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. Oh my gosh, this is delightful. When you lose your rag you write the best stuff. Why haven’t you stood for Governor? I would give up my wonderful life style just to come and canvass for you.

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  2. While I have appreciate what you have written here I don’t think you realize how bad the problem is. I will put it this way, as long as Barack Obama is a popular figure among Democratic base there will be no progress, there might be some Republican blunders but that is not the same thing.

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  3. Good rant.

    The only thing I somewhat disagree with is your description of young people. These groups that “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” also exist where I live, but they’re very much a minority that has little or no traction with the rest.

    I know the piece is a rant, but the twenty-somethings I personally know are open-minded, reasonable, open to debate, pragmatic and focused.
    The idea that someone could be inferior because of his race or biological sex or sexual orientation or religion is strange to them. But on the other hand, if someone does something they don’t agree with, they don’t hesitate to say it – regardless of race, biological sex, sexual orientation or religion. They know where their parents went wrong and try to avoid repeating the same mistakes. They are spoiled – it’s amazing how many opportunities young people now have to develop their talents – but they don’t act spoiled. In a certain sense they are more realistic than I was when I had their age. They work hard, start relationships, keep family ties intact, are thinking about kids and are having them (although marriage often is an afterthought, usually when they already have two kids or so).

    Maybe I’m lucky, maybe it’s just this particular circle of friends and colleagues I have, maybe it’s the relatively wealthy and liberal university town I’m living in, but the young people I know give me a good feeling and some trust in the future. The only thing that worries me is that their pragmatism sometimes makes them meek. Their form of protest often is to move on, run away. In a strange way, they are at home in the modern, diverse world and at the same time alienated from the form it took under the demographic domination of the baby-boomers.

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    • Also, I hope it wasn’t *just* a good rant. There are a number of issues I wanted to broach here, some of which I may take up in future essays. One is what one does when one loses, especially in politics. Another is this business about adults today neither wanting to be nor act like adults. And yet another has to do much more specifically with what should be the future of the Democratic coalition.

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  4. Not sure if it is possible, but I’d try to avoid the kinds of people that you criticize, and look for (and perhaps get involved with) the groups that are fighting to change the Democratic party, or form a new party. They are out there and that is where I tend to spend my viewing time.

    The people you rail against seem a minority to me, though they are obviously part of the Democratic establishment agenda (of which Clinton was and remains a figure). I think there is no question if the establishment remains in place, the Dems will continue to lose.

    I have always been an independent, zero party loyalty, so I can’t feel the issue you are going through. Since I don’t see the Dems or Reps as representing liberal or conservative positions either, it is even further from upsetting to me.

    I like being in a position to criticize both parties and see which one (or a third!) offers what I expect out of *my* representative.

    Right now I’m sort of hopeful a change is possible within the Democratic party, or that a new party will emerge out of the independents from both traditional political classes.

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  5. I forgot to add…

    “when the best candidate you can cough up is the sclerotic Hillary Clinton, you should realize you have a serious problem”

    She wasn’t the best and this is/was known at the time. Otherwise they wouldn’t have had to cheat. Dems have a serious problem and it is a corrupt system that allowed a group of insiders to foist such a terrible candidate on the voters.

    Recent events make it look like they have not yet learned their lesson on that.

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  6. I don’t share the optimism of couvent2104 and dbholmes. The only positive development since November is that the Democrats have switched from doubling down on Clinton’s comment in the form of “63 million racists voted for Trump” to conspiracy theories involving Russia. That is an incredibly slow pace of progress.

    PS: Regarding couvent2104’s praise of young people around him, maybe there is no problem because you agree with them on every issue they hold dear. I wonder, whether the same people he talks about would allow Ann Coulter or Charles Murray speak at their university …

    PPS: There is no edit button and no way to directly reply to other comments here, or am I missing something?

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    • Parallax: I agree with you. I don’t see all these positive, substantive conversations that Dwayne says not only are happening but are the “majority.” All I see is precisely the sort of things I described.

      With regard to young people, I’ve found that they essentially fall into two groups: The types I described; and those who cannot stand their own generation. There are a sizable number of the latter, in my experience.

      Finally, I’m afraid that these are limitations of the WordPress platform. However, since I moderate all comment, if you want to edit something, just tell me, and I’ll fix it for you. Also, if you want to reply to someone, just address them by name in the body of your comment.

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  7. Dan,
    although I don’t see it as happening, I’m very much in the “impeach Trump” camp, but not for policy reasons. He is just a total embarrassment to the United States, and a truly shameful figure in American history, and it will be some time before we fully understand how complete a disaster he’s been (and only after 5 months). I’ve seen articles warning that impeaching Trump would only get us Pence, ‘another crazy,’ but this is wholly missing the point. Pence may be a regressive loony on some issues. – but he is a professional politician with administrative experience. With Pence in office, the Democrats as well as the Republicans (and the media) would be forced to discuss policy again, and that’s the real problem with Trump – the narcissist remains at the focus of the narrative (which must please him to no end).

