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Collapse of the Third Republic

Collapse of the Third Republic

saluteOne of the benefits of a representative system is its adaptability. Sensitivity to public will means that a representative democracy can pivot, incorporating new voices and accommodating new demands without the pain and disruption of a revolution.

However, even a highly representative system can sometimes descend into gridlock. Interest groups can hoard power and concentration of wealth can enable the few to forestall the will of the many. Mass hysteria can distort public opinion in ways that leave the political system chasing phantoms. When the pace of change outruns our ability to adapt, public consensus can break down and splinter.

Certain periods like the Jackson, T. Roosevelt, and Johnson Administrations, marked times of enormous, rapid political adaptation that still preserved the essential character of the government. Key institutions remained mostly intact while new interests were incorporated into the system with minimal violence and destruction. We are not always so successful.

America has survived two large-scale disruptions that effectively ended an older governing arrangement without providing a clear transition to a new order. In the 1850’s our political system collapsed, leaving no clear path forward. The Second Republic would not take shape for another twenty years, after a devastating Civil War and a tense rebuilding effort.

Again, at the end of the 1920’s, our system descended into dysfunction. Sparked more by economics than by politics, this disruption would not stabilize under the Third Republic until the late 1940’s.

A comfortable and prosperous period of stable evolution under the Third Republic has now come to an end. It is entirely unclear what new governing arrangements will emerge from the wreckage, or how long it will take to build something new. For that matter, no one can promise that there will be a Fourth Republic.

All we know for certain is that the partisan and institutional alignments we have taken for granted across our lifetimes have lost their relevance and ceased to be effective. At present, no one in either party is describing a vision for a Fourth Republic that seems like a credible rallying point around which to build. We could be in for a difficult ride.

Each previous governing order failed when a minority succeeded in gaining enough power to block necessary adaptations. From the earliest days of the First Republic, slaveholders and their institutions were blustery, violent, and recalcitrant. Saddled with a fundamentally unpopular ideology, their core political strategy was gridlock and obstruction. Successful use of stalling methods led both slaveholders and their opponents to overestimate the political sway of the slavery ethic.

Slave states made ever more absurd demands on the republic while launching a violent campaign of repression on the Kansas/Nebraska frontier. Opponents, who had for decades limited their activism to words and politics, began to organize resistance. When violence broke into the open the leadership in the slave states was jubilant about their prospects. Just a few years later they were ruined and a generation of their descendants was decimated.

A new republic had emerged by the late 1870’s, based on a more powerful federal authority and new capitalist economic order. With Southern obstruction diminished for a time, the country experienced a massive economic boom.

Full industrialization, at least in the northern states, changed the environment in ways that challenged the new order. Reforms promoted by Progressives in the early 20th century offered the potential to keep the Second Republic afloat. However, after World War I the country turned inward. Fears of white Protestants about the power of immigrants and the rising influence of cities sparked a regression. Necessary adaptions stalled. An economic collapse eventually destroyed the Second Republic.

As Americans in the 30’s struggled toward a new governing arrangement, many conservatives drifted toward Fascism. Prominent figures like Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh worked to normalize Hitler’s “reforms” while radio propagandists like Father Charles Coughlin stirred up the grassroots. Openly sympathetic “Bund” movements sprang up around the country.

On the left, labor unions began to openly embrace socialism and even communism. In 1935 Wisconsin elected a Socialist Governor. Despite massive electoral victories, Roosevelt struggled to build a new order. The country’s direction remained unclear into World War II and the years that followed. Roosevelt’s reforms are often described as a shift toward the left. In fact, the Roosevelt Administration and the Third Republic it founded, was an enormous political and cultural shift back toward the middle.

Traumatic as that time was, fewer Americans died in World War II than in the Civil War. We came through that extremely dangerous transition literally on top of the world. The Third Republic would come to be called the Pax Americana, unquestionably the peak of American economic and political power, at least so far.

Fast forward to the 90’s and our victory in the Cold War placed enormous strains on the Third Republic. Much of the logic behind our political parties and even our deep state institutions like the military, intelligence services, and major law enforcement, was shaped by Cold War assumptions. With the Soviets gone their purpose was questionable, but no realignment emerged. America across these years experienced an enormous and unprecedented expansion of wealth and freedom without ever developing a fresh vision for the future.

A second Clinton Administration might have provided a transitional period in which we could have worked through these new challenges. Instead, time ran out on the Third Republic. We have handed control of our core institutions to a psychologically unstable TV star and professional grifter. In an alternate outcome, we might be debating policy questions and ACA reform proposals. Now, we are left to guess whether our new President is more likely to be a buffoon or a tyrant.

Robbed of credible leadership and frustrated by an absence of vision, our options for resolving economic and social contradictions through conventional politics have, at least for the moment, collapsed. Our most powerful levers of government are in the hands of con artists and cranks.

The Third Republic is over and there is no roadmap to the Fourth. Few channels remain through which the demands of a new era can be peacefully and democratically expressed. We will either build a new political framework, very quickly, out of a new set of alliances and policies, or experience the usual consequences of political collapse.

Through the fog, two possible endpoints emerge. In our happiest credible outcome, the Trump Administration focuses all its energy on graft. Trump himself hardly ever visits Washington, confining himself to the High Castle and emerging only to engage in symbolic and fruitless bullying of some random target that catches his fleeting attention.

Policy questions are left in the hands of a gridlocked and hopelessly dysfunctional Congress. Cabinet appointments are almost universally incompetent, too ignorant, delusional, or corrupt to impose change on a recalcitrant bureaucracy that outsmarts them at every turn. Almost nothing happens to the country beyond a sharp economic downturn, the collapse of our remaining diplomatic influence, and a continuing decline in the fortunes of lower-skilled, lower-educated Americans.

Thanks to demographic transition and the disenchantment of Trump’s neglected base, perhaps a major electoral shift emerges by 2020 to place a competent political figure in the White House and new political alignment in Congress. This could happen. It probably won’t.

More likely, we live through a brief lull, like the famously quiet spring of 1940, followed by a series of calamities. In the hands of Trump’s cast of cartoon characters, the simplest foreign and domestic challenges should be expected to spin out of control.

Dangerous deep-state institutions with colliding interests, like our intelligence agencies and the FBI, will have no competent authority to contain their rivalry. Political alignments will send different branches of the security services into covert competition. Corrupt, immoral, or simply uninterpretable commands from the White House to the military spark dissention. A general, or a collection of generals, refuse or obstruct orders while other generals or other military branches move against them. Splintered local security services are forced to choose sides.

Political pressures overwhelm our last competent economic institutions, the Fed and the Treasury Department, making an effective response to our next recession impossible. Blanket rejection of trade agreements combined with a generally daffy economic program strengthens China’s role as a stabilizing (and anti-democratic) power in the Pacific and Africa. Russia enjoys a free hand on its margins, forcing Europe to launch new, highly volatile defensive arrangements independent of American influence. Our military, despite its own increasingly dangerous internal divisions, becomes the last institution to which we can turn for political stabilization.

It sounds extreme, but this is a generic recipe for institutional decline that has played out hundreds of times over the course of history. Our decision to elect a man like Trump is proof that we are not exceptional.

Consider the most painful failures of George W. Bush’s Administration. Now imagine Trump and his collection of reality TV minions facing challenges even more complex. It is difficult to map out any credible end to the Trump era that does not place a sad new national holiday on the calendar to remember those we lost.

The longer it takes for us to collectively build the Fourth Republic, the greater the damage we will sustain and the lower our odds that it ever emerges. Electing Trump presents us with an emergency that cannot be resolved by merely electing some Democrats in 2018. Our lack of vision for a post-Cold War world is now a critical problem that threatens our survival. There is no status quo ante to restore. Now we must imagine, build, and promote a new political and economic order under dangerous conditions. The clock is ticking.


  1. This needs to be read and applauded. I am tired of reading criticism about how the Democrats “lost” this election. Did the Clinton campaign make stragegic mistakes? Damn right, but as progressives, we need to be proud of the values our party stands for and work harder to change those areas that need bolstering.
    Be proud of your party and help make it better. Stop piling on!

  2. Politico reported last night, the launch of The Electors Trust, a project of EqualCitizens.US. This effort bears watching…….

    “The objective of the Electors Trust is to give electors free and confidential legal services, to defend their constitutional right “to exercise,” as Justice Jackson put it in Ray v. Blair (1952), “an independent and nonpartisan judgment as to the [person] best qualified for the Nation’s highest offices.” Many states have laws that purport to limit federal electors. As Ray v. Blair makes clear, any such state power is extraordinarily limited.”

  3. Next week, SCOTUS is taking up a couple of appeals that deal with gerrymandering. With the present 8-person SC, it will be real interesting to see how these rulings turn out. It is interesting that the SC decided not to wait for the new POTUS to name a 9th justice but calendared these cases in this session. Here’s some thinking on what the issues are in the two cases (VA and our old friend, NC) and their potential impact. Note these cases are independent of the WI SC decision which may well be affected by the outcome of the SCOTUS decision in VA and NC. This could be huge – either way it turns out given the assurance that the GOP is going to use its majorities and time well to double down on gerrymandering that has served the party so well.

    1. This is interesting. My initial thought is that Chief Justice Roberts would like to have these cases decided prior to the new justice being seated. I would like to think that he wants to issue some clear guidance on redistricting. If his inclination was to side with the Republicans, why hear the case now and get a 4-4 decision????

      1. I’m very cautiously optimistic that the SCOTUS might actually trend left. It has been, more or less, insulated from the rot that started with the GoP, and since spread to state legislatures and governors offices since then. I may be naive, but I have hope that, at the verules least, Kennedy becomes less swingy and more left leaning. Same for Roberts. I never saw these guys as blind ideologues, but as intelligent men with a sense of duty and honor who happened to believe that conservatism was the right way forward for the nation. Intelligent men with a sense of duty could have reasonably held this position in the recent past. I do not see how intelligent men with a sense of duty can continue to hold the position that conservatism in modern America is the best option.

        And as it regards to voting suppression/gerrymandering, even Thomas might be a wild card. He’s obviously intensely and blindley ideological, but he’s still black. That may allow him to see this issue differently.

