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What’s the Matter With Thomas Frank?

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Thomas Frank has done good work in the past, and he might in the future. But something about Barack Obama seems to have completely broken him as an analyst. Barack Obama has compiled what is, at worst, the fourth most progressive set of legislative achievements of any president in American history — despite the party having effective control of Congress for less than a year — and overall the Democratic Party is moving to the left by any possible metric. This doesn’t, needless to say, make the Obama/Reid/Pelosi Democrats beyond criticism. But Frank has spent years arguing as if it was not only still 1996 but as if they were moving to the right. Nothing — not the fact that Obama has a far more progressive set of accomplishments than Clinton or Carter, not the surprising success of Bernie Sanders’s campaign, not Hillary Clinton running on arguably the most progressive platform the party ever has — can give him even the slightest pause. In Frankworld, the Democrats are following up two terms of the Lieberman administration with an Al From/Zell Miller ticket running on DLC position papers. The classic expression of this view was his Salon interview with Steiniac Cornel West, in which the two didn’t merely agree that Barack Obama had accomplished nothing and refused to fight the Republicans on any issue but preemptively asserted that everyone on the American left agreed with them. He’s got a narrative, and he’s deeply committed to it although it’s transparently wrong, and doesn’t even consider the possibility that anyone could disagree with him. It’s very strange.

He does see one party moving to the left, though — the Republican Party. Is this insane? Yes. But his reaction to the Republican convention was that Hillary Clinton was DOOMED because Trump was going to win the liberal votes Clinton was ignoring. No, really:

The Republicans were trying to win the support of people like me! Not tactfully or convincingly or successfully, of course: they don’t know the language of liberalism and wouldn’t speak it if they did; and most of the liberals I know will never be swayed anyway. But they were trying nevertheless.

Donald Trump’s many overtures to supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders were just the beginning. He also deliberately echoed the language of Franklin Roosevelt, he denounced “big business” (not once but several times), and certain of his less bloodthirsty foreign policy proposals almost remind one of George McGovern’s campaign theme: “Come home, America.”

If you see 4 days of Trump’s Republican Party and its cynical, content-free, and oh white supremacist gestures to populism and think “George McGovern,” I really don’t know what to tell you. I mean, have you notice that the tea party has spent 8 years superficially denouncing “big business,” and the policy outgrowth of that is “cut capital gains taxes, repeal Dodd-Frank, try to nullify the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and eliminate the estate tax.” Frank has become the ultimate mark for the Republican scams he used to eviscerate so effectively. “Ivanka Trump promised something that sounded like universal day care.” The candidate’s daughter seems to favor something that no Republican of any influence supports and appears nowhere in the party platform? Yeah, I’m sure Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell will get right on that! The Republican Party’s calls to deregulate Wall Street come with some gestures to reinstating Glass-Steagall? They want to “break up Wall Street”! Can Frank really think this sale to Harriet and Blah Blah Nyborg is going to stick? Has he seem how they were living? How can he delude himself?

Two weeks after he saw a wave of liberal defections to Trump, he’s upset that it’s not happening:

And so ends the great populist uprising of our time

Wait, we’re talking about Donald Trump? Are you shitting me? Look, even on trade he’s just saying he’ll “renegotiate” agreements. He’s not going to be hiring Erik to do the negotiating. And other than trade there’s nothing remotely “populist” in any progressive sense about the Trump campaign.

Two weeks ago, I wrote in this space about how the Trump phenomenon had reconfigured the conventional geometry of the two-party system. Trump was riding high in the polls at that moment, and there was reason to believe that his criticism of trade deals – one of several Trumpian causes long associated with the populist left – might play havoc with the Democrats’ happy centrist plans.

1)There was not, in fact, any reason to think that was happening, and 2)the Democratic plans are not “centirst” unless you’re using a metric other than the American political spectrum. I will even grant that on trade, the elite Democrats haven’t moved much to the left. But, really, this isn’t the only issue in the world. Expanding the minimum wage, expanding Social Security, protecting the expansion of Medicaid — this stuff matters! Frank doesn’t cite any other Trumpian cause associated with the “populist left” because there isn’t one (unless he’s talking about the racism of many 19th century populists.)

Now let us ponder the opposite scenario. In the intervening two weeks, Trump has destroyed himself more efficiently than any opposition campaign could ever have done. First, he heaped mounds of insults on the family of a US soldier killed in Iraq, then prominent journalists raised doubts about his mental state, and then (as if to confirm his doubters) he dropped a strong hint that gun enthusiasts might take action against Hillary Clinton should she appoint supreme court justices not to his liking.

His chances, as measured in the polls, went almost overnight from fairly decent to utter crap.

Yes, nobody could possibly have anticipated that Donald Trump would be a terrible candidate and run a terrible campaign. Just comes completely out of nowhere. But what concerns me is the palpable disappointment Frank seems to feel about the collapse of Trump. What person on the left could possibly be rooting for him to do well? Does Frank go on to praise Brexit? I think you know the answer.

