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Friday, August 28, 2020


Well, the conventions are over, thank God, and now we can concentrate on turning out the vote. Judging from what I have seen, Biden is not suffering from dementia, just from old-fashioned centrist neo-– liberalism, which we already knew. Having nothing better to do while I sit here in virtual quarantine, let me offer some predictions.

First, the polls will show no significant change as a result of the conventions. I have never seen a time when people's opinions are so set. The polls may tighten as we approach November 3 – I have no foresight about that – but unless they tighten significantly I do not see how Trump can win. The two keys will be turn out and voter suppression.

Second, I predict that as early voting or absentee ballot voting begins, we will see an extraordinary flood of votes, especially from Democrats. I think people are so hungry to vote that they will seize the very first opportunity. This will go a long way toward frustrating Trump's effort to sabotage the post office. If the polls are any indication, people love the post office even more than they love their sports teams and it was insane of him to try publicly to attack the Postal Service.

Third, not so much a prediction as a confirmation of a past prediction, elementary, secondary, and post secondary education is going to be a disaster this fall. My local campus, UNC Chapel Hill, seems to have become a poster child for the problems of university education but our much-publicized difficulties will be replicated all over the country.

Local prediction: I think Cal Cunningham is going to beat Thom Tillis and there is a good chance that the Democrats will take North Carolina.

Meanwhile I am struggling more or less ineffectually with streaming and bandwidth problems caused by the incompetent Spectrum service that we get here in my retirement community. Watching elephants and wildebeest on live cam in Africa is one of my go to amusements these days and at the moment I can no longer get them. Grr!


Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...

Polling averages currently have Biden leading in WI (3.5%), PA (5.8%), FL (5%), MI (7%) and AZ (2%). NC is a tie. Keep in mind Trump won AZ by 3.5%, NC by 3.6% and FL by 1.2%, PA and WI by 0.7%, and MI by 0.3% The Senate is likely to go Democratic and they are likely to pick up several more House seats, including a few in TX. The politicization of the the pandemic, including the opening of schools, revision of CDC guidelines under administration pressure, not to mention whatever he decides to screw up next, will continue downward pressure on Trump’s vote. I’d bet on Tillis losing, African American turnout this time will end his career.

Jerry Fresia said...

Does that mean that you skipped the Repub convention? (plenty of elephants and wild beasts...a close second)?

Peter B Collins who has worked on many campaigns including Pelosi's noted in his podcast that the manager (correct title??) of Biden's campaign is his sister, whose husband (name escapes me)is a big league campaign manager and who is co-managing his sister's efforts. Said husband's key to success in managing campaigns is convincing candidates to strike the "responsive cord." Thus we saw with the DNC convention story after story, musical theme after speech, that tried to do exactly that. Policy appeals are out the window and are considered antique if not tacky and possibly dangerous.

Anyway, do you remember Joe McGinnis's 1970 major exposé: The Selling of the President? Quaint indeed.

And will the corporate media please stop saying that the Trump convention was a "norm" breaker (which will incentivize Dem presidents when it is their turn), when it was a law breaker?

Howie said...

Dear Professor:

From your mouth to Marx's ear.
I believe he will lose and burn down the white house so he will be the last occupant of the White House, and there will follow a protracted lawsuit for the USA to recover the damages

David Palmeter said...

Could you elaborate on the term “neo-liberal”? The first of the neos that I was aware of were the neo-conservatives, who were former Democrats who moved right on issues of defense, foreign policy, and race, particularly insofar as it manifested itself in what they considered violence. They basically rebelled against the 1960s (really the late 60s and early 70s).

For most of my life, liberal meant New Deal liberal, someone who supported what Rawls called welfare state capitalism. I associate today’s Democratic party with this—from Biden to Bernie. Bernie does call himself a socialist, but he also says that he doesn’t favor government ownership of the means of production. If he were in Europe, he would be a social democrat, not a socialist. In the European sense, a liberal is essentially what we call a libertarian.

So where does a neo-liberal fit into all of this?

s. wallerstein said...

David Palmeter,

You know very well what Professor Wolff means when he calls Biden "neo-liberal". You know that with Clinton the Democratic Party swung to the right from the New-Deal liberalism of LBJ (the Great Society) and adopted a pro-Wall St. stance, similar to that of New Labor (Tony Blair) in the U.K. You also know that Bernie Sanders continues in the New Deal tradition.

Now you're just waiting to pounce on whoever supports Professor Wolff's characterization of Biden as neo-liberal (I was in the high school debate club too) with the affirmation that if neo-liberalism is the ideological current stemming from Milton Friedman and Hayek, then Biden is certainly not neo-liberal. That true, he's somewhere in-between pure ideological neo-liberalism (Friedman, Hayek, Thatcher, etc.) and the welfare state capitalism of the Great Society. We'll see what he does as president, I doubt that he will restore the soul of America (if countries have souls, which is questionable), but he's certainly better than Trump.

David Palmeter said...

s. wallerstein

I asked that question in good faith and resent your attributing to me those negative motives. Terminology in politics and elsewhere in the culture is changing at a rate that I can't always keep up. I'm not about to pounce on Prof. or anyone else. I was not in a debate club and am not trying to debate here. I'm trying to learn something.

s. wallerstein said...

Here is David Harvey's Brief History of Neoliberalism in PDF. As I recall (I read it several years ago), the preface or introduction suffices to understand what he's talking about.

s. wallerstein said...

