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The new politics, American Style

by Frank Schnittger Mon Oct 31st, 2016 at 07:17:35 PM EST

In common with many political junkies here, I suspect, I've been following the US elections very closely.  And yet, despite having written about 60 stories on US politics in previous years, I've written hardly a word this time around. Where to start? The subject is almost too horrible to contemplate: a reductio ad absurdum that keeps on plummeting into new unfathomed depths.  Could anyone have imagined a candidate so ridiculous as Donald J. Trump winning the Republican nomination, never mind the Presidency itself?

A narcissistic, racist, misogynist. A self-confessed serial sexual abuser of women and allegedly a child rapist as well. An admirer of Vladimir Putin, Saddam Hussein and assorted dictators around the world. A businessman who has stiffed many suppliers, contractors and customers throughout his career. A candidate who has encouraged his supporters to commit violence, and who has said he will imprison his opponent if elected. A rich kid who claims to speak on behalf of the dispossessed, and yet proposes policies which will dramatically further increase the gap between rich and poor in the United States.

And yet he is polling within a few percentage points of the front runner, Hillary Clinton, who, for all her faults, is none of the above. Yes, you can fault her for using a private email address for official business, possibly to avoid congressional scrutiny.  But she did so on the advice of a previous (Republican) Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and it was apparently a practice widespread amongst top officials, partly because of the cumbersome nature of the official email system, not to mention the risks of leaks emanating from that system due to cyberattacks and bureaucratic infighting.

So what is happening to the USA, and is it a harbinger of things to come in Europe and elsewhere in the world?


Much has been made of the increasing disparity in wealth in the USA; of the evisceration of the middle class by technology and globalisation; of the encroachment on traditionally white held occupations and areas by various racial minorities, some of whom are recent immigrants, legal and illegal. But studies have shown that much of Trump's support is not coming from those most effected by such trends, and that indeed his average supporter is wealthier compared to Hillary Clinton's.

Yes, his support is disproportionately from older, white, male, church going and non-college educated demographics living in more rural areas, so it is easy to interpret his rise as a protest against an establishment more inclined towards globalisation, pluralism and liberal social values. But it is difficult to imagine the contortions that religious fundamentalists and social conservatives have to go through in order to throw their support behind a serial philanderer who has never worshipped anyone but himself. Still, if you can believe the world was created 4000 years ago, perhaps you can believe anything.

Perhaps "liberals" make the mistake of believing in a rational universe. Where conclusions are reached on the basis of falsifiable hypotheses and hard evidence. Where facts and truth and verifiable theories are the basis of policy and decision making. Where democracy is supposed to be about enhancing the common good.

Perhaps Trump has it right that politics is really about provoking fear and creating scapegoats who can be blamed for those fears. About greed, envy and just plain ignorance. An inchoate rage about the world that is, without much thought as to how it could be made better. Perhaps it is just about riling up one tribe to fight against another for the spoils of war, and the only thing that matters is that you have more weapons than they do.  

Perhaps it is difficult to overcome millions of years of evolution in just a few generations, but it is worth noting that humans became one of the most successful of all species through their ability to communicate and cooperate with one another, to their ability to care for each other and nurture the young.

Trump is threatening to return us all to the dark ages, a task made all the easier by the weapons of mass destruction he will have at his disposal should he manage to win the Presidency. It is a dystopian world of dog eat dog, and may the devil take the hindmost. We have seen echoes of such tendencies in the rise of far right nationalism in the EU as exemplified by Brexit, and also in the sheer barbarism of wars such as that now going on in Syria. We last saw it on a global scale in World War II.

Most often people are caught up in such conflicts through circumstances beyond their control; through accidents of time and place. But sometimes they have a choice, and the American people are being given that choice on November 8th. They can choose to turn back the clock on decades of political, economic and social development, or they can put their trust in the slow, complex, confusing and often frustrating process of engaging in political dialogue to make things better for everyone, even if some always seem to get the lion's share of the spoils. It doesn't have to be about them and us: It can also be about all of us.

Display:
Opinion polling is a huge industry in the USA with many players having commercial or political interests influencing their models.  So rather than following the latest clickbait headline about some outlier survey it is best to rely on the poll aggregator sites which combine many polls to produce statistical distributions of likely results.

The best of these (to my mind) are Pollster.com for graphical representations of state and national trends; 538.com for poll updates; and Princeton Election Consortium, for a statistical analysis and combination of state polls which takes into account the fact that it is actually state polls, rather than the national popular vote, which determines who wins the Presidency.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Oct 31st, 2016 at 07:48:21 PM EST
Trump didn't create this electorate, he is the beneficiary of 60 years or more of politicians taking the low road of whipping up fear and suspicion.

For many years they could do this by using and exagerrating genuine facts and trends within US society. But, over the years the tales became madder and more divorced from reality until people like Newt gingrich were simpply making shit up against Bill Clinton.

