Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON THE THOUGHT OF KARL MARX. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for Robert Paul Wolff Marx."





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Thursday, February 21, 2019

MUSINGS OF AN OCTOGENARIAN RADICAL

I have been thinking of running for President.  Until a few months ago, I had never been elected to anything, but after winning the contest for Precinct Representative of Building 5 at Carolina Meadows, a race that was hard fought [even though I was the only candidate, since nobody else wanted the job,] I think I am ready.  Some might say I am too old, because I will be 87 when taking the oath of office, but now that Joe Biden is about to jump in [or so it is speculated], that argument doesn't carry as much weight.  Of course I would be 91 when I was up for re-election, so maybe I should choose Bernie as my running mate so that he can take over for me after one term.  If I won, I would have to give up my teaching gig at Columbia, but I could still go on posting to this blog.

Speaking of Biden, his entry poses an existential problem for me.  If the polls continue to show, as they do now, that he has far and away the best chance of beating Trump, do I throw my support to him or not?


30 comments:

David Palmeter said...

This octogenarian has decided to be a Yellow Dog Democrat at this time--I’m for anyone who runs against Trump. The differences between any of the candidates announced or mentioned so far are so small compared to the differences between Trump and any of them, that I really don’t care who is nominated. To stay with the canine analysis, I don’t have a dog in this fight. Trump has turned out to be far, far worse than I imagined he possibly could be. He’s a danger not just to the country--and that he surely is--but to the world. Defeating him in 2020 is paramount. With him looming over it all, I can’t get stirred up over the differences in what the candidates might mean by “Medicare for all” or any of the rest I’ve heard of so far.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, David Palmeter, except to add that I'm not so much interested in the candidate I want as the one I think other people would want. Apparently this is like buying stocks.

DWE

Chris said...

Oh good, more planned shifts rightward by democratic party voters to counter the overall rightward shift of America. Yeah...And we wonder how Trump was possible.

Biden lost a presidential race like Bernie too. Moreover, the primary election is so far away this sort of 'who do I support this second' speculation is as fruitful as asking 'what do I think of my great great great grandson'.

How did Biden treat Anita Hill? Will that fair well in a race crowded with identity politics?

How did Biden vote on the Iraq War? Is he now excused? That was a permanent mark on Hillary's record, unlike Bernie.

What is his stance on net neutrality? (Hint: not good).

What is his stance on medicare for all, something over 70% of the country supports? (Hint: not good).

So what's the appeal of Biden? That he's appealing? That's circular.


David Palmeter said...

Chris

I don't think there's an overall rightward shift of America right now. To the contrary, since Trump won, there's been a decided leftward shift. The question is: how far left can you go and still have a majority?

s. wallerstein said...

Chris,

If you're the Chris who used to comment here frequently and then stopped commenting completely, it's good to "see" you again.

David Auerbach said...

Biden's terrible. More to point, the Nate Silverization of campaign discourse is a bad idea. Support the candidate whose platform (modulo the candidate's real commitment to it) you most agree with. For me, that narrows the field to 2. Blather about who can win is, how shall I put this.... blather.

Chris said...

Yeah it's me Wallerstein, and you're always a comrade I enjoy hearing from ;). I did continue to read your blog and your comments, along with Jerry have remained a breath of fresh air! I don't really like posting here since everyone instantly starts suffering from self fulfilling prophecies, but Bernie has me fired up again after years of pessimism.

DP, I don't know what to say. I don't view politics in a 24 hours news cycle format, or even a month to month format. I'm tracking the rightward shift of American since the late 60s early 70s, the rise of neo-liberalism, the offshoring of jobs, the breaking down of unions, the stagnation in wages, the falling rate of profit (Yes Marx was right about that), the raiding of the safety net, the fact republicans control the senate, supreme court, executive, and the fact more governorships are republican, and finally the total privatization of the democratic party by triangulating democrats. (let us not forget this is the same democratic party, who in conjunction with their propaganda news outlets are presently supporting a coup in venezuela and are upset Trump has pulled troops out of several middle eastern countries - turncoats, hacks, frauds).

So is the country I guess more vocally leftward at this EXACT MOMENT in history? You may be right. But that's like saying the climate hasn't been warming over the course of several decades because I saw snow in texas one year. Think through history, not blips.

