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Selling Change to People Who Hate Change

Selling Change to People Who Hate Change

People don’t like change. They love change as a slogan, a goal, an airy sentiment evoking a better tomorrow, but here’s the thing about tomorrow – it’s never today. When change intrudes into today, people panic. The more someone perceives they have, the more they panic when change looms.

Since whites began fleeing the party over Civil Rights, Democrats have been scratching their heads, wondering why these simple-minded folk are “voting against their interests.” Whenever people seem to be voting against their interests, chances are you’ve failed to understand their interests. As the GOP careens off down a Fascist rabbit hole Democrats are left to solve a deadly puzzle. How do you build an appeal that can unite Americans across our racial chasm without abandoning a post-racial future?

One necessary element is a mythology, a narrative defining an “us” around which a sense of patriotism and shared sacrifice can coalesce. But there’s another piece of this puzzle that’s leaving Democrats short of the support they expect to earn. Their policies are individually popular, at least in the abstract, but each time they attempt to enact some element of their agenda they face a puzzling backlash.

Apart from the complex politics of white racism, there’s a base psychology of risk aversion Democrats ignore when they try to offer change. It is possible to use the democratic process to enact sweeping changes, but it can rarely be accomplished outside an emergency setting, and it can never be achieved without respecting the fundamental psychology of risk.

People in general, regardless of race or background, are wired to be risk averse. Humans will prefer to keep a dollar rather than engage in a risk likely to yield five more. People will prefer to hold what they already have rather than engage in a low-risk bet for significant gain. This is reflected in the old Marxist slogan, “you have nothing to lose but your chains.” Turns out, that’s a bet few people wanted to take. People will tend to prefer their chains over an uncertain chance at chainlessness under most circumstances. That’s why North Korea survives. That’s why it’s so difficult to convince workers to form a union. That’s why Americans still don’t have the basic civilizational infrastructure people elsewhere take for granted.

That tendency toward risk-aversion changes when people face a certain loss. People will take sometimes desperate chances to preserve as much of their position as possible when a loss looms.

There’s one more wrinkle. Much of the human aversion to loss dissipates when the potential loss is in the future. This helps explain why people do such a poor job of saving for retirement, even when they have adequate resources. Or why people are so ready to engage in wildly speculative risks in asset markets. In the present tense, if my investment in some schlocky bitcoin scam appears to be creating impressive returns, I’m likely to stick with until it’s too late. We don’t feel future pain.

In politics, this means that major changes are almost always blocked by risk aversion. The exceptions:

  • People will tolerate significant changes to their lives when the change is framed to avoid costing them anything (e.g., funded by higher taxes on a distant, unseen “rich”). In other words, people will tolerate changes that feel “free.”
  • Change is possible when people are desperate or very afraid.
  • Policies that deliver the candy today in exchange for potential risk in the future can often succeed, especially if there’s a lot of candy upfront.
  • All of these conditions are mitigated to an extent under the presence of a unifying narrative, creating a shared sense of risk and reward.

People love change when it’s an abstract possibility. They hate change when it requires them to give up something they have, even if that something is lousy insurance from a company they hate that constantly bilks them. People want the bridge fixed, but they don’t want their commute disrupted by construction. Overcoming this deeply-seated resistance requires creative policy-making, something Republicans have been good at and Democrats seem not to have learned.

Republicans like to pitch policies that have dramatic, even disastrous outcomes but deliver plainly understandable benefits in the present tense. Slashing taxes for the children of billionaires in ways that cripple our capacity to deliver basic services pleases voters because all it asks from them right now is that they accept a small check. Easy. As a voter, I get a check. Something catastrophic happens somewhere in the distance that I can’t see, but I get a check. Whatever this may be on a moral plane it is winning electoral politics. It will win every time.

Mask mandates and other pandemic mitigation measures turned out to be difficult policy, especially among white voters, because it asks them to do something right now in exchange for a better in some distant future. That’s a difficult political ask, especially in the absence of a unifying mythology. Among white voters most attached to the special status of whiteness, being asked to make a sacrifice for the collective is tantamount to tyranny. The risk of dying from Covid sounds like a powerful motive for action, but no current voters are ever dead. People whose Covid denial has been proven definitively wrong aren’t around to vote.