Yet, each step of the way, the corporate media have been willing to aid and abet the creation of these myths. We know that Fox and Breitbart exist simply to propagate this nonsense, but seemingly sane channels such as NBC and CNN have allowed themselves to be reduced to parroting Republican propaganda simply because it gets ratings. The NYT even now seems to delight in pushing the latest anti-Clinton bullshit.

It is no surprise that people are so taken in by lies and rubbish; how on earth can they ever receive contrary evidence that might lead them to suspect otherwise?

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Oct 31st, 2016 at 10:03:08 PM EST
I'm not sure how much I buy into this narrative.  Do politicians create their electorates or vice versa? Do media create their markets or largely just exploit them?

Yes you can blame politicians or media organisations for failing to take the high road and educating and inspiring their constituencies to better things.

But so long as they are governed by short terms considerations of profitability, market share and vote share you will always find some willing to exploit immediate opportunities in the shape of current public panics.

Part of the problem is the lack of a strong public education sector.   Part of the problem is the first past the post two party system which reduces complex issues to a bifurcal choice.

But the basic problem, it seems to me is to expect commercial channels likes NBC and CNN to provide some kind of neutral, objective, or educative perspective.  They are set up to make money by exploiting existing markets, not for investing in developing new ones.

It is the notion that the state can delegate the dissemination of information to the private sector which is fundamentally at fault. They have a role, but not a sufficient one.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Nov 1st, 2016 at 05:11:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is a more interesting thought than the diary itself, and more widely applicable.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Nov 1st, 2016 at 05:30:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And is heading towards the core problem: our democracies are not configured to deal with the current media system.

I have no idea how to fix that, of course.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Nov 1st, 2016 at 05:35:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, the current media system is heading for its own commercial demise. So I think rather then thinking about how to fix the current one, thinking about how the next oen should work is time better spent.
by fjallstrom on Tue Nov 1st, 2016 at 07:57:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I do think that political leadership can rather substantially guide the nature of the electorate. There is growing evidence that the Trump candidacy has not only tapped into racist sentiments lurking in the electorate, but that he has nurtured them into bloom.

It's one thing for a lot of people to kind of think something, but never talk about it because they are unsure if it is correct and proper.  Or, because they know that it's not a fit sentiment for public expression. A solid chunk of Trump's appeal is his willingness to not only tell people that their racist sentiments are entirely correct, but to show them that it is possible to take them into public and still succeed.

This is leadership, of an unfortunate sort, but it also depends on those seeds having been planted before. While racism, chest-beating nationalism, and vindicitive aggression are nothing new to America, they have also been nurtured for years by the media. Again, when people see their own darkest feelings reinforced by news and personalities in public, it both feeds them and makes them feel more comfortable bringing them out public and acting on them.

Furthermore, how many people would have really come to the conclusion all on their own that Hillary Clinton had secretly murdered Vince Foster, or that Michelle Obama is really a man? Without that sort of CT bullshit being repeated ad nauseum in the media and the internet, a good chunk of the racist Trump base would simply have never have thought of this kind of stuff. Unformed and nebulous suspicion is one thing, but when it is given shape it has much more power in the mind and in the memory. This stuff is toxic mental pollution.

by Zwackus on Wed Nov 2nd, 2016 at 12:04:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank Schnittger: "It is the notion that the state can delegate the dissemination of information to the private sector which is fundamentally at fault. They have a role, but not a sufficient one."

That need was, in the USA, largely fulfilled by  federally funded mandates and support to what has become public radio and television - NPR and PBS. They remain the best source of real information, but ever since Watergate, where they came into their own, they first have been whittled away by conservatives always insisting that they find more of their funding in the private sector and then for their very existence when they touched cultural nerves in conservative politicians. Jessey Helms led the charge in the "piss Christ" controversy and the wonderful program "Ill Fly Away"

I believe the BBC has had a similar experience. In both countries the news programs and overall program direction should be fully funded by government with explicit mandates for the news programs to provide independent and aggressive journalism regardless of whose ox gets gored. That, at least, would be a start.


"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Nov 2nd, 2016 at 01:52:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"and then threatened for" it should have been.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Nov 2nd, 2016 at 01:56:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And don't forget the Fairness Doctrine.

Booman Tribune ~ When Power Shifts on the Court

But all the action hasn't been on the court. In 1987, the FCC (with all members appointed by either Nixon or Reagan) did away with the Fairness Doctrine. This opened the door for Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and the erosion of the public interest requirements for broadcast news.

I think that's when the broadcast media started going to hell. Maybe it would have anyway, but I would like to think otherwise.

We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Wed Nov 2nd, 2016 at 05:45:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Moonie Times was pivotal, in that it provided the first proof of concept for Wingnut Welfare in the American context. It does not matter how low you sink as a newsman; there will always be room for you at the Washington Times or the Sun. That's a crucial component of being able to lower the standards of journalism, because it provides a safety net for cranks in the real press to let their freak flag fly more openly.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Nov 6th, 2016 at 10:01:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The BBC has gone full fascist. It's practically the Völkischer Beobachter of the UK now.

