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Monday, October 10, 2016


Unwisely, I watched the debate yesterday evening, and I feel unclean as a consequence.  Leave aside the presence of women who have accused Bill Clinton, a really classy move by Trump.  Leave aside Trump's bizarre snuffling, which after the last debate led Howard Dean to speculate that he is snorting cocaine.  Far and away the most important and chilling moment was Trump's threat to use the machinery of the legal system, were he elected, to put Clinton in jail.  With that threat, Trump took us into the realm of banana republics and modern dictatorships.  In any sane world, that single moment would once and for all time completely disqualify him for public office.

This election cycle has reminded us how fragile democratic institutions and practices are.  Those of us who seek radical change must recognize that there are really only two routes to such change:  electoral victory and violent revolution.  In this country, considering which segment of the general public has the guns, violent revolution is not the avenue to progressive transformation.  That means that we must hope for, and work for, a preservation of the institutions of political democracy.  

I think last night should put paid to any left-wing fantasies that Donald J. Trump could be a vehicle for progressive change.  Those of us on the left who do not like Clinton have no choice but to do what we can to ensure her election and then, without so much as a pause to catch our breath, turn to electing, at every level, the most progressive candidates we can find.  If we cannot muster the votes to win city councils, state legislatures, and majorities in the House and Senate, then we have no hope of transforming American society.

I realize that working to elect a progressive to a seat on the local School Committee is a come-down from theorizing about world-historical revolution, but if you cannot be bothered, then you have no right to complain when Creationism is taught in your neighborhood schools.

Now I shall cleanse my mind by reviewing my notes for today's sixth lecture on the Critique of Pure Reason.


Andrew Lionel Blais said...

Right on, especially the part about school committees. I was on a school committee for two years, and my partner was a member for eight. Politics has not looked the same since. I came to see Plato, Hobbies, Locke, Marx, and Rawls in a completely new light. It also showed me that advancing to just the next step of city council was not something that I could stomach. My partner, on the other hand, is one of the fiercest political animals that I have even personally know. At least I can contribute with an occasional footnote to a passage in the Republic. Alas.... It is more than the teaching of creationism, however, since what is more at stake today is the issue of the dismantling of public education, which is, I think, a prototype of the class war that goes on in the context of post school committee politics.

Ed Barreras said...

The banana republic idea is gaining traction in the morning-after commentary. My guess is that that comment will prove to be *the* signal moment from last night. What a horrific time this is! We really are only one or two elections from descending into a very dark form of politics. As a youngish guy (early thirties), I feel like I've been awakened from some complacent dream...into a nightmare.

A commentor on this blog recently mentioned that Richard Rorty, after Bush was elected a second time, wrote something to the effect that Bush's victory could be explained by the fact that half the population has an IQ below 100. I have to say I remember reading an op-ed by Rorty from that time, and I can't recall him writing that. (Though, it's the kind of straightforward analysis that certainly *sounds* like Rorty, if you know what I mean. A link would be appreciated if anyone has it.) Well, I've been thinking about that a bit lately. What seems undeniable to me is that support for Trump -- and for the right-wing lunacy that birthed him -- absolutely is strongly associated with intellectual weakness. People who like Trump are mostly not very smart, and I know we're not supposed to say that but it's true, and it's just too bad. For me the quintessential line from this campaign will always be Jonathan Chait's (writing in New York Magazine): If you look at Trump and see a plausible commander-in-chief, you suffer from a mental deficiency.

Of course, intellectual weakness isn't the only kind of mental deficiency. There's also plain turpitude. My guess is that the likes of Steve Bannon and Paul Manafort aren't stupid by any simple metrics. They're just degenerates -- men whom we might describe as *morally* stupid. Still -- and here I may be betraying an overly sunny optimism about the edifying effects of liberal education -- still, it seems to me that the clever degenerates comprise but a small group of commanders, and their armies are the stupid. Generally speaking, people who are smart and well educated and who know what they're talking about see right through Trump's bullshit, and they despise him. Martha Raddatz seems like one such person. Last night she could hardly conceal her palpable loathing for Trump, which, of course, is the only reasonable attitude one *can* have towards the man. It's a matter of character.