    While the Democratic Leadership Counsel, or at least what remains of it (still very influential in The DNC) was quite correct in assuming that the New Deal as such was not sustainable in post-Reagan, post-Industrial America, the response should have been an agenda grounded in the broader principles of the New Deal – and this is still true. The vast majority of Americans do not make 250 K or more a year; the vast majority still needs advocates for their interests and aspirations; the vast majority still asks for an agenda that brings them together rather than driving them apart.

    The Republicans are openly regressive in their offer to return the US to the presumed greatness of the ’50s (ignoring the fact that such greatness was grounded in the innovations of the New Deal). But since their nostalgia is unfounded, they are actually breaking new ground, whatever the actual harm But the hard fact is that the Democrats do not have the kind of agenda of which I remarked, and in fact don’t really have an agenda, so much as a hope that we can get back to the Clinton era, or at least back to Obama. That is truly regressive, because it idealizes eras that themselves weren’t very progressive.

    There are a number of directions that Democrats would have to explore while defining a winning agenda for the future. We’ll need to continue maintaining defense of black communities, but probably have to set aside identity politics. We’ll have to support women’s rights, but genderless bathrooms are not immediately relevant. Price control is in, gun control is out. Energy is about jobs and investment, not about the climate (simply because so many people just don’t understand the climate). But primarily the agenda must be about the economy, jobs, and economic rights. Optimistically, this is entirely doable.

    Pessimistically – nah, why bother, when you can hold onto your Congressional seat offering much less, and speaking out on special interests makes better headlines.

    As far as the student Leftists which I know concern you and possibly incited this essay, I don’t have the kind of interest in them that you do, no longer being attached to the academy. Socially, their behavior’s function is to distract us – and themselves – from the concrete policies we need to discuss, especially in economics. Don’t be surprised when they all end up office clones in major corporations – they certainly won’t be, since they are intending this as their futures. In the ’60s, we at least experimented with alternative business models (most of which eventually failed, but after all most social experiments do fail, but that doesn’t make them worthless by any means). But these kids don’t even have that; they have the internet; they have likes on Facebook. They know they’re going to end up office clones; their anxiety is knowing this means that all their campus demands will be afforded absolutely no quarter when they get there. They’re saying it when they know it can be said. If they have any wit at all, they know that – unless they go onto graduate school – it all ends at graduation.

    Besides, let’s be honest – what’s on most of their minds is sex. Perhaps highly romanticized, perhaps bluntly lustful, but – sex. Protests are sexy, and the likelihood of meeting a partner in the process is quite high (I speak from experience), so reasoning them out of this is not going to get very far.

    They don’t understand history; they don’t understand politics; they sure as hell don’t understand rhetoric. But they certainly understand sex. And that’s what it’s really all about.

    Again, I speak from experience. Give them something sexier with greater opportunity for meeting eligible partners, and you will change the whole dynamic of Campus society.

    (I should not need to remark this, but to be sure there is no misunderstanding – I am not being facetious or ironic in this last comment. Adolescent/post-adolescent hormones make the world go round – they produce the next generation.)

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    • EJ, there’s a lot of important stuff here that I will address tomorrow, as I am going to bed soon. One thing I did want to say, however, is that my main concern is most certainly *not* with young student activists, whom though I pity, given their future economic prospects, are in no way anything near being “the problem.” That’s why I essentially give them a pass. My concern is almost entirely with the (chronological) adults.

      But I want to address your many substantive points, which I’ll do tomorrow.

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      • Dan,
        well, I may have misread you on the students (although I stand by my final remarks on them). But I have been reading your remarks here and on PF, so I hope you understand.

        I will certainly be interested in your response on the issues I think the Democrats need to address in coming up with an agenda (which I hope they do, but am rather pessimistic they will).

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        • Over at PF, I was responding to the article, which was about Evergreen State and the most radical of student protesters. That’s not the same as thinking that students are the main problem in our society, taken more generally.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. @Daniel Kaufman:

    Nothing particularly important to edit or correct, don’t worry about it.

    Democrats and impeaching Trump is similar to the guy buying lottery tickets instead of saving for retirement. Even winning the lottery doesn’t justify their irresponsible behaviour.

    @ejwinner

    I don’t get your Trump is an embarrassment argument. First in what way he is worse than George W. Bush or Bill Clinton? Second, this argument was tried in the election and we know what happened so bringing it up again is just odd, third you are upset that Trump is enjoying all the attention he craves so much that you are willing to get more regressive policy from President Pence? I would argue for the exact opposite, if one can avoid bad policy (e.g. Medicare and Social Security cuts) just by appealing to Trump’s ego (not saying this is actually the case) then why not?

    Also I am not sure the lack of any Republican opposition to Trump in Congress is because they are cynical opportunists. Some of them are like that for sure, but there is a good chunk of them that actually agree with Trump.

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  9. Hi Parallax,

    “I don’t share the optimism of couvent2104 and dbholmes. The only positive development since November is that the Democrats have switched from doubling down on Clinton’s comment in the form of “63 million racists voted for Trump” to conspiracy theories involving Russia.”

