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Wednesday, April 8, 2020


I have just this minute finished watching Bernie's concession speech.  It was, I thought, the best speech I have heard him give.  Lord, let him be right that he, and we who supported him, have won the ideological battle.  Now we must support Joe Biden, who, on the best day of his long career, could not have given such a speech.  Sitting here in a comfortable version of house arrest, which will continue for at least two more months, I have made a personal pledge to myself to do whatever I can to advance the vision Bernie articulated.  

My first great political disappointment came fify-nine years ago, the day after the Bay of Pigs fiasco.  There have been so many since that I have lost count.  One of these days, I am going to win one.  


Chris said...

Fearless Professor, I say with complete honesty that you inspire me.

For your children and grandchildren, and for my daughter and potential future grandchildren, let us continue to work.

David Zimmerman said...

Robert Reich offers an eloquent tribute to Bernie:

Jerry Brown said...

I am afraid that even after all these years as a registered Democrat, it is going to require more than just being told I have to support Biden because he is the Democrat. I barely managed to vote for H. Clinton last time. I don't know that I can find even the enthusiasm necessary to wait in line to vote for Biden this time. Well it is a while until November and maybe that will can be mustered in the meantime. But I am deeply unhappy with that party right now and at a loss as why I should do anything to support it.

Anonymous said...

The two choices are Biden or Trump. Last election it was H Clinton or Trump. We all know Trump is going to win and then Ivanka with Kushner Attorney General. All this with social media and AI buttressing them. Hopefully the world will shed itself of the virus.

Markus said...

@Jerry Brown, if you're unsure whether or not to cast a vote come November, please take a minute and think about Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Paul said...

Honestly, screw voting for Biden. He’s an (alleged) rapist, serial sexual harasser and assaulter, serial blatant liar, and architect of Dem support for some of the most racist and destructive policies of the last half century. There simply is not much of a distinction. And he’s likely to inspire such revulsion with the Democratic Party that a demagogue far more ideological and competent (ie dangerous) than Trunp will come along to answer the bell.

Jerry Brown said...

Yes Markus, I will think about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and all the rest of the damage that Donald Trump is liable to do if re-elected. Because unlike many normal people, I actually do think about these kinds of things fairly often. But I am angry right now and I don't want to get stuck with voting for the lesser bad candidate again. And I am angry at the Democratic Party for what I see as a coordinated effort on their part to force it into only a choice between Trump or Biden. And I am tired of having my vote taken for granted by centrist Democrats just because they know I think the Republicans would be worse. And I'm angry as I mentioned.

This time they are going to need to campaign and convince me- I'm not voting for someone who is just less bad than the other guy anymore. Done with that.

marcel proust said...

I must say, it's pretty nice being a white male. We can pretend to take a highly principled stand and refuse to vote for a (highly) imperfect choice even though the alternative is a lot worse. We can afford to express our anger. Why? Because, in this case, the costs of Trump's re-election tend to be much lower than they will for others, and in fact there are some benefits that accrue to those of use who are part of this group.

Dean` said...

White male here. Yeah, it's "nice," sometimes, and I regret that most of my achievements are due largely to this sick bias in favor of jerkoffs who look like me. But mostly it's shit, just like for everybody else.

No, in fact I can't afford to express my anger.

In this case, the costs of Trump's re-election are ... unknowable. The costs of Biden's election are ... unknowable. You're going to pretend otherwise? Now that's audacious.

The benefits that will accrue to me, if any, are negligible. I don't need them, I don't want them, they will not change my life in any substantial material way. I expect my life will be as miserable under Biden as under Trump. As under Obama, as under Bush, as under under every goddamn cynical monster who has occupied the position of POTUS.

But for you, I guess it's pretty nice being a white male. Enjoy!

Jerry Brown said...

Mr. Proust, the election is in November and I will damn well express my anger in between that time and now. And my vote is still MY vote for whatever little that is worth to the Democratic Party or in the general election. Attempts to 'guilt' me into voting for someone I don't support or even think is just marginally more competent- well they will in all honesty probably work by November. But you should wait till August or September for that really crummy tactic.

Anonymous said...

