My Stuff

Coming Soon:

Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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."

Total Pageviews

Thursday, January 12, 2017


On reflection, I have decided that Trump’s press conference was an unalloyed victory for those of us who seek to delegitimize him and neuter him politically.  Why?  Because it was a shambles, a chaotic disaster.  The details are unimportant.  All that matters is that he looked ridiculous, small, out of control.  Only policy junkies like us pay attention to the details.  To the general public, appearances are reality [also to neo-classical economists, but that is neither here nor there.]  Remember, this is still eight days before he is inaugurated!

The press will obsess about the confirmation hearings, about what Jeff Sessions says, about what Rex Tillerson says.  But none of that will change anything at all.  Trump will get his cabinet.  With a Republican Senate, how could it be otherwise?  But Trump starts out with a disastrous favorability rating [37% in the latest poll], and salacious, unprovable, almost certainly false rumors circulating about his behavior in Russia.  Things will not go better for him, because he is constitutionally unable to control the behavior that makes him look foolish.

From time to time, Trump will give thoughtful, moderately literate speeches written for him by his flunkies, but they will not change his image because they are cognitively dissonant – they conflict with the impression people have of him, and hence will be forgotten. 

Will he be impeached?  No.  Will he quit?  Of course not, he will be making money from the presidency.  But will he succeed in carrying into law his appalling policies [to the extent that he actually has policies]?  That remains to be seen.  We have an opportunity, if we organize coast to coast, to block him.  We even have an opportunity to win House seats and State legislative seats in the off-year elections if we start working now.

Do not despair.  We have just begun to fight.


howie said...

The electorate will clamor for his show to be cancelled and thrown under a freight train.
A sociologist Randall Collins built a subtle and indirect case on his blog.
Trump is a shark- all his brainpower goes to biting and thrashing and talking trash-
he does not have an ego or frontal cortex-
His entourage will do the thinking for him. He is dangerous and dysfunctional and for all that more dangerous.
He is a front man who will slowly be taken over by his handlers.
Maybe he should be placed on a tranquilizer and embalmed.
My first choice is impeachment, then embalment

Ed Barreras said...

Why do you think the salacious rumors are almost certainly false? Of course, I *want* them to be true, but I also can't see why they shouldn't be.

On impeachment, it does seem that the Republicans -- a sizeable faction of them, anyway -- have every reason to want to give T***p the boot. The man's a complete nutcase. But aside from that, he's also more a third-party entity. During the campaign he promised not to cut Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare. He also reportedly assured Paul Ryan behind closed doors that government has a "moral obligation" to cut those programs. So who's to say what he'll do? With Pence they'll have level-headed traditional Republican to rubber stamp all their awful policies.

I suppose this just proves the unpopularity of Republican economics. They couldn't win with their customary platform. Witness, too, the skittishness about repealing Obamacare. T***p keeps saying he wants repeal-and-immediately-replace, whereas it seems Ryan and McConnell want repeal-and-maybe-replace-years-down-the-road-and-there's-a-sucker-born-every-minute.

And finally, speaking of Republican unpopularity, Vox has an article up today empirically demonstrating that Clinton almost certainly would have won had it not been for Comey's letter. (Nate Silver has made the same argument). I have to say I find this totally plausible, if only because it justifies the plunging-elevator feeling I had when that news broke.

howie said...

Ed, today's Republicans might not be exactly rational actors. They just are obsessed with their agenda of shutting down the government. I'm not sure whether they really noticed just how ridiculous a figure Trump is. Maybe power deludes as much as it corrupts.
I mean, your prediction is my first inclination too. But I take pause first because our government and our politicians are as rational as Fox news and second we're in some kind of phase shift and no rules, or the old rules, the rules of the Power Game, of the old Washington, might not apply.
That the Congress has zero popularity should be a decisive factor. I'm not so sure anymore.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I think the salacious rumors are almost certainly false because, as I understand [I have not read this directly] they involve a "golden shower" which, as Trump quite correctly observed, contradicts the fact that he is, as he put it, a germophobe. Besides, that is a sexual activity that does not put him in the dominant position. As for impeachment, recall that it must start in the House. But hey, far be it from me to talk the idea down! To be serious, for a moment, I think a genuinely awful but standard extreme rightwing Republican like Pence really is preferable to Trump.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Whoops, I just read up on the content of the rumors, and it is compatible with Trump's need to be in the dominant position. So who knows? This is one of a large number of things which, if not true, ought to be.

Ed Barreras said...

Whatever the case may be regarding T***p, projecting dominance socially is not incompatible with choosing to be submissive in the. I have heard, though I don't know if it's true, that the foremost patrons of dominatrixes are wealthy finance types.

Ed Barreras said...

