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

Friday, April 29, 2016

Mark Halperin Is The Biggest Hack Alive

Seriously, this guy makes as much sense as a Mad Lib written by a Howler Monkey.


I'm admittedly ambivalent about the efficacy of protest.  I think in certain cases it's essential and in others it's counterproductive.  The problem is that it's nearly impossible to tell which is which.

This article highlights all the problems with protest culture.  Ultimately, it's about moral imperatives rather than tactical and strategic vision and achievement.  Protesters feel good about standing up to what they perceive as a moral failing.  However, in an age of polarization, they can often force people to take the side they oppose out of partisan loyalty.  Trump's biggest selling point seems to be his assault on "political correctness" (really, just not being an asshole), and the protesters can often reinforce that message and add to his strength.

However, ten years ago, I would have been telling marriage equality advocates to chill out, because they were pushing too hard, too fast.  They made a moral case and won.

Trump could be in for an historic drubbing, but I wonder if "heightening the contradictions" will make that more or less likely.  If the protests degenerate into violence that includes the protesters, that will only empower Trump, exactly the opposite of what should be their goal.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

In Vino Veritas

John Boehner got liquored up and spilled the beans about what we already know to be true.

As the article notes, this gibes with Ornstein and Mann's critique of the GOP as an "insurgent outlier" that was so ideologically extreme, that it made governance impossible.  They wrote this almost four years ago to the day, and nothing that has happened in the intervening years has done anything to soften this criticism.  The GOP simply refuses to compromise out of ideological purity.

The prevailing fiction that exists within polite DC society is that "each side is to blame equally" for the country's dysfunction.  Ornstein and Mann ripped this pretense to shreds, but it still surfaces in places like when Politico's founder starts babbling about a third party of technocrats ohmygodmakeitstop.  Because "each side is to blame" the criticism - despite being coauthored by an American Enterprise Institute scholar - could be dismissed as a liberal hit piece.

As the Vox piece points out, Boehner basically confirms Ornstein and Mann's criticism from within the Conservative Movement.

The sad reality is that the GOP is fundamentally broken, and the ascension of Donaldus Magnus is a prime example of this. The party elites have been sending extreme messages to the Base - impeachment, Birtherism, ACA is the end of freedom - and now the Base have internalized that extremism and coughed up the living, breathing Id of their party.

I've expressed before my sympathy for Boehner, who I think wanted to govern, but was not allowed to by the caucus.  However, we have reached a point where the GOP's ideological intransigence is threatening the well being of the Republic.

What is even scarier is that Trumpism is likely to become the default ideology of the GOP faithful.  As Trump wins the nomination, the GOP will dutifully fall in line behind him, because that is how the GOP do.  This could lead to more ideological polarization, and if the Democrats can't win back the Congress, a fundamental collapse in the ethos of separation and sharing of powers.

Shit IS fucked and broken.  But only one side broke it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Trump moved from the hostile ground of Wisconsin and hit his home turf in the Northeast.  He killed it tonight, sweeping the GOP primaries.  He still probably won't get to the magic 50%+1 of delegates, but he honestly could.

Maybe...maybe...if Kasich or Cruz wasn't in the race, Trump could have been stopped.  Kasich's continued presence in the race is such a mystery.  I guess he's waiting for the convention.  But that's not going to happen if he stays in the race.  A Catch-22.

But if Trump builds momentum, maybe he could clinch in California.

Clinton wins Maryland and Delaware so far.  I guess those are Southern and don't count.

Do What We Say, And No One Gets Hurt

Cleveland has to pay the family of Tamir Rice $6 million for shooting their 12 year old boy in a misplaced rush of adrenaline, testosterone, racism and idiocy.  The head of the police union hopes they use that money to educate the "youth of Cleveland" that any child who wants to survive better not do anything provocative like play in the streets.

We live in a country where white assholes parade open carry long guns in Chipotles, but a 12 year old black kid gets a death sentence for playing in a park.  And the police think it's the kid's fault.