If all this makes me an snooty elitist who sees the world in Manichaean terms -- well guess what, I stopped caring. This election has changed me, deeply and permanently. Let's just hope there are enough Martha Raddatzes in this country (the above-100-crowd) to avert disaster next month.

Chris said...

"With that threat, Trump took us into the realm of banana republics and modern dictatorships. In any sane world, that single moment would once and for all time completely disqualify him for public office."

Could have sworn Obama took us there when he refused to prosecute any of the torture apparatus for political expediency. Using the state to RESCUE politicians is just as much a banana republic move as it is when you use the state to PERSECUTE politicians.

s. wallerstein said...

Rorty comment on IQ:

LFC said...

I generally agree with the post.

However, re Trump's snuffling: who knows what causes it, but Howard Dean's speculation about cocaine sounds sort of ridiculous. Dean is an M.D., and I think he should know better than to speculate in that way -- he should produce actual evidence that this kind of snuffling is tied to cocaine instead of, e.g., allergies, post-nasal drip, an unconscious tic, or whatever. I assume Dean did not do that. If Hillary Clinton had snuffled, would Dean have speculated that she was doing cocaine? The question answers itself.

Jerry Fresia said...

Chris has a point.

s. wallerstein said...

Great Zizek article on the election (although more than a month old).

Anonymous said...

No offense, but the idea of using elections to wage a revolution is ludicrous.

RobinM said...

With respect to casual comments about the above-100-crowd, and the like, in a subsection of his book, “The Mismeasure of Man,” entitled “Can democracy survive an average mental age of thirteen?” Stephen Jay Gould concludes”

“Again, a catchy, numerical “fact” had risen to prominence as the discovery of objective science—while the fallacies and finagling that thoroughly invalidated it remained hidden in the details of an eight-hundred-page monograph that the propagandists never read” (p. 224).

Gould was, of course, no great fan of IQ’s, craniometry, etc. At risk of misrepresenting him I’d offer that it’s possibly unintelligent to believe in Intelligence Quotients? Of course, it may be unintelligent to trust in Gould?

Chris said...

Thank you Jerry!

Ed Barreras said...

Thank you, S. Wallerstein. I see that Rorty was basically quoting Richard Posner, writing against 19th-century notions about an ideally educable citizenry. It'd be nice to read what Rorty goes on to say about it all. (The full article is behind a paywall, though since I regularly read the free stuff Dissent puts out, perhaps I should feel obligated to subscribe to their back catalogue.)

And yes, I suppose talk about IQ is too crude and does smack of eugenics, craniometry, etc. (Professional racists love nothing more than to talk about IQ). However in my desperation I need a simple concept to explain the myriad complex horrors I see rising up. Won't you at least grant me the consolation of condescension?

Then again, the mendacity of the mobs and masses *is* an ancient theme, whether or not it's framed in terms of scientifically suspect notions about intelligence. But to accentuate the positive: it's a comforting fact that Trump is doing so badly with the college educated ("I love the poorly educated!"). Perhaps it shows that education (consciousness raising) about the tactics of racist demagogues has had some real effect, since Trump's relaince on those tactics is so transparent.

s. wallerstein said...

Ed Barreras,

Do you know the famous John Stuart Mill remark about conservatives?

"Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid, it is true that most stupid people are conservative".

LFC said...

I think there are probably more than two routes to radical change, but I think the rest of the post clarifies what was meant.

In any case, anonymous's comment above -- "the idea of using elections to wage a revolution is ludicrous" -- is inapt here, since the post speaks of "transformation" not "revolution," and it's not ludicrous to think that electoral politics, in conjunction w grassroots movements and other efforts, can be one part of a transformation-oriented politics.

Ed Barreras said...

Re Chris's point about Obama's failure to prosecute the torture apparatus. Couldn't we say that Obama acted wisely insofar as 1) such a prosecution would have been practically impossible to carry out, and 2) more importantly, such a prosecution, even if somehow succesful, would have subverted our norms about the peaceful transfer of power. The Repubilcans would have openly revolted at seeing their President and VP jailed, and who's to say that once they regained power they wouldn't feel justified in carrying out retribution trials, whether the charges were legitimate or not?