Even some Conservatives are saying the bias is too obvious and has gone too far in their favour. That's literally unheard of here.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Nov 3rd, 2016 at 03:16:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So what is happening to the USA, and is it a harbinger of things to come in Europe and elsewhere in the world?

I'd say you've got that reversed.  It was Europe that was the harbinger of things to come in the US.  We've been watching the rise of fascist forces in Europe for all the reasons we've spent the better part of the last decade discussing.  Now it's come here.  There are distinctions from place to place, of course, but the story of the ascendancy of the far right is the same from the US to Brexit to the scare in Austria to Hungary and so on.

It's come here strangely at a time when things are actually going pretty well!  Median income has started to shoot up.  Wage growth has seemingly started to accelerate a bit.  Job growth has been solid given our demographics

I guess my view is the same as it's been all year:  Trump can win, but he is not at all likely to do so.  Clinton will likely win somewhere between 294 and 358 electoral votes.  This race has always seemed like it should come down somewhere between 2012 and 2008.  Could that shift dramatically in this last week?  Yep.  

But for now, I see a lot of people flipping their shit over utterly-predictable tightening in the polls.  The "Grab'em by the pussy" thing has been out of the headlines for a couple weeks, so it's out of the heads of the Moronic Middle.  So some Reps have come home.

Hillary Clinton was never going to win some sort of double-digit blowout.  It was never in the cards.  American elections just don't function that way in the modern era.

We've mostly recovered from the Great Recession, and we're on the verge of seeing Obama replace Reagan as the dominant figure in American politics.

Be nervous.  Probabilities mean that justifiable.  But see them for what they are.  The Clinton folks were smart.  They planned all along for a nasty fight, and few are better-prepared for that than the Clintons.  And they brought on a bunch of Obama alums to run everything under the hood.  Trust the process.

Plus, at this point, the dye is cast anyway, so no sense is worrying about what you can't control.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Oct 31st, 2016 at 10:49:15 PM EST
...adding:

But if you've got American friends on Facebook and other social media -- by all means, state your case, and try to get them to understand the threat here.

Trump is a manifestly dangerous pile of scum.  And every vote against him is a vote that says, loud and clear:  "No, no, hell no and fuck no.  Go fuck yourselves, you fascist cousin-fuckers."

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Oct 31st, 2016 at 11:43:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unless you are going back all the way to the 1920's and 30's, to the rise of Nazism and Fascism, I'm not sure I agree with this.  Sure there has been a rise of anti-immigrant rhetoric, of fringe far right parties almost throughout Europe.  But few have yet taken power, and most are very much still on the fringes. Creationism, intelligent design, climate change denial etc. are still very much fringe exotica.  No one like Trump has come close to getting his finger on the nuclear button.

So while I would agree that current political trends in Europe (and particularly Eastern Europe) are not encouraging, I don't see them as being in any way comparable to the Trump phenomenon in the USA. He is very much your own, home bred, pile of shit.  I don't think most people in the USA pay much attention to what happens in Europe, much less take their lead from it.

What concerns me most about the USA is that you seem to be reducing politicians to brands, to be advertised and denigrated as such, with no concern for actual policies or the coalitions of interests supporting either.  Truth doesn't matter any more. Facts aren't just selective, they are irrelevant. Track record matters much less than much hyped claims of what will be done in the future.

All of this is happening on a scale unseen in Europe, even in the almost entirely deplorable Brexit referendum in the UK.  If this is a sign of things to come in Europe, then I am greatly worried. In the meantime the EU plods along.  Sometimes the inability to do much is preferable to the ability to much that is wrong.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Nov 1st, 2016 at 06:01:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that's a disagreement on the degree of fuckedupedness rather than timing of trends.  I'll readily concede Trump heading the US is a bit of a different animal from a global perspective than some two-bit neo-Nazi in Hungary or Ukraine.

What concerns me most about the USA is that you seem to be reducing politicians to brands, to be advertised and denigrated as such, with no concern for actual policies or the coalitions of interests supporting either.  Truth doesn't matter any more. Facts aren't just selective, they are irrelevant. Track record matters much less than much hyped claims of what will be done in the future.

I don't know why this would suddenly become concerning, since it seems to me to be the natural end.  The two major parties in the US have basically held the same opposing positions on the same set of issues that voters focus on for decades.  The reason the fight comes down to personalities and brands is because those personalities represent the personalities of the voters on the two sides, and the brands are associated with the policies each side likes.

If I chose a random Democrat and a random Republican from the House to replace Clinton and Trump, the positions basically wouldn't change.

The Dems want more-progressive taxation and a larger welfare state.  The Republicans want the opposite.  The Democrats are very big on using the state to enforce equality for women and minorities.  The Republicans are opposed to these things.  The Democrats support abortion rights.  The Republicans do not.  And so on.

That's basically been every US presidential election since Reagan.

At this point, the two parties are closer to being pure tribes than being two messy coalitions.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Nov 1st, 2016 at 07:49:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I also have to wonder how much facts and policy have ever really mattered at the electoral level.  People have been complaining about the fact that politics has become all about brands and personality since ... I don't know, forever ago.