This is an egregious incident of victim blaming that illustrates the fact that the police have become so insulated from the repercussions of their actions, that they are not only beyond the law, they have moved beyond basic morality.

Hey, Stephen Loomis?  Your cop executed that kid for playing in a park.  Until you realize that this is YOUR problem, nothing gets better.

Monday, April 25, 2016

You're Adorable

Cruz and Kasich have banded together to...I'm not sure exactly.  How, exactly, do Kasich voters in Indiana suddenly vote for Cruz?  Or Cruz voters in New Mexico vote for Kasich?

This is the myth of tactics.  Campaigns think they can make a masterful tactical move to save their campaign, when really it's about the bigger strategy.  Tactically, all you can hope for is not to screw up.

Sunday, April 24, 2016


I have to recommend the film, "Pride," about a group of gay rights activists who support the British coal miners' strike of 1984-85. It's a formulaic fish-out-of-water story, but it's so much better than it sounds. Yes, there's a formula, but it's so heartfelt and well done that's impossible not to get swept away.

Watch next weekend for May Day. Bread and Roses. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Trump Has No Etch-A-Sketch

Donaldus Magnus Trumpius recently made some sense, when asked about the stupid "bathroom bills" oozing out of the Bible Belt like so much pus.  He sounded reasonable and stuff, and everyone was like, "Ooooooh, he's pivoting to the center for the general.  Watch out Hillary!"

Eh, no.

Trump will no doubt try and pivot center, because everyone tries to pivot center.  This is not a new tactic.

In the age of YouTube and camera phones, there is simply too much video evidence of Trump being a shitheel.  And when people make up their mind about someone, they rarely change it.  Donald Trump's unfavorables among Latinos is YUUUUGE.  You don't pivot to the center and change those minds.  Maybe you can change 87% unfavorable to 85% if you work at it.  My guess is the same dynamic applies to female voters.

Donald Trump has defined himself in the minds of most Americans.

Martin Longman believes that the media will be complicit in this tactic, and I suppose they might be.  If the media mattered anymore, Jeb! would be the Republican nominee and Clinton - whom they hate - would've been more battered than she is.  So, while the media may allow Donaldus Magnus some latitude to redefine himself, he simply isn't going to be able to.

There is one group, however, that will likely buy this act: Republicans.  They will spin the new Donald and the real Donald in order to justify their support.  This, however, will have the effect of more firmly tying the GOP to Trump's form of misogynistic, race baiting demagoguery.

Go ahead and pivot, Trump.  And bring the GOP down with you.

UPDATE: And of course, if he does pivot, he will upset his mouthbreathing base.

Friday, April 22, 2016

In Extremis

Volunteered tonight at a men's shelter. These are guys at the absolute bottom. What was interesting was how they had essentially created a community amongst themselves.

Even at the bottom we need each other. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

No, You're Dumb

This piece suggests that working class Americans abandoned liberalism, because liberals are smug.  Honestly, I couldn't finish it.

Look, the working class abandoned liberalism because of race, though there were other factors.  Yes, style probably had something to do with it, but a certain intellectual smugness has been a part of liberalism since it was invented.  Liberalism as a movement relies on informed reason.  What does the evidence say?  What does precedent show?

Once working class whites began to leave the Democratic party over issues of race and culture, that may have removed some ballast from the party that represents liberals, but just because the Daily Show is smug does not account for why Kansas is dark red despite poor governance.

Whatever truth exists in the argument that coastal liberals look down on heartland conservatives, that argument can also be precisely reversed.  The conservative movement has nothing but contempt for liberals.  They rode to power on the backs of guys like Jerry Falwell and Rush Limbaugh and have now coalesced in Fox News.

