The Strange Death of Liberal Wonktopia: Week 3, Day 2: Rove Vs. Bannon, The Tale of Two Enemies.

I was, perhaps, too curt about the how serious Steve Bannon is compared to the who most of the liberal and even neoconservative press portray him as being.  You don’t fight a media mogul with mind like Otto Von Bismark like he is a caricature from American History X. Bannon may or may not be a racialist, he definitely doesn’t have problems of Richard Spencer. Indeed, the mainstream media realizing that Richard Spencer exists has been a boon for Radix as they keep trotting him out to scare liberals into not trying to play politics with the GOP.  From what I can’t see why liberals are having so much trouble with this, but this gives Steve Bannon cover:  Bannon is not an alt-rightist a la Spencer, and only tried to wrestle the brand away from Spencer as a way of conveying mystique.  Furthermore, Spencer himself had forgone that brand in favor of Radix several years ago out of differences with some of the bloggers.  People outside of /pol/ or readers of the most dark and obscure corners of American Conservative and Taki Magazine probably have no idea of this history or how they are playing into it.

When Steven Bannon says he wants that dark power, he isn’t kidding, and Bill Kristols and liberal bloggers of the world are giving it to him. Even the National Review is on watch.  When the Daily Kos and the National Review agree on something, people take notice, but often for the wrong reasons.  Bannon isn’t wrong that making Dick Cheney and Karl Rove names progressives used to scare their children to sleep at the end of Bush era and the beginning of Obama’s presidency was a source of real political power for both Cheney and Rove. So you respond by him saying that by giving it him?  The DailyKos is literally giving Bannon what he wants:

Hurrah for honesty, at least. Even Dick Cheney, who certainly inhabited the dark side, didn’t—at least publicly—praise Satan. Bannon could have mentioned some others imbued with the darkness-is-good vibe: Silvio Berlusconi, Augusto Pinochet, Francisco Franco. But that would have been too honest.

Indeed, in fact, by listing Berlusconi in the same league as Pinochet and Franco, they are try giving Bannon and Berlusconi (and by proxy Trump) more power. After all, Pinochet and Franco successfully used left and liberal idiocy against itself and buried their opposition: literally. Bannon would love for the American public to think he can do that, because if they think that, he can.

The National Review is smarter, but still doesn’t see the irony, when Tuttle says, “The problem is not whether Bannon himself subscribes to a noxious strain of political nuttery; it’s that his de facto endorsement of it enables it to spread and to claim legitimacy.”  The National Review is also spreading the message of that nuttery by looking  like elitists denouncing it, and making Bannon look like the sane option who is just a Machiavelli using tendencies of degenerated capitalist democracy against itself.

This is where the contrast with Karl Rove really comes in, while Karl Rove was a Machiavelli. He didn’t have the vision or real focus of Bannon. Rove was a political operative who wanted a generation’s long GOP dominance for a New American Century.  A century that was just an extension of the post-war American dominance.  It was Reagan’s America, but also Kennedy’s America. Rove used Kennedy’s model for tax cuts, encouraged mild flirtation with direct stimulus, and saw how to get aging boomers out to vote against social norms of changing since the 1960s. Yet, while in the seeming blinkered vision of US politics, this was only extending the tactics of the Boomers into another generation:  a bit of Kennedy, a bit of Nixon, and a large dose of Reagan.

Bannon makes Rove look positively myopic. Rove’s permeant GOP majority was generational, and would just extent the current out 40s years. Bannon is talking, and has been talking, in terms of epochs going back to World War 2.  Yes, his sensationalist media seems like the worse excesses of the Drudge Report, and its support for the GOP in the Bush 43’s Presidencies, but Breibart under Bannon was playing a much longer came that Breibart under Breibart. Don’t believe me?  Read the speech Bannon had linked to Buzzfeed: 

And we’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict, of which if the people in this room, the people in the church, do not bind together and really form what I feel is an aspect of the church militant, to really be able to not just stand with our beliefs, but to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.

Now, what I mean by that specifically: I think that you’re seeing three kinds of converging tendencies: One is a form of capitalism that is taken away from the underlying spiritual and moral foundations of Christianity and, really, Judeo-Christian belief.

I see that every day. I’m a very practical, pragmatic capitalist. I was trained at Goldman Sachs, I went to Harvard Business School, I was as hard-nosed a capitalist as you get. I specialized in media, in investing in media companies, and it’s a very, very tough environment. And you’ve had a fairly good track record. So I don’t want this to kinda sound namby-pamby, “Let’s all hold hands and sing ‘Kumbaya’ around capitalism.”

But there’s a strand of capitalism today — two strands of it, that are very disturbing.

One is state-sponsored capitalism. And that’s the capitalism you see in China and Russia. I believe it’s what Holy Father [Pope Francis] has seen for most of his life in places like Argentina, where you have this kind of crony capitalism of people that are involved with these military powers-that-be in the government, and it forms a brutal form of capitalism that is really about creating wealth and creating value for a very small subset of people. And it doesn’t spread the tremendous value creation throughout broader distribution patterns that were seen really in the 20th century.

The second form of capitalism that I feel is almost as disturbing, is what I call the Ayn Rand or the Objectivist School of libertarian capitalism. And, look, I’m a big believer in a lot of libertarianism. I have many many friends that’s a very big part of the conservative movement — whether it’s the UKIP movement in England, it’s many of the underpinnings of the populist movement in Europe, and particularly in the United States.

However, that form of capitalism is quite different when you really look at it to what I call the “enlightened capitalism” of the Judeo-Christian West. It is a capitalism that really looks to make people commodities, and to objectify people, and to use them almost — as many of the precepts of Marx — and that is a form of capitalism, particularly to a younger generation [that] they’re really finding quite attractive. And if they don’t see another alternative, it’s going to be an alternative that they gravitate to under this kind of rubric of “personal freedom.”

Bannon is mixing capitalism with Catholic social teaching in a way that resembles a Nationalist form of Post-Keynesianism. Deficit spending priming the pop on investment within a polity, currency manipulation maintaining that, and lots of infrastructure investment being made. Even after that infrastructure is non-productive. If that resembles Peron’s Argentina or China, it is important to remember that most of respectable non-neoliberal left believes the same thing. Bannon has swept their own policies out from under them.

Furthermore, is Bannon wrong about his analysis of post-World War II “West”? He is right, for example, that Christendom more than race defines its borders. Iranians are caucasians after all. He is right that secular capitalism and Islamism have worked together to accidentally create ISIS. What Bannon does though is combines Paleo-conservatism and neoconservatism while rebuking both:

They have a Twitter account up today, ISIS does, about turning the United States into a “river of blood” if it comes in and tries to defend the city of Baghdad. And trust me, that is going to come to Europe. That is going to come to Central Europe, it’s going to come to Western Europe, it’s going to come to the United Kingdom. And so I think we are in a crisis of the underpinnings of capitalism, and on top of that we’re now, I believe, at the beginning stages of a global war against Islamic fascism.

The language mirrors the New American century, but the goal absolutely does not. Bannon agrees with Elizabeth Warren about the problems of Goldman Saches, and he should know, he worked there. Bannon agrees with Putin about the decline of the West and the decline of Christendom, and he agrees with Marxists that the middle class was under attack by large global powers. There is a reason a why people in both old centers of power are afraid of him, and some of it is his nationalism, but others is that he has found a mixture to show them all as empty and use parts of all of their rhetoric.

