The Outcome Will Be Escalation

No matter how I look at it, I can’t foresee any positive outcome from the coming round of dueling demonstrations in Portland. The far right is going to come away from it all feeling even more bitter and aggrieved, and even more justified (in their own minds) in using violence.

If Portland Antifa obliges the right-wingers’ wish and attacks first, and/or attacks non-fascists (and they might, given that multiple instances of past behavior indicate the presence of hotheads in that group), then of course there will be more grievance.

But suppose the right-wingers attack first (which is at least as likely), then what? The same thing, of course. That they started it will be irrelevant; a narrative, supported by the right-wing media, contrary to the facts will be developed. The quality of any evidence will be irrelevant. Video footage, for example, can easily be selectively edited to make aggressors look like the attacked.

Perhaps the best possible outcome would be something which, like Charlottsville, clearly exhibits the violence and depravity of the poliical right, and thus serves to further alienate moderates from it and Trump. (Let’s hope it will not be as violent and deadly as Charlottsville.) But even in that case, the right will walk away feeling that they are the ones being wronged, and as a result escalate their rhetoric and tactics (see above).

This is, at best, the end of the beginning. In no way is it the beginning of the end.

China, Trump, and the Future

Per this, a big crackdown may be imminent in Hong Kong. It would hardly be unprecedented. The Tienanmen Square protests ended up in a big, ugly, violent crackdown, too.

From the standpoint of the Chinese Communist Party, that crackdown worked: single-party rule was preserved. It would therefore be no surprise whatsoever if the Party viewed this as a lesson from history that a crackdown is called for now in Hong Kong.

If that happens, expect relations between China and the West to swirl down the toilet. Trump’s tariffs won’t be scaled back; they will likely prove in retrospect to be the vanguard of a range of sanctions applied to the Beijing regime. Given the level of globalization in society, that in turn will likely provoke a recession.

Assuming a recession, Trump will be blamed for it by a significant chunk of the electorate. Presidents always are, even if they typically don’t have much to do with the recession; the business cycle exists no matter which party occupies the Oval Office. (If it comes as a big surprise to you that Establishment politics is illogical, there’s this bridge they’re selling between Manhattan and Brooklyn that I can let you have a great deal on.)

The root cause of it all was our ruling elite’s idiotic, end-of-history belief that capitalism and markets were the wave of the future, and would inevitably foster democracy and pluralism (therefore the currently-despotic nature of the regime in Beijing didn’t much matter). This was approximately as idiotic as the belief of Leninists that a socialist revolution must inevitably produce freedom, therefore any dictatorial measures pursued to secure the revolution must inevitably prove transitory (therefore so-called “workers’ states” like the USSR and Cuba must be supported). Politics and idiocy have a long history, particularly when it comes to unquestioning true believers (be they believers in capitalism, believers in Marxism, or believers in something else).

Ironically, that end-of-history belief was part of the bipartisan consensus that Trump (who distrusts globalization of any sort) disrespected and promised to overturn. In other words, the thing that sinks Trump may well prove to be something that Trump had little to do with, and not any of the evils for which he actually is culpable.

More on Which Democrat

Time to expound a bit more on some subjects raised in yesterday’s entry.

Odds Really Do Favor Biden

His lead is so significant that it’s going to be difficult (but not impossible) for someone else to overtake him. Maybe of one of either Warren or Sanders dropped out and threw their support to the other that would happen, but I don’t see either candidate doing so before the convention.

Odds Favor Warren as His Running Mate

Biden is weak when it comes to the progressive base, and the two progressive candidates together command approximately as large a chunk of the primary vote as Biden himself does. It would be extremely unwise for Biden to ignore that. Then again, Biden has done extremely unwise things multiple times during his political career (e.g. supporting the Iraq War).

But let’s be optimistic and assume he knows better. That means picking a progressive standard-bearer, either Sanders or Warren, as his running mate. And it’s not going to be Sanders, whose independent, anti-Establishment streak annoys Establishment Democrats almost as much as Trump himself does.

On top of that, Warren is a woman, so choosing her lets the Democrats tick off an identity-politics feel-good box (and doing so may well help them appeal to female voters in key suburban swing districts).