    I’m not exactly sure I would call what I wrote *optimistic* about the Dems, particularly the establishment wing which is not letting their virtual death grip loose on the party. I said I was “sort of hopeful a change is possible within the Democratic party, or that a new party will emerge” and caveated that in the second post with “Recent events make it look like they have not yet learned their lesson on that.”

    Yes, the establishment wing is continuing the fear of Russia and impeach Trump line, which is basically self-defeating until there is actually evidence worthy of either *and* a legislative and judicial branch not locked down by Reps.

    My only optimism is in the movement of people streaming away from both parties, interested in looking toward viable solutions to this nation’s problems. The size and increasing organization of this movement (probably should make that plural) may very well force changes to one party or the other, or make a third party viable (if one sufficiently crumbles).

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  10. Hi Dan,

    “I don’t see all these positive, substantive conversations that Dwayne says not only are happening but are the “majority.””

    Outside of searching for it on the internet, I’m not sure how much would be visible. The main US media outlets are beholden to the establishment wings of both parties and a strict Dem v Rep “values” narrative.

    You see some broader coverage outside the US, but even then not as large as on the internet, and in some countries (like the UK) the press can be just as bad on their own national politics. Hence, you have May just getting a “shocking” (for those not paying attention) massive loss in power to the type of forces I am talking about. The actual working forces are anti-establishment, and they can chuck conservatives as much as liberals.

    But I found your scare quoting “majority” a little surprising. I was implying the majority of the country is not interested in the kinds of things you are criticizing, which I thought was one of the points of your essay. And, as it stands, the last election was decided by a decisive minority, making the talk of majority (as if meaning sufficiently powerful to affect change) beside the point, which again I thought was one of your points.

    I was only arguing that there is a sufficient movement and organization within independent spheres that they might very well (no reason for pessimism at the moment) affect some sort of change in the future. Right now many are concentrating on changing the Dem party, and primarily organizing on the (pro-worker, economic issue) left.

    Regarding some of that movement that *does* get some airplay, have you seen Sanders making headway across the nation, and the Dems trying to tack themselves onto his coattails? The fact that they are making that effort, rather than simply burying him like they did during the election is important.

    Here is a link to one organization trying to alter the Dem party, it is about economics and not squishy “values” talking points…
    https://justicedemocrats.com/
    here is their platform:
    https://justicedemocrats.com/Platform
    Of note, most of it is about economic and regulatory issues, and while they have an entry on fighting bigotry, they are very much against the pro-censoring agenda you have criticized (and I agree). They have a whole entry on that:
    “We support the right to express unpopular opinions without fear of censorship. We support free speech on college campuses. The marketplace of ideas should be embraced. A vibrant debate is healthy for democracy, and we should cherish our first amendment.”

    That is one group, there are others, especially as one moves out of strictly Dem quarters toward independents.

    Funny enough, one guy who I believe is part of Justice Democrats, or at least supports them, did a provocative rant of his own against people bashing Millenials…

    On a final note, Trump lost the popular vote massively. It was a quirk that he won. While I agree that Dems have things they should learn from it, and not making it all about “values” to the detriment of actual issues is one, to be entirely dismissive of such concerns seems to run too far the other direction. The Millenials are the future and these things are of concern to them… and they don’t just live on the coasts. So the Reps can take advantage of this quirk all they want, as they did under Bush. The real lesson for Reps is what happened to Bush, and the Reps, after *that* fiasco (and Bush lasted 8 years, with them crowing victory the whole time).

    Both sides of the establishment have refused to learn lessons from quirk victories, I am sort of hopeful they might in the near future (or will crumble) as interested groups are getting better organized.

    Basically, I am with Mark Blyth… and I thought he has been having substantive conversations about this issue for some time now.

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  11. The most important relationship I had in college was with Eugene Tussman. He broke out of office hours a couple of times to take me out on the lawn where we sat and talked moral philosophy in the context of our era. Ruefully, he admitted that he taught introductory philosophy to the many only as a means of finding the few that he could draw into deeper intellectual waters.

    I hope that those that generalize our youth can recall a few that they have cultivated in that way. This is not the same as making them into adherents or believers – it is empowering them to see their era in social, political and biological context that empowers them to build on the good.

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  12. I think the only really provocative claim I found within the essay was this…

    “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.”

    This claim was made all the more provocative, given that it was preceded by a call to rebuild the party from the ground up. That seemed to suggest the future of the Dems should be Bill Clinton-esque. Since I didn’t see anyone comment on it, and it was the only thing that I found upsetting, I guess I should respond to it.

    With all of the problems I have with Barack Obama, and there is plenty to complain about, I have no clue how he (and his successes) can be erased from the history of the Democratic party, such that Bill Clinton can be called the “…only really successful president the Democrats have had…”

    What criteria gives Bill such a distinction and allows Obama to be cast as less worthy? That Bill balanced the budget? OK. Given that he did that on the heads of the working class and poor, achieving what the Reps had been dreaming of forever, who really cares?

