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Wednesday, November 7, 2018


I have taken my morning walk and had breakfast and I am beginning to regain my cheerful demeanor.  Matt’s cautionary comment was helpful.  It put me in mind of one of my favorite movie scenes from the great 1973 movie The Sting.  I am sure I must have alluded to it before.  Robert Redford goes looking for a legendary con man, Paul Newman, to learn how to take down Robert Shaw, who has had Redford’s buddy killed.  Redford finds Newman in a whore house over a carousel, and after Newman sobers up, he agrees to help Redford.  But he warns Redford [God bless the Internet, on which one can find anything, even a forty-five year old movie script]:  “I don't want a hothead looking to get even, coming back saying......"It ain't enough."  'Cause it's all we're gonna get.”

That is one of the great truths of life, especially of politics.  We took the House and a passel of governorships.  We ousted Scott Walker in Wisconsin and here in North Carolina we won enough state Senate seats to break the supermajority blocking the Democratic governor from vetoing the godawful bills passed by the Legislature.

I’m not going to be a hothead looking to get even, saying it ain’t enough, ‘cause it’s all we’re gonna get.


David Auerbach said...

And Anita Earls won in NC. And Governors. And progress in state legislatures. It took the Republicans 30+ years and buckets of money to get what they got. This is long-distance running. And we survived an amazing amount of Democratic incompetence this season. I wanted to throw a brick when MSNBC started kvelling over investigating Trump.
Republican policies are unpopular; run with that.

MS said...

And a gay man was elected governor of Colorado, and the Democrats prevented Kobach from becoming governor in Kansas.

There is a perpetual battle in the world between progressive and conservative ideologies. Neither side can expect 100% success 100% of the time, or even 60% success 60% of the time. And as I indicated in my comment to the previous post, America was founded on principles of rugged individualism. It is a principle in the DNA of most Americans that I believe is not amenable to arguments for socialist reforms.

On a separate note, after I finished watching the election coverage on PBS, I watched Christiane Amanpour’s show. One of her guests was Yuval Harari, an Israeli historian/anthropologist. Prof. Harari asserted that the three challenges facing mankind’s survival in the 21st Century are nuclear proliferation, climate change and the threats presented by technology/AI. He indicated that responses to all of these challenges require global cooperation, not the kind of nationalism trumpeted by Trump. Regarding the threat presented by advances in technology and AI, he noted that in the 20th Century, workers were combating exploitation. But exploitation recognizes that the exploited are at least needed. Advances in technology and AI are far more threatening, because they make workers irrelevant. And irrelevance does not give workers an adversary they can fight against. His comments sparked my interest in reading his books.

David Palmeter said...

I should be feeling better than I am about it. I take Kevin Drum’s point about the impact of the economy, but it still means that 40% or more Americans think Trump is just fine. I can see why people might like Romney or McCain or Nixon for that matter. But Trump? He’s nothing short of despicable.

This piece from Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire sums up where I am:

PS-Drum, Goddard and Wolff are the three blogs I check about a dozen times a day.

MS said...

After I wrote the above comment, I thought, is the use of the word “mankind” considered politically incorrect? Is one supposed to use a different word, e.g., “humankind,” instead? I guess the answer is Yes. The threats identified by Prof. Harari threaten women as well. My apologies.

Ed Barreras said...

Was anyone else watching the 538 prediction tracker? What a horrible experience! Shortly after the first results came in, the odds for the Dems in the House started to plummet like an anvil. Then, some time around 5pm PST, it actually showed the GOP *favored* to take the House 3 to 5! Ack! Immediate flashbacks to the New York Times election needle from ‘16, which I refused to look at this time around for fear of having my Pavlovian queasiness triggered.

Anyway, in short order Nate Silver came on to say that the model was being “too aggressive” and they were switching to the more “conservative” model. Well, for about an excruciating hour this more conservative model showed the Dems with odds that were only slightly better than even — with a total pickup of just 24 seats. Oy vey! “He just told us he’s turning down the alarm so as to have us not panic, when we know the reality is much worse,” I thought. Well needless to say, once the results started rolling in from all those affluent, college-educated suburbs, things took a turn for the better. I don’t think I’ve ever felt such relief.