        If one justice drifted reliably leftward, you’d have a 5-4 liberal court. Wishful thinking, I’m sure, but I just have a hard time believing all 4 conservative justices, all learned and educated men, are totally ok with what they’re seeing from the Republican Party right now.

      2. To my knowledge, Thomas has NEVER ruled on a case in a way that demonstrated sensitivity to black issues. Kennedy swings and with the addition of a 9th conservative that may give him incentive to help balance “the wheels of justice”…We’ll see. As for Roberts -I couldn’t disagree more. I am convinced that Roberts played both ends on the ACA ruling. He knew that by stipulating medicaid was optional for states, that this would doom the long term success/solvency of the plan. It would impact sign up numbers and give the red states cover to refuse to expand medicaid in their states – which they all did. He knew exactly what he was doing. Nope, won’t look for any help from him. At all.

      3. Mary, does it say only 4 voted to hear? Or just that only 4 is needed?

        I think it’s safe to assume all 4 liberal justices voted to hear. Be interesting if 5 or did as well.

        But what’s most interesting is that the court is not hearing any other controversial/political cases right now, per the article. That suggests to me that the court is not willing to hear cases that they believe would be deadlocked 4-4. Certainly, that is the likely outcome of abortion or gun control or similar issues, which is why they haven’t agreed to hear such cases. Which in a roundabout way suggests that perhaps the justices feel there’s at least a better then average chance that gerrymandering cases WONT split 4-4.

        Roberts is known to be a scholar of history and also very cognizant of his legacy and that of his court. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he sees a potentially legacy saving do over, considering he famously stated that race is no longer an issue in modern day America, a claim that may have been reasonable in 2013, but which is laughable now.

        He must know that history has not smiled on those justices that stood in the way of racial progress.

      4. A minimum of four justices is required for the SC to hear a case. I do not know how many justices signed on in support of granting certiorari for these two cases. I would love to think all 8 signed on but doubt that.

      5. I wish Justice Roberts every good intention but all I can say is that I do not expect him to support an issue which is so clearly important to the GOP manipulation of voting district design. Democrats have used gerrymandering as well but not nearly as thoroughly as Republicans. I want gerrymandering as it is being practiced gone for both parties. It has no legitimate place in the democratic process, IMO>

      6. Rob has some very cogent thoughts regarding the ideological position of the justices. Kennedy has certainly tended to be less conservative in recent years. He has shown that time and again. At the time of Roberts confirmation, I did feel that he was intelligent and had a sense of honor. I never saw him as an ideologue. His decision on Obamacare certainly showed that to be the case. The commit regarding how intelligent men can continue to blindly support the conservative position, is right on the mark.

      7. Look at Roberts votes on the court (when he had to make one…as CJ, he doesn’t have to except in case of tie…). He’s been consistently conservative – which POV is what got him the nomination by GWB. You need to do more research on his ruling on the ACA. He crippled the plan with the medicaid ruling.

      8. Another possibility could be that conservatives want to force the hand of opponents of gerrymandering….hear their legal basis for opposing it in anticipation of a 4-4 tie, then bringing the matter up once they have their conservative majority (9th justice appointee) . They would have seen the legal arguments and would have a better opportunity to frame their case in light of known case citations, etc. (I am becoming one cynical female!)

    2. Given the imperative, I’m not surprised the SC would decide to take up these cases. In any expected tie-breaking scenario, every single one of the justices know that it’s likely to come down to Kennedy’s vote, regardless as to whether there’s a full court or not.

      Regardless as to the outcomes in these cases though, it’s the Wisconsin ruling that’s really going to stick one way or the other. If the court can grant a nationwide standard for affirming partisan gerrymandering and grant a precedent for striking it down, it’s a whole new ball game. Fingers crossed though; this is probably going to be our only real chance to get this right.

      1. Both of the cases you’re referring to have to do with racial gerrymandering, mime. The WI case is unique in that it’s only the second to deal with actual partisan gerrymandering, incorporating the new “efficiency gap”, and that case is already on its way to the Supreme Court.

        Very well though, let’s be skeptical and say both those cases fall on the wrong side. That doesn’t stop the WI case from proceeding, so let’s say that the first two go the wrong way but we get a good decision with Kennedy and the four liberal justices with the last one. Two bad racial gerrymandering decisions, but a monumental partisan gerrymandering one.

        Unless I’m totally misreading the effects, I’ll take that outcome, though I’d argue it’s an unlikely one with the Court still split 4-4.

      2. At their core, all these cases deal with designing election districts to assure party dominance….I certainly hope you are correct and that all three cases are ruled in favor of voting rights as they should be, not how they’re being manipulated. The WI case is unique and hopefully offers a mathmatical standard to bolster the (obvious) moral imperative.

  4. Interesting. Kind of odd though you ignore PBO 8 years of governing which could have ushered in your third republic. I don’t know but it seems to me you was still a republican and didn’t do or say squat about your party obstruction that I think you have to go back to the civil war to find. Maybe in later post you would address that

    1. Ronald, I don’t know if this will satisfy your questions about the process of disengagement by Chris with the Republican Party, but here’s his story in his own words. It is worth stating that Chris Ladd will always be a conservative but what appeals to me as a progressive is that he tempers his conservative principles with a healthy dose of reality for the importance of balance with social values. That’s rare and appreciated by all who follow his blog even when I and other commentators disagree with him. Ladd has written a book, “The Politics of Crazy” which explains his opinions on what has happened in politics in the last decade and what is possible going forward. You’ll find there are more Dems and Independents posting here than conservatives. Whether you’ll think that is a good thing or not will likely depend upon your personal politics. Welcome to a sane, civil political discourse.

    2. Upon re-reading your post, Ronald, I think your criticism of Chris regarding his lack of adequate acknowledgement of GOP obstruction of Obama over the past 8 years is fair. He’s stated that Obama was ineffective in combating GOP obstruction but I’ve never been satisfied with that dismissal of the arrogant, mean-spirited and deliberate obstruction by the GOP of every effort by Obama to lead – as was his right and responsibility.

      Go for it.

  5. I don’t know whether to cry or be spitting mad – probably both – at this recap of how the Republican Party obstructed President Obama for 8 long years. Rather than comment further, I’ll simply post the story here for you to digest. Is the only way forward to beat the Republicans at their own game as suggested in The Week column by David Faris? Has it really come to that horrible choice? Oh, democracy, how far you’ve fallen……..It takes the “good” out of citizenship when a party can subvert the political process to win in this manner. The Republicans and Trump deserve each other but it is the rest of America – the majority of America – who will pay the price.

    1. The Republicans were fine shutting down the government just to spite Obama. Democrats would never stoop to such low levels. Consequently, Republicans will win. So far, instead of being punished for all their obstruction, Republicans have been rewarded. Of course, Republicans had help. All those Democrats who just had to prove to Hillary Clinton, by voting for third party candidates or not voting at all, that they didn’t approve of her!

      Principle is a wonderful thing. Lucky for Republicans, they do not have that problem in their party!!

      1. Yes, and only the cabinet nominees require confirmation.

        Equally concerning are the looming 117 vacancies in the judiciary, of which 13 are at the appellate level and 85 at the district court level. Per current filibuster rules which were changed during the Obama administration (because the high number of vancanies were impeding the work of the judiciary and Obama could not get his nominations through the Judiciary Committee) – only 51 votes are required in the Senate for confirmation. Republicans, of course, hold 51 with the 52 expected after the LA Senate run-off, Dec. 10th.

        If you have relatives in LA, now would be a time to reach out and urge them to vote 12/10, for the Democratic candidate, Foster Campbell. It’s a long shot but not impossible for the Democratic candidate to win…..unless Dems don’t GOTV.

      2. This Flynn guy is an idiot . As NSA advisor, its pretty much his job description to be able to cut through propaganda and distill it into actionable intelligence. And yet he believes that “Piazzagate” is a real thing and Podesta and Clinton have been running a child sex trafficking ring out of Comet Pizza.

        Pretty much the only cabinet pick so far that Trump hasn’t picked an almost cartoonishly terrible candidate is Mattison at defense.

        For HHS, he picks a doctor who belongs to a group that believes that immigrants bring leprosy, abortion causes breast cancer, and vaccines cause disabilities

        – For education, he picks Devos, a billionaire swamp dweller who believes that Christianity should be taught more in school and who played a huge role in decimating Detroit public schools.

        He picks Sessions, a guy who once prosecuted civil rights groups for legally helping seniors register to vote, as AG.

        It’s mind boggling.

      3. From Politico’s Joe Pompeo on Flynn: (who requires no confirmation btw)

        “My colleagues Bryan Bender and Andrew Hanna report: “As Donald Trump’s national security adviser, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn will have to advise the president of the veracity of foreign and domestic threats, separating those that require immediate policy action from propaganda or misinformation. But Flynn himself has used social media to promote a series of outrageous conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama and their inner circles in recent months — pushing dubious factoids at least 16 times since Aug. 9, according to a POLITICO review of his Twitter posts. Flynn, who has 106,000 Twitter followers, has used the platform to retweet accusations that Clinton is involved with child sex trafficking and has “secretly waged war” on the Catholic Church, as well as charges that Obama is a “jihadi” who “laundered” money for Muslim terrorists. Now some say Flynn’s fondness for spreading fake news casts doubt on his fitness to serve as the White House’s national security adviser.”

  6. That’s one way of reading our history, but I look at it differently. I disagree that there have been 2 republics. There has only been one, and what we are seeing is that the Civil War has never really ended.

    The Civil War was about race, but it was also about manufacturing vs agriculture, trade vs protectionism, urban vs. rural, north vs. south. Funny how all of that could be said about our most recent election as well…

    IMHO, the most important person in the Civil War after Lincoln was John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln won the War. Thanks to Booth, the south won the reconstruction. As a result, we’ve been engaged in a low-intensity, guerrilla warfare-by-other-means conflict ever since.

    We are a nation founded on genocide against Native Americans and built on the backs of brutal slave labor. We’re also the country that has accepted the most immigrants and integrated them into one nation more successfully than any other. That’s the tension underlying our Republic that has never been settled.

