Pandaemonium

THE FAULTLINES OF THE IMAGINATION

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‘I hope you’re surviving in these dark times. I don’t seem to understand the world any more. I don’t seem to understand its rationality. I feel all I can do is hunker down.’ So emailed a friend a few days ago. I can understand why she feels that way. After all, America now has as President-elect a truth-shredding, conspiracy-mongering  authoritarian demagogue who has promised mass deportations, a wall to keep out Mexicans, a ban on all Muslim immigration, and a route to the Oval Office for the alt-right. Yet, it is also the kind of sentiment that has helped lead us to where we are. The kind of vision that has led many first to ignore the depth of anger and disaffection with the mainstream that fuelled Trump’s advance and then to dismiss that victory as simply a whitelash, the rage of racists and bigots fuelled by hate. The US journalist Matt Taibi observed after the Brexit vote that contempt shown by many towards working class voters revealed why so many voted Brexit in the first place. Much the same can be said of the US election.

I argued in my previous post that it is misguided to look upon the Trump victory merely as a ‘whitelash’. Not only did Trump gained just 1 per cent more white support than did Mitt Romney in 2012, not only did large numbers of white working class voters support Obama in 2012, but in the key rustbelt states there is evidence that not just white voters but black working class voters, too, seem to have deserted the Democrats, though not necessarily voted for Trump.

The most significant political divide in America is probably not that between white and non-white voters but, as in Europe, between those who feel at home in – or at least are willing to accommodate themselves to – a more globalized, technocratic world, and those who feel left out, dispossessed and voiceless in such a world. This is not just a political faultline, but a faultline, too, of the imagination. A faultline in the ways in which we are able to think of ourselves and others and of our place in society; and of the kind of society and of social change it is possible to envision.

On one side of the divide, many regard migrants merely as threats, stealing jobs, corrupting culture and fostering criminality. ‘When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending you’, as Trump put it in a campaign speech. ‘They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.’ On the other side, many liberals view large swathes of the electorate who voted for Trump as bigoted, ignorant, irredeemable, mere food for fascism, people whom it is impossible to imagine in terms of anything but contempt. It is no point reasoning with the ‘dumb hicks’, the journalist Hamilton Nolan wrote last year, because they ‘wouldn’t listen’: ‘My words would go in one ear and right out the other. Like talking to an old block of wood.’

Having spent much of the past few years defending freedom of movement and challenging the idea that migrants are source of our social ills, I now find myself having to defend many of those who oppose freedom of movement and view migrants as the source of their ills against what journalist Emmett Rensin has called ‘the smug style in American liberalism’. (And not just in American liberalism).

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‘Working class voters may be furious with mainstream politics’, a friend observed recently, ‘they may see Hilary Clinton as an embodiment of a Washington insider, but how is it possible for them to ignore his racism, misogyny, and sheer contempt for the Other?’ It is a fair question. But it is one that could be asked of liberals, too. After all, many liberals were willing to put aside Clinton’s fawning to Wall Street, or her hawkish foreign policy, because they were drawn to her broader liberal view, or because they despised Trump so greatly.

Many liberals rightly react with horror at Trump’s immigration policy. Yet, take away the rhetoric, and in many ways it is not that different from Barack Obama’s. Trump has promised to deport 2 to 3 million undocumented immigrants. In the eight years of Obama’s rule, 2.5 million have already been deported – more than that under all twentieth century presidents put together. Obama’s policies, as one detailed survey of immigration policy since the 1990s observes, have ‘created a massive deportation machinery and militarized border, and reinforced an ascendant right-wing explanation that helped suffering or anxious people make sense of their problems and the precarious world around them.’

Similarly, Obama during his time in the White House has greatly expanded his executive powers, engaging in military action without Congressional approval, rolling out an enhanced programme of targeted assassinations, enlarging a system of state surveillance and silencing journalists and whistleblowers. When Trump wields these powers from next year there will inevitably be outrage – from the very people who have been largely silent about it during the Obama years.

This is not to suggest an equivalence between Obama and Trump or that Trump’s policies are not repugnant and dangerous. It is rather to suggest that Trump supporters are not that different from Clinton or Obama supporters in ignoring their candidates’ obnoxious qualities or policies in favour of aspects that they admire.

