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Thursday, October 18, 2018


For almost ten years, I have been pouring words out non-stop, and I find that I am, at least for the moment, running dry.  I have written so much I cannot recall it all.  A week ago in our Columbia course, while lecturing on Weber’s Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Todd Gitlin made reference to the mini-tutorial I had written on the book and pointed students to it.  I had totally forgotten I had written it.

So I have taken a few days off, and the comments section has more or less exploded.  Rather than try to respond to everything that has been posted by the readers of this blog, I signed up to do some time tomorrow at the early voting locality in Pittsboro, NC, handing out a blue ballot sheet guiding Democrats how to vote on such things as the ballot amendments [easy – vote No on all of them] and the non-partisan candidates for Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court [a little trickier – the answer is Anita Earls.]

Like MS, I have no patience for people who refuse to vote for the lesser evil because they are offended or bored or enchanted with the Progressive of the Moment.  This is a genuinely desperate time, and it is not at all clear that when the dust settles we will still have enough of a democracy even to be able to fight for what we believe in.  Should anyone be nursing fantasies of violent upheavals, I will remind them that our opponents have most of the guns.

Nineteen days.


RMcD said...

a previous anonymous from way back when who could not understand what was meant when it was asserted that “Had only 1.8% of the Sanders voters in Michigan, 3.9% in Wisconsin, and 6.1% in Pennsylvania voted for Clinton, she would have won the election” and who still can’t follow how these numbers were arrived at from what was said at 1:49 AM: But even were the numbers accepted, I can’t see what we’re supposed to do with the information. Maybe I’m being obtuse, but it does come across to me as another use of an ideological club that is intended to beat people into toeing a party line.

What also seems to be missing where the focus on numbers is concerned is an acknowledgement that during the primary season there were some—I know there were some because I know some of them—who supported Sanders in order to try to stop Clinton from getting nominated. Like Sanders himself, I suppose, they had not thought of themselves as Democrats.

What further seems to be going on here (I’m again referring to the immediately previous discussion) is an argument which conflates then with now. By that I mean that, while it was quite evident that Trump was a demagogue, a liar, etc. etc., it was still possible in November 2016 to look at the two paths into the future that he and Clinton were likely going to pursue, neither palatable to many. The path he would pursue was, I believe, much murkier, less clear than hers. But with Clinton it was clear that “humanitarian intervention” and the overthrow of disliked regimes would continue, that the “trade” policies which transferred more and more political power to international corporations would be vigorously pursued, that, concomitantly, democratic politics would continue to become less and less democratic, more and more of a sham. (I shouldn’t presume, but I imagine Wallerstein and Fresia would agree to some extent with something like this.) In short, it wasn’t necessarily an evil versus a lesser evil. In some ways of looking at it—THEN—it was a choice between two quite different sorts of evil. (Sorry, Prof. Wolff.) I think one might even go so far as to propose that what was then known of evil Trump was that he was foreseen to be at worst a horrible hurricane, but that the “lesser evil,” Clinton, was climate change/global warming itself, which if it advanced any further would bring the entire world closer to a tipping point and then before too long a “greenhouse effect” would kick in, politics everywhere would go into meltdown, and we would enter an interminable season of horrible hurricanes in many places, each possibly as bad as hurricane trump. In other words, it’s not merely being 'offended, or bored or enchanted with the progressive of the moment,' it’s about being truly distressed about what seemed and seems to lie down a particular road.

What of now? Yes, Trump truly has turned out to be an extremely horrible, destructive hurricane. And I appreciate the argument that that which is most immediately spreading ruin should be stopped; he and his supporters should be ousted. At the same time, some—as I read for example among the commentators on this blog—are still horrified that that other path (let’s call it the mainstream Democrat path) is the only alternative on offer. And I think I'm right in saying that many of the party's candidates now on offer are supportive of pursuing that path. What are we supposed to do if we see ruination on both hands? Is it realy the case that we should only focus on the short term and that the longer term will take care of itself? Can’t both be explored? I’d certainly appreciate it if less condescension/contempt was directed at those pondering that political “climate change.” Maybe patience is a virtue even in politics?

s. wallerstein said...


I agree that in the 2016 election there were two sorts of evils on the menu, although even at the time Clinton seemed the lesser evil. Remember Trump's promise to build the wall on the Mexican border making Mexico pay for it, his racist remarks about latinos (yes, I know that latinos are not a race; I've lived most of my life in Chile), his bragging about sexually harassing women, his long history of racism towards African-Americans, etc, etc. You just don't want a man like that to be president of a super-power or in fact, of any country at all.

You ask what alternative paths there are. I don't have specific suggestions, but in the long term you have to change people's hearts and minds: you need to educate them politically, serious political education about socialism, about Marxism, about how the media manipulate us, etc., and then organization. It's a long process and we need patience, which is a hard virtue to come by in a society where instant gratification is promised (and that promise is just one more way in which we are seduced by the hegemony of the dominant ideology).

Jerry Fresia said...

"Like MS, I have no patience for people who refuse to vote for the lesser evil because they are offended or bored or enchanted with the Progressive of the Moment."

This thought, expressed this way, troubles me, not because I do not support voting for the lesser evil, I do, especially when the choice is between the lesser evil and Trump. It's a no brainer as far as I'm concerned. But the language, tone, and sentiment is troubling. You and MS have "no patience." The tone feels condescending. Notice the characterizations you have for these people who vote the wrong way: (too easily) "offended," "bored," and what amounts to "naive."

Lacking, it seems to me (and I have no doubt you feel this way also), is the recognition that many of the people who didn't vote for the lesser evil have been repeatedly abused, betrayed, lied to, mocked, and denied, and made undignified - despite their "playing by the rules" and putting their lives on the line in the many imperialist wars they have been coaxed into fighting. Imagine what it would be like not to have $1000 available for an emergency as is the current fate of 61% of the US population according to a Princeton-Harvard study, all the while the less-evil-than-Trump politicians are handed a couple of hundred thousand for a pro-forma speech, they didn't write, for some bankers who used fraud to take your home and were then given a get-out-of-jail card because they are the adults-in-the-room (who are annoyed when any of us do not pretend the system is a democracy).

What is missing in this lament is a recognition of the rationality of the deep resentment and loathing that so many Americans have toward Obama, the Clintons, and the Bushes, not just because those people engineered the precarious situation that confronts the majority of Americans (and before someone defends Obama vis-a-vis the others, remember that he was
prepared, as was Slick Willie, to move toward the privatization of social security in a "Grand Bargain"). Here's what I believe the too easily offended, bored, and naive get that we highly indoctrinated educated and financially secure types do not and that is the contempt the Bushes, the Clintons, the Obama circle, and so many of the talking heads that have been managing the empire all these years have for people who live without dignity at the lower rungs of the ladder. Really? "No patience?"

Michael S said...