And just as he has invented a fictional left-wing Donald Trump, he’s invented a fictional Hillary Clinton who’s running on a right-wing platform. “Headlines show Clinton triangulating to the right.” (Which ones?) “In her big speech in Michigan on Thursday she cast herself as the candidate who could bring bickering groups together and win policy victories through really comprehensive convenings.” Well, yes, of course, all politicians stay stuff like this — so what? But using this speech as evidence for Clinton’s pivot to the right is, to be generous, tendentious. Inter alia, the speech called for:

  • Massive new infrastructure development
  • Increasing the federal minimum wage
  • Ppposition to the TPP
  • Expanding Social Security
  • Attacked Trump’s tax credit for child care as a giveaway to the affluent, drawing a contrast with her much more progressive program.
  • Attacked Trump’s tax cuts for the rich while advocating tax increases
  • Strengthening unions

You can argue about how strongly committed she is to these views, but if you can’t ignore them if you’re assessing the direction of her campaign. The claim that she’s moving to the right is simply false. And the double standards he uses to evaluate Republican and Democratic politicians is absolutely embarrassing. The Republican candidate’s daughter makes a stray, unrepresentative gesture to a policy proposal? A MAJOR SHIFT TO THE LEFT! The Democratic candidate actually advances a series of progressive proposals? WHY DOES SHE HATE THE LEFT?

Things will change between now and November, of course. But what seems most plausible from the current standpoint is a landslide for Clinton, and with it the triumph of complacent neoliberal orthodoxy. She will have won her great victory, not as a champion of working people’s concerns, but as the greatest moderate of them all, as the leader of a stately campaign of sanity and national unity. The populist challenge of the past eight years, whether led by Trump or by Sanders, will have been beaten back resoundingly. Centrism will reign triumphant over the Democratic party for years to come.

Leaving aside the fact that his characterization of the Clinton campaign as “neoliberal” is the latest example of the word becoming a slur devoid of any actual content, Frank’s argument that it would be good for reform politics for Clinton to win narrowly or lose is ridiculous. The rare periods of progressive change in the United States have always been followed by what were, in context, big wins. If you want Clinton to govern to the left, you want her to win big. This is obvious. The idea that Trump getting trounced is bad for the American left makes no sense. But it’s the logical culmination of Frank’s alternate political universe, one that has long since abandoned any connection with reality.

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  • humanoid.panda

    I think Frank’s shtick is a result of 2 interacting mental hindrances:
    1. Like many people on the further (alt?) left, he is pretty much addicted to the Cassandra role. Kinda like a perma-bear, but for politics.
    2. More importantly, there is nothing in the world more vindictive than a pundit whose advice was scorned. Frank clearly laid out how the Democrats ought to win back in 2005, and the bastards had the gall to win without heeding his advice! That shall not stand.

    • David W.

      The Eeyore role many pundits on the further left have isn’t a cause but a result of them making class the only thing that matters politically, and bemoaning that centrist Dems just don’t get it. Sad!

      • Pat

        I think Frank can’t imagine a world where his tribe is driven by Hillary Clinton. So he gets off the progressive bus and yells that all the real progressives are standing where he is. In the dust.

      • loganbacon

        I agree, but (to go on a tangent) I hope to god that people stop using “Sad!” as part of their commentary as soon as this awful election is over. I want Trump to go away and be forgotten, along with all of his shtick!

        • Shantanu Saha

          When I start my twitter career, I’m going to use “Lugubrious!” as my standard epithet.

          • los

            Standard!
            Typical!
            Everyday!
            Humdrum!

            • Ahuitzotl

              Quotidien is already taken?

        • Halloween Jack

          But you’re still addicted to exclamation points! It’s like I’m reading a Marvel comic from the sixties!

    • JMV Pyro

      I think (2) gets what drives Frank more then anything else. The Obama Coalition might lead to more progressive policy in many areas, but it’s not the exact kinds that Frank wants and perhaps more importantly, it isn’t advocated for in the style that he wants.

    • ForkyMcSpoon

      I had to google it to know that a perma-bear wasn’t referring to a type of gay guy.

      • Ben Murphy

        It is now :)

    • q-tip

      I think Frank’s also 3) still wedded too heavily to the worldview he developed in the 90s, as expressed in the cultural criticism he promulgated in The Baffler. He saw the countercultural left being coopted by and selling out to corporate capitalism. Which, yeah, fair enough. But his rage at this hypocrisy, at the Boomers’ broken promises (and the Xers’ failure to come up with something new), is like a pair of shit-colored glasses. Coupled with his white dude blinders, it’s no wonder he sees things the way he does.

      • CP

        He saw the countercultural left being coopted by and selling out to corporate capitalism.

        And his reaction to that is to become the economic left coopted and sold out to white nationalist racism. (And, this being Donald Trump, also to corporate capitalism). Eh?

    • Richard Hershberger

      There was a guy on the Phillies usenet group, back when usenet groups were a thing, who was like this. This was when the Phillies were really bad. Not the current round of Phillies badness, but the one before that. This guy would give a detailed agenda of what he demanded the Phillies do to get good, or he would stop rooting for them. The interesting thing was the he was explicit that their getting good some other way not not sufficient. They had to follow his advice.

      • FlipYrWhig

        Was that the guy who ended up going to prison for spoofing media email addresses and harassing other media figures, and who was obsessed with the Phillies ownership group and how it was A SCAM?

    • cpinva

      I’m just here for the free beer, naked women and sex. however, I would like to know which drugs this guy is taking, so I can add them to the list.

    • J. Otto Pohl

      Frank’s first book The Conquest of Cool was a brilliant analysis of how corporations in the US managed to use symbols from the counter culture for their own profit. In the 1990s there is no doubt that they also adopted the language and forms of “diversity” for their own profit. The demands that more television adverts show African Americans that pre-occupied college activists in those years soon became viewed as a marketing strategy by companies. From the view point of people like Frank greater representation of minorities and women in advertising with no other changes only benefits a small group of people. They do have a point. Putting token Blacks and women in television advertisements does nothing to eliminate poverty even among the vast majority of POC and women.

