Sunday, December 16, 2018

How long can this go on?

George Packer has a thoughtful essay up at the Atlantic that discusses how fraught the political problems of the United States have become, and why.

Bottom line; "movement conservatism" in the US has become completely zero-sum and utterly irredentist. It, and the roughly 35-40% of the American public who support it, no longer see opposition to their beliefs as legitimate or transactional, but as dangerously illegal treason. If you look for a link between the sort of rhetoric (and policy) issuing from the Oval Office, the legislative agenda of the current majority in Congress, and the actions of the GOP in the various states they control you can see the connection; to modern movement conservatism there IS no legitimacy outside the "conservative" agenda. Opposition isn't simply politics, but betrayal of everything that the nation stands for - conservatism. That Trump emerged from this fever-swamp is no surprise, and neither is the reality that despite being obviously the least competent Chief Executive since Buchanan his popularity with the GOP voters is stratospheric.

It's no surprise that the base is in love. The base is consumed with...
"paranoia and conspiracy thinking; racism and other types of hostility toward entire groups; innuendos and incidents of violence. The new leader is like his authoritarian counterparts abroad: illiberal, demagogic, hostile to institutional checks, demanding and receiving complete acquiescence from the party, and enmeshed in the financial corruption that is integral to the political corruption of these regimes."
The obvious problem here is that there is as currently constituted no rational alternative for someone who is hesitant to embrace the changes and challenges of a multipolar, multiethnic nation in an increasingly interconnected world. If people who see themselves as "traditionalists" don't see a way to organize around a reasonable opposition to things they fear they will be forced into choosing the unreasonable and irrational.

There will always be racists and lunatics who will embrace Naziism or bizarre nonsense like QAnon. The tragedy of US politics is that there is now nothing else for the non-racist and non-looney conservatives. It's Trump...or nothing. The reality of first-past-the-post voting is that if the Rockefeller Republicans were to organize and run someone against Trump in 2020 all it would do is hand electoral victory to the Democratic candidate.

This is not supportable. Not in the long term, and not really in the middle- or short-term, either. No nation can endure with almost two-fifths of its population 1) enmeshed in what amounts to a lunatic cult, and 2) unwilling to cede power and willing to accept any machinations to hold it.

Popular democracies and republics depend on the willingness of all parties to accept the legitimacy of their opponents. When in a republican system you have this:
"After Wisconsin Democrats swept statewide offices last month, Robin Vos, speaker of the assembly, explained why Republicans would have to get rid of the old rules (in order to emasculate the incoming Democratic executive): “We are going to have a very liberal governor who is going to enact policies that are in direct contrast to what many of us believe in.”
you will very soon no longer have a republic.

The U.S. has already, in many ways, become an open oligarchy. The U.S. is, in many ways, not the democratic republic it pretends to be. The U.S. has and is already acting in many ways like any other Great Power, disregarding the good of its own populace and the welfare of those in the places outside its borders it acts, in order to maintain and expand that power.

But what if even the pretense of republican ideals breaks down? What if a plurality of the American public decides that power is better than comity, and that victory for their faction is preferable to the will of the majority? What if that faction prefers to become an open autocracy rather than compromise with their domestic enemies?

What will happen then?


  1. Obviously, democracy is over-rated.

  2. " What will happen then?" We will find out soon when Trump has to face Mueller's music.

    Are you suggesting that Cheato's bandido base will organize and rise up with pitchforks and AR15s? I don't believe that is going to happen. Of course a small percentage of the truly batshit might try. Those are the ones that are already enrolled in neo-nazi-like organizations, and that is probably less than five percent of Trump's base, if that. I see them trying to step up terrorist actions (which BTW some of them are already engaged in). What will happen is those that do will be jailed alongside their glorious leader. The rest will slink away to their fantasy world, and wait for the next great white hope populist to come along.

    1. My guess, Mike, is that , given the structure of the US government, the wingnuts will 1) go full Tenther in the states, and 2) turn obstruction in Congress up to 11. The result will be a governance trainwreck. This will 1) discourage those who still believe in the republic as designed, and 2) energize calls from the Right for a leader who will "make America great again!"

      There will enter the Wingnut on Horseback. This joker will enact a bunch of "emergency powers" to deal with the crisis that will thru some strange coincidence never be rescinded, a sort of domestic AUMF.

      We here seem to refuse to believe that's a real possibility, but my understanding is that it's happened in many other polities that have presidential forms of government. If a big enough chunk of the citizenry is willing to abandon democratic norms rather than hand over power - which is the current state of the Union - then to threat of Caesarian treason is a very real one.

    2. What you are alluding to is certainly possible but you can consider me one of those who refuse to believe it will happen, at least in my lifetime or my children's lifetime.

      As for that big chunk of citizenry willing to abandon democracy, they are losing steam. Donny is shedding supporters, his base is shrinking. Anyway, most of them never liked him in the first place. But they had been conditioned to hate on libruls and Killary so they pulled the lever against her, and NOT for him. Which is why we are stuck with the John Gotti wannabee in the white house.

      We as a country seem to like congressional obstruction. That is never going to change.

  3. I'm in a discussion on Tanknet. Lots of conservatives there (as usual with military-themed sites). I jumped into a thread where they derided Cortez, the new dem shooting star.
    My attempt was to get them to focus on her platform instead of just a shitposting circle jerk. I even copied the headlines and some excerpts.