Although a long-time reader of this blog, I am not a long-time reader of (or contributor to) this blog's comment section.

The self-satisfied, self-protective, passive-aggressive pedantry, of some of the contributors and contributions, needs calling out, on here - in the same way as it would need calling out in person.

Perhaps one shouldn't expect too much from the Comments Section (and the average (mean, median, and mode!) here is, evidently, higher than the usual). And it's also true that some of the comments/commenters exhibit just the sort of patience, reasonableness, and open-mindedness - and simply the willingness to discuss - that is (obviously) needed, now, as ever.

But, though it might be true that (as Plato suggested), in life, you get the objects you deserve, it does not seem to be true that, online, you get the commenters you deserve.

Jerry Fresia said...

Michael S.

Given that your comment followed mine and given that my comment was not exactly disinterested, I suspect you may be referring to me (among others in the past). A touch, a touch, I do confess? I'm not sure because I I'm not sure how I would write such a comment, with appropriate passion, and avoid the passive-aggressive stuff, assuming that it does contain that. I didn't last that long in academia and admit to not having those skills.

I wish I could eruditiously thread needles with words, write cleanly with a little punch, and wonderfully drop in latin and french expressions with great effect, as does the Professor. My apologies if my comment was not written in a way that implies a willingness to discuss. I wouldn't have posted it had I thought otherwise. I was trying for the "robust rebuttal."

s. wallerstein said...

I for one find that Jerry Fresia's comments manifest a willingness to discuss ideas. He is not afraid to go against the majority consensus or to challenge Professor Wolff, which indicates intellectual courage on his part.

I've never been quite sure what "passive-aggressiveness" exactly is.

Michael S said...

Jerry, I wasn't referring to you. The timing was coincidental. Apologies for the confusion.

MS said...


I offered the data analysis re the effect Sanders supporters had on the election was as an object lesson for the 2020 election, to advocate that supporters of a candidate who does not obtain the nomination not repeat what they did and increase the likelihood Trump will be re-elected. If Trump is re-elected, this country will face a 7 to 2 S.Ct., w/ the conservatives in the majority. They will be in a position not only to declare as unconstitutional any progressive legislation states may pass, or even a Dem. Congress may pass, but also to accept cases on appeal that give them the opportunity to reverse iconic decisions of the Warren Ct., e.g., Mapp v. Ohio and Miranda v. Arizona, 2 cases re criminal law conservatives have been aching to have overturned for decades. To say nothing of Roe v. Wade.

If you believe the Ct. is a minor issue, you will not find this argument persuasive. Why one who seeks a more humane society would not be concerned about the composition of the Ct. escapes me, but a lot of the pronouncements in this discussion perplex me. Had Clinton been elected, many of the proposals for rehabilitating the election process, i.e., elimination of voter suppression laws and revision of gerrymandering maps, would have come to pass w/ the liberal Ct. Clinton would have sought to institute. But, as you say, this is all water under the bridge.

You know the Citizens United decision liberals are always complaining about, the one that gave Repub.’s financial advantages in elections, do you know how it came about? It can be directly linked to Nader’s candidacy. Gore lost Fla. to Bush by 537 votes. Nader received 97,421 votes in Fla. Had .55% of them voted for Gore, Gore would have been Pres. It didn’t require being a pundit to know Nader was never going to be elected. As between Gore and Bush, whose views were more in line w/ Nader’s? Whom did Bush nominate to the Ct.? Justices Roberts and Alito. The decision in Citizens United was 5 to 4; w/ J.’s Roberts and Alito casting the deciding votes. The dissent was written by J. Stevens, joined by Breyer, Ginsburg and Sotomayor. Had Gore been elected, the dissent would have been the majority opinion. Those who voted for Nader can continue to sleep soundly, knowing they stood up for their principles. (Another 5/4 decision in which Roberts and Alito were the deciding votes – Dist. of Columbia v. Heller, in which the majority held the 2nd Amend. guarantees an individual right to bear arms, the bulwark decision which fortifies the NRA’s opposition to gun control.)

If Trump is re-elected because of a repeated defection by Dem. voters, things will get worse – much worse. But who cares - it’s only the S.Ct. (Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”)

I am not asking that Dem.’s toe the party line. I am asking them to make an objective comparison of the party nominees and vote for the candidate whose credentials indicate, overall, s/he will be better for, or, alternatively, less harmful to, the country. I believe such an evaluation demonstrated Clinton was far and away the better choice. You apparently saw no sig. difference.

You ask, what are progressives who wish to make the world a better place supposed to do when they view both principal candidates as leading to ruination. I would submit what you are proposing is not objectively accurate. I have voted in 12 elections. In each case I was convinced one of the candidates – the Dem. - was demonstrably more qualified in temperament, policies and values than the Repub. If you and like minded voters are going to refuse to vote for the Dem. candidate until the candidate emerges who embodies all of the socialist and humanistic values you hold dear, you are going to be waiting a very long time. And if you refuse to vote until such a candidate emerges, or vote for a 3rd party candidate, then you will be playing a role in helping elect candidates who will do more harm to those values than the losing Dem. would have. The answer in this, as in so many things in life, is reasonable compromise.

Anonymous said...

"If you and like minded voters are going to refuse to vote for the Dem. candidate until the candidate emerges who embodies all of the socialist and humanistic values you hold dear, you are going to be waiting a very long time. "

Dumb straw man. Some of us are holding out for them to hold 1 value we hold dear.

MS said...

Anonymous (Are you Anonymous 1, 2, or 3?)

What’s the use.

A straw man?

So, before the actual election, did you see anything in Trump’s speech or conduct that suggested he shared even one of the values you want a candidate to espouse?

And Clinton’s speech and conduct demonstrated that she shared absolutely none of those values? Her policies favoring public education? Her policies intended to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and to combat global warming? Her policies on immigration to grant the Dreamers citizenship? Her policies to support labor unions and oppose right-to-work laws? Her policies on foreign aid to provide financial assistance to Third World Countries, countries that Trump refers to as “hell holes”? Her policies to support women and to be a spokesperson for their interests? If none of these policies are what you are interested in, then I question what, exactly, are the policies you are interested in that would trump (sorry) all of the above?

Did the policies that concerned RMcD regarding her affiliation w/ Wall St. interests and her propensity to advocate U.S. involvement in foreign conflicts nullify all of the other policies mentioned above? And, if so, did Trump say anything that suggested his inarticulate policies did not have the same defects?

And are you saying that prior Democratic candidates – Obama, Kerry, Gore – failed to embrace any of your values? If so, then I have absolutely no idea what the values are that you hold so dearly.

Anonymous said...

Professed values are not real values. The morality we let them get away with is markedly different than the morality one would let their spouse, friend, or neighbor get away with. Similarly, yes Trump professed some values (cheap affordable healthcare, ending empire, draining the swamp, etc) people on the left accept, but does he believe them? Doubtful. Protean monsters are not to be championed, regardless of professions of goodness.