All of these rules are generalizations. Don’t read one and then tell me about your aunt who isn’t like that. On the aggregate they are rock solid. However, there are few additonal rules that are specific to the US. All of these rules are stronger in places that failed to outlaw slavery before Lincoln’s election. That includes places like Arizona, West Virginia and Utah, not just Mississippi. These rules are weaker the closer you are to the old Puritan heartland of the Northeast.

  • No policy can be adopted, no matter how broadly beneficial in reality, which is perceived to disproportionately benefit non-whites. You can offer my racist uncle $100 safely enough, but if he hears that same plan gives one black man in particular $110, he’ll start loading his shotgun. American voters will (just barely) allow minorities to benefit from policy innovation as long as that policy is universal. If there is any hint of additional benefit to non-whites they will destroy it. Black farmers have been waiting decades for damages awarded to them in the Pigford settlement. Every attempt to address those already established claims has been thwarted. It’s fine to try to address racial disparities, but make an effort to conceal those efforts within broadly beneficial, universal policies.
  • Programs designed to help “the poor” do not appeal to white people, even to poor white people. To paraphrase Steinbeck, in America, white people are never poor, they’re just wealthy folk facing temporary setbacks. Why are whites never poor? Because poverty threatens the definition of whiteness. If you tell white people you’re offering them aid designed to assist the poor, you’re telling them they’re not white. You have no excuse to be surprised when they hate you for it.
  • Americans are an untrusting and untrustworthy people. Our central ethos is narcissism. There are reasons. It’s fine to complain about it and work to change it, but no political appeal will succeed without taking American narcissism into account.
  • If you build a pitch designed to benefit “the middle class,” you better be targeting people earning between about $100,000 – $150,000. Don’t waste time nattering on about how much money families in the statistical middle earn. It doesn’t matter. $100K+ is “the middle” because 1) it’s floor of where the culture expects families to land if they go to college, stay out of trouble and do everything right, and 2) it’s actually well below the middle income for white families with at least one college graduate. Nevermind that many white voters will never reach this mark, it’s the standard of “middle class” lodged almost all Americans’ heads. If they aren’t there yet, they think they either will be or ought to be. What this means is that if you’re promising to shift a future burden onto “the rich,” but it lands on people earning less than about $200K, you missed and you’ll pay for it politically.
  • Americans will embrace a lousy, stupid choice over a beautiful mandate. Always create an illusion of choice.
  • Stop talking about the poor. Americans don’t care, not even the poor ones. That doesn’t mean abandoning the poor. It means stop talking about them. The only measures that might succeed in improving the lives of the poor in the US are those that also impact everyone.

What do these rules mean?

Every proposed change goes down better with a unifying vision. Build a powerful, emotionally resonant mythology and everything else becomes easier. In the meantime:

Half measures leave people feeling betrayed. There are no prizes for jumping halfway across a canyon. No airline survives by getting people halfway through a flight. Compromise measures can sometimes make matters worse. We would all be better off today if Democrats had insisted on a public option in the ACA in 2009 and lost.

Build an appeal bold enough to make measurable improvements, noticeable on Day 1 in the lives of white families earning around $120,000 a year. If you don’t, your program will fail. For example, set up a Medicare expansion that would allow everyone to choose to buy into the program tomorrow for a modest fee, with minimal income indexing, without raising their taxes. Once it’s become normal and they trust it to work, they’ll pay to save it, but on Day 1, they won’t pay to create it. Promise to pay for it with undetermined taxes on the rich and ride that plan to power.

This is the formula of every winning policy in our era. It can’t be aimed at the poor. Almost no one has to give up anything to get it. It’s just an “option,” a choice, made universally available. And don’t fall into the trap of arguing the details of how you’ll pay for it. Choice plus universal reach with nothing required up front and no clear discussion of costs. That’s the formula Republicans use to get their policy wins and the one Democrats refuse to leverage.