Sorry. That turns out to be a PDF of a review of the book.

Anonymous said...

I am too traumatized from 2016 to even begin to think about what will happen this November. Per your blogpost from November 12, 2016, titled "Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa,":

I have not said anything about this, in part because I have been in shock, in part because it has been too obvious to need comment, but I feel an obligation to set the record straight. Every forecast I made so confidently about the election was wrong. It follows that if I am so foolish in the future as to offer predictions, you would be well to ignore them.

I enjoy your blog very much, and wouldn't actually ignore any of your posts. That said, I am getting through the time between now and the start of 2021 with a hardy supply of chardonnay, a part time job decorating cakes at a grocery store, and the responsibilities of remote teaching and learning.

Eric C said...

Heads up, friends.
A number of progressives will be holding an online convention this Sunday August 30 4-6pm EST (1-3pm Pacific)
Movement for a People's Party

Speakers will include Cornel West, Nina Turner, Chris Smalls, Danny Glover, Mike Gravel, among others

Eric C said...

As we wait for RPW to respond to David Palmeter's questions, here are a few takes on the concept of neoliberalism.

George Monbiot: "Neoliberalism--The Ideology at the Root of Our Problems"
The Guardian 15 Apr 2016

S.Wallerstein, here's a briefer take by David Harvey than in his book.
David Harvey in an interview in Jacobin 23 Jul 2016

Ralph Nader often argues that it would be better to call it "corporate capitalism" rather than "neoliberalism" because most people don't know (or don't agree on) what "neoliberalism" means. Nader distinguishes between capitalism and corporate capitalism:
"I said, 'corporate capitalism is destroying capitalism.' Because capitalism means that if you are in business and you own some property, you should have control over property. Giant corporate capitalism, like Apple, or General Motors, or Exxon-Mobil, strip their owners, the shareholders of any power over their hired hands at the top of the company. And second, capitalist theory says that you should observe the verdict of the marketplace. If you can't get the customers, you go bankrupt, or you lose sales. Well, corporate capitalism isn't satisfied with that. They go to Washington before they go bankrupt--for bailouts, handouts, giveaways, subsidies, or kinds of government policies that disadvantage and burden small business.... Big business drives out people who are traditional capitalists.... Corporate capitalism comes with monopolistic practices ... and that is contradictory of capitalist theory."
Ralph Nader @59:45

Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...

Mr. Palmeter,
The short story re: neoliberalism is pretty simple. The Democratic Leadership Council was established in the ‘80’s. Their theory was that Democrats could win by moving to the right and thus be better able to compete against republicans in the south. Bill Clinton was a member. Clinton, for example, accommodated the republican move to the racist right by being critical on African American cultural issues while still supporting civil rights. He also was willing to make government regulation less onerous (ie., effective), and gave in to the conservative bull about how welfare made people dependent and his admin. produced a horrible welfare reform bill. All in all, neoliberalism amounted to the accommodation of corporate capital on issues like environmental regulation, busting unions, ending banking regulation, etc. Frankly, there was an emphasis on undoing important elements of the New Deal. There isn’t much liberal about it.

s. wallerstein said...

Thanks, Eric C.

I agree completely with what Christopher M. says above, but let me add an element. After the collapse of the Soviet empire, U.S. capitalism and capitalism in general imagined that it had no more ideological competition. Those were the days of Fukuyama and the End of History: history had reached an end with capitalism. Part of the reason behind the New Deal and its continuation was the idea that "we" had to beat the Russians, that we had to show the world that capitalism could deliver the goods for the working class: recall Nixon's "kitchen debate" with Khrushchev. Once the Soviet Union collapsed, there was no need to convince the world that "we" were the good guys because "we" were now the only guys and so capitalism could tighten the screws on the working class the world over.

The ideology that capitalism was a self-regulating eternal order of things became hegemonic. I'm sure that Clinton, far from a deep thinker, really believed it as did most everybody until the Wall St. collapse in 2008. We have to thank people like Professor Wolff (and David Harvey, Hobsbawm, Chomsky, etc.) who kept the faith and insisted during that brief period (1990 to 2008) of total capitalist ideological hegemony that there was an alternative to capitalism.

David Palmeter said...

Christopher Mulvaney,

Thanks for the info. What has to be taken into account,I think, is how far right the Democrats would have had to move (if move at all) to be elected. Their argument was (and I've tended to buy it) that the Democrats hadn't done well with traditional Democratic liberals like McGovern and Mondale. They had lost 5 of the previous 6 presidential elections and an overriding question was what does it take to win? Would another four years of Bush the 1st have been better than Clinton? I don't think so. He did try to get a single payer health care system. My major complaint against Clinton at the time was his welfare reform. Moynihan (himself a fellow-traveler at the time with neo-cons) vigorously and condemned it.

The encouraging thing is that the center of American politics has moved left, thanks largely to Bernie. Biden has moved left too, though nowhere near as far left as Bernie. My reading of Biden is that he's a career pol who is naturally center-left, but will go wherever he needs to go to get elected. He's trying to hold onto the Sanders left while, at the same time, be an acceptable alternative for Republicans who don't want Trump. The problem for the left in all of this is that Biden is now free to move substantially to the center in order to capture those suburbanites. The left has no place else to go, unless it wants four more years of Trump. Still, if the Democrats can win the Senate and hold onto the House, I can't see Biden vetoing anything they pass.