It Will Be Necessary to Save Establishment Democrats from Their Own Incompetence

Having Warren stump for him in the general election will certainly be a help, but Biden will still be a weak candidate that fails to energize the base sufficiently. This is where Michael Moore’s “Operation Orange Crush” comes in. Running progressive ballot measures on popular issues in key swing states will energize the base, who will then tend to say “Well, what the hey, since I’m here to vote for {legal pot, a $15 minimum wage, etc.} anyhow I might as well cast a vote for Sleepy Joe, too.”

This Will Conveniently Save the Progressives from Their Own Incompetence

Biden, not Warren, will be at the top of the ballot, so the Democratic candidate won’t be campaigning for something stupid and unpopular like abolishing all private health insurance. The progressive issues being campaigned for will be the initiative campaigns on issues that actually do have popular support.

Biden Will Still Be a Hot Mess

The optimistic scenario has him kicking Trump out of office. Let’s assume that happens. It still means a Democratic Party led by Joe Biden, laboring under delusions about a bipartisanship that died long ago. Biden will continually be begging Republicans to love him, and will continually be frustrated when they don’t.

That preoccupation with foolish pandering will stop Biden from being able to do anything serious about the problems that created Trump in the first place. The GOP will remain as fascistic and Trumpy as ever, and be well-poised to make big gains when the business cycle does its inevitable thing and Biden gets blamed for it.

Don’t Harbor Delusions

It’s still the bourgeois state. It still leans strongly to the political right. It’s still biased to going fascist at times. This is still one of those times. The best we can hope for from electoral politics is a temporary reprieve. Any lasting solution will have to come from more grassroots organizing.

Which Democrat?

If the primary were being held today, with the candidates polling like they are today, I would probably vote for Sanders. This would not be because I believe him to be a viable candidate, but because I believe him to be the most viable counterpoint to the most likely candidate (Biden).

On the subject of Biden, he has proved to be surprisingly resilient in spite of the damage Harris did to him in the June debates. I’m also sure he’s likely to be a Hillary-esque disaster, and if not that, a highly ineffectual president.

He’s just the sort of candidate Hillary was: a “safe” and “responsible” moderate choice who will turn off a chunk of the more progressive Democratic base while at the same time failing to enthuse enough crossover voters to win. If, despite that, he wins, the Republicans will make mincemeat of him once he’s in office, because he harbors laughably naïve delusions about bipartisanship being possible. Sorry, Joe, that era is dead. Republicans will absolutely despise you, and there is nothing you can do to change that.

Buttigieg gets it. As he said in the debate:

It is time to stop worrying about what the Republicans will say. If we embrace a far-left agenda, they’re going to say we’re a bunch of crazy socialists. If we embrace a conservative agenda, you know what they’re going to do? They’re going to say we’re a bunch of crazy socialists.

Buttigieg is still a moderate, not a progressive. But at least he’s far less deluded about the nature of the current situation than Biden (who seems to be living in the past) is. To some degree, he also realizes the old political center is dead (check out his plans for restructuring the Supreme Court). Alas, he’s not even polling at 10% right now, which means odds are he’s an also-ran. O’Rourke, Booker, Yang, Gabbard, Delaney, etc. basically are also-rans, and as such should be seriously considering leaving the stage.

On the subject of naïveté, we have both Sanders and Warren (and to a lesser degree Harris) going full steam ahead on single-payer health care despite the enormous pitfall of the unpopularity of making private insurance illegal, and the enormous stupidity of advocating the centralizing of something in the Federal executive branch while we’re simultaneously living a real-life example of the dangers of doing precisely that.

Anyhow, back to the subject of also-rans and viable candidates. Absent some unforeseen development, the Democratic Party nominee is going to be (in order of decreasing likelihood) Biden, Sanders, Warren, or Harris. Note that Biden currently has a huge lead, almost twice as much support as the next most popular candidate (Sanders). Therefore, odds are the nominee is probably going to be Biden.

Given that Mr. Establishment is the likely candidate, I would want Mr. Anti-Establishment, the outsider-ist candidate who isn’t an also-ran, to have as much influence as possible, to force Mr. Establishment to do a measure of triangulating to the left. That anti-Establishment candidate is clearly Sanders; he’s not even formally a member of the party under whose banner he’s running!

Of course, this is all a hypothetical. The primary is not being held today, and when it is being held, the candidates will doubtless be polling differently than they are today.