    Many of them were unable to pay the slightest attention to actual policies, and those who tried to engage about the policies failed spectacularly because they failed to pay attention.

    And I'm writing this while thinking that Cortez is actually too enthusiastic, too naive and overreaching in her platform - which she should be at her age. That's what young politicians should be elected for; to bring the drive to aim high into legislation. Very few 70 ear olds aspire to solve big problems with big solutions.

    1. Because I think the problem is that actual "conservative" policies have become ridiculous cartoons. The opposition to them, as typified by Cortez at the lefty end of the spectrum, is just commonsense. How can you argue in good faith for MORE predatory capitalism? More filthy air, water, food, drugs, and soil? More racism and xenophobia? More oligarchy? Yet those have become the central tenets of the radical reactionary mindset that passes for American "conservatism".

      So it's not that these people haven't done the homework. It's that their real mindset is simply "Gimme my guns/God/money/power and fuck y'all" and they know the optics on that are kinda poor.

      That's why they love Trump. He's them. He doesn't even pretend, the way more conventional GOP types like Dubya or Ronnie did, to be the President of the whole country. He's only for them; those hippies and commies and darkies and homosexuals and atheists can fuck right off. No need to furrow their brows about grandpa eating cat food or cousin Edna losing her healthcare! Fuck 'em! MAGA, bitches!

      The current "conservative" movement relieves its adherents of the troubling thought process of having to confront the shortcomings of capitalism, or the troubling legacies of racism and colonial malfeasance, or the implications of the words of their Savior compared to their own lives.

      God knows there's blindness and self-delusion on the Left. But, given the harsh, rapacious cruelty that has become the default setting of the Right, there has become no way to advocate for those ideas without a wilful blindness of a heroic degree...

    2. Yes, she is young and Congress desperately needs more of that. But on policy, her proposals and wish list has a significant problem - math. There's simply no way to fund her proposals, even if we returned to WWII era tax rates.

    3. And yet somehow we can always scrape together the search for another imperial war or a thirteenth carrier task force.

      Funny how that works, innit?

    4. Scratch, not search. We never seem to have to search for funding for weapons, do we..?

    5. I note that every other first world nation can afford universal government funded health care. Invariably with better outcomes and at significantly lower cost to society as a whole.

    6. Well, there have been plenty of analyses done on what the costs would be here and the numbers are not pretty. If we returned to 1940's and 50's era tax rates we wouldn't raise enough revenue to cover the present deficit, much less a couple trillion a year in new spending. There's a reason Sanders, Cortez and other progressives who advocate for free college, single payer health care, etc. do not including funding mechanisms in their proposals.

    7. The "present deficit" - the one the GOP tax cut exploded?


    8. Yeah, the GoP definitely exploded the deficit. Rolling that back doesn't change the math on expensive new social programs.

    9. No, it doesn't. It doesn't change the math on expensive new weapons, either. Why is one "no way to fund" and the other "oh, that? I'll have some, please!"

  4. In the long run I’m not particularly concerned about the effect of the Republican party on the political course of the United States. In the short run I’m less optimistic than FDC, which is saying a lot.

    My key reason is the membership of the Republican party. Not only is it cranky, old, and white; it is mostly composed of aging Baby Boomers, the most toxic generation to ALL other US generations. This will go a long way towards ensuring that, when the majority of the brood is finally planted in the cemetery, their current beliefs will die with them.

    An astonishing percentage of the Boomers have always had a remarkable number of really bad habits that really rub the rest of the other generations the wrong way (starting with their parents and grandparents in the 1960’s):

    The absolute conviction that anybody who disagrees with them is both an idiot and a traitor to the country

    An inability to support any sort of logical political argument. They just blindly believe what they currently believe without need of facts

    A belief that they personally will live forever (although I’ve noted a lot of cracks in this particular foundation lately)

    A sense of entitlement that is nothing short of insane. Once I commented on another website that “we’re all in this together” during the 2008 economic crisis and was blasted off the site by tidal wave of comments like “you’re not old enough to understand how bad this is” and “other people caused this but I don’t see why I should have to put up with it.”

    A remarkable inability to remember that they once strongly supported other (equally flawed) political theories, even when you show them proof.

    Baby Boomers have served as political Stormtroopers for so long they can’t remember anything else. They just have to always attack, regardless of how stupid it is to do so and they’ve been on the offensive since the Vietnam war. I should also mention that I do NOT regard the Baby Boomers as one of the worst generations in the history of the world. They have not yet come close to considering genocide as a reasonable solution to anything...

    When writing the above, I was exquisitely aware of the fact that the majority of the commentators on this website are members of the Boomer generation. The reason I continue to come back to the Milpub is that every generation, no matter how awful they get, has a silver lining of intelligent people who are also wise and are worth more than the rest of their generation by an astonishing amount. The Milpub has the highest concentration of these people from the Boomer generation that I have ever encountered and I have greatly enjoyed our discussions and been well-educated when I’ve lost arguments.

    The younger, the non-white, intelligent politically ambitious leaders of future are all being forced into the Democratic party and are rubbing shoulders and ideas about how to take back control. Which I anticipate will eventually lead to the total destruction of the current Republican party. The only real question is exactly when this will occur. When it happens, the Republican leadership will need to change course for a direction that is more meaningful to the people who will come after the Boomers or perish.

    Until that time occurs, we need to distract the majority of the Boomers from their crazy goals and fight them whenever necessary. Oddly enough, Trump is our most powerful weapon in the current situation.