A white male here, and I acknowledge my white privilege. I would gladly cast my vote for the side of the people, the african americans and the ones coming here to seek a better life. However, I am drawing the line and not voting as it is an insult to intelligence in general to vote for a person with dementia for the highest office in the land. Its too broken for me. The intelligence standard is not there.

Unknown said...

Dear Mr Wolff,
I am currently enjoying similar house arrest in London. I am a cheesemonger by trade, but like you enjoy reading Karl Marx and Immanuel Kant (although, the net enjoyment is likely neutral). I find the critical enterprise of Kant inspiring. I find the transformational thrust of Marx equally so and, according to the weakness of a philosophical bent, feel inclined to merge them both in a view of the world that harmonize my prejudices.Freedom seems the key. Rightly or wrongly, I am pursuing the Labour Theory of Value to yield the common arch stone. This I will continue because it interests me. However, this morning I heard Joseph Stiglitz on the radio talking of the financial impact of Covid-19. Contrary to how I had been thinking about the aftermath of the pandemic - what to do with the debt - he presented this crisis as a historic catalyst to reforge economies and propel the new Green Deal. Many thoughts spring to mind on the back of this, but I wondered what you thought about this?
Hope you are well. I'm just off to make myself a cheese sandwich.
Dominic Coyte

Anonymous said...

@marcel proust

Your comment above (April 8, 2020 at 10:13 PM) left me curious. Although you don't name names, it seems clear that you are replying to Jerry Brown and Paul, for both expressed their discontent with Biden and their reluctance or even negative to vote for him.

If that assumption is granted, what arouses my curiosity is that I cannot recall either JB or Paul ever describing themselves as white. So, what makes you believe that?

Now, to be honest, I must confess that I don't follow this blog religiously. There are posts which I don't read, let alone their comment threads. So, have JB or Paul ever described themselves as such?

- The AnonyMouse

Anonymous said...

For those who are troubled by supporting Biden, look past that and consider:

Who do you want nominating the replacement for RBG?

JKR said...

Paul said about Biden, "He’s an (alleged) rapist, serial sexual harasser and assaulter, serial blatant liar, and architect of Dem support for some of the most racist and destructive policies of the last half century." It sounds like a good description of Donald J. Trump. Please provide citations and evidence instead of personal opinions when you make such a statement. The coming election will be about any semblance of democracy and institutionalized fascism. Best to vote to defeat fascism. Then we can work on democracy.

Anonymous said...

That argument is bullshit M.P.

The majority of non-voters are poor non-whites, not privileged white people. And they don't vote for the factual reason that they rightly believe neither party actually gives a shit about them.

Anonymous said...

Thus jerry brown, and everyone else, are in good company, white or otherwise, when they too refuse to vote for Biden recognizing that a vote for him will not secure extended empathy from either party.

Anonymous said...

And with elections likely moving online now, the entire thing will be fraudulent...

LFC said...

The November election will not be online. Stop making ridiculous, absurd statements. Your link to that intercept article is irrelevant to what m.proust said, because his comment referred to particular people here, not to the majority of non-voters.

Anonymous said...

But the reasons people here don't vote are the same reasons shared by the non-voters in the link. Once you look past the reasons, you're just engaging in ad hominem attacks of peoples' race/class, which is philosophically and politically insipid.

Anonymous said...

Good thing we have LFC here to guard us from all statements ridiculous and absurd!

LFC said...

I'll send you my acct info and you can pay me that way.

Anonymous said...

On Biden's sexual assault:

Also, for those piling on Proust: Calm down. As I read Proust (ha!), he's not attacking anyone who comments on this blog. He's using his own privileged identity to satirically call attention to the differential stakes between more privileged people and less privileged people. I for one am not undocumented and am unlikely to face deportation whether Trump or Biden is the next president. I am unlikely to have my hijab ripped off my head or my mosque burned down whether Trump or Biden is the next president. I am unlikely to have a pipeline built through my ancestral lands whether Trump or Biden is the next president.

Still, I don't want my neighbor to be deported and will work against it. Still, I don't want my co-worker to have her hijab torn off her head, and I will fight against it. Still, I don't want pipelines going through Native land (which is the whole of the U.S., of course), and will fight against it.