    Obama managed to do better as a candidate, with bigger hurdles, even beating down the Clinton machine inside the Dem party. And outside of failing to balance the budget (to which there are caveats) he didn’t do any worse than Bill Clinton in office… in fact, started to roll back some of the problems stemming from Bill’s crypto-republican administration.

    Hillary’s loss could be taken as much a referendum on Bill and the overall Clinton legacy, than anything else. I knew people that refused to vote for her because she was tied into his failed policies, and would be viewed an extension of him, rather than the (aspirations of) the Obama administration.

    The differential interest in Sanders vs. Clinton, especially when looking outside the party or at those who failed to vote Clinton in the party, suggests that is true.

    I know for sure that if the Dems reformulate under the Bill Clinton model, it is just a continuation of the establishment and the problem, and will not get a vote from me.

    My guess is that would be a failing strategy.

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  13. Okay, a whole bunch of stuff to reply to, so I’ll just bullet what I take to be main threads raised by a number of interlocutors:

    1. Let’s put this business about majorities to rest. It doesn’t matter how many people Clinton won. What matters is what portion of the country — in terms of its regions — one wins. Our system is Federal. Clinton’s appeal was larger, numerically, but narrower in the dimension of representation that counts in our system. Indeed, this constant refrain of “We won the popular vote!” is just as useless — and as defiant of reality and as much an exercise in signalling and therefore as infantile — as trying to get Trump thrown out of office. The electoral system we have is the one we have. There are good reasons for it. And it is not going to change. If you can’t convince these people to vote for you, you aren’t going to convince them to change the electoral system in a way that disadvantages them and the regions they live in. And you need a much larger percentage of them on your side to do the latter than you to win the damned presidency.

    2. Millennials may be “the future” in a literal sense, but given the Baby Boomers’ refusal to cede the stage and the transformation of the economy, they are and will continue to be a generation with little wealth or social capital. And if they continue to cultivate the attitudes and ethos that they currently embody, they will be temperamentally unsuited to run the institutions that run the country, which cannot be run like a hipster artisinal coffee shop in Brooklyn. The fact that there are companies whose entire raison d’etre is to consult with businesses on how the hell to manage their millennial employees tells you everything. Their dominant ethos is one that lionizes grievance and offense and psychological weakness and a saccharine conception of charity and kindness. It’s an ethos of losers. I’m sorry to say it, but there it is. And I find that about half of my students who belong to that generation agree with me. They can’t stand their own generation for this very reason, something that strikes me as unprecedented. I.e. I can’t think of a generation that dislikes its own as much as this one does.

    3. I do not think the Democrats should re-conceive themselves along the lines of the Bill Clinton presidency, as it’s part of what created the unviable party that we have now. But they should emulate *part* of it. What Bill Clinton got wrong was the globalist technocratic stuff. 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. He accomplished the latter by being very smart and moderate on the identity politics stuff, both in the racial sphere and in the area of LGBT. The point has nothing to do with the merits of any of these issues but with an understanding of the actual nature of the American electorate, across the country. Trans bathrooms and gay wedding cakes hurt the Democrats in this last election to a degree so far beyond the merits of either of these issues — both of which, on the merits, are pretty much rubbish, as I’ve indicated in other pieces — that it requires one to understand the optics and signals of issues and events and their effects on political perceptions. Bill Clinton understood this, which is why even as he largely pushed for progressive identity causes, he threw out little signals to the conservative parts of the country that he could identify with them too. Hence playing the saxophone on Arsenio Hall one day, and throwing Sistah Souljah under the bus on another. If we *ever* want to win outside of the major metro areas, we simply are going to *have* to recognize that the people that live in them are socially conservative and are not on board with much of the progressive, identity politics agenda.

    4. In my view, the way back to power for the Democrats is to recapture the broad swathe of the lower to mid-middle classes: the range of voters from “Labor” to Associates Degree level workers, to lower tier-BA/BS white collar workers. And the way to do that is to become the party that is identified with addressing the evaporation of manufacturing jobs and the soon-to-come evaporation of lower level white-collar jobs, as a result both of global outsourcing and automation. That is the single most important issue the entire country faces. It threatens the long term economic well being of a good third to half of the country. And it cannot be addressed with nothing but more college, job retraining, and all the other bullshit, nothing measures that Democrats have proposed. We literally are on the brink of a complete transformation of the basic economic portrait of our civilization, and the party of FDR — the party of workers — is doing nothing, zilch, about it. Donald Trump was able to win over much of the population most immediately affected by this transformation, with nothing but empty promises and zero by way of realistic plans, which shows that the fear and worry is so great that people, at this point, simply want to see that you fucking care about it at all.

    We have to figure out what tens upon tens of millions of people are going to do all day, for a good 50 to 60 years of their lives, beyond figuring out how they are going to feed and house themselves and their families. A UBI may address the latter, but it doesn’t even begin to touch the former. And the former is the real issue, as it gets to fundamental questions of one’s conception of self-worth. Read Nathanael West’s “The Day of the Locust.” Most Americans are not educated or acculturated even for the leisure that comes with retirement. Imagine what they will do when half their lives consists of leisure time. All that I can say is that it will be worse than the last chapter of West’s book. (About which, incidentally, I plan to do an essay.)