    1. I'm pre-boomer by a few years. Although I respect the fact that perhaps there is no specific date for the start of the Boomer generation, so maybe I am one. I don't take exception to your comments. I do have many friends and acquaintances in the ranks of the Boomers and pre-boomers(silent generation?). I find them divided like the rest of the country. Granted that it is not large enough sample to base hard statistics on.

      Same same with veterans. My neighbor to the north is also a Viet-Nam vet and also leans liberal and votes Democratic. A bit more liberal than me. I think his wife suspects me of being a Republican mole in the local Dem caucus. The guys at the VFW are also divided politically.

      I suspect that it is the same in gens X, Y and Z. Although I am hoping the 18 to 25 year olds will get the ship of state back on a true compass heading.

      I think the divide is more geographic than generational.

    2. Mike, thanks for your comments. I recommend that you read "The American Nations" by Colin Woodward. Before reading that book I would have agreed with much (perhaps all) of what you've said. Woodward showed that people generally tended to vote according to what they saw as beneficial to themselves rather than by geography.

      Right now, for example a discussion of Medicare spending between a young person and a Boomer is going to predictably have the Boomer arguing for more money spent now while the younger person argues for less spending now so there will be more money available in the long run. Both sides can understand why the other side wants what they want but can't support it. As usual in domestic politics, there isn't a perfect answer, just better and worse answers, depending on your point of view.

      How people vote and why is always one of the most interesting (and hardest) discussions you can have.

    3. Politics is always changing. While it's true that the GoP largely represents and older, whiter demographic, that isn't an iron law. I see a lot of Democrats and progressives assume that changing demographics are going to ensure their party has a lock on power in the future. Like the adage says, don't count your eggs.

  5. I guess I take a bigger-picture view of what's going on. In a country of 350 million people there are always going to be a large number of assholes, provocateurs, grifters and undesirables. They will always be a small minority of the total population.

    The problem, as I see it, is how to keep them away from the reins of power.

    The reality is we live in a 2 party system and both parties have worked tirelessly to entrench themselves and become "too big to fail." Although I've long hoped that one or both parties would go the way of the Whigs, I've long realized that was extremely unlikely at best. As the parties have worked themselves even more into the system, the probability today is even lower.

    So we are stuck with these two parties. Therefore, the important and very difficult problem is to ensure they don't nominate turd sandwiches because the reality is the general voting public is stuck with a binary choice. On that score the parties are failing miserably.

    Changes within the parties and the primary processes over the last few decades have made the nomination of turd sandwiches and fringe, minority view candidates much easier. The smokey rooms are gone and now party leaders and the party establishment have very little influence in the nomination process. Primaries are now very democratic - overly democratic in my view. The current system allows minority political factions to essentially take over an entire political party and reap the benefits of the party's entrenched political power. We've already seen this very clearly with the GoP. The entire GoP establishment opposed Trump. He got nominated anyway. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders was not a member of the Democratic party but he still managed to give Clinton some trouble.

    The GoP is a powerful institution that is relatively easy to take over and control. I think the Democrats are following in their footsteps and they will likewise soon be a fat vessel, ripe for plucking by whatever lefty faction can best exploit the primary/nomination process. The Dems have lagged the GoP for two reasons in my view:

    - The Clinton machine. It turns out that the Clintons essentially owned the Democratic party, but that has probably ended.
    - Defenestration of super-delegates - This along with other changes have reduced the power of the Democratic establishment. The changes make the nomination process more open and thus easier for a minority faction to compete.

    Together, this means the Democratic party is probably up for grabs the next election cycle.

    To me, none of this is a good thing. National politics in the future is likely to look like the recent Florida governor's race. In that race there was no incumbent. The Democratic candidate, a pretty far left progressive, won the primary with barely 1/3 of the primary vote. The GoP candidate, a Trumper, easily bested the better known and better funded establishment candidate. Both of these candidates represent minority factions in their own party to say nothing of Florida as a whole. Together they might represent the political views of 1/3 of the state. But because we are in a two party system, the rest of Florida had to chose from these two unrepresentative candidates.

    I think these sorts of elections will become even more common than they already are. I don't know how our system and institutions can survive when it is so easy for fringe candidates to get nominated. Because that is what really matters now - getting the nomination. We've seen in Congress that in most races, the primary election is more important than the general.

    I don't know how this ends and, as a political independent, I don't know who to fix the parties or un-entrench them so they can fail and be replaced.

    1. "I guess I take a bigger-picture view of what's going on. In a country of 350 million people there are always going to be a large number of assholes, provocateurs, grifters and undesirables. They will always be a small minority of the total population.
      The problem, as I see it, is how to keep them away from the reins of power."

      Been there

    2. Andy -

      Yes the primary system is a mess. But my experience in Washington State suggests that caucuses are just as bad or worse. They are infested with party apparatchiks. You have a caucus in Colorado also, don't you? If so, what is your impression?

      But then as a small "i" independent you may not be able to participate. That is the reason I gave up on being a political independent years ago, because there was no way I could have any say in the nomination process.

      One way to get rid of fringe candidates could be to have all states go to some type of 'Open Primary'. But it would need to have some insurance against raiding by crossovers to attempt to nominate the oppossing Party's weakest candidate.

      Or go with a non-party primary where the top two vote-getting candidates advance to the general election regardless of their party affiliation.

      But in any case, get rid of the Super Tuesday BS that is tilted to the Old South. Why not have a nationwide Super Tuesday, where no candidate gets a leg up because of regional preferences?