If Rove’s ambition of a generational GOP majority in congress, Bannon’s is more akin to František Palacký than James Carvel. Trump may be cheeto Benito form of Huey Long, but Bannon is far, far more serious. Continue to make him into a caricature, he’s already told you he’s fine with that.

The Strange Death of Liberal Wonktopia, Day 6: Intersectionality is always a key term until someone asks you to actually do it.

Let’s getting something out of the way that is spreading like a virus: You can’t understand what it means to be “white working class,” or any working class, from polling results.    This isn’t going to become a John Cougar Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen video with a folksy version of the Internationale in the melody.  Finally, no, you don’t have to empathize with the “white working class.”  You don’t have to empathize with anyone for a lot of what I am going to say to make sense.  That, however, isn’t the same thing as not shaming them, ignoring them, pretending what is happening to them isn’t happening.

The first part of the narrative:  The interests of the working class are divided by both race–and something even Marxists don’t talk much about anymore–region.  The reason for this difference is historical, but not just because of the long history of racial violence in the United States.  That most definitely plays a part, and the real gap in wealth between the black community and the white community largely comes from that very history: slavery, Jim Crow, sharecropping, chain gangs, and the second wave of Klan. The gap in wealth between the white community and the black community has to the ownership of real property and investment, and not just current income.  It also has to do with inheritance and access to fair investment markets.  That, however, most left-liberals and Marxists vaguely understand.

What historical factors are ignored?  The shape of economic development in the country. While it is tempting to think the interests of the working class are unified, even within the “white” working class, this is somewhat laughable if you look at the shape of the country.  The Union movement in the USA has largely failed. As I wrote about in another place, the South and West’s “Right to Work” laws and history of race baiting actually killed the Unions there.  But there was another problem–the South were NEVER industrialized on the same model as the upper mid-West of the United States and share-cropping and prison labor was used to keep agricultural wages down as well. Similar to the way exploiting undocumented immigrants who do not have wage protections are done now . This means the industrial union model never took off, and the few unions that did exist were largely for contractors, functioning more like professional guilds.  After all, who can a Union of independent contractors strike against as they are technically their own employer.

The West Coast’s working class and now most of the South have a working class in the service sector or in the military or education.  That said, the service sector in the West Coast, largely because of a historical accident, is in higher skilled work like computing in urban areas or in crops that are resistant to mechanization like vegetables, nuts, and fruits in rural and suburban ones.  In the mountain West, outside of the cities, the main employer is mineral extraction but of more profitable and rarer minerals than in the mountains around the rust belt. The South is even more complicated,  being largely urbanized and de-urbanized very quickly, centers of population are even more concreted than North East.  This changes the nature of land ownership, and the kinds of employment there.   While in area manufacturing and contracting specifically for turning former farm land into rich subdivisions provided a lot of jobs, that manufacturing work was limited. Furthermore, many employers from Japan and even the US moved factories to the South but they were newer, much more highly automated, and cost of living and wages low enough that even a non-unionized job was more attractive than what else was on offer.

This is a very rough sketch of the last two decades of development, and I am sure there is much to contend with in the fine print.  It definitely related to the voting patterns. Here’s what we know about Trump’s voting electorate.  It was overwhelming white, but upper middle class. The “white working class” only seemed to turn the election to his favor actively in the devastated areas of the rust belt.

To delve into some further vulgar Marxism, the bourgeoisie in the US are mixed too and not just by size of their businesses. Small business owners have been in decline as have small farmers. This is nothing new.  However, the GOP has largely based itself out of Sun Belt where these declines were more pronounced.  Furthermore, ironically, the GOP and black Democrats colluded to make sure that representation was more concentrated, allowing for a bigger electoral hold on Sun Belt states than would otherwise happen in exchange for some clearly black representation of mostly black districts.  The Democrats, whose origins back to Andrew Jackson or Thomas Jefferson, depending on our interpretation, are a populist party without an ideological or even consistent class base core. The GOP has always, even in Lincoln’s day when it was radically progressive, been a party of business.  The nature of business to society itself has changed. As the Brahmin Republicans declined in the North East and West because of urbanization, the Nixon strategy and the Goldwater vote on the civil rights act, and the taint of the Dixiecrats drifting away the Democrats, Democrats were able to take over the political machines and the interests of the Wall Street in the North East fairly easily.  Meaning that there are some substantive differences between the GOP and Democrats even though they both favor managerial and bourgeois interests–those interests are different. For example, Trump and Koch make things or build things, but Goldman Sachs finances things and Silicon valley disrupts things–ironically, though, because even the sharing economies business model of ending monopolies is based on intellectual property monopoly.

You will note that NONE of that requires empathy. It does require understanding. It requires also a buzzword that everyone throws around in Social justice circles but few people actually try to do: Intersectional understanding.  Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw coined that term from his work in law at the turn of the 1980s to 1990s. It did really take off with meme and think-piece culture in the late aughts. Like lectures about privilege, it hide in legal and pedagogical studies in the academy before being integrated by undergraduates into to think pieces 20 years later. I have written in other places extensively on the strange relationship of intersectionality to ideas like standpoint epistemology, and it has theoretically absorbed some of those assumptions in its common use. But at least, Crenshaw wanted disability, race, class, gender, sex, caste, and class into our understanding of human interactions.   Crenshaw did not think they could weighted or put down in simple categories and thus all analysis had to be multi-casual. This is easily done in cases like understanding American labor, but it removes the easy of sloganeering and simple reductive rhetoric.

Yet think pieces and blogs have increased simple reductive rhetoric to the point that “intersectionality” is generally used a way to shut people up,  or as a substitute for the idea of Solidarity, or as way of erasing the very things it was suppose to overlay. When combined with the psychologization of a lot of left-liberal politics–with analogies to trauma, unintended aggression, and constant pleas to empathy–you can see where this valuable way of analyzing the world drops out and becomes useless because the substantive methodological content goes into the air.

This brings me to a series of counter articles written in the last few days to all these naive pleas about the empathizing with the white working class. Some of this is a weirdly liberal appropriation of Maoist-Third Worldist ideas, but only applied to race within the US. I will ignore that because J. Sakai being used to support Hillary Clinton is absurd on its face. Other responses are been more nuanced in part, addressing “white allies.” I will talk about Kali Holloway’s piece for Alternet,  “Stop Asking Me to Empathize With the White Working Class: And a few other tips for white people in this moment,” as I think it is representative of what is likely to become a genre in the few weeks of doubling down on ideas and paradigms that largely only speak to themselves.

Holloway begins with,

The only people who were surprised by white people voting for white supremacy is other white people. Muslims, black folks and other people of color have been petrified of this outcome for a long time now, because we know how white power will do anything to preserve itself. We have seen it, worked beside it, watched it on the news, lived next door to it, witnessed it call itself our friend and then question our experiences with racism when we recount them.

Right out of the park, we begin with a bunch of assumptions that have to be unpacked. One of my problems with standpoint epistemology is the way it conflates derailing someone’s experience with questioning the scope of someone’s experience. Is a vote for Clinton NOT a vote for white supremacy?  After all, she was an active supporter of her husband’s tough on crime act.  Furthermore, in most of the country, “lived next door to it” is a false claim.  This implies an integrated America that only exists in the upper middle class suburbs of large cities. It also implies equal class footing. That’s not even false.

However, the conflation of both interests of whites being unified and the interests of people of color being unified but opposed is common.  It’s a white hat/black hat myth, with the moral significance of the colors inverted, but it’s common.  Yes, all white identified people benefit from the social structures around race, but they do not all equally nor is white power necessarily in everyone’s interests equally. Furthermore, as we pointed out, the diversification of the elite actually hasn’t been that much of a threat to white power. That is not what is going on.