Failing to embrace this formula comes with a terrifying risk. Our next Fascist leader won’t be as incompetent as Trump. Republicans understand this formula. Chances are, their next President will use it, and his target will be the quagmire of our healthcare system. Our next Republican President can target that “middle class” sweet-spot with a program of tax deductions rendering health insurance virtually free for Americans earning about $100K and above, while passing a few populist measures managing drug costs. Meanwhile Republicans can gut Medicaid and child health insurance programs for the poor with virtual impunity. If Republicans get another chance they can buy all the political support they’ll need from Americans who consider themselves middle class and Democrats will be finished.

So far, Democrats are too skittish to offer Americans solutions to problems like health coverage without hedges and half-measures, or without making demands that Americans won’t accept. Even Bernie Sanders refused to offer the simple, winning formula of letting people buy into Medicare, instead promising to force them to abandon the illusory, but precious “choice” to keep their private insurance. It failed because people wouldn’t surrender their choice. It will keep failing until Democrats drop that demand.

Republicans haven’t seized this opportunity because almost all of them are unimaginative hacks in service of wealthy donors. Those donors have absolutely no interest in the public good and no patience for political innovation. Someone will break through this barrier and when they do their popular support will be unstoppable. Keep an eye on Josh Hawley and other national socialists in his mold.

Obviously, we’d all live in a safer place if Democrats could build a unifying mythology strong enough to replace white supremacy, but that’s likely to take time. That mission could get a significant boost by securing some transactional wins based on simple bribery. You can’t bribe people if you don’t understand the landscape of their wants and fears. Offer people what they want and enough of them will split from the Fascists to form a powerful coalition. Sleep on this opportunity much longer and Republicans will seize it first, building a regime that will make Pinochet look cuddly.


  1. I think outright Federalism is the only thing that is going to prevent a breakdown in government and fascism proper when the Republicans regain control of the entire Federal government. I still link to your “Democrats Should Weaponize Federalism” post all the time elsewhere.

    Ultimately, this is two different countries, with two sets of political beliefs, two sets of realities, etc. No demographic change is going to prevent insurrections, and if/when the Republicans control all three branches of government, I can’t see why they’d ever give up that power again, considering if they let Democratic election fraud proceed, liberals are going to adopt communism and enslave their children into sex slavery for deepstate pedophiles…I mean, its what they really believe. Why willingly let the liberals get away with stealing the election so they can kill you?

    We need Federalism. Let the split happen nice and peacefully state-by-state, then go from there.

    1. If you are familiar with Colin Woodward’s work, particularly the Eleven Nations of North America. it is clear that the present situation is basically a conflict of two coalitions. One is headed by the Deep South with its allies, Greater Appalachia, the Far West and New France (the Mississippi Delta Region. The other coalition is composed of Yankeedom, New Netherland (NY City and environs), The Left Coast, and El Norte (the areas that were colonialized by the Spanish). Currently Tidewater as well as The Midlands are allied with the Yankeedom. and Left Coast Coalition. Historically, the Midlands have been the swing culture. They are currently swinging in the direction of Yankeedom and the Left Coast. Basically, the two coalitions are balanced at the moment. If the Midlands stay allied with the Yankeedom-Left Coast Coalition in time it will overpower the Southern Coalition. The former coalition already has far more population and economic clout than the Southern Coalition. Interesting enough there are definite cracks in the Deep South with the urban areas of Georgia and NC, along with Southern Florida showing tendencies towards the Yankeedom-Left Coast Coalition. Likewise in Texas and the SW El Norte is increasingly important and making states such as NM, CO, AZ, TX and NV become increasingly blue.

      One interesting note is that Greater Appalachia along with New France (Mississippi Delta region) is the reddest part of the nation at this time. It is more red than even the Deep South. The Far West is not quite as red as Greater Appalachia, but it is a fairly dark shade of red and is approximately the same as the Deep South in its orientation.