I think that it is a serious intellectual fallacy among too many on the left, to think that people can be convinced by facts, that the details of policy are interesting or comprehensible to most people, and that people think government matters in their life. Even when these problems are recognized, I think the tendancy is to bemoan the state of education, as if locking young people up and drilling them some more would somehow change things. People have dreamed of turning the masses into engaged and proactive citizens through education since 1900, and how well has that worked out?

Far too many, and perhaps most, people do not mentally engage with things that are not part of their daily life and their lived experience. When politics and political issues are part of their daily life, people pay attention. This has always been true, and I think it always will be true.  

by Zwackus on Wed Nov 2nd, 2016 at 12:12:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that it is a serious intellectual fallacy among too many on the left, to think that people can be convinced by facts, that the details of policy are interesting or comprehensible to most people, and that people think government matters in their life.
Or the big fallacy could be giving up rational discourse. Say, Al Gore may have been hurt more by his effort to dumb down his presentation.

Keeping rational discourse effective is a hard work, and just talking facts is not enough surely. But giving up the hard work means submission to political fashions dictated by others. The core problem for the left across the globe in the last ~20 years is that they seem to be followers in many ways, not leaders! Preserving intellectual level is actually a mark of leadership.

But I agree once more, just rationality is not enough. There is also an emotional, romantic side to politics - and there is some progressive history of that as well. Operatively, there are public framing, guiding, persuasion techniques that are not hard to learn - though progressive politicians tend to be carried away by one next buzzword they "get".

by das monde on Wed Nov 2nd, 2016 at 12:17:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree with your characterization of Trump. My concern now is whether the bipartisan 'ruling elites' understand the fragility of the electorate and the cost of the game they have been playing to maintain control whilst shafting the electorate, and, if they do, do they care? If they don't and nothing substantial is done by 2020, that could well be the last election in the USA. Trump has shown the way and, if he doesn't win,some more subtle and competent fascist sociopath will. A war or new, prolonged national security threat likely won't work as a distraction for Clinton. Congratulations are due to the bipartisan ruling elite. Heck of a job.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Nov 1st, 2016 at 02:56:50 AM EST
I'm not sure "the elites" are as cohesive as you imagine, or that they have a cohesive view on anything. Mostly, I suspect, they are made up of individuals intent on promoting their own self-interest, and may the devil take the hindmost, elite or otherwise.

In fact it may be the lack of an effective, bipartisan elite, which is at the heart of your problems.  Obama has been able to do nothing much for the past 6 years, and there is little chance of Hillary doing anything either - be that appointing a SCOTUS judge or even keeping the government open.

If the recent Comey scandal has achieved anything, it has ensured more gridlock for years to come, and that alone, may ultimately result in an authoritarian coup.  The separation of powers inherent in the U Constitution has made the US ungovernable.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Nov 1st, 2016 at 06:10:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I did my part ... I voted for Jill Stein (by mail) a few weeks ago. If Clinton wins, more years of slow death. If Trump wins via ANY path (SCOTUS comes to mind), he'll attempt to loot the country while plastering his face (think Mount Rushmore, Half Dome) or name (down the Washington Monument) everywhere. My hope is that before CA folds, the US Empire goes the Way of the USSR, CA will do better by not wasting resources (think Pentagon), and the rest of Republican USA can kiss my ass.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Tue Nov 1st, 2016 at 05:38:02 AM EST
And just what do you expect that vote to achieve?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Nov 1st, 2016 at 06:11:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Peace of mind. Right now, Sunday morning, I'm getting this eerie feeling from the "media" that TRUMP WILL WIN and there is a sense of dread of what will follow. What does my vote mean? The Trump supporter will claim my vote is a VOTE FOR HILLARY. And the Clinton supporter will shout that it's a VOTE FOR TRUMP. Well guess what, kiddies. The last time I checked, it was a vote for Jill Stein which says that neither  major party put forth a candidate I want to vote for. Bernie would have been fine ... he got screwed. It's time for the USA to go the way of the Roman Empire. Remember all those funky Emperors like Nero, Caligula, ... who they link directly to the fall of Rome. So TRUMP is TRUMP the FIRST! Kiss your bullshit USA ass goodbye.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sun Nov 6th, 2016 at 05:15:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Monday morning ... Booman seems very optimistic. I'll wait till Wed. morning ... somehow I've got a baaaaad feeling.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Mon Nov 7th, 2016 at 10:46:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Right now, waiting till Wednesday or even Thursday might be wise (especially if you're a republican about to vote).

Fact is that with the change in voting demographic with many more Latino and Female voters coming out I doubt that the polls have a handle on it. Even Nate Silver on 538 has admitted that he's had his thumb on the scales and now thinks he's been calling it wrong all along.

I think Clinton will get it easily, I'm fairly confident that she'll get the Senate too. But Congress? Aye there's the rub....