MS said...


You have offered a psychological explanation of why voters feel betrayed & therefore do not vote, or vote for 3rd party candidates. I do empathize w/ their disgruntlement. But you have not offered an argument that demonstrates the influence their sense of alienation has on their voting decisions rationally advances their interests vs. if they had voted for the Dem. candidate. What I have sought to demonstrate above is those voting decisions, born out of a sense of alienation, have actually hurt them more than had they voted for the Dem. candidate they didn’t trust. Had Clinton been elected, the election reforms you advocate, re voter suppression and gerrymandering, would more likely have been accomplished and been sustained in the liberal S. Ct. she would have created. Those reforms would have gone a long way to ameliorating the causes of that alienation. That opportunity has now been lost for at least 30 yrs. Had Gore been elected – if Nader’s supporters had appreciated the practical futility of their devotion – the opposites of the majority decisions in Citizens United & Heller would have resulted & have undone much of the political injustice & social trauma caused by tycoon & corporate donors & the NRA.

It’s this failure to appreciate how these voting patterns are actually hurting them that I have little patience for, an attitude that has aroused your indignation. But your indignation does not address the merits of the argument that the voting patterns are actually harming their interests. In so doing you are rationalizing their continuation. Not pointing out the defects in the rationality of those sentiments, in order to mollify the psychological hurt that gives rise to them, does nothing to prevent them from recurring. That my statements may seem unsympathetic does not detract from their validity & honesty. The basis for my sense of futility is reinforced by the kinds of comments I have seen here. I have not seen any rational argument that demonstrates my position re the effect on the Ct., & its implication re social reform, is erroneous. Rather, I have seen a lot of rhetoric, insults, indignation and hyperbole, but no rational argument.

Some of the criticisms you level at Clinton & Obama are valid. While you mention their failures, you fail to mention the measures they supported that promoted the interests of those you advocate for. You are not presenting a balanced picture. We can argue about NAFTA until we’re blue in the face, but there are economists who argue, although it had adverse effects on some workers, the net effects on the economy and other workers were favorable. Your criticism of Obama likewise lacks balance. He succeeded in getting Obamacare passed, which many now regard as a success. Would it have been better had he supported a single payer system. Yes, But would it have passed, I doubt it. And what about his support of the bail-out of GM. And his executive order on DACA. You mention none of these.

Overall, I believe you do not take into account the diversity of political views in this country. The U.S. is a melting pot of millions of political & social interests acting at cross purposes. Trying to get elected in this atmosphere by advancing the causes of some voters, w/o alienating significant segments of other voters, is a herculean task. Then, after being elected, fulfilling the promises by obtaining consensus in Congress is no easy task. When the candidate fails to fulfill those promises, not for lack of trying, voters accuse him of hypocrisy, as some of the commenters here are doing. We on the left are not the only voices entitled to be expressed & wield power. As much as we may disagree w/ the views of the Repub.’s & conservatives, they too have a voice & wield obstructive power. To expect a liberal candidate to succeed in satisfying all, nay, even most, of the demands of the liberal constituency in this environment is unrealistic.

Jerry Fresia said...


Let me respond this way: I'm thinking of people I actually know. Many never got out of high school. They have terrible jobs and their family/social lives are terrible as well. Lots of financial stress. Lots of alcoholism. My father was a machinist and my mother a secretary and back in the 50s and 60s, it was difficult for them to raise a family with no outside help, but their situation was hugely better than their counterparts today. These people (I'm thinking of my cousins now and their kids) ought to be the natural constituency of the Democrats who claim to be on their side, but with the various trade agreements, stagnant wages, endless wars that chew up people like them, and endless false promises (95% of all jobs created under Obama were either part time or temporary), they really have come to despise Democrats. Not only is it transparent that most Dems have no interest in them except for their vote, they are slick, rich, and phony. So these people have been captured by Fox news. Their hostility toward Democrats is rational for sure. Their embrace of the right wing may not be if you believe that right wing politicians are going to do more harm to their life chances than would Democrats, but Democrats have savaged their life chances already. Many just withdraw and don't vote, which is supremely rational.

I think the insight that these people have that isn't shared by liberals is that these people are screwed no matter who they vote for. HRC bravely touted $15 min wage, IN SOME AREAS, all the while she hugs and kisses George W and Obama and Bill as they rake it in and hang out with billionaires and Hollywood Types. The system is beyond corrupt and these people get it.

I remember when Fidel came to NYC in 1960. I don't remember the story exactly but I believe the hotel he was supposed to stay him rejected him for some reason, so he stayed in a hotel in Harlem that was opened for him and was seen plucking a chicken, or some such thing, in the 5th floor window. That's solidarity. That's sticking it to power. That's choosing sides. Now compare that to the Senator from Pfizer, Corey Booker or Harris, who tip toes all over the place. Right wingers play the "I'm on your side" game better than Dems. As far as policy goes, it doesn't matter for many. I agree with Chomsky who says, as do endless studies, that the bottom 70% are ignored when it comes to policy. Don't you think they know it? Politics isn't a rational head game.

s. wallerstein said...

Jerry Fresia,

What you say above is very eloquent and no doubt an accurate description of the mentality of a certain type of Trump voter.

It raises an interesting ethical question, to which I have no answer: to what extent oppressed and/or exploited people can held responsible for making or not making rational decisions which affect their lives?

You as well as MS agree that for a working class white person in the U.S. a vote against Trump, for the lesser evil, Clinton, would have been a rational decision, even though Clinton, as I agree, is hypocritical, tied to Wall St., and neoliberal.

Many of them, as you point out above, however, voted for Trump or did not bother to vote. Should they be held responsible for that in the same way we would hold responsible the elite for all their noxious decisions or is there a special more lenient standard for oppressed and/or exploited people?

I honestly am puzzled by the question and would love to hear everyone's opinion.

Jerry Fresia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jerry Fresia said...


It's an interesting question but lately I have been thinking that we intellectuals are in our heads too much and we see the world through the lens of rationality too much as though everything can be thought out, figured out, calmly, cooly, practically disinterestedly as I think the Professor argues (if I understand him) Marx dealt with the world. I'm no scholar, so I'm probably off the deep end on this, but I was struck by the notion that I heard recently that the body thinks, and by the comment of Ken Robinson (TED talks) who says, in a friendly joking way, that professors think that the function of their bodies is to get their heads to meetings.

Here's Cornel West on Chomsky, whom he praises sincerely: "So he believes in not just the power of reason but the power of transparency and the power of clarity as themselves fundamentally just agents of change. Beckett, Chekhov, Schopenhauer, they are not part of his world. I think he has a limited grasp of the role of the nonrational, and so he easily pushes it aside, so he really believes that once people are exposed to the clear analysis that he has somehow they will catch on."