      Sven - I think the five percent of hardcore idiots you mention is probably correct. Unfortunately that five % has an undeserved share of power within the electorate.

    3. Mike,

      I became a Colorado resident right before this last election, so was not involved in the primary/caucus here, but you are correct with how it works. Previously I was a Florida resident, which has a closed primary system. I don't like caucuses either.

      Of your list I would prefer the top-two system which what California has I believe. This also makes the single-party districts and states more competitive (in some cases the minority party doesn't even bother to run a candidate).

      Since states control their own primaries and election schedule, I don't think there's a way to get rid of Super Tuesday and the unwarranted importance of Iowa and NH. The federal government has no authority to dictate primary election schedules, so we'd really need the individual states to agree to something more sane. As far as I can tell, no one in our political class seems interested in that.

      I would just add to my earlier comment that we have a federal system for a reason. The more powerful and influential the federal government becomes, the bigger a prize it is to those who seek power. Present and future Donald Trumps would not be as much of a threat if they did not control a massive bureaucracy and the shadow legislation called rule-making.

      I would much prefer more federalism based on the principle of subsidiarity, but that is also something our political class shows little interest in. In other words, lower the stakes.

    4. The California jungle primary setup is turning out to be a mess based on what I'm reading lately.

      Ranked choice voting seems to be q good alternative; I think Maine voted it in this year. It would allow as lefty to vote for Cortez, say, but rank Clinton second. When Cortez finishes third, his vote is transferred to Clinton. This keeps the vote as left as possible, rather than splitting the lefty vote.

    5. What you're describing is the Articles U.S.., Andy. BTDT. If an Articles nation was dysfunctional in 1785 it sure as hell won't work today.

      There's a massive federal bureaucracy because the US is a massive industrial nation. I'm not sure why you'd expect anything else; as I comment to my contractors and subs when they bitch about OSHA and EPA and the 1200C requirements; you're paying for the sins of the fathers. Their fuckups and crimes; industrial death by industrial death, chemical spill by chemical spill, shoddy building by shoddy building were why all these agencies were created and given rule over you.

      Are the rules excessive? Sometimes, yes. Is there no reason to have them? Only if you trust people not to cut corners when a buck's at stake...

    6. @Mike; I've corrected the 5% way up since.

    7. "What you're describing is the Articles U.S.., Andy. BTDT. If an Articles nation was dysfunctional in 1785 it sure as hell won't work today."

      No, that is a strawman. Suggesting the stakes are too high when it comes to the de facto authority of the federal government is not an argument to return to the 18th century.

      We have discussed many times over the years how Congress has abdicated its authority to the Executive in so many areas - so the choice isn't between an all-powerful, growing Executive branch that can act independently of Congress thanks to rule-making powers and the lack of a coherent central authority at this nation's birth. There is a balance to be had that doesn't require sacrificing workplace safety or gutting environmental regulations.

      I'm talking more about systemic issues and first principles and legitimacy but also about power. Everyone who loves all the expedient benefits of a strong Executive should consider how they'd feel if a tyrant got elected.

      And fundamentally this is a very diverse country. And I mean diverse in the broadest sense, not just in terms of race, color, gender etc. We are divided on a host of issues yet many seem perfectly willing to use the federal government to shove their particular views down everyone else's throat. Not everything is a federal issue. Not everything needs to be a one-size-fits-all for a large diverse country.

    8. Oh; got it. I think you're making two different points here, and I got confused.

      The first - that an imperial Executive is a Bad Thing? Absolutely. Definitely. Agree with you 100%; there's a reason that Congress has a lower favorability rating with the public than even Five-Deferment Donnie. Yes, it's discreditable that the congresscritters - and by that I mean ALL the congresscritters goingback to, hell, probably Truman or Eisenhower's days - have allowed the Presidency the power it now has. That needs to change, and I agree with you there completely. HOW that changes...I have no idea at the moment. The current state is the product of decades of Executive acquisition and Congressional sloth. You'd need a new Czar Reed to even begin to reverse that, and where that person will come from, and what would motivate him/her to do that...I have no idea.

      OK, now...on the "one size fits all", well, you're wrong in most cases. There's a place for small-and-local solutions to small and local problems. And, for most of the time, that happens.

      But this isn't West Groton, circa 1834. The selectmen of the town council have neither the ability, nor the time, nor the funding, nor the legal authority, to even begin to address the multifarious issues involving interstate and international commerce. And, yet, you'd have them inspecting meat and checking scales and weighing trucks and peering into emergency rooms and daycares and refineries to make sure that what's going on in those various places is not dangerous or negligent or toxic.

      The problems with trying to push authority down to the lowest level in a massively interconnected corporate world are legion, dangerous, and realistically insoluble. The selectmen of West Groton can't possibly address corporate malfeasance by Nestle, or Nike, or even a big regional firm like mine. We simply have too much money, too much legal horsepower, too much clout.

      And, as we found out in the original Gilded Age, those selectmen are ridiculously easy to buy, or coerce, or frighten, or some combination of the above. That's one reason that corruption LOVES it some state and local governments; because it's a whole lot easier to grease the right palms.

      So yes on the Executive but no on Articles-style subsidiarity. The one is, as you point out, a danger to republican governance. But the latter is, too, only instead of a Caesar you get a dozen Daddy Warbucks making the proles dance...

