping that might help get my views across:

    Yes, United States has had a certain foreign policy in the past which, to oversimplify it, has been playing the role of global policeman, but should that go on forever? The American enforced world order has had great benefits for United States, but as U.S. share of global GDP declines and the costs of enforcement rise that might no longer be a good deal. People can disagree about when that point comes but as long as the U.S. share of global GDP declines it will happen sooner or later (it has gone from 50% in the aftermath of WWII to 24% in 2015). So at that point why should American public pay for a global public good by itself?? Trump’s claim has been that we are long past that point, you can say he is wrong but you still have to explain how you deal with it or at least argue that the economic gap between U.S. and the rest of the world will never shrink below a certain amount.

    Moreover this is not something Trump came up with, back in 2012 John Mearsheimer (one of the most preeminent *realist* scholars of international relations) made the exact same point regarding Germany at a talk I attended (the title of his talk was “Why China Can’t Rise Peacefully” this happened during the Q&A afterwards). He said it made no sense for U.S. to put up bases in rich countries like Germany when they can afford to do it themselves (he advocates what is called “offshore balancing”). So Trump campaigned on this position (which is not a ridiculous foreign policy position) and won, now unless you think American foreign policy is fixed and the voters should not be able to change it through the ballot box, I don’t see anything here that is that different from any other political issue. For example the top marginal tax rate in U.S. has been at or below 50% since 1981. If someone campaigned on raising it to 70% and won, saying this hasn’t been that way for as long as you remember is not an argument when they are trying to get their tax raise passed in Congress.

    As for alliances I think you have an unrealistic picture of U.S. foreign policy. Here is an example: during the Iran-Iraq war, United States kept switching sides (always helping the weaker side) the goal was to make the war last as long as possible (which was successful it became the longest war of 20th century).

    Regarding #4, do I understand you correctly that you think Trump is not significantly worse but because he doesn’t want to accomplish anything good that common level of dirtiness becomes intolerable??

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  11. Will not cynics speak the truth? Will they not admit ‘All are corrupt; the situation is hopeless; let’s not even talk about it. But look at me! how clever I am!’

    Pessimism arises from the recognition that humans can never achieve their ideals. Cynicism is gloating over that, as if something has been won through the denial of any possibility.

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  12. This has been a fascinating discussion which was quite revelatory. It has been a litany of complaints, but little more. I kept looking for a pattern in the complaints, a golden thread that somehow made sense of it all, but found none. Something has gone badly wrong, but what is it? While I enjoy prodding both sides of the debate(but more especially the liberal side since they make such easy targets), it does not answer the question.

    The clue can be found in the sequence of Dan-K’s recent essays. First he argued that identity politics was being taken to the extremes of self-madedness. Then his argument for moral scepticism highlights that it is becoming the dominant moral attitude.

    Both forces tend to blunt the sense of cohesion, purpose and values[1] that hold the country together as it navigates through the reefs of domestic and foreign challenges. As a result the responses to the challenges become weaker and more ineffective as the challenges become greater[2]. When that happens the sides turn on each other in a fiercely fratricidal manner, blaming each other, and this discussion has reflected that.

    To use an analogy. We are all, together sowing the garment of life[3], making our own little patches and joining them up with the patches of others. This works when we have an agreed pattern for the garment but now we are trying to sew entirely different garments. What is worse, no-one can agree on the colours and patterns of the subordinate garments. This is what happens when our sense of identity fragments, to be replaced by floating islands of identity. Identity politics and self-madedness are the culprits.

    [1] Values supply moral cohesion. Moral scepticism weakens the motivating force of moral values. The loss of moral cohesion allows us to exploit each other and the immense wealth inequality is the best evidence of this.

    [2] The challenges are getting more severe because we are buying our sewing machines and fabric from China. Instead of exporting our industrial output, as happened in former times, we are exporting our wealth, converting us, step by step, into China’s largest vassal state. There will be a very difficult transition from American hubris to American humility. Perhaps Massimo is right about Stoicism and we need to embrace Stoicism to endure this transition. As for me, I am looking for a good monastery. I hope they stock a good wine 🙂

    [3] I borrow this phrase from the Catholic Church’s marvellous social justice policy. Liberals could learn a lot from it. Republicans are too busy taking money from the 99% to learn.