    Nixon asked the Chinese premier in 1972 what he thought about the French Revolution. The Premier famously responded “it’s too soon to say.” Perhaps the same could be said of the American experiment.

    1. As I pointed out in an earlier post in this thread, if our history is broken down into Republics, to me the 1st Republic would have been the period under the Articles of Confederation promulgated in 1776 and adopted in 1777. The 2nd Republic would have been initiated with when the Constitution was adopted in 1789. From that point we have been governed under that Constitution, though it has been amended a number of times and the actual process of governance has changed considerably.

      I have thought that US History can be broken down into several periods as listed below, based on the major challenges confronting the nation:
      1. Revolutionary Period from 1770 -1814, when the War of 1812 ended. This period consisted of establishing the US as recognized separate nation.
      2. Confronting Slavery – From the end of the War of 1812 until the Civil War ended, the major issue was preserving the Union and confronting slavery.
      3. Reconstruction and Western Expansion – There was considerable overlap, so I tend to lump these together. They could also be separated, but in any event this period lasted from the end of the Civil War to until the close of the Western Frontier around 1890-1900.
      4. Progressive Era and Industrialization – Industrialization actually began earlier but with the close of the Western Frontier it came to the forefront and the Progressive Movement came to have a great deal of influence. This lasted until the Progressive Movement lost its influence with the inward turn of the US following WWI and the conservative Republican governance during the 1920s.
      5. Depression Era and WWII – 1930 to 1945. This is kind of self explanatory and was the last existential crisis the US faced. We were coming to terms with how to manage the industrial juggernaut and with the American role in the world. We had actually become the largest economy and industrial power in the World sometime around 1900 – 1910, but refused to accept that and preferred to continue to think of ourselves as a minor power and accept our role in the World.
      6. Great Power Era – 1945 to present. This period may be coming to an end. We are still the greatest power in the World, but two nations in particular are challenging that position. Also many of the structures put in place to provide for the welfare of the people have reached the end of their useful lives and are being challenged. Our economy is also transitioning away from heavy industry to sophisticated manufacturing and service sector work including integration of products into sophisticated systems. We have been attracting huge numbers of immigrants and need to assimilate them. We have the ability to confront these issues and can do so. Ultimately, I believe the US will do so. However, so far we have not been able to come to a consensus.

      With the incoming Administration the reactionary segments have gained control. They seemingly want to return to the immediate Post War period when the US was in an unique position with no other nations being anywhere near the same league. That period was never going to last.

      I think we are entering into a new period of our history. This period will require us to realize that we are one of several great powers, i.e. China, European Union (if it ever actually congeals), and perhaps Russia, Brazil, and India. Also we will have to re-institute an effective social safety net, resolve some of the sociological issues and effectively assimilate the large surge of immigration. Confronting and resolving these issues will take some time.

      An additional major challenge is confronting and resolving the challenges resulting from human induced climate change. This is a global issue and will require mankind to learn to live within a sustainable environment. To resolve this will require the major powers to actually cooperate. Historically, that has been very difficult to accomplish.

      I am fearful that without good governance and leadership, this restructuring could result in another existential crisis not only for the US but perhaps for civilization itself.

      We are living in interesting times.

  7. I don’t have much to add, but I want to thank you, Chris, for this website. I’ve spent much of this time post-election searching for people not in my liberal bubble who also know exactly the cost of this election results. It’s reassuring to find not only a white Republican male who is troubled about the direction of this country, but one who also is aware of the racial dynamics leading to where we are now (your last post on white socialism made me cheer as much as it made me sigh).

    A comment and a question:
    Thanks for the bleakness of this post, really. As hard as it was to read posts like this, Andrew Sullivan’s “The Republic Repeals Itself”, Masha Gessen’s “Rules of Autocracy”, and other similarly-dark tomes, I much prefer learning the worst-case scenario and preparing my life accordingly than all the tempered pieces. I’m wired to be bleak.

    “It is difficult to map out any credible end to the Trump era that does not place a sad new national holiday on the calendar to remember those we lost.” –powerful, and heartbreaking because the ones lost are probably the ones who least deserve it

    Question: over the course of your journey as a GOP lifer to political orphan, have you been able to turn any of your friends/neighbors to your way of thinking? If so, how? I’ve been asking this of all the conservative Never Trumpers I know because almost all of my circle is liberal (and dysfunctional in its own way, as a commenter up above mentioned).

    Thanks again, Chris.

    1. “over the course of your journey as a GOP lifer to political orphan, have you been able to turn any of your friends/neighbors to your way of thinking? If so, how?”

      It’s an interesting question. For years the answer would have been no, but I’ve started to pay closer attention. It turns out that the answer is actually yes.

      How? Rarely in the form of someone saying “gee, I never thought of it that way, you’re right.” Instead, it has been like water flowing over rocks. On most matters we form our opinions slowly and socially, defining our positions in relation to people around us. It has been fascinating to watch the positions and even language of people I see as opponents evolve over time in response to our arguments.

      It has convinced me that it is a mistake to hedge my opinions in an effort to protect the feelings of people who share a different viewpoint. It is far more important to be bold. People may respond negatively to being challenged, but boldness has an eroding effect over time – if you’re careful to get your facts straight and remain logically persuasive. Persistence, on the side of facts, is probably far more influential over time than apparent persuasion.

      1. Chris,
        Maybe it’s just the people i am around, but i have found no matter what i say about a Republican, the retort is “XYZ (meaning the Democrat) is worse!” They are all watching Fox News and facts mean nothing. Almost my entire family voted for Trump, based they say on religious beliefs. Makes no difference that the Pope has come out against his policies. They are Republicans first!

      2. Chris, further to your point, I feel that there is a powerful effect that comes from confirmation.

        If someone can make a reasonable case for something, the seed is planted, even if the listener does not believe it. If what you say comes to pass, that confirmation effect can be far more powerful then if the thing happened without it.

        A good example is Hillary CLinton. Frankly, the Podesta emails weren’t all that objectively damming, and I think if HRC was running against a typical politician, the type who wouldn’t scream out things like “crooked Hillary” and “she’s a criminal and needs to go to jail!!” they would have been far less damaging. Trump seeded the fields with his crooked Hilary bit. And then when the emails came out, as well as the Comey letter, many ppl perceived this as confirmation, and it had much deeper impact.

        To that end, that’s why it’s important for Dems to talk about Trumps conflict of interests whenever possible. Even if it’s shrugged off now as sore loserism, when the inevitable CoI allegations start trickling out, there will be a powerful confirmation effect.

  8. As I was watching Trump line up his cabinet, I realized that one of the major reasons a lot of these guys supported them is because they were near extinction — losing relevance, with small or sometimes insignificant constituencies, who are largely either late career or got pushed out of power early.

    In short, his cabinet reflects his constituencies: ‘deplorable’ trolls, racists, and kleptocrats that were losing their voice as a new Millennial generation sick of their shit were moving on.

    Now with the calls from Russia, Taiwan, Pakistan, and the Phillipines, including a discussion with Duterte, the man who called President Obama “the son of a whore”, the same is happening with our international policy: all of the odds and ends of marginalized and fringe autocrata are seeing their opportunity and jumping in. The United States are going to be easy to realign, you just offer land for Trump to build one of his hotels.

    For some of these places, like Taiwan, the risk is more the weight of China than the danger of the territory, but in people like Duterte shows a risk of a ‘realpolitik’ without any actual American interests, propping up of banana republics not even for the sake of corporations or ‘democracy’, but for a few golf courses.

  9. I think the coming tension will no longer be left vs right, but urban vs rural. It already is, to some extent, but not totally. Republican voters TEND to be rural and Democrats TEND to be urban, but those are more correlation then causation, and the clear urban vs rural split in current politics is more a reflection of demographic trends then it is the main reason. In other words, Republicans tend to be strong in rural areas, but those voters are not voting GoP BECAUSE they are rural. In the next wave of politics, rural voters will vote God BECAUSE they’re rural, and that’s what you do when you’re rural. Ppl in cities will vote Dem BECAUSE they live in cities.

    All the other stuff, the abortion, the guy marriage will be secondary issue stuff. The biggest predictor of voting pattern will be where you live, either urban or rural. It won’t be religion, or “values”.

    Think of it like this: In space, if you take as billions of tons of rock, dirt, and dust and just leave it there, it will inexorably coalesce into anew ever larger piece of matter, each addition of matter makes it bigger, giving it more gravity and thus pulling in ever more matter. Human development is similar. Ever since we first domesticated crops and animals and we’re finally able to stay put, we have inexorably coalesced into larger and more dense living arrangements, as if pulled constantly by some invisible gravity. There is no reason to think that will stop, ever. Physics has a name for this phenomenon, entropy. It is the concept that any closed system will ALWAYS be constantly moving from a state of order into disorder. “Disorder ” in this context is another term for “complexity “. The universe, and closed system, is just as slave to this law as everything else. Every second since the big bang, the univese has been slightly more complex then the second before it. This is a trend that ALWAYS 9nly ever goes in one direction. It is why time goes forward but never back. It’s why a glass of wine can fall onto the floor and smash into pieces, but pieces of glass on the floor will never jump up to a table a arrange itself to form a perfect piece of glass.

    There is no reason to think that human behavior, as much a part of the physical universe as everything else, would be different. There will never be a stopping of the exodus of rural areas into cities. It’d be like trying to stop the tides. And as that incessant pressure drains more and more rural areas into cities, the anger and fear will build and build until THE major divide in America will be rural vs urban. It won’t be expressed as that, of course. It will be cloaked in “traditional values” vs “city values” or even by race, as “diversity” or “cultural tolerance” will be code words for the hate urban dwellers.

    As more Ppl move to the cities, that will cause them to generate more money. That will increase the necessity of living in cities, and thus, more Ppl will be forced to do so. That, in turn, will cause them to generate more money, which of course then makes it even more necessary to move to the city etc etc. It’s the classic economic virtuous circle , providing a positive feedback loop and emptying rural areas into the cities. And this will cause even more anger from the rural areas at the cities, . These divisions will become the primary divide in politics, because when you feel your entire way of life is under threat, nothing else matters. I think you’re seeing this already with the complete and total lack of religious motives and themes this cycle.