Holloway says,

The only surprise to come out of this election is how many, and how quickly, white people want us to empathize with the people who voted against our humanity, our right to exist in this place. Even before the election, the Washington Post actually had the audacity to berate us for not crying for the white working class. In the days since Trump won, the number of articlesurging everybody to be cool to Trump’s America, to understand what they are facing, to hear their grievances, has added insult to injury. Bernie Sanders issued a statement saying Trump “tapped into the anger of a declining middle class that is sick and tired of establishment economics, establishment politics and the establishment media.” I read it at least three times and couldn’t find the words “white supremacy” anywhere in it.

Which is true, but also it wasn’t just white supremacy being maintained. 47% of the population didn’t vote. 70% of the voting electorate was white, about 9% more than representation of the country, and while the majority of those votes did go to the Republicans, the white working class that needs someone to listen to them didn’t vote for anyone. Neither did larger portions of working class blacks and hispanics. These are facts. I have documented them elsewhere.  The reasons why people are calling for this to be looked at is based on a simple question:  how are you going to win state level races to get back those purple states if you can’t address white people?  2060 is the year projected that the white population becomes majority minority–if and only if other current groups don’t start identifying as white.  But even then, you have to assume simplified interests among groups.  This doesn’t start up to much pressure.

Without that reforms of electoral college and other things that liberals are putting their hopes on are not just unlikely but impossible. Furthermore, as has been a theme, shaming people on this front doesn’t work.  Holloway makes it worse though in key ways:

Let me pass along some advice black folks have been given for a long time: stop being so angry and seeing yourself as a victim, and try pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. That’s really all I have for you right now, this re-gifting of wisdom.

This is not just spite, it’s stupid spite. Everyone knows in her circles that this is not possible. Indeed, the very image is a logical impossibility but dismissing that is the normalization of a downward trend that also continues to affect large portions of the black and hispanic community. Hard work doesn’t change aggregate outcomes for anyone.

Holloway makes another lazy argument:

Here’s another reason I’m not interested: This whole idea that I have to understand the people America seems to believe are its “real” citizens is less and less relevant. Yes, they won an election. This country is getting browner and gayer by the day, and for all they are fighting to get back to the 1950s, lazing in toxic nostalgia isn’t going to change that. The demographics of this country are not on their side. They might want to try understanding the future—in which they are outnumbered and outvoted—because it comes for us all.

Yes, but Republicans are getting more and more of the brown vote, the idea that identity has set ideological content because of abstractions is, frankly. absurd. White power is a material thing, as it wanes, the interests of those who replace it in the same economic system will resemble that of who they replaced. Don’t believe me? Study the history of the coloreds in Haiti versus the black former slaves and who made up the elite classes there after the whites were gone.  The demographics of the U.S. are centralized in urban areas in a way that make it less and less democratic, and fixing that without also erasing many state borders and localities, would quickly cause several constitutional issues to become manifest like they did in large nation-states with diverse population that didn’t have a system to balance those interests:  see the history of Mexico and Brazil and the increased history of party centralization, corruption, and military coups for the long gains from that.  You don’t only change one part of a broken system, and yet that is all that is being talked about and predicting that raw number demographics will change things for the Democrats and People of Color. In Brazil, the “whites” (although Americans who think of them as Latinos) dominated and still dominate politics despite demographic trends being against for almost two decades. Why?  Accumulation, centralization of power, and conflicting interests among other groups.

Holloway doubles down again before she’s finished,”To paraphrase Samantha Bee, if Muslims and black folks have to take responsibility for every member of our communities, so do you.”  This again is confusing identity revenge with some vague notion of justice. The reason why everyone from bell hooks to Samantha Bee says making people representative of their race is it bad thinking. Inverting it is still bad thinking and is basically just sticking ones finger in the air and screaming: you did it too.

Holloway does make some sound points: poverty is always portrayed more romantically for whites and is perceived differently by the public, the diversification of elites isn’t what is causing white working class problems, and that it is basically each community’s responsibility to speak to itself.  However, if one was intersectional AT ALL in the analysis, it would be clear that communities overlap.  Indeed, Holloway’s whole premise in the beginning based on exposure to white communities is predicated on it overlapping.

I will quote a friend’s conversation with me about this as it makes the point clear:

Here’s what I mean (I feel like I’m talking to 5th graders, so I’m even worse than mansplaining): SOME white people are racist ignoramuses, and SOME white people are economically oppressed, and the intersection of these groups is not
the NULL SET. See? That’s not hard, is it?

The main point being not that “I am right” in the particulars, but that a certain amount of complexity is irreducible. As an analogy: if you want to cure a disease, you have to get the etiology right. Bleeding someone with malaria might make you feel better about yourself, as a caretaker, but it will do fuck all, therapeutically, for the patient.

The right isn’t totally wrong about how therapy has taken over a model for politics, they are just wrong about how and why. There are confluence of interests and actors in all of this, but the liberal and conservative–indeed most of the American– imagination has become so withered by simplistic typologies and the focus on emotional states that simple descriptive facts seem beyond most people’s capacity.  The personal being political, and the politics being symbolic has massively eroded liberals’ ability to parse complicated reality.  It has make intersectionalism the buzzword for most activism while also making it nearly impossible to say anything that actually has a multi-factor analysis as its core,  which is what intersectionality itself demands.

The Strange Death of Liberal Wonktopia, Day 5: The Imperial President or the Cult of Milquetoast Personality

“Present-day politics places emphasis on personality. An entire party, a platform, an international policy is sold to the public, or is not sold, on the basis of the intangible element of personality. A charming candidate is the alchemist’s secret that can transmute a prosaic platform into the gold of votes. Helpful as is a candidate who for some reason has caught the imagination of the country, the party and its aims are certainly more important than the personality of the candidate. Not personality, but the ability of the candidate to carry out the party’s program adequately, and the program itself should be emphasized in a sound campaign plan.” ~ E. Bernays, Propaganda (1928)

Bernay’s theories, which were obvious and apparent the two decades after he wrote them, were both the secret and the downfall for the Democratic dream of Wonktopia. The end of Bernay’s passage could have described what Obama became: hope and change in the guise of a young constitutional law scholar-turned-senator from a strong family but who could made emblematic of the long integration of the black experience in America. Obama, biracial, born of an African immigrant and a liberal Brahmin family, identified as black. He had been, while not the anti-war vote many liberals projected onto him, a gust of fresh air against the neoconservative approach to war and the Washington consensus on Greenspan economics. He then stocked his cabinet with the old guard of Clinton and even Carter staffers. People like me noticed immediately, but for most of America, President Obama embodied hope and change. Change that some people loved and others hated, even if it was largely just symbolic and tonal change.

What was remarkable at first, even when the Democrats had dominance of entire apparatus of the Federal government for Obama’s first two years, was how little seemed to substantively change and yet how much the tone of the country changed. Eight years later people talk about opposition to Obama as if his first two years weren’t with a super majority of his party. Obama was being projected on, and while he can be more candid than most politicians, his actual policies were just a tonal moderation on Bill Clinton’s.