This is not to defend the war criminals of the Bush administration. In fact, it's a further indictment of them. They knew they worked within a system in which the violation of one norm (agains the use of torture) would be brushed aside in order to uphold another, more important norm (the peaceful transfer of power). And so they acted with impunity. Therein lies their wickedness.

The special danger of Trump is that he's a narcissistic and vindictive crybaby -- not to mention a hypocrite who's probably guilty of rape himself -- who happily wants to run a steamroller over everything.

Ed Barreras said...

S. Wallerstein, I hadn't heard of that remark by JS Mill, though certainly I've encountered variations on it. Check out the Youtube clip of Bill Maher saying to George Will (pretty accurately) that while not all Republicans are racist, all racists are Republicans. The video doesn't show it, but Will stares at him for a moment in stunned silence. Now that Will is a NeverTrumper he must sure feel foolish.

howie berman said...

You all may know more on political theory- but here goes, since the sixties the social contract has broken down- in my view resulting in our current instability.
There are people who actually think Trump is the one to fight the powers that be and make America functional again- That's what many, I wouldn't say dumb, but maybe simple and definitely naive people actually believe.
Times of crisis are the perfect time for social change, which is another name for renegotiating the social contract.
Do you want another Civil or Revolutionary War. Democracy is the best or least bad route for now.
That's what this talk about change is all about- changing the social contract- the role of government and the place of the citizen- and Trump is cynically and clumsily making sounds in that direction.
People, at the bottom and economically vulnerable parts of society are looking for a leader and Trump is their idea of a leader.
Go figure, but when you think about it it really does make sense

s. wallerstein said...

Ed Barreras,

Thanks. I'll take a look at Will.

Tom Cathcart said...

Ed Barreras: Thank you. You are right. Prosecuting the torturers may have been the "right" thing to do, but it would have been an incredibly stupid thing to do. Democracy will always tend toward centrism, and, yes, that's a damned shame. But, unless we're willing to take up arms (not exactly a guaranteed route to utopia), center-left is as good as it gets.

s. wallerstein said...

We're only supposed to prosecute torturers when "they" do it?

As I recall, last night Hillary said something about prosecuting the Russians or the Syrians (I don't recall which) for war crimes. No doubt that they commit war crimes, but the good guys ("us") do too. If "we" shouldn't be prosecuted for war crimes and torture, then why should "they" be prosecuted and if they shouldn't be prosecuted for war crimes and torture, why not forget the whole concept and go back to the good old days when soldiers had the right to rape, torture and kill anyone in their path?

Of course "we" always torture and commit war crimes in a "good" cause, with "good" intentions while "they" are a shifty bunch of characters who do it with "evil" intentions, in an "evil" cause, namely, against "our" interests.

Chris said...

So if Trump abuses state power for political expediency it's unprecedented and nadir of american politics, but if Obama does it it's cool expediency and well calculated.

Love to see all the hackish deference to power and genuflecting before our masters. Well as long as it's the Dems committing the crimes it's okay! Stockholm syndrome is rampant in the world of the delusionally autonomous. Tell me, does your centrism truism hold up in the 1820s too, and Jim Crow America? Hey everyone let's reach a safe balance between slavery, and equality in the market place because centrism is always correct, and it's all we can ever hope for (ignore the fact that literally makes no sense given the fact the species is 150,000 years old and has undergone radical changes hundreds of times) regardless of egregious total shifts in the political spectrum.

Ugh. I'll go away for a while, the political conversations being had here are no longer palatable in my neck of the woods, or solar system for that matter.

Tom Cathcart said...

Chris, sorry you won't be around to read this, but if you think the historical moment for prosecuting Cheney for capital crimes is on the same level of kairos as ending Jim Crow in the '60s and '70s (after decades, btw, when it was not possible), then I guess we are in different solar systems.

Ed Barreras said...

I just can't imagine any scenario in which a strong push for prosecution of Bush-Cheney would have turned out well.