If you want a majority maybe stop with the hand wringing, party master genuflecting, and self fulfilling prophecies that EXACTLY gave rise to my second paragraph.


Michael Llenos said...

Professor Wolff,
Once in office please repeal the XXII Amendment. Why should only congressmen and supreme court justices and FDR have all the fun?

Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...

In light of the political realignment that began when LBJ signed the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act, perhaps the phrase 'yellow dog democrat' needs to be modified. In order to keep the historically racist meaning of the term, it should now become 'yellow dog republicans.' Somehow I don't think that will catch on.

Dr. Wolff, should you decide to run, I am an experienced political hack so give me call. You'll need a slogan, and I suggest this flash from the relevant historical past: SOCIALISM OR BARBARISM! (It's a hell of lot better than 'Forward Together.')

s. wallerstein said...

Chris,

As Professor Wolff points out, politics or at least politics with the goal of real social change is a long march and if you're going to persist in it, find something useful that you enjoy doing and keep at it.

This blog gets a lot of views, from people who are probably more leftist than many of the regular commenters (that's my guess) and I'm sure that what you have to say interests them.

I'd say that many of the readers are more leftist because Professor Wolff declares himself a Marxist in the blog description and that attracts leftist readers surfing the web.

Chris said...

Oh, I mean, what I teach and how I teach, is my primary political but also useful and fulfilling practice (Wolff's 'In Defense of Anarchism' finds its way into my classroom regularly).

But as many Marxists, especially Fredric Jameson have pointed out, Americans and those of us suffering under totally reified capitalism, have COMPLETELY lost a sense of history (suspect no one I know could even comprehend the humor of Hardy's Tess of the d'urbervilles [most don't even know who Hardy is!]). Which is why all this petty short sighted instrumental reason is a continuation of the problem - i.e., shifting rightward - and not a solution.

David Palmeter said...

Chris, You’re correct that any shift leftward has been very recent--since the 2016 election I’d say. During my lifetime, the country was New Deal Left until about the mid-70s, although the conservative movement had been gaining before that. With Reagan’s election in 1980, the Right really came into bloom and, I’d say, pretty much has had control until, really, the last election which gave the Democrats the House. But ideas that were considered beyond the pale not all that long ago are now seriously on the table, such as Medicare for all. That could mean doing away entirely with the private insurance system or it could mean allowing anyone who wanted to do so to buy into Medicare, and a lot of places in between. The fact that these are now viable policy ideas is stunning to me when most of my life all I’ve heard is condemnation of “socialized” medicine.

Chris said...

Right, DP, which is why already talking about Biden (or any dem) over Bernie is beyond lunacy! Specifically because the man individually responsible for making crazy 'socialist' ideas palatable and popular is Bernie! If he hadn't run in 2016, I sincerely doubt there would be 1 a green new deal 2 broad support for medicare for all 3 support for free education 4 a debate between $12-20 minimum wage (it would have been more like 10-12), and 5 the small but much needed influx of AOC style candidates in the house and local legislatures.

All those crazy ideas were his ideas, and their popularity is specifically thanks to him and his supporters. Not Clinton, Biden, Harris, Booker, Obama, other Clinton, etc.

As far as "Right really came into bloom and, I’d say, pretty much has had control until, really, the last election which gave the Democrats the House."

This is a total blip view. Republican's still control states, executive, judicial systems, and the senate, not to mention their corporate backers control, well, everything. To the degree to which democrats garner any real power they must choose two avenues:

1. Coddling to those same corporate backers. Fine, they're class enemies and we MUST turn our backs on them.
2. Grass roots funding and organizing Sanders style.

1. IN THE LONG RUN, gives you the rightward shift. That's history. That's a fact.
2. IN THE LONG RUN, is our only hope of planetary survival and moral redemption.

There are no other options. So, to be curt, F*** Biden.

RobinMcDugald said...

RPW should certainly run for President. And there's a precedent which points to the inevitable conclusion that he would win: Eisenhower gave up his gig at Columbia in order to run and win. SO go for it!!!

Robert Paul Wolff said...

That is not the only parallel. Ike and I both served in the military, he as commander of Allied Forced in Europe in WWII and I as a private [and briefly as an E-4] in the Massachusetts and Illinois National Guard. It is kismet.