  • Brien Jackson

    At what point do we have to consider that the most obvious explanation for all of this is that Thomas Frank doesn’t care about non-white people?

    • Origami Isopod

      Yeah, I was gonna say. Those are classic manarchist blinders he’s wearing. WTMWK already proved he doesn’t perceive, or at least have any solid grasp of, issues other than economic class.

      • Colin Day

        Manarchist

        I like that!

        • Origami Isopod

          Thanks. Not my coinage; it’s been around for ages.

          “Brocialist” is newer.

          • MedicineMan

            Nice… I’m going to appropriate both of those.

          • Davis X. Machina

            I’m waiting for the internecine strife between Broshevik and Manshevik fractions.

            • +26/10/1917 O.S.

              • cpinva

                is that Julian or Gregorian calendar?

                • Colin Day

                  Old style (O.S.) is Julian.

            • leftwingfox

              I’m suddenly envisioning a debate over “Burger and Beer” vs. “Scotch and Steak” resulting in vicious purges.

              Following hefty binging, of course.

              • Aardvark Cheeselog

                There would have to be show trials, in which the losing faction would be forced to admit to secretly drinking vodka instead of scotch, or putting ketchup on their burgers, depending on the outcome of the contest.

              • (((Hogan)))

                With all that red meat, you better purge.

              • Mellano

                “Scotch and steak” sounds like it was imagined by some insecure “Fireball is God” MRA type. I’d rather toil away my few remaining days in the gulag.

        • Shantanu Saha

          I’m going to assume “Menarchist” is not a plural.

    • Aaron Morrow

      “The Republicans were trying to win the support of people like me!” was when it popped into my head. I saw what Frank saw, and I saw what Frank ignored.

      • Brien Jackson

        Yeah, me too. How do you even say that if you are reflexively revolted by Trump’s overt white nationalism/fascism?

        • Pat

          That tells you that Frank isn’t reflexively revolted by it.

    • humanoid.panda

      I’m not sure how serious I am about this, but I feel like there is a whole coterie of further left pundits that is soooo close to just going soft white natioalist, because objectively speaking, minorities are handmaidens of neoliberal capitalism, as embodied in the Hildebeast.

      • MikeJake

        Kind of an economic version of Neocons.

        • Kodachrome

          Yep. There are a lot of these white dudes on the left who are just as freaked out and resentful of the increasing influence of POC and women on the left, as anyone on the right is. I’m pretty well convinced that a lot of these guys will eventually end up on the right.

          • Origami Isopod

            A lot of them are halfway there IMO. Gamergaters, in particular.

            • N__B

              My ignorance comes into play here: in what way are the GGs not already on the right?

              • jben

                My understanding is that some of them claim to be on the left. As I recall there was a survey of GG’ers political opinions (which they passed around incessantly) that claimed to place them on the center-left. IIRC it was a very flawed survey, but still..

                • Halloween Jack

                  It’s usually of the variety that says that they voted for (Democratic politician), but these SJWs have gone too far, man!

              • (((Hogan)))

                FREEZE PEACH

                • Jordan

                  For sure, but that isn’t enough to place them anywhere close to the left. All RWers invoke FREEZE PEACH whenever they are criticized.

          • cpinva

            “There are a lot of these white dudes on the left who are just as freaked out and resentful of the increasing influence of POC and women on the left”

            this I just don’t get. I’m old enough to be at least a half generation of the “men go to work outside the home, women stay at home, raising children”, but I wasn’t raised in that kind of household. both of my parents worked outside the home, so that was my normal.

            when I graduated from college, my first boss was a woman, very smart and very nice. had I the option to select my aunt, she would have been her. I learned a lot from her, both technically and managerially. even when we screwed up, she didn’t go ballistic, and make us feel like imbeciles. she calmly showed us what we’d done wrong, had us practice it in front of her and sent us on our way, pretty sure we wouldn’t make the same mistake again. just an all around great person and teacher.

            my second boss was also a woman, younger than my first boss. more like older sister material, had I that choice to make. also very smart, technically proficient, and able to walk us through whatever it was we’d done incorrectly, make sure we completely understood how to do it correctly and sent us on our way. she did all of this without berating us like 5 year-olds. as the manager of a group of newbies, she understood that a big part of her job was making sure we got the info that hadn’t been taught to us formally, in class, and she was damn good at it. I left her group a better accountant and person than when I entered, mostly because of her.

            both of these women inspired loyalty in their charges, without ever needing to ask for it or demand it. we just all wanted to do well, so they’d be proud of us, and glad we were under their supervision.

            I have been very fortunate to have managers, of both genders, that were actually good at managing people, without feeling the need to “let us know who was the boss”. probably a big part of that was that they were confident in their own skills and knowledge, and were happy to transfer them to us neophytes, without feeling put upon.

            today, I still have no problem working with women as either equals, in a supervisory position, or under my supervision, they’re all just boring old accountants to me! I kid, with love. the vast majority of the people I’ve worked with over the past 40 years have been just really nice and very, very good at their jobs, gender/race/faith notwithstanding. I know I’ve been very fortunate in that regard, and I don’t take it for granted. but I just don’t get those “men” who still live in 1955.

      • Brien Jackson

        I’d say I’m pretty serious about that. It’s really clear that there’s a class of internet lefty pundits who just REAAALLLY want to go off on the non-white/women voters who strongly support Obama/Clinton/the Democratic mainstream for not being smart enough to know what’s good for them.