      Basically The U.S.A. is in a transition stage now, which is the reason the political situation is so unstable. When that instability is combined with the polarization caused by the collapse of white supremacy and extraordinary economic inequity, the degree of the polarization is intensified, as the white supremacists are feeling their very existence and personhood is threatened. Certainly, the pandemic has aggravated those conditions as well. IMO, the last time the national polarization was as high as it is now, it ended in the tragedy of the Civil War. The Deep South felt their very existence was threatened by the rising power of the North. I do hope the nation is able to find a way out of this morass.

      It is only the Constitutional bias towards rural states that is keeping the Southern Coalition in contention for power. When El Norte and urbanization finally forces TX to the blue column, there will be a very rapid transition.

  2. Chris, I appreciate this post but I still think you’re wrong about the Democratic party. I can’t believe I’m more critical of the Dem party than a former Republican 🙂 but here goes.

    Your adage that “Whenever people seem to be voting against their interests, chances are you’ve failed to understand their interests” also applies to politicians. When Dems appear to be pushing (or not pushing) policies against their interests, then you’ve failed to understand their interests.

    Liberals like myself *were* pushing for a simple public option. The whole push during the ACA debate was to simply have the option of buying into Medicare. Every liberal knows that if you give people the option of some complicated private insurance plan vs Medicare which provides far better coverage (no prior authorizations required, no narrow networks since nearly 100% of doctors and hospitals participate in Medicare, etc), the vast majority of people will choose Medicare without any mandate needed. After all, technically Medicare is not mandatory either. When you turn 65, you need to decide whether you want to pay the premiums and get it.

    Unfortunately, the insurance companies know that as well, which is why they fought tooth and nail against providing consumers such a choice (they only like choice when it’s limited to deliberately crappified, extractive and exploitative options).

    So why did Obama give up a public option so easily? I’m sure he knows the polling data as well as you or I (probably better). You don’t need to speculate about weakness or ignorance or acting against his own interests. He made it quite clear why he wanted to shill for private insurance companies:

    The money quote:
    “Everybody who supports single-payer health care says, ‘Look at all this money we would be saving from insurance and paperwork,’ ” the former President [Obama] noted. “That represents one million, two million, three million jobs.”

    IOW, Obama was more concerned about preserving the 3 million jobs the insurance industry would lose (actually, the political donations that an industry employing 3 million people is capable of providing), than he was about the millions of other Americans whose lives and/or livelihood might be saved by providing more comprehensive, less bankruptcy-inducing insurance.

    This is a pretty common view within the Democratic party. You even dedicated an entire post to it a few years ago:

    Buttigieg was espousing the same concern for those poor, poor insurance workers (and the political donations their bosses make) and elevating their job security over the health of the other 300+ million Americans.

    In contrast, the difficulties you speak of about making big changes is well known, and not unique to America nor its racial past. No less a figure than Machiavelli talked about it 400 years ago:

    “It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.”

    And in the past, Democrats were certainly capable of massive change. FDR made social security universal and paid for it with a made-up fiction about people “paying into it” while they work and then getting the benefits back when they retire. Same thing with unemployment “insurance” and every other payroll tax we implemented as a separate “investment” into some separate pension plan rather than what it actually is: an income tax to fund current spending.

    So why do Democrats seem so uniquely unable to pass massive change in recent times? It does seem to be a largely Democratic problem. Reagan passed massive policies in everything from foreign policy, defense doctrine, economy and taxation (the (in)famous Laffer curve) even with a Democratic House. And GWB and Trump have had no issue passing large changes not just in the obvious stuff like the War On Terror, but things like Medicare Part D, “compassionate conservatism” which was a codeword for making private religious (aka Christian) charities front-and-center of our social services network and displacing secular non-profits and govt offices.

    But the answer requires one to appreciate that recent Democratic Presidents *have* been able to implement massive changes. Clinton is the one who famously said “The era of big government is over”. He deregulated Wall St., pushed NAFTA, “reformed” welfare, created the 3-strikes rule, etc. On the positive side, he started SCHIP to at least provide insurance to children.

    So I’d still assert my original point about current Democrats stands. Democratic politicians are not uniquely weak or helpless or working against their interests. The problem is Democrats have moved so far to the right that Reagan, as a hollywood elite union boss who raised taxes, negotiated arms reductions treaties with the USSR, supported immigration, and imposed tariffs, quotas, and other trade restrictions to force auto companies to open factories in the US, would be considered too liberal to be a Democrat these days.