    1. All that you say may be true, Rob, but don’t overlook the fact that white people tend to vote Republican if they’re middle age on up even if they live in the city. I know too many of them. Dems have got to figure out who their new base is and represent their interests OR they’ve got to go back and re-capture the working class voter. I’m becoming more interested in Martin’s idea of better serving the population that seems to already identify more with Democrats by focusing on their specific needs like Sanders did. I think Dems would have a more dedicated, active following if they used this approach. Frankly, there are many in the working class who blame the Dem Party for things that are either not their fault (changes in workplace), are their fault (educational limitations), or are incapable of sorting out a position based upon anything of substance. With people who think like this, their loyalties will always be wishy-washy.

      1. Can’t stuff Genie back into the bottle….Anyone who was foolish enough to believe a man who was born to wealth, has lived in wealth his entire life, would actually identify with working people’s needs AND follow through on his campaign rhetoric frankly deserves what they’re gonna get. Man, still hatin’ Hillary out there…..

      2. mary,
        Here is an article about how the election was won by Trump and lost by Clinton. Five counties! It is ridiculous that a country like ours can elect a Trump this way!
        and, it is political malpractice the way the Dem leadership is screwing up these races. If the Supremes do not step in and stop it, and they probably will not, gerrymandering will keep the house in Republican hands for decades.
        And Trump has proven that if you appeal to people’s hatred and basest instincts, you will win elections!
        I see no reason for Republicans to change.
        It would be one thing if the Republican who won was at least a competent person. But Trump. Trump makes G. W. Bush look competent! George left us with an economy 2-3 days away from ATM’s not working! Just imagine what Trump can do!

  10. From British conservative Mehrdad Amanpour:

    “Brexit. Trump. Le Penn. Wilders. The alt-right. Throughout the Western world, the populist right is on the rise.

    Yet sections of the left still won’t engage it nor even bother itself with trying to win the debate. It simply plods on refusing to acknowledge uncomfortable truths. It doesn’t practice and hone its arguments nor learn to persuade those who are being sold simplistic and brutal solutions to addressing those truths. So high-minded. So contemptuous.

    The alt-right on the other hand has done nothing else but try to persuade. It’s strategy has been to monopolise the often small and politically-inconvenient truths avoided by much of the left. Wearing those truths like the cloak of a prophet it has won credibility and trust with a large and increasing section of the public. And with that credibility, it is now in a position to make simplistic and probably dangerous ‘solutions’ become our reality.”

    Similar article from The Atlantic:

    “Insofar as the definition of “white supremacist” includes Bernie Sanders, the term is not going to retain significant stigma, or even be understood by most of America. Insofar as attempts to point that out are met, by academics on social media or opinion journalists at left-of-center outlets, with the most uncharitable, dubiously accurate construals possible, followed by disparaging insults and performative stigmatization––well, if you’re a progressive who is incapable of constructively engaging with a Mother Jones staffer, what possible hope do you have of reaching the swing voters who will decide the outcome of the 2018 midterms?”

    I think Trump’s going to get eight years, as much as it pains me to say.

    1. If you are calling Bernie Sanders a white supremacist, you are an idiot. I can only hope that the bad things that are likely to hurt minority group Americans once Trump’s cabinet picks start doing their worst will knock some sense into a few heads. Nobody improves their odds in a fight by dismissing allies. False claims are white sumpremacy are crying wolf.

    2. Nobody called Bernie Sanders a white supremacist, though Clinton got a few labels for it due to her ‘super predators’ comment thirty years ago. That comment was exploited by Trump’s campaign and delivered directly (as in in private messages and outreach) to black people through social channels to discourage turnout:

      “On Oct. 24, Trump’s team began placing spots on select African American radio stations. In San Antonio, a young staffer showed off a South Park-style animation he’d created of Clinton delivering the “super predator” line (using audio from her original 1996 sound bite), as cartoon text popped up around her: “Hillary Thinks African Americans are Super Predators.” The animation will be delivered to certain African American voters through Facebook “dark posts”—nonpublic posts whose viewership the campaign controls so that, as Parscale puts it, “only the people we want to see it, see it.” The aim is to depress Clinton’s vote total. “We know because we’ve modeled this,” says the official. “It will dramatically affect her ability to turn these people out.””

      I have so much to say about this issue of persuasion on the left (or, well, from any side) in the age of social media, but every time I start to write a comment, the amount to cover quickly expands well beyond the space and scope I have to say it.

      The only thing I can do is talk with broad strokes. In terms of the left, a lot of the language they use in social media is an oversimplified version of certain types of critical theory, and because they are oversimplified and because they are only certain types of critical theory, their stances are in no way representative of the actual work or rhetoric that has taken place over decades of journalism, media studies, and academia.

      You see this here with Griff’s complaints about ‘postmodernism.’ Postmodernist critics never, ever, anywhere, said that ‘all perspectives are equally strong, equally relevant, and worth equal consideration.’ Postmodern criticism focused on two major phenonema which modernism was incapable of confronting:

      1) the complexity of pluralistic, decentered social structures such as the limited liability of public corporations and bureaucratic governments; in literature this translated as the appropriation of metamyths from the linear traditions of literature to the mechanical reproduction of mass media, radio to television and beyond;

      2) the habit of modernist perspectives to create false essentialisms, such as “history is essentially a conflict between the working class and the bourgeoisie” (Marxism), “psychology is essentially a conflict among the ego, super ego, and id” (Freudian psychology), “our nation is essentially Aryan Christian, and righteous” (German national socialism).

      This meant spending a lot of time taking on the Hegelian tract of linear history in academia, resulting in an unhappy rise in French obscurantists who started focusing on deconstructing the very notions of language and logic (from Greek: ‘logos’, meaning word) itself. Oops.

      Anyway, the extremes of modernism is authoritarianism. After the significant and visceral conflicts of Western modernism leading to two world wars you may have heard about, postmodernism critique came into fashion. That same postmodern critique then inspired derivatives that have resulted in, for instance, a lot of those silly art movements people love to hate (and I actually tend to enjoy but that’s just me) and the appropriation of its language into other derivative critical theories that themselves derived from modernist theories: critical race theory, Marxist literary theory, and third wave feminism, types of critical theories that developed this confrontation of things like white, masculine, corporate hegemonies built into the very language of public discourse and political conversation.

      And once language itself is attacked for being racist, sexist, and capitalist, well, that’s where things went messy, somewhere around the 80s and 90s, and as Borges sez, “Libraries beget libraries.”

      But I digress, one of the main issues with me having to deal with… all of this. Point is, this is stuff I studied in college with a directional, organized, and disciplined guidance from our modern university system, one that requires sources cited to avoid plagiarism and pre-required courses in critical thinking and mass communication studies before you even touch Derrida’s ‘erasure.’

      NOW, on the Internet, Derrida’s ‘erasure’ rears its ugly head in leftist fractionalism:

      You see this shit? This shit right here? Where apparently a march having the same name as previous marches ‘erases’ those previous marches from history? Yeah that’s derived from Derrida’s ‘erasure’ (if you don’t know what ‘erasure’ is, the most simple tl;dr I can give you is that every use of a word recontextualizes the word’s own meaning and popular sense, because it’s used in a new context, the type of obvious observation with profound consequences to the prescriptivists out there, of which conservatives tend to drift toward).

      Derivative or not, it should be obvious that fundamental critical thinking is missing here, including the obvious notion that human beings are more than capable of distinguishing between two rallies of the same name and supporting or ignoring both each in their own way. The type of thought that gets INTENSELY irritating to me every fucking time I see a Facebook post about “While you were paying attention to x media event, y media event was actually happening, meaning you’re a slave to mass distraction” as if any regular human being with an attention span greater than a rabbit can’t know about two topics at once, such as the use of that meme actually proves. These people, apparently, have a very poor view of other people’s mental capacity.

      But that’s the sort of stuff I’ve become inoculated to after more than a decade of watching it take over discourse, despite the fact that I studied this shit. I am the person who has been shut down, constantly and consistently, from telling people online when they post things like “… AND THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA ISN’T COVERING IT!” that the mainstream media is the reason they know about the issue in the first place, and here are the links for proof. And when I say I was shut down doing those things, I mean back when I was still in school and cared to confront people about it. After a while I stopped confronting people because confrontation didn’t work. I have to admit I pretty much assumed it was all just going to ‘work out.’

      Part of it was my fault. I did learn from practice and observation that you can never convince someone that they’re wrong by saying they’re wrong. Persuasion requires hacking cognitive biases moreso than critical thinking protects you from those hacks. This is baked in to political discourse, it’s just that social media is a megaphone for all human nature, amplifying its effects in noisy and publicly disruptive ways. Everyone is megaphoning at each other, allowing nobody room to tap on shoulders and say, “Come over here for a minute…”

      NOW, Facebook announces that they’re going to look into this whole ‘fake news’ thing, and most of my friends left, right, and center are posting memes saying, “Starting with CNN and FOX and C-SPAN and BBC, amirite? Hyuk hyuk.” NOW even if I wanted to confront individuals on this area of expertise I actually have, I don’t even know where to start, because people aren’t receptive to the media or people who defend the media, they’re not receptive to ‘expertise’ (especially from messy areas like media theory, where there is a strong influence of opinion), and above all, they don’t seem to be receptive to trust.

      I’m at a loss as to what to do. But the good news is that ‘the middle’, the pragmatic and technical folk I know who haven’t previously been visible activist and who I could talk to about these issues without getting lectures about how ‘mass corporate interests control our media’ when I try to describe how bias isn’t technically lies, now have been riled up. They, I think, were like me: expecting this all to come out in the wash. Now that it hasn’t, their livelihoods are threatened in ways they didn’t imagine, and surprise of all fucking surprises, they’re the ones I’m getting the information from on how to go about trying to fix this mess.

      Meanwhile, the social justice warriors who don’t want to march on Washington because that erases women of color’s history are the ones to watch in terms of how this will turn out, because if they can’t hold their nose and build consensus, then the pragmatists will have to move to the right and find the Republicans that are seeking an exit from Trump. It’s the only way to build a large enough base to do something about this.