    The Democrats could easily *own* this issue. They are the party, historically, who should. And yet, what have they turned into? A Goldman Sachs, Google, Trans, Racism party. That’s a loser now. And it will remain a loser for as far as the eye can see.

    5. On the “Get Trump!” business. You will not get Trump. He will not resign. And he will not be removed from office, no matter what hearings show. The days of Nixon resigning when Goldwater and his fellow Republicans came to him and told him he was going to bring the party down are over. Bill Clinton is on video bald-faced lying to a Grand Jury and not only was he not removed from office, he was the most successful president our party has had since FDR.

    Trump is also not the worst villain to ever occupy the Oval Office, so drop the hyperbole. Andrew Jackson murdered all the Indians. Johnson murdered countless numbers of Vietnamese and systematically lied to the entire country about virtually every significant dimension of the war. Beyond Watergate, Nixon created the circumstances that led to the Cambodian genocide. JFK tried to have Castro assassinated and almost got us into a fucking nuclear war.

    Trump is a vulgarian and a liar and a business fraud, but he comes nowhere near these levels of moral debasement and criminality. So not only is there something pathetic about this obsession on the part of our compatriots with Trump, there is something degenerate about it as well, for it suggests, at best, a shocking ignorance about the people who have run this country, and at worst, represents a profoundly debased moral sensibility.

    There’s more to say, but that’ll be enough for now.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Also, it is not a “quirk” that Trump won. Given the concentration of progressive voters in a handful of metro areas, we are going to see a lot more electoral wins/numerical losses in the future. That electoral map is here to stay, until the Democrats get their damned act together.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Dwayne: Re: the conversation within the party, I meant something much more mundane, namely, ordinary Democratic voters. All they seem to be doing is watching hearings, praying for impeachment, and going on endlessly on social media about Trump’s villainy. I don’t see any serious conversation about how to win next time.

    Like

  16. Parallax,
    Trump is doing serious harm to American foreign policy and the ability to use influence among allies. Our allies now know they cannot trust him; and are growing more unsure whether they can trust his administration as a whole. One problem is that Trump thinks treaties are essentially business deals, and has no respect for them. That makes him very dangerous – that and his narcissism-driven impulsiveness.

    He is also trashing whatever dignity his office and the executive branch as a whole had any right to claim. And his attention grabbing antics have disrupted proper discussion on policy issues.

    And to Dan on the topic: I’m aware that we’ve had bad presidents – even embarrassing presidents – in the past. But it is the now we deal with. A country that has to live through a Reality TV show White House is not going to be able to repair the already damaged public discourse on policy any time soon – it will only get worse.

    However, I also don’t expect a resignation or impeachment. So I concur that the Democratic Party should not depend on Trump’s difficulties to win them any elections; it needs to rethink its strategy and redefine itself to win elections. .

    I’m not sure that will happen, but one can hope. Bernie Sanders last night: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/11/bernie-sanders-lambasts-absolute-failure-of-democratic-partys-strategy: “What [the Democratic Party} needs is to open up its doors to working people, and young people, and older people who are prepared to fight for social and economic justice.”

    Like

    • EJ, while I appreciate the sentiment, I don’t see a single serious remark about the economic future anywhere in that article. In case my comment was just too long to stomach, here is the relevant portion:

      = = =

      “In my view, the way back to power for the Democrats is to recapture the broad swathe of the lower to mid-middle classes: the range of voters from “Labor” to Associates Degree level workers, to lower tier-BA/BS white collar workers. And the way to do that is to become the party that is identified with addressing the evaporation of manufacturing jobs and the soon-to-come evaporation of lower level white-collar jobs, as a result both of global outsourcing and automation. That is the single most important issue the entire country faces. It threatens the long term economic well being of a good third to half of the country. And it cannot be addressed with nothing but more college, job retraining, and all the other bullshit, nothing measures that Democrats have proposed. We literally are on the brink of a complete transformation of the basic economic portrait of our civilization, and the party of FDR — the party of workers — is doing nothing, zilch, about it. Donald Trump was able to win over much of the population most immediately affected by this transformation, with nothing but empty promises and zero by way of realistic plans, which shows that the fear and worry is so great that people, at this point, simply want to see that you fucking care about it at all.

      We have to figure out what tens upon tens of millions of people are going to do all day, for a good 50 to 60 years of their lives, beyond figuring out how they are going to feed and house themselves and their families. A UBI may address the latter, but it doesn’t even begin to touch the former. And the former is the real issue, as it gets to fundamental questions of one’s conception of self-worth. Read Nathanael West’s “The Day of the Locust.” Most Americans are not educated or acculturated even for the leisure that comes with retirement. Imagine what they will do when half their lives consists of leisure time. All that I can say is that it will be worse than the last chapter of West’s book. (About which, incidentally, I plan to do an essay.)

      The Democrats could easily *own* this issue. They are the party, historically, who should. And yet, what have they turned into? A Goldman Sachs, Google, Trans, Racism party. That’s a loser now. And it will remain a loser for as far as the eye can see.”