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  13. Hi Dan, we’ve been agreeing in the main for a long time now. I’m absolutely on board with the idea that the Dem party, if it wants to be viable again, needs to get back to worrying about and mainly focusing on the working class and working class issues.

    I’m not sure if you are naturally pessimistic or just hampered by limited access to info about changes going on in the political sphere, but I’m seeing organization along those very lines, substantive discussion, including projects run by Millenials.

    If we limit assessment of progress to what establishment Dems are saying/doing, and how that is portrayed in the primary media outlets, then yes it looks like nothing is changing… or for that matter getting worse. Given my experiences, or perhaps my nature, it doesn’t seem impossible changes will occur, whether in the Dem party or outside.

    I have pointed to some links you can follow, if you are interested. If you are interested in change it might be useful to pursue those, rather than complain about the people that don’t make a difference anyway. It is not like complaining will change them.

    Where we disagree more substantively…

    “The electoral system we have is the one we have. There are good reasons for it. And it is not going to change. ” & “Also, it is not a “quirk” that Trump won.”

    Yes, it is a “quirk” that Trump won the election. We have a system that allows drastically unpopular candidates, including those not even getting the most votes, to get into office. Of course, I agree it is the system we have, it is unlikely to change, and until it is changed it is the system one has to work within. I never argued anything different, and calling unusual (and relatively rare) results a “quirk” does not change that.

    My entire point in bringing it up was not simply to say: “we won the popular vote.”

    It was that a fact like that (Trump does not have the support of the majority of US citizens) comes with its own set of considerations… it *is* a different situation than a resounding majority… which the Reps have *also* failed to learn from.

    On the EC itself, there may have been good reasons for it, but there aren’t any today. Or at least it is not self-evident what they are. We should ditch the electoral college for a system that delivers better results for a large, modern nation. What I find majorly ironic, is that for all this bashing of people on the left that are against it, so was Trump and his supporters, who suggested there might be riots if Clinton won that way.

    “What he got right was understanding the need to represent a broad swathe of American regions, rather than simply stacking up votes in a handful of metro areas.”

    OK, but so did Obama. Hillary lost Obama voters beyond those metro areas (which IIRC outnumbered Bill’s numbers). I mean really, if you want to talk about politicking as a candidate, Obama was better than Bill, hands down.

    And if we are talking about the present and future, you seem to be dismissing the hard work going on along these lines. Sanders has been active across rural states (have you not seen his town hall meetings?), and there are groups setting up in places like W.Virginia to actually help coal miners. It is perhaps not surprising that because Bernie was active like this in the last election, he still enjoys such a high approval rating, even among conservatives.

    “Bill Clinton and Obama, well, for one thing, BC will not have his entire presidency effectively erased by Donald Trump.”

    Really? What did Bill do, that was not a republican goal, that has not been erased by succeeding administrations? Thankfully even the Obama administration started to, and in some cases succeeded in dismantling some of Bill’s odious work. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell… bye bye. As it is, Trump also pledged to undo Bill’s signature programs (NAFTA anyone?), and who says he will succeed in getting rid of everything Obama did? You have conservatives suggesting his work on healthcare (as bad as it was) has paved the way for single payer… and is having a hell of a time getting repealed… and what he did for college students has been basically extended by Trump (which if you aren’t aware is really good news). Heck, even his hated Iran deal seems like it will stay and is getting grudging acceptance from the Trump administration (and conservatives) that it is working.

    So I’m still not getting your comparison, certainly without a rather large IOU on what Trump and Co will accomplish.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Hi Parallax, I didn’t understand your first point about borders.

    On your second point, I agree that many Dems are resisting a proper post-mortem of the 2016 campaign *and* an honest analysis of the Obama presidency. There were a lot of problems with the latter, which is why the Dems (under establishment leadership) have been virtually wiped out at all levels. Then again, to say: “Barack Obama has nothing to show for his entire presidency” is also not an honest analysis. You can look at my reply to Dan for some points. There are more.

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  15. Hi Dan,

    “That said, I agree with you that the apparent proportion of concern is bizarre. Gays and lesbians have never had it as good as they do today in the US and are overrepresented with respect to any number of positive social indicators, including education and wealth.”

    To tell LGBTs (or any minority group) they never had it as good as they do now is a very condescending and ignorant thing to say.