But my guess is this: people who believe that all those millions of people who live a precarious existence and think their voting the wrong way is somehow not rational haven't felt outrage at bankers after losing their homes or seriously worried about paying the bills, or had people with titles and credentials look down their noses at them in awhile. Fine to ask questions about the rationality of the have-nots, but let's also ask why intellectuals think our institutions are legitimate.

So let's say the Dems take control of both chambers and Booker or Harris becomes president in 2020. Based upon the history of the last 40 years, does anyone believe that the lives of those on the bottom half will be that much improved? Data suggest otherwise. It has been one long continuous slide or in some cases stagnation. Haven't the Clinton's, Obama, Schumer, Pelosi and the rest proven themselves to be staunch neoliberals? With out the social movements of the 30s and 60s can we expect the legislative achievements of those decades? Finance capital has displace industrial capital. Dems fear their base. Where was the Dem leadership when all the militant teachers were winning victories in several states, for example? How many Dems seriously are going to spend some political capital on pushing medicare for all? and have the Congress stand up to the Executive on the question of making war? The question isn't only why the people at the bottom don't vote their interest; the question is why in the US is there not a party that truly represents and is on the side of the bottom half of the population and is not in the pocket of capital?

s. wallerstein said...

Jerry Fresia,

I don't see how we are going to get out of this mess except through Marxian, Chomskyian or Wolffian rationality. Schopenhauer, by the way, is in favor of rationality himself, except being an elitist, he doesn't believe that the masses or even most philosophy professors are capable of it.

Agreed that the Democrats have not done much for the working class or precariat. Why didn't they vote for Jill Stein? Above all, why did they vote for Trump?

It seems to me that to say they voted for Trump as a protest against neoliberal Democrats, which may be the case, is to imagine that they have the mentality of teenagers. Teenagers do all kinds of stupid things as a protest against the dull, banal "rationality" of their parents and teachers. As we get older, we learn that the best way to rebel against the dull, banal "rationality" of our parents is to construct rational alternatives in our own lives, not to drug ourselves or to follow false gurus. That is, the only alternative to neoliberal rationality is socialist rationality or at least cooperative rationality.

Jerry Fresia said...

S. Wallerstein,

I'm not against rationality as such but I think that there is more to rationality than ideas and calculation.

Second, if we are going to examine rationality as understood, why look DOWN at those with the least education who are
being exploited, why not look UP and ask why it is that the oil companies, to name one sector for example, are expanding production in the face of the eclipse of the human race?

I like Camu's thought: “In such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, not to be on the side of the executioners.” So if I am going to question or examine the non-rationality of actors, I will start at the top.

s. wallerstein said...

Jerry Fresia,

I wasn't suggesting that you're against rationality.

I agree with Camus. That's Professor Wolff's "which side are you on?" basic question. It's interesting how Camus, unlike his rival Sartre, has made a come-back. Gabriel Boric, surely the most interesting and articulate young figure on the Chilean left, is always quoting Camus.

I think it's worthwhile, however, to ponder the psychology of the exploited too, without looking down at or idealizing them.

MS said...


Let me start by asserting my bona fides. I strongly empathize w/ the people you are referring to. Though I am an atty., I am not elitist and I am far from wealthy. My parents never owned a car; they never owned a home - we rented. My father was socially liberal and always voted Dem. Neither the N word, nor its Yiddish equivalent, were ever allowed to be spoken. I have always been a firm supporter of labor unions, affirmative action, and welfare for the poor. When I practiced law, I almost always represented plaintiffs – in union litigation, in wrongful termination lawsuits, in discrimination lawsuits. (I say “almost always” because I once represented a union being sued by a union member for allegedly violating the duty of fair representation [I won], represented a defend. in a divorce action, and, towards the end of my career, due to circumstances, represented insurance co.’s – I hated it and stopped practicing law.)

To answer your points, I will make 2 short statements, which I will then elaborate on: 1. The people your are referring to have too high an expectation of what gov., in a democracy, can do to alleviate their circumstances; 2. In some elections, your best vote is not to improve circumstances, but to prevent them from getting worse.

Re pt. 1, this in large part is related to what I asserted in my comment above re the millions of diverse political and social interests in this country that operate at cross purposes. Just on this blog, most of whose readers & contributors fall somewhere on the liberal spectrum, there have been strident differences of opinion. The alienated people you refer to – they do not all share the same political views; some of them are gun enthusiasts, and will reject any candidate who proposes gun leg.; some of them dislike blacks, and will reject any candidate who supports affirm. action; some of them are religious zealots, and will reject any candidate who opposes prayer in schools or is pro choice; some of them, despite their circumstances, hate anyone who sounds like a communist or socialist, etc.. etc. (Re the latter, you, like Chomsky, may believe that all they need is to be educated about how they have been brainwashed; it’s not that easy – a lot of people are simply not amenable to education; they will stand by their views regardless how rational an argument is offered them – witness Anonymous 2 on this blog.) In this environment, a progressive candidate who wants to get elected has to walk a very fine line in order to win the support of enough voters, w/o at the same time alienating too many voters. It is no easy task. In order to do this, they have to express views reduced to the lowest common denominator. And then, if they get elected, they have to deal w/ members of the opposing party who will obstruct them at every turn. You refer to their efforts as “false promises”; they are not false promises, they are blocked promises. E.g., many criticized Obama for breaking his promise to close Guantanamo; he tried, several times; the Repub.’s blocked him.

The anger of people who feel betrayed may be understandable from a psychological standpoint, but if they allow that anger to influence them to vote in ways contrary to their interests, it is not justifiable from a rational standpoint. You say “their hostility towards Dem.’s is rational, for sure.” Well, it is not rational, and your saying it is just further enabling them to continue in their irrationality. What you should be doing is telling them that by voting for Trump, they made their circumstances worse. And by not voting for Clinton, however bad a campaign she ran and however obnoxious she came across, they lost the opportunity to have a liberal S. Ct. that would have sustained leg. that would have invalidated the voter suppression and gerrymandering schemes that prevent progressive candidates, who would promote their interests, from getting elected.

(At this pt., I am close to exhausting the permitted 4,096 character limit. So, asking Prof. Wolff’s indulgence, I will complete this comment in a 2nd part.)

MS said...

(MS, Part 2)

Your reference to Castro is a red herring. Castro was not elected. He seized power via a military insurgency and retained it by suppressing dissent. If you wield power that way, you can, by ukase, implement any reforms you want. But do you think, by plucking chickens in public, he could get elected in the U.S.? Many of the alienated would reject him because he was a Communist. And, if elected, would plucking chickens help him get leg. passed in a Congress whose Repub. members would block the progressive measures he proposed? Moreover, if you had to choose between being the beneficiary of Castro’s progressive measures in Cuba, enforced by the brutal suppression of dissent vs. insuring freedom of speech and the press in a democracy where the need for compromise between liberal and conservative factions means many of the progressive measures Castro can implement by ukase will not be passed, which would you choose? Most Americans – even the alienated - would choose the latter. In a democracy as diverse as ours, it is impossible to have the best of both worlds.