      = = =

      I am wondering what your thoughts are on this. It seems to me that this long term structural question regarding the imminent, fundamental transformation of peoples’ working lives is the overriding issue of our day. And other than the UBI crowd, no one is saying a damned thing about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Dan,
    First I admit being out of touch a little – I don’t know what UBI refers to.

    My initial response was solely on the problem of having a Trump presidency. I cited the Sanders article first to remind ourselves that there was a progressive voice in the primaries, that got ignored; but also because the article remarks people entering politics for the first time – and without these, the Democratic Party will never change.

    As to the main content of your comment, I largely agree with it.

    Democrats have long criticized the ‘trickle down’ theory of Reaganomics, but this theory depends on a prior assumption that Democrats came to accept – that largely uncontrolled growth could be depended to advance indefinitely, in the process creating new jobs for displaced workers (hence the emphasis on job retraining). This has simply proven untrue. Unplanned, unregulated growth is as open to cycles of over-production, recession, inflation and depression as it ever was before planning and regulations were introduced. Further, one private sector means to manipulate these cycles is draconian control of the work force – why create jobs when you can make money getting rid of them? Which modern technology makes so much easier.

    There are ways a democratic republic can address these issues without full blown socialism; but first one has to admit they are problems and that the government can intervene without surrendering commitment to either its democratic forms or to the basic principles of capitalism.

    So the Democrats should develop an agenda that addresses such issues. The New Deal did that for the ’30s; there’s no reason we can’t come up with one now.

    Like

  18. DB,
    On a final note, Trump lost the popular vote massively. It was a quirk that he won.

    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. By its very nature there will always be losers. Why should Democrats be so uniquely privileged that they may not lose?

    As it happens, Republicans won Congress, Senate, Governorships and State legislatures quite convincingly. This shows a distinct turn towards conservatism which is the natural reaction to liberalism running amok. In time the electorate will similarly react against the extremes of the Republicans. And so the pendulum will swing from side to side. In this way the democratic system, over time, reconciles the interests of conservatives and liberals, which is exactly how it should be. This is a wonderful thing and should be celebrated.

    Sore losers who do their damnedest to sabotage the democratic system are the dry rot in the system of democracy. They weaken the system quite fundamentally. On the rugby field we played a hard physical game and often we lost. We limped off the field, nursing our cuts and bruises, smiled at the winners, congratulated them and shook their hands. Under our breath we might have cursed them for kicking us in the crotch but coach said suck it up.Then we went back to the training field and trained with renewed determination. We kicked the sore losers out of our team. Their whining undermined our morale and held back the whole team. And then we won. Even so there was always a loss in our future but we never stopped playing with all our heart, celebrating the wins, or alternatively, congratulating the winners.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Labnut: I agree. The “we really won!” is probably the most pitiful response I’ve heard from those in my party. They’re like the kids who refuse to shake the other team’s hand in Little League.

    I don’t know how many times I have to repeat the point about the Federal system or the fact that it doesn’t matter if you can get 14 million people in LA to vote for you, if you can’t get any votes in 20 other states across the country, but I will keep doing so long as people keep trotting out the tired “We got more votes!” line. (I can’t even call it an argument, because it isn’t one.)

    Liked by 2 people

  20. So, we’re just ignoring LBJ, who, unlike the Slickster, was NOT a neolib sellout and who was massively elected in 1964, and who was actually successful with the Great Society, until doubling down on Vietnam, sadly?

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I don’t think concentrating millions of poor people in giant housing estates

    When you concentrate failure you multiply failure and perpetuate it. It is that simple.

    The key to a better future is to provide opportunity and not handouts. The most basic way of providing opportunity is by providing good education. Neither Democrats nor Republicans have a good record in this respect. It is an American failure.

    Like

  22. Also, by “successful,” I mean politically, not substantively. I couldn’t — and can’t — stand Bill Clinton.

    and yet he was the only president who achieved a budget surplus. Surely that has to count for something? Gosh I remember those heady days so well. But I couldn’t abide his foreign policy adventures. He was so stereotypical and short-sighted.

    Like

  23. When you concentrate that much poverty in one area, you guarantee that there won’t be sufficient business activity to employ the people you’ve housed there.

    What a good insight!

    Like

  24. Re Vietnam? Blame Jack and the Cuban Missile Crisis, in part. LBJ apparently never knew Kennedy traded our missiles for theirs.

    The Great Society was about much more than public housing complexes. It was about advancing civil rights, including finally ending redlining on housing sales. It was about voting rights. It was about addressing rural white poverty in Appalachia. It is normally considered to include Medicare and Medicaid.

    And, per your own aesthetic interests, LBJ also pushed through the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, both of which he considered Great Society programs precisely for expanding cultural literacy.

    Dan, I’ll be honest; you either do know better or you should know better.