      Sorry for my rant, and the above doesn’t even scratch the surface of the shit I have to say about this issue.

      1. Yeah.

        At least now that information is available for other campaigners to utilize, the problem is that if everyone’s trying to depress each other’s turnout things can get even more messy and elections can become even more ‘swingy’.

      2. “Pretty soon the fakers will have totally won as no one will be able to tell what’s true and what’s not….especially those who tend to not think deeply about what they read/hear/see.”

        Sadly, that is the majority of people. And it is not only the least educated among us! Most people seem to be intellectually lazy. Get their information from Facebook!

      3. “Nobody called Bernie Sanders a white supremacist,”

        There absolutely were suggestions he was a white supremacist, and others on the Left were clearly defending that accusation. Now, James later said “It is my opinion that Senator Sanders’ response was demeaning, patronizing and came from a place of white supremacy. Did I call Sen. Sanders a white supremacist? No. Do I think his comments come from a place of political thinking that is awash in white supremacy? Certainly.”

        This is bullshit that requires an extreme level of rhetorical gymnastics to weasel out of. If politician A talks about how good he is with children in a speech, and I was a prominent individual who came out and said, “I like politician A but I worry his rhetoric may come from a place of pedophilia”, and I later made it clear that ACTUALLY what I meant is that to me and my tiny political group the word “pedophilia” actually refers to a love of children not sexual relations with them, it would still be bullshit. To most people I’m clearly making an accusation that the individual is a pedophile, because Derrida’s concept of “erasure” is nonsense, much like his thought on how authors can be totally divorced from their texts. The justification for this requires, as you note, postmodernist nonsense. The fact many postmodernist/rad left activists might get uncomfortable if I started calling them pedophiles despite my “new definition” shows they aren’t so willing to embrace it when it’s used against them.

        “You see this here with Griff’s complaints about ‘postmodernism.’ Postmodernist critics never, ever, anywhere, said that ‘all perspectives are equally strong, equally relevant, and worth equal consideration.’”

        Funnily enough I had a PoMo professor who essentially believed that but sure, Is the version of “postmodernism” that the rest of us often have to deal with a dumbed down, vulgarized version of its original form? Sure, I’ll be willing to admit that. But nonetheless the original postmodernists were kind of nuts, and postmodernist academics have done real damage. In India, the academical left has actually come out against vaccines because they view it was as a “Western narrative” ( In the US they have declared war on Western law as a white male social construction ( Philosophers have noted the tendency of postmodernist academics to make extremely controversial statements like “all cultures interpretations of the world are equally valid because what is true is simply a power construct” (which yes many of them do espouse) and, when pressed on it, retreat to useless little truisms ( This is a motte-and-bailey doctrine.

        “1)” is such an obvious little truism it hardly requires postmodernism to notice. “2)” is questionable in the extreme. I notice one trick of postmodernists is to conflate Enlightenment liberalism with “modernism”, and then start bashing science as a “dead white male narrative”, torn apart by even Noam Chomsky ( who personally knew the original PoMo’s and considered them a “cult”, made up of frustrated authoritarian leftists after Marxist-Leninism was debunked.

        In fact Nietzschean thought, which is anti-Enlightenment, fuelled the very movements you’re talking about, particularly fascism, and is itself heaily incorporated in postmodernist thought. Postmodernism is a horrible defense against authoritarianism because the Foucault branch of it believes that power is an end unto itself and that all there is to do is take more of it. It’s been noted that this would logically lead to justification of a totalitarian state, which is exactly the kind of thought George Orwell was criticizing in 1984 Foucault himself supported a “dictatorship of the proletariat” and admired Third-World authoritarian movements. If postmodernism was supposed to be the ultimate defense against authoritarianism it was a failure.

        All the criticisms postmodernists make of extreme modernism is made better by Enlightenment skepticism (the very thing responsible for the downfall of most of those movements), and without the baggage of extreme cultural relativism and easily abused equivications that comes across as a power-grab by a handful of extremists.

        I don’t think the crazies are really deviating much from political postmodernist, they’re just taking it to its logical conclusion when you try to apply it to the real world, much as communist states may not be technically “Marxist” because workers didn’t actually own the means of production in a utopia but we nonetheless still often call these states “Marxist” because that’s where they derived their theories and they were the primary relevent implementation of those ideas. If you state all there is is the “will to power”, that there is no objective truth or morality, that attempts at Enlightenment discourse is likewise a power-grab, and that everything (including the concept of reality) is a social construction to oppress people, you are going to end up with an overwhelmingly paranoid, ruthless authoritarian movement, not so different from religious fundamentalism.

      4. I think we’re “there”, Griff. Without a doubt. Another point which follows is that authoritarianism is very short-term in its thinking…..hence, denial of global warming, technology impact on industrial era jobs, people (low Info and intelligent (?) in full reaction mode vs rational analysis.

        If you follow the logic in the Arbair post Brent linked, it’s obvious that the problems we are seeing are not going to be solved with patches. They likely won’t be understood by those in authority, which leads to exactly the anti-establishment reaction(s) we are witnessing in western nations today which further exacerbates the problems and leads to more turmoil. Not a very pretty picture.

      5. Hi Griff,

        thanks for your response. Please be noted that I’m not disagreeing with your complaints on postmodernism, I’m bringing them up to show how ironically, text divided from context resulted in leftist in-fighting. Your points are acute.

        As for your posting of the guy who called out Bernie’s ‘white supremacism’ and even my post about the woman refusing to march on Washington out of erasure, I did forget to asterisk my statement and provide the footnote:

        “that matters.”

        The problem as I see it with social media is that every person, no matter how small and insignificant their voice, and no matter how far their opinion deviates from generally understood facts, has a megaphone. I haven’t as of yet resolved, even for myself, a method of knowing just how dangerous or not this situation is, as many movements that seem marginal suddenly unbalance the track, and yet you can’t call out ALL marginal movements because there’s too many of them to list and few of them are really significant.

        In the end it was the people who embraced Bernie who helped derail Clinton’s campaign, not the left-of-Bernie’s who engaged in attacks on his language. Perhaps they will become even more loud and impactful in the future — I certainly hope not — but I don’t think there’s any meaningful or significant data that shows Bernie’s or Clinton’s or anybody’s campaign being undermined by Quentin James’ argument. Hence, ‘nobody’.

      6. Very nice observation Mary I fully agree with you that Authoritarians tends to be a threat to everyone (even themselves) because they’re very bad at long-term planning. Psychologist Bob Altemeyer, who wrote the book The Authoritarians, had a bunch of “authoritarian personality types” play a global simulator and they were the only group that consistantly started wars, even nuclear ones, because they were unable to cooperate with one another, and for the same reasons caused massive pollution. He noted that they were not neccessarily low in intelligence but had a tendency to “compartmentalize” everything to conform to their thought and a weakness for paranoia. It is of the utmost importance we unseat Trump in 2020, or the damage done by global warming and his other stances will be even more massively severe.

        Aaron I agree with you on how taking the texts out of context has resulted in alot of unneccessary pain for the political left and that social media gives people a larger voice in the conversation then is representative of their numbers at large. I think this is a marginal movement we do need to fully fight off, given all the recent writing on them and their continued existance in the ivory tower should be openly questioned. One weird thing I’ve noticed with this ideology is not just that it’s unpopular but that it takes a weird sort of satisfaction in being unpopular, because it views the world outside it’s bubble as kind of inheriently sinful and therefor is proud that it dislikes them.

        I know the crazier Sanders people and am annoyed with them as well but I’m not sure how much of an effect they’ve had, it seems to be something every presidential candidate has to deal with after surviving the primaries. Obama had to deal with PUMA (Clinton fanatics), Romney with the hardcore religious fanatics, Bush with the moderate McCain Republicans, Trump with the #NeverTrumpers, etc. While I would have preferred if Sanders pulled his punches even more and the Sanders campaign hadn’t entertained conspiracy theories about Clinton derailing his campaign (the nastiest thing they did), all things considered the Democratic primary was a breeze for Clinton in comparison to the primaries other presidential candidates have gone through for the past 16 years. She got in the way of her own campaign, had she simply kept campaigning in those states she likely would’ve won. Also this theory wouldn’t explain why the Dems couldn’t hold onto even local elections, it would only explain Clinton’s loss.

        I would say the political group I’m complaining about is more important than kooky, unorganized Sanderistas (who are part of a long tradition of hardline people opposing the party nominee because primaries) because, as Amanpour notes, they influence a disproportionate level of discourse in most left-wing circles because they are well-organized and well-positioned despite their small numbers and bog down candidates with extremely unpopular stances (which are often dodged by not having many clear stances, which people hate even more). In that way they are again weirdly similar to the religious right entity the GOP had to deal with.

    3. I dunno. He lost by 2.5 million votes. And hof many of his voters will be dead in 2020?

      Not to mention, does anybody think he’s going to ACTUALLY accomplish any of his promises? There will not be a 2000 mile border wall.

      And the things that probably WILL happen, like repealing Obama care, are not going to go well.

    4. Also, in all the discussion we’ve been having about postmodernism on the left, it still doesn’t change the fact that post-truth from the wingnuts is not leftists’ fault, it’s the fault of conservatives deciding that reality was suspect once it stopped supporting their ideology.

      To the degree that that happens on both sides, once Republicans decided that a black president simply couldn’t be legitimate in any account and that the only option was to constantly and steadfastedly delegitimize him, they ceased looking for information to use for ideas and leadership.

      That would have happened regardless of whether a few 20 somethings on a liberal arts campus decide that Bernie’s language is suspicious.

  11. For years the progressives have been lambasting Paul Ryan and the GOP for their policy plans, stating the devastating effects these ideas will have on the people at large. But as Chris pointed out, politicians are not innovators. They do not come up with ideas of their own to implement a vision. What they are doing is carefully assessing where consensus lays with their constituents. They are pushed and they don’t pull.

