Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Globalism's Realignment

Yesterday, I wrote about how the Brexit vote could signal the end of the British party system.  If Labour collapses in its contradiction between urban, cosmopolitan liberals and working class voters, and the Conservatives crack up between its cosmopolitan wing and its nativist wing, what does that mean for the US.

Like Britain, the US has two main dominant parties.  Unlike the US, Britain has viable third parties.  Some new coalition between the Lib Dems and the cosmopolitan Labourites could come into being.

But we are getting wind of the effects of Trumpism on the GOP, too.  As Josh Marshall notes, both Brexit and Trumpism are a phenomenon of the older, whiter portions of both countries.  In both cases, the relative decline of white men is a real thing.  This isn't to say - as many Trump supporters believe - that white men are treated worse than minorities.  Ask the Stanford rapist about that.  But it is a relative decline, and it is real.

Demographically, there are enough old white people in Britain to engineer Brexit.  I don't think there are enough old white people in America to give us President Trump.  Certainly today's poll would suggest that Trump has very little room for error.  And some old white men - I'm looking at you, George Will and Hank Paulson - are unable to throw their support behind Trump.  A Trump thrashing in November might suggest a crackup of the existing Republican party.  If the white ethnonationalist, Trump wing of the GOP is truly ascendant, and if Trump brings ideas and rhetoric into the GOP lexicon, where does the cosmopolitan right in America go?  Where does Wall Street go?

And if they reluctantly move to the Democrats, what does that do to the Sanders Left?  They have already shown great hostility towards any accommodation between the Democratic party and finance.  They don't want Dodd-Frank, they want blood.  Are there any working class Democratic votes left to move to the GOP on economic nationalism terms?

During the '60s civil rights movement, one of Martin Luther King's arguments was that you had to deal with him or you would wind up dealing with Stokely Carmichael or Malcolm X.  For the global elite - college educated, internationally connected through trade and culture - this year should be a wake up call.

It is time to take the plight of working class people in the developed world seriously.  That means wealth transfer from the top to the bottom.  Guaranteed minimal income.  Housing and food benefits.  Something.  Otherwise, you are looking at more Trumps and more Brexits.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Will Labour Be A Casualty Of Brexit?

http://www.spectator.co.uk/2016/06/a-new-home-for-old-labour-with-the-tory-right/

This makes an interesting argument that the Labour Party is basically a defunct coalition of urbane liberals and working class nationalists. Similarly the Conservatives are also riven over this issue. 

It will be interesting to see if there is a political realignment from this.  

Friday, June 24, 2016

Here Is What Worries Me

The EU has a lot of pretty good reasons to inflict as much pain as possible on Britain. If they take policy measures to inflict pain on the UK, that could blowback and cripple Europe, with potential consequences for the US and the world. 

Does Brexit Mean Trump Will Win?

I've seen that panicked question a lot on Facebook this morning.  Brexit was England's Trump moment, where they allowed emotive ethnonationalism and diffuse anger at elites to make an irrational choice based on resentment over reason.  You know, Trumpism.

First of all, you could argue that we've had our Trump moment when he won the nomination.  His incompetence as a campaigner is now on stage for the world to see.  He can't raise money, he can't stay on message, he can't control his narcissism.  Hell, when asked about Brexit, all he could think of was his own properties in Scotland.  When Brent Scowcroft and most of the McCain campaign from 2008 endorses Clinton, you know there is a sizable portion of the electorate who simply can't stomach Trump.

Secondly, the US and UK are very different ethnically.  The UK is 87% white, 7% Asian and 3% black.  The US is 63% white, 12% black, 16% Hispanic and 5% Asian.  Trump - like every GOP candidate in a long time - will win the white vote. Leave won the white vote, too.  But there was much more white vote in England to win than in the US. Since the main commonality between Leave and Trump is ethnonationalism, Leave had a lot more voters to draw on that Trump will.  Similarly, there are simply more Democrats and Democrat-leaners than Republicans.  About 48% of Americans lean Democrat, whereas 41% lean Republican, and true independents lean away from Trump.

The same partisanship that has destroyed the Congress's ability to do anything is likely also to give the White House to Clinton.  In Britain, the cities voted Remain, while the shires voted Leave.  In the US, the Electoral College has a baked in advantage for Democrats.  Clinton likely starts at around 240 EVs before she really starts to stretch herself.