Regarding slavery, yes, we took up arms to end it. And that was unfortunate but ultimately the right thing to do. But with the torture, we were able to put a stop to it by electing a president who ended the practice by fiat, while condemning his predecessors in the strongest terms. So emphatically, we are *not* saying that torture is okay "when we do it." We're simply acknowledging the sad reality that those who committed the acts will remain above the law, and we're condemning them for abusing the power that allowed them occupy that position.

Are we deluded sheeple suffering from Stockholm Syndrome? Let me appeal to authority. Even Noam Chomsky -- a man who has insisted for decades that *every* president since WWII would be prosecuted for war crimes if the principles of Nuremberg were consistently applied -- has said that he'd vote for Hillary Clinton in a swing state; and he knows very well Ms. Clinton would never for a second contemplate prosecuting Bush-Cheney. This is because Chomsky, for all his fierce commitment to principles, is a realist who understands that life can't be perfect.

Anonymous said...


This post's title is "Debate". Let's debate.

Let's drop the fig leaves; forget the comments about how IQ doesn't matter. We all know they are only for public consumption. It sure matters to you. As a Latino, I am interested on hearing details about your views. What do you propose to solve that problem? What do you really have in mind?

Disenfranchisement? Mass sterilization? Expulsion? Something more extreme maybe? On an ethnic base or just on occupational/educational/income status?

Let's hear your point in this debate.

Ed Barreras said...
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Ed Barreras said...

[Apologies for the previous four deletes. I should edit more carefully.]

1 of 2


I have no idea what you're talking about. Read what I wrote in this thread. I called the concept of IQ "scientifically suspect." I stated that the concept smacks of "eugenics, craniometry, etc." and that "professional racists love nothing more than to talk about IQ." How you think you can divine that these statements are "only for public consumption" is beyond me. So is your vaguely paranoid assertion that I'm withholding what I "really" think.

As I stated very clearly, my remarks were prompted by statements made by Richard Rorty. Though actually, it turned out Rorty was just summarizing Posner on this point. Here is the passage from the Rorty article (linked to in this thread by S. Wallerstein): "Universal literacy, and additional years spent in school, did not have the results that our leftist predecessors foresaw, and it looks as if they never will. Richard A. Posner [...] thinks we should face this fact. We should put aside the illusion that the American public will gradually become better informed and wiser. He asks us to recognize that modern democratic governments, including our own, are better described as what Alan Ryan has called 'elective aristocracies' than as examples of popular rule. We should take note of the tautologous but depressing fact that half the population has an IQ below 100. We should admit that 'ordinary people have as little interest in complex policy issues as they have aptitude for them.'"

This was the context in which my remarks were formulated. So if you have an issue with what I wrote, it's as much with Posner as with me. (In fact, its' probably *more* with Posner, since he thought deeply about these issues and is presumably committed to them. Though I should stress: this is Posner as reported briefly by Rorty; I'd hate to take it as definitive of Posner's views.)

So what do I make of Posner's proposal (as reported by Rorty)? Well, it seems to me that the concept of IQ is being invoked here as shorthand for the idea that human nature will always thwart our best efforts to establish a truly egalitarian society. That strikes me as a not implausible argument on its face. Even so, is it far too crude to simply say that we're being weighed down that half of the population with an IQ of 99 or below? Yes, of course it is. Again, I stated as much very plainly. I wrote: "in my desperation I need a simple concept to explain the myriad horrors I see rising up. Won't you at least grant me the consolation of condescension?" I thought this made it clear that I was placing an ironic spin on my invocation of innate intelligence (how could I have made it clearer?); In my attempt at cranky "venting", I was being condescending toward those I see as responsible for the horrors of this election.

About those horrors. Yes, I do think that anyone who would vote for the racist demagogue Trump is morally culpable. And yes, we should critique "the system" that enabled Trump's rise and do what we can to change it. But the simple fact remains that if you, as an autonomous individual, hear what Trump has said and then freely cast your vote for him, you bear some measure of responsibility for the acts he will commit should he take office (per his promises). Or at least that's my position. I'll reiterate that I think Chait was spot-on: if you see a plausible president in Trump, you suffer from a mental deficiency.