    How comes, then, that even though the policies they propose we believe are so devastating, they are still doing it? What do they see that we do not when it comes to the benefits of privatizing Medicare and Medicaid, giving tax breaks to the rich, capping social security, deporting dreamers, privatizing education with charter schools, denying science and climate change? What are the benefits of austerity in general to the broader public and their constituents?

    Independent of whether their constituents understand the ramifications upfront, and admittedly these things are complex, once they get hurt they should understand. But it seems there still is no hurting going on, at least no hurting attributed to such policies.

    As the Brookings institute summarized in a nice chart, the number of jobs created per $1 million of manufacturing output have been steadily declining since the reference year of 1980. There is nothing new here.

    So, where does the rubber hit the road. Where are we going to see the discontinuity between politicians talk and the actual effects of their actions on the street? After all, if the liberals are right, and I think they are, then what’s it going to take?

    1. “But as Chris pointed out, politicians are not innovators. They do not come up with ideas of their own to implement a vision. What they are doing is carefully assessing where consensus lays with their constituents. They are pushed and they don’t pull.”

      i would say that these politicians are pulled by their major donors. What does the average voter really care about the estate tax? Or what the highest tax rate is? But every republican has a tax plan that includes lowering the tax rate on billionaires. and eliminating the estate tax. the environment? are all Republican voters really against clean air? i doubt it. But the Kochs make a fortune selling oil, etc.

    2. The key thing that needs to be kept in mind is that the chief mission of corporations is to create value for the stockholders. With today’s finalization of business and corporations that translates to keeping the stock price up and returning monetary benefits to the stockholders. And remember that the performance of a corporation is judged on the short term, i.e. the current quarter and the following quarter. I have not looked at it that closely, but I suspect that United Technologies, the parent corporation for Carrier, felt that they were at risk of taking a big hit in terms of their stock prices. So they felt that reaching an agreement was the best at this time. Financial incentives were put in place to do so.

      In regards to the politicians, the same rational applies. Their entire career depends on raising enough money to win the next election. That money largely comes from the closely held corporations (e.g. Koch Industries) anonymously and with limited ability to trace it. Thank you SCOTUS and see “Dark Money”. These closely held corporations are typically led by people who have a very reactionary political agenda, Ryan’s agenda aligns perfectly with the agenda of these closely held corporations. With that money, the politicians can purchase all the advertising that they need to and manipulate the public perception. They like to focus on social issues, because that energizes the base. When that is combined with the short term orientation of the American people, the politicians are able to win the elections and along the way enrich themselves.

      The problem is that the devastating impacts of the policies that that the politicians are pushing have not yet become apparent to many of the American people. The loss of jobs is too easily blamed on NAFTA or other outside influences and crooked politicians, rather than the real cause, which is lack of investment in the American economy due to the higher profits available through financial speculation and other financial manipulation. Even when Medicare is voucherized, only a small segment of the population will be impacted directly. For many there might be a decrease in taxes. The same would hold true for Social Security, if it is privatized. But meanwhile the wealthy would make lots of money, because of the increased flow of money into the financial markets facilitating increased financial speculation. Only after 15-20 years would the devastating impacts be felt. Meanwhile the politicians would have moved on to a well funded retirement or K-Street. That is the reason politicians like Ryan continue to push those policies.

      1. Since we have been unable to get corporate money out of politics, and since politicians are dependent on money for their careers, and since beholden politicians obey the desires of their funders, maybe we should form new coalitions (an example might be people in favor of LGBT rights together with the 70-some corporations I identified in a previous post that also want to foster gay rights) and buy a couple of these legislative whores for our very own.

      2. There is merit in your suggestion but the competitive donor field for volatile areas such as LGBT, abortion, etc. is dominated by conservative donors at the federal level. Smaller donors would have to be very focused in their targets in order to be effective. Where targeted donations might be more effective is at the state level. This would offer another benefit – formation of a personal relationship with an individual who may/probably has national elective aspirations – and linked to common interest.

      3. I’m watching (self-interest) the discussion about Medicare/Medicaid closely. If Trump holds to his election rhetoric (?), he won’t “touch people’s social security, medicare and medicaid”…thing is, his new pick for HHS cabinet director, Tom Price, has a very different track record and personal view which is more consistent with the hard line Speaker Paul Ryan has designed into his Better Way legislation.

        This is going to be very interesting as many Trump supporters are on these programs – especially medicaid. I expect he’ll hear from them if he deviates too much from his oft-stated claim to protect these entitlements. Would Ryan pursue privatization and be at odds with Trump? We’ll see…..This is going to be a big “tell” as to where the power center will reside under the Trump administration.

    3. Where I am going with this is the following: For decades the Democrat’s rallying cry was in support of the poor and the middle class. And while the poor certainly appreciate this, the rural middle-class does not. So why keep doing it? When ever the Democrats say ‘Middle class’, the rural GOPer hears ‘Poor’, so the message clearly does not work.

      How would a progressive agenda look like that is 100% focused on making live better for its core constituents: Urban professionals?

      Democrats seem to spend all their energy trying to improve the lives of people who are not their constituents. While at the same time our city infrastructure is deteriorating. How about an agenda focused on 21st century public transportation, free Internet everywhere, and whatever else further improves our economy and innovation?

      Yes, there is some of that, like affordable daycare, free education, diversity, and a few others. But the Democratic message remains awfully waffled in therms of clarity of its target audience. Who should we be talking to?

      The Democrats are the business party, but Democrats don’t own that label still. After all, the about 500 counties won by Clinton represent 2/3 of the economic activity and output. We can keep talking about helping those who don’t want to be helped, or we could lay out an agenda that allows those who actually are our constituents to continue live in a country that is economically competitive, drives technological advances, innovates, and provides a future for our young.

      You might think that because Democrats already won all the urban areas, such a strategy cannot lead to victory. Maybe. But maybe by boiling down the message and be clear, we could finally have a discussion around the real issues and with an energized democratic base.

      You might say that politics is driven by money and not people, and therefore what is needed is access to capital. That money should be where 2/3 of the economic activity is: urban centers.

      For the past generation, many ambitious young people were part of the GOP, the business party. Because if you wanted to aspire for influence and riches, you better mingle with the right people. That role is shifting faster and faster.

      1. Martin, those are very interesting ideas. As much respect as I have for the skills and contributions of Nancy Pelosi, I had hoped someone younger with new ideas would be elected in her place. Frankly, if the Democratic Party doesn’t go back to the drawing board, it’s going to be harder for them to be relevant.

        For a new Democratic Party agenda/focus to be effective, resources and energy would have to shift. It is fair to state that the Democratic Party has been inept in their messaging with the working class. The fact that the Dems have legislated for workers and defended their interests just isn’t resonating.

        I wonder if the blue tent is big enough to combine both efforts or if limited resources and political reality necessitate a choice. The party has to be strengthened and more relevant in order to be politically effective or even survive in coming years. Growth has to come from the two large younger groups within the GenXers and Millennials who share more of the social values associated with the Democratic Party – which would be interest-driven rather than identity-driven. Sanders proved that this group can be a force if there is an alignment of interests.

        If rural and working class voters don’t see the Democratic Party as the one that best represents their interests, maybe it’s time to think outside the box and go big and bold with ideas such as you suggest.

      2. Super interview of Bernie Sanders in Rolling Stone by Matt Tabbai that suggests going “back” to the people who brung us to the party…….the working class…so there is still that push to re-invigorate the Dem Party by focusing on the economic needs of working people. He makes a compelling argument as do you …. maybe they could become a double effort with excellent organization…which is the problem with the Dem Party…

        Sanders: “I think if there’s a lesson to be learned from Trump’s success, it is that timidity is no longer the path to success. The Democrats have got to start thinking big. ”

        Sanders: “This is how screwed up we are now. When you have a Republican Party that wants to give huge tax breaks to billionaires, when many of their members want to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, when they don’t believe in climate change, when they’ve been fierce advocates of unfettered free trade – I’m talking about pre-Trump – why would any working person, when they want to cut programs for working people, support them?
        I think we know the answer. We know what the Karl Roves of the world have been successful in doing. They’re playing off working-class people against the gay community, or African-Americans, or Latinos. But that only works when you have not laid the foundation by making it clear to those workers that you are on their side on economic issues.”

        IOW – Dems are doing the work for working class people but they’ve been horrible in how they’ve communicated “What” they are doing and they’ve assumed these people know – but they aren’t getting the message.

    4. A thought in response to the “politicians aren’t innovators”. Great ones are. Look at the work of Abraham Lincoln and the steps FDR took with the New Deal to help a nation that was devastated by poverty. These were radical ideas, out of the box thinking and courageous. LBJ’s New Deal is another example. The framers of our nation’s Constitution are others.

      The problem is not that there haven’t been innovators who are politicians it’s that there have been too few of them and our Democracy has accepted mediocrity. In Trump, America has elected a man-child who tweets out insults when his ego is pricked. This says far more about the people of America than it ever does about the lack of innovation.

      A final point: the political system we have doesn’t encourage or reward innovation. Over on the right, if a politician dares disagree or not support the GOPe position, he/she is primaried. On the left, we have become afraid of our own shadow. This atmosphere does not lend itself to cultivating innovation so we essentially are reaping what we sow.

    5. ” They do not come up with ideas of their own to implement a vision. What they are doing is carefully assessing where consensus lays with their constituents. They are pushed and they don’t pull.”

      Uh, no, much of their ideas come directly from their donors.

      You think Ryan got his privatization if Medicare and Medicaid from consensus among his constituents?

      If Republicans based their policies on what is popular among the American ppl, they’d all be Bernie Sanders.

    6. Martin, We will soon see a full frontal assault by Republicans through a fast-tracked agenda.

      Elections have consequences.

      “The GOP plan is to pass the budget, which can come directly to the floor, and then a short time later the reconciliation vehicle repealing major parts of the healthcare law. The special budgetary protection allows Republicans to pass it with a simple majority vote.

      Republican lawmakers briefed on the plan say it will likely include a three-year phase in to give them time to work on replacement legislation.

      GOP senators hope they can get the repeal bill on Trump’s desk soon after he takes the oath of office. ”

  12. After doing some additional reading, it’s worth coming back to the idea that Trump’s policies, such as they are, might actually incentivize companies’ investment in automation. This recent stint with Carrier raised that possibility in a way I hadn’t really considered before.