And to argue that today's polarization is a product of liberals is to me the ultimate Slate-Pitch.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

I Literally Am Tearing Up

It's not just Harriet Tubman who will be on the new currency.  Jack Lew, everybody:
The new $10 will honor the story and the heroes of the women’s suffrage movement against the backdrop of the Treasury building. Treasury’s relationship with the suffrage movement dates back to the March of 1913, when advocates came together on the steps of the Treasury building to demonstrate for a woman’s right to vote, seven years prior to the passage of the 19th Amendment. The new $10 design will depict that historic march and honor Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Alice Paul for their contributions to the suffrage movement. The front of the new $10 will continue to feature Alexander Hamilton, our nation’s first Treasury Secretary and the architect of our economic system.
The reverse of the new $5 will depict the historic events that have occurred at the Lincoln Memorial. In 1939, at a time when Washington’s concert halls were still segregated, world-renowned Opera singer Marian Anderson helped advance civil rights when, with the support of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, she performed at the Lincoln Memorial in front of 75,000 people. And in 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech at the same monument in front of hundreds of thousands. Honoring these figures will bring to life events at the Lincoln Memorial that helped to shape our history and our democracy. The front of the new $5 will continue to feature President Lincoln.

One thing I love about our country is that it may take us a while, but we eventually do the right thing.


The butthurt is strong in Sandersland this morning.  My Facebook feed the morning was notable for Robert Reich saying, "Hey, calm down, Hillary is a pretty good candidate in November," and immediately being attacked by the raging Left for whom Hillary is really just Nixon in a pantsuit.

Matthew Yglesias makes the case that Sanders represents the future of the Democratic Party.  His argument is demographic, in that Sanders is killing it with young voters.  In fact, that's the only demographic that he leads in regardless of race or gender.  It was either Aristotle or Whitney Houston who said, "I believe the children are our future."  However, I was a Marxist in 7th grade.  I grew up.

So will Sanders voters.

The aggravating thing about Sanders was his maddening tendency to talk in terms of moral purity when it came to issues of practical politics.  As Barney Frank so venomously put it 25 years ago:
"Bernie alienates his natural allies. His holier-than-thou attitude — saying in a very loud voice he is smarter than everyone else and purer than everyone else — really undercuts his effectiveness."

And more recently:

"I think Bernie Sanders tends to have the approach, 'Don't be pragmatic, state your ideals, state what you think is the right policy and be very wary of compromise and of accepting less than you want.' My view has been to fight hard for the leftward, most achievable results."

Sanders has run a campaign based around the theme that politics as we know it is - by its very definition - immoral and corrupt.  As Clinton has said in her defense - accurately, I think - that by Sanders definition Obama is corrupt, Biden is corrupt, Elizabeth Warren is corrupt.

This argument makes sense if politics is new to you.  If you're young and idealistic, then Sanders represents the cutting edge against forces that you feel are overwhelming you.

It's worth noting, however, that Hillary Clinton worked on George McGovern's campaign.  She was once a part of the idealistic Left.  She then grew up politically in Arkansas and matured in the maw of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.  She has reached the pinnacle of her career in the dawn of the Obama Coalition.

Her career represents the fall and rise of modern Democratic Party politics.

For young people, they simply don't grasp that historical arc.  Not because they're lazy or entitled or "Millenial."  They simply haven't lived it.  When my kid was two, he'd freak out over getting his hair and nails cut, because he wasn't sure they'd grow back.  That makes sense, when you're experiencing things for the first time.  The 20-something Sandernistas are going through this process for the first time.

Are New York primary laws absurd?  Yeah.  But they aren't arbitrary and they aren't fraudulent.  Is Sanders more uncompromising in his beliefs?  Yeah.  But believing something is hardly the same as achieving something tangible.

Pragmatism is a weak contrast to idealism, especially when you are young.  I made my piece with it years ago.  Hopefully, the vast portion of the Bernie Or Bust movement will realize that losing the primary isn't the same thing as losing your soul.

But, if Yglesias is correct that these young voters are the future, then they will need to show commitment to more than rallies and bumperstickers and online flame wars.  They will need to show up at midterm elections and build a left-wing political apparatus that can win state assembly seats.

The 2016 election is a holding action.  It's 2020 when Democrats need to grab control of state governments for reapportionment.