Ed Barreras said...

If it’s a choice between supporting the centrist Democrat who has an excellent chance of the leftist Democrat who has merely a reasonably good chance, then I don’t know what to do. I guess I’ll support the leftist. But the difference amounts to one between a cautious and a bold approach to gambling. Both approaches have their merits.

What we must do is support *any* Democrat who gets the nomination. As David Palmeter rightly said, T***p has fallen well below our already dismal expectations. He CANNOT receive another vote of confidence. David is also right to say that the Democratic Party, and indeed the country, is inching leftward. That’s good. Let’s nurture that. Steady reformism may not be preferable to radical revolution (at least for most readers of this blog) but it’s better than the alternative.

Unknown said...

If in could vote for you I would!

David Auerbach said...

Barreras said: "If it’s a choice between supporting the centrist Democrat who has an excellent chance of the leftist Democrat who has merely a reasonably good chance, then I don’t know what to do. "

"If" indeed. You don't know that it is, you can't. I believe ("know" would be too strong) the leftist has the stronger chance. But as I said above, support what you believe in and stop Nate Silverizing.

Chris said...

So let's get this straight. Sanders announces basically 2 days ago, and generated more individual donations and more overall money than basically all the other candidates combined. AND THE IMMEDIATE RESPONSE ON A LEFT WING MARXIST BLOG is to start off, a WHOLE YEAR before ANY voting will occur, with speculation about how we already have to abandon Sanders.

Jesus. Seriously people, look up self fulfilling prophecy, then look in the mirror. Lather, rinse, repeat, until something clicks.

"David is also right to say that the Democratic Party, and indeed the country, is inching leftward."

Yeah compared to months ago, not over the course of the past 50-60 years. History people! History!

Thank you DA!

s. wallerstein said...

Chris,

I suspect that the tendency of some commenters to begin to speculate about possible weaknesses in Sanders' candidacy two days after he announces it is basically due to the tendency of most intellectuals to play antithesis to any thesis, the thesis in this case being Sanders announcing his candidacy. That's just the way a certain type of mind (including mine) functions.

Matt said...

I don't think that Biden has much of a chance of getting the nomination. If he does get it, I think he has less of a chance of winning than many other possible candidates do. Before being picked to be Obama's VP, Biden ran for the Democratic nomination twice (at least - maybe I'm forgetting a time.) If memory serves, he got a grand total of 0 delegates. He is gaff prone, not a good campaigner, and has done many things that will turn off (rightly) large parts of the democratic party voting base. I don't think that seeming like a "moderate" is going to be a plus this year. Of course, Biden has much more name recognition than when he ran before, and many people will think/imagine/wish they were voting for the character that appeared regularly in The Onion, and not the actual Joe Biden, but I still have enough faith in the Democratic voters that I think that support for Biden won't survive an encounter with reality.

Hey Man said...

Many seem to assume that a candidate relatively far to the left would have difficulty beating Trump. Why should we think that? It seems to me that "electability" has almost nothing to do with one's actual policy positions, but much to do with perceived personality and other nonsense. Of course, the Republicans would try to paint Sanders as a nutty leftist, but they will vilify whomever ends up with the nomination, probably in ways that have little to do with reality anyway.

Ed Barreras said...

David Auerbach,

If we end up sticking to our principals, and we win, then it’s easy to pat ourselves on the back. But what if we lose? It’s easy to condemn Nate-Silverization, especially since we have the example of the current occupant of the White House, who won despite all prognostications from the technocratic experts. But what if he’s an anomoly?

I will support Sanders, or perhaps Warren if she ends up making greater inroads down the line. I’m just starting to feel a spark of nervousness.

....

“Compared to a month ago, not over the course of the past 50-60 years.”

If the past 50-60 years can be characterized as the era of Reaganite economic conservativism, then actually, yes, we are inching leftward compared to that time span.

talha said...

Chris said:

"So let's get this straight. Sanders announces basically 2 days ago, and generated more individual donations and more overall money than basically all the other candidates combined. AND THE IMMEDIATE RESPONSE ON A LEFT WING MARXIST BLOG is to start off, a WHOLE YEAR before ANY voting will occur, with speculation about how we already have to abandon Sanders.