    As long as a company, like Carrier for instance, isn’t committed to a minimum number of jobs, then any tax incentives it gets can be used to offset the cost of labor and used to invest in automation and robotics that further reduce costs. This is especially true for companies that are looking to outsource their jobs because… well, they’re already doing that!

    Furthermore, this precedent that Trump just set could be potentially very bad news as more and more companies look to the President-elect for their own deal. Who’s to say that such-and-such company that wasn’t planning to do much outsourcing or automation might take a second look if they think they can negotiate a special tax break from it?

    Slippery slopes.

    1. President Trump to the rescue…on call and ready to go! The problem with unreasonable tax breaks for business is that it dilutes operating revenue for the communities in which they do business….local government services, schools, etc.
      Obviously, there needs to be a balance between incentivizing business to locate and stay in a community while still having an expectation that they will contribute to the community.

    2. I’ve heard enough conflicting takes on this Carrier situation to make my head spin. My first though was that this is an outlier, one of the last pieces of fruit left on a very picked over tree. Making individual deals does not address the core issue, which is the economy has changed, and is still changing, and there aren’t going to be enough of these sorts of jobs for the people who want them. What rabbit does Trump think he can pull out of the hat when automation starts replacing the truck driving jobs? That very well could start happening within the next 4 years.

      Like Mary said about, there’s a point where you’re giving away too much in tax breaks. Businesses benefit from the nice things civilization provides, and they need to pay their fair share in the costs of maintaining them.

      1. My guess about truck driving automation is that we’ll have roads full of automated cars for a long time before we actually go driverless.

        Planes are basically automated. We could fly them pilot less if we wanted. But ppl don’t want that, they want to know there’s a human there. I think even if a driver isn’t doing anything, the law will still require him to be behind the wheel.

  13. The biggest problem with our current system is public misunderstanding of the role of the President, combined with his actual role. Many people think the President is a kind of elected king and can pretty much do as he wishes, and attribute almost everything good or bad that happens to the president. Even state legislative elections are heavily influenced by the voters’ opinions of the President.

    The reality is that the President is tightly circumscribed by our complicated checks and balances system. We haven’t had a President with a largely free hand since Johnson in 64-68. This creates a powerful incentive for the non-Presidential party to interfere with everything he tries to do, which has been a chronic problem through Obama’s presidency. Now the Democrats will do the same to Trump, which will actually be a good thing, but it would apply to any future, more sane Republican as well.

    I think we should switch to a parliamentary system, which would actually not be that huge a change from the current system. Drop the Electoral College and have the House select the President. We would need anti-gerrymandering rules for House district but that’s doable; the courts are finally ruling that the extreme gerrymanders we’ve seen lately are unconstitutional.

    1. When I think about “this House” selecting POTUS, that’s scary…Chris talked earlier about a modified parliamentary system…At present, as EJ noted, we have to play the hand that has been dealt. Democrats will have few successes and will mostly play defense. The rest of us will have to find a way to get along which will probably mean we’ll be more selective in our circle of friends and more appreciative of those we select.

      1. I don’t think it’s common Mime to just have a parliament pick whoever they want. The leader of the winning party is the PM/Prez, and it is well known before the election who the leader is. Although you don’t technically vote directly for PM, you still know who will be PM depending on which party wins.

        For elections in Canada, everybody technucally votes for their MP, not the PM. But in practice, almost everybody picks their vote based on who the PM is of that party. Most ppl don’t even know the name of the MP they’re voting for. It could be an empty suit. It is party and leader that ppl feel like they’re voting for.

  14. “Mass hysteria can distort public opinion in ways that leave the political system chasing phantoms. When the pace of change outruns our ability to adapt, public consensus can break down and splinter.” -Chris

    This is especially true when fears are, (intentionally or not), used to either destroy consensus or beget false consensus. Trumpie’s latest visit to the Carrier plant in Indiana is a perfect example. I read a piece from the Brookings Institution the other day that demonstrated 85% of all manufacturing jobs lost since the baseline year of 1980 evaporated because of automation and not ‘globalization’ or outsourcing. So, either the president-elect is craftily using his podium to create a false consensus, or he is simply a neo-Luddite. (I have my own guess here based on my assessment of his mental capacity.)

  15. Chris you are getting kind of sarcastic. I wouldn’t go so far as to say we are in the 2nd Republic with the time frames you indicate. In another sense though, the original confederation could be considered the 1st Republic and the current federation could be considered the 2nd. That would be the case even though we allow for very significant modifications that have occurred since the Constitution was adopted.

    Nevertheless, I do agree that we are in for a significant period of disruption. Certainly, the initial governing compact broke down during the 1850’s and the nation had to go through the trauma (and near break-up of the Union) of the Civil War and Reconstruction to develop a new governing compact.

    A similar phenomenon occurred during the Great Depression following the global economic collapse from 1929-1933. In my opinion, that was largely caused by the desire of one political party in particular to accept the social and societal changes that were occurring. I also think that the global economic collapse in no small measure contributed to World War II. Despite this the nation was able to form a new governing coalition. That has lasted until the present time.

    At the present time we are struggling to accept and adapt to a transition away from an industrial economy to one based on sophisticated manufacturing and service. That will require new social and economic norms. We will have to become more receptive of minorities, expand and adapt the safety net (your white socialism) to all and many other changes that can hardly be enumerated at this time.

    Unfortunately, knowing that America will resist making those changes until such time as a crisis occurs, I am very fearful that we are in for a rather long and chaotic period. I hope that this period does not end in another global conflagration such as WWII. Our new leadership does not seem to realize how dicey things could be. They want to go back to a time “When America was Great”. Trump has said that time was immediately following WWII, most likely that ended with the SCOTUS decision in “Brown vs. Board of Education” in 1954.

    Nevertheless, I do have faith in the American People. I do believe that a new leader and a new consensus will emerge. The big issue is how long that will take and what form that will take. I suspect that since the extreme conservative wing of the Republican Party is seemingly in control, that new leader will emerge from the left and will more than likely be Democratic. But another party could emerge. That leader will likely be someone from later Boomers, of whom the public has little awareness. It could also be someone from Generation X. Trump could also surprise us all and emerge as a true leader, but I doubt it.

    Personally, I’ve felt for a long time that the nation is due for crisis and I believe that the crisis is beginning to arrive. But I still retain considerable optimism for America in the long term.

    1. Here is an uplifting story about Democratic mayors of large cities who are fighting back against racism and strong arm tactics from majority Republican legislatures. I am still deeply concerned about the looming problems at the national level, but happy to see there is Democratic leadership emerging from the local level with guts and experience….a promising crop of new progressive leaders is emerging from our large cities who are almost all led by Democrats….who know how to govern.

      Note the tactics the AZ legislature is imposing on its people and its mayors…which is reminiscent of the smack down of the TX legislature on the city of Denton which banned fracking within their jurisdiction only to be overruled by the state. So much for smaller government, right? In AZ, the legislature defunded community colleges serving their two largest (and most diverse) cities…can’t have those immigrants and working folks becoming educated, now can we?

      1. I think that is beginning to happen all over the nation, particularly at the local level and in the progressive states. I know we are seeing that here in Pugetopolis.

        I might mention that I have decided to reread a couple books, in light of the Trump and Republican ascendancies.

        The first is “What’s the Matter with Kansas”. It seems that the R’s have applied the same tactics described there all over the nation.

        The second is “Ecotopia” by Ernest Callenbach originally published in 1975. I read that shortly after graduating from the University of Washington, when I was still fairly young and idealistic and before I got heavily involved in the career world. It is kind of a Utopian novel that assumes Northern California, Oregon and Washington, west of the Cascades succeed from the Union and form their own nation. With this election, there has been some tongue-in-cheek talk about that happening. Now however that would also likely include most if not all of coastal California. Certainly, with the three West Coast states having the 5th largest economy in the World and politically sort of doing their own thing, it might not be that far fetched.

        Anyway, I thought it’d be a kick to reread both books, in light of recent developments.

  16. Damn, the place for rational political discussion is getting downright apocalyptic. I do think we’re in for a few rough years ahead at the very least (your personal degree of roughness may vary, a little or a lot) but I sure hope it doesn’t have to come down to the military choosing sides. That’s nightmare fodder.

    But I have to wonder if the GOP would have a breaking point if Trump effs things up too much. What line would he have to cross to get the GOP to impeach him? No doubt the GOP would want to trick the Dems into doing it, but if the Dems are smart they will resist the temptation.

    1. “I sure hope it doesn’t have to come down to the military choosing sides. That’s nightmare fodder.”

      Well, that’s what happens in the worst cases of demagogy.

      Every time you’ve thought to yourself, “Well it won’t get THAT bad with Trump, will it?” for the past year and a half, didn’t it? Might as well be prepared.

      1. I absolutely do expect the worst from Trump. And even Romney is sucking up to him now. Like Chris, I underestimated the number of people who would be sufficiently revolted by Trump’s catering to bigotry, and bald-faced lies, and lack of transparency, and immorality, and lack of thought on so many issues, and his appallingly bad temperment.

      2. As well articulated by Brookings columnist, Susan Glasser.

        ” “I have a different and more existential fear today about the future of independent journalism and its role in our democracy. And you should too,” Susan Glasser writes in a long essay for Brookings. “Because the media scandal of 2016 isn’t so much about what reporters failed to tell the American public; it’s about what they did report on, and the fact that it didn’t seem to matter. Stories that would have killed any other politician … did not stop Trump from thriving in this election year. Even fact-checking perhaps the most untruthful candidate of our lifetime didn’t work; the more news outlets did it, the less the facts resonated. … ”

        And that, my dear, is the real danger…..

      3. Speaking of lies and Trump, i read this morning about his extensive stock holdings. didn’t he say during a debate he owned no stock and thought the market was over priced?

        it seems Trump just says what he wants to say in the moment!

        It is not that Trump convinced most of the people with his lies that he was the better candidate. Clinton got way more votes than Trump got. He just fell into a situation where stupid Democrats in certain states decided to vote for a third party to show Clinton what they thought of her! Like in 2000 with Gore here in Florida! Add to that voter suppression and what do you have? President Trump!