    Not only are crimes against LGBTs on the rise (especially T, 2016 being the highest on record for murders, and IIRC we’re already ahead of that this year), but even if they weren’t, why would that mean they should not protest against pressures that remain? And worldwide the trend is even worse regarding laws (including death penalty cases).

    Oh, in the aggregate LGBTs have better education and wealth? Shit, wish I knew about all that free $ available to me as an LGBT when I was being prevented from working at a job (with benefits I needed). Guess that casts no shadow over my life now, and no reason to worry it might happen again.

    Would you accept that kind of argument against your own minority group?

    “marches and protests on their behalf then on behalf of the tens of millions of people who live in serious poverty or on behalf of entire regions that are crippled by poverty?”

    You mean as compared to the conservatives and all their marches for the poor?

    And how do you know what any of these liberal protestors do when they are not protesting for LGBT rights?

    Yeah, we should be concerned about the poor and a whole lot of other things. The absence or presence of marches (or the degree to which they get media coverage and so *appear* to be happening) about one subject, does not rule out caring about (or the presence of caring about) others.

    Really, I am shocked at what appears to be extremely poor logic, and lack of empathy on this subject.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. DB,
    Yes, it is a “quirk” that Trump won the election.

    You keep ignoring the inconvenient fact that Republicans comprehensively won the elections in the Senate, Congress, Governorships and state legislatures.

    What do you think this tells you? Against this background it is no quirk that Trump won the election. For all the reasons we know about the nation swung towards the Republicans. You can’t make this inconvenient fact go away. This is the real issue you must address but it seems to me you simply cannot look it in the face.

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  17. @dbholmes

    1. Both on official positions and in rhetoric the Democratic party is acting as if national borders either don’t exist or should not exist.

    2. In the paragraph you name three accomplishments, healthcare, Iran deal and something he did for the college students.

    2(a). I don’t know what the last one refers to, but I did find a Bloomberg article published on April 11 and updated on April 12: “DeVos Undoes Obama Student Loan Protections: Trump’s education secretary wants to limit costs at a time when more than 1 million Americans are annually defaulting.”

    2(b). Iran deal, I will give you that, even though many people think it was a very bad deal for United States or that it was a strategic mistake (in the sense that the long term impact of the deal is a nuclear armed Iran). And I am not going to get into the (very valid) arguments that the Obama White House actively misled the public to get this through.

    2(c). ACA or Obamacare. The only positive thing you mention is how much Republicans have problems replacing it and that its failure is paving the way for single payer. First thing to note is that the law is doomed to failure if Trump and Republicans did nothing it would fall apart, the death spiral that everyone pointed out happened is happening and will only get worse. I don’t see how this is paving the way for single payer either. If we had President Pence you would most likely see cuts to Medicare to make it more like ACA.

    3. You are right that Bill Clinton does not have much in the way of a progressive legacy. But he became the president with less than 44% of popular vote, even in 1996 he didn’t break through the 50%. Unlike Obama he had very little political capital and as a result he did not do much because he couldn’t, most of his presidency was focused on stopping the Republican agenda.

    4. In summary, you had a historically popular president with very large Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate (256/435 and 59/100) and you traded it for a healthcare law that will implode if not reformed and a nuclear deal with Iran??

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  18. @Dan

    I am guessing this last one was not directed at my post (in which case delete this one as well).

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  19. The provocation provoked. In time a new understanding will settle out of the debris. Slowly the arguments shape us, in ways that we might not even recognise. We always come away from an argument altered, in some small way, and so we grow.

    The political pendulum will continue to swing from side to side. The winners will enjoy their moment of triumphalism and the losers will blame the system. You might say it is preordained. Referring to the video debate between Dan-K and Massimo(above) we might ask whether there is teleology in politics or is it teleonomy?

    But I think it is quite clear that teleology is a property of the Universe.

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  20. Yes, I saw that. Europe — or at least the Western part — seems to be resisting this right wing populist lurch that the US is currently going through. I wish we could figure out a way to separate the rejection of illiberal PC, without the right wing populism. But here they seem to almost go hand in hand.

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  21. Dan, Your essay only underscores the genius of the founding fathers and how they protected this country from an ilk of such miserable human beings lead by a pantsuit dictator.