        • Origami Isopod

          Well, hey, the 1950s would have been great for people like them; why are the rest of us trying to ruin it with all these identity politics?

          • Brien Jackson

            ^Nailed it.

        • Aexia

          “Want”? A fair number of them already do.

        • loganbacon

          They already did during the Sanders campaign. Often.

          • Brien Jackson

            Yeah but to a point that was weasel worded-ly okay(ish). “People will like our guy when they find out more about him” can be read as calling people stupid, but can just as easily be an earnest belief that you just have to work harder on messaging/outreach (and certainly a lot of people I personally knew who used this as a reason why Sanders was doing poorly with non-whites meant it this way). And hey, it’s not even wholly without merit when you’re talking about a Senator who’d never really been a national figure and represented a lilly white state his whole career. If he’d spent the better part of a decade building connections with non-white constituencies he may well have been able to cobble together a winning coalition.

            But suffice it to say, that’s not remotely true of the sort of leftist who’d rather make common cause with white nationalists and return to the 1950’s than women and non-white activists because “IDENTITY POLITICS?!?!!!!!!!?!!” (And of course a lot of these guys are probably super pissed about eroding white privilege because, well, they’re mediocre at best themselves).

            • Origami Isopod

              There were incidents during the campaign itself of future Bernouts getting into the faces of Clinton supporters and intimidating them.

      • Matt McIrvin

        There is the whole Greenwald/Snowden/Assange wing of anti-imperialists who were not necessarily particularly left in the first place, but allied with the left in the 2000s in opposition to the Iraq War because they were opposed to US interventionism, the drone war, the NSA, etc. Many are white geekboys of vaguely anarchist/libertarian preferences, some are economic leftists but others are more like paleocons, and they can already swing hard right over feminism or “political correctness”. A lot of them abandoned the Democrats around 2012, and we’re seeing the endpoint of the separation now.

        However, they are a small fraction of the US electorate, probably overrepresented in Silicon Valley.

        • Brien Jackson

          Meh, those guys exist but they’re not super relevant here. As Origmai said above: These are (mostly) white guys with legit leftist(ish) economic views who look at the 1950’s as a quasi-utopia and don’t have any interest in listening to POC, women, gays, etc. explain how that wasn’t actually a great time for people like them and are just seething in anger/denial over the fact that a)most actual Democratic voters don’t agree with them all that much and b) that the white people who DO are only interested in the economics of the 1950’s if they get the regressive social policy first.

          I don’t think it’s going to happen with Trump, but give it 4-8 years and I think more and more of your Sirotas, Greenwalds, etc. are going to end up supporting the Trumpist/white nationalist Republicans more explicitly.

      • JMV Pyro

        After the last few years, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

      • JMP

        There definitely seems to be a group of “liberal” straight white men who want to coddle the white supremacist crowd and argue that the Democratic Party should just drop the concerns of minorities, women and gay people out of a pipe dream that poor white people would all just start voting Democratic if the party would throw them under the bus and only pay attention to class issues. There also seems to be a lot of these idiots promoting Jill Stein.

        • Brien Jackson

          It’s amazing to me that after Sanders ran a campaign explicitly premised on this theory and got beaten pretty handily while those hypothetical white male voters rushed to Trump with gusto that there are “leftists” still pushing the idea apace. (Cfe) I know it shouldn’t surprise but it still kinda does.

          • JKTH

            after Sanders ran a campaign explicitly premised on this theory

            Uh…what?

            • Brien Jackson

              It’s behind a paywall and I’m kind of tired of summarizing it at this point, but Sanders explictly articulates the “stop talking about identity politics and you’ll win back white working class males” theory here.

              https://www.nationaljournal.com/magazine/2014/06/18/im-right-everybody-else-is-wrong-clear-about-that

              • JKTH

                That doesn’t speak to his campaign strategy.

                • Brien Jackson

                  Um…yes it does, and it fits really neatly with the reality of how Sanders started his campaign. It’s true enough that he eventually shifted gears, presumably because he realized that he was, in fact, wrong. But that said it’s abundantly clear that Sanders set out thinking he was going to win disaffected white, conservative, working class males with his appeals to economic populism, even to the point where he resisted calls to craft a specific message to address the socioeconomic of non-white (particularly black) Americans up until the point it was clear he was committing campaign suicide.

            • JMV Pyro

              I believe it’s referring to an article in National Journal from a few years ago where Sanders said this:

              Let me ask you, Bernie says… “What is the largest voting bloc in America? Is it gay people? No. Is it African-Americans? No. Hispanics? No. What?” Answer: “White working-class people.” Bring them back to the liberal fold, he figures, and you’ve got your revolution.

              • cppb

                Notably absent from that quote (the article itself is pay-walled) is any reference to dropping advocacy for racial justice or justice for GLBT people, or any other liberal item.

                It strikes me that many of the people on this blog who flippantly dismiss “leftists” might not actually know very many? The leftists I know are heavily involved in activism about racial justice and police violence, prison reform/abolition, deportations, feminism and anti-domestic violence work, anti-Islamophobia, and all sorts of other issues that are not explicitly about economic reforms. They do this because these struggles are inherent parts of their leftist critique of capitalism (not something they think is incidental and will vanish on its own), and because, contrary to the liberal caricatures, they are part of these communities.