Ed Barreras said...

2 of 2

Now without proffering a unified theory of human intelligence (whatever that might be), I will say that I find the ordinary concept of stupidity to be a useful *heuristic* in making sense of why someone would vote for Trump, and thus place themselves in a morally precarious position. Let me give you an example. I have a relative who regularly posts nonsense conspiracy theories about Obama, Hillary, etc on social media. I've reached out to this person, pointing him to resources such Politifact and Snopes that provide clearly written, reliably sourced, and impartial debunkings of precisely this kind of nonsense. I have tried to explain what it is to be an "objective" source. And yet, this person just doesn't seem to get it. He understands and sometimes acknowledges the merits of *individual* critiques of his conspiracies. But the aggregate escapes him: he just doesn't get that there's a rational procedure for checking information before he re-posts it on his social media (it's called googling.). Now I have to admit: this failure of basic comprehension is unsurprising based on my non-political conversations with this person. Simply put, he's a dim bulb. A simpleton. And I've give up hope on him.

Now does this mean that we can't easily point to leftists who are similarly dense? Of course not. But I hardly think that fact counts is a decisive refutation of the general point: namely, that peoples' inability to take in and process complex information tends to act as a hindrance to their not falling prey to the easy slogans of demagogues. (Is this so controversial?)

Finally, I'll address the issue of race and IQ, though only briefly since I made it clear earlier that I think this whole area of discourse is entirely ridiculous. (And I'm Latino too, btw.) Here's what I *really* think. I once read some passages out of the S.J. Gould book that was mentioned previously, though I remember little about his argument except that I found it persuasive. More recently, I've read Massimo Piggliucci on the same topic. Like Gould, he has been very critical of what gets euphemistically called "the science of human biodiversity", and his arguments, too, I find persuasive. Finally, to get back to Rorty, he once argued that we shouldn't even bother with the issue of innate differences across human racial groups -- we should neither study it nor mention it. I'm sympathetic with this position as well.

Chris said...

No Tom I was not calling them moral equals, I was pointing out the concept of centrism always is nonsensical (e.g., ending of slavery, monarchy, feudalism, were these mere left-centrist moments? Isn't the entire economic spectrum since FDR radically further to the right than it was at the time of FDRs death?).

Ed, the Chomsky point is a red herring. My argument was not to avoid voting Clinton in swing states (after Trump's pro sexual assault comments I'm privately elated to see him lose to a woman), my argument was that we already entered a banana republic some time ago. The fact we already entered one does not mean you should/shouldn't vote for Clinton over Trump, nor does it anyway conflict with what Chomsky said. And there's a strong difference between acknowleding we entered it, and coming up cheerfully with rationalized escape routes for our masters. Something Chomsky has never done.

Tom Cathcart said...

Chris, glad you're back. Center-left doesn't mean centrist. It means being as far left as you can get away with without sinking the ship.

s. wallerstein said...

Tom Cathcart,

Why do you say that democracy will always tend towards centrism?

Other democracies have elected quite leftwing candidates, Allende in Chile, Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia, even Mitterand in France (he started off fairly leftwing).

There seems to be no intrinsic mechanism in democracies which means that they tend towards centrism. There may be facts about the political sociology of the United States which means that it tends towards centrism, but that is another question.

Tom Cathcart said...

S wallerstein: Key word: "tend." All your examples (with the exception of Allende, who was overthrown), demonstrate the pendulum effect, no? But, I agree, the US is an extreme instance.

s. wallerstein said...

Tom Cathcart,

I'm not sure that democracies tend towards the center. It seems that all political regimes tend towards the center. Plato and Aristotle analyze how one form of government leads to another: I don't recall the exact details. However, it seems that any political regime will produce an opposition and that opposition, generally of the social class which is not represented by that regime, will undermine that regime and try to enlist undecided and non-committed sections of the population to its cause. In order to enlist the undecided and the non-committed sections of the population, it probably will need to represent itself as "the center" of sorts, that is, an "impartial" mean between the two "selfish" extremes. The regime too, if it wants to survive, will need to represent itself as the "impartial mean" in order to win over the undecided and the non-committed. So there is a tendency towards the center, I agree.