You want a revolution? Sorry.  It's going to require hard, mundane work.  Day to day building of a movement to win elections that advance your agenda.  Working within local, state and national structures to build an agenda from the ground up.

It's going to require doing the work that Hillary Clinton has been doing for 40 years.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Epistemological Closure


We're all very cranky.

And I blame the Internet.  The Internet SHOULD be the vehicle by which we can find that person in South Dakota who loves the Braves, too.  And it is.  I have an online acquaintance who I converse about the Braves with, and he's from South Dakota.

So why does the Internet make us cranky?

Because it creates a view of the world that is self-reinforcing and at odds with reality.  Take the Braves.  No, seriously, take them, they suck.  My little online community spends a TON of time arguing about how much they suck and how long it will be until they stop sucking.  Argue, argue, argue.  Now, that's fun, to a degree.  But it can be a little cranky-making.

Worse is what is happening in politics, because politics is about the collision of people who aren't all invested in a particular outcome.  All the posters at the Braves site want the Braves to be good again.  They just disagree with how that's going to happen.

In politics, for anything to happen in our system of government, people who disagree have to find agreement.  What has poisoned politics lately has been the complete abdication of that principle by the Republican party.  They can't even pass a budget within their caucus, because they won't compromise with anyone to their left, even within their own party.  Forget compromising with Democrats, they won't compromise with Pete King.

The Sanders "revolution" is a manifestation of this on the Left.  Read this piece about Ithaca, NY.  These are people who have zero idea about the rest of the country.  It reminds me about Paulie Kael's (probably apocryphal) statement that Nixon couldn't win, "because no one I know voted for him."  Arguing with Sandernistas about the fact that there isn't a left-wing majority in the country is like arguing with a sidewalk about particle physics.  Everyone THEY know like Sanders.

What's more, not only does everyone you see at your gluten-free bakery like Sanders, everyone you communicate with online feels the Bern, too.  Vox dug into this here.  User generated popularity pushed Sanders stories up reddit subgroups.  This explains the conspiratorial bent of Sanders current arguments (The election is rigged!) and it popularity among young people.  Take these two quotes from the Vox piece:
Sanders was able to broaden his appeal among liberals despite the fact that many prominent liberal pundits — including Paul KrugmanJonathan ChaitKevin Drum, and Jamelle Bouie were attacking Sanders for having half-baked policy proposals and an unrealistic political strategy. One big reason these attacks failed is that a lot of Sanders fans never saw them.


"It's easier than ever to surround yourself with information that confirms what you already believed was true," says Eli Pariser, a liberal activist who founded the social news site Upworthy. In a 2011 book, Pariser dubbed this phenomenon a "filter bubble."

Here is the fundamental illiberality of the Internet on display.  Your filter bubble restricts what you see to what you already believe.  You eschew open-mindedness for like-mindedness.  And that reinforces what you believe at the expense of more objective and challenging experiences.

All of this creates a more atomized, individual political landscape.  Just as Amazon has killed the local bookstore - the place where you might stumble upon a new author by accident - the Internet is undermining political parties.

The problem with anti-institutionalism is that institutions are incredibly important for communal life.  If we no longer believe in common institutions then we have no common connection with each other.  We are bound to like-minded people we never see but alienated from the larger community of our country as a whole.

The further we get from that boring, institutionalized center - traditionally the place that our two political parties lived - the more this epistemological closure tightens around us.  And now one party has completely abandoned the center and the Sanders people would like to do the same with the Democrats.

As a liberal (not a "progressive" in the sense the Left uses the word), I kept an open mind to Sanders.  He had some interesting ideas, but like Krugman and Chait, I found the ideas hollow.  So I rejected them, but I didn't turn on Sanders until recently.  I've written many times that revolutions fail.  They not only fail, they also destroy the common weal.

Sanders may lose - he probably will.  But I worry that he's not a precursor to a leftward swing in politics, but a disintegration of the idea of common ground.  The GOP has already abandoned it.  The Democrats can't afford to be next.