Like Bill Clinton in 2000, Obama would probably win this election if there were no term limits. Yet also like Clinton, we will have seen him as the normalizer of policies seen as previously right-wing. In the popular imagination, Obama was signaled to be the end of an area, but since he embodied Bernay’s point: he could embody both the party and the platform in his policy while also being a projection of hope that change had come.  Like President Bill Clinton’s dynamic, Clintonism was beyond the charisma of the man even if it stemmed from it, but unlike Clintonism, Obamism did not out shine the men himself because there isn’t much consistency or novelty there. Indeed, the very phrase “Obamism” seems strange.  What could it be?  What was Obama’s doctrine?  Just Prudence?  Drone strikes as opposed to ground wars? Deporting more than the Bush/Cheney consensus could do but showing compassion to children through the Dream Act and executive actions? Spending four years trying to forge a bipartisan consensus for issues that, politically theatrics aside, there was more or less a consequence already, and yet no consensus could made?

Those aren’t doctrines and you can’t build an -ism out of those seemingly ad hoc actions.  Obama is easy to thus see personified but nearly impossible to explain.

Obama as a figure will probably be immensely popular, but Obama’s Presidency as historical period of US government, for all its talk of change, will be seen be a continuation of the 1990 and aughts worldview far past its prime.  Obama himself stands un-reprimanded, but what he actually embodied in government  is meagre.   He used executive orders extensively for domestic policy differently from his the Presidents before him, but he based the actions on the ways Presidents since Reagan had used such orders for foreign policy and police actions.  This, however, could always have been undone in a hand-wave–with Trump, apparently, they will be. Like using the Supreme Court as a tactic, the liberal inability to take Wonktopia to state, local, and even federal legislatures did and continues to make all of its gains constantly at risk for erasure by fait of either the judiciary or the executive.

While it is probably the intense and obvious “coronation” aspect of Hillary Clinton hurt her possibility to the Presidency, and the obvious manifestation of family dynasties as manifestations of the Imperial Presidency, what was being missed is that these families were useful because they were wonks and inside dealers. These were not dynasties as autocrats or heads of state.  Indeed, the primary campaign argument made for Clinton, beyond the symbolism of a first female President, was her wonk-ish expertise.  In the US, more than in Parliamentary systems, the head of government and the head of state are co-terminus. While this was also true in the Soviet Union, even many Communist governments, including Maoist China, kept those two roles separate:  see Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai.  In the US, the President has the power of both and neither.  President Reagan seemingly embodied the elements of the head of state, and President Clinton embodying the of government.  Obama shared more in common with Reagan or Kennedy than with Johnson or Clinton, yet he had to try to continue the latter two’s legacy.   In short, Bush the dynasty didn’t embody either well, although Bush 41 was a component head of government, his inability to be an effective head of state was constantly a weakness of which the media was aware.

The head of government in the US is the imperial wonk, Bill Clinton establishing the current format of DLC and DNC triangulation and a bipartisan consensus even in a time of partisan rancor.  He could manifest the bourgeois values of New York but package them in the rhetoric and temperament of the sun belt.  Bush 43 could do the same, but in a much more, frankly, tacky way.   Obama was able to carry on the policy torches of both while making multicultural America the face of the whole affair. Bill Clinton had tried to be the honorary “First Black President,” but he was always a good old boy from Arkansas.

Trumpism is larger than Trump.  Indeed, he is almost inversion of Obama except in one key way: Obama and Trump were both seen as outsiders.  As Trump staffs his Cabinet with a mixture of wonks and people from the non-Bush wing of the old GOP guard–a lot of faces that emerged in the 1990s are clearly predominant0–we shall see if Trumpism remains larger than Trump. Some appointments seem to indicate it will: Preibus and Bannon both being linked to the more radical end of Trump’s vision. It is not so much that a mandate was given to Trumpism: 47% of the electorate did not vote at all, and Clinton won the popular vote thinks to urban density.  Even if Trump is a the crude hybrid of American business with two Italian figures, Silvio Berlusconi and Benito Mussolini, his autocracy is currently limited. Furthermore, the common liberal idea that impeachment with Pence becoming President would make liberals complicit in the return of the one form of conservatism that have actually successfully defeated: Protestant theo-conservatism and its moral majority.

This is what makes the hopes of change based on protesting in major cities with Democratic bases so futile.  Even if one were to cause some faithless electors, this would be a black swan event.  A black swan event that require faithless electors in states where the protests are not popular and borderline non-existent.  As a form of even resistance, few things could more futile. Furthermore, at no time in US history, including the five previous times when the electoral college split has faithless electors change the results of an election. Such an event could trigger another black swan event itself, and cycles beyond the control of liberals would ensue.

What goes beyond this?  Liberals themselves don’t believe in the status quo they defended, and aside from fear of reprisals, most of the arguments made for this the methods used are unconvincing.  The Electoral college acting in bad faith would NOT slow the violence against vulnerable minorities–it would predictably accelerate it.   Clinton would have the most hostile congress in US history to her rule, and there would be special Prosecutors on the White House door step immediately.   Furthermore, the damage done to liberal jurisprudence would be as bad, or worse, if the conventional GOP got its way with the Supreme court.

The imperial Presidency has, so far, actually been able to maintain and expand the imperial party mechanism. Parties, even more than legislation, becoming the driving forces behind law, and think-tanks, more than legislators, drafting bills. Indeed, this has been a way to hide bourgeois management of the US political system and the dominance of several bureaucracies both partisan and none.  It is beyond time to rethink our alignment to these bureaucracies, and that would requires thinking beyond the executive branch of government.  Even traditional Democrats will have to do this, not just wilded-eyed progressives or jaded Marxists, because their focus on the executive electorally, a natural result of them being in large urban centers, has cost them most of the machinery of government at a state by state level.  In fact, so much so, that one more election could give the GOP the power to make constitutional amendments.

This will require thinking about para-state institutions beyond Unions, parties, and traditional think-tanks. This is the work we need to do. The right did it while you weren’t watching.  Not just the think-tanks that liberals knew about, but para-state institutions that left doesn’t have.  First through churches and the cover of religious exception, but now, honestly through magazines, charities, and memes.

Without thinking about what leftists used to call “dual power,” most attempts to change the direction of the government will determined by those bourgeois figures that have more room to move and a more coherent tribally singular contingency:  populists and the right. The right-ward shift is happening all over the world, not just in the US, for this very reason. We never needed to defend Wonktopia, but it is particularly deluded to think we can bring it back from the dead with some protests alone.

The Strange Death of Liberal Wonktopia, Day 2: I am Sancho Panza, We should be Sancho Panza

I am running a fever as I write this, watching without any particular strong emotion, President Obama, having to eat crow and welcome President-elect Donald Trump to the White House.   As my friend Arya said, “What a fitting way to end a presidency, by a man who forfeited all his principles in order to maintain a face of political modesty, and shall now open the White House doors to welcome President-elect Donald J. Trump.”  In this moment, as being on a podcast too late may have weakened my fight against a desert fall cold, I am probably going to alien more “left liberals” who feel disgraced and embarrassed for their country, but refuse to see their role in any of it.

So I got angry at the left and liberals on a podcast last night.   For months, I have been calling this a race to bottom, and it was:

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Between 2008 and 2016, we saw the demoiblization of about 10,000,000 voters.  More facts to astonish, Trump won the electoral college with less votes than Clinton, but both got less votes than either McCain or Romney lost with.  Furthermore, while this narrative that it was only bigotry and not the Democrats playing with fire that does this, Trump got a HIGHER percentage of the Black and Latino vote than Romney. He got a majority of white women who voted. 