As for the results themselves, I choose to accentuate the positive. The Dems won by 9 points, which is similar to the margin they achieved in the ‘08 wave election, when the economy had tanked and we were just emerging from of a hugely unpopular war. That would seem to amount to a pretty substantial rebuke of the current occupant of the White House. Plus: where we lost, we tended to lose by 1-3 points in places T***p won by double digits; we retook that all-important Rust Belt; we retook some governorships that will aid us in drawing congressional districts following the census; the Senate map for Democrats is *much* better next time around.

Gillum’s loss is a huge disappointment. I’m hoping for a miracle with Abrams. But the main lesson I draw from those (potential) losses is that Radical Reconstruction didn’t last nearly long enough.

MS said...

This morning, my daughter confronted me with the following statistic disclosed by yesterday’s election. 50% of men approve of Trump’s performance, w/ 49% disapproving; whereas 39% of women approve, vs. 60% who disapprove. What is wrong with you men, my daughter indignantly asks. (I defended myself by pointing out that I donated my X chromosome to create her.)

Which brings me to a revision regarding the likelihood of socialist reforms ever holding sway in the United States. Support for such reforms may not be forever doomed, but success will take a very long time – approximately 4.6 million years. You see, evidence indicates that the male Y chromosome is deteriorating and may disappear altogether in 4.6 million years. By that time, women will be able to reproduce without men via genetic engineering and other technological advances. A select number of fertile men may still be used to continue natural reproduction, but there will not be enough of them to oppose socialist reforms or elect such misogynistic, power-hungry, imbecilic candidates like Trump. See

David Auerbach said...

Corey Robin points out some things to feel really positive about (in several parts because of size limits here):

It's now 11 am in Germany, where I am, which means it's 5 am in NY. By the time you all wake up, the information upon which this is based may change. But with the vantage of a night's sleep, here is how things look to me, trying to fuse the immediate returns with a longer sense of where the right is and has been and is going.

1. The scariest part of Trump's win in 2016 was that with that agenda, the GOP gained total control over the elected branches of the federal government. With that same agenda, even more so, the GOP last night lost that total control over the elected branches of the federal government.

2. I've been pointing out for two years all the ways in which the GOP agenda—from entitlement spending to budget cuts to health care—has been stymied with total control over the elected branches of the federal government. Having lost that control, they will have an even harder time of it.

3. The three key states in 2016—the three key states that gave Trump his victory with 80,000 votes—were Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Last night, all three of those states elected Democratic senators and governors. (And got rid of the odious Scott Walker who more than anyone began this most recent cycle of epic revanchism on the right.) In fact, if you throw in Ohio, another state that gave Trump his victory, there were 8 statewide races (for senator and governor) in these Upper Midwestern states. Democrats won 7 out of 8 of those statewide races.

David Auerbach said...

4. I said before yesterday that we needed to focus on state legislative races. So far it seems that at least six legislative chambers have flipped—all to the Democrats and away from the Republicans. Also on Twitter, it's being said, the Democrats have gained six trifectas (where one party controls both chambers of the state legislature and the governor's mansion) while the Republicans have lost three. Keep looking at the results all day to confirm or add or revise to this. But it's an important harbinger.

5. The losses of Gillum, Abrams, and Beto especially hurt because it seemed so possible for them to win, and to win on Democratic rather than conservative terms, to affirm the multiracial coalition in the face of the worst white revanchism. But they ran very strong campaigns, and the ballot measure in Florida to enfranchise former felons seems the more important long-term story.