I said above “many of the progressive measures .. will not be passed.” But some will, not immediately, but over time. E.g., Obamacare, even in its limited form, took 60 yrs. to get passed. It passed w/o a single Repub. vote. Those alienated voters, who expect immediate results just because they voted for Dem.’s who they thought were going to remedy their ills once in office, have unrealistic expectations - not because the Dem.’s are frauds and liars, but by virtue of the countervailing forces in a democracy. Social progress requires time and hard work. One, 2, 3 elections may not be enough. Elections are cyclical. Dem.’s may win 2 elections; then Repub.’s get elected, and do what they can to undo what the Dem.’s did. (By the way, your remark in a previous comment that the Clintons and Obama have contempt for the impoverished elements whose votes they seek, is, I firmly believe, false. And your making such assertions feeds the fury that further enables irrational voting habits.)

Aside from the limitations caused by the country’s opinion diversity, there are practical limitations on what any gov. can do to alleviate social inequities. No matter how much progressive leg. is passed, success in life will always require a measure of initiative that no leg. can provide. This may sound like I’m blaming the victim, but I do believe that many – certainly not all, and not even most, but many - who complain about social inequities fail to make constructive use of their time to educate themselves and acquire the skills that will allow them to survive in a competitive society. W/ the further automation and refinement of AI, it is just going to get worse. No amount of leg. can prevent it, or compensate for it. It is going to happen – it’s what humans call “progress.”

Re pt. 2, because of the countervailing forces in our country, voters should not expect the victory of the candidates they supported to result in marked improvement in their personal conditions in the immediate, or even near immediate, future. It takes years, sometimes decades. But this does not mean their voting for the Dem.’s was ill-advised. So voting prevented things from getting worse – which, in terms of their interests, will generally be the case if Repub.’s get elected. The 2016 election is a case in pt. Even if the criticisms of Clinton as a foreign policy adventurist and tool of Wall St. were true – which I believe is subject to debate – there is no question that she would have nominated S. Ct. candidates who were far more liberal than Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. We knew the Repub.’s had kept Scalia’s seat open, and, if Trump were elected, it would be filled by a conservative. Trump’s election has made things much worse, and will have repercussions that will haunt liberals and the Sanders supporters who refused to vote, or (unbelievably) voted for Trump for decades. Yet, there are still commenters on this blog insist that the S. Ct. is an irrelevant issue. Oh well, one can only do so much.

J. Fleming said...


Life is very complex. Don't you think that there were many court decisions which ultimately led to Citizen's United? Ruskin in Modern Painters makes the point that clarity is bought at the price of limitation. He gives the example of the open book and the embroidered handkerchief on the lawn. Viewed from the distance of a quarter mile they are indistinguishable; from closer we can see which is which, but not read the book or trace the embroidery on the handkerchief; as we go nearer we can read the text and trace the embroidery but cannot see the fibers of the paper or the threads in the handkerchief and on and on. At which point do we see it clearly? Was it, as you said with clarity, the election of Bush rather than Gore? Or has it been a process that has been occurring for some time as the other court decisions seem to indicate. Methinks the system has been designed to be this way from the conception.
For example:
Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819) – Corporate charters are ruled to have constitutional protection.
Munn v. State of Illinois (1876) – Property cannot be used to unduly expropriate wealth from a community (later reversed).
Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad (1886) – The substance of this case (a tax dispute) is of little significance, but this fateful case subsequently was cited as precedent for granting corporations constitutional rights.
Noble v. Union River Logging Railroad Company (1893) – A corporation first successfully claims Bill of Rights protection (5th Amendment)
Lochner v. New York (1905) – States cannot interfere with “private contracts” between workers and corporation — marks the ascension of “substantive due process” (later mitigated after President Roosevelt threatened to add Justices to the Court).
Liggett v. Lee (1933) – Chain store taxes prohibited as violation of corporations’ “due process” rights.
Ross v. Bernhard (1970) – 7th Amendment right (jury trial) granted to corporations.
U.S. v. Martin Linen Supply (1976) – A corporation successfully claims 5th Amendment protection against double jeopardy.
Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976)
That case established the legal framework sanctioning billions of dollars of independent private campaign spending. In it, the Court ruled that limits on campaign donations — direct donations to candidates — are constitutional but said it was unconstitutional to limit non-donation expenditures, such as independently funded advertisements.
Marshall v. Barlow (1978) – The Court creates 4th Amendment protection for corporations — federal inspectors must obtain a search warrant for a safety inspection on corporate property.
First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti (1978) – Struck down a Massachusetts law that banned corporate spending to influence state ballot initiatives, even spending by corporate political action committees. Spending money to influence politics is now a corporate “right.” Justice Rehnquist’s dissent is a recommended read.
Central Hudson Gas v. Public Service Comm. of NY (1980) – This oft-cited decision concerns a state ban on ads promoting electricity consumption.
Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce (1990) – Upheld limits on corporate spending in elections.
Thompson v. Western States Medical Center (2002)
Nike v Kasky (2002) – Nike claims California cannot require factual accuracy of the corporation in its PR campaigns. California’s Supreme Court disagreed. The U.S. Supreme Court took up the case on appeal, then issued a non-ruling in 2003. See our comprehensive archive on this case.
Randall v Sorrell (2006) While this case dealt with the legality of Vermont’s contribution limits, not corporations directly, it carried important implications for corporate political influence, as Daniel Greenwood detailed in his amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court.

s. wallerstein said...


I have no idea whether most U.S. citizens would chose the social benefits (free healthcare, good free education including university education, etc.) as well as a childhood free of the drug culture and violence they get in Cuba over the free speech and freedom of press they enjoy in the U.S., etc., but it has been said and I believe that it's true that if you are going to be born poor in Latin America, you're better off being born in Cuba than anywhere else. Fidel's system isn't competing with the state of California, but with his Latin American neighbors.

MS said...

Jerry & s. wallerstein,

While I was writing and editing my prior 2 comments, you were engaged in a tete a’ tete that, in my view, contains questionable pts. that should be addressed.

Jerry, I represented many of those people who lost their homes, are living on fixed incomes, etc. I did not represent them because it made me wealthy. But that does not mean because they were taken advantage of, it was a smart use of their rt. to vote to vote for Trump. It was not. And my sympathy for their circumstances will not inhibit me from saying what they did was irrational. It was, by any measure of what it means to be rational. Does it make me an elitist snob to speak the truth? (By the way, your statement you are not a scholar is false modesty. You wrote a lengthy book, w/ many footnotes and scholarly references, arguing that the Constitution is not the paradigm of freedom & liberty many claim it is.)

