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Guest Post - Political Rhetoric
Posted by Heebie-Geebie on 12.06.16

Nick S. writes: We've argued about how and why the Democratic party has had a difficult time appealing to rust belt voters, without achieving much clarity. Today Mike Konczal writes about the topic, and does a very good job. He manages to identify some specific issues, and explain why it is that Trump was effective and why Democrats had a hard time responding to his populism.

I think this is very smart (emphasis mine):

Trump talked about jobs. All the time. This gets lost in the coverage, which focused on the inflammatory scandals. Listen:
When I win on November 8, I am going to bring back your jobs. The long nightmare of jobs leaving Michigan will be coming to an end. We will make Michigan the economic envy of the world once again. The political class in Washington has betrayed you. They've uprooted your jobs, and your communities, and shipped your wealth all over the world. They put new skyscrapers up in Beijing while your factories in Michigan crumbled. I will end the theft of American prosperity. I will fight for every last Michigan job. -- Trump, Michigan, October 31, 2016
It's the first and most consistent thing he discusses. It's implied that he's speaking of a specific kind of job, a white, male, breadwinning manufacturing job. He doesn't discuss "the economy" and how it could work for all, he doesn't talk about inequality, he doesn't talk about automation and service work. He just declares that you will have a high-paying manufacturing job when he is president.
So what? Much of the Democratic platform is based on the assumption that most Americans understand that the kind of political economy he's talking about, a country filled with high-paying manufacturing positions, has been anachronistic for decades. Family leave, child allowances, and universal pre-K acknowledge that we need to look beyond male breadwinners as the core economic unit. Fight for $15 is about turning service work into a decent, secure, working-class life. Efforts to try to disentangle commodities like health care and retirement from employment start from the premise that many people won't get such benefits from their jobs. Many voters don't want to hear this.

Heebie's take
: I'm increasingly short-tempered with arguments against the Democratic Party. They're a party, trying to get power and run the country. But they are not synonymous with all institutions in the United States. Just because one party is a destructive toddler shitstorm does not mean that the other party is exactly one and the same with the media, the judicial system, the educational system, and so on. The DNC has a responsibility to try to get people into office. The existing people in all of these institutions and fields have a responsibility to act like fucking adults and not be held hostage to a self-destructive toddler shitstorm.

Despite all that, yes, the Democrats should state their message in bold, plain language like Trump did. But the fucking media should be held accountable for not consistently unraveling the bullshit in his speeches. I'm probably most mad at the media.

(And the statisticians. My personal theory is that they over-normed states to the national poll, because they underestimated how polarized the nation had become. I blame them, because I think Stein voters and others would have broke differently if they were taking the Trump threat seriously, so the statisticians should have been more thoughtful about the consequences of their assumptions.)

I go back and forth on whether or not I blame the voters. On one hand, I see them like a digestive system that just shits out whatever it's been fed. I blame the feed-designers. OTOH, that's paternalistic and they're fucking upscale suburban adults - learn to not be scammed already. OTTH, there is absolutely nothing productive about wishing the voters weren't so dumb. All you can do is blame the institutions that should have been informing them out of their dumbness. So I do. OTFH, if the standard for complaining is that it must be productive, then I'd never be able to say anything. So it isn't.

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He Was Fucked Up
Posted by Ogged on 12.06.16

A while back, some of the grownups were talking about someone who'd died, and my oldest was asking "who died? who died?" and I got to earnestly tell him, "Santa." But the grownups totally stepped on the real, follow-up joke, "It turns out Rudolph really shouldn't have been guiding that sleigh." And a moment's reflection reveals the truth of this. This drunk, red-nosed reindeer is ostracized all his life, and only when the night is "foggy" does Santa say, "hey, you drive!" Then there's the abrupt emotional turn, when all the reindeer love him--are they all also drunk? is that the fog of the foggy night?--and then the fateful chorus, "you'll go down in history." To go down in history is traditionally a way of saying "become immortal," but as life teaches us daily, only the dead can be immortal.

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Posted by Heebie-Geebie on 12.05.16

So is there a primer on the content of the #pizzagate conspiracy? All I know is that they said "pizza" in the hacked emails so many times that obviously, statistically, it had to be a codeword for pedophilia.

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New York Review of Fascism
Posted by Ben on 12.05.16

Mossy Character sent in a link to this Umberto Eco article from 1995 that's been going around; more recently, of course ("of course"), there have been a couple of good article (I thought more actually) by Masha Gessen. And, on the "prescience" tip, presumably we've seen the bit from Rorty's Achieving Our Country, but perhaps fewer have seen this bit, which comes from On Democracy by noted NCGOP donor Joshua Cohen.

(Speaking of NC, is there cause for hope that McCrory's coup will be prevented? Anyone know wtf is happening there?)

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Guest Post: NickS/Trevor Noah/Some Shithead
Posted by Ben on 12.04.16


When I heard last week that Trevor Noah had invited a conservative pundit on his show I had no idea who Tomi Lahren was, and had no interest. But today I saw this article which got me to watch the interview.

I think the article is correct in highlighting the ways that Noah did a very good job and yet I found the entire conversation painful and depressing. Noah tried very hard to make the conversation interesting, productive, or informative and, to my eye, he just barely succeeded. There are moments in which he is able to provide perspective and highlight the meaning of what Lahren is saying. But, overall, I feel like, as Noah said early in the interview, "sorry, my brain . . ."

The AV Club headline captures the dynamic fairly well, "Trevor Noah has his best interview yet with living Facebook screed Tomi Lahren"

But, after mulling over my depression about the conversation I thought about the Jonathan Chait's column about David Brooks which Brad DeLong posted about Brooks' unwillingness to acknowledge as a moderate figure:

The effect of all this commentary was not to empower the moderate ideas Brooks favored, but to disempower them. Brooks was emblematic of the way the entire bipartisan centrist industry conducted itself throughout the Obama years. It was neither possible for Obama to co-opt the center, nor for Republicans to abandon it, because official centrists would simply relocate themselves to the midpoint of wherever the parties happened to stand.

If that was supposed to be a conversation between Conservative Tomi Lahren and Liberal Trevor Noah, it makes me feel like "Conservative" and "Liberal" as labels are completely disconnected from reality, they are just positional statements.

Help me out, should I be happier about the dynamic which Caroline Framke describes as,

Noah badly wanted to find some semblance of reason within Lahren's blanket aggression toward all things liberal, but he went about it in the exact same way he proposed some should approach Trump. Yes, he expressed his opinions and challenged her on views he found confusing at best and offensive at worst. But he also just kept asking for clarity, for more information on why, exactly, Lahren thinks the way she does.

I have not got it in me to watch what I'm sure is a stomach-turning interview but I did read the vox article and I guess good job Trevor Noah? But obviously "conservative" especially has no meaning in itself;* and one suspects moreover that "liberal" just means "not those guys". But that's been the case for a long time.

* let's keep the structuralist etc. blather to a minimum, please

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Posted by Ogged on 12.04.16

In some piece I was reading recently, Jimmy Stewart had just come back from WWII, suffering from PTSD and feeling like everything was insignificant compared to the war. Someone said to him, so you think it's more important to bomb people than entertain them? A striking line, and it helped Stewart move forward. Which is all by way of saying, this is a good tweetstorm series of tweets.

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