6. Overall, I'd say the picture is not that different from where we've been—which in and of itself is good news considering that many people weren't sure we'd even have an election yesterday—and to the extent that there is change, it mostly points to signs of Republican weakening: that is, loss of control over the federal government, loss of control over a bunch of state governments, key movement in the Upper Midwest, and some very important long-term reforms. The victories in the Senate for the GOP aren't nearly as significant to me because it doesn't change the fundamental dynamic in the Senate and because they were in very strong red states. (And in 2020 a lot more of those GOP senatorial seats will be up for grabs than they were this year.) Where you saw movement against type, it was movement away from the GOP.

David Auerbach said...

7. I just read an article by Gary Gerstle in the Transactions of the Royal Historical Society. In it, he defines the term "political order": "Perhaps nothing indicates the power of a political order more than its ability to shape the thinking of its opponents." By that he means, the New Deal fundamentally shapes the thinking of Eisenhower and the GOP in the 1950s who are forced to accept its terms, or the way that Reaganism fundamentally reshapes the Democratic Party so that Bill Clinton and the Dems fundamentally come to accept the thinking of Reaganites. I see absolutely no sign that anything like that is happening under Trump. To the contrary: the more he draws on the distilled essence of white nationalist revanchism and ultra-plutocracy, the more the Democrats and anyone who's not a Republican refuse to go there and in many cases push in the opposite direction. This is a long struggle, and the Democrats remain in pretty bad shape, as does the left as a whole. But having lived through the decades in which the Democrats reinvented themselves in Reagan's image, I have to say that all signs point not to the consolidation or creation of a new political order but to the continuing breakdown of the old one.

MS said...

Just one more comment. I want to tip my hat to David Palmeter regarding his analysis of Joe Manchin’s Yes vote for Kavanaught’s confirmation. Manchin had nothing to gain by voting No, and everything to lose. By voting Yes, the Democrats saved one Senate seat that they likely would have lost.

Several more possible Democrat candidates for President have emerged from the election. Primary among them is Sherrod Brown, who retained his Senate seat in Ohio and whose victory speech highlighted the issues that Democrats must focus on if they hope to retake the White House. Another possible emerging candidate was Amy Klobuchar, whose performance on the Senate Judiciary Committee during Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing was impressive. The Democratic primaries in 2020, with so many potential promising candidates for the presidency (Biden, Warren, Sanders, Harris, Booker, Gillibrand, Brown, Klobuchar, O’Rourke (?)), are going to be a slug fest.

Michael S said...

Well this press conference of Trump's confirms at least one part of your prediction - viz. trump wants to trade with the dems: infrastructure etc. for investigations. He in fact literally said this. (And, to get in on the act: 'House of Cards' is a decent guide to this presidency. Especially the last season). Who knows whether he would get away with it; I doubt Pelosi has enough control over House Dems to keep up her end of any deal anyway, especially with certain possible presidential candidates on committees. But this is one more of those moments at which one (I) feel a chill down my spine thinking of what might come about politically in my lifetime.

Choosing not to think about the mentality of people still voting for Trump-like Trump-supporting candidates. Titrating the despair.

Anonymous said...

Returning momentarily to poltical science, but for gerrymandering, the Democratic win would have been seen as a landslide.

s. wallerstein said...


People change very fast. So the same "rugged individualists" who hate anything vaguely associated with socialism could end up supporting socialism in a few years, especially if there's a severe economic crisis coupled with international events which put U.S. global hegemony in question, etc.

A few years ago if I had asked you if the United States could elect a clown and a gangster like Trump as president, you (and me too) would have said "never".

Yet Trump was elected. So too a democratic socialist candidate could appear sooner than you imagine. Maybe. Maybe not.

howard b said...

So David Auerbach:

The possibilities of social order, based on some sort of reasoning are: the consolidation of the order initiated by Reagan and consummated by Trump, some kind of stasis amounting to chaos, some kind of tense standoff, a new Progressive Order, or some kind of liberal order, whether like the Old New Deal or for our times, or some kind of combination.
You are all somewhat better informed, and in the lack of knowledge of the future or the vicissitudes of politics, just mustering together scraps of logic and bare knuckles knowledge of the American scene, this is the possibilities curve I come up with.
Are these the main possibilities in outline? And how do we get from here to there?
In all humility and curiosity I ask

F Lengyel said...