S. Wallertstein, you ask whether the disadvantaged, because of their circumstances, deserve to be judged by a different standard of rationality than the more privileged who take advantage of them. No, I do not believe so. There are not different standards of rationality based on socio-economic circumstances. From an epistemic standpoint, one can argue that whether a decision is rational is a function of the information an individual has available – a decision by a person who has limited access to information may be rational, when the same decision by one who has unlimited access to information may be irrational. By this standard, was there any limitation on the information available to voters in making their decision between Trump & Clinton? I do not believe so – any limitations were self-imposed, e.g., choosing Fox News over PBS. Isn’t what source you choose for information also subject to a rationality test? And using your vote to throw a tantrum is not a rational use of the rt. to vote. Tantrums are not to be encouraged or rationalized, whether they are conducted by teenagers or poor adults. Any person who acts irrationally, rich, poor, or middle class, should be held to account for their irrationality,

Jerry, you ask, if Booker or Harris is elected, will either markedly improve the circumstances of those whose votes they need to get elected. No, not markedly, maybe a little. But here, again, you are fostering a belief voters have a rational rt. to expect immediate change just because they voted for a candidate who professed being progressive. Whoever is elected, s/he will have enough of a challenge to undo the harm that Trump’s administration did, just to get us back to where we were at the end of Obama’s term, let alone improving circumstances to be better. What Trump did to the S. Ct. (I know, who cares) will not be undone during the next Dem. administration, nor during the Dem. administration after that, or the one after that.

You note, w/ criticism, “It has been one long continuous slide or in some cases stagnation.” Yes, that is the nature of a pluralistic democracy. Is there any doubt the average American in 2018 is better off than the average American was in 1900, even 1940? Did not the civil rights laws improve the lives of most African-Americans? Is there still racism and discrimination, yes. But there are now legal tools to fight back – I know, because I fought such legal battles. I also know from talking to my daughter and her friends, there is a lot less racism than there was in the 1950s. In terms of economic conditions, even the alienated have pleasure comforts – washing machines, dish washers, flat screen tv’s, cars, cell phones, etc. – that make their lives easier than their counterparts had. You would claim that they are brainwashed. They would say, no, we like these things and don’t want to give them up. And in terms of gay rights, no such rights even existed in the 1950s. The idea gay people could get married in a ceremony protected by the Constitution was unthinkable in the 1950s, indeed even in the 1980s.

I’ve run out of space, so I’ll stop here, though there is more I could say in rebuttal.

MS said...

Joseph Fleming,

I assume by your comment that you are either a law professor or an atty. At least you are making a stab at a rational argument addressing my contention re the S. Ct. and the effect Bush’s election had on the Citizens United v. FEC (2010) decision. You list a lot of cases, a response to which would require more space than is available in this venue. Such a response, however, is not necessary for me to address your argument.

By virtue of your reference to Ruskin’s point that, as things in the world undergo closer inspection, what appeared to be the case from a distance may not be the case upon closer inspection, you are suggesting that my argument re Citizens, that the case would have had a different outcome had Gore been elected does not survive closer scrutiny. You ask, “Don’t you think that there were many court decisions which ultimately led to Citizens United” as if the outcome was inevitable, even if Gore had been elected. By this I must assume you mean “ultimately led to the majority decision in Citizens United.” Of course not. As w/ any decision by the S. Ct., especially a 5/4 decision, the majority opinion will rely on certain precedents, and give them a certain interpretation. The dissent may cite the same precedents, and offer the same or different interpretation, and will often cite other cases the majority has not cited, may even have avoided (which the dissent in Citizens in fact did). That the majority relies on certain precedents does not mean that those precedents “:ultimately [lead]” to the majority opinion as an inevitable outcome. For example, the leading precedent before Brown v. Bd. of Ed. (1954) was Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which established the separate but equal doctrine as a justification for de jure segregation. After 58 yrs., the Ct. rejected this doctrine and reversed Plessy. That Plessy had lasted for 58 yrs, obviously did not make an outcome contrary to Brown inevitable. The Ct. unanimously made it not inevitable. And it was the composition of the Warren Ct. in 1954 that made it not inevitable.

You cite a lot of decisions that have absolutely no relevance to the outcome in Citizens. Yes, several of them recognized corp.’s are considered “persons” under the 14th Amend., but that alone was not suff. to entail the majority opinion in Citizens. Moreover, even if it were, a differently constituted Ct. could have, if it wished, reversed those decisions, as the Ct. did re Plessy, and held that corp.’s will no longer be regarded as “persons” under the 14th Amend.. The primary case you cite that did have bearing on the outcome in Citizens was Buckley v. Valeo (1976). But J. Stevens in his dissent gave Buckley a much broader prophylactic interpretation than did the majority opinion, written by J. Kennedy. Moreover, Stevens took issue w/ the majority’s increasing the scope of the questions presented to the Ct. beyond those that had been included in the original granting of the appeal. And it was that broadening of the scope of questions to be addressed that made the majority decision particularly devastating to those interests supporting campaign finance reform.

Your comment is predicated on the argument that, even if Gore had been elected, the majority outcome in Citizens would have been inevitable because of the precedents you cite. Again, of course not. Had J.’s Roberts and Alito not been on the Ct., Stevens’ dissent, joined by J.’s Breyer, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor, fortified by 2 additional justices, who, undoubtedly would have been liberal brethren of the other 3, would have been the majority opinion. That outcome would have had significant consequences for the political process in this country. 1st, the expansion of the questions addressed by the majority, which the dissent disagreed w/, would not have occurred. 2nd, Steven’ more prophylactic interpretation of Valeo would have become the law of the land. So, no, you have not demonstrated that my argument re the effect that Bush’s election, rather than Gore’s, had on the Ct. and the Citizens United decision is invalid.

MS said...

s. wallerstein,

I am starting to feel like I’m playing a game of whack a mole.

Well, I am quite sure that most Americans would not be willing to sacrifice their rights under the Bill of Rights in order to live in Cuba in order to enjoy the benefits of free health care and free education, including free university education. Why? Because in addition to the freedoms of speech and press that I referred to – which, alone would arguably be enough to discourage them from making the exchange – there is also the freedom of religion. I am quite confident that the millions of Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, etc., in the U.S. would not be willing to move to a Communist country that does not recognize freedom of religion and would abridge their right to worship as they please. Now, while it is true that under Raul Castro, such abridgement has been relaxed. when Fidel Castro was plucking chickens in N.Y., which was the historical context in which this question was raised, such restrictions on religious worship were enforced.

Add to the freedom of religion, the right to privacy and the right against warrantless searches under the 4th Amendment – are Cubans protected by a requirement that their police obtain a warrant based on probable cause before they break into their residences? Do you think Americans would be willing to give up that protection in exchange for free health care and education. I doubt it. Finally, how about all those guns Americans believe they have the right to hoard under the 2nd Amend. Could they bring those guns with them to Cuba?