Reforming The Primaries

A lot of interesting takes on how broken our cobbled together primary system actually is.

Florida 2000 was supposed to fix our national elections.  I guess some improvements were made.  I doubt this year's anarchy will lead to much real change.

But I would love for them to get rid of caucuses and create fewer primary dates.

Monday, April 18, 2016

This Will Be Interesting

Tomorrow is a critical day for the Democratic contest for the nomination.  Sanders has run up an impressive string of victories, but they have not netted him a tremendous amount of delegates.  If Clinton can pull off a 5-10 point win tomorrow, she arrests his momentum ahead of next Tuesday's large slate of primaries.  After a bunch of time on Sanders turf, the campaign now swings back to Clinton's turf, but she needs a solid win to re-establish herself as the candidate to beat.

Now comes word from our neighbors to the west that apparently a lot of Sanders voters are unaware that they actually have to be Democrats to vote in the Democratic primary.  As John Cole helpfully points out, this is not vote suppression; this is party rules.  In fact, some Sanders supporters knew the rule, but just couldn't bring themselves to becoming Democrats, even for a few months.

And here we see again the political problems of Sanders "revolution."  He can rail against the existing system all he wants, but he's going to find it very hard to win over that system.  You want to know why only one of his Senate colleagues have supported Sanders over Clinton?  Here's a pretty example of why.

I can hardly wait for the caterwauling from the Sandernistas when they discover that they actually have to be Democrats to vote tomorrow.

UPDATE:  Cole goes Full Cole.

Marriage Made In Hell

What happens if you wed the worst impulses of conservative authoritarianism and online libertarianism?

I'm glad you asked.

Sunday, April 17, 2016


John Kasich routinely gets described as the "sane candidate" on the GOP side.  The other day, he caught some flack for saying women should avoid parties where there is alcohol being served in order to avoid getting raped.  Needless to say, this comes across as victim blaming in many circles.

Kasich went on to explain that this is the advice he would give his daughter, and in that light, I guess it makes sense.

But Kasich is running for president, not dad.  What this reveals is a sort of fundamental way that Republicans look at governance.  It is paternal and patriarchal, sure, but it is also an extension of their own values.  You bring YOUR values to elective office and seek to promulgate and spread them.  That just goes without saying.

As they are discovering, however, fewer and fewer Americans share their values, and those that might share some of their values are increasingly unlikely to want to be told how to live by others.

Remember, Kasich is the sane one.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Uncivil War

As acrimonious as the Clinton-Sanders race is, at least it's not the GOP race.

They really are at a loss of what to do.  They hate Cruz and they hate what Trump will do to the GOP "brand."  But unlike Trump, Cruz is a real GOP politician who is as personally appealing as head lice.  This is why you will continue to hear nonsensical unicorn candidates until they wake up one morning in Cleveland with a nominee they can't stand.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Port Huron Statement

I just re-read the Port Huron Statement (along with the Sharon Statement) for class tomorrow.  What was striking was that it read fundamentally like something that Sandernistas could have written today.  It is the perpetual lament of the Left.

What makes it especially interesting is just today Tom Hayden endorsed Hillary Clinton.  If you live long enough, the Radicals settle into Liberalism.  Revolutions only really appeal to the young.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Obama Was Wrong About Being Wrong

Obama recently said that the biggest mistake of his presidency was in not planning for what came after Qaddafi in Libya.

I would say, "Bullshit."

His biggest mistake was in not prosecuting those in the Bush Administration who had advocated for and carried out torture.  Followed closely by his decision not to arrest, convict and imprison the Banksters who broke the world.  That decision has empowered the populist right and left and threatened the stability of our entire political system.

The Libyans broke Libya.  Obama let the people who broke America get off the hook.

It Has Come To This

Somehow, Bernie Sanders' campaign has infiltrated my Facebook feed.  I keep getting these messages.  Some are benign, walking the reader through voter registration questions - because apparently that's how the "revolution" happens.

