Liberalism Delenda Est: On the 2016 Election and the farce called “democracy,” or why the Podesta e-mails indicate something darker than you think

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The above image is shocking to many people. How could there be so clear race and sex divides in the body politic? It must be the moral degeneration of white men, right? Why do they revel in fear and hatred so much? Is it merely the decline of their overall cultural power?  Is there a moral degeneration going on with power who do not recognize their privilege?

These are the questions I see asked when people just aren’t mocking the subject. Why are white men so reactionary? Is it their success in the past slipping away ? Is it fear of a brown America? Why are why men such a plague to the body politic?

There are a number of bad faith assumptions in those questions, and also a few assertions hidden in plain view in those questions which are not wrong. There are numerous editorials about this, some shaming the white working class for their bad faith, but also pointing out that the white working class have experienced real declines in outcomes in the past ten years–its not just their relative social power slipping, their lives are shortening and they are increasingly out of work.   Yet also the polling shows that white (mostly male) voters are in favor Trump but they are middle and upper middle class, politically engaged, and college educated, although slightly less highly than the Democratic counterparts.   A conclusion one can make from this desperate facts  is that similar to working class black men, although for different reasons, the white working class is not politically engaged and does not generally vote.

So how does one explain this? What do we make the above post by Nate Silver’s pollster-number crunchers on this one.  I find this fascinating, and I find it more fascinating that the general liberal reaction to this is that white men are a plague in most the country without trying to seriously figure out why it had gone this way. After all, white men were the primary theoreticians of liberalism as it currently exists too given the structure politics prior to the 1970s–its racial exclusivity still effective and the dominant halls of power being predominately WASP then Jewish, Catholic, and WASP but still white.  Although the definition of white expanded significantly by the 1970s too, and this also changed the nature of the complaint at hand.  The effect of these changes and the beginnings of the Nixon strategy in the South need to be addressed more completely for what it has done to the liberal political strategy as much as the nearly obsessive pointing out the obvious in regards to the Republican strategy. This needs serious thought for liberal thinkers, not merely shaming and virtue signaling, which of the people who have posted this, only one friend did not do.

Furthermore, the Podesta emails are damning for both sides and directly related to this. Trump can’t say “look Clinton so corrupt she empowered me?”  They also illustrate the problems of Bernie Sanders copitulation is factored in indicate that part of this has been strategically encouraged by the elite end of Democrats.   Some key things that the Podesta e-mails showed us:  casting Bernie as old white man and the “Progressive” left as low-key white racists asking for a handout was preplanned strategy.   Furthermore, so Podesta indicates that the Trump and Carson were favored by Democrats, and it was part of their strategy to get those candidates more attention.   Why? Why are so many of you complaining about my cynicism when the response to Podesta emails is generally “that’s just politics.” So you don’t see so sinister here beyond a personalities.

Again, this is not “a Clinton is corrupt and evil” line of thinking. Increasing amounts of the public are depoliticized, they have little incentive to vote and little practical incentive to care enough to keep up with key issues.   The Nixon strategy seems to be functionally embraced by Democrats themselves as way of tying identity to a specific electorate and keeping virtue-signaling in their favor.  The Republicans rely on this too because it means, while they are disfavored in national elections, the structure of the state electoral maps rural/urban divide and the sortition allows them to maintain power in a majority of states and run the politics out most non-urban areas, even in blue states.

So some better questions are:  Until the 1970s, white men even the South and mid-west supported populist progressives. Why did that stop?  Even some dyed-in-wool racists I knew in Georgia growing up over the age of 1950 had pictures of Roosevelt in their house.  Indeed, my grandmother became a conservative Republican on racially progressive grounds in the 1950s, and while she complained about Goldwater’s misstep on the civil rights act and about Nixon’s treachery, she never abandoned the GOP as a good Catholic matriarch with a mixed race family of that has Koreans, Jews, Protestants, and black members by marriages against the norms of Southern society.  So this has been in the back of my mind:  I have almost vestigial memory the pre-Nixon, pre-“neo-liberal” sorting of America because the politics of the South did not fit the politics on television.  This is also true for the mid-west, which now hosts more Klan than the South but also gave us sewer socialism.

All that seems unexplainable now.   The Nixon strategy itself is managerial tactic used across the board by both of the major US parties. The key players of power do not deny the contents of these e-mails, but try to “wag the dog” on the relationship to Russia in exposing these.  Look up Podesta and Trump, and you will not get the Wikileaks e-mail, but Podesta accusing Trump of colluding with foreign governments to undermine democracy.   Which may or may not be true, but Podesta colluded in the DNC to make Trump a viable candidate, and conditions on the ground where supportive because deleterious effects on several demographic groups in the so-called “recovery.”   This is kind of transparent cynical use of geo-politics that liberals saw against the Bush administration, but “progressives” are feeling powerless and afraid of the true crassness of Trump, his supposed extremity (Democrats have embraced most of his policies at earlier times, including stop and frisk, the wall, etc), and his legit support from an enlarged group with deep ties to racial nationalists.