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  22. Hi Parallax, I’ll go by the numbers…

    1) I guess I am not aware of that where I am. However, I do know there are conservatives who are fully against Trump’s immigration policy, anti-Mexico policy, and the stupid border wall.

    2) a… his budget and DeVos clarified differently since that article (you can watch her testimony if you want),
    b… you made my point with your opening statement, the rest is irrelevant
    c… you seem to be running with Rep talking points. If you do not understand, most if not all gov’t programs will implode if you don’t make adjustments. Yes, if the ACA is not adjusted it will implode. It is a double standard to point at that, and not hold it for like… everything else that is important. Regarding the ACA, I thought it was (and still think it is) horrible. Again, if you do not understand, it was and is a Rep built plan. It *is* Romney-care, a darling of the Reps and Rep thinktanks (and was put in place by Reps in at least one state) until a black Dem got it passed at the national level. However, I appear to be wrong about how well it worked as a step to healthcare reform. That was reported to be the gamble, I thought it wouldn’t work… maybe it has. Reps are saying this, at Fox even, so I am cautiously optimistic. Your idea that Pence would be able to weaken MC when Reps have already said no, sort of flies in the face of evidence.

    3) Again you make my point with your opening statement. The rest is irrelevant. And what is the significant difference between fighting Reps during his own administration to get them installed, and having to fight Reps for continuing a President’s progressive programs after he is out of office?

    4) We are in absolute agreement that Obama was a flawed president, who did not take significant advantage when Dems had power to press for strong liberal agendas, and in some cases actively weakened them. Unfortunately, like most presidents since Carter, he turned into an establishment tool and worked to expand executive power. That said, it’s not like he enjoyed Dem power for long, and was for most of his administration having to fight as hard or harder than Bill to get things done.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Hi Labnut,

    “You keep ignoring the inconvenient fact that Republicans comprehensively won the elections in the Senate, Congress, Governorships and state legislatures.”

    Keep ignoring… heheheh… if you look 4 or 5 posts above yours you will see me talking about it with Parallax. And if not for Dan (arguably wisely*) nixing one of my replies to you, you would have already seen me talking about it with you. What’s more, your belief that I ignore such a thing is only possible by not understanding what I have already mentioned (and even provided links to) in this thread.

    The entire Sanders campaign, and continuing work, has openly discussed that very issue for a very long time now. It forms a strong foundation of critique of the Dem party, from inside (Sanders, Justice Democrats) and outside (Greens, Libertarians, etc). If you need me to expound on it at length I can, but it should be clear to anyone actually following US politics, and so understand the references I have provided, that that point is like the last thing I am ignoring. But, here is another vid from the same Millenial Justice Democrat I linked to before, discussing that and what had been going on within the establishment wing of the Democratic party (suggesting why identity politics became so big)…

    “Its time to stop making excuses and get on with the business of making democracy work. There is no place in democracy for sore losers.”

    OK. But that has nothing to do with me. Your entire attack is an easily demonstrable strawman. Please remember: I’m not a Democrat (have at least one essay at EA on that) and I hated Hillary (in essays and commentary). I think she lost the election fair and square. Even the complaint about Wikileaks from Russia is bizarre to me because all that happened is that her own words/actions were made public. Her fault all around. On Trump’s victory, I have a whole essay at EA (post-election), essentially dedicated to not being a sore loser. Oh I loathe Trump, but understand he has to be worked with, and should be where possible. That is what I was calling for.

    My talk about a quirk putting Trump in the WH was not about Reps gaining power in general. There were two points which could be taken from my comment. First, is that I don’t find the electoral college very useful for a large, modern nation, the proof being it delivers “quirks” (rare, anomalous) results which do not help “democracy work”. Second, and more important (all those other words after the quote you cited), is that the Reps keep being sore winners, failing to understand what a limited electoral victory actually means politically, and so making their own sets of mistakes.

    Nice that you target sore losers. There are also sore winners. That is also a problem. If you don’t think Trump and Co are sore winners, you have not been following anything they have been saying or doing since day one.

    What’s interesting, is that you seem to have given the entire Rep party a huge pass on Obama’s years in office. There were sore losers o’plenty there. In fact, Trump was one of the biggest sore losers, who beyond his endless attacks in the media helped front a rather obvious, racist-based campaign against Obama (the Birther movement), which he stuck with the whole eight years. There was no getting along with Obama from the right. It was strict, and very nasty, obstructionism the entire time. Some of that was effective and what you see going on now on the left is in part a response to that. Not defending, just explaining.