‘I can’t empathize with those who want to take away my rights’, said another friend recently during a conversation about Trump’s victory, in which I had suggested that we need both to recognize the real grievances endured by many working class communities while also challenging the bigoted forms those grievances often take. But the ‘I can’t empathize with’ argument also plays the other way. Many working class voters might find it equally difficult to empathize with those who seemingly have ignored their plight or supported policies destroying jobs and communities.

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Back in 2008, while on the stump for the Democratic Party nomination, Barack Obama  raised the issue of the plight of working class communities:

You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Eight years on and such communities have fallen through two Obama administrations too. Many in these communities have indeed clung to an ‘antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations’. Many liberals have clung even more fiercely to their view of such communities as made up of ‘dumb hicks’ driven simply by bigotry and hatred. What we seem to lack is the imagination to redraw the faultlines, to see the need to challenge the elite without succumbing to bigotry, and to challenge bigotry without defending the elite; the imagination to defend the interests both of migrants and of working class communities, and to recognize that their interests seem opposed largely because of the way that the political faultlines have been drawn.

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The photos are of Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry Murals in the Detroit Institute of Art.

28 comments

  1. So far I have arrived at the need to reconcile the paradox of imagining a way forward that reconciles the haves and have nots of liberalism and the haves and have nots of populism.

    Others are writing in a similar vein to yourself and suggest that a new way of organising ourselves “will have to square the circle. It will [have to] make you still feel that you are an individual in control of your life and feelings. But also make you want to surrender yourself to some grand picture of the future. Someone who manages to put those two together is going to be very powerful.”
    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/13/make-america-great-again-why-are-liberals-losing-the-war-of-soundbites#comment-87447922

    I had just finished reading this article when your post arrived in my email box which I find interesting.
    http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_58264d03e4b02b1f5257a1ca?
    Ill do the online course to see how it might help to move my imagination.

    George Monbiot also has been arriving to the same place but from a different perspective.
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/14/neoliberalsim-donald-trump-george-monbiot?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+main+NEW+H+categories&utm_term=199726&subid=1637658&CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2

    So what is the greater goal or the greater overarching system that is fully inclusive and a goal/system that everyone is willing to surrender to. Interesting.

  2. “What we seem to lack is the imagination to redraw the fault-lines, to see the need to challenge the elite without succumbing to bigotry, and to challenge bigotry without defending the elite; the imagination to defend the interests both of migrants and of working class communities, and to recognize that their interests seem opposed largely because of the way that the political fault-lines have been drawn.”

    With all due respect to you and to a well-drawn argument, the problem is at once much simpler yet more intractable than your argument suggests. The core of the problem is an economy that has changed dramatically since, to pick a date, 1970, and in consequence has left a large swath of middle America marginalized and stripped of their sense of contributing to society. That their ire turns to globalization, immigrants, and those who don’t look like themselves is entirely predictable. They feel diminished while solid jobs drift farther from their grasp and while others enjoy what they perceive as special treatment.

    Globalization is a common good but an individual disaster for a great many Americans who have watched the jobs that bought their homes and raised their families disappear. Once thought of as the backbone of America, these machinists and steelworkers and miners now find work stocking shelves at Wal-Mart, if they can find work at all. They perceive ‘illegal immigrants’ getting a free pass, ‘fruits and fairies’ getting special treatment, flocks of legal immigrants sucking up the jobs that should rightfully be theirs, all while everything that defined middle America at its apex inexorably evaporates.

    The root of the problem is a rapidly changing economic landscape that the political class either doesn’t understand or is loath to address. Capitalism was a wildly successful economic model for two centuries. But its success then set the stage for its growing irrelevance today. Capital, one hundred years ago, was a scarce commodity. Today we are awash in capital; trillions of dollars in a cornucopia of currencies looking for a productive place to be. The investment of capital created demand for labor, the wages paid to labor created demand for the products created. This cycle transformed the human condition in societies that adopted the capitalist model. Never before had so many had so much.

    Automation and offshoring have driven the price of products down and simultaneously reduced both the capital and labor requirements to make the stuff people want. Computers are cheap. Robots are increasingly cheaper and more versatile. And low labor rate venues offer semi-skilled labor at 15 or 20 cents on the dollar to domestic labor. Yet even enterprises such as Foxconn with factories in Taiwan and the PRC are automating at a furious pace. The cost of products continues to drop but with it the demand for labor.