The rugged individualist proponents of individual responsibility and self-sufficiency in the Red States are the self-sufficient beneficiaries of Federal subsidies transferred to the Red States from the Blue States.

Michael S said...

Seconding s. wallerstein's point: the unexpected virtue of ignorance being its changeability. If your political behaviour is, as is true for many on the right, and many on the left too, determined more by psyche-problems - wishful thinking, projection, and the rest - than well-built-in ethico-political principles, which in turn means that you're more subject to the usual suspects - confirmation bias, making exceptions in your own case, etc. - then there's not a great deal of mental space between (e.g.) tea-part-ism and (democratic)'socialism'. Not what anyone should want, I think, for such a populace, but it's what there is.

David Auerbach: I'd like to share your optimism, and can't argue against it. Regarding your point (7): this could be taken the other way. You're right, the same thing is not happening. The same thing being largely peaceful shifting of the political spectrum, en bloc. Some of the alternatives to this are good, some are very bad.

Ed Barreras: I was watching 538 at around that time and went through a similar physiological response. Separately - i know that that particular use of apostrophes (e.g. in 'Tr**p) is not uncommon now; but it seems to me (a small thing but still) at best a mixed phenomenon. The degree to which 'we' should sink to his/'their' tactics is obviously an interminably-debated question; but the no-naming (which is one way it could go) can go both ways; and given the worst way this whole thing turn out has traditionally been imagined (or actually has involved) as involving the messing around with names, I don't know. Yes, 'we' want to (have to) win. I know Prof. Wolff has discussed this sort of thing a number of times: yes, it comes down to picking sides, on one level, and you're either naive or deluded if you deny this; but I'm also more on the side of proceduralism, I believe - only partly a strategic question.

MS said...

s. wallerstein,

I share your aspirations for social progress and believe that your heart is in the right place. However, I do not believe that the evidence demonstrates that people can change as quickly as you suggest, not even when confronted with dire economic circumstances. Henry Wallace, one of the most liberal politicians who ever ran for President of the U.S., had served as Roosevelt’s Vice President during his 1940 term, was dropped from the ticket in 1944 to be replaced by Truman, and became editor of the New Republic. In 1948, he ran for President against Truman, Dewey and Thurmond. He was endorsed by the Communist party. Most of the Americans who voted in that election had lived through the Great Depression and arguably should have sympathized with Wallace’s progressive economic and foreign policy agenda. Yet, Wallace garnered only 2.4% of the popular vote and came in 4th.

Regarding all the people who voted for Trump and enabled him to become President, most of them did not vote for him because they changed their fundamental political philosophy from progressive to libertarian. Most of them were people who either never or rarely voted and who harbored racist views to begin with. Some of them may have voted for Obama in the previous election, but not many of them. They were conservative voters waiting for the right candidate to emerge who would appeal to their racist, biased, jingoistic sentiments. So, is there a similar groundswell of liberal, progressive voters waiting for the right socialist oriented candidate to emerge? I do not believe so. I see no evidence in polls that indicate there is a sufficient number of such clandestine voters in the U.S. waiting for the right candidate to emerge equal to the number of voters who supported Trump.

Among the potential presidential candidates that I listed in my previous comment, Elizabeth Warren is probably the most socially and fiscally liberal. And I will support her if she obtains the Democratic nomination. But I will not support her (except as a possible Vice Presidential candidate) in the primaries, because I do not believe she can defeat Trump in a general election. I do not believe there are a sufficient of progressive/socialist oriented voters in the U.S. to equal the number of supporters who appear to have come out of nowhere (like cicada) to get Trump elected. And, as I have indicated in previous comments to previous posts on this blog, I do not want to see repeated in 2020 what occurred in 2016 and 2000. I will not bank on people changing their political ideologies as quickly as you believe is possible.