Tulsi Gabbard? I Think Not.

I don’t blame her for meeting with Assad (certainly worth a try to end the nasty civil war in Syria). I do blame her for then basically taking Assad’s side in accusations of chemical weapon use in Syria. And she sounds naïve about Putin as well.

And then there’s her interactions with Google. When her ad account there got suspended, she was sure it just had to be a deliberate conspiracy against her. As was the fact that junk mails her campaign sent ended up, surprise, surprise, in spam folders on Gmail accounts.

Let’s just say that none of the above exactly inspires confidence in her temperament or judgment.

The Case for Impeachment

It can be boiled down to this: political theater. That is because there is not an ice cube’s chance in hell that the GOP-controlled Senate would ever vote to convict.

The solution is to not ever get to the point of sending things to the Senate. Conveniently, impeachment is a lengthy process, lengthy enough that odds disfavor it being completed before the 2020 elections, anyhow. The point, to reiterate, is political theater: keep Trump’s high crimes and misdemeanors in the public eye, so that moderates and liberals feel motivated to turn out in November, 2020 and vote against Trump.

Congressional Democrats can’t openly admit as much, of course. They will have to claim they are just doing their Constitutional duty of oversight, and putting that well ahead of any political concerns. Well, welcome to the real world. Please, don’t tell me that professional politicians of all people suddenly have a case of aversion to telling convenient lies.

This gets to the flaw in the line of the reasoning the majority of congressional Democrats have, that weakness and capitulation are somehow virtues. They are not, and the fact that Democrats persistently tend to think they are is one of the reasons people don’t like Democrats. Democrats are seen as the party of weakness because they are by and large the party of weakness.

There is actually plenty of public support for progressive things like a wealth tax, a $15 minimum wage, and a green new deal. Contrary to the preachings of the so-called “moderate” wing of the Democratic Party, campaigning on such things is a recipe for success not failure. (Democrats tried choosing the “safe, moderate” presidential candidate in 2016; keep in mind what that accomplished for them.)

This doesn’t mean everything the left of the party wants is a winning idea. That same poll shows that campaigning for single-payer is basically a stupid idea. Solution: don’t do that. In addition to being unwise from a pragmatic point of view, and unwise from a concentration-of-power point of view, it’s simply not necessary.

But many left-of-center ideas are popular. A rotten, rigged system gives the right disproportionate power. Start acting like it, Democrats. Stop living in perpetual fear that Republicans won’t like you. News flash: they already don’t, and nothing other than going full Trump fascist is going to make them like you. Get over your stupid neurosis about not being loved by everybody and get busy adopting some principles and fighting for them.

Or get used to losing. Your choice.

On Tyranny

The Right is fond of going on about the “tyranny of the majority” and defending systems such as the Electoral College and legislative supermajority requirements meant to prevent it.

Here’s the thing, though: If you’re a member of a minority group, and you want to see your political will prevail, now, there really isn’t any option available to your group other than brute force. (Becoming the majority via persuasion takes time.) Any reasonably open and democratic system is going to deny your group the ability to set policy contrary to the desires of the majority. If you’re in the majority, by contrast, you don’t have to choose tyranny. Democracy and openness will work just fine.

Tyranny, therefore, can logically be expected to tempt powerful minorities more than it does popular majorities.

Many of the examples of tyranny of the majority just don’t hold water. Take slavery, which is claimed to be a form of tyranny of the majority because whites outnumbered blacks. Here’s the thing, though: whites were divided on the issue, and northern whites were growing in power as the North grew in population at a faster rate than the South. The abolitionist literature of the 19th century is full of complaints about the “slave power” that allowed the South’s ruling class the ability to use undemocratic protections for their minority viewpoint. And, of course, the opinions of blacks when it came to slavery were totally disregarded as a matter of law (only white males could vote).

So it was actually the political power of the pro-slavery minority that allowed slavery to last as long as it did.

Or just look at today. If it weren’t for the Electoral College, we’d have a far less pro-tyranny president in the White House right now. That which is argued to prevent the elevation of extremist, intolerant ideas is in fact facilitating precisely that.

And this holds in general. Most hierarchical societies are ruled by and for a tiny elite, that benefits from a hierarchy that is not in the interests of the vast many. In democratic societies, this is done by deception. That is a relatively new development; traditionally, such rule has been by brute force.