And by the way I agree that Pence is preferable to the current minority-president-elect.

s. wallerstein said...

Let's say that I want to invent a rumor to damage Trump.

Given Trump's hangup with his "masculinity", I'd say that he engages in gay sex or wears women's clothing.

The stuff about a golden shower sounds fairly harmless. Why would a "playboy" like Trump be ashamed about that?

So there are two possibilities, as far as I can see, the stuff about a gold shower is true or is a rumor invented to damage Trump pristine reputation.

Now if the second situation is the case, I wonder why they (I assume that they are fairly expert at inventing damaging rumors) made up the rumor about the golden shower and not a more damaging rumor, say, that Trumps puts on lacy women's underwear, lipstick and high heels to have sex.

Tom Cathcart said...

OMG, does anyone believe the discussion we're having about a president-elect? I'm trying to picture having this discussion about, say, Calvin Coolidge.

Anonymous said...

So I now have further learned that devaluing of one human being by another is strictly a matter of reference. So why not this blog, the lesson the internet has tough me is no matter what, there's no escape to the more base expressions. And from above comments they flow from any intellect.
As the Professor noted this is his method of venting (and his blog).
And God only knows I am sure Bill Clinton had as many and more colorful depictions back in his day. I felt they had their fair right for those insights just as these commentors have theirs now.

Tom, so where is the proper end? Does Obama become a commando leader, and create a sub-sect of disenfranchise voters and start his own nation?
Is this the next phase of an "unacceptable" vote outcome? Could we be seeing that with younger President(s) that tend to lingerer long past their 8 years and yearn for a better method.

Also, as the bommers age why would they mellow? after all this was THE generation of change. But their change, or the "good" change as they envision it.

Well, entertaining to watch. Maybe.

I'll pay my thanks, and see my way out.

Anonymous said...

That is an excellent Vox article. I especially appreciate the way it lays out the evidence for how the Comey letter prevented Clinton from campaigning in Wisconsin for the last 7 months of the election.

Ed Barreras said...


The great thing about this blog is that it's a safe-space echo chamber. Snark is rarely appreciated, and willfully obtuse snake is never appreciated.

The Vox article merely argued that given the prevailing circumstances, Comey's letter was enough to tip the election. There were only two relevant possible outcomes, and the letter was decisive in bringing about one of those outcomes. Does this mean that Hillary couldn't have done more to forestall against the possiblity of such a narrow contest in Wisconsin? Of course not. Is it possible that had she campaigned in the state, she could have withstood Comey's October surprise? Yes, of course it's possible. But no one here ever denied those claims, and neither did the Vox article.

howie said...

Why is the Times lauding Trump's mastery at manipulating the press on their front page?

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I assume it is their effort to shame their colleagues into doing their jobs.

Anonymous said...

"Prevailing circumstances" include Democratic incompetence. And yet we're supposed to think it's meaningful that some letter about a scandal no one really understands was the dagger? This is just a distraction.

This is like in sports when a superior team loses to an inferior team at the buzzer. Some talk is about why the buzzer beater went the way it did. But mostly we talk about why the superior team was tied with 5 seconds left in the first place. In this sense-- and this is truly unbelievable-- sports enthusiasts appear to be more nuanced than political spectators.

Ed Barreras said...

Anonymous, if the analysis of the Vox article is sound, then Comey's letter was "the dagger" in the sense that without it Hillary Clinton would have won. We wouldn't be facing the prospect of a T***p presidency. This alone makes the letter eminently "meaningful." I don't see why you should object to people merely acknowledgeing reality. (And yes, it's also a reality that the Clinton campaign was poorly run.)

(Incidentally, in sports a "dagger" is a late-game play that finally puts away a wounded team. By that definition, Comey's letter was indeed analogous to a dagger.)

You say it's a distraction, meaning, presumably, that we should all just forget about it. But if the FBI did indeed break with internal protocol to sway an election, and did so under pressure from a brazenly pro-T***p contingent within the bureau, then the public should know about it.

You also acknowledge that the letter pertained to "a scandal no one really understands." I agree. And so don't you find it worrying that this scandal, which no one really understood, was splattered across the headlines 11 days before the election? People didn't understand the scandal, but they "understood" that it proved Hillary Clinton was just as bad morally as T***p, and in fact was more "corrupt" than him. And in a way, it's not hard to see why they would think that, given that the major new broadcasts spent more time covering emails than they spent covering all policy positions combined. All this is "meaningful."

Anonymous said...

Ed B. I'm not a snake nor smart enough to be a snark....truth be told I came here to learn from some very smart people. If anything read into that the incredible confusion these times of extreme and continuing polarization.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

well, anonymous, you are welcome here. We need all the energy and insight we can muster.