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Nov 7th, 2016 at 12:13:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Senate could very well pass. However, due to gerrymandering over the past decades and democratic demographics, it will be very hard to change the House. I believe Sam Wang has his thumb on that. Something like 56 to 58 % to win the House rather than the classic 50 plus one.The only way to do that- and that does seem the strategy- is to motivate minority voters to get out and discourage the right. Trump in that is a mixed blessing since his rabid message may galvanize certain sectors of the electorate while turning off the moderate conservatives.

Given that his entourage has sequestered his twitter account it does look like Berlin bunker.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Mon Nov 7th, 2016 at 06:05:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is basically the discourse of the mainstream media, not all that different from the FT editorial published yesterday. ET got a name for being more refined than this...

The US is undergoing a major political crisis, but not exactly because of Trump (similar caricatures were on the verge of nomination in elections past). What we are witnessing is the exhaustion of the two party system. It simply can no longer represent at large an ever more diversified society, where everything is connected and customised.

Forced through several processes of choosing between the less of two evils, Americans are now lead to believe they must choose between the worst of evils. There are however plenty other candidates, the majority of which considerably more palatable than Clinton or Trump. But the electoral college system and the mainstream media work together to guarantee only the latter two get to be known by the citizenry.

As an European I wish neither Clinton nor Trump could ever make it to President of the USA. However, in terms of foreign policy, Clinton's blaze trail points to a considerably more frightening scenario.

luis_de_sousa@mastodon.social

by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]protonmail[dot]ch) on Tue Nov 1st, 2016 at 07:51:33 AM EST
As an addendum, a simple example of the mainstream media amalgamating and ridiculing alternative candidates:

The days after the Greens exposed various of Oliver's claims on Jill Stein as plain falsehood.

You can vote on any candidate you like as long as it is Clinton.

luis_de_sousa@mastodon.social

by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]protonmail[dot]ch) on Tue Nov 1st, 2016 at 10:59:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I'm not an expert but I'm not sure their denial was entirely convincing either.

But you're right, you can vote for who you like. But Clinton's gonna win cos that's the way the US system is set up. If Jill Stein (or Gary Johnson or Joe Exotic) wanna win by staying apart from the system, they need to do the Bernie path.

Win a mayorship by doing the local difficult stuff and proving yourself. Win a Governorship by doing the difficult stuff and proving yourself. And, in the end, Bernie didn't win the Democratic Primary cos the Primary system is designed to enable local activists to occasionally put a thumb on the scales. And every single one of them owed the Clintons. So nobody was gonna help Bernie cos he'd spent 30 years working against them. This shit matters. Wanna win? Work with the system, then change it.

Jill Stein wants to rock up once every 4 years, make a loud noise about what she's owed and then sit on her behind doing nothing useful for the next 3 years except whine about the system being loaded against her.

That works in student politics, but in the wider world, not so much. I have a lot of respect for Green parties around the world, but Jill Stein doesn't impress me one bit.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Nov 1st, 2016 at 11:47:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
An under-reported story this year has been how bad the third-party candidates are, because everybody's so focused on Clinton and Trump.  Johnson is a know-nothing, and Stein is a know-nothing who, at best, panders to lunatics and, at worst, is one herself.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Nov 1st, 2016 at 12:52:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
they perform the valuable function of giving the American people the appearance of choice.  Only a crazy or a self publicist would run with absolutely no chance of getting anywhere...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Nov 2nd, 2016 at 08:30:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's no "appearance" of choice.  There's already a genuine choice between the two major parties.  (I'm not sure if that's what you were getting at, but that's how I read it, and it's complete fucking bullshit.)  If people haven't learned by now that the Democrats and Republicans are not the same, I don't know what to tell them, other than that they're stupid.  I'd have thought Gore-Bush and Obama-McCain/Romney would've made that plain.

Yes, there's technically two additional choices on the ballot with Stein and Johnson.  Substantively, they're basically just stupider versions of the major-party choices for people who are stupid.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Nov 2nd, 2016 at 10:28:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wasn't implying Clinton and Trump are the same, just that there are only two choices with any chance of getting elected.

In Ireland we are used to having over a dozen candidates and perhaps 6 parties to choose from; most with a significant chance of getting elected. There is thus a very strong chance that your vote will have an influence, and not just in "swing" states" as the result in most constituencies are in doubt. Getting elected usually requires getting lower preference vote transfers from eliminated opponents, so moderation is encouraged, as you are unlikely to get transfers from an opponent you have eviscerated.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Nov 3rd, 2016 at 12:05:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, it's not bullshit. The US - actually most countries in the West - need a New Deal style programme to jump start the economy.

But that's unpossible, so we get the current horror episode - the choice between a makes-vague-socially-respsonsible-noises right-wing corporate candidate, and a mad-eyed Stephen King novel crazy far right candidate.

If you want to persuade me there's choice in the US, let's see some truly left-leaning candidates get a realistic shot at the big job.

We both know that's not going to happen - for all kinds of reasons, very few of which have anything to do with voter policy preferences.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Nov 3rd, 2016 at 03:29:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
tbh I think, the US is evolving in that direction. They've had 40 years of the RW neoliberal rubbish and it's really hurt them. They're now trending back in the liberal direction, but it takes a while to really bring the people to the point where they can accept a new position.