                Leftists like everyone else, don’t always get it right, and we have our biases, but I don’t know anyone who has identified as a leftist for more than like a week who doesn’t understand intersectionality and that these struggles are necessary for liberation. The difference is that leftists don’t think those struggles alone are sufficient to make capitalism tolerable. But, you know, FdB says stupid shit on the internet, so liberals will keep on pretending that leftists don’t care about black people.

                • Origami Isopod

                  I personally know leftists of the same kind you do, so I’m not saying you’re wrong. That said, your most prominent spokespeople are your most terrible advertisements.

                  ETA: Thanks, Brien. Why am I not surprised.

                • Brien Jackson

                  That’s because he didn’t quote the part where Sanders bemoans that you can’t get anything done in Washington with a coalition of non-whites and women. Because Republican obstructionism was all because Obama didn’t do organizing right.

                • Brien Jackson

                  As to your final sentence there, please to be telling me how someone who “cares about non-white people” could have watched Trump’s convention and thought “Hey, he’s speaking to me!!!”?

                • cppb

                  For the “speaking to me” bit, I don’t really think the context of the Frank piece supports your reading of it, but I understand the gist of why you object, and I don’t disagree. There’s no defensible connection to be made between leftist organizing and what Trump is doing, and leftist shouldn’t be trying to make one.

                  But as for:

                  the part where Sanders bemoans that you can’t get anything done in Washington with a coalition of non-whites and women

                  I don’t think it says what you are implying it does. As a description of the current state of U.S. politics, it may or may not be accurate (I think if, as Sanders is, you’re talking about broad systemic change to the political economy, he’s mostly right, but YMMV) but nowhere does he call for sacrificing issues of identity, to use an imprecise term, in order to court the “white working class.” If he did advocate for making those trade offs, he’d be wrong, but he didn’t. He said, all throughout the campaign, that all that stuff is great. Let’s do that while also making real change for the working class.

                  If you don’t care about the economic justice stuff, or think that everything will be ok if we just put a more human face on capitalism, fine; don’t be a leftist. But it’s a strawman to say that leftists, who as a group have been much faster to embrace things like abolition and desegregation than liberals, aren’t capable of caring about more than one thing at once.

                • were-witch

                  I don’t know anyone who has identified as a leftist for more than like a week who doesn’t understand intersectionality and that these struggles are necessary for liberation.

                  Must be nice. I mean that. Sounds like you’ve found a good group to run with.

                  But I hope you’re not trying to suggest that most leftists everywhere are people who understand intersectionality and value it. I’d feel comfortable positing that a near-majority of self-described American leftists don’t understand and value intersectionality.

                  The kind of people you’re describing are wonderful and I’m glad you know so many of them, but if you think they’re representative of leftists, then it’s you who might not actually know very many.

            • Nick056

              It’s a total fabrication, and a malign one to boot. I don’t really have a lot of love for left-wingers as such, but it’s somewhere between amusing and appalling how many liberals want to settle any argument with them by claiming, e.g., Bernie Sanders ran a campaign premised on dropping issue advocacy for communities of color and women, or people with LGBT identities. He ran a campaign that started with an economic focus and then he broadened the overall scope of his issues in response to criticism.

              I’ve written in comments on this blog that his performance in SC essentially disqualified him from heading the Democratic Party. But Sanders did adjust his issue advocacy in response to criticism. It is convenient for liberals to essentially believe that everyone who disagrees with them on the left and on the right have implicitly white supremacist, chauvinist politics, but that says far more about the people making the assertion than it does about their opponents.

              • jben

                I certainly don’t think that every critic or opponent of liberalism (from the right or left) is racist.

                But I do think most supporters of Donald Trump are motivated by racial animus to at least some degree. Given some of the things Trump himself has said, it could hardly be otherwise! In the very first speech of his campaign, he literally said that most Mexican immigrants were rapists! Anyone, of whatever economic class, who is willing to vote for Donald Trump is at the very least blind to his open race-baiting. More likely, the supporter is willing to tolerate it, or actively approves of it! None of these things speaks well of them.

                Look, I agree that people can and often do disagree with liberalism without being racists or bigoted.I would even be willing to agree that most Trump supporters are basically decent people deep down. This does not preclude them from being prejudiced!

                Seriously, this is an obvious case! It is very clear that racial prejudice and xenophobia have a great deal to do with Donald Trump’s support. Many of his supporters will be happy to tell you that. He’s running as the anti-Mexican and anti-Muslim candidate, for God’s sake! If your analysis can’t see that, than your analysis sucks! And given that quite a few of these purported “leftists”* can’t see that, isn’t it legitimate to observe that they seem to have enormous blind spots when it comes to this topic?

                *I’m not talking about all, or even most leftists, just the ones under discussion here.

                • jben

                  Also, while the Sanders campaign was good on many issues, it did a terrible job of reaching out to black voters. I really don’t see how you could conclude otherwise.

                  I certainly don’t think Sanders is racist or anything like that, and I have no doubt that his heart is in the right place. But for the longest time, he did not talk about anything besides economics and by the time he did address racial issues it was too little, too late. This is not to even mention the increasingly anti-Clinton tack he took during April and May, although he luckily pulled back from that by the convention.

                  And I say all this as a Sanders supporter, who hoped for the longest time that he would win!

          • djw

            God that O’Hehir column is awful. “How dare you be happy and relieved that a looming catastrophe is likely to be avoided when a Clinton presidency won’t solve ALL THE PROBLEMS?”

            • Dalai Rasta

              You know, I did a word search on that column, and nowhere in it can you find the words “color”, “POC”, “black”, “Hispanic”, “feminist”, or “women”. Interesting, eh? Apparently, the only Democratic voters are members of the “Coastal Elite”.