Yes, there is a war against activists the likes of which has not been seen since COINTELPRO, and more privileged people who dare to stand with less privileged folks will get hurt in the sweep. Yes, climate change and environmental destruction hurts everyone. Yes, a wound to one of us is a would to all of us. Yes, an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere. And I for one want to work toward that collective liberation. But in the meantime, my white male identity still gives me key protections. I have many more layers of insulation that privilege me than my women and POC comrades, regardless of which white male becomes the next president.

So that's my take on Proust's comment.

Now onto my second point.

It will be interesting to see how the nexus of white privilege and class privilege fare as capitalism's crisis deepens. Income and wealth inequality has widened to such extremes in the last 30 years that the middle class was already increasingly precarious, and now, with the economic fallout from the pandemic, it's in dire straights indeed. Now, many whites, with what remains of their class privilege and depending how quickly their bank accounts drain, may soon find themselves in a similar socioeconomic situation as their low-income urban black and brown neighbors have been in all along, not to mention poorer rural whites (though they had even less they could afford to lose, which will make their losses even worse).

Will this be an opportunity to weld together a diverse coalition with some semblance of class consciousness (if only a situational one)? We'll see. But regardless of who or what "thing" becomes "president" in our "democracy," we should know by now that the elite political class won't save us. So it's up to us to build that movement together from the bottom up. We are the people we've been waiting for.

s. wallerstein said...

For all of those who want to convince us to vote for Biden, a few words.

Biden nos cae mal, which is Spanish for Biden turns us off: his look, his personality, his policies, his corporate liberalism, his sexual assaults and pawing women, his support for the imperialist invasion of Iraq. Why call it the "war in Iraq"? That's a euphemism.

However, we will end up supporting Biden unless you, the pragmatists, the realists, the sensible ones, irritate us by nagging us, by hectoring us, by showing us how "unrealistic" and "infantile" we are to the point that out of whatever adolescent spirit we still preserve we give you and Biden the finger and vote for Jill Stein or whoever the Green Party nominates this time. A word of warning to the wise.

Dean said...

A charitable take on marcel proust's comment acknowledges its satire, I agree. But it's hard to get over the bad premises. Sometimes principled people aren't merely pretending. Sometimes the relative benefits and burdens resulting from an administration's policies and misdeeds aren't so easy to weigh. But when a privileged white male or two, in addition to "a disproportionately lower-income & non-white" (quoting Greenwald) demographic, acts accordingly and declines to align with evil, we satirize the former and ignore the latter.

LFC said...

A few minutes' reflection suggests that there are perhaps many reasons non-voters don't vote. Undoubtedly some feel that neither of the two parties gives a **** about them. But there are others in the specified demographic (poor, non-white) who may not vote for other reasons. For instance, if one doesn't really have a fixed address, either because one is homeless or living in some kind of non-permanent arrangement, voting can be difficult (I happen to be acquainted with one person in this category). That's just one example. Voting also takes time usually (even a mail-in ballot does) and some states in the U.S. don't make it esp easy for people who may be struggling to juggle work, child care etc. to vote. So I doubt that there is only one explanation. Maybe Greenwald thinks there is, but I haven't read the link yet.

Btw the anonymous at 4:47 is eloquent.

Anonymous said...

One thing we can be pretty sure of is that whoever wins the Presidential election in November he will get the votes of only roughly one-third of those eligible by age to vote in the USA. In this he will be little different from any of the other Presidents elected sins WW Two. That non-voters have outnumbered voters for the victor probably extends back to earlier times.

Dean said...

Of course there are multiple reasons for not voting. But the Intercept article reports that, according to some studies, difficulty is not among the primary reasons.

Greenwald thinks nothing of the kind. He reports on the studies.

Folks, presidential elections are massively fucked up. This is because the presidential electoral system is owned, operated, policed, and controlled by two parties who do not give one little stinky turd about anyone interested in sensible governance. How many times does this pattern need to play out for people to recognize it?

Wait...don't answer. I'll guess: one hundred bazillion times.

But push comes to shove, I'm with Joe!

Jerry Brown said...

Well I was a little raw yesterday but I think Wallerstein is right about it. I don't think I was rude or piling on to Mr. Proust in any case although perhaps I misinterpreted that comment.