Finally, yes, poor people in other parts of Latin America might be willing to move to Cuba to improve their living conditions. But, in so doing, would they be giving up the same rights that Americans – even poor Americans - are guaranteed under the Bill of Rights? (Please don’t respond w/ a quote from Anatole France that, “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread.” The Bill of Rights provides even the poor w/ protections that France’s quote does not take into account, and which they would not be willing to give up.)

MS said...

I guess I had better clarify my last comment before I am accused of gross insensitivity. I was not referring to the commenters as moles; I was referring to the comments.

MS said...

There is 1 more pt. I wish to make regarding what it means to be rational.

Marilyn vos Savant is a journalist said to have the highest recorded IQ – 228. (Her name is not a pseudonym. It is her mother’s maiden name.) She had a column in Parade Mag., in which she would answer Q’s on various subj.’s and solve riddles. 1 Q she addressed related to the program Let’s Make A Deal, hosted by Monty Hall. A contestant would be confronted w/ 3 doors. Behind 2 doors were clunker prizes, e.g., a goat. Behind the 3rd door was a valuable prize, e.g., a car. The contestant would choose a door. Then Hall would open 1 of the other doors, revealing a goat. (He knew which doors hid the goats.) The contestant was given the choice of staying w/ the 1st door, or switching. The Q was, should the contestant switch?

Savant’s answer was the contestant should always switch. After she published this answer, she received letters from prof.’s of math, a statistician from NIH, and other pundits all stating she was wrong & ignorant. Among the math.’s who disagreed was Paul Erdos. Erdos was a renowned mathematician. He was an eccentric who spent his life as an itinerant, traveling to the homes of friends, spending weeks doing math, and publishing papers. He holds the record for the most published articles on math. His reputation in math circles is so prestigious there exists an index referred to as an Erdos No. The Erdos No. 1 indicates the mathematician was a co-author of a paper w/ Erdos; No. 2 indicates s/he was a co-author on a paper w/ a mathematician who was a co-author w/ Erdos; etc. Approximately 200,000 mathematicians have an Erdos No.

All these smart people argued since the contestant’s 1st choice was random, there is no basis for believing switching will improve the odds. It turns out, Savant is correct. The reasoning, which is based on Baye’s theorem, is quite straightforward. Since there are 2 goats to 1 car at the outset, the odds are 2 to 1 the contestant’s 1st random choice is a goat. When Hall opens 1 of the doors to reveal a goat, & the odds are the contestant has already chosen the other goat, the odds are the car is behind the other door. So switch.

Erdos was a very smart man. Does that mean that his reaction to the Q was rational? No, it does not. He had all the information he needed to make the correct, rational answer. His intuition told him Savant was wrong. His intuition was the same most people have - you should not switch, it’s bad karma. But, when one thinks about it, the correct answer is rather obvious. And you don’t need to know Baye’s theorem to figure it out.

Erdos’ intuition did not have any adverse political aspects. Let’s look at the thinking of a liberal voter in Fla. in 2000. You are a senior citizen living on a fixed pension; or you are working at a job earning minimum wage; etc. Nader’s politics and his consumer activism appeal to you. You are inclined to vote for him. If elected, won’t he be looking out for your interests? If you are paying attention, you should know Nader has absolutely no chance of being elected. He is not even on the ballot in all 50 states (only 43). Most people are not taking his candidacy seriously. A lot of them are Repub.’s, who state they think Nader is a joke. There is this other guy, Gore, who is also liberal. Not as liberal as Nader, but certainly more liberal than Bush. Gore has a far better chance of winning than Nader. So, do you go w/ your heart, & vote for Nader. You reason, my 1 vote won’t matter. If Gore is going to win, he’ll win w/o my vote. So why not satisfy my psychological need for rebellion and vote for Nader. Enough liberals think as you, Gore loses 96,000 votes, and loses the election. And then the S. Ct. decides Citizens United against your interests.

Was the Fla. voter’s decision a rational one. No, it was not. Like the Monty Hall Q, all that was required was a bit more thought. You should not gamble w/ your vote. You should go into the voting booth thinking your vote could determine the outcome, and that your life depends on it.

s. wallerstein said...

Which rights are most valued depends on which society you live in. In the U.S. we are told from the cradle that the right to pray in the Church of your choice (the family that prays together, stays together, etc.) and the right to have an arsenal in your home are crucial rights. People in other societies might value the right to free dental care for their 10 year old son, the right of that child to free university education and the right of that child to grow up in a neighborhood free of drugs and gang violence (so common in poor neighborhood in Latin America and in the U.S.) are more important.

Cuba, by the way, has an infant mortality rate of 4.5, while the U.S. has one of 5.8 and before you scream that those are unreliable commie figures, I take them from the CIA Fact Book.

As for the right to free speech, as someone with a big mouth who has been suspended, expelled, thrown out of, told to go to his room, hit, asked not to come back, told to leave the classroom, excluded and fired from countless classes, social situations and jobs since age 6 or 7 for his heretical and critical remarks, I value the right to free speech more than you can imagine, but I do note that many people value the right of their child to free dental care more highly and that's the way the cookie crumbles. In any case, if I hadn't had money to pay for the dentist for my children, I might see the issue differently.

MS said...

s. wallerstein,

You know, there is that old advertiser’s ploy called bait and switch. And that is exactly what you are doing.

The original point that was made by Jerry Fresia was that if more Democratic candidates behaved like Fidel Castro, plucking chickens to make them more appealing to the common man, then American citizens – not citizens in Latin America, not citizens in China, not citizens in Africa – would be more inclined to vote for them. My point was that there are these other policies that Castro advocated – that in fact enabled him to implement the social reforms that you believe Americans would find attractive. And those policies, like suppressing political dissent by jailing opponents and torturing them, gave him autocratic power to do as he pleased and enact the social reforms you refer to. If that was what it would take in order to accomplish those social reform w/o opposition - abrogation of the Bill of Rights, which most Americans value and hold in high esteem - then most Americans would reject Castro as a candidate, no matter how appealing his plucking chickens was.

Democratic candidates in the U.S. have to deal w/ the opposition of other parties and their candidates, and the voters who support them. And those candidates, and their supporters, do not advocate the social reforms that you find appealing. Unlike Castro, those Democratic candidates cannot stifle their opposition and promise that they can get social reforms enacted by canceling the Bill of Rights. And having Democratic candidates pluck chickens in order to make them appear more appealing to the voters is not going to overcome the fact that they cannot cancel the Bill of Rights and enact social reforms by autocratic edict.

MS said...


It's Bayes' Theorem, not Baye's Theorem.

s. wallerstein said...