    9. I agree that regulating interstate and international commerce is well within the purview of the federal government. But that is really a small part of what the federal government does.

      Generally, I think there's a systemic problem with federal rulemaking. Part of the problem with Executive power is the Executive agencies have taken a maximalist view of the authority given them by legislation and activists seek to use rulemaking to bypass the admittedly difficult and painful process of legislating. Federal rule-making is such that it often lacks transparency and public accountability, plus the only redress is usually through the courts.

      It's one reason why most administrations spend their last few months in office trying to cram through all the most significant and impactful rules they can before the next administration takes office in order to lock them in before a new administration takes office while avoiding any political repercussions.

      And then there is the administrative judicial system.

      It's not clear to me that this system and the growing dominance of the federal government in all areas of public life has been for the better. And the inconsistent and inadequate attempts by Congress (which are, sadly, usually motivated by partisanship) to exercise oversight are routinely obstructed thanks to claims of Executive privilege.

      Most importantly though, this trend benefits the powerful. It's the massive corporations and organizations that can afford to hire thousands of compliance officers, funnel money into lobbying, hire law firms to fight in administrative and judicial courts, and entice regulators into the private sector through the revolving door.

    10. And, as I've said before; the problem is that we live in a huge industrial state that is swarming with huge private commercial organizations with vastly more money, power, legal resources, and motivation to use all three to their own benefit regardless of the effect on Joe and Molly.

      Yes, federal rulemaking is often a blunt instrument.

      (It's often NOT, by the way, and I work in an industry that deals with state, federal, AND local rulemaking bodies all the time; often the worst, most shortsighted, most ignorant and fact-averse rulings are made by the county commission, not USF&WS or the Army Corps.)

      But else do you suggest? How the hell is Gilliam County, Oregon - which almost closed its doors because it couldn't afford an actual county government - gonna keep an eye on Allied MegaCorp's trash-to-steam plant to make sure it's not putting 100mg/ml of mercury aerosol into the air?

      In an interconnected world such as the one we live in ALL the big players are powerful. The difference is that MegaCorp answers only to its stockholders. US EPA is, at least in theory, answerable to us. If it's not, then we need to be better citizens.

      But to pretend that the City of Elma, or Gilliam County, has the ability to ensure that MegaCorp's actions only benefit it's stockholders and don't harm the citizens of Elma, or Gilliam County?

      C'mon, man. You may have been born at night, but you weren't born LAST night...

  6. One thing to keep in mind here.

    This isn't about "parties". This isn't about primaries or superdelegates or Clintons.

    It's about A party, the GOP, that appears well on its way to becoming unable to accept electoral defeat.

    1. Dems gained only one seat in the Wisconsin state assembly during last months election. But they are still outnumbered 63 to 36 seats even though they won 53% of the total vote. Some pretty slick gerymandering must have gone on there after the 2010 census. And it does not bode well for the next round of slicing the pie after the 2020 census.

    2. America's problems and divisions don't disappear if the GoP vanishes into a black hole. And our current issues didn't just rise from the ether - they have causes and I've made my own argument that the causes are systemic.

      And it's ironic to talk about the inability to accept electoral defeat considering the reaction in many quarters to the 2000 and 2016 elections.

    3. Seriously? You really want to go there?

      The GOP "winners" in both those elections were aided by some ridiculously shifty business; Bush v Gore in 2000 and the Electoral College two years ago. Trying to elude that is the least defensible form of "bothsiderism".

      My point remains.

      You are clearly "conservative", Andy. I disagree with your policy positions but respect the degree to which you have thought them over.

      Which is why I'm disappointed that you're not the angriest of any of us. That the GOP has descended into a rat's nest of looney conspiracy theories, armed Tenthers, wannabe Gilded Age plutocrat cosplayers, and openly xenophobic racists bothers me only in that they're too spread out geographically to get 'em all with one nuke.

      But you! They're the people who are supposed to be your allies! They're the votes you need to get the conservative policies you want.

      But...they're the ones larding those policies with their vile baggage and making people like me wish for the nuke. I'd have thought that you'd be more furious than I am that your side of the political aisle has been pulled into the fringes of fascist cloud-kookooland!

    4. We've had the electoral college for a very long time. It is what it is. It is a known quantity that every Presidential campaign organizes their election around. Claiming an elected official is illegitimate or that the election was stolen because a candidate lost electoral college and therefore the election doesn't fly because one suddenly wishes the rules were different.

      That said, I don't like the electoral college and would prefer a straight popular vote or some other system for Presidential elections, but that's not the system we currently have. Bitching about it on the TV or in op-eds while doing nothing to actually change it undermines the institution and the legitimacy of the election process to no end except rhetorical and political convenience.

      As for my political views, I really wish you wouldn't assume. I am not in any way "Conservative" in the sense of how that word is used today in US politics. Ask me my position on anything as a test and I'll be happy to tell you what I think and you can decide for yourself, but don't assume. At most I might be considered very small "c" conservative in the original sense of the word. Many of my actual positions are actually outside and different from both the Democratic and Republican dogma - in short not every policy is, in reality, binary.

      As I've said before, I have never been a member of the GoP. The last Republican presidential candidate I cast a vote for was Bush in 2000 and that was primarily on the basis of his promises about a humble foreign policy. Look how that turned out.

      I voted for Obama in 2008 (who was really popular with Conservatives!). In this most recent election I voted primarily for Democrats in my home state of Colorado including the governor-elect, a gay Jew. I don't agree with all of his proposals, but he has a decent record, seems like a good man and was much better than the GoP turd.