So Romney’s vote was larger and whiter than Trumps.  Clinton could not get youth or he demographic to come out in force. Obama’s oversaw the the demobilization of 10,000 voters. And Clinton made almost no policy prescriptions, Michael Moore’s only real defense of her was she would be the first woman president.  The whole thing was made to look like she was inevitable when there wasn’t much there. While I often don’t like Sam Kriss’s opinions even if his caustic writing is always a joy, we have agreed more and more in this election about the impotence, silly rage, and lack of substance of the post-Obama progressives in the DNC.  He hits the worm I the apple:

Throughout the entire election, one slow-motion clip of a clown car ramming into a crowd of pedestrians, I’d assumed that the danger of Trump and the danger of Clinton were of two different orders. Trump was dangerous because of what he said and what he represented, the waves of fascism and violence that rippled out from the dead plopping weight of his speeches. Clinton was dangerous because of what she would actually do, because Clinton was going to win the election. I was a sucker, the kind who gets duped precisely by believing himself to be too smart for any kind of con. I thought I saw through it all, the whole stupid charade, a coronation disguised as a battlefield. I was wrong. This was exactly what Hillary Clinton wanted people like me to think; she wanted to be an inevitability. And this is why Trump won: the presidency was Clinton’s to lose, from the moment she announced her candidacy, and she lost it. She was the only person who could. People don’t like taking part in someone else’s inevitability.

My guess is even a lot the people throwing useless tantrums that they will call protests now couldn’t bring themselves to care either.  One of the lowest percentile of voters in a country that already has anemic voter participation gave a non-mandate to a celebrity who is a populist cheeto and effectively threatening to grab the infrastructure by the pussy.  I can’t make this up.  And the people who liberals say they are speaking for voted for him in higher numbers than they voted for Romney.  White women voted for him in the main despite two weeks of predictions.  They didn’t seem to really want to vote for him. However, he was a sledge hammer and the few that did vote used it.

Why did they want a sledge hammer?  Juan Cole, who wrote an excellent article whose only mistake is confusing neoliberalism with non-Kenyesian capitalism, hits at part of it:

Compared to 1999, white workers, according to another recent study in the Commonwealth Foundation: “have lower incomes, fewer are employed, and fewer are married.” This study found other causes for the increased death rates than just the ones mentioned above, but didn’t deny the Princeton findings. Here is their chart:

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The only comparison I can think of to this situation is what happened to Russians in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Russian Federation had a population of nearly 150 million in 1990 and thereafter fell to about 144 million. The end of the Soviet Union caused their confidence in the future to collapse and the end of the old economic system created very high unemployment. They stopped having children and drank themselves to death.

In America, the rural/urban divide is becoming one of life and death like the black/white divide was and the way Democrats–and progressives in general handled that was–calling them racist and sexist for wanting something. I have said for the years that the natural result of privilege talk wouldn’t be lifting everyone up, it would be subjecting everyone to the same hellhole that minorities undergo and then pretending it already wasn’t happening to the rural and exurban poor.  The National Review and Vox basically came to a tactic agreement on this.

So let’s take a second here and look at what Glen Greenwald says,

Put simply, Democrats knowingly chose to nominate a deeply unpopular, extremely vulnerable, scandal-plagued candidate, who — for very good reason — was widely perceived to be a protector and beneficiary of all the worst components of status quo elite corruption. It’s astonishing that those of us who tried frantically to warn Democrats that nominating Hillary Clinton was a huge and scary gamble — that all empirical evidence showed that she could lose to anyone and Bernie Sanders would be a much stronger candidate, especially in this climate — are now the ones being blamed: by the very same people who insisted on ignoring all that data and nominating her anyway.

But that’s just basic blame shifting and self-preservation. Far more significant is what this shows about the mentality of the Democratic Party. Just think about who they nominated: someone who — when she wasn’t dining with Saudi monarchs and being feted in Davos by tyrants who gave million-dollar checks — spent the last several years piggishly running around to Wall Street banks and major corporations cashing in with $250,000 fees for 45-minute secret speeches even though she had already become unimaginably rich with book advances while her husband already made tens of millions playing these same games. She did all that without the slightest apparent concern for how that would feed into all the perceptions and resentments of her and the Democratic Party as corrupt, status quo-protecting, aristocratic tools of the rich and powerful: exactly the worst possible behavior for this post-2008-economic-crisis era of globalism and destroyed industries.

But it is worse than that: Nate Silver ended up yelling at HuffPo for predicting with more hubris than Fox News did a Romney victory that there was 98% that Clinton would win. See I never fully accepted the inevitable because I knew that the Democrats were relying on demographics who have not voted in high numbers except in the first Obama campaign to save them based off of nothing but fear of Trump Planet. Vox, the supposed bastion of liberal fair-mindedness, objectivity, not siding  with Huffpo or Silver but pretending they were on more or less equal ground. .   But we are talking to the same Vox that forget to mention the biggest electoral college, but not popular vote, winner in American history, Lincoln, in an article on the topic. 

So there are plenty of voices, some less loud but more established than me saying this. Thomas Frank is speaking the same talk as Greenwald, myself, Kriss too:

Start at the top. Why, oh why, did it have to be Hillary Clinton? Yes, she has an impressive resume; yes, she worked hard on the campaign trail. But she was exactly the wrong candidate for this angry, populist moment. An insider when the country was screaming for an outsider. A technocrat who offered fine-tuning when the country wanted to take a sledgehammer to the machine.

She was the Democratic candidate because it was her turn and because a Clinton victory would have moved every Democrat in Washington up a notch. Whether or not she would win was always a secondary matter, something that was taken for granted. Had winning been the party’s number one concern, several more suitable candidates were ready to go. There was Joe Biden, with his powerful plainspoken style, and there was Bernie Sanders, an inspiring and largely scandal-free figure. Each of them would probably have beaten Trump, but neither of them would really have served the interests of the party insiders.

And so Democratic leaders made Hillary their candidate even though they knew about her closeness to the banks, her fondness for war, and her unique vulnerability on the trade issue – each of which Trump exploited to the fullest. They chose Hillary even though they knew about her private email server. They chose her even though some of those who studied the Clinton Foundation suspected it was a sketchy proposition.

In light of the Podesta e-mails, not only did DNC do exactly what was Frank says and were clueless to the people warning them, they actually brought their kryptonite in, they did because they thought it would enable them to win.  Not only did it not happen, nor could milquetoast Obama and saying that the recovery was great despite the fact that rural America is dying not do it, Trump blow up the traditional conservation coalition, more or less ended the religious conservatives as a force in secular politics, and divided his party.  Yet they still routed the Democrats. A celebrity land developer with no political experience who set his party on fire, not only won, but enabled that flaming, divided party to win.

Now for all the decries of shame on America, and all the talk of defeating the patriarchy by supporting a candidate on Wall Street and that anyone who told you differently was mansplaining to you.  What did that you?  So if you continue to do it, what will it get you now?  Particularly when many of the professional white women claiming this have to ask themselves: why did the women in their race and some even in their class but outside of coastal elites not fight the great misogynist. Was it just brocialists trying to shut you up? Was it just the alt-right?  No, no it wasn’t.  Working class women in the main sat on their hands this election. Why?