    Obama’s sequester, which held defense *and* social spending hostage to Congress passing massive cuts to Social Security and other entitlements, was more radical than keeping a public option in the ACA, and displayed a willingness to use bare knuckle tactics reminiscent of LBJ. It was so radical that even Republicans were complaining about the austerity measures. Yet Obama never proposed such radical changes on the progressive side, and never used anything approaching bare knuckle tactics, unless it was to excoriate liberals for not supporting his rightwing policies. Why? Not for lack of ability, or fear of the consequences. All the failings you ascribe to them are deliberate choices that reveal what their interests truly are.

    Obama and Buttigieg openly and bluntly stated that protecting the jobs of health insurance workers was more important to them than saving the lives of ordinary Americans. Why not believe them? Why look for excuses about how hard it is to make change? Especially when they don’t seem particularly ineffective in passing even more divisive and radical changes that happen to align with their center-right corporate ideology?

    1. Regarding the ACA, Obama’s strategy was mainly directed towards getting a significant health care reform enacted. If one had read his campaign book, it was clear that he believed getting health care reform enacted required acceptance from the insurance companies. They were not going to accept a public option, period. The only reason that they did not mount a full scale assault against the ACA is that it created a market for them with the various plans offered on the exchanges and their executives realized that allowing it to pass was a wise move to alleviate the health insurance crisis of the time.

      Even with the begrudging acceptance of the ACA by the insurance companies, getting the ACA enacted required all the legislative acumen of Pelosi and Reid. As it was, the ACA was barely enacted. Quite simply speaking, the votes in the Senate were not there for the public option. IMO, the current Senate is actually probably as or more progressive than Obama’s Senate in the 111th Congress. In the current Senate we have 48 solid Democrats, whereas in the 111th Senate, though numerically speaking we had 60 nominal Democrats, after eliminating the wishy-washy members and the other DINO’s the actual solid Democratic lineup was not that different. And when Scott took Kennedy’s seat the governing majority was lost. FDR contended with similar problems during the height of the New Deal, which is a significant reason that Jim Crow was left intact.

      As far as the reasons for the difficulty for progressive government in the US, the simple fact is that our founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, both give excessive power to the elite and to the states. The most progressive portions of both are the preambles, particularly the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. IMO, that derives largely from the initial development of the colonies and in particular the differing orientations of the northern colonies vs. the southern colonies. Part of that traces to the British heritage, but those are far deeper subjects than can be addressed in this short comment.

      1. tmerritt-

        I respectfully disagree about the strategy behind the ACA. Your assumption is that Obama “really” wanted the public option but it wasn’t politically feasible. If he “really” wanted it, then he should have let the ACA fail, and entrust a future Democrat to try for a public option again when the time was more right.

        As Chris has pointed out, the Dems probably *lost* more seats due to the way the ACA was written and passed. Voters will respect a politician who takes a clear stand on an issue and loses. They don’t respect politicians who push a corporate sellout plan and then “win” passage of it.

        I know plenty of Democrats who pulled for the ACA as a “half a loaf” or reasonable compromise. But that’s not true. The ACA gave the insurance companies something they sorely wanted for a long time, the individual mandate (i.e. the govt forcing people to buy their crappy plans) with very little in return. That means it will be even harder to pass any significant reform in the future, because that crucial bargaining chip was given away for free. If you want your kids to eat their vegetables and they refuse, is it better to not give them any dinner at all and send them to their rooms hungry, knowing that when they’re hungry enough they’ll come down and eat, or better to “at least” give them dessert, and then hope they’ll eat their vegetables at a later date? Better half a dinner than no dinner, right? That’s what we did with insurance companies.

        Lots of liberals such as Howard Dean understood this and by the time the ACA frankenstein hodgepodge of compromises and giveaways finally made it to the floor, Dean recommended killing the whole thing and starting over in the future. He was right. Both from a political perspective (in front of voters, it’s better to go down fighting for something you believe in than accept a compromise that has basically nothing that you like) and from a policy perspective (the ACA has done nothing to reduce medical costs or decrease the risk of catastrophic financial ruin for people who buy these plans).