So, Brexit doesn't guarantee anything about Trump.  But a global recession could be the factor that tips enough votes his way to claw his way to 270 electoral votes. Will there be a global recession?

Remain campaigned heavily on the economic apocalypse that would follow a Leave vote.  Markets all over the world are in chaos right now, but markets aren't the economy.  Basically the following could happen:

Nothing.  Stock and currency markets go haywire for a bit, people realize that Britain can't leave for two years and things reach an equilibrium.

Britain's economy craters. The collapse of the pound leads to a recession in Britain, but the EU is able to contain most of the damage to Britain, as investments flee London and head to the EU.

Europe's economy craters.  The British collapse sends Europe into a free fall, but in a "flight to value" investors prop up the relatively safe US markets.

The global economy craters.  The British collapse creates a contagion that once again exposes how interconnected yet poorly managed the global economy is.

Only one of those - the last, obviously - helps Trump.  Theoretically, a global recession that is triggered by Brexit would suggest that America electing Trump to do more of the same would be a BAD THING.  Theoretically.  This would require a sober and rational assessment of the economic factors that led integrated markets to experience a crisis in confidence and a firm grasp of cause and effect.

Anyone want to lay money on the US electorate doing that?

The sign for hope is that when China's stock market imploded last year, the damage was largely contained.  If the economic damage is limited to Europe or Britain, then you have an excellent talking point about the disasters of ethnonationalist policy.  Britain is a laboratory for Trump's policies in some ways, although - Britain being Britain - it will play out much slower and more moderately than it would in the US.

I would argue the best case scenario for Clinton (and those Americans who don't wish to open the seventh seal and usher in the apocalypse) would be massive pain in Britain that largely stays in Britain.  Clinton already owns a massive cash-on-hand advantage over Trump and a massive campaign infrastructure advantage.  If Britain degenerates into misery, all that Wall Street money that Bernie hates will flow to Clinton just to keep the short fingered vulgarian out of the Oval Office.

Trump is going to win somewhere between 41-45% of the vote simply by being the Republican nominee.  He is going to violate norms in American politics and inject language and ideas into our politics that are deeply troubling and damaging.  But unless Brexit triggers another 2008-type crash, I don't think this makes him the 45th president.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Brexit

I've been trying to keep an eye on the Brexit polling leading up to today's referendum.  It looks neck and neck with a surprising number of undecideds.  Typically, whether it's Quebec, Scotland and now Britain as a whole, those undecideds break for the status quo pretty heavily.  I would wager that Remain gets about 53-55% of the vote.

The surprising strength of Brexit is not based on factual information.  Most of the arguments for leaving the EU are spurious, if not outright lies.  What is striking is the anger and vehemence among working class Britons, many of whom could respond to this by abandoning the Labour party for UKIP, the slightly less racist cousin of the BNP (which is outright fascist).  The asshole who shot Jo Cox was a BNP-type.  UKIP is somewhat less racist and xenophobic, but we are talking measures of degrees not type.  The horrible irony is that much of the British racism is focused on South Asians (Indians, Pakistanis) and not Eastern Europeans.  And immigration from South Asia has nothing to do with the EU.

You have an incoherent anger against brown people and a desire to wall yourself off from your biggest trading partner.

Britain is having its Trump-Moment.

British politics isn't quite as polarized as American politics, and Boris Johnson has already insulted Donald Trump, so there isn't a lot of common ground in the details.  When you step back, however, you see a great deal of similarity.

Point that out to your British friends when they shake their heads about the GOP nominating Trump.  Tell them he's really just the unholy child of Johnson and Nigel Farange.

One thing should be clear to people around the developed world from the politics of 2016: the age of meek acquiescence to globalization is over.  While I think that outsourcing is only about half the problem the working class faces in Detroit and Manchester and Marseilles (the other, unspoken half is automation), it's a big deal.  Since the benefits of globalization - lower consumer prices, relative peace - are effectively invisible it's a very hard sell, especially when you layer xenophobia and racism on top of it.

I lean free-trade.  But increasingly, the idea of a universal minimum income looks like it will need to be the handmaiden of free trade.  There are benefits to free trade, but unless someone steps up and delivers some of those benefits to the bottom 60% of the developed world, there's going to be hell to pay.