To go further, and return to Kriss.  I don’t think Trump is a fascist for the very reason Kriss thinks he is. I actually have strict definitions, Trump is something new:

Donald Trump is a fascist. We shouldn’t be afraid of the word: it’s simple and accurate, and his fascism is hardly unique; it’s just a suppurating outgrowth of the fascism that was already there. Still, this time it’s different. The fascisms of Europe in the 1920s and 30s, or east Asia in the 50s and 60s, or Latin America in the 70s and 80s were all the response of a capitalist order to the terrifying potency of an organised working class. Fascism is what capitalism does when it’s under threat, something always latent but extending in claws when it’s time to fight; it imitates mass movements while never really having the support of the masses. (In Germany, for instance, support for the Nazis was highest among the industrial haute bourgeoisie, and declined through every social stratum; look at Trump’s share of the voter per income band and see the same pattern. The workers didn’t vote for Trump, they just didn’t vote for Clinton either.) But today the organised working class is nowhere to be found. There’s no coherent left-wing movement actively endangering capitalism; the crisis facing the liberal-capitalist order is entirely internal. It’s grinding against its own contradictions, circling the globe to turn back against itself, smashing through its biological and ecological limits and finding nothing on the other side. This is the death spasm, a truly nihilist fascism, the fascism of a global system prickling for enemies to destroy but charging only against itself. There’s no silence in the final and total victory, just an endless war with only one side. It’s not entirely the case, as the slogan puts it, that the only thing capable of defeating the radical right is a radical left. The radical right will defeat itself, sooner or later, even if it’s at the cost of a few tens of millions of lives. We need a radical left so there can be any kind of fight at all.

I actually don’t think Kriss is entirely right here. He is right that this emerging from contradictions within capitalism and global economy. The organized left exists more now than any time since 1980s though, but its still tiny, irrelevant.  Losing battles like SYRIZA. Misplaying its hand by backing Corbyn or Sanders. Believing in a mixture of magical thinking like MMT that currency and value as the same thing because exchange creates products, creates value, and that this can go on in a closed system for more than two voting cycles despite the fact that all command economies that I have studied have stagnated and massively declined within a decade if they thought the you can operate an economy like a war.  There hasn’t been an organized left because the left has been wrong or opportunistic or both.  It continues, more conservatively than liberals or conservatives, to use models from the distant past and ignore events in decades that don’t suit them.  To hope this is a death pasm, is like the nice, polite but petty optimism of phrases like “late capitalism.”  You don’t have evidence that this isn’t a crisis that will, like a brush fire, will allow it growth again.

Nor do I think Tom O’Brien, who was in the podcast I appeared  on last night is right, that this infrastructure will produce jobs and bring work back. Tariffs and deficit spending will save the US and its internal economy because economics never has been limited to a single polity. And manufacturing is coming back to America, it just isn’t providing jobs.  Automation is as big a problem of austerity.  Service jobs don’t generate as much value and thus can’t pay as well in  a capitalist economy.  This is a hard truth.   This cuts against populists and the left deeply if it doesn’t internalize many hard truths about economics and culture and the interplay between the two.

Furthermore, despite this, how has some of the stars of the “progressive” wing of the Democrats reacted.  Bernie Sanders and Elisabeth Warren reached out to Trump, particularly on things like Trump’s infrastructure plan, which people like Mitch McConnell  want to stall and destroy.  People like Arthur Chu go two steps further, seeming confirming what a  lot of conservatives and alt-rights believe about all leftists, liberals, and progressives:

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That the elites should be like them. Like they are better. That white people are scum in the rural areas for not wanting more death. He knows better than those racial inferiors. Invert that language. How does it sound to you? That is what the alt-rightists think ALL Progressives believe. That institutional wonktopia will save them and that people are depraved, moral monsters who need to be told what to do.

If Arthur Chu is the face of young progressivism, it deserves a worse fate than the Whigs in 1850. Smug, angry, and frankly just as racialist as those it claims are racialists themselves. Call that what is it: deluded, disgusting, hubristic.   You think you can shame people because of merely who you are?  I  will quote Wes Alwan of Partially Examined Life:

The left needs to look in the mirror stop it with the sanctimonious, deluded partisan-bubble narrative about bigotry and how America suddenly found millions more racists in its basement after electing Obama twice. Where’d they come from? Did someone grow them in a box? The existing electorate suddenly realized that they couldn’t stand having a black man as president, after voting for him twice?

We lost the election because we thought we had our boot on the neck of the white working class and that we could not only ignore their concerns, but ridicule them for having any concerns. We thought that we could could make them America’s new bad object, to fill the void left by the fact that persecuting black people has fallen out of fashion. We told them they were Nazis for worrying about blue collar job competition from illegal immigrants and wanting to see immigration law enforced. We told them they were thinking about voting for Hitler. That’s not what Obama did. He won precisely by reaching out to these voters.

That’s not what Bernie Sanders did either. We were positively allergic to Bernie Sanders’ winning message, because we just couldn’t deal with the fact that it laid off the identity politics for two seconds. In fact, Sanders supporters similarly became a target of the relentless you’re-a-bigot loop that a certain segment of the American left have going on in their heads on constant replay. “Bernie Bros.” Every time you think about why this election was lost, I want you to think about the wisdom of the phrase “Bernie Bros.” Poll after poll showed Sanders dramatically outperforming Clinton against Trump, precisely because he made the same appeal as Trump to actual swing voters.

Here’s a novel way to win friends and influence people: stop calling people names. Stop trying to shame them into compliance. Stop telling your political opponents that they are evil. It’s remarkably effective.

Finally: consider the enormous asymmetry in cultural power in the United States, the one the media conveniently never talks about. Ask yourself how you would feel if Republicans had a mortal lock on the University and the media and Hollywood.

As long as the left’s hegemony over American cultural power remains unenlightened and devoid of benevolence, we’re going to see political power balance it out.

I watched the same thing happen under Clinton. The PC bullshit peaked right before the 2000 election. The Republicans are terrible losers, but the Democrats are terrible winners.

The first black president. Gay marriage. The more cultural gains we made, the more the left ratcheted up the rhetoric about how sexism and racism and homophobia are worse than ever and that the rednecks are to blame. If you think you have your boot on the neck of America’s cultural peasants, and your conscience can tolerate it, then that’s a winning strategy. Grind them into the dirt. But if you’ve decided on total war, you better be sure you actually have the armaments for total war. Did you forget that the majority of the population is white, and that the majority of them do not have a college degree? Did you really think that they wanted to hear about their “privilege” from liberal white elites? You thought you could tell the peasants to shut the fuck up and eat their cake, and that they wouldn’t come at you with your pitchforks?

The effete delusions of a corrupt aristocracy, of hash-tag courtiers who have abandoned actual policies that help the underprivileged to indulge in conspicuous ethical consumption that displays their moral superiority to the cultural peasants. Screw the diverse mass of peasants: Does the aristocracy have the right race and gender balance? Screw socioeconomic policies that help African Americans; I’m going to a “protest”!

If Chu is an example, Wes Alwan is right:  Chu sees himself as an aristocrat. Better than the people.  Democracy should have been used to suppress Democracy.  I am not a fan of liberal democracy anyway, but this  Chu is an example of this lack.  If Chu is representative of progressives, is the alt-right wrong that they just want to take the seat and grind most regular people to dust?   DeMaistre ancien regime is manifested in tantrums like Chu’s. Wes is right  the effete delusions of a corrupt aristocracy, of hash-tag courtiers who have abandoned actual policies that help the underprivileged to indulge in conspicuous ethical consumption that displays their moral superiority to the cultural peasants.

The question: How did it become an ancien regime in just eight years if there was substance in the ideology in the first place?