              • Brien Jackson

                This seems to be a real thing with a subset of Bernie voters, who have responded to the inconvenient fact that their candidate was sunk primarily by non-white, mostly poor/working class, voters who strongly preferred the “neoliberal” Clinton not by reassessing the state of Democratic coalition politics, but by simply writing voters of color out of the equation altogether.

                I’m sure that will work out great and doesn’t prove anything AT ALL.

    • JMV Pyro

      Franks approach to politics always seemed to me to be left-wing class politics filtered through classic American populism of the Jacksonian mold.

    • Thirtyish

      He’s a privileged white guy from Johnson County, and that unfortunately does undergird his lens for looking at these issues. Economics explains everything; wishy-washy cultural issues and “identity politics” just distract from the real issues for him.

      • Richard Gadsden

        I remember these people from the 1980s. They had a slogan then: “There is no war but the class war”

        And it was quite explicitly about the sex war and race war.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      This seems like a weird comment in the context of a piece in which Frank is making common cause with Cornel West, who can be accused of many mistakes, but certainly not only caring about white people. Racism and misogyny are responsible for a lot of political errors in American life — even on the left — but it’s become a lazy habit to attribute all incorrect political beliefs to those factors. Privilege (including, or course, class privilege) is important, but it doesn’t explain everything.

      • Origami Isopod

        This seems like a weird comment in the context of a piece in which Frank is making common cause with Cornel West, who can be accused of many mistakes, but certainly not only caring about white people.

        Politics, strange bedfellows, etc. Making common cause with West does not tell us anything meaningful about Frank’s opinions on race issues.

        • Brien Jackson

          Well, Cornel West only really cares about Cornel West and how brilliant people think he is, so…

          • bassopotamus

            Pretty much. I saw him give a talk a few years back that was just a bunch of random nonsense and mugging for the audience. I just remember leaving thinking “I can’t believe the university dropped 5 figures on this crap”

          • Halloween Jack

            Cornel West also hates Obama in a weirdly personal way, and just about everything he has said and done in this election cycle is about sticking it to him in any conceivable way he can, even though Obama isn’t the candidate.

      • Cornel West, who can be accused of many mistakes, but certainly not only caring about white people.

        It’s not clear to me (but then, I haven’t tried to follow too hard) exactly what the present edition of Cornel West cares about (in any operational sense, at least).

    • Kodachrome

      It’s not that he doesn’t care about us, it’s that he blames us for the New Deal coalition collapsing and the Democratic party’s adoption of neoliberalism.

      He thinks it’s our fault, not the racist white people who are only willing to abide by socialism if it’s a whites-only socialism. No, it’s minorities, and our “identity politics” that are to blame. If we had just shut up about all that “identity politics” stuff, white people would still be voting Dem, would still be supporting the social policies of FDR.

      • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

        And it ignores the degree to which the New Deal was racist.

        I certainly cut FDR a lot of slack given the times he lived in, which are very different from ours, but his administration wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns, it had cultural blind spots, too.

        • Bruce B.

          Eh. It wasn’t blind spots: it was confronting the reality of a major voting bloc of deeply racist Southern Democrats. The administration sought more than it was able to get. They weren’t surprised, but they would have liked to cover more people more ways.

    • Sly

      At what point do we have to consider that the most obvious explanation for all of this is that Thomas Frank doesn’t care about non-white people?

      Or women of any color, when you get down to it.

      The biggest potential windfall for American labor lies not with the reopening of steel mills in the Rust Belt so that white men in hardhats can go back to being the sole breadwinner for their household on nothing more than a high school diploma. It is enshrining gender pay equity and parental leave into law as workers’ rights, and conscripting the power of the state to assiduously enforce those rights.

      Frank should inquire into the voting habits of women who are the primary or sole breadwinnder of their household, because they sure as shit ain’t voting as if they felt “abandoned” by the Democratic Party.

      • Origami Isopod

        Our entire culture needs to redefine “working class” so that it means more than just “white men in hard hats.”

        Of course, that would require our culture to develop respect for service work, which … yeah, I’m not holding my breath.

        • Sly

          “Working class” is not alone in this regard. Out entire conception of American religiosity, for instance, revolves around the stereotype of a middle-aged, white, male, reactionary Bible thumping bigot, when white men are the least religious demographic in the United States by objective measurements. Self-identification, participation in religious community activities (i.e. “church attendance”), declared centrality of religion to their daily lives, etc.

          In reality, by those same metrics, the most religious group in America is also the most liberal; black women. More black women fall into those descriptors, proportionally, than any other group.

          • cpinva

            “In reality, by those same metrics, the most religious group in America is also the most liberal; black women.”

            and lower to middle-class white women in the Catholic Church, without whom the Church could probably not survive.

        • Brien Jackson

          It sure is interesting how so many of these people went from arguing that Bernie’s policies would be a huge boon to African Americans when he was getting guff for being such a white-centric campaign to explicitly identifying the white working class as a specific constituency that’s not being served by the Democrats now, innit?

    • efgoldman

      Thomas Frank doesn’t care about non-white people?

      He made his name writing about Kansas – where only 6% of the population is African American amd Hispanics are 11%. Not exactly New York.

      • jmauro

        It should also be noted that Frank was writing mainly about northeastern Kansas which is overwhelming white (86% white, 5% Asian in the largest county Johnson). He really didn’t tackle places like Dodge City that are now over 50% Hispanic.