    And, I already noted LBJ’s 1964 success at the ballot. And, by programs he got passed, he was successful that way.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. I never tire of quoting Carlin Baron’s book, Roman Honor.
    She speaks admiringly of the ‘glowing spirit‘ forged in the crucible of contest. Suffering and loss are an enduring part of life. Indeed they may be terrible beyond description, but if we meet them with a ‘glowing spirit’ we become more than ourselves, we become exalted and we become victors amidst the ruins of loss.

    This was the Roman discrimen, the “Moment of Truth,” the equivocal and ardent moment when, before the eyes of others, you gambled what you were. This was the agon, the contest when truth was not so much revealed as created, realized, willed in the most intense and visceral way, the truth of one’s being, the truth of being.

    Virtus and the honores won in the contest were shining and volatile; competition produced a heightened sense of vividness, a brilliant, gleaming, resplendent existence. The man of honor was speciosus, illustris, clarus, nobilis, splendidus; the woman of honor was, in addition, casta, pura, candida. At the same time, to produce this exalted state, the good competition obeyed restrictions; it needed to be: a) circumscribed in time and space; b) governed by rules known and accepted by the rival parties; c) strenuous (requiring an equal or greater-than-equal opponent); d) witnessed.

    To have a glowing spirit one needed to expend one’s energy in a continuous series of ordeals. Labor, industria and disciplina were, for the Romans, the strenuous exertions that one made in undergoing the trial and in shouldering the heavy burden. In labores and pericula one demonstrated effective energy, virtus. There was no virtus, in the republic, without the demonstration of will. The absence of energy (inertia, desidia, ignavia, socordia) was non-being. In inactivity the spirit froze.

    This was the diametrical opposite of the philosophy of Stoicism that followed on the end of the Republic. Stoicism neutered the ‘glowing spirit‘ of Roman culture, precipitating decline. Unsurprisingly, it has made a reappearance. Stoicism is the ‘safe’ response to challenging circumstances. It is a retreat from the “‘discremen’, the moment of truth, the agon, the contest when truth was not so much revealed as created, realized, willed in the most intense and visceral way, the truth of one’s being, the truth of being.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Dan,

    I decided “to immigrate” to your site, with or without extreme vetting. I did peruse other postings, but I mainly wanted to respond to your original post. (I do enjoy your contributions at PF.)

    A) I disagree with the drift of this quoted paragraph.
    1) being shipped to Vietnam was not a source of much anxiety, and besides, we were “winning”, and “better dead than red” [sic, ad nauseum]. My draft number was 258 (born in 1953 in Beaumont, TX).
    2) Kent State was horrible, but a very isolated event. No one shot at me once while attending Texas Tech University from 1971-75 (receiving BA degree). That may be purely anecdotal, but > 99% of college students didn’t get shot at by National Guard.
    3) We really never worried at women as secretaries, and I’m not just talking about the guys at the gym. I don’t ever remember a female student ever come up to me and bemoan her limited occupational opportunities.
    4) I grew up in Houston in the burbs, so violent crime didn’t really touch me or my friends. Same for most other Americans (except perhaps big cities back East).
    5) Segregation — we never thought nor worried about it, I grew up in the deep South.
    6) Homosexuality — what homosexuality? Everybody who was remotely feminine stayed in the closet. Largely a non-issue among non-Hollywood types.

    Of course, my experience is that of a white blue-collar working class family (my father started in the “gang” working for the pipeline division of Gulf Oil, college wasn’t even an option) living in the suburbs of Houston. I don’t want to say its typical, but I don’t think it is an exceptional rarity either. And yes, I recognize that sexism, racism, & militarism were present and were so institutionalized and that were to blind to these realities.

    The issues today are more numerous and more serious, and much better known. The Internet truly has nothing to do with the democratization of knowledge, and is often nefariously used to spread disinformation, but alternative news sites have exploded as well.

    When I was growing up (again, I was 18 in 1971), either no one had heard of or there wasn’t: climate change, GWOT, endless aggressive wars (we eventually pulled out of Vietnam), police violence, esp. against blacks, mass incarceration, massive student debt, collapse of the U..S. banking system, LGBT discrimination, rise of extensive poverty, declining lifespan (we are the only industrial nation with this distinction), pathetic job market, wage stagnation (seemed to start around 1970).

    I’m not trying to paint a “golden age” when America was great. E.g., racism was ever present (but not recognized a such), LGBTs were discriminated against, even if not obvious, the Vietnam war was another in a series of unnecessary wars of aggression, etc. I just disagree with your comparison regarding issues.

    Some random comments from posts:
    1) I doubt Trump will ever be impeached. The Republicans rode his coattails into power, and “they will dance with who brought ’em [to the party].” Total waste of time trying to impeach him. Rather, we need to resist any policy he implements that is immoral, just as protesters almost shut down the airports regarding his immigration policies.

    2) I would have voted for Bernie Sanders in a heartbeat, though his lower extremity is composed of clay. We will never be able to afford national healthcare or anything else good until we challenge the military industrial/security state complex, and Bernie loves building military aircraft in his state.

    3) Our best and worst hope against Trump is the Democratic party. We are all waiting with baited breath for them to turn over a new leaf, and it hasn’t happened and it probably won’t. Rotten wood can’t transform itself — it stays rotten. So I think worst fits the bill so far, and into the indefinite future.