Therefore, precisely as one would expect, the vast majority of tyrannies throughout the historical record have been tyrannies of a minority. Worrying about “tyranny of the majority” while ignoring this elephant in the living room is like worrying about dogs being injured by people biting them.

Yes, it’s theoretically possible for people to bite dogs, and if you search the news, you can probably find examples of it happening (the world is a large place). That doesn’t then prove that leashes and muzzles are unneeded and what really needs to be done is to add the biting of dogs by humans to the criminal code as a very serious felony.

About AOC

She actually is a serious politician.
She’s not the caricature the right (even the anti-Trump right) attempts to paint her as. If you read her Twitter feed, it’s full of realizations that she is just one member among many and thus has to make allies and work across the aisle. Her recent testimony about Trump’s concentration camps was brilliant in how it employed appeals to patriotism in the service of abhorring the conditions there. That’s the sort of stuff that’s needed to appeal to the so-called center (which as I’ve written really isn’t a committed center at all).
She’s not perfect, but then again, nobody is.
Sure, she stupidly let herself get sucked into a nasty public feud with other Democrats. Insisting on single-payer as the only way to make health care more equitable is needlessly (and foolishly) statist. She sometimes gets so preoccupied with doubling down on identity politics that class politics gets temporarily neglected. News flash: she’s human, and all humans have their faults.
Voices like hers have been sorely missing from Congress for almost my entire adult life.
About the only comparable one is Bernie Sanders. He’s been saying the right sort of things for decades but until he ran for president he was this obscure senator from a tiny New England state that nobody paid much attention to. AOC managed by some miracle to walk in to the Capitol building with a big bully pulpit. Voices for actual (albeit still moderate) leftist ideas have until recently been almost totally excluded from the Establishment discourse: the acceptable spectrum ran from unashamedly conservative to milquetoast center-left. AOC has helped change that.
It’s not just that she’s a leftist, it that until very recently, she was working-class.
This one is huge. Sanders, despite being an overall positive influence, has been a public servant (with a cushy salary and benefits) for decades. AOC, until recently, was living many of the struggles the majority of everyday people must cope with. Those memories are still fresh in her mind, and inform what she says. This has caused a much-needed leak to develop in the reality-distortion bubble on Capitol Hill.
Other Democrats will have to be primaried.
Sorry, centrists, this is just the way it is. The Democrats are a big tent party. Given the significant ideological diversity within it, voters deserve the right to a choice within those ideologies. Being primaried isn’t an “attack;” it’s an aspect of living in an open society. Rejecting competitive primaries (as the Democratic party leadership is attempting to do) is a pro-authoritarian attitude that must itself be rejected. Of course, fair’s fair: the centrists will respond by primarying the likes of AOC. Expect it.
She is a brilliant propagandist.
Take her recent use of the term “concentration camps” as an example. It promoted howls of outrage from the right (and even many in the center). But while the outrage was being howled, even the howlers were repeating the term “concentration camps.” She had suckered them into repeating her talking point, and they weren’t even aware of it!
Yes, she is youthful and inexperienced.
And most of her colleagues are, to be blunt, aged, jaded, sell-outs. She’s a sorely needed counterpoint to them.

An entire Federal government full of AOC’s would be a disaster. That’s irrelevant, because such a thing will never exist. A government with a few dozen more AOC’s in it (given present circumstances, about as many as could plausibly be wished for) would be vastly less reality-distorted than the government we have now.

In fact, even the four “Squad” members we currently have, have already helped shift the public debate in useful ways: even centrist Democrats who reject her health care and global warming policy ideas are admitting we need to do far better on both than we currently are.

On Iran Violating the Deal

First, let’s establish a baseline truth: Iran is ruled by a repressive government that would be better off gone.

That said, just what would one expect Iran, or any other country for that matter, to do when:

  • It signs a binding multi-party agreement, then
  • One of the parties tears up the agreement, and
  • Not only that, that same party then behaves in a way that sabotages all the other parties’ ability to honor the agreement.

Really, now: given all that, to expect Iran to keep honoring its side of the deal, just to be nice, is the mother of all unrealistic expectations. Of course Iran decided that since the agreement was torn up, it didn’t matter anymore. In related news, water is wet and the Pope is Roman Catholic.