Progressives are scared–after all, they enabled this and people ARE mad. A lot of innocent people will be hurt by policy shifts, but then again, it’s not like ACA was working. ACA will probably be gone.  With the premiums were skyrocketing and so was the penalty tax next year, there is no incentive to save it. What did Democrats expect? They compromised and put the bomb in the program to be kicked the road. Progressives should be afraid–more for what the Senate and Congress will do than what Trump will do.  Honestly. There will be all kinds of things dependent on whether or not a conservative Supreme Court decides to uphold stare decisis.  There is even talk that there will be horse-trading over LGBT+ rights.  I obviously don’t think this is good.  However, this would have happened with any GOP routing of the Democrats, not just Trumps.  Furthermore, it is unclear how much Trump will play with both consensus GOP and Tea Parties, since his populism is different from the conservatism of both. It is also unclear how they will play with him. This isn’t just happening in the states. Every year Le Penn’s National Front grows in the French electorate. Brexit has happened. Theresa May is PM of Great Britain.  Trade is down worldwide. Modi won India. Putin maintains power in Russia. Rody Durante. The pink wave has crushed and Latin America is in a rightwing mood.  PRI has retaken Mexican politics.  The Arab Spring is over and most of the places are in civil war.  Even politicians in Canada are talking about taking lesson from Trump.   You heard of Kellie Leitch? You probably will.

So let’s get one thing straight though: IF the DNC was serious about responding, heads would be rolling and they would be preparing to not just assume support. What did they do? Keep Pelosi as a leader. No significant change in the guard. The left–in so much that there is one–should regroup and give the Democratic leadership no quarter. Don’t be suckered into supporting them on pragmatic grounds.  This election was proof this leadership aren’t pragmatic.  They aren’t real as force.   Their wonktopia was substance.  An empty phantasm of a city on a hill. These were tilling a windmills and pretending we were a distant past.

You and I need to be Sancho Panza, but angrier and more consistent.  Give no quarter to these delusions and don’t forget anyone who holds them.  Wonktopia was a delusion. A shiny polity on a hill that never existed.  We need to be careful of being fooled into thinking that politics as normal in liberal democracies is going to save us.

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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.

Review: The Origins of Capital: A Longer View by Ellen Meiksins Wood (Verso, Reprint 2002)

Wood recent death and my own interests in longer view of capitalism strangely overlapped and I revisited this gem of historiography. Wood and Brenner have been key in getting me to re-think some over-generalizations about capitalist teleology assumed in both liberal and Marxist circles. Many Marxists after Marx have made the same assumptions as liberals about the natural development of capitalism out of feudalism as if it were an innate process of development to economics. Wood not only contested this view, but her synthesis of Brenner with E.P. Thompson explains many otherwise hard to explain traits of capitalism: Why was capitalism so much more tied to England and England’s settler colonies than to Spain or to the various early modern European merchant states like the Italian city states or the Dutch Republic, why did France require a bourgeois revolution whereas England had a religious revolution, why do Locke’s myths about property origins seem so crucial to capitalist thinkers?

This book is divided into three sections. The first is an excellent overview of the various models for the origins of capitalism including most of the figures around the various liberal models, the world-systems quasi-Marxist answers, and the key figures on the transition debate (Paul Sweezy, Christopher Hill, Eric Hobsbawm, Georges Lefebvre, and Kohachiro Takahashi) as well as the Brenner Debates on Agrarian capitalism. While knowledge of these debates that happened between late 1950s and late 1990s does help, Wood presents them clearly and without assuming much prior knowledge. Through these debates, one can see that part of the issue is that the definition of capitalist pre-conditions isn’t settled. Is capitalism the existence of a market or the social compulsion for the market to dominate? If it is the former, then capitalism does seem natural as markets between societies for certain goods have existed in almost all societies. If it is the latter, then such systems as early modern French absolutism or the merchant systems that liberals often call mercantilism are not actually capitalism.

The second section book more clearly lays out this option while Wood acknowledges her intellectual dependence on E.P. Thompson and Robert Brenner more clearly. This section discusses how specific political arrangements after the Tudor period led to English aristocracy being dependent on value from land-holdings on the market instead of pure taxation from extra-economic forces to increase their wealth. This agrarian model creates the pre-conditions for the industrial model but did not exist elsewhere in Europe nor really even outside of England until colonialism pushed it out in search of my growth. Woods focuses on the fact that most of Europe, even colonial states like Spain, put its surplus into the military or into the use value of aristocrats, whereas the legal structures of England required re-investment and improvement to be profitable. This was power was more centralized in the hands of land-owners in the English civil war (revolution), and even after the monarchy was restored, this power was not lost. Woods also goes into why the Dutch and Italian merchant states did not give up extra-economics means of enrichment and thus didn’t develop the same culture or reinvestment. Then Woods convincing shows John Locke laying out a argument and a myth that naturalized these English developments after the English Civil War.

Admittedly, one can become slightly frustrated with Wood here. Here argument is sound, but she does not show specific instances. While she does do this in other books, one gets the feeling that this is only to lay out the logic and the minimal of empirical evidence for her position on the debates but not necessarily go deeply into the empirical historical case. Some people may be frustrated by this tendency, but she does go into these details in other works.

In the third section, Wood talks about the relationship to Enlightenment and Modernity. Wood uses Weber’s arguments about the collapsing of various kinds rationality into instrumental rationality, but unlike someone like Horkheimer or Adorno, does not assume this was the only direct of Enlightenment thinking. If French absolutism were more sustainable, a different model may have been developed. In this sense, Wood seems to argue against critics like Adorno or Frederic Jameson that only one modernity was possible. This also opens her to be combined with theorists who don’t necessarily agree with her on the origins of capitalism when talking about capitalist development outside of Europe. For example, Jairus Banaji’s critique of overly simplistic schemas being read unto the development of capitalism in Asia can work with Wood even though the two thinkers disagree on the origins of capitalism. This third section, however, does seem to be less historiographical and more into taxonomic debates in popular left philosophy and thus seems slightly out if place in the book.

While I regard this book as excellent, it does leave a few areas unexplored. What exactly was primitive accumulation needed for it? Were the enclosures a form of primitive accumulation or something else? How crucial was the Protestant reformation for the differences in aristocratic privilege to have developed in England but not France? The timing seems to indicate that it was crucial but the direct relationship is never discussed even though it seems the breaking of church property tithe systems were just as vital as enclosures to making property the key vision of liberty in England and English speaking colonies? Another question, how crucial was US chattel slavery and what was it relationship to agrarian capitalism? Wood does mention that there is a relationship but doesn’t go very deeply into it. She explains, for example, that US slavery and primitive accumulation accelerated capitalism because of its reliance on the English model whereas the Spanish model did not even though it accumulated and enslaved as much. However, she doesn’t go into specifics here in how the developments were related.

These caveats aside, however, this book is particularly helpful at getting a grip on global capitalism origins and why it seems so related to Anglo-culture in specific and to Western Europe in general without completely Eurocentric exceptionalism being involved. It is clear and readable and presents a complicated but convinced argument.

Review: Dialectic of Defeat: Contours of Western Marxism by Russell Jacoby (Cambridge U.P., 1981, Reprint: 2001)

Russell Jacoby’s Dialectic of Defeat is one of those books that is excellent in what it critiques but confused in what it advocates.   A history of alternate traditions of “Western Marxism,” particularly focusing on Left Communism and Marxist Humanism varieties, as well as a critique of the idea that “Victory makes right” in the Marxist-Leninist models, particularly of the Soviet Union.   While his critique is strong, he particularly dissects Althusser’s claims and reversals as well as the particular forms of Hegelianism that dominated each side, such as the Soviet Union’s attempt to square a form of positivism that fit with its adoption of Taylorism from the capitalist world (as well as cybernetics later) with Hegelian historicism.  These first two chapters are particularly strong, and eerie in that they hint at severe problems in the Soviet conception that probably played a role in its collapse ten years after the book was written.