    “This shows a distinct turn towards conservatism which is the natural reaction to liberalism running amok.”

    Again, I would recommend writings and discussions by Mark Blyth. The factors in play have more to do with anti-establishment sentiment than simple left-right narratives.

    As it is, your analysis (and Dan’s) misses crucial realities of Trump’s campaign. He was the least conservative of the enormous field of candidates on the right, especially on the subjects of sexual rights (which you and Dan seem upset about). He was arguably more left on that than Hillary, running an historically pro-LGBT platform for Reps, a point which many pro-LGBTs (who voted for Trump) cited. Remember that as I will return to it.**

    If it was a simple right reaction to left, you would have had someone else as their nominee, likely Cruz, Bush, or Kasich. Frankly, I would have loved it if it had been Rand Paul.

    “In time the electorate will similarly react against the extremes of the Republicans. And so the pendulum will swing from side to side.”

    The left-right narrative is dying. Income inequality is creating an active oligarchy, which both parties serve, and have for some time. Donald “New York Values” Trump, beat out dedicated conservatives in the Rep party, by running as anti-establishment, not decidedly anti-liberal.

    * — I had a rather provocative response of my own to your commentary about LGBT protests. Since I am not allowed to respond in kind, I guess I will mention two things…

    “Have you ever not known where your next meal is coming from? It is an existential crisis.”

    Yes, I have. I also know what it is like to be discriminated against for being LGBT.

    “…liberals are more concerned about pleasuring their genitals… It is time that liberals lifted their gaze from their genitals to the world of suffering around them.”

    LGBTs are still threatened, beaten, and killed in the US… and around the world. In fact, last week was the one year anniversary of one of the largest terrorist attacks on US soil in some time, targeting LGBTs in specific. Up until recently we were able to be jailed in the US, and legally prevented from working. Heck, the current VP is still up for electro-shock therapy to “cure” us. It is about existence, not genitals, much less pleasuring them.

    In light of your comment, perhaps you could set an example by considering the suffering of those around you, before saying such things.

    ** — Regarding the article you cited, in your left v right screed you didn’t bother reading the analysis at the bottom of the article…

    “During the campaign, Mr Trump made repeated overtures to the LGBT community, including a pledge in his nomination acceptance speech last year. As one protester put it on Sunday, he “draped himself in the rainbow flag”. But four months into his presidency, many in that community feel he has done little to back that up. They point to his rescinding of guidance to schools on dealing with transgender pupils, and his silence on this month’s Pride celebrations, an event usually marked by the White House. And they fear some of his conservative cabinet members want to derail some of the legislative progress made in recent years.”

    Again, Trump ran on an historically pro-LGBT platform for a Rep. Thus blowing away all of this anti-liberal narrative. The worry is that he is not keeping his promises to LGBT and that those around him will influence anti-LGBT policies. People protest that kind of thing. Are you against political protests?

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  24. Dwayne:

    1. I don’t think it’s at all obvious that the EC is a bad idea, *especially* in a large, diverse country. Indeed, I would argue that the wisdom of basing national elections in a broad swathe of *the country* and not in populations densely packed into a handful of metro areas is stronger, not weaker, now. Especially given that these geographical differences mark stark ideological differences now.

    2. I thought that video painfully wrongheaded. We can talk about it in detail if you like, but I suspect it’s simply going to boil down to our wildly different perceptions of the country as well as what looks to be pretty substantially different political values.

    3. Nothing about Trump’s campaign “blows away” anything. He is a cynical liar.

    4. While Labnut’s point was badly and in my view crudely put — as I indicated in my reply — I’d much rather be a gay man in Brooklyn than a straight one in Appalachia, today. And we are talking about today. My own point was in comparing the living conditions of gays and lesbians today with them in the 1960s.

    5. No one said that Trump was the most conservative, so you must be arguing with someone else on that front.

    I think the differences between us on these issues has been well aired. I don’t see an awful lot of point in going around and around it, do you? People can read our respective analyses and decide which they think is the more accurate. We obviously aren’t going to convince one another.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Hi Dan,

    “I stand by what I said on the subject.”