Ed Barreras said...

Surely it's a matter of degree. We may well have became somewhat of a banana republic long ago. Still, Trump has promised to take us all the way. (And if we're defining banan republic as a society in which miscarriages of justice take place, is there *any* society ever that doesn't fall into that category? )

I will reiterate that Obama ended the torture regime while excoriating those who installed it -- all while not firing a shot nor doing irreparable political damage to the Democratic party, the only reasonably sane political party left in this country.

Chris said...

"Obama ended the torture regime"

UN's special rapporteur on torture found Manning's isolated detention (A US citizen) was tantamount to torture.

Of course I categorically disagree with that the party is reasonable, sane, and the ONLY SANE/REASONABLE party in the country.

All that wall street money, and execution of the espionage act, cozying up to the media apparatus, revolving door lobbying/campaigning, drone striking in 7 countries since obama took office, and the first assassination of a US citizen without due process, doesn't really strike me as 'reasonable' or 'sane', or the actions of some estimable party worthy of praise.

You're in an abusing relationship with a master, perhaps it's time to let go of their clutches?

Chris said...

Articles like this are proof the Democrats of today are the Republicans of yester-year, and the economic spectrum is radically to the right of FDR:
[Goldman Sachs in meeting with Democratic party fund raisers ask to silence Warren and other progressive Democratic goals]

But again, I guess that's the sane and reasonable party. Tell me, if that's so, were the 80s Republicans sane and reasonable then too? Nixon must have been a beacon of sanity when he had that extremely progressive regime that implemented OSHA, and the EPA!

Ed Barreras said...


From what I gather, Manning's ill treatment amounted to being locked in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. I agree this is tantamount to torture. But it's unfortunately a common practice in prisons throughout the country. Do we want to get into the myriad issues surrounding prison reform? I don't, not here. It's a whole other can of worms. I will point out, though, that because of pressure applied on the US government -- including the resignation of a State Dept. spokesperson -- Manning was afforded humane treatment. This is an example of progress, and it shows precisely how the U.S. is not a full-throttle dictatorship. In dictatorships, instead of being swayed by dissent, the powers that be brutally crush it. This is not to praise the people who committed the crime in the first place; it's to point out a virtue of the system.

And as for solitary confinement, that issue seems on the cusp of changing. Anthony Kennedy recently signaled that he would like to see it banned under the cruel and unusual provision. And it will be if we can get a good Supreme Court justice in there -- yet another reason to vote for the Democrats. I nor anyone here every said that Hillary or Obama are beacons of moral virtue. But if we want to end solitary confinement in the near future -- and thus dramatically improve the well-being of those who are currently suffering under it -- then the only instrumentally rational thing to do is vote for the Democrats , since they will appoint justices who *will* ban the practice. Again, this is progress. Do you not agree? I mean, you bring up solitary confinement why? To indict the current Democrats who condone it as a hopeless lost cause? But surely we can acknowledge valid criticism of the Democrats while still understanding that supporting those same democrats is, currently, our only path to ending the practice -- in other words, by taking them as precisely *not* a lost cause. This is not "cheerful rationalization". It's merely clear-sighetdness as to how to achieve our desired ends.

(And by the way, Obama has recently spoken out eloquently against solitary confinement, which shows that people as much as institutions can make progress:

I noticed, too, that you failed to note progress vis-a-vis Obama's ending the Bush-Cheney torture regime. Things like waterboarding (which, unlike solitary confinement, have never been normal punitive practices in this country) are no longer practiced, and have been denounced as torture by the current president in repudiation of his predecessor. Yes, you can always point to other bad things Obama has done or overseen, but on this particular issue he has been an agent for change in the right direction. Again, progress. The point I originally made was that while it would be nice to see the perpetrators brought to justice, it's good enough that Obama was able to end the torture regime peacefully. Sometimes we have to settle for an end to the injustice, while acknowledging that retribution is not possible. This is simply a fact about the world we live in, and you've offered nothing to dispute it

Ed Barreras said...