Of Course It Was A Publicity Stunt

The Democratic Sit-In has sent Paul Ryan to his fainting couch.  He decried it as a "publicity stunt" and not a "very proud moment for democracy."

As John Cole noted, of course it was a publicity stunt.  Neither the House nor Senate will allow a vote on gun control measures that enjoy super-majority approval ratings from the American people.  If there was a referendum on gun control measures, they would pass handily.

Paul Ryan wants to make democracy proud?  Have a vote.  Get your members on the record as voting against the no-fly/no-buy bill.  Then let the voters decide is they should fire their reps for prioritizing gun industry profits over American lives.  Murphy's filibuster really only succeeded in getting people like Susan Collins and Ron Johnson on the record.  It was never going to pass.

And what's more, the no-fly/no-buy idea is a flawed one.  The no-fly list lacks due process.  In no way, shape or form is this the bill a Democratic House or Senate would wish to pass.  Instead, it's a show vote that illustrates that the GOP has zero interest in responding to the will of the American people on this or many other issues.

It is not a proud moment for democracy, you Zombie Eyed Granny Starver.  But the smear on democracy is not coming from the Democrats.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Scandalous

I was reading through Vox's description of the latest Clinton Scandal.  This one is pretty typical.  There is smoke, but not much fire.  A Clinton Foundation donor was given a seat on an unpaid nuclear security advisory board, despite not being very well qualified.  He seems to have been something of a foreign policy enthusiast, and this stuff interested him.  The Clintons gave him a seat so he could have some (very discrete) bragging rights.  Nothing illegal, but reeks of the sort of log-rolling the Clintons are known for.  And the response is typically Clintonian: attack, hide, bunker down.

It's Machine Politics in the age of Super PACs.

Meanwhile, we are being confronted with really vetting Trump for the first time.  What is truly remarkable is that in the frenetic scrum of the GOP primaries, no one thought to seize on the mountains of shit that Donald Trump had his tiny little hands in.

There is Trump University, of course.  There is Trump's routine business practice of stiffing people who worked for him or made deals with him and then suing the pants off of them for asking for what they were promised.

Finally (or not really finally, there's so much more) there is the fact that Trump himself is a compulsive liar.  Nowhere is this more evident than in his statements about his wealth.  His Cash-on-Hand statement to the FEC was embarrassing, befitting more a rural House race than a campaign for the Presidency.  Trump has said he could self-finance, but it's also clear he can't and/or won't.  He won't reveal his tax returns, because it's pretty clear that he's not nearly as wealthy as he says he is.  He claims to be worth billions, but it's pretty clear he's worth less than a $100 million.

Now, we have some interesting claims of something VERY weird going on in New Hampshire.

It will be interesting to see if the media can gin up false equivalencies with stuff like this:

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Populism

There have been calls in the wake of the Sanders "Revolution" for the Democrats to embrace "populism."  Those calls are wrapped in complaints that Trump is ruining the good name of populism with his racism, sexism and overall assholishness.

The thing is, populism really doesn't have a "good name" or at least it shouldn't.  Populism was the credo of Andrew Jackson.  Jackson rode roughshod over the rule of law and precipitated the worst depression in the country's history (to that point).  He was an emotive, violently angry asshole who appealed to the people's worst interests - racially, economically.

The Populist Party had some very good ideas.  Many of them - the direct election of Senators, secret ballots, inflationary monetary policy, the 8 hour work day - eventually became law.  But a lot of those were sort of free-floating reform ideas that the Populists co-opted.  The actual political movement of the Populists was fraught with racism, once they realized they couldn't win the South by appealing to racial solidarity between poor whites and blacks.  The journey of Tom Watson from racial progressive to racial troglodyte is a great example of this.  The actual Populists were a collection of angry cranks who happened to have some very good ideas.

But it was the Progressive movement - largely sober middle class reformers - who took those ideas and made them law.

Populism, by definition, eschews expertise and reasoned argument in favor of emotional appeals and gut feelings.  While the Populists were right about inflationary currency, they were often right for the wrong reasons.  Richard Hofstadter pretty persuasively argues that most Populists were reactionaries rather than liberals.  The fact that their chosen reforms actually brought about progress was kind of an accident.  Populists wanted to return to an imagined agrarian idyll.

Populism is an attitude towards politics more than a policy agenda.  Populism can be George Wallace or Father Coughlin or Donald Trump just as easy as it can be James Weaver or Jacob Coxey.