But as they increasingly accused Clinton of criminality and being a new Hitler, I finally did something I NEVER do: block content on my Facebook feed.

I have remained "friends" with people for years who all I do with them is argue on Facebook.  But these people aren't my friends, and I don't know why I have to scroll past their stuff.  So I reported them as spam and blocked people like "Eric."  Now I'm getting the same messages from "Melanie."  So, I block her, too.

At this point, I feel more antagonized than interested.  I realize that this is simply reinforcing a previously held position, but isn't that the great peril of the Internet?  Doesn't this account for our extreme polarization?

Monday, April 11, 2016

Fixing The Nominating Process

This year's "unusual" primary season has exposed the ungodly mess that is the nominating process for president.  In a sane system the following changes would be made:

1) No more caucuses. If the idea is to garner the broadest possible support, then caucuses inevitably warp this process, because they reward those with the time and energy to sit in a room for several hours.

2) Reduce the superdelegates.  They serve a purpose, because it is the party apparatus that should have some say in the selection of the party's candidate.  But they shouldn't make up more than 10% of the delegates and they should be elected leaders, not party hacks.

3) The calendar needs to change.  Iowa and New Hampshire should share the stage with South Carolina and Nevada.  All four go on the same day.  All four are primaries, not caucuses.  This allows for regional and national candidates to stake themselves to a claim to continue.  The retail politicking that takes place in Iowa is frankly unrepresentative of both the November election and being president.  It tells us nothing but how well a candidate can pander to Iowans.  But having a New England, Southern and Western state on the same day allows different candidates with different appeals a chance to stake a claim.

4) The calendar needs to change some more.  There are too many primary days.  If we get rid of caucuses and conventions, that would cut down on some of the days, but there should only be about six or seven primary days after the first day outlined above.  Saturdays are nice, because you can capture more people.  After the first primary, maybe two weeks later you have a Saturday primary with Georgia, Alabama, Oregon, Washington, Kansas, Oklahoma, Michigan, Maine and Massachusetts.  Two Saturdays later it's Texas, California, New York and Illinois.  Two week after that, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Colorado....You get the idea.  You clump some neighboring states together to allow the candidates more efficient travel schedules, but you hold primaries in several different regions to prevent regional candidates from being disproportionately favored.

Parties set their own rules.  Ideally, the Democrats and Republicans could work together on this since it's not policy related and this has been a stomach churning season, especially on the GOP side.

You're welcome, America.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Reckless Vs Responsible

Over at the Great Orange Satan, there is really only one thing I read with regularity and that's their Abbreviated Pundit Roundup.  Today, they take Dana Milbank to task for comparing St. Bernard with Tailgunner Ted and the Trumpalumpa.

Milbank acknowledges the very different styles of Sanders and Trump/Cruz.  He is not comparing the nature of the message or the messengers themselves.  He compares the practicality of each of the three candidates' plans.  None of them are plausible.  Trump and Cruz's tax plans are so transparently mendacious that they almost render debate on them impossible.  How do you debate someone about which animal is better if they pick a unicorn that is crossed with a lion and a dragon?

Sanders proposals are extreme in the other direction.  While the Trump and Cruz promise ridiculous tax cuts that can never be paid for, Sanders, at least, proposes spending money on Americans.  But he does so without any plausible way to pay for it.  Not even most of it.  Even with massive tax increases, adding the sort of spending that he wants to spend is onerous.

You can make two counterarguments.  One is that this is precisely the strategy behind "starve the beast" where Republicans run up debt so that Democrats can't add programs when they get the levers of power.  Or you can argue that Republicans routinely run out ridiculous math in campaigns, why can't Sanders.

Neither argument accounts for reality.  Milbanks best point is that elevating expectations to absurd heights is a recipe for disillusionment and anger.  We are already seeing this on the GOP side, where the Teanderthals promised to repeal everything Obama ever did and defeat him in 2012.  When they were unable to do anything, the GOP coughed up the orange colored anger magnet Donald Trump.