F. Lengyel, I am aware that those who espouse rugged individualism often are willing to accept the benefits of corporate welfare. I did not say that they were rational or consistent in their beliefs. They are not. They are hypocrites. But, they espouse rugged individualism nonetheless and they will oppose candidates who espouse progressive socialist ideas, while at the same time that they accept the benefits of corporate welfare with an open hand behind their backs.

s. wallerstein said...


The mass of people do not have the well-thought out fairly stable political ideologies that you and I have.

If in 1965, someone had suggested that in 1968 students all over the U.S. would protest against the War in Viet Nam, adopt a radical countercultural lifestyle and support the Black Panthers (who were Maoists), I'd have thought that they were crazy. In 1965 most students were at best JFK liberals, with lots of ideas from the Eisenhower 1950's. Yet everything changed in a few years.

If in 1981 (now I'm in Chile) someone had suggested to me that the masses of Chileans would take to the streets at the risk of their lives to protest against the Pinochet dictatorship, many of them with socialist or communist ideas, I'd have thought them crazy because in 1981 no one was protesting (except the usual suspects) and almost everyone was fascinated by the possibility of buying a color TV, made possible by cheap consumer credit (then a new thing in Chile) and lower import tariffs (Pinochet's economic "reforms"). Yet in two more years people all over Chile swung to the left, only to swing back to business in usual in a few more years (which also surprised me).

Trump voters (I'm not talking about William F. Buckley ideological reactionaries) are just as volatile as students in the 60's or Chileans in the 80's (not to mention Chileans in 2013 who voted massively for the reformist government of Michelle Bachelet, only to swing back to rightwing billionaire Sebastian Piñera 4 years later because the reforms had "failed".).

People today are not "waiting for the right candidate" (your words) on the left to appear.
They are not waiting for Eugene Debs or Norman Thomas or a new Ralph Nader. They are not waiting anything except the new I-Phone or whatever gadget is in fashion, but they will follow political fashion just as they follow any other fashion, they will follow the herd, etc. They will follow the herd to the right or to the left. I hope that they will follow it to the left, but who knows?

Once again, I don't know if it will happen before the next election or after the next election or never, but I would not rule it out as you seem to.

Anonymous said...

s. wallerstein,

God (or whoever) bless you. I just do not share your optimism. (My beverage glasses are always half empty, never half full.)

Yes, the students protests in 1969-71 helped bring about an end to the Vietnam War. But Nixon was still re-elected, then Carter, who tried to reform U.S. foreign policy, and then Reagan, and the rest is history. Remember Jerry Rubin – in the 1970s he turned his back on radical politics, became a stockbroker on Wall St. and made a lot of money.

And I did not rule out the possibility of socialist reform. I indicated in a previous comment that it might occur in 4.6 million years, after the Y chromosome has sufficiently deteriorated that women are able to reproduce without men and the feminine mystique controls politics in the U.S.

MS said...

I did it again. The above Anonymous is MS.

F Lengyel said...

In that case, from ‘...rugged a principle in the DNA of most Americans...’ one cannot conclude that most Americans are rugged individualists.

s. wallerstein said...


I'm not an optimist myself. I merely point out that political situations change rapidly and that if people who voted for Obama in 2012 voted for Trump in 2016, there is a sizeable segment of the voting public in the U.S. who do not have solid political convictions, but vote swayed by factors which are at times beyond my grasp. There is always the possibility, in fact, that a socialist could be elected for all the "wrong reasons".

That a socialist is elected president in the U.S. or anywhere else does not necessarily mean that the voters have reached a higher stage of human awareness or that we will never backtrack again towards the evils of capitalism or the evils of any other sort.

Still, I would immensely enjoy seeing a socialist as president of the U.S.. Maybe Professor Wolff could serve as some sort of senior advisor to the new president and get the rest of us well-paid jobs: I'd like to be cultural attaché in Paris. I'd settle for London though.