      So, the fact that I criticize Democrats and Progressives and their many stupid policies and politicians does not make me a conservative, nor does it make the GoP my allies. Because the real world isn't binary. Also because I think many GoP/Conservative policies and politicians are equally, if not more, stupid.

      What frustrates me is that partisans must constantly excoriate the bad side and give the good side the benefit of the doubt. In my view, they constantly feel need to keep score, and subsume basic governing principles in the name of partisan expedience. I don't understand the capacity of partisans to rage against political enemies for doing something while praising their own side for doing the same thing.

      So I view your claims about the singular and one-sided evilness of the GoP as the sole source of our national dysfunction as incomplete at best, particularly when those arguments seem divorced from an objective standard of evaluation.

      Anyway, I would just ask that you don't make assumptions about my political views. If you want to know what I think about something, just ask. We can talk about issues and policies without reflexively sorting people into ideological camps based on misperceptions.

    5. If I've mischaracterized your positions I apologize. But when I read you dismiss Cortez' ideas as fiscally impossible without considering that it might be that we are simply fiscally focused more on things like guns and less on butter your response rings my "conservative" bell. You SOUND to me like a conservative, or someone who is at least "conservative-curious".

      But as far as the GOP goes...what "objective" standard do you want? Are you seriously proposing that there's a "moderate" form of Republicanism that accepts the New Deal compact, that had abandoned Gingrichism and characterizing their political opponents as traitors and internal enemies? That isn't actively fomenting things like the ridiculous "caraven" paranoia?

      If anything I tend to think that the Dems aren't lefty enough; there's WAY too much of the DLC/Clinton/third-way sorts of thinking in the American left. But where's the left-wing equivalent of the sort of QAnon lunacy that's all over Fox and Friends or Alex Jones or Breitbart?

      I'd LOVE to have a sane "conservative" party to oppose. I'd love to argue whether offshoring and capital mobility and predatory business practices should be merely closely licensed or abolished alltogether. Instead, I'm faced with a political philosophy that believes "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?" is a prescription for social policy, and that the Gilded Age isn't a cautionary tale but a back-to-the-future dream.

      This isn't a rant against GOP policies; those are, largely, nutty leftovers from 1929. This is despair; it's watching the "conservative" side of my country wanting to drive it onto the rocks that damn near sank it in the Gilded Age, and wondering if there's any hope for a last-minute turn away.

    6. Hey Chief,

      Just to be clear, I'm not trying to be a dick. It's hard in a written forum to debate and disagree without sounding like an asshole and I just want to make sure you understand that none of this is personal, and that I have a great amount of respect for you, your views, and your patriotism even though we have many substantial disagreements on some issues.

      You write:

      "But when I read you dismiss Cortez' ideas as fiscally impossible without considering that it might be that we are simply fiscally focused more on things like guns and less on butter your response rings my "conservative" bell."

      At heart I'm a pragmatist. When someone makes a proposal my first instinct is to gauge if it's even practical. My opposition to Cortez's and Sander's single-payer proposals, for example, isn't because I'm ideologically opposed to single payer. After all, I've benefited greatly from the military and VA single-payer systems and I would like to see some kind of more robust national system here in the US.

      But I'm not lying about the math. You mentioned weapons systems. Well, let's look at that. I just looked up the numbers and the procurement budget for 2017 was about $184 billion - that includes weapons, information systems and research, development and testing. We spend, as best as I can tell from my quick research, about $100 million a year on actual weapons systems.

      Let's be generous and say we can cut that by 50%. How much single payer will $50 billion a year get us?

      Total national health care spending is about $3.5 trillion dollars. The government (state, local and federal) combined already spends about $1.7 trillion a year on health care. So that leaves $1.8 trillion dollars in private health care spending we need to cover for single payer. Cut weapons systems by 50% and put in that $50 billion and we're down to 1.75 trillion. Great, you've covered less than 3% of the expense. Where does the rest come from?

      If we completely zero out the defense budget and put all that money toward single payer, we'd still have to come up with over a trillion dollars a year. Where is the money going to come from? Cortez and Sanders don't have an answer beyond handwaving. I consider that dishonest.

      Just to be clear, I would like to see the US reduce its military commitments and, consistent with those reduced commitments, reduce military spending. But the numbers don't lie and there is no guns vs butter choice here.

      And, by the same token, I'm just as skeptical of GoP "market-based" proposals which I think are equally bankrupt. The market doesn't work with most types of health care and, at this point, it can't hope to cope with a system where the costs of healthcare for a family exceed their entire household income.

    7. "If anything I tend to think that the Dems aren't lefty enough; there's WAY too much of the DLC/Clinton/third-way sorts of thinking in the American left. But where's the left-wing equivalent of the sort of QAnon lunacy that's all over Fox and Friends or Alex Jones or Breitbart?"

      Well, the section of the left you describe is a minority view in America - maybe 20%? That's a big hill to climb in order to convince the other 80% of the country that your policies are the best ones.

      And I'd say your descriptions of the GoP and right and gilded age apply to maybe the 20% on the far right. There's a lot of space between those two extremes - what I can't understand is why both these factions have seemingly abandoned the majority of Americans in the name of ideological purity. That's really my frustration with our current system and politics - those two extremes are driving the bus and, as I've argued here regarding the primary system, that is only likely to continue because its much easier for the extremes to capture the party apparatus.