Up until now, St. Bernard's basic decency has led me to say things like, "I like Sanders, but..."  This is the close cousin to "I don't like Hillary, but..."  Well screw that.  Sanders is actually dangerous to liberal governance, because one huge advantage liberals have is that we work within the realm of reality.

Sanders undermines this advantage.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Perils Of Sainthood

Since Bernie is running for Saint of the Left, he has to avoid actually engaging in politics.  As he has basically said that Clinton is unqualified to be president because she's been doing politics for the past forty years, he can't be seen as engaging in cynical politics.

Which is exactly what this Vatican flap is all about.  The Sandernistas are suggesting that the Pope wants to meet with Bernie because Francis is a Bernie-Bro.  But this is an outright falsehood.

It goes back to the surprising result of Politifact that in fact Clinton is the most honest person in the race.

Friday, April 8, 2016

It's A Crime

The Big Dog sometimes lets his bark get away from him.  The 1994 Crime Bill has many flaws, and he's acknowledged such, which is why barking at the BLM protesters was counterproductive.

However, as Pierce notes in this piece, many of the BLM movement weren't alive in the 1990s when crime was arguably the single most important domestic political issue.  I can remember - living in the LA for three years in the early '90s - being mugged once and having my car broken into at least four times.  The ability to maintain public order - as Thomas Hobbes would remind you - is the essential prime directive of any government.  While the Crime Bill prioritized penal solutions instead of broad based social results, recall that what small efforts that were made at the time to help divert criminal activity (midnight basketball) were roundly pilloried not only in the right wing press, but in the entire media.

Pierce's headline is also misleading.  First of all, it posits that there is a single agenda for BLM.  There isn't.  Secondly, having talked to Deray McKesson, I can say that - on his part, at least - BLM does very much care about the murder rate in African American neighborhoods.  As McKesson explained, the problem with bad policing extends beyond Sandra Bland and Tamir Rice.  It means that police don't respect their communities and vice versa.  It is too easy to characterize BLM as simply being against bad cops or harsh sentencing for African Americans.  It is precisely because African American MURDER victims are also invisible that has created the energy around BLM.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

These Are Not The Parties You Are Looking For

Here's an interesting study about how people tend NOT to understand who actually makes up the political parties.  This is an exploration of the power of prejudice and stereotypes.  (It is also interesting that the Republican stereotype - Bible thumping Southerners - isn't that far off the mark.)  The stereotype of the Democratic party as a party of lesbian, atheist, black, union members is wildly off the mark.  At least in part, this is because there just aren't a lot of lesbians, atheists, blacks or union members out there to constitute a viable political party.

This is a fundamental problem with the Left of the Democratic party.  They assume that there are a bunch of leftists out there - gay, atheist, minority union members - who can constitute a winning coalition.  In fact, you HAVE to have stolid, boring old white middle class voters to win.  You don't need a majority, but you need a fair amount.

This is the heart of the problem with purity politics.  If you think Sanders can unleash a new coalition from the Left, you're kidding yourself.  There just aren't enough votes there.  The GOP is already in thrall to its purity wing, but that has lost them two presidential elections and will likely cost them a third.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Reductionist Politics

I had a discussion with a couple of Sandernistas online the other day.  Maybe you've had this experience.  Maybe you are one.  Here's what I came away with after two separate discussions: Sanders supporters reduce all politics to a single issue: money in politics.

Now, I agree that money in politics is bad.  It warps and shapes policies in ways that can hurt people.  The current landscape is as bad as we've seen since the Gilded Age.  But money in politics is not the root of all evil.  It is not the cause of all our problems.

Here is some excellent (if poorly explained) analysis of why Americans often vote for conservative candidates.  Sanders people will tell you that working class whites have abandoned the Democratic party, because the Democrats under Clinton (and Obama) have been corrupted by money and are now indistinguishable from Republicans.  This is the essential Nader argument in 2000.  Anyone who has lived through the Bush and Obama years with their eyes and ears open needs to appreciate how absurd the idea that Republicans and Democrats being indistinguishable is.