        I try not to be a pessimist but i can see nothing good coming out of this. and when you think how precarious the environment is what with that Chinese hoax, global warming, we are screwed!

        And, Trump has the ability, with his inability to take advise or think before opening his mouth, etc, to collapse the economy with just a few comments on twitter!

    2. Give Trump enough rope and he’ll preside over his own lynching. I have no doubt that the GOPe will take him down if he gets in their way. Given the years of opposition research on Clinton, it is certain that there are people working quietly to compile a dossier on Mr. Trump – should he attempt to cross the line on something big the Repubs want. We’ve all read about the emoluments clause. Here’s a deeper look at how this could be utilized.

  17. “Slave states made ever more absurd demands on the republic while launching a violent campaign of repression on the Kansas/Nebraska frontier”
    One of my ancestors lived in Missouri during that time. He was a southern absolutist and an underground railroad conductor before the Civil War and during the war fought on the Union side. His home stead was burnt out and he and his family resettled in Kansas.

    I believe his time was even more dangerous than our current time. Demographic change is relentless and most of the country is not going along with Trump or Paul Ryan’s agenda. We are in for social unrest and upheaval here and in the rest the rest of western civilization. This upheaval is happening all over the world but my money’s on that we will be first to come out of this fog and figure out how to live in a modern world. One of the chief problems is how power and the benefits of our civilization will be distributed when there is more and more stuff produced with much less labor needed. I am beginning to wonder if Karl Marx was at least partially right?

      1. More on “what is truth, anyway”?

        “…it has to start with identifying the advantages reality has over falsehood. Obviously, reality also has many disadvantages, but its advantages include that it is persistent, self-consistent, and infinitely detailed.”

        The advantages of truth don’t seem to comport with most American’s desire for truth when the reality doesn’t fit their needs………

  18. While we’re waiting for the Third Republic to form we still have to protect ourselves from Casino Mussolini and his merry band of thieves. I’m kind of shocked to find myself saying this, but maybe the Preppers have the right idea in making themselves as independent of the larger society as they can.

    1. EJ

      It’s certainly worth preparing, but I’d have said that preppers and survivalists have the wrong approach. In harsh times the strongest currency is cooperation, and that means working together not just as families and small groups but as a larger society. It means looking after those who can’t look after themselves, and it means organising, potentially on a large scale.

      I can see the value of cooperatives, mutual-aid societies and other such groups if things get bad. Look at Black culture during Jim Crow and LGBTQ culture during the bad years, and do as they did.

  19. I see the situation very differently than you do, Chris. I have long since accepted the election of Trump….I cannot change it even as I abhor the man. I do not see gridlock, far from it. I see unbridled exercise of power by a Republican Party whose agenda and values are very narrowly focused on those who are already privileged. I will not give the GOP a pass in their role in all of this – whether by blaming Obama for what he didn’t do or the ineptness of the Democratic Party. While they certainly share some blame, there needs to be more honesty about how the Republican Party willfully ignored their responsibilities during the last couple of decades to the American people and the nation – to ensure their own party agenda. We’re about to experience not just a hard time, we are looking at a cataclysmic shift in Democracy as we have known it. To minimize the disaster that awaits is wrong and foolish. There is no trap door, no lock, no alarm, only total control. The GOP has all the tools and time to do whatever they want. People who have well paying jobs with benefits may be insulated from the changes that will happen in the marketplace, but the vast majority of Americans are vulnerable. Heck, the stock market (witness the rise in Goldman’s stock since the election) is loving the fact that there will no longer be gridlock – and that business and wealthy interests will not just be protected, they will be elevated. What happens to the other 90% of America?

    I am deeply worried about the character of our nation. Ordinary people’s needs. Caring for one another. Health care for sick and disabled people. Equality and opportunity for all people in all areas – work, marriage, choice, faith. Our environment. I am angry and discouraged and even though I did all I could to achieve a different outcome, things worked out differently. Accept it people say. I know what is coming. I know the GOP agenda. I know what a party can do with the power they have and the agenda they espouse. Four years is a lifetime under the circumstances that exist.

    1. … or we could end up with a better, fairer healthcare system. We might finally end up with comprehensive immigration reform. More companies might keep facilities and jobs in the US. Putin might find that he can’t push Trump around as easily as Obama.

      You never know, Mary. I’m guessing the American people will be able to muddle through a Trump presidency. We made it through eight years of Obama. 🙂

      1. Yeah, and what a hard time it was. Eight years of falling unemployment and stock market gains and culture warriors put on the sidelines and laughed at like they deserved to be instead of given a forum to harass the rest of us.

      2. That’s quite an optimistic view you have there, Objv, but reality doesn’t particularly reflect it. If you look at Paul Ryan and Rep. Price’s plans for how to replace the ACA, there’s nothing particular “better” or “fair” about it. Now we’re even hearing talk that they may not replace it immediately, spanning the transition out to a couple of years while leaving the American people in a period of limbo in the meantime.

        Tell me, do you honestly believe a hopelessly dysfunctional Congress to come together on complex health care reform? If so, I can only call your optimism inspiring, if not tragically misplaced.

        And as for “comprehensive immigration reform”, I honestly have no idea what you’re talking about. Republicans, as a party, don’t want to give a path to citizenship to immigrants. Trump himself has used illegal immigrants for his own ends for decades, and THIS is the man to lead an honest reform effort? Um, no.

        All that said, I’m all for an optimistic vision of the future, but I don’t put my chips in on blind faith. I want an actual plan and a genuine reason to believe. Thus far there’s neither.

      3. “… or we could end up with a better, fairer healthcare system.”

        PEOTUS and Congress both talking about ending the ACA and Medicare, not developing anything useful at all. At best we’re just looking out for what they don’t cut.

        “We might finally end up with comprehensive immigration reform.”

        Building a wall is the opposite of that. Immigrants fly in on planes.

        “More companies might keep facilities and jobs in the US.”

        Facilities. Not jobs.

        “Putin might find that he can’t push Trump around as easily as Obama.”

        Yeah about that:

    2. mary,

      What is amazing is the Republican Party, and Trump, who won the election without winning the popular vote, want to literally take over the government and change programs, like medicare, to fit their particular ideology. And they won in part, possibly in large part, using voter ID laws, aka voter suppression.

      There does not seem to be any humility in their governing. Even G. W. Bush had some humility. Not much but some.

      When trump finishes, whether it be one term or two, he will have left an incredible increase in the national debt, set back the fight against global warming probably to the point where the battle will have been lost, and he will have set back civility decades!

      1. I wouldn’t get too worked up yet about the “plans” of this new Congress. It is much easier to repeal something than to write new legislation that can pass and earn a Presidential signature.

        The GOP is far more divided on this agenda than is apparent at this point. Plus you’ll need Democratic votes in the Senate.

        If I Republicans were about to enact a new legislative order than this would be a far less disruptive event than what we are actually facing. We’re about to find out how little “partisan gridlock” had to do with the dysfunction we’ve been seeing. I seriously doubt that this body will be crafting any major new legislation. You’ll get harassment legislation like symbolic abortion restrictions passing the House, though probably dying in the Senate. There’s just no consensus on a new direction for the country from any angle.

      2. Repeal and Replace………who has said anything about replacing it? All I’ve heard that has credibility is repeal and delay until after mid terms in ’18. You really think Price is all about replacing the ACA?

        Need Dems to pass anything in the Senate….not if they use reconciliation or nuke the filibuster. I’ve read numerous accounts stating that Republicans will utilize every parliamentary maneuver at their disposal for must-pass legislation.

        ” I seriously doubt that this body will be crafting any major new legislation.”

        Chris, do you have a dog? Does he/she need a scarf? I won the last scarf bet I made with Ryan, sadly. That’s about the extent of my prediction accuracy these days however..

      3. At least on the health care front, what Republicans like McCarthy in the House are signaling is that they could force a repeal of the ACA through reconciliation (which only requires 51 votes in the Senate) and then have a phase-out of Obamacare over several years, trying to force Democrats in the Senate to yield on a replacement plan and then selling that to the public as a bi-partisan consensus. It’s an incredibly deceptive form of extortion, but only if Democrats cave.

        With Republicans controlling everything, all Dems would need to do is take a page right out of McConnell’s book and obstruct. They could hold out for a variety of concessions, but it’s hard to say how much they could get that would get past Republicans in the House and especially with a hardliner like Rep. Price effectively controlling what does or doesn’t make it the floor.

        Politically, if I were going down the cynical route, I’d raise all hell while Republicans pushed through an ACA repeal, hold the line all the way through to ’18 and then ram their votes down their throats every single chance I’d get. There’s no upside for Democrats to concede on this front and Republicans’ roundabout strategy to try and pin it on them proves it.

      4. Evidently, our president-elect intends to micromanages every aspect of American life before he is sworn in and after. The Carrier deal gives the manufacturer exactly what they had requested earlier and that GOP nominee Trump criticized them for….What kind of good deal is that? Is the entire presidency going to be one photo-op/rally after another?

      5. Following up on my health care comments, I did some some digging and found that, if things go more or less the way I think they will, Republicans could throw the entire health care market into chaos.

        To sum it up, providers were already losing money (and not just a little bit either) and a lot stayed on through ’17 under the presumption that Clinton would be elected and fix the system. Now that Trump’s won and repeal’s happening, we’re probably going to see several opt out and the remaining providers having to seriously jack up their prices just to break even, let alone make a profit.

        Fortunately, poor people will (hopefully) still be subsidized, so they won’t bear the full brunt of that increase. That’s going to hit upper income people who make too much money, but by that point you’re already going to have a market in a death spiral.

        As far as I understand, the only way to stabilize such a situation is to bail the providers out via reintroducing policies initial in the ACA like risk corridors, reinsurance, etc, but these are all things Republicans have openly said they despise. Unfortunately, if they go ahead with repeal as early as they’re signaling that they will, they would have to pass those reintroductions almost immediately to avoid a completely chaotic situation in ’18. That’s not likely, to put it mildly.

        Buckle up.

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