    The agricultural sector saw this transformation in the last century as factory ag drove family farmers off the land and into the city in search of manufacturing jobs. In 1880, half the population worked on farms. Today just a few percent of American workers feed the nation and part of the world beyond. Now similar forces are changing the face of manufacturing. The question is, where do these displaced workers go?

    The issue is not one of economics alone. There are a variety of options such as negative income tax and basic income to address the dollars and cents, to keep demand alive as fewer and fewer workers are required for supply. But this ignores the innate need of people to feel that they are contributing to their society, that they are important cogs in the great clockwork that is their nation. A functional society is a broad web with a valued place for each of its members. Deprive enough members of their valued place and you have something that looks like 1930 Weimar.

    Uniting people in a common purpose, a common effort to achieve great things will necessarily replace the disappearing common purpose to feed more people and to make more stuff. The Democrats will need to abandon the identity politics that has animated their Party since the days of LBJ. The Republicans will need to abandon their reflexive worship an economic model that has served its purpose magnificently but is increasingly irrelevant today. The political class will need to define creative new objectives and harness people in coordinated pursuit of those objectives.

    The motto appearing on the reverse of the US one cent piece holds e pluribus unum; from many, one. The economic quest that united Americans has lost its urgency. The question now is what will replace it and who will lead us to this new unity?

    • The problem isn’t globalization or automation as such. After all, it isn’t the case that the leeching away of steelmaking or agricultural jobs has left America with no productive or service needs. It is rather the lack of planning and investment and will to replace old jobs with necessary new ones. I agree with you about many feeling ‘marginalized and stripped of their sense of contributing to society’. But, as you yourself observe, this is an issue of politics and of social policy, not simply of offshoring. And here, what we need to address is the issue of the decay of social movements, of labour organizations and of civil society.

      • I agree and disagree with this. Liberal economic internationalism has indeed created job losses, a downward pressure on wages and living standards etc and hollowed out community cohesion that was based on local industries. However it was Trump’s promise to put America first (conservative economic nationalism) that prompted his win which obviously is political policy. As such populist support for his pledges was in itself a coherent social movement which has the basis of reorganising labour organisations and civil society albeit in more conservative rather than liberal ways.

        • I believe you are overgeneralizing the forces that allowed him victory. Much of the exit poll analysis that I’ve read suggests inchoate anti-establishment and anti-Clinton voting. Certainly the America first eras were a factor. But they alone would not have been nearly enough.

        • I would have thought anti-establishment and anti-Clinton forces are synonymous with a rejection of liberal economic internationalism and is the flip side of America First rhetoric. So it is not unreasonable to think people voted for Trump and against Clinton simultanously. As I understand this was largely motivated by a feeling of being neglected.

      • “The problem isn’t globalization or automation as such.”

        Perhaps a matter of perspective. As I noted, globalization is good for the group but devastating for some individuals in the group. So too automation. It is a failure of politics when the good is embraced and the dislocation ignored. We paid a price for that failure earlier this month. This is not to say that technological change hasn’t always been part of the economic landscape. My argument is that the landscape itself is changing, that economic principles that were vibrant in the 19th and 20th centuries will be inappropriate as we move toward the 22nd.

        While you say that America continues to have productive and service needs, the productive jobs are fewer as a fraction of the population and service jobs do not generally pay wages similar to skilled manufacturing. There will always be need for specialists. But not everyone is cut out to be an engineer or a geneticist. Those trending to the left side of the bell curve aren’t going to disappear.

        Which brings us to you last sentence with which I unequivocally agree. The failure is one of politics. These problems are not unsolvable. But problems are best addressed, more easily addressed proactively and reactively. Our political class – and here I specifically fault Democrats as they claim to be the party of the people – has been remiss in this regard, leading from behind and becoming captive to minutiae while ignoring much larger issues.

  3. Ra

    “This is not to suggest an equivalence between Obama and Trump or that Trump’s policies are not repugnant and dangerous. It is rather to suggest that Trump supporters are not that different from Clinton or Obama supporters in ignoring their candidates’ obnoxious qualities or policies in favour of aspects that they admire.”