I'm not playing bait and switch. I'm following the conversational flow. Since, as far as I can see, you don't know much about Latin America nor do you understand that not everyone everywhere values the same things as people in the U.S. do (you call them "Americans", but for me Cubans and Chileans are as Americans as you are), I tried to explain how people outside the U.S. might value the right to dental care over the rights that you, as a U.S. citizen, value.

However, I have discovered with the years that in general people in the U.S. have no interest in learning about realities outside their nation and you are no exception to that. The almost complete inability of people in the U.S. to understand how the world outside of their borders functions is one of the reasons why the U.S. as a world power is in decadence.

MS said...

s. wallerstein,

I was going to let your last comment pass – why respond and make it look like I’m playing tit for tat.

Upon further reflection, however, I decided I should respond. Here is why. In this thread, which was initiated by individuals taking issue w/ Prof. Wolff’s assertion he, like I, have little patience for people who vote for 3rd party candidates, we were addressing a very serious issue re the voting habits of U.S. citizens. Those voting habits- which convinced many people who felt betrayed and forgotten by the Dem.’s to vote for Trump - had disastrous consequences for those very same people. I offered 2 serious reasons why those self-defeating voting habits are not justified: (1) these voters fail to appreciate in a democracy, due to competing interests, the victory of the more progressive candidate cannot guarantee the measures s/he promises will come to pass during the candidate’s term, or even the next progressive candidate’s term, or the one after that, but require numerous victories over time to be enacted, e.g., Obamacare. The failure to get such social reforms passed in the 1st , 2nd, or even 3rd voting cycle is not a reason to conclude the Dem. candidate lied and betrayed them; and (2), even if past Dem. candidates failed to deliver on most, perhaps any, of the promises, s/he may have succeeded in preventing things from getting worse w/ respect to their interests, e.g., via the veto power, which, if a Repub. candidate gets elected is a foregone conclusion. In preventing things from getting worse, the candidate is making it easier for the next successful Dem. candidate to achieve the social reforms the predecessor failed to achieve; every time things get worse because a Repub. is elected, there is that much more that needs to be undone before the Dem. can even address the social reforms s/he promised.

I offered these arguments in good faith. What was the response? Jerry Fresia claimed if Dem. candidates behaved more like Castro when he came to N.Y. and plucked chickens in Harlem, more voters would be inclined to vote for the Dem.’s. I pointed out you have to take the bad w/ the good. Castro did not need to pluck chickens in Cuba in order to become president. He seized power. He did not have to pluck chickens to win votes to get his social reforms passed – he simply signed an edict and suppressed any political opposition by jailing his critics. That it is not how things can get done in the U.S., and most Americans (a term that I will get to a moment) would not have it any other way.

What did I get in response? You claimed my use of the term “Americans” was chauvinistic because Latin America and Cuba are also part of the geographic Americas, and my use of the term demonstrated I, like most U.S. citizens, neither know, nor care, anything about Latin America. The name of the country in which I live is the United States of America, so most people use the shortened last term “Americans” to refer to its citizens. Most people in the world understand this and are not offended. There is no United States of Latin America – there are Chileans, Peruvians, Cubans, etc.

I am attempting to address a serious issue w/ what I regard as serious arguments. I am trying to offer explanations to people who read this blog, who may be among the disgruntled voters, not to repeat in 2020 what occurred in 2016, which will have even more disastrous consequences. I am trying to offer rational explanations why they should not feel betrayed – disheartened and disappointed, yes, but not betrayed – so they do not reject the next Dem. candidate and either do not vote or vote for a 3rd party candidate, assuring Trump’s reelection. I know this blog is not read by a large segment of the U.S. pop. (no offense Prof. Wolff), but all it would have taken for Gore to be elected in 2000 would have been for 537 of the 97,421 Nader voters in Fla. to have voted for Gore.

I am willing to be confronted by serious, rational counter-arguments. But ideological potshots that do not address my arguments are not signs of good faith debate.

s. wallerstein said...

When I began to study Spanish in the 10th grade, my teacher explained to us that using the word "American" to refer to U.S. citizens is offensive to Latin Americans and since then I've tried to never use the word to refer to U.S. citizens.

I've spent 41 years in Latin America, and I have almost never heard a Latin American use the word "americano" to refer to people from the U.S. They call them "estadounidenses" (United Statesians), "gringos", "yanquis" (which is derogatory) and at times "norteamericanos".

In fact, the U.S. cultural institute, funded by the U.S. government in Chile, is called
"El Instituto Chileno-Norteamericano de Cultura", not "El Instituto Chileno-Americano de Cultura", which indicates that even the State Department respects the distinction.

MS said...

s. wallerstein,

This is all beside the point. Even if my use of the word "Americans" was arguably insulting, your calling me out on it had no bearing on the argument that I was making about the voting habits of disgruntled U.S. citizens, why that disgruntlement was self-defeating, and why, w/ respect to Democratic candidates, it was not justified. You offered your criticism, however, as if it was relevant and somehow undermined my argument. And what annoys me about that is, some may think that, on a superficial level, it somehow does undermine my argument and will thereby dismiss it, when the argument is aimed at preventing from what happened in 2016 from recurring in 2020, which could very well result in Trump being reelected. And if that happens, not only will the people in the U.S. suffer, but people all around the world will suffer, including the people in Latin America.

As you point out, moreover, Latin Americans often use insulting terms, “gringos” and “yanquis,” to refer to U.S. citizens. So it’s alright for them to insult us, but not alright for us to use a common term such as "Americans" to refer to ourselves, when its not intended to insult them? They get a free pass because, as we know, Americans are obnoxious capitalists who have exploited Latin Americans?

Finally, in a clip that I attached to a comment about John Prine in the Memories post, Prine, no obnoxious jingoist by any means, repeatedly refers to himself as an American.

I figure, if it’s ok for John Prine, it’s ok for me.

s. wallerstein said...

The word "gringo" is not hostile or insulting in Chile (usage differs in each South American country). It's descriptive and can even be affectionate.

Both I and Jerry Fresia (I'm not his spokesperson obviously) have explicitly stated that we would vote for any Democrat over Trump. However, you seem to want us to declare our intentions to vote for a Democrat with a smile, instead of holding our nose. You insist and insist with such a hectoring, sanctimonious and militantly conventional tone that if I were younger and still had a bit of adolescent rebelliousness in my soul, I'd write in "Ralph Nader" or "Angela Davis" out of sheer perversity.

Bravo for Fidel with his chickens. I recall reading about his visit to New York in 1960 when I was 14 and although I had no idea what he represented politically, he became one of my youthful heroes because he wasn't a pompous pharisee like the Democrats and the Republicans then and today.

MS said...

Justice Frankfurter once observed, “Wisdom too often never comes, so one ought not to reject it merely because it comes late.”

Some people never mature beyond what they believed at the age of 14.

I suspect that at this point, if not earlier, Prof. Wolff is thinking, “Hey guys, could you please take your fight outside.”

So, I am going to let this go and let your words speak for themselves.