The fact remains that I have developed a distrust of the Democratic party and am angry with them. I am not sure what I will do in November- but I will vote whenever my state can actually hold a primary and I will vote for Sanders even if he isn't running anymore.

Anonymous said...

"Folks, presidential elections are massively fucked up. This is because the presidential electoral system is owned, operated, policed, and controlled by two parties who do not give one little stinky turd about anyone interested in sensible governance. How many times does this pattern need to play out for people to recognize it?"

Average people understand this perfectly well - it's why most of them don't bother voting.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Jerry Brown.

Trump can be counted on to do the wrong thing unapologetically. Biden can be counted on to do the wrong thing and then later apologize.

This will not keep everyone from going to the polls who should go, but we should also note the remarkable assault on voting rights -- mass disenfranchisement and voter suppression -- that the Right has been orchestrating for some time now, and it has become quite bold recently.

marcel proust said...

I just returned here after a couple of days, and lost a long comment when my computer crashed. I will try to reconstruct a somewhat shorter version of it. Obviously it is my opinion, even where I appear to be asserting facts, and I have simplified dramatically for expositional purposes. YMMV

Political parties are instruments for directly achieving goals of a political nature, i.e., goals that involve changing the rules of the economic and political game or for the allocation of wealth. We have only 2 in the US and for reasons that students of politics understand better than I, our political system pretty much limits us to two. Consequently, both are broad coalitions and until recently, both were fairly unruly and disorganized. Often, they were internally incoherent and their policies were inconsistent.

Given these facts, I don't understand why one would feel or express anger at either of the parties. They are not unitary organizations. Feeling strong emotions about objects of this sort strike me as a category error.

The metaphor of a compass may be useful. The goals that I find myself in most sympathy with are due North./1 One of the political parties invariably aims for due South. The other is wobbly, almost always between a bit South of East and a bit north of East by Northeast, and most of the time North of East. The victory of one of the parties moves the country farther from where I would like it to be. The victory of the other generally prevents this and has at times helped in forward movement./2

As might be inferred from my previous comment, I am both male and (still considered to be) white. I do not think I am directly affected by the victory of one party or another, beyond the personal consequences that come from those in power recognizing and acting on the consequences of pollution, climate change, public health infrastructure, food and drug safety, and corrupt markets./3 Both my wife and I have spent almost our entire careers since graduate school working at elite, financially stable, private universities. We have always had good health insurance; been able to afford houses in excellent school districts; and were easily able to supplement our children's educations where we thought it useful so that they were able to attend elite colleges, which we, in turn could easily afford while also preparing for our retirements. This is not common. Voting is a low cost activity and the benefits of not having the Republicans in power are high not only relatively but also, from time to time, absolutely. The Cost-Benefit analysis of voting delivers a clear answer. Voting for whatever yellow dog the Democrats nominate seems like the least I can do to minimize regress from my goals.

As Michael Corleone told his brother, "It's not personal, Sonny. It's business."

1/To be clear, the goals I find myself most in sympathy with are some combination of FDR's 4 Freedoms and, despite being the very model of a modern secular Jew, a strictly secular version of that Christian notion, an abundant life: prosperity and health for the total human being, including the body, mind, emotions, relationships [and] material needs.

2/I am thinking of the 1930s broadly and the changes to labor law more specifically that allowed for the growth of the union movement; the role that the national Democratic Party played in achieving the goals of the civil rights movement and the ending of the legal apartheid structure of the Jim Crow South; the alliance between the Democratic Party and much of both the feminist movement and the environmental movement; the achievements, for all its flaws, of the ACA.

3/Yes, yes, I know: Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

Jerry Brown said...

Well Mr. Proust even highly educated and analytical human beings need to understand that anger happens and what happens when trust disappears. I was very angry the other day and hopefully didn't take it out on you too much. Like I said, it is quite a while till November and the anger is already dissipating. But whatever trust there had been is unlikely to come back. One person is a tiny loss to the Democratic party- but it is a loss nonetheless. And I think there are plenty of others that feel as I do.

marcel proust said...

anger happens and what happens when trust disappears.

I do understand this, but as I wrote, the feeling either of these emotions here strike me as a category error (although in some situations expressing them for instrumental reason makes sense to me).

I was very angry the other day and hopefully didn't take it out on you too much.
No hard feelings.