    Funny, that is exactly what you’re suggesting: an equivalence of kind, if not degree. For example, I love my boyfriend. That leads me to overlook his less than lovely qualities, like never washing his socks and being a snobby foodie. I have a friend who also loves her boyfriend. That leads her to overlook his less than lovely qualities, like verbally, physically, and sometimes even sexually abusing her. What you’re saying here is that because I overlook my boyfriend’s shortcomings, she has every right to do that too; and that I of all people should really try to appreciate that because ultimately, we “are not that different” after all. Needless to say, the absurdity of your argument is quite stunningly apparent (http://muslimlawprof.org/2016/11/notes-of-a-muslim-american-on-the-election-of-the-wall-builder/).

    “But the ‘I can’t empathize with’ argument also plays the other way. Many working class voters might find it equally difficult to empathize with those who seemingly have ignored their plight or supported policies destroying jobs and communities.”

    Ah, yes, the endless empathy pleas. You know what? “Elites” like me would have taken that argument seriously if these same people had not supported a man who does all that (stiffing small businesses, making stuff overseas, not supporting the auto industry, not paying his fair share of taxes, hell, not even paying some of his campaign staff) and then some. Hillary Clinton supported NAFTA and suddenly she’s a witch. Oh, yeah, perfectly reasonable.

    • You had me with your first paragraph. You lost me with your second and convinced me that you are as clueless as the Democratic leadership who gave Trump the presidency on a silver platter. The Party is full of bright and exciting members with innovative ideas and energy. Unfortunately, few of them are in a power structure that decided it was Clinton’s turn; the blue version of Bob Dole. So it became a race to the bottom. Which candidate is less repulsive and which candidate will shake up the status quo. Loathsome and Loathsomer fight a grudge match for the White House and Loathsomer wins by a hair. That you can characterize this as “Hillary Clinton supported NAFTA and suddenly she’s a witch” shows just how disconnected from reality your analysis is.

    • Ra, the fact that you dismiss Clinton’s fawning to Wall Street or her hawkish foreign policy or Obama’s policy of mass deportation or amassing of executive power as merely the political equivalent of ‘not washing one’s socks’ only confirms my assessment that ‘Trump supporters are not that different from Clinton or Obama supporters in ignoring their candidates’ obnoxious qualities or policies in favour of aspects that they admire’. As for empathizing with working class concerns if they had not voted for a figure like Trump, perhaps had you (or, rather, mainstream politicians of all stripes) taken their grievances seriously well before Trump even thought about taking to the political stage, then they may not felt the need to support him. Perhaps you should ask yourself why it is that, in states such as Michigan and Wisconsin, millions of workers who voted for Obama in 2012, deserted the Democrats this time? And not just white workers but black workers, too? And not just in monocultural communities? That many think as you do suggests that they still do not understand that depth of anger and disaffection with mainstream politics that did for Clinton. And the fact that you (like many) imagine that you should take people’s grievances seriously only if they vote the right way (or, at least, don’t vote the wrong way) suggests that it is not just Trump who has a problem with the meaning of democracy. Perhaps, as Brecht once suggested, we should just dismiss the electorate and choose a new one more to your political liking?

  4. Ra: I understand your frustrations with this talk and it can operate as a reductive, simplistic narrative (though I know Kenan to be beyond such accusation). Nevertheless it is a fact that the democrats in America and ostensibly left parties over much of the Western world have been taken a beating over the last 10 years. Even if you don’t have sympathy with the ex-blue collar workers who might have voted for Trump, or the Clinton-non-voters more generally, I just don’t see any way forward politically unless we build broad left coalitions with some of these people (more specifically non-voters but surely some Trump voters too). By that I don’t mean appeasing racism should be part of the left (in fact many supposed leftists have tried to skirt a line of anti-immigrant bigotry and such triangulation has been a total unmitigated disaster). Instead we do what leftism is good for, give a platform that will relieve the actual problems in these peoples’ lives that they have been led by demagogues to think is the fault of the Other. As Matt Bruenig has pointed out, Black people in California were overwhelmingly against gay marriage. From this fact we do not:

    1. Exclude black people from the left coalition.
    2. Give in to any homophobic sentiment that a majority of that population might agree with in our project going forward.

    Instead we stick firm to our anti-homophobic principles but also offer something to appeal to these voters. Note, this is an analogy for how to think about populations that might hold bigoted views and nothing more.