Jesus. Seriously people, look up self fulfilling prophecy, then look in the mirror. Lather, rinse, repeat, until something clicks."

Amen.

Chris said...

Wallerstein,
The antithesis should not be a return to the status quo, or preceding the initial thesis. Ever. You're referring to the process of playing devil's advocate. Which frankly, when the hell did we decide that the devil actually needs an advocate? I sure as hell won't represent him! :)

'Hell is empty all the devils are here' - after all.

s. wallerstein said...

Chris,

Actually, there is never a return to the status quo. Things post-Trump are certainly going to be different than things pre-Trump. We are not going to return to the Obama era even if Biden is the Democratic candidate. For the record, my candidate is Elizabeth Warren.

Anyway, I think the criticism is almost always useful. I'm sure we can imagine a situation where criticism has no role at all: for example, while I've been very critical of Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, I wouldn't criticize him at present because he's facing a coup d'etat, an imperialist attempt at regime change.

However, I don't think that given the present situation in the U.S., which is not one of crisis like that of Venezuela, Sanders or Elizabeth Warren should be above or beyond criticism.

Chris said...

Wallerstein,

I'm not at all confident we won't return to Clinton-Obama-Clinton style triangulation with identity politics as the facade presented as change.

I'm too lazy and pressed for time to explain why Warren is not my candidate (that she was a card carrying republican for decades, whereas Bernie has always been Bernie is only a small part of the problem), but I would vote for her.

Please don't peg me as anti-free-speech and expression. I'm not against criticism. I'll happily critique Bernie on numerous issues and I'll happily critique social-democracy too. But there's a difference between being a devils advocate, constructive criticism, and old hat reactionary criticism. No one has genuinely addressed the substantive points I made, they speak past them or around them.

Yeah, the US ain't as bad as Venezulea, and it ain't as sexist as Saudi Arabia, but that doesn't mean we aren't in dire straights. As someone who is married to, and mostly frequents with, bona fide members of the proletariat, I assure you the level of cultural, intellectual, economic, and alienating crisis is omnipresent in the US.

We are awash in use values yes, we are impoverished in all other regards.


s. wallerstein said...

Chris,

As someone who has been accused of non-constructive criticism more times than I recall from about age 6 or 7 by countless school teachers, social workers and group leaders and has been suspended, expelled or asked to leave the room numerous times for said offense, I'm going to stand up for non-constructive criticism wherever it comes from.

I prefer Bernie myself. He's the first U.S. presidential candidate in my lifetime (I'm 72), whom I can relate to as a fellow human being, who seems like someone I might have been friendly with, who comes from my tribe. However, he'll be 79 by the time he would take office if elected and that is too old, not too old to be a Senator (a senate is literally an assembly of old people) nor too old to advise a president, but too old for a job as stressful as president of a superpower. I can tell you from personal experience that we all lose physical energy and stamina as we get old, and the mind is linked to the body: the loss of physical energy is a loss of mental energy. We can all imagine scenarios in which a president has to face an incredible crisis, without sleeping for days, under unbelievable stress and no one is up to that age 79 and still less at age 83.
Surgeons stop performing surgery at a certain age (well before 80), although they continue to practice medicine and that's a good example to follow for all of us.

Chris said...

Wallerstein I agree, and I've shared your history too :) (ample expulsions), but I tend to think mine (and probably yours) criticism was constructive, specifically because it was anti-authoritarian.

The age thing simply doesn't bother me in the slightest. X amount of time with Sanders as president is better than NO amount of time. And there's no way he's going to pick a VP to the right of Warren (or Biden), so if he gets into office and dies 3 months in, it's better than not getting to office at all. Moreover, if he did die in office, it would still establish a public mandate on what the populace expects of our government. Whereas if he never makes it, but we all divert to Biden because of self fulfilling prophecy, it's not at all clear the government is now publicly mandated to be progressive. Two anti-establishment presidents in a row, is, to my mind, the right sort of mandate I want corporations, the media, the state, etc., to be exposed to.

s. wallerstein said...

Chris,

That's a really nice way of framing our mutual history of expulsions. I tend to see myself as having been a perverse child who with the years began to channel his natural tendency to perversion into good causes, basically because of a slow, gradual process of learning to care about others.