The Democrats on the left have taken the moniker "Progressive."  That was another difficult to define reform movement.  But broadly speaking, the Progressives worked within existing political structures to make them better rather than pulling stunts, like when the Populists seized control of the Kansas legislature by force.

Democrats are bound by outlook to make appeals to reason and policy, not emotion and boasts.  Work with that.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Donny, You're Out Of Your Element

There is some speculation that Donald Trump really has no intention of winning, and may even be open to being bought off the ticket.  Some have suggested that this is really just a way of creating a media empire.  Certainly that would explain the parallels to Sarah Palin.

However, the news today that Trump finally fired odious man-creature Corey Lewandowski goes against that line of thought.  Trump may be finally getting the message that the tactics he used to win the GOP nomination simply aren't adequate to running a national general election.  There remains the question as to whether or not he is congenitally capable of changing himself, but at least he seems more intent on not hiring brutish assholes.  Whether or not he will ever get his national organization off the ground is another question.  There are worries that Trump's flaming assholeness could cost the GOP Utah's electoral votes.  A strong showing by Gary Johnson could flip that state Blue, which would likely be irrelevant as it would be part of a Blue wave.

Still, the sign that Trump fired Lewandowski is a sign he may finally be learning.  He still has a steep, steep learning curve though.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

So, I Met A Nazi Last Night

I went out to a local brew pub with a couple of friends, and I got pigeonholed by a - I swear - a Nazi.  He wasn't a frothing at the mouth lunatic.  In fact - chillingly - he teaches AP US in the Waterbury school system. But he had a clear fascination with Hitler and  - surprise, surprise - Trump.  He longed for that magical leadership that comes from a "strong man."  That charismatic rabble-rouser who can strike a new course.  He also embraced a few wild conspiracy theories, of course.

It was a fascinating reminder that there are people out there who really aren't keyed into the traditions of Anglo-American liberal governance.  That's kind of scary.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Literalism

Reading this about an Alabama official who won't lower the flag for Orlando because of the flag code really reminds me of a persistent strain of thought on the right: fundamental literalism.

These are people who can't read intent into anything.  Everything has to be exactly as the words say.  Bible says the world was created in six days?  It was six days.  Constitution says nothing about health care? We can't do health care.  You confuse automatic and semi-automatic weapons in a gun debate?  You are not qualified to speak about guns.

If you are a parent, you know this behavior.  It is the behavior of an angry tantrum thrown by a four year old.  And this makes sense, because the modern conservative movement is really nothing more than a sustained tantrum anyway.  This makes the GOP a group of people who are really just a bunch of 60 year old 4 year olds.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Holy Shithead

Recently, Pennsylvania passed a bill extending the age to which sexual abuse survivors could sue to the age of 50.  The argument is that it can take half a lifetime for survivors of abuse to come to terms with what happened to them and come forward.

The Catholic Diocese of Pennsylvania has attacked the Catholic lawmakers who supported the bill.  Against the law, they lobbied against the bill, too.

I doubt, sadly, that anything will come of this, but it would be nice if Francis sacked Bishop Chaput.  Then again, if he sacked all the bishops who have hidden the crimes committed by priests, he might have a clean church not have an bishops left.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Murphy Is The Man

Chris Murphy is a damned fine public servant and I'm proud to have him as my Senator.  As I've mentioned before, I got to meet him back when he was my Representative, and he was remarkably intelligent, unscripted in the best way and really willing to meet our students at the point of their concerns not his.

Now, he's won a vote on the smallest of gun control measures (that will probably go down to defeat in the House), but it feels like a huge victory.

If you want to give money: https://chrismurphy.com/

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Worst Of All Worlds

Apparently there has been a wedding of Trump with the avid zealots of extreme supply side economics.


Trumps only redeeming quality as a candidate was his willingness to throw populist shade on Republican economic orthodoxy. This was reflected in his support by voters with only a high school degree who really aren't interested in reducing marginal tax rates on top earners. 

So they have wedded an authoritarian narcissist with a starve the poor ideology. 

Lovely. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

No, Donald, You Didn't Predict It. It Was Inevitable

It was just a matter of time before an Orlando type shooting occurred with links to Daesh. So many guns. So little restraint.

I'm amazed it took this long.