No, Clinton isn't that person, but she will enable the person who can.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Nov 3rd, 2016 at 08:57:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And, no, their denial was not even sort of convincing.  Stein doesn't understand QE.  Presumably she's been sitting too close to her WiFi router.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Nov 1st, 2016 at 03:58:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ET got a name for being more refined than this...

Well, ET is like any website; it is the sum total of the people who participate. If you want to see better writing, start by writing better stuff to inspire the rest of us.


keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Nov 1st, 2016 at 11:18:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To be honest, I only wrote this story because no one else did, and I don't see how even a European focused website can completely ignore the US elections.  I've had something of a writers block about the US elections, even though I have been following them closely.  What more can be said? My general rule is never to write something that I have already seen expressed elsewhere, and I am not sure I have any original take on the US elections.  But I felt it was time we at least got a discussion going, and if Luis, or someone else, has a more original take, I am all ears.

What I find extraordinary about mainstream coverage is that it is almost exclusively focused on the personalities of the protagonists, not on the actual policy proposals they have published, or on the coalitions of interests they would bring to power if elected.  The other factor I find extraordinary is the almost exclusive focus on the Presidency, even though, as Obama has found out, the President has very little power unless he has a Congress he can work with.

So while I fully expect Hillary to be elected, she won't even be able to fund a Government without a supportive House of Representatives, and so we will have the same stalemate as before, only she will be blamed, despite having almost no responsibility for passing a budget.  People will get even more disillusioned with politics even though it is they who voted for a split President/House.

There has been a stalemate in US politics for 6 years now, and there is no sign of that changing in any way.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Nov 1st, 2016 at 05:29:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I object to the idea that Jill Stein or the libertarian doofus are better choices than Clinton, on pretty much any level. Stein is an opportunistic attention-seeker leading a national Green party that is constructed to be nothing but a spoiler. There are some decent and respectable local Green parties here and there, but their connection to the national party is tenuous as best, and the national party is incompetent and ridiculous by design.

America's two-party system is not great, but its the system we get thanks to our electoral system, and unless that is changed we are stuck with it.  I also think it's not in much worse shape than the political systems in a number of European countries, where the in-name-only Socialist parties have become neoliberal zombie parties which would prefer grand coalitions to working with the Left, and serious alternative parties struggle to break through time and time again. American local and state democracy, combined with the primary system, still gives it a dynamism and ability to change that is impressive.

Sure, the Democratic party is a big tent of interests, but it does have positions and those positiosn do change -- sometimes rather rapidly. We have gone from the "grand bargain" politics of 2008 to a situation where the party as a whole is talking about the expansion of Social Security. Hillary was more or less forced to come out against the TPP, and while people may not believe her, the fact that she did so is significant in and of itself. Bernie frickin' Sanders gave Hillary a run for her money in the primary, and was not opposed with anything like the petty and self-destructive spitefulness that the Blairites have thrown against Corbyn. His people have gone on to make substantial inroads at the local and state level, and may be on the way to pulling off a few victories -- just look at Applegate vs. Issa in California.

by Zwackus on Wed Nov 2nd, 2016 at 12:22:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Green Party exists entirely to run on dumbed-down versions of proposals that liberal-wing Democrats have already made and to pander to wealthy but liberal lunatics who think vaccines are a CIA plot.

They were stupid when they were goosestepping behind Nader's senile ass, and they remain stupid.  At least the libertarians can argue some distinction from the Republicans on social issues.  The Greens are just Democrats who are too much a bunch of purist, smug assholes to actually try to get any work done.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Nov 2nd, 2016 at 12:54:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - The new politics, American Style
Bernie frickin' Sanders gave Hillary a run for her money in the primary, and was not opposed with anything like the petty and self-destructive spitefulness that the Blairites have thrown against Corbyn.

I think this is in large part because Sanders lost.

Every time it looked like Sanders had a chance the Clinton campaign - supported by DNC - brought out the mud-slinging. And when it looked like he didn't have a chance they were taking the high road. So I think if he actually would have won the mud-slinging would have gone into over-drive and likely stayed there.

I also think the control over party apparatus, and the lenghts the power faction goes to in order to remain in power, is an important indicator.

Take for example the state convention in Nevada, where the state party in practical terms appointed the chair and the chair decided the meeting through only allowing voice votes and not hearing any seconds to motions she did not like. Thus the state party leadership re-elected itself. And then they made the story about it revolve around physical chairs that for all I know were not actually thrown.

If we compare this to the Blairite factions actions at the last Labour convention where they got two new Blairite members of the board through denying motions to separate that issue from other issues (and controling the chair of course), they at least allowed a proper vote on it.

I think it was pretty clear that at least a part of the Clinton faction very much intended to use super delegates to defeat Sanders, if it came to that. And if Sanders had won despite that, I think we would see some petty and self-destructive spitefulness.

by fjallstrom on Wed Nov 2nd, 2016 at 12:51:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All speculative, obviously, but we do have the precedent of the Obama Clinton primary battle where Clinton eventually conceded gracefully having thrown a bit of mud along the way.  And everything that was done on the Dem side paled into insignificance compared to the ructions on the GOP side.  And when it comes to the Convention, party rules state that super delegate votes count the same as any other.  There is nothing nefarious about this whether you agree with it or not.

