Will the Democrats Wake Up? They Better.

  1. Trump cheated once, colluding with Russia to win the 2016 election.
  2. He just got caught cheating again, attempting to collude with Ukraine.
  3. These are just the instances of cheating we’ve heard about. There may well be others.
  4. He will certainly try to cheat again. Why shouldn’t he? Literally everything in his life up to this point (in both politics and business) has taught him he can get away with cheating.
  5. You think it’s bad now? It’s just the primaries. Wait until the final election.

More Democrats are thankfully getting it. But will Pelosi?

If she doesn’t, it’s past time to replace her with a speaker who is serious about acting like a member of the opposition in an open political system, instead of a victim with Stockholm syndrome.

Andrew Sullivan’s Brexit Blindness

In this collection of recent essays, Andrew Sullivan starts out by making a convincing case that just because blatant hypocrisy about racism and slavery is a narrative of U.S. history, this doesn’t necessarily make it the narrative.

Then, a few essays later, is a piece by Sullivan that makes a very similar error. It starts by presenting how being independent for over 1,000 years is a narrative of British history, then artfully slides into arguing as if it is the narrative that pertains to the Brexit issue. No mention is made of other factors, such as lying and conniving politicians, ones who recently passed off a Brexit bait-and-switch on the British people.

Bringing that factor into the picture suggests a completely different course of action: a Brexit referendum redo: now that you know what Brexit really entails, is it still worth it to proceed with the process? This doesn’t reject the narrative that Sullivan set forth, and if the redo vote comes out pro-Brexit, then it really should be game over for continued U.K. membership in the E.U. Likewise, if the Remain vote prevails in the redo, then it should be game over for Brexit.

But Sullivan apparently couldn’t see that, despite recently writing another essay where he easily perceived the same principle. It all goes to show how one’s own proclivities (conservative nationalism, in Sullivan’s case) can cloud one’s vision. Sullivan seems to have a measure of “Brexit Blindness” of his own.

Facts and Logic Are Overrated

Look, I don’t like the fact that people don’t politically act rationally very much, either.

The words in that opening paragraph were chosen carefully: “politically act rationally,” not “vote rationally.” Voting is merely one form of possible political action amongst many, and it’s questionable how rational being satisfied with the “choice” of voting for Establishment Candidate A versus Establishment Candidate B really is, anyhow.

But, to reiterate, people don’t politically act rationally very much. Not all people, of course, but most. It’s a general rule, and the exceptions prove the rule; they don’t refute it.

After all, if people acted rationally, class society would have died a long, long time (as in millennia) ago. But it didn’t. People do not by and large act in their rational self-interest; they tend to be quite willing to support authority hierarchies which are personally harmful to them. Like it or not, them’s the facts.

Faced with that, one must choose between making positive change with people as they actually are, or clinging to some comfortable myths about making change with people as one might hope they were. Yes, there’s the option of persuading people to change (and people have changed; slavery and feudalism were once considered inevitable), but that takes time, and we don’t have time. There’s a fascist (thankfully, an incompetent one, but he’s doing plenty of damage even so) in the White House and a climate crisis that’s getting worse with each passing year.

And it is in that light we come to some advice from former GOP political consultant Rick Wilson. I’m actually somewhat pleasantly surprised by how good most of the advice is; I was expecting him to waste much ink on his wincingly stupid “this is a referendum on Trump, nothing more” strategy. He didn’t.

Instead, he took issue with:

  1. The importance Democrats place on policies,
  2. The lack of importance Democrats place on the electoral college, and
  3. The importance the Democrats place on various shibboleths.

As he wrote, a good slogan or two is going to matter more than policy papers, no matter how logical and well-written the latter might be. People tend to vote based on emotions, not facts, and a well-chosen slogan can do a vastly better job of engaging emotions than the best possible policy paper can ever hope to do.

So far as the electoral college goes, it’s a hot mess, and no cogent argument exists for it continuing to exist; it just ended up facilitating the same intemperate extremism it was purportedly put in place to frustrate. But none of that matters: it’s in the United States Constitution, getting it out or neutering it is going to be a protracted process, and there’s absolutely no conceivable scenario for completing that process before the next presidential election. Like it or not, the 2020 election will happen via the electoral college. As such, it only makes sense to campaign in a way compatible with that fact.

And so far as the hot button issues go, most of them are either identity politics things which are nowhere near as important (or universally appealing) as class politics, or they’re just plain stupid things that miss the point. In the latter category we have the insistence on making health insurance government-run instead of making health care as universal and egalitarian as possible (don’t confuse ends with means, Democrats).

Then we have a recent article by Jennifer Rubin which goes into how Trump just pushed some big hot buttons for conservative and middle America types by stupidly planning to invite the Taliban to Camp David in the same week as the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

One could argue that it logically doesn’t much matter for the mechanics of negotiating a treaty, but this forgets the whole point of this essay: facts and logic are overrated when it comes to campaigns. Emotions matter a lot. Many people have a very negative gut reaction to what Trump just did. So why not capitalize on it and hit Trump hard where he’s weak?

Those who despise Trump might think the attacks a bit odd, but by and large we won’t be turned off by them. We’ll just think them odd, and vote to defeat Trump anyhow. Meanwhile, they might just persuade a few wavering both-sides-ists that the Democrats are better than the GOP (and to vote accordingly), as well as helping to demoralize a few Republicans into sitting this one out or casting a protest vote for a third party. And there’s only a few votes that need to be changed in a few key swing states to tilt the coming elections against Trump.

Yes, yes: This all sucks, and people arguably should approach things more logically. No arguments there. But, at this time, there is real value in hitting a reset button and getting a more sane Establishment (as opposed to a basically fascist one) in power. Therefore, there is real value in doing whatever it takes to unseat Trump, even if it means playing the standard stupid political games.

Yes, It Is Political

The miners might claim their struggle isn’t a political one, but they are wrong. That the law acts as iron chains on the poor and working class but merely gossamer threads on the rich is a key characteristic of class society, and simply a natural outcome of gross inequality of power. As such, anyone taking issue with any aspect of this principle is being profoundly political.

The Democrats would have to be abject fools (or mere tools of the ruling elite) if they fail to take up this issue. (Which, of course, means there is a very good chance that they won’t take it up.)

Two Points on the G7 Summit

Trump is Scared of the Fellow Class

The business class is now very frightened of an imminent recession, and they have been using their lobbying power to read the riot act to Trump and underscore their disfavor with his trade war. This is why he made an attempt at being more cooperative at the summit.

There is No Better Trump

Trump has made fleeting attempts at being presidential before. The key word here is fleeting. The attempts never last. Trump lacks the maturity and discipline to stifle his gut impulses. As such, he will go back to being a combative buffoon, and sooner rather than later.

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.