    In my view, from the numbers and the stories of her ground game and her worldview more generally it is more accurate to say
    Clinton lost the election than Trump won. This suggests to me the key question is to ask why a left party cannot appeal to millions of traditional members of its base. It is pointless to merely put this down to racism or sexism, not because they don’t exist, but because that suggests no political plan going forward, it just says that some people are evil and that it all there is to it; it is fundamentally a conservative view of the world and of human nature. The left may never win the majority of sexist or racist Trump voters, but for the millions that did not vote with their bigotries we need to have a plan to win again.

    The liberal identity politics wing of the left has spent the last five to ten years classifying people into good or bad based on their apparent prejudices. This has been full of worthy conversations about values one should hold or how to think through these things but politically it seems a total failure. Unable to materially affect the world in any seriously useful way and seemingly allergic to any material class analysis. Ultimately essentialist in its views of morality and of identity but manichean is its prescription for what to do about anything. The realm of moral philosophy is about deciding normative claims, what one ought to do. The realm of politics is about how the world actually is and doesn’t give a damn about how good people ought to behave. It is high time that any actual plan beyond people ‘educating themselves’ actually be put forward right now because we are losing and losing bad and no amount of complaining about Kenan or anyone else not genuflecting in the correct way seems to do anything about it.

    • With respect (I liked your comment), I gave been studying conservatism for the last six months and no where have I read that conservative thinkers think that humans can be categorised as evil whereas in my experience liberals are all too often quick to categorize ‘others’ as evil. Liberal anti-Brexiteers and liberal anti-trumpers are a case in point. Where have you seen conservatives waving banners saying that minorities are evil in the same way that liberals have been saying that working class social conservatives are evil.

      Conversatism tends to see humans as rather flawed, i.e irrational and prone to making mistakes. Liberals tend to see themselves as perfected. This perfected notion of themselves is largely framed around care and fairness https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/12/america-will-not-be-at-heart-of-new-world-order?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+main+NEW+H+categories&utm_term=199473&subid=1637658&CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2#comment-87425842
      but there is more to life than just care and fairness. Take the life/death relationship between all lifeforms for example which consists of 6 types of feeding interactions. Conservatism is able to incorporate these whereas liberalism cannot hence liberalism can only partially accept the fullness of life. As such liberals can only frame care and fairness and beyond that everything is evil. Unfortunately this makes liberalism inherently bigoted as an ideology which is very intolerant of values systems different to its own. This is why the Left is losing its appeal. Liberalism simply cannot understand the diversity of life.

      • Liberals are no longer tolerant, live-and-let-live people.

        They have become Manichaeans, seeing their opponents (and opposing points of view) as demonic forces.

        Why is this ? Well, partly it’s fear – because at heart, liberals are as fearful of human nature (or that of their opponents) as much as any conservative. (Liberals generally tend to be sensitive, but selfish, people).

        But mainly, liberals are motivated by arrogance, seeing themselves as superior to their opponents. (Though generally, liberals are much better at virtue-signalling than at actually helping anyone who needs help).

        As we have seen, this liberal contempt for opponents is counter-productive, leading to electoral defeat.

        Though amusing too; that liberals (who are always ordering us to befriend the Other) should so hate the conservative Other, is wryly hilarious.

        • You have a monochromatic view of those who don’t share your ideology. Liberals come in just as many shades and textures as conservatives. There are libertarian conservatives, social conservatives, economic conservatives, reactionary conservatives, neo-conservatives, and a few wingnuts who hang out in survivalist bunkers on the weekends. Liberals come in just as many variations.

      • Ra

        Oh, I just love this argument that it’s the party establishment that put her forth as the Democratic candidate. “And so Democratic leaders made Hillary their candidate even though they knew about her closeness to the banks,” writes Thomas Frank, “her fondness for war, and her unique vulnerability on the trade issue – each of which Trump exploited to the fullest.” Did the party establishment favor Hillary? Of course they did. That insiders root for their fellow insider should not be breaking news. But do tell me, windriven, what exactly do you think the party establishment should have done that would have helped Bernie Sanders in the primary? More debates (which she won)? More open primaries (which she won)? Abolish the superdelegates (which she didn’t even need)? Tell me, did the party establishment stop Bernie Sanders from campaigning or something? Did they prevent him from going to certain states or appearing on the media or talking to minorities or something? The fact is Bernie Sanders lost because black people can vote (https://youtu.be/xeBK1P00Nbw?t=2m57s). No amount of debates or media coverage would have persuaded them otherwise, unless, of course, you think that there was something unique about black people that prevented them from supporting Bernie’s candidacy, unlike white people who effortlessly got it after just a debate or two.