    Perhaps you meant something different from what it appeared you were saying. In any case, I will respond in a little more depth. If you see I took your meaning different from your intent, that would be good to know. If it was as it appeared, then I feel one extra effort to change your mind is important.

    “I am talking comparatively between now and the 1960’s”

    That there have been massive improvements regarding LGBT rights in the US and much of the West, from what existed in the 60s (and even from the 90s), is patently obvious to anyone who lived through those times. That fact makes your commentary appear bizarre and raises questions what you mean, especially when it is tied to critiques of the LGBT and larger liberal community.

    If you meant that as a political issue for a specific candidate, or party, enough progress has been made on that front that not so much political effort, or capital should be expended on that issue, rather than other, more pressing issues, then I completely agree.

    But that is not what Labnut said, or was arguing at all. He was slamming LGBT activists and liberals, and on a personal level nonetheless. He tied the existence of protests (or perceived quantity of protests) as indicating a lack of concern for anything else. And to grant any sort of intellectual cover for what he said seems… well I already said what it seems like.

    Whereas one could argue its relative lack of importance for an individual candidate or party, given more urgent topics facing US society as a whole, LGBT rights are not a “boutique” issue for LGBTs themselves. It was not a “boutique” issue for those massacred last year, or those who knew them. It was not and is not a “boutique” issue, for those threatened, beaten, or killed in the US, and increasingly around the world, every day.

    It certainly did not seem like a “boutique” issue when I was facing someone this Millenium, well past the 60s (and even the 90s), threatening to beat me to a pulp for being a “faggot”, and someone less fortunate getting beaten (until he was nearly unrecognizable) that same week, and a few streets away, for the same thing. And not for doing anything provocative, just walking down a street where bigots happened to be on the hunt for LGBTs.

    When there are protests, they are usually for a reason. Often they are tied to recent events where someone was attacked, or a legal threat has been raised. If you are not aware, the legal rights for LGBTs are becoming worse around the world, including some Western nations. That they improved does not mean they cannot change back.

    Granted I find some issues frivolous, or less interesting. But does that constitute most, or all of them? And is that any different from the number of frivolous protests on the right? The article Labnut linked to was not about some mad number of pointless protests, but about one that gave the context and it seemed rather reasonable.

    The concept that LGBT rights protests are statements about being worse off than the 1960s, or based on a lack of understanding about progress since then, or that they indicate a lack of concern for any other issues or people is utter nonsense.

    I hope your meaning was the former (about political parties) and not the latter.

    If the latter, I hope that I or someone else is capable of getting you to reflect more deeply on these issues.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Hi Dan, happily back to less thorny political stuff…

    1) I’m not sure there is a way to determine in some objective sense, whether the EC is better or not. The original way elections were held did not grant the party achieving the EC victory such incredible power, by tying up both executive posts. Imagine Trump as P and Clinton VP. In any case, given other problems around how state votes are handled, winner take all, that leads to additional issues (quirks). If we wanted to keep an EC style system, to prevent urban majorities from overrunning rural minorities, that is fine. But I think it should be adjusted to prevent minorities from overrunning majorities. Right now it is a boon to the two-party system, and undercutting an ability to achieve consensus gov’t. Frankly, I am now a bit more impressed by parliamentary systems.

    2) On the video, I often disagree with Kyle and generally don’t like his tone. I was giving an example of people that I do listen to (to get more information) and do discuss the issue Labnut said I never consider. Maybe I should have posted one by Bernie (or others). That said, I’m not sure what you had a problem with in that video, beyond his tone. By left values he was not talking about identity politics, he was talking about what you are arguing for. His argument is that (though maybe it is more obvious because I’ve seen more of him and JD) Dems have been sliding to values issues (identity politics), rather than working class issues, because their funding mechanisms mean they can’t use the latter. We don’t have to argue this now, but I largely agreed with what he was saying in this piece and sort of thought you would agree.

    3) I agree that Trump is a cynical liar. However, the direction of his lies were not “anti-liberal”. He made a point of upsetting mainstream conservatives by goring some of their sacred cows. So the strict left v right narrative is blown away. He was voted in by left and right voters that were largely anti-establishment.

    4) Oh… obviously I submitted my last reply before seeing this post of yours. I think some of my points and questions remain relevant. Are LGBT protests suggestive we think we’d be better off (presumably poor) in Appalachia, even if straight? That seems bizarre. I know that isn’t my conception of the world.

