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Saturday, September 17, 2016


It is now clear that half of the voting adults in the United States, give or take a percent or two, are prepared to vote for Donald Trump.  That says something so terrible about those people that I find it difficult to contemplate.  I consider Trump a genuine threat to such democracy as we have in America, and hence a threat to any hope at all of positive progressive change.  Hillary Clinton is not that sort of threat.  If elected, she will continue the foreign and domestic policies of the past three quarters of a century, worse than some presidents, not as bad as others.  And the opportunity for real progressive change will remain, dependent as it always has been on the willingness of millions of supposed progressives to put their time, energy, and money where their ideals are.  Whether such democracy as we have can survive Trump is, for me at least, an open question.

If you agree with me, then right now is when you need to commit time and money to the effort to elect Clinton, which is the only way to defeat Trump.  Vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson or write in Karl Marx if you live in a safely blue state, like New York or Massachusetts or California.  It doesn't matter, and if it makes you feel good, go for it.  But if you live, as I do, in a so-called swing state, then you have an obligation to volunteer for the get-out-the-vote effort in your state.

The one thing we have going for us is Clinton's well-funded high quality on-the-ground political machine, which can make as much as 1-3% difference in the vote.  That is enough to switch a handful of swing states, which is all we need.

The day after the election, if Clinton wins, I will be the first one to start talking about a national movement to bring pressure on her from the left.  I have already donated so much money to Bernie Sanders that he has started sending it back -- $300, since I exceeded the legal limit.  And I just got back from several hours in downtown Chapel Hill registering voters.

It is up to you to do your part.


howard b said...

Professor Wolff:

Clinton's machine is up against a class A conman. Seriously and we just don't have an answer, Trump's con or shell game versus Clinton's ineptitude at the game of self image at that level, plus the restive electorate in tumultious times might be too little to overcome Trump's momentum- though I'm not fatalistic- you can't be

Anonymous said...

I hear this kind of sentiment a lot. But I'm unclear what sanctions it. Could you help explain to an outsider (UK resident) what's so monsterous about a candidate wanting to halt illegal immigration and to deport those already illegally resident in the USA? In the UK and other countries, this is simply consensus politics (whether it's actually enforced is a different matter).

J-Roditus said...


It isn't just the fact that Trump is a hard-line about immigration--part of what makes him unique on that front is the way he stokes outright racism toward immigrant populations (Muslims and Latinos), so many people think he's even more problematic than your typical hard-liner.

But there are plenty of additional reasons to fear Trump: he is a demonstrated con-man, crook, megalomaniac, and in need of serious therapy. He's not of the temperament to be involved in global politics--Putin and any number of less savvy strongmen could play him like a fiddle (step one: insult his hands; step two: wait for him to make a strategic blunder while he over-compensates). He will probably try to run the government the way he's run his NYC-based real-estate ventures, so you can expect a lot of corruption. He's also an ignoramus (remember Bush? how'd that work out for us?). And lastly, and this point ties into all the above, he's more likely to initiate nuclear war.

The previous paragraph holds regardless of whether you think it's okay to elect an outright racist and sexist. In fact, I think those reasons are actually better (plenty of GOPers are crypto racists and sexists, and racism and sexism aren't a new problem unique to Trump). Based on being a regular reader of this blog, I'd bet Wolff agrees with me.

Karl Young said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karl Young said...

While I'll dutifully shuffle off and vote for crooked Hillary, in a country where somewhere near half of the people who would vote, would vote for a steaming pile of dung if it were nominated, a victory by Hillary seems far more pyrrhic than is being suggested here. I think it's more important, for people who can't find a safe place to land, to start reviewing movies like Blade Runner re. getting practical tips on negotiating America to come.

Matt said...

Could you help explain to an outsider (UK resident) what's so monsterous about a candidate wanting to halt illegal immigration and to deport those already illegally resident in the USA? In the UK and other countries, this is simply consensus politics (whether it's actually enforced is a different matter).

First, to a degree, your last bit answers the first - if a politician won't do something, or can't do something, he or she of course shouldn't say that he _will_ do something. Nothing at all good can come from that. In the particular case, it also raises animosity (needlessly) against immigrants generally, and against immigrants (authorized or not) from particular groups (Hispanic and Muslim, in this case) in particular. That, already, is a serious wrong.

There are also more particular matters. It's impossible (perhaps especially in the US, because of matters of history and geography, but not only there) to "stop" unauthorized migration without engaging in significant human rights violations - not just against non-citizens (though clearly to them) but also to citizens. If you think through what it would take to stop unauthorized migration (again, perhaps especially in the US, but also in the UK and other countries) this is pretty clear. Once you see that, then rhetoric like Trump's (or the UKIP's) is especially dangerous.

Let's move on to the deportation issue. To deport even a significant percentage of the unauthorized population in the US would require massive police-state type actions. That already would be very bad. But, it would also do significant harm to US citizens who are relatives to many of the people. That's another problem. Finally, many of these people have set down significant ties and have lived in the US for a long time, while otherwise being law-abiding and contributing members of society. (The social science work on this issue all supports this.) There is good reason to think that time in a society is the most fundamental basis for membership, and so deporting these people would itself be a serious moral wrong, even if we ignored the first two issues. (Which we should not.)

Once we take these issues into account, it's clear that, "consensus politics" or not, such actions would be grossly immoral and unjust. Thankfully, for most people, when you talk them through this slowly, they see it. Trump and UKIP supporters try to ignore this. This is mostly rooted in racism, of course, but in any case, it should be opposed as strongly as possible.

Matt said...

While I'll dutifully shuffle off and vote for crooked Hillary,

Karl, with due respect, I'm going to say that, with this characterization, you've shown that you've fallen for right-wing propaganda. I'm sure you can do better. Here is a good places to start:

Also, if you want to be rational, remember that you must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous" again. Enforcing law will always harm criminals and their associates/friends/families, and thereby violate supposed human rights. So "it harms them so you can't do that" is not an argument against enforcing immigration law. It's an argument against enforcing all law.

Matt said...

Thanks for the reply, anonymous. First, that only addresses a few of the points I raised, so even if it were persuasive on its own, it wouldn't settle the case. But, I also think it's not persuasive on its own. That's because you're moving too quickly. The fact that enforcing a law harms people is a good reason to consider not enforcing a law! But, it's only a winning reason if the harm done (especially to innocent people, such as family members and others) is greater than the good done by enforcing the law. I think there's good reason to think that many of our current criminal laws, and especially many of the current sentences given in the US, fail this test, and so we do have good reason to change these laws. That's so even when some form of punishment is warranted.

The situation for immigration law is rather different, though, because the violation of immigration law by unauthorized immigrants doesn't typically involve the sort of harm to others that we want to prevent in the criminal law, and also doesn't typically involve the sort of flouting of the rights of others we find in criminal law, either. That doesn't mean that immigration laws are always illegitimate. (I've argued against that claim in a lot of published work.) But, it does mean that, when our immigration laws impose significant costs on people _including other citizens_, we need to be very careful to make sure these costs are justified. It seems pretty clear to me that the sorts of policies and rules that Trump (or the similar policies favored by the UKIP or the like) don't meet the test, but I can't take the time to show this in blog comments.