        As for you, Kenan, I canvassed for Hillary in my home state of Pennsylvania, so don’t tell me I “do not understand that depth of anger and disaffection with mainstream politics.” Hillary lost the state along with Michigan, North Carolina, and Florida not because of low black turnout per se but rather more specifically because of low millennial black turnout, in line with the general trend among white millennials across the country. In other words, she lost because of Bernie voters. She lost because of my generation which truly encapsulates what Solon said almost three thousand years ago: “An Athenian is a wily wolf, but a group of them is a flock of sheep.” She lost because all year long she was accused of “fawning to Wall Street” while it is actually Wall Street that is fawning to her (they paid to hear her speak, not the other way around; it is the audience that fawns, not the speaker; it is the fans that fawn, not the celebrity; is the believers that fawn, not God). She lost because all year long she was demonized as having a “hawkish foreign policy.” Why, is it because of the Iraq War? “Even though the resolution before the Senate is not as strong as I would like in requiring the diplomatic route first … I take the president at his word that he will try hard to pass a United Nations resolution and seek to avoid war, if possible. Because bipartisan support for this resolution makes success in the United Nations more likely and war less likely—and because a good faith effort by the United States, even if it fails, will bring more allies and legitimacy to our cause—I have concluded, after careful and serious consideration, that a vote for the resolution best serves the security of our nation. If we were to defeat this resolution or pass it with only a few Democrats, I am concerned that those who want to pretend this problem will go away with delay will oppose any United Nations resolution calling for unrestricted inspections.” She added, “This is a difficult vote. This is probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make. Any vote that may lead to war should be hard, but I cast it with conviction. … My vote is not, however, a vote for any new doctrine of preemption or for unilateralism or for the arrogance of American power or purpose.” A vote for the resolution, she argued, “is not a vote to rush to war; it is a vote that puts awesome responsibility in the hands of our president. And we say to him: Use these powers wisely and as a last resort”(http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/war_stories/2016/02/hillary_clinton_told_the_truth_about_her_iraq_war_vote.html#cx).” Yes, what a hawk. What an unabashed “fondness for war.” Is it because of Libya (http://www.importantcool.com/talk-talk-libya-notes-departure-reality-based-community/)? Or is it Syria (http://www.businessinsider.my/obama-john-kerry-foreign-policy-atlantic-jeffrey-goldberg-2016-3/#8KCJRp43cscuvK8R.97)? Why is it you don’t ever hear John Kerry or Samantha Power or Susan Rice being called a hawk even though they, too, are staunch proponents of liberal interventionism? What is it about this woman specifically? Is it because she’s so effortlessly comfortable with the exercise of power, that is to say, so very visibly feminist (http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/209304/hillary-clinton-social-progress)? She lost, Kenan, because all year long all people ever heard about was her emails as opposed to her actual record of public service, as opposed to stuff like this: https://www.facebook.com/james.grissom/posts/10210311889333429 . My mother worked for that woman at the State Department. The things she’s told me is why I enthusiastically volunteered for her campaign this year but not when she first ran in ’08 (I volunteered for Obama back then). I was commiserating with my mom this past weekend when I said, “Can you imagine what she must be feeling right now?” To which she sighed and smiled and said: “People usually complain that their rulers are oppressing them; I complain that my people are the ones oppressing me!” She quoted Ali ibn Abi Talib, you see, the fourth Rashidun caliph, who was assassinated. No surprise, then, that Hillary Rodham Clinton, too, has had to endure so many things, from “Lock her up!” to “Second Amendment solutions.” But yes, whatever, right? Keep telling yourself that she didn’t hear the cries of the working class, that their vote is justified. Who knows? Maybe if you try hard enough you might even square that circle. You’ve certainly gone far enough to the left that you’ve reached the right.