I think we do all serious political candidates for the Presidency a disservice if we imagine that it is possible to win that prize without getting down and dirty along the way.  I have no doubt the Clinton campaign orchestrated some of the revelations about Trump that have surfaced in recent times.

Does this make her a saint?  Hardly. Could she win the Presidency any other way? Possibly. Would Sanders have made a better candidate?  Arguably, but in my view doubtful simply because he was so unproven.  Vermont isn't exactly representative of the rest of the USA.

For such a wide coalition of competing interests and differing demographics, the Dem party generally doe sa good job of papering over the cracks and presenting a united face come the general election. The GOP, on the other hand, seems to be having much more internal difficulty despite operating off a narrower demographic base.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Nov 2nd, 2016 at 01:23:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For such a wide coalition of competing interests and differing demographics, the Dem party generally doe sa good job of papering over the cracks and presenting a united face come the general election. The GOP, on the other hand, seems to be having much more internal difficulty despite operating off a narrower demographic base.

This is how you know things have changed.  If you'd said that 10 or 20 years ago, people would've looked at you like you were from Mars.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Nov 2nd, 2016 at 02:57:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Every time it looked like Sanders had a chance the Clinton campaign - supported by DNC - brought out the mud-slinging. And when it looked like he didn't have a chance they were taking the high road. So I think if he actually would have won the mud-slinging would have gone into over-drive and likely stayed there.

I don't know why people keep talking about how Bernie had a chance.  He didn't get blown out, but he lost soundly.  It was utterly obvious, barring a dead girl/live boy type scandal, that it was over by the end of Super Tuesday.  It was never really close.

Most real-world Bernie voters could see that but liked Bernie and wanted to vote for him anyway (I was one of them).  But on the blogs and social media, Bernie had a lot of really loud supporters who created an echo chamber, and a lot of people got roped into believing things which were mathematically possible but sociologically absurd.

As I said months ago, the primary was very simple:  Bernie needed to make inroads with black and Latino folks to win.  Those are two groups with whom Clinton is and was quite popular.  It was probably impossible to get to the numbers he needed.  He didn't, so he lost.  

The Dems allocate delegates proportionally.  To get separation, you have to win states by wide margins.  Unfortunately for Bernie, because of the demography of his and Clinton's respective bases, the states where he could do that were much smaller than the states where she could.  Winning Wyoming by 60 points is great.  But losing Texas by 30 makes that Wyoming win look like a rounding error.

As far as mud-slinging goes:  I understand people get emotional with primaries (I certainly have), but on the whole, that primary was pretty damned tame, to the credit of both.  And substantive!  On policy, strategy, philosophy, etc, the debates were really good, unlike the other side, which basically consisted of Trump emasculating Jeb! while everybody else tried to pretend they'd be the survivor.

There was never any serious effort by the Clinton to attack Bernie on his past.  And Bernie's hits on Clinton were pretty soft too.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Nov 2nd, 2016 at 02:55:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Slipped on the rating menu again, Frank?
by Bernard on Wed Nov 2nd, 2016 at 09:08:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I just noticed that.  What's the deal, Frank?

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Nov 2nd, 2016 at 10:17:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yep - I hate not having Tribex

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Nov 2nd, 2016 at 11:53:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is less about Jim choosing to vote for Clinton over Trump and more a meditation about where the two parties are and what it means to be a concerned citizen of the US at this time.

Stonekettle Station - Jim Wright - Pragmatism


[long screed of attacks on Jim's statements about Clinton and Trump]

Welcome to my inbox.

Here Donald Trump is a revolutionary.

And Hillary Clinton is a Wall Street tool.

Trump is the candidate of law and order, secure borders, and small government.

Clinton is the candidate of bankers and foreign interests, Allah and atheists, and the New World Order.

Only a traitor would vote for Clinton.

Patriots, warriors, true Americans vote for Trump.

According to my email, if you vote for Clinton it's because you hate America. Or you hate the Christian God. Or you're sick in the head. Or you're a criminal yourself. Or an illegal alien. Or a fake veteran. Or the real racists who keep "the blacks" from raising themselves up by their own bootstraps. Or maybe you just don't like self-made billionaires.

Trump is rich and successful, brutally frank and honest, he says it like it is. He's a man of God.

Clinton is a criminal and a lying bitch and a murderer who hates the military.

Also, for variety, there's Jill Stein and that Johnson guy, Gary, Gerry, Larry, something like that.

Over the last several months, as this horrifically horrendous horrifying election season has careened wildly out of control towards November like a burning prison bus slathered in raw sewage and filled beyond capacity with gleefully capering clowns frantically squirting their little seltzer bottles and honking their little horns with mad abandon unconcerned as they hurtle willy-nilly ever closer to the cliff edge, my inbox has grown increasingly frantic with panic and accusations and naked greased insanity dressed up like Napoleon decked out in a Hitler moustache and wearing giant pink bunny slippers and a propeller beanie.