      Regarding leftist lunacy, I think it is quite obvious. Trump is a corrupt shit-bag for sure, but TDS is also real. The conspiracies about "Russia" as being responsible for every bad thing are way out of hand and as rhetorically similar and bankrupt as the various Obama Kenyan Muslim idiocy. And the thought police are out in force on the left, eagerly punishing perceived sins, doxing even kicking the shit out ideological traitors and heretics. Yeah, the left doesn't have the popular organizational figureheads like the right does, but that doesn't make them any less crazy or dangerous.

  7. Mike,

    I'm not familiar with Wisconsin.

    Here in Colorado we passed ballot measures to institute redistricting commissions for both Congressional and State maps. One of the great things about the new system is the commission isn't strictly partisan - they'll be composed of nine members - 3 Republicans, 3 Democrats and 3 independents. District maps must get 6 votes for approval, so a supermajority is required.

    I think and hope this will work out well for Colorado.

  8. Andy - Sounds like a good redistricting plan there in Colorado.

    As for the reactions to the 2000 and 2016 elections: Yes there were a lot of pissing and moaning done, but as far as I know there was no legislation passed to limit the power of the incoming administrations - which is what FDC is talking about in Wisconsin. It also happened in Michigan BTW.

    And what about the reactions to the 1992 and 2008 elections? It was no worse in 2000 and 2016.

    Unless of course in the aftermath of the 2016 election you are talking about the investigation of our current Felon-in-Chief? Or I should say investigation(s), 17 of them I understand. For myself I see no reason to stop the wheels of justice just because of political good manners. If there are CREDIBLE allegations, then law enforcement should look into them regardless of political party.

  9. Mike,

    What the GoP did/is doing in Wisconsin/Michigan is extremely assholish, but hardly unprecedented or unique to the GoP.

    I wish that legislatures wouldn't act with such purely partisan motives, but unfortunately they regularly do. And legislators are becoming more partisan thanks, in my view, to the reasons I've already described, so this problem is probably only going to get worse.

    Considering the history of both parties using these kinds of tactics for partisan advantage, I'm skeptical of claims that it's somehow uniquely dangerous in this particular case.

    Also, I completely support Mueller's investigation and hope all those who did criminal acts are duly punished, to include the President.

    1. I remember having seen a report that meant to debunk that the Democrats did anything like Michigan & Wisconsin (R) did regarding cutting the executive's powers before (D) governor arrives.

      Apparently, the closest thing in the past 20 or 30 years was when such a executive power reform was done in a bipartisan way, with consenting democrats.

      So I suppose the burden of proof for the following quote:

      "I wish that legislatures wouldn't act with such purely partisan motives, but unfortunately they regularly do. (...) Considering the history of both parties using these kinds of tactics for partisan advantage (...)"
      BTW one wouldn't have such problems with the German system; there's practically no time to change the constitution between election and new parliament getting seated AND the parliament chooses the head of the executive branch (no direct elections).
      This way the parliament's majority always backs the executive branch leadership (until it doesn't, by electing a different person to that office).

      Gerrymandering is also pointless in the German system. The rotten boroughs problem doesn't matter either (at least not for the more important chamber of parliament).

      The authors of our original constitution version took into account almost 200 years experience after the first constitution was written.
      And by that I do mean the Corsican constitution, of course. :-)

    2. Sven,

      I didn't go through each case line by line - again, I'm not very interested in keeping score.

      I also tend to let others deal with their own issues. If I were a resident of Michigan or Wisconsin I would probably be outraged - but I'm not. This is a state-level problem that only the people in that state can solve.

  10. Andy -

    Thanks for the link. Yes, extremely assholish no matter who does it.

    BTW it is not just Mueller, he has only held on to the seven of the 17 investigations that are within the scope of his appointment as Special Counsel. The other ten investigations are being conducted by NY City, by the States of Maryland and New York, by the US Attorneys for the Eastern District of Virginia, the District of Columbia, and the Southern District of New York.

  11. Here's the thing; I'm not particularly arsed about Trump's criminal activities. That's who he is, it's who he's always been (guy in the casino biz is mobbed up! Whoodathunkit?) and who he always will be.

    Nope. It's the rest of the GOP.

    The base CHUDs luuyurve Donnie for his stupidity, racism, and belligerent dickishness. The congressional leaders know perfectly well that Orange Foolius is a toxin. But they 1) fear the wrath of the CHUDs, and 2)love the power they have to Make America 1929 Again. If they impeach this crook they'd have Pence - who'd give them the remainder of Donnie's term for plutocratic hijinks - but they would get creamed in 2020. So they do nothing. Profiles in courage!

    Trump's gonna Trump. I know I keep pounding this drum, but anyone with a functional hindbrain and a memory longer than a mayfly's knew what he was back in 2016. Piling on him now for being a skeevy crook is like blaming the dog for licking his butt.

    The real guilt is on the rest of the GOP for nominating this turkey. They had options that would have given them all the plutocracy and theocracy with 100% less racism, criminality, and incompetence, and threw them over for Commander Bonespurs...

  12. One final note: Andy wanted me to provide an "objective standard of evaluation" of my claim that the political problem is confined to the Right. So, here it is:


    Donald Trump is perhaps the most obviously unqualified individual to hold the office of Chief Executive since...Warren Harding? Except Harding was actually a competent politician and administrator, and doesn't appear to have been personally corrupt, although several of his cronies certainly were. Andrew Johnson? He certainly had some pretty Trumpian personality problems. James Buchanan? Franklin Pierce?