        Yet he was excoriated for it by so-called moderates. Why? They understand political strategy as much as anyone else. They knew that giving insurance companies everything they wanted in the ACA while asking for nothing in return would *reduce* the likelihood that we would ever get the ultimate solution (medicare for all or at least a public option) or at the very least would delay us reaching there by a few decades. But to a moderate Democrat, that’s a feature, not a bug. If the ACA failed and momentum built among the base to get medicare for all passed, they would consider that a *failure*. They are not weak. They didn’t secretly want a public option but were too weak to get what they wanted. No, they got precisely what they actually wanted, which was a plan that shovels trillions of dollars in subsidies to an insurance industry whose products are so shitty that they need a government mandate to force their erstwhile customers to buy them.

        The ACA was a conservative Republican plan hatched by the Heritage Foundation. It’s not a coincidence that, of all the plans out there that Obama could have started with, this is the one he picked. Even if he didn’t like Medicare for all, there were plenty of other proposals he could have picked. Yet he picked this one. Are you telling me a supposedly brilliant legal scholar and all around genius such as himself picked this plan by accident, or by mistake? Why can’t we Democrats accept that actions speak louder than words and that whatever policies a person pushes, those are the policies he/she actually believes in?

        And regarding wishy-washy Democrats. Congresspeople are only as wishy-washy as their leaders let them be. Obama caved massively on his first big priority, a spending bill to get the country out of a recession. Instead of pushing for what was needed (a much larger bill) he let a group of “moderate” Republican and Democratic Senators push him around and set the debate. They extracted their pound of flesh from him not for any worthy policy goal (every economist from leftwing to right was telling Obama we needed a bigger bill), but merely to show people that they could do it and not be punished for it.

        In the end he got no Republican votes anyway. How you start your Presidency sets the tone for the rest of your 4 years, and what Democrats (and Republicans) learned from that fight was that no one needed to fear Obama. In those 4 years, the only Democrats he ever went after were liberals, who his chief of staff literally called out as crazy and delusional. No such words were ever spoken about moderate Democrats who opposed any of his policies. Why would he, since he agreed with most of them? Are you surprised then, that there were so many “wishy-washy” Democrats in that caucus those days?

      2. I respectfully disagree about the strategy behind the ACA. Your assumption is that Obama “really” wanted the public option but it wasn’t politically feasible. If he “really” wanted it, then he should have let the ACA fail, and entrust a future Democrat to try for a public option again when the time was more right.

        President Obama had a massive majority in the House and, for however short a period, a barebones supermajority in the Senate. Intentionally letting the ACA flop would’ve forever cemented the idea in voters’ minds that Democrats could never be trusted to follow through on their claims, no matter what Congress looked like. It’d have been about as close to political suicide as one could imagine.

        As Chris has pointed out, the Dems probably *lost* more seats due to the way the ACA was written and passed. Voters will respect a politician who takes a clear stand on an issue and loses. They don’t respect politicians who push a corporate sellout plan and then “win” passage of it.

        Whether voters respect you or not’s irrelevant. The point’s whether they’ll vote for you, and voters *will* vote to protect the ACA because millions and millions of them have pre-existing conditions that Republicans would scrap. It was a huge part of the Democrats’ campaign in ’18 that won them back the House.

        I know plenty of Democrats who pulled for the ACA as a “half a loaf” or reasonable compromise. But that’s not true. The ACA gave the insurance companies something they sorely wanted for a long time, the individual mandate (i.e. the govt forcing people to buy their crappy plans) with very little in return. That means it will be even harder to pass any significant reform in the future, because that crucial bargaining chip was given away for free.

        By this logic, Republicans did us a favor when they scrapped the individual mandate in 2017, not that it honestly mattered much. The policy itself did little to actually increase insurance coverage. If voters don’t view it as a real threat, then the mandate’s worth less than the paper that the law was written on.