    5) I agree no one said that that Trump was the most conservative. But the argument being made is that this was a conservative reaction to liberalism, and specifically identity politics issues. If that were true, it would seem more likely that a mainstream conservative who was overtly anti-identity politics would have been chosen from that vast field of Rep candidates (how many were there?) rather than the least conservative candidate, who expressly stated his non-interest in fighting against LGBT rights issues (especially T), and even supported LGBT.

    “I think the differences between us on these issues has been well aired. I don’t see an awful lot of point in going around and around it, do you? People can read our respective analyses and decide which they think is the more accurate. We obviously aren’t going to convince one another.”

    Sure. I guess I would like to clarify these points above. But you can clarify anything you feel my response requires, and we can let it rest… let the viewers decide.

    Like

  27. Dwayne: I don’t mind continuing to discuss it, but I just don’t want things to get flamey, as they often threaten to do. Yes, these are Provocations pieces, but I try to inject enough humor into them and have them be hyperbolic enough that people won’t get the knives out too much in discussing them.

    Like

  28. One more thing re: the alleged “fluke.” In my view, what the electoral map shows is that numerical victories/electoral losses are going to become the new norm, unless the Democrats can broaden their appeal, geographically, beyond the major metro areas. And yes, like it or not, that is going to require moderating/compromising on LGBT issues, which are among the major sticking points for those outside the major metro areas, whatever the merits may be. Hence my point re: the brutally hard business of real politics, as opposed to posturing and signalling, which are easy, but losers.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. ““Have you ever not known where your next meal is coming from?”

    I will put my hand up for a yes on that one too.

    I have had two jobs evaporate under me because of changing technology. I have walked the pavements looking for jobs, got up at 3 am on freezing mornings to get in early at the overflow labour agencies.

    Nobody called me the forgotten man, nor did I ask them to.

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  30. The suggestion appears to be that those of us who have engaged in what some term ‘identity politics’ don’t understand what it is to be in need or to be worrying about our economic future. I am just setting the record straight in my own case.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Hi Dan

    “I’d much rather be a gay man in Brooklyn than a straight one in Appalachia, today”

    Perhaps a fairer comparison would be between a straight man in Appalachia and a gay man in Appalachia.

    Like

  32. Then I am not sure I get the point. Alan Turing was, on the whole, much better off than someone in the slums of the Gorbals at the time where my Mum was growing up.

    Does that mean that it would not have been appropriate to advocate for the rights of gays back then?

    What is the relevance of the comparison?

    Liked by 1 person

  33. The point just is the one about political coalition building that I talked about in the essay. The labor vote that the Democrats lost — the working class and the lower middle class who have been so hurt by globalization and automation — are not sympathetic to LGBT issues. Indeed, a good slice of them are quite socially conservative and alienated by a good portion of the identity politics agenda.

    It was the trading of the one constituency for another that sent Democrats into the political wilderness with George McGovern. Bill Clinton figured out how to combine both under a single tent. Obama maintained it, for the most part. But then two things happened: 1. The economic fortunes of the first group got even worse than they were before and 2. the identity politics ratcheted up to a hyper-level in the last 5 years or so.

    If one cannot manage a coalition, then I think it is foolish politics to trade the entire Rust Belt and interior of the country for 3-5% of the population. And to the extent that these two constituencies are mutually exclusive today and cannot be simultaneously courted, I think the concerns of the Rust Belt population and the hinterland are as pressing and worthy of the Democrats’ focus as those being pushed by LGBT activists. Perhaps more so.

    So, yes, in the last election it was LGBT or straight, poor and lower class white hinterland folk. The Democrats chose the former and lo and behold, the only places they won were major metro areas.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Lets get it clear that we are not talking about all straight white lower class hinterland folks, just the subsection of those who’s attitudes to sexual orientation are such that they would allow it to change their vote or not bother to vote. I doubt that is a very large proportion of them.

    There was also the factor of the SCOTUS vacancy, Islsmic terrorism and the fact that the Dema were running a lacklustre campaign with a lacklustre candidate with a lot of baggage.

    The sum of all the margins in the swing states was about 80,000. In total about 2,000,000 shifted from Democrat to Republican in all the swing states.

    Liked by 2 people