Because liberals stretching back to FDR have embraced free trade, this only goes to show money-in-politics.  Because they reformed banks rather than break them up, this only goes to show money-in-politics.  Because they have allowed fracking that has driven energy prices to historic lows, this only goes to show money-in-politics.  It's a closed system that requires no explanation and no evidence.  It is a self-evident article of faith.  It is at the root of this spurious idea of "revolution."

America isn't secretly a left wing country, just waiting for Sanders to come along and unleash this left wing coalition of poor whites and minorities.  It's full of the people Sean McElwee describes in the article above: poor whites who have focused their resentment on minorities, especially blacks.  Trump may vary some from the GOP orthodoxy, but that's not WHY he's popular.  He's popular in SPITE of his heterodoxy.  He's popular, because he's tapped into that racist energy that exists among working class whites.  As I've said before, I see my fair share of Confederate battle flags in Connecticut.

By reducing everything to money-in-politics, Sanders and his supporters are true to their neo-Marxist roots.  And there is a great deal of validity in diagnosing this problem.  However, nothing, and I mean nothing, is because of one reason and one reason only.  Especially not complicated matters of public policy.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


Bernie should win. The margin is significant. He needs 60%. 

Cruz needs to win. Again 60% gives him credibility. 

This Was Always Going to Happen

Sanders and Clinton are going to debate.  That was always going to occur, but the tactics that go into debating about a debate led to more unpleasantness and more howling from each camp's flying monkey brigade.

While I think Sanders can and should stay in the race until the convention, there has to be an effort to downplay the day-to-day bickering.  There has to be an effort to remember who you're really fighting against.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Rich People's Money

The recent leaked documents about the super-rich offshoring their money is a better example of the different rules for the rich and everything else than anything Bernie Sanders has been saying.  You can complain about the market share of Wells Fargo all you want, and you can rail about campaign finance.

But once you get down to it, the rich simply have resources beyond resources to get away with what they want.  After 9/11, there was an effort to crack down on the shadow banking of direct cash transfers - the kind that were used to fund the attack.  Some efforts were made internationally to curb the excesses that led to the 2008 crash.

We will need the sort of international cooperation to crack down on this crap that has been sadly absent when it comes to the rich and their money.  You think the US is an oligarchy?  Go just about anywhere else and you'd be shocked.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Clinton And Messaging

Hillary Clinton hates the press.  We get that.  But she's also just not very adept at messaging.  And if you're going to try and bypass the press, you'd better be really slick at getting your message across.

I've been saying for a while now that Clinton should be selling herself as the true Democrat in the race.  She's fighting with Sanders over the "progressive" label, because party identifiers are weak historically right now.

But not in a primary.

Clinton needs to be pointing out that she is the one trying to win back the Senate and maybe even the House this November.  Sanders is running a "revolution" and has mastered the messaging that goes along with that.  Clinton needs to demonstrate WHY the Superdelegates are supporting her.  It's not because she's "corrupt" but because she's working for the entire party.  Bernie is working for his revolution.  (In some ways, Sanders feels like Trump in the sense that he got into the campaign not expecting to win, but is getting much farther than he thought.)

This can lead to nonsense brouhahas like the fossil fuels nontroversy.  Greenpeace isn't exactly a part of the governing coalition.  They are bomb throwers by nature, and that makes them natural allies of Sanders.  But their current attack on Hillary - that she's accepting money from the fossil fuel industry - is warped to the point of dishonesty.

Sanders message discipline makes this bullshit attack have more legs than it should.  His constant focus on the terrible campaign finance system makes Clinton look guilty, even when she's not.  And even when Sanders himself is accepting money from the same sources as Clinton (individuals who work in the fossil fuels industry).

Clinton's inability to stick to the message of "I want ALL Democrats to win in November, not just ones who I find pure and righteous on every issue" is what's allowing Sanders to define the dialogue at this stage of the race.