As for the stuff about today's Democrats being yesterday's Rockefeller Republicans -- you're preaching to the choir. Read the many things professor Wolff (a Marxist) has written on this here on his blog. Yes, we were all for Bernie. Many of us donated to his campaign, volunteered, showed our support at rallies, etc. We heard the things he's said, some of which you repeated here in your comments. It was an extraordinary moment that succeeded in moving the current candidate, a Rockefeller Republican, to the left (and as soon as Trump is defeated, we will continue to apply pressure to make sure she follows through). Again, this is progress. But if it's a choice between a Rockefeller Republican and the lunacy of the Trump party, we'll take the Republican every time. The hope, though, is to begin to move the country back to where it was before Reagan, which, once again, would be progress.

Finally, you've said that me, or people like me, are in an "abusive relationship" with our Democratic party "masters." Presumably you mean that we are not seeing things clearly. Well, I'll just point out that there's a significant semantic difference between the phrase I used to describe the Democrats -- "reasonably sane" -- and the one you repeatedly ascribed to me in your comments -- "reasonable and sane." Perhaps you misread this, or perhaps you willfully interpolated the change. Either way, it signals that maybe you yourself don't always see things so clearly.

David Palmeter said...

Ed Berreras,

Excellent comments. Your point, " Sometimes we have to settle for an end to the injustice, while acknowledging that retribution is not possible," reminds me of the course Nelson Mandela took in South Africa.

That said, if Dick Cheney wound up in solitary confinement, I think I could find other worthy things to do before making any effort to protest the treatment.

mikhail said...

"Those of us who seek radical change must recognize that there are really only two routes to such change: electoral victory and violent revolution."

At the risk of sounding foolish, isn't the dissolution of the USSR in 1989 a counterexample to this proposition?

s. wallerstein said...

"Reasonably sane".

The word "sane" sometimes means "descriptively normal in psychological terms" and sometimes means "having positive and virtuous psychological and character traits" (as in Erich Fromm's book, "The Sane Society").

The Democrats are certainly sane in the first sense: they are "business as usual", "normal politics" (in the descriptive sense) as compared to Trump who represents proto-fascist demagogy.

However, I don't find the Democrats (except the Sanders wing) to be sane in the second sense, the Erich Fromm sense. That is, "sanity" in the sense of descriptive normality is often atrocious and irrational.

For those unfamiliar with Fromm's concept of a sane society, here is a Wikiquote article (there is no Wikipedia article)

Matt said...

Mikhail asked,

"At the risk of sounding foolish, isn't the dissolution of the USSR in 1989 a counterexample to this proposition? (that radical change comes from only violent revolution or electoral change)

This is an interesting case. The sequence of events are too complicated to put in a blog post in the amount of time I have right now, but they involved Gorbachev putting in place a series of reforms, in the face of increasingly dire economic conditions, hard liners opposing these, and putting Gorbachev under "house arrest" (that is, staging a coup) and then Yeltsin leading a counter-movement that, in turn, lead to Yeltsin taking control and the end of the USSR. But, why was Yeltsin, who had been thrown out of the Communist Party some time before this, in any position to do so? Only because he had been elected as President of the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic. This was a position that no one intended to have any real power. And, it wasn't expected that being elected to it would give him the spot to do anything. But, like many a world-historical figure (for better or worse) he was able to use this position to turn himself from a Pawn into a Queen, and do something great (not good - I actually thing Yeltsin was mostly a negative figure, but great need not be good.) But, it was only because of the election of Yeltsin to this post, via an actually democratic election, that he was able to do this. Otherwise, he would have been home stewing in Yekaterinburg. (Or, some years earlier, dead or in prison.) So, even here, elections mattered, even if they were not the whole story.

(I'll add that my own though is that the USSR, and most likely the world, would have been much better off if Gorbachev would have been able to institute the essentially Bernsteinish reforms proposed by Yavlinsky early in Gorbachev's premiership, but of course the hard-liners would have opposed that even much more harshly.)