But, underneath all of that is a legitimate question.

Why would somebody like me vote for Hillary Clinton?



keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Nov 1st, 2016 at 08:45:10 AM EST
We live in a world we inherit from our forebears, not necessarily one we would have designed from scratch had we been given absolute power.  So the reality is that you live in a first past the post two party system, and you only get two choices.  All else is a protest vote with little bearing on the outcome.  

So you have a choice between Hillary, who would follow policies broadly in line with Obama's, although without his popular mandate in his first two years.  So she won't be able to pass any legislation, or perhaps even keep the government running - for lack of a budget passed by congress.

The other Choice is Trump - who threatens to imprison his opponents, privatise the Government, and give tax breaks to the rich. If that is your preferred choice, so be it.  But don't blame me if he decides to start the odd war, or deploy the military  against domestic opponents.  It was your choice.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Nov 1st, 2016 at 05:37:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But it is also a winner-take-all on state level (except Nebraska and Maine) with hard polarisation and a common media market, so unless you live in a swing state, any vote is unlikely to have an effect on the outcome of the Presidential election.

If for example California goes for Trump because of Twanks vote, Trump will already have his 270 electoral votes from other states before California comes close to even.

by fjallstrom on Tue Nov 1st, 2016 at 08:12:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Only one of the three parts you listed on Trump should really be in the Top 3 Really Terrifying Reasons Dorito Mussolini Shouldn't Be Allowed Within The Washington City Limits.  Privatization and tax cuts are just generic Republican scumbaggery.  Awful, of course, but not end-of-the-world kind of awful.

Trump's temperament and the complete absence of any real checks on a president unleashing nuclear weapons ranks as my first concern.  That's, like, the first hurdle a presidential candidate should have to clear:  "Can I trust this person to not blow the world up?"

On Cruz, Kasich, Jeb!, and the rest of the sad sacks, my answer would be, "Yes, now let's move on to why they're terrible on all other things."  Trump?  No.

To borrow from Josh Barro:  This is a manifestly dangerous man.

(That's not to say he wasn't predictable!  As Helen has noted, the trend lines on the GOP have been leading to this.  I was just hoping it'd happen in another decade as a kind of last gasp of old white people.)

It's also why I really am not tolerating friends voting either Republican or third-party this year.  (I've flat-out told people who've been friends for years that I don't want to hear from them again if they vote for Trump.)  You can hate Hillary.  You can think she's corrupt.  You can think two-party system is some big sham to funnel money to an -- imaginary -- monolithic elite.

You should still vote for her.

This is not an election that should be based on ideology.  This is "Hey, remember when we were kids and they taught us that quote about how 'When fascism comes to America...'?  This is it."

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Nov 1st, 2016 at 09:53:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jonathan Chait posits that the rage machine, built over decades, will keep grinding until ... what? The system breaks? Is the US destined for a major case of political madness like in 1861? Other voices say not much will happen if Trump becomes president - BAU. I disagree. Legislative actions have the potential to turn large parts of the US into a third world country (as some of them already are). Just look at Kansas and other states who have gone the full tea.

But maybe there is hope now that people have actually lived the craziness in those parts. Is there a right amount of pain at the right time so that the pendulum can swing back from the coocoo spectrum? Is there someone smart who can come up with a strategy to send the Republicans to some healing camp or into the dustbin. Otherwise it's will get worse until the late 2020s when the Democrats can secure a House majority.

The GOP's Age of Authoritarianism Has Only Just Begun - Jonathan Chait - NyMag

Still, as the conservative movement has completed its conquest of the Republican Party, it has never resolved the dilemma that haunted it from the beginning. Conservative opposition to policies like business regulation, social insurance, and progressive taxation has never taken hold among anything resembling a majority of the public. The party has grown increasingly reliant upon white identity politics to supply its votes, which has left an indelible imprint on not only the Republican Party's function but also its form.

Right-wing populism has had the same character for decades -- in 1950, Theodor Adorno described the fear of outsiders, and the veneration of law and order, as "the authoritarian personality"; in 1964, Richard Hofstadter described a similar tendency as "the paranoid style"

... from a doddering Ronald Reagan to Dan Quayle to George W. Bush to Sarah Palin. From this standpoint, Trump is less a freakish occurrence than something close to an inevitability.

... Trump has propelled the party onto a course that may sometimes be discomfiting but could satisfy every faction: libertarian ends achieved through authoritarian means.

... But there is a crucial difference in design between the British political system, in which third parties win representation, and the American one. Trumpism (or Breitbartism) cannot win power without the Republican Party, just as the Republican Party can no longer win power without the extremists that define it.

... Trumpism is the long historical denouement of a party that has come to see American democracy as rigged. And what one does to a rigged system is destroy it.



Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Tue Nov 1st, 2016 at 07:34:16 PM EST
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Nov 6th, 2016 at 10:21:43 PM EST


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