    • LeeEsq

      Its not that people like Thomas Frank do not care for white people. There are people of color on my Facebook feed that have the same “damn the Democratic Party” attitude that Thomas Frank does. Some of them are also LGBT. Its just that Thomas Frank is the type of Leftist that sees capitalism or market economics and the accompanying bourgeois social values more broadly as the root of all evil in the world. To them the only real way to get rid of sexism, racism, and homophobia is to destroy capitalism itself.

      Thomas Frank and similar theorists are wrong for many reasons. During the Cold War, Communist countries demonstrated that sexism and racism could exist rather easily in a non-capitalist economy and theoretically egalitarian economy. Developed countries made much better strides on feminism, anti-racism, and expanding freedom with a market economy. We also don’t have a good replacement for market economics yet despite what some people think. Markets tend to work.

      • Brien Jackson

        I…don’t see this at all. I think Frank would be perfectly happy with New Deal/Liberal Consensus era capitalism.

        And to put a finer point on it: It’s rather clear that Frank doesn’t give a single shit what POC/women think about politics and their own interests.

        • LeeEsq

          You might be right. I haven’t read Frank in years.

      • Origami Isopod

        Markets tend to work.

        You left out the “With notably rare exceptions.”

        • Pat

          How about when well-regulated?

          • humanoid.panda

            Or simply, “better than the hitherto-attempted alternatives?”

          • cpinva

            “How about when well-regulated?”

            Adam Smith would agree with this assessment.

      • Sly

        I think this is trying to be too fair. Reading Frank’s work, I came away with the impression that anyone who falls outside the traditional stereotype of the American worker is simply not on his political radar. Like… at all.

        These kinds of blinders are what lead people to believe that the Democratic Party abandoned the white working class because it didn’t want to be the party of the working class anymore. The reality is that a significant share of the white working class abandoned the Democratic Party because it didn’t want to be the party of just white people anymore.

        Offering them more socialism won’t stop them from being “forced” to vote for reactionary Republicans. They are voting for reactionary Republicans because reactionary Republicans are giving them what they want.

        • Brien Jackson

          Right. Frank’s fundamental failing, which renders literally everything else he says (and honestly I don’t know when he was ever useful), is that he fails to see that the people he so lionizes really are invested in the racism/sexism/culutral backwardness they vote for.

          • Origami Isopod

            This. I’m not a big Corey Robin fan but The Reactionary Mind explained everything that Frank missed, or simply didn’t want to see.

            • Brien Jackson

              Agreed. And it bleeds over too: Frank’s analysis of current events/legislative politics will inevitably end up simply waiving away Republicans in Congress and Republican voters altogether as though they don’t exist, a mere fable Democrats make up to explain away their nefarious treacheries.

        • CP

          This.

          I mean, here’s the thing: for a very long time, from the Andrew Jackson era until most of the way into the 20th century, the Democrats identified as the party of the white working class. (Rural Anglo-Protestants in the South and urban “ethnic whites” in the North being the two archetypes). This wasn’t necessarily or always racist – from Truman onwards, the party started working more and more to make room for nonwhites – but even after that, there was still a sense for a long time that the WWC remained the party’s primary constituency. And a lot of ink was spilled over those 150 years building up the romantic image of that White Working Class: family values, hard work, loving communities, a simple but honest faith in God and love of country, yada yada yada.

          Thomas Frank strikes me as a guy who simply cannot let go, first of all, of that memory of the marriage between Democrats and White Working Class; and second, of that image of the Wholesome Folksy Salt Of The Earth voters. He’d rather believe that the liberal elite of the party simply lost touch with the Wholesome Folksy People, and offended them with our high-handedness and our arrogance and our dismissal of their rugged and honest values… than face up to the widespread racism among the Wholesome Folksy People, or the fact that that more than anything else might explain why so many of them have left.

          (Doing the latter means admitting that there’s something rotten in the traditional image of the Democratic Party, the white working class, and America as a whole, that I think he’d rather not have to confront).

          • Origami Isopod

            Re your last paragraph: I’ve seen that dynamic so often on places like dK. You get a white male leftie, usually but not always older, lamenting, “I want my country back!” He’s reminded that the ’50s were not swell unless you were white, male, Christian, straight, cisgender, and able-bodied. He either doesn’t reply at all or he starts whining piteously. (A favored tactic is, “You can’t talk about that! That won’t win us the election!”)

            Which also brings back memories of a Native American diarist getting all kinds of shit for posting about a massacre of Native Americans by white settlers on Thanksgiving Day. Especially since it was a massacre that had not been documented by historians but that had become part of oral history.

            • cppb

              Maybe this is at the heart of my frustration with the way these discussions typically go. At the risk of indulging in a bit of No True Sccotsman-ing, I don’t think we’re using the term “leftist” the same. Are people at Daily Kos really self-identifying as leftist? Do they think that means being anti-capitalist in one form or another or do they simply think free college and high taxation is socialism and that sounds good? Because it seems like there is just a tendency to call people who were rabidly pro-Sanders and who are (usually recently) ok with European-style social democracy “leftists.”

              To use your example, what makes a person who romanticizes the 50’s a leftist in any meaningful way? The purges of communists from the labor movement? The booming success of post-war capitalist modes of production and the loss of the few leftist local elected officials? That just strikes me as garden-variety 90’s liberalism (before, to their credit, most liberals figured out that the problem was too little social justice, not too much).