        • It is so easy to strut triumphantly when you set up a false dichotomy. The DNC, Obama, and the entire Democratic machine has been treating the 2016 as a coronation for Hillary Clinton, really, since the dust settled after the 2012 election. They were all aware of her astronomical negatives, the level of distrust of Clinton even before the homebrew server became public, the obscene amounts of cash flowing into Clinton coffers for speeches to Wall Street, and the appearance of ‘pay for access’ during her time at State. This kept other potential candidates out. Entering the primary she faced Martin Who and an unknown aging Socialist who wasn’t even a Democrat. And the Socialist gave her one hell of a run for her money.

          But hey, it was her turn. Just like Bob Dole.

          But the arrogance of the DNC in insisting on Clinton is more a symptom than the disease. The disease is complacency; the notion that voters will just shut their mouths and do what they’re told because where are they going to go, the Republicans? The Democrats stopped taking care of business so long ago they’ve forgotten how it’s done. It wasn’t a problem so long as the Republicans we’re playing the same game, hovering up cash for themselves and their buddies and throwing a small piece of red meat to their base from time to time to keep them from getting too restive.

          Well an aging Socialist stirred up the Democratic base and a crude billionaire stirred up the Republican base, both by talking about the issues that people actually cared about, worried about, thought about. Issues that struck close to their homes. But what the elites paraded on their respective stages were Hillary Clinton for the Ds and Jeb and the Eleven Dwarfs for the Rs.

          Let me watch you strut around some more, Ra. Very impressive. Cling to that fantasy that Clinton was the people’s choice. See if that mindset works better for you in 2020. You could even get Debbie and Donna back to lead that parade.

        • Ra

          “They were all aware of her astronomical negatives, the level of distrust of Clinton even before the homebrew server became public”
          Patently false. “In two polls taken in 2011 and 2012, she was viewed favorably by 66 percent, making her more popular than President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. When she left that position on Feb. 1, 2013, 64 percent had a favorable view of her. Her rating has since declined in the wake of criticism over security at the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and controversy over how she handled her emails” (http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/may/22/hillary-clinton/hillary-clintons-approval-rating-secretary-state-w/).

          “This kept other potential candidates out.”
          That has got to be the most confused reasoning I have ever heard. You would think that all her shortcomings would invite potential candidates in.

          “And the Socialist gave her one hell of a run for her money.”
          Falsehood galore (https://youtu.be/eUTZGjInaBg?t=1m50s).

          “Cling to that fantasy that Clinton was the people’s choice. See if that mindset works better for you in 2020.”
          Yes, what a fantasy (http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/11/11/opinion/clintons-substantial-popular-vote-win.html). I look forward to volunteering for her campaign again in 2020. Until then, do take care. Goodbye.

        • You’re delusional, Ra. What on earth do polls from 2011 and 2012 have to do with the 2016 presidential election?

          Clinton lost. To a dancing clown. She deserved to lose and he did not deserve to win. Against a meaningful candidate she would have lost in a landslide. I’m not entirely sure which would be more humiliating.

  5. I wonder whether KM’s “hunkering-down” friend has ever wondered what it must have been like to live through the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire – because now she knows ! There are marked similarities between the West of c.400 CE and 2016 (glance at vol 3 of Gibbon’s Decline & Fall if you doubt this).

    The five centuries of Western dominance of the world ended in the Noughties. The liberal half of Western populations exult over this (expecting the costs to be met only by other people; and not seeing that an abyss is beneath them as well). The conservative half of Western populations are in culture shock and anger, ready to vote for anyone who heeds their concerns (or pretends to).

    Between these two positions, it is difficult to see any middle ground or compromise.

    Which is why the Big Problem facing the USA isn’t Trump – but the likelihood of 1) A slow-burn, low-level civil war; & 2) The Breaking of the Union, possibly by secession of the liberal Pacific and North Atlantic seaboards.

    • Dude, you need to breathe into a paper bag for a few minutes. While there are certainly parallels to The slow collapse of Rome, the problems facing America are adaptive rather than existential. The world is changing. The economic landscape is changing. Even some of the basic notions of what it means to be a nation are, if not changing, being questioned. Replace your anguished cries with clear objectives and sell those objectives and a path to their realization to your countrymen. That doesn’t mean they’ll be instantly embraced, but a future worth sharing will be built on a common vision of that future.

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