Jacoby is strongest when talking about the transition from Marxist to the Social Democratic parties and communist parties of revolutions in 1918 in German as well as discussing the Italian Hegelian tradition.   He is also quite strong at pointing out that Engel’s attempt at scientific positivism was critiqued obliquely in Marx but that the direct critique was never made. Indeed, many of the texts where this element of Marx’s thinking is most clear, Engel’s himself talked Marx out of publishing (such as the the Critique of Gotha Program).  However, Jacoby does not totally cleave Marx from Engels pointing out how vital Engel was to Marx’s program including editing and releasing many important texts, such as Capital volume three.  In discussing the Italian materialist Hegelians of late 1890s and early 20th century, Jacoby points out that many did wonder why Marx did not more publicly correct Engel’s attempt at a dialectical materialism that could function like positive science.

Jacoby tend points out that Hegelianism favored by Soviets, partially in response to Lukacs’s use of the Phenomenology of Spirit, whereas the Soviet Hegelians–who were later purged themselves under Stalin, but who were following Lenin’s lead–focused on Hegel’s Science of Logic. Interestingly, Jacoby goes a long way to prove that this focus was not just a result of Soviet beliefs in their scienticity, but also in the focus of Russian readings of Hegel going back into the 19th century.

This focus on Phenomenology of Spirit seems to be why Jacoby sees Merleau-Ponty and Sartre as part of his tradition of Western Marxism, along with a humanistic focus, but does not discuss their actual political affliations or even their ideas within the book.   Sartre’s Maoism was inconsistent with his existential philsophy, which itself was a rejection of Hegelian historical thinking.  Sartre’s politics, however humanistic, were aligned with Althusser’s.  Jacoby seems particularly weak on France even though he references it without much explanation through the book.

Jacoby’s separation of the Hegelian “historical” school that dominated in the Marxism of Frankfurt school and in many left communist groups as well as Soviet’s “scientific” school is a clarifying rubric.  Yet, as the problems with Sartre, or even Lukacs’s own wavering on his early work indicate, this did not politically make that much sense. Furthermore, while Jacoby knows the Italian, Dutch, and German left communist histories as well as their marginalization and purging within the official communist parties, he seems to completely ignore groups in France from the 1960s that where highly influenced by the left communists in ways that Sartre and Merleau-Ponty or even Lefebvre were not:  the Marxism of the Situationists.

With three exceptions, Jacoby’s discussion of Italian’s is the strongest part of the book. Recovering forgotten figures as well as discussing well-known players in Italy, Jacoby paints a picture about why Italy had been so important in this process. Again, however, Jacoby does not mention recent traditions, skipping discussions of Autonomia and Operaismo.  Still, Jacoby’s discussion of  Benedetto Croce and Antonio Labriola, as well as their students, Giovanni Gentile, Georg Sorels, and Antonio Gramsci is worth the price of the book. Gentile’s honest reading of Hegel as well as Labriola’s frustration at Marx not articulating his idea of “theory of mind” while hinting at it in his critique of Feuerbach is important.   Then Jacoby discusses the left factions within the Italian Communist Party.

The there exception here are vital. Jacoby strongly critiques Amadeo Bordiga’s Leninism as opposed to the council communist tendencies of most of the so-called ultra-left.  Bordiga did deviate because unlike the Dutch traditionalists or later Gramsci’s focus on cultural hegemony, Bordiga did not think culture was the dominant force on working class consciousness.  Bordiga was trained scientist, and thus did not have a tendency to see aesthetic forces as being so predominant.  What Jacoby does not mention is that Bordiga also had a strong critique of positivism  and its relationship to industrial society in both Soviet Union and capitalist countries.  Furthermore, the focus on Bordiga’s faith in the party and not the working class may be a legitimate critique, but it is important that Bordiga’s Leninism was fundamentally different from Gramsci, whose actual politics Jacoby does not discuss.  Gramsci completely endorsed the Bolshevikization of the Italian Communist Party, whereas Bordiga utterly opposed it.  Bordiga’s Leninism was based on what Lenin stated he wanted to do, not what he did, and was closer to Luxemberg’s pluralism.   In fact, while Jacoby makes all kinds of excuses for Lukacs semi-Stalinism, but he does not recognize that Bordiga’s Leninism is fundamentally different from the Marxist-Leninism of say Sartre or the center- left communists in the German communists in that he advocated for absolute pluralism within the party beyond that of even council communists. Bordiga has many, many flaws, but Jacoby’s reading here seem to imply a scientistic vision similar to the Soviets that was not really one of them.  The second exception I have already mentioned:  while Jacoby loves Gramsci’s cultural focus, which he probably did develop from Croce, he fails to mention Lenin’s own words advocating studying the local cultures of the working class within the various national regions.  He also ignores Gramsci’s role in the Stalinization of the PCI.

While Jacoby admits that Lenin separated philosophical and political mistakes: Lenin often criticized the philosophy of political allies and praised the philosophy of political enemies within the communist motion, he also seems to distance himself from the actual politics of his subjects, particularly in the French case, where Maoism played a much stronger role than it did in Germany or Italy.  Furthermore, while I learned a lot of Soviet attempts to play different schools of Hegelians and different kinds of Left communists off of each in other, particularly in Germany–Grigory Zinoviev, himself one of the first purged by Stalin for being a “left oppositionist,” was good at putting the moderates of the left faction in power, having them purge “ultra-leftist,” and then purging them for failure on another tactical front.  Certain philosophical figures popular in the academy (Sartre, Gramsci) are continuously name-dropped but left out of discussion of later manipulations.  The third exception is that Jacoby does not try to deal with the fact that seemingly half of culturally-focused Marxist-Hegelians in Italy became proto-fascists (Sorels) or fascists outright (Gentile).

In short, the closer one gets to recent history, and the more away one is from the critique of the Soviet Union, the more selective Jacoby is in his criteria.  One of the best and worse part of the Jacoby’s book is the treatment of the Frankfurt school.  He focuses primarily on Horkheimer, Adorno, and Marcuse.  He plays up Marcuse’s cultural awareness and his influences from Heidegger, but ignore Marcuse’s long flirtation with Maoism that drove a wedge between him and the other two members Jacoby focuses on.   He also doesn’t discuss the various divisions in the Frankfurt school beyond that and that the idea of a “worker’s unconsciousness,” on which Jacoby seizes, is really under-explored.  Jacoby’s prior work on the history and abuse of psychoanalysis in his first book probably does indicate why there would be such an interest in this element, but it is profoundly under-explored.

I feel as if I critiqued this book in ways that make it sound irrelevant or problematic. It is not.   It is very, very incomplete and seems to have been driven in categories more by sympathies within the US academy at the time and not necessarily political coherence.  This is a fairly good response to Perry Anderson’s Considerations on Western Marxism and a strong historical critique of Soviet “scientific socialism,” which Jacoby does point out seemed to adopt a ton from capitalism and didn’t seem all that actually scientific at many, many points.  Furthermore the period from 1890 to 1917 is under-explored, and this is where Jacoby particularly is strong.  The idea of “Western Marxism” that he is defending seems to be more incoherent grouping that he dealt with from prior categorizations more than a coherent category, but his attempt at contextualization is admirable.

Despite all the problems I see in this book, it is, for better or worse, one of the better historical books on this topic by academic press. It is a classic in this area for a reason, but it should be read with caveats.