The morbid joke arises that in four years it may look like this: “Sure, Clinton started a nuclear war with Russia and we lost New York, but do you want David Duke to win and open up the camps.”  And what would the outcome of that devil’s bargain eventually be?

Why do so many people continue to play the role assigned to them? I don’t have answers for this but I can tell you that it implies that the farce you mistake as a democracy gets less democratic anyway by the cycle, and that in this, partly because the tribal alliances in face of stress, people are becoming easier and easier to manage through the fragmentation of social media and regional sorting.

 

There are a few darker implications that run into the structure of a Republic based on representative democracy whether parliamentary or congressional.  The predominance of management to handle an increasingly fragmented and complex society will increase in democracy and while their policies will effect more or more of daily life as they control the executive and judicial branches beyond the presidency, they will be effectively a class that is anti-political.  Anti-political in the sense that is anti-deliberative and anti-representative.  Moneyed powers will have increased say. One of the darker elements of the Podesta e-mails was not about the Clintons, but about Obama’s cabinet.  I will just quote the New Republic:

This is a fight over who dominates the Democratic Party’s policy thinking in the short and long term. In 2008 the fight was invisible and one-sided, and the fix was in. In 2016 both sides are angling to get Clinton to adopt their framework. Those predisposed to consider Clinton some neoliberal sap might not agree, but this is actually a live ball. Presidents lead coalitions, and they have to understand where their coalition is and how things change over time. Peter Orszag this week suggested a trade-off: Give the Warren wing its choices on personnel, in exchange for more leeway to negotiate an infrastructure package with Republicans that gives big tax breaks to corporations with money stashed overseas. While that deal needs more detail, it reveals the power the Warren wing has, relative to the Obama era, to make significant strides on appointments.

To say that movement of liberal polity is itself illiberal and that democracies are increasingly anti-Democratic to the point of being farcical sounds both contradictory and maddening. To say that DNC really is deliberately playing with racial fire as a managerial strategy sounds conspiratorial. In some sense, it is, although I think all this was hiding in plain sight and is a logical extension of regional trends.   After all, we have known members of the Black Congressional Caucus to play with conservative politicians in the South to keep “progressive” influence smaller but their majority black contingency intact. In fact, this isn’t even necessarily malicious if one believes that one is serving a particular community that would be under-represented in “progressive” polity otherwise. It is a logical and not entirely intended consequence of the structure of the system.  It self-reinforces and becomes dark.   Given the demographic trends of the country, the decline of the US Protestant identity, the fiscal liberalization of politics, and the increased role of capitalist elites in both parties financing, this is almost inevitable and requires no deliberate conspiracy.

How can we explain the media’s bias?  Their increased pushing wikileaks as a Russian conspiracy–again, does anyone remember the Bush years?–and the predominant role in supporting Clinton as well as giving Trump much of his campaign advertising for free? Access is the media’s bread and butter, and they can’t get it without willing partners on the political side.  So what they have access too are increasingly prepared statements, especially considering that lower profit margins in news media means that no one can afford to fund investigative journalism anyway.  So re-running talking points of dominant politicians at least gives one something increasing to print that will get spread on social media because it plays to people’s confirmation biases anyway.

Is Trump a Clinton creation?  No. But again, people increasingly play their role.  A role that even the alt-right and far leftists seem to be factored into.  Occupy becomes a staging hashtag for Democratic pro-party activism.  BLM increasingly is moved from the streets into college campuses.   Alt-right becomes increasingly Milo and crew, and not related to the explicitly racial nationalists who created the moniker ten years ago. Paleo-conservatism is made relevant to millennials by anti-SJW rants on youtube, but also loses its content, and its history.  Sargon of Akkad has not read James Burnham or probably even Pat Buchanan.  In fact, the darkest implication in all this is this one seeming fact: Most of your rebellions are not only factored in to political and social management, their strategies are founded on the predictability of the patterns of it.

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Book Review The Reckless Mind by Mark Lilla (NYRB Press, re-issue 2015)

Originally released a few days before September 11, 2001, Mark Lilla’s
The Reckless Mind was re-released by NYRB roughly corresponding with
his new book of essays on reactionary political thinking, The
Shipwrecked Mind.   In the intervening years, these essays feel both
more and less relevant: Foucault has lasted, but the problems of his
politics have been explored more completely by the left and the right.
Revelations about Heidegger have been made deeper and more notedly
“problematic” with the translation of the black notebooks. Derrida,
the only living figure in the book when it was released, has passed
and his relevance to critical theory waned incredibly quickly.  Yet
the essays in this collection on Heidegger, Carl Schmitt, Walter
Benjamin, Kojève, Foucault, and Derrida are still readable and
fascinating.