    Lastly, on “baby boomers”:

    I’m a baby boomer, my wife also, we get together with other baby boomers occasionally (old Richardson High School alums in Richardson, TX–I’m the outsider as a Houstonian), and I don’t think any of us “fucked” them.

    But Dan, I totally agree that their economic futures are bleak. See, inter alia, Michael Hudson, “Are Students a Class?”, https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/06/02/are-students-a-class/

    What has fucked them and us are policies such as neoliberalism, militarism, capitalism, and racism, as well as a vicious ignorant coalition, composed largely of white nativists and the Christian right (who blame America’s declining fortunes on “others” [= foreigners, immigrants, Muslims, non-whites, sinners]).

    Of course, many of these bigots are baby boomers, but that is a historical accident. As the baby boomers die off, they will be replaced by Generation X (1965-76), Millennials (1977-95), and Centennials (born 1996-), who believe in the same DAMN policies!

    For an example, look no further than at George P. Bush (born 1976 — so he is from Generation X), who is the Commissioner of the Texas General Land Office), He has already hired his friends and family. He’s going after the golden-cheeked warbler: http://www.mystatesman.com/news/land-commissioner-george-bush-seeks-cut-warbler-off-species-list/wiUOjEy2R22bUMaPfKsSmM/

    I’m sure he has done a lot more we could object to, but you already seen evidence of cronyism and disrespect for the natural environment. Look at the photos of all the losers working at (Koch-funded) conservative think tanks — plenty of Gen X, Millennials, and Centennials waiting in the wings.

    I honestly don’t mean to be so pessimistic. But I do think we are in a sort of nuclear winter, and this winter will endure longer than Trump’s four years (I’m afraid). However that may be, I will not go quietly into the night. Best to you, Dan, and the others here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The issues today are more numerous and more serious, and much better known.
      = = =
      This just strikes me as flat-out wrong, across the board. With respect to every issue — race, women, LGBT — things were worse in the 60’s than they are today, by orders of magnitude. As for crime, we are enjoying the lowest crime rates since the 1960’s, according to Federal crime statistics. The idea that there is more reason to protest now than then is just unsustainable under *any* reading of the relevant facts.

      Like

  27. Let me illustrate the liberal insanity of the modern US.

    The BBC reported “Tens of thousands of people have marched in the US capital for LGBT rights, in one of the biggest protests since President Trump took office.
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-40241661

    But where are the tens of thousands marching for the rights of the poverty stricken and the hungry? LGBT are a tiny problem compared with the millions of hungry and poverty stricken. 43.1 million Americans are living in poverty. 17.5 million households are food insecure and 6.3 million households have very low food security. The effect is multiplied many times by recreational drug use and crime.

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

    This is an awful disaster but liberals are more concerned about pleasuring their genitals. This is madness. The churches, and especially the Catholic Church have concentrated their efforts on this problem. They run countless soup kitchens and other forms of aid.

    But that is not nearly enough. It is time that liberals lifted their gaze from their genitals to the world of suffering around them.

    Like

  28. Labnut: I think gays and lesbians have any number of legitimate concerns that have nothing to do with “pleasuring their genitals.” 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. So why are there more — and more visible — 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? I don’t know why, but I agree with you that it is revealing of a kind of boutique moralism that is quite repugnant.

    Like

  29. Dan-K,
    Labnut: I think gays and lesbians have any number of legitimate concerns that have nothing to do with “pleasuring their genitals.”

    Actually I agree with you, but your essay being a ‘provocation’ I chose to be even more provocative as a way of drawing attention to a serious issue. Being provocative means casting aside nuance and context, while embracing shocking overstatement. I plead guilty on all counts. You did put it rather well when you said “ a kind of boutique moralism that is quite repugnant.“. I could learn from you 🙂

    Liberalism needs to vigorously embrace the issue of the poverty stricken and hungry in order to rebuild their credibility.

    Like

  30. Few other notes, and I expect to then exit back out.

    First, I agree with Dan — if I understand one of his comments correctly — that identity politics is not necessarily/always wrong, and also that it’s not exclusionary to economic politics. (That said, statistically, LGBTQ people do make much less on average than straights. Yes, correlation is not causation. But it likely is so in this case.) And, some Democrats agree, as do many people beyond the Democrats.

    Second, sorry, EJ, but Bernie’s been a “real Democrat” — including on the Democratic half of the duopoly on the military, foreign policy, etc., for 25 years. And I vote based on this issues as well as domestic policy. I’ve not voted for a Dem, let alone a Republican, for president this century.

    Like

    • Gays and Lesbians tend, on average, to be better educated than their straight counterparts, proportionally speaking. As to their relative wealth, that is a matter of scholarly dispute and is not settled.

      Like

  31. 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

  32. @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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  33. @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

  34. 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.

    Like

    • 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

      • 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

        • 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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  35. 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.

    Like

  36. 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

  37. @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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  38. 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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  39. 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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  40. 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.

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  41. 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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  42. 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.

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  43. 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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