        And regarding wishy-washy Democrats. Congresspeople are only as wishy-washy as their leaders let them be. Obama caved massively on his first big priority, a spending bill to get the country out of a recession. Instead of pushing for what was needed (a much larger bill) he let a group of “moderate” Republican and Democratic Senators push him around and set the debate.

        President Obama didn’t cave. When you read the actual history on the rescue effort, the idea was that if the economy needed more money, Obama and his team could always go back to Congress and ask for more. And as easy as it is to look back now and say they should’ve pressed harder, no one could’ve expected Dems to lose blue-as-the-sea Massachusetts and get shellacked as thoroughly as they did in 2010.

      3. We will have to respectfully disagree. I do know that I read in the Audacity of Hope, 2006 by Barack Obama, that getting health care reform enacted would require getting acceptance from the insurance companies. I no longer have the book in my library, as I gave it to a friend, so I cannot easily go back and obtain the precise quote.

        Some may categorize me with the epithet of “half-a-loafer”. That is welcome as far as I am concerned. There are times when compromising and getting legislation, which at least is a beginning enacted is superior to not getting anything. That was the case with the ACA. Now finally at long last the BBB act will hopefully make some improvements to the ACA. FDR’s Social Security Act fell into that category. Now over 80 years later, it is a very significant income source to most retired people, including myself. It was originally not that significant, but it grew over time. Medicare falls into the same category.

        Some may regard the US Constitution as “half-a-loaf”. In many respects it was, as it was the product of hard fought compromise. However, in some areas it has been improved over time. There continue to be numerous problems. But despite the frustrations, most including myself believe, the flawed compromise was better than the United States not to have formed an unitary state under the Constitution in 1789. Most probably that would have led to the individual states being picked off one-by-one by the greedy European powers. As it was ratification was a major battle, and the European States did not regard the U.S. as a true independent state until after the War of 1812.

        Finally, thank you Ryan for your comment. It was well written and very applicable. The making of legislation is not pretty, but in the American system the sausage making is integral to the process. With a nation state as diverse as the US is and with numerous conflicting regional cultures as I discussed above and as Colin Woodward has written extensively, the sausage making is not going to be pretty. However, the important thing is to continue with the sausage making and to iron out compromises, while being respectful of others and their opinions. With the current polarization not all are respectful of others. The dangerous thing would be for one of the regional cultures to become totally dominant for an exceedingly long period.

  3. Good explanation of the three dominant factors in American Politics:
    1, Significant progressive change always requires a major crisis. Most often that crisis must threaten the very existence of America as a nation.
    2. Likewise significant progressive change always requires an overwhelming majority of the more progressive party.
    3. During normal times the nation gradually becomes more conservative and regressive along with a slow increase in economic inequality. These trends continues until everything falls apart and a major crisis occurs. The cycle then repeats.

  4. “Obviously, we’d all live in a safer place if Democrats could build a unifying mythology strong enough to replace white supremacy, but that’s likely to take time. ”

    Time’s up. The loser party hands the control of the House to the death cult in 50 weeks (OK, 56 weeks), and obviously, the loser party never had control of the Senate. The loser party simply does not have the competence to put forward even a modicum of the elements you have described in the window left.

    Not that it will matter at this point, but not a single word about Breyer. Once the Senate is officially lost in 2022, mcconnell will play the same game he did before, the loser party will stamp its feet, and the SCOTUS seat will go fascist as well. That will just be the icing on the cake for the ascending tyrant.

    Those that are middle class and above, those that are white, it will be statue quo under fascist rule. They will be fine, for a while. They may be fine a lot longer than that, if the fascists actually choose a fiscally competent leader when the tyrant dies. If one of his sons takes over, over even the daughter, well, all bets are off.

    In 2024, the three most powerful military forces, and the two most powerful economic forces, will be in the hands of tyrants, again. But this time, there will be no political shackles on one of them.

    1. Do you actually have any joy in your life, Dins? Any hobbies other than coming here and being perpetually pessimistic as a self-described “radical centrist”? Because the constant talk of how hopeless it all is and that we need to perform extrajudicial violence on people to set things straight, it doesn’t sound like a centrist thing, and it ain’t helping anybody.

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