    Whichever historical boob, gimp, wheezer, or lame-o you compare him to, Trump fails on pretty much every level and then goes on to crash through the barriers of "not being an utterly racist dick", "not being visibly unhinged", "not having some massive emotional and narcissist issues", "not being mobbed up with domestic and foreign crooks", "not being functionally illiterate", "not being a divisive, belligerent, hugely mendacious blowhard"...really, it's hard to know when to stop. Trump is appalling enough as a human being. But as a President..?

    And the result?

    His party LOOOOOVES him.

    Let's pause for a moment to recall that a Democratic president who was about one-tenth as awful a person and several magnitudes more competent a politician was impeached with support from some of his own party over lying about getting a hummer.

    And yet...Trump's favorability rating with self-identified Republicans is something like 85-90%.

    That' any objective measure, that's nuts.

    I can understand holding one's nose and voting for the guy because he's gonna give you all the guns and God and kicking-the-dusky-people you want. But really LIKING the guy? Giving him 10 out of 10 for performance? "Strongly favorable" towards him, instead of "meh, he's better than Killary Klintoon..."?

    I'm sorry. There's NOTHING like that on the Left. This is a Right problem; it's a Republican base problem. Forty years of Rush and FOX and Gingrich have created a base which would fling itself into a live volcano if Rush Limbaugh or Laura Ingraham told them it was safe to do so and then, with their dying breath, would blame brown people and Libtards because the lava burns.

    It's taken the better part of a generation to create a party base that was just exactly this rage-drunk, paranoid, racist, ignorant and malleable. A base programmed to believe that anyone to the left of Herbert Hoover is a godless, America-hating monster, that the entire mainstream media is vast commie conspiracy arrayed against them, and that any whiff of compromise on any issue is treason. A base programmed to go wherever Fox News and Hannity and Alex Jones and Pirro and Malkin point them. A base that sees a man like Trump and sees a President instead of a skeevy lying grifter.

    There's no other way - no objective way - to see that as anything but trouble.

  13. So the objective standard is hypocrisy?

    There are always double-standards Chief and they don't just exist on the right. If you want to say the GoP is worse on this score, then fine, you might be right, but I find the claim that there is "nothing" like that on the left to be without merit. If a lack of hypocrisy is the objective standard, the both parties obviously fail even if one might fail harder.

    To bring this back to my original point, voters only had two choices on election day. Both Trump and Clinton were selected for the ballot by a small minority (Clinton got ~17 million primary votes, Trump got ~14 million). But our system is what it is and the nation was faced with a choice between these two candidates. As long as the parties continue to nominate shitheads, we will continue to have this problem. And most Americans will have to vote strategically because of the shitty choices they're given.

    And this is what I find so puzzling about the Democrats. The GoP has retreated to their 20% base. Here the Democrats have an opportunity to seize a majority like they had for much of the 20th century when they had a large coalition and dominated the GoP - and yet they are also narrowing down to their base. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, for example, is spending her time backing campaigns to primary Democratic moderates in 2020 (Maybe she ought to educate herself on government finances instead?)

    In short I do not want to see our country alternately ruled by the nation's political extremes. Who is going to represent the other 60-80% of the country?

  14. Hyp...what?

    Seriously? That's what you're getting from this?

    That was my whole point, though! I'd be thrilled if these CHUDs were hypocrites and we just fanatically luuuurving them some Trump because he gives them stuff. But that's the whole problem; all he's giving them is the shitty, racist, xenophobic white-boy-hater stuff. His economic and foreign policies are an incoherent mess, he's scaring the piss out of the banksters and brokers...the jobs aren't coming back, the "immigration crisis" isn't a crisis at all but a spook-the-rubes con job that IS spooking the rubes. Now he's shut the federal government over a childish tantrum.

    He's a rolling clusterfuck...but the base loves him like a big orange stuffy.

    That's the opposite of hypocrisy; that's a cult. At this point I'd almost be willing to take the old GOP that WAS about hypocrisy, about feeding the rubes head fakes to guns and Jesus and homos and racism to distract them while picking their pockets.

    Trump REALLY gives them all the nasty social crap - it's all he CAN give them - and they adore him.


    And as for "political extremes"..?

    It's sad to think how far we have come from the country of my youth that people like Cortez, who is pretty much a bog-standard social democrat anywhere else in the world, and Sanders, who is really an old-school New Dealer, are somehow "extreme" to you. In 1970 or 1940 they would have been a trifle left of center, now? They're demonizable as screaming commies by people like you who have the perspective on this nation's history to know better.

    The policies the "left" wing of the Democratic Party are trying to advance, things like reining in the predatory capitalism of the Dickensian Right, reducing financial inequality, opening up opportunities for more than the wealthy, spending money on wages rather than financial gimmicks, the Green New Deal - all these ARE tremendously popular with the "other 60-80% of the country". These aren't the Jill Steins of the truly out-there Left. The left wing of the Democratic Party is just trying to push the country back closer to where it was before the Reaganauts unleashed voodoo economics and union busting and Willie Horton.

    The fact that you see this as wild communism just makes me despair. We're 80% of the way to the New Gilded Age, and the propaganda of the Right has you looking at the Upton Sinclairs and Teddy Roosevelts of the 21st Century as Emma Goldman and Karl Marx.

    Shit. Maybe we really ARE just hopelessly fucked.