There are, however, some puzzling indictments in this book. Lilla’s
essay on the relationship between Karl Jaspers, Hannah Arendt, and
Heidegger is clear-eyed in its assignment of Heidegger’s politics, but
Heidegger is not the intellectual about the which the essay concerns
itself.  Are Jaspers and Arendt also guilty of political recklessness?
Lilla, despite the very clear-eyed focus of the essay, does not say.
Walter Benjamin’s exact offense seems unknown as if Lilla thinks that
flirting with Marxism was in and of itself reckless even when
distancing from Soviet and Maoist forms.  Is it that Benjamin was
reckless in his combining messianism and recursion to Frankfurt
Marxism?   It hardly had political effect and Benjamin never made
apologetics for regimes in the way that Schmitt, Heidegger or Foucault
had done.    Furthermore, while some of the digs at Derrida are
apt—particularly Derrida’s highly symbolic and affective reading of
Marx—again it is hard to see what the consequences are to these
politics.  Derrida’s deconstruction seems muddled, but not reckless.
It is, now, however, largely irrelevant.

Again one suspects notices that these were essays for Times Literary
Supplement and the New York Review of books, and are excellent
profiles, but the essays connecting the key figures do not
thematically relate the figures enough.  Lilla’s final essay about
Syracuse and the nature of tyrannical philosophers is excellent, but
he does not really lay out priorly exactly what was tyrannical about
Benjamin.  HIs treatment of Kojeve was interesting and clarifying, but
the exact nature of the Strauss and Kojeve exchanges needed more
development as well. Furthermore, Kojeve’s correspondence has been
collected in On Authority giving a more complete view of the
exchange than when only Strauss’s On Tyranny was translated.

In short, this is an insightful but highly frustrating book.  Lilla
seems more annoyed with the left than the right, even if he thinks the
right’s sins are greater. He does not make the digs at Schmitt or even
Heidegger that he does Foucault and Derrida.  Lilla’s thematic unity
is merely interest in alternative and possibly totalitarian
worldviews, but any more coherent and cogent theme is resisted beyond
that.

Review The Shipwrecked Mind by Mark Lilla (NYRB Press, 2016)

While some will read this as a ‘history of reaction,’ this insightful and easily digested volume of essays is more like several essays on the subject. Generally, following a format related to book views and discussions in the history of ideas, collected around the central theme. I was little surprised to find that Lilla had published most of the chapters in New York Review of Books. While this is a limiting factor to the book, it does not make it un-insightful or particularly dross, or even repetitive as like some similar books. In fact, the obvious comparison is to Corey Robins The Reactionary Mind, which while also being largely a series of essays as review, had a more coherent thesis but was far more repetitive in its assertion and conflated conservatism with reactionarism. Still as Lilla points out, the reactionary impulse may be more dominant in political thinking these days even on the left, but far more ink as been spilt on the revolution mind. Indeed, even I can only think of Berlin and Robins as clear precursors to Lilla’s focus here.

Lilla starts with an assertion going back to DeMaistre, the reactionary is NOT a conservative. The reactionary is a utopian of nostalgia as opposed to the utopian of progress. While this is not actually the clearest of definitions, Lilla is able to use it trace a variety of kinds of thought which rhyme in function and affect. Lilla starts the book with careful and highly sympathetic studies of Rosenzweig, Voegelin, and Leo Strauss. Indeed, in the case of the latter two men, Lilla goes to pains to disentangle them from the use of their work. Lilla, like Isaiah Berlin who influenced him, can’t help but admire something of the vitality of counter-Enlightenment thought and may almost be too sympathetic to his case studies for many of his political allies. He is far fairer to Voegelin and Strauss than to Alain Badiou in the later chapters.

It is the series of essay in the second half of the book that are both the interesting but also the most frustrating. Lilla seems limited by the magazine form that chapters were originally published in, but almost all the arguments need to linger. Lilla’s thesis on the reactionary impulse to the “road not taken”–generally in some relationship to the Enlightenment although sometimes against the entirety of post-Socratic European history–is fascinating and seems apt, but he does not fully develop it.

Lilla’s assertion that “epochal thinking is magical thinking” is fascinating and feels true, but he doesn’t give enough examples nor does he explicitly call back the three case study thinkers in the beginning of the book which could be used to justify the claim. Lilla is erudite, and more or less expects his reader to be as well. Yet book that makes fairly strong demands on readers, its magazine style does have the benefit of being immediately accessible in style and a joy to read. This is particularly true in the essay on Michel Houellebecq and the two opposed currents of reactionary thinking in France. Indeed, Lilla does not explore this enough, but often the reactionary impulses biggest enemy is based in a different reactionary impulse with an opposing nostalgia. Lilla is a subtle thinker and a strong writer, but one wishes he developed his thinking beyond collecting his reviews on the topic and writing some thematic essays to tie them together.

Despite these caveats, I strongly recommend the The Shipwrecked Mind.