              I grew up around, and live and work with, liberals. Does no one remember the years of liberals who liked the wonkiness of taxes and social programs and who acknowledged that fairness is a good thing but said that “feminist” was an outdated term, or that thought maybe affirmative action had run its course? I also knew liberals who took feminism and racial justice seriously, of course, and thankfully they seem to have won the battle of ideas over the last decade, but “romanticizing the 50s” is alive and well among white liberals. (Ironically everyone I know who has responded to arguments about racial justice with the phrase “but really, it’s all about class,” have been liberals who have explicitly disavowed being anti-capitalists)

              I’m just some guy on the Internet, and you of course have your own experiences with people calling themselves “leftist,” but statistically it’s a tiny fraction of the population that calls themselves Marxist (of any flavor) or anarchist or some other ideology that I would describe as “left.” I have a hard time believing that I have somehow self-selected all the good ones. I think it’s more that I, and my leftist comrades, would call white brocialists “liberals,” since I don’t want them in my tribe, and you would call them “leftists” since you don’t want them in yours. Maybe we should all just agree to call them “neoliberal” and further muddy the waters.

              • Origami Isopod

                Well, the thing is that you’re talking about “leftist” as it’s used in what, in the United States, counts as the extreme left; versus “leftist” as it’s used in wider swathes of people who are left of center in the U.S. I think both uses are valid; letting the first group alone define the term does lead into No True Scotsman territory.

                That said, have you ever been to Crooked Timber? I’m not asking rhetorically but sincerely. That place is full of old-school Marxists who have not a shit to give about anything other than class.

                • cppb

                  I agree that in the U.S., both usages are common, but I’m curious if you (or other commentators here) draw a distinction anywhere. If we’re not talking about anti-capitalists, what differentiates the white male “lefty” with bad views on race from a white male liberal with bad views on race? If nothing, then I think it’s dishonest to imply, when you (not you specifically) want to distance yourself from people who share your broadly left-of-center views but also hold bad ideas, that their bad ideas are associated with some group that is distinct form liberals. That’s merely engaging in No True Liberal argument just as much as anyone else is.

                  For your other point, I’ve been to CT, and I suppose I’ve seen comments there along the old, “once we revolutionize society, those other social issues will fade away” trope. But while people are correct to point out that the history of really-existing leftist governments disproves that hypothesis, I don’t think even the old-school marxists think we should stop supporting anti-racist policies in exchange for racially-exclusionary socialism (certainly none of the ones I know think this). Differences in opinion on which struggle is the Most Important, while open to criticism, are not the same thing as, for example, Republicans who claim to support gay rights, but will vote for people who actively harm gay rights in order to get marginally lower taxes. And given that liberals are quick to defend compromises (like racially-exclusive welfare benefits, for instance) as pragmatic attempts to ratchet history towards more justice, arguing that somehow only “leftists” are guilty of prioritizing certain values over the immediate needs of people color comes off as in bad faith.

          • cpinva

            “And a lot of ink was spilled over those 150 years building up the romantic image of that White Working Class: family values, hard work, loving communities, a simple but honest faith in God and love of country, yada yada yada.”

            you know, morons.

  • John F

    The classic expression of this view was his Salon interview with Steiniac Cornel West, in which the two didn’t merely agree that Barack Obama had accomplished nothing and refused to fight the Republicans on any issue

    You see this a lot on wingnut sites, a deep and bizarre dedication to the idea that the RINOs in Congress have rolled over and given Obama every single thing he’s wanted. It’s objectively wrong of course, but at least in wingnutland you do have this whole separate and enclosed media system that feeds misinformation 24/7 so you can understand how individuals who get their news from Hannity/Coulter etc., can think such counterfactual things. How folks on the left manage to insulate themselves from reality is actually harder to fathom.

    • so-in-so

      I suspect in the internet age is not too difficult to find sources that will only support what you want to believe, although they will not be nearly as prominent as the Righty versions.

      Some people can also self-filter: read a balanced article and come out certain that it only contained the one side that they agree with (or be sure that the parts they wanted were true, while the author was clearly lying about the other parts).

      • Brien Jackson

        “I suspect in the internet age is not too difficult to find sources that will only support what you want to believe”

        US Uncut or basically any “Occupy” group on Facebook will give you the effect.

        • Origami Isopod

          Occupy has actually done good things in the world. US Uncut, not so much.

          • Brien Jackson

            This is true, and I don’t know how much “Occupy” has to do with running these Facebook groups, but it’s basically a given that any group with that name on Facebook is going to be rife with conspiracy theories and transparent bullshit stories.

            • Origami Isopod

              This is unfortunately true. See also: Alternet.

      • Gregor Sansa

        Plenty of people other-filter. They hear a speech from a politician, and based on whether they liked that politician beforehand, they hear only the parts they agree with or only the parts they disagree with. It would be a major problem for Clinton if she weren’t running against a juvenile orangutan with a pituitary disorder.

    • efgoldman

      You see this a lot on wingnut sites, a deep and bizarre dedication to the idea that the RINOs in Congress have rolled over and given Obama every single thing he’s wanted.

      Have they? I mean They. Didn’t. Even. Try. completely to shut down all the gummints when the senate wouldn’t pass their bills and Obama wouldn’t sign them.

      This here starts with a basic factual error (that the TeaHadis were an actual grass-roots movement, not astroturfing with Koch money, run by Dick Armey) but it gives a pretty good idea of their point of view.

      • so-in-so

        Obama has not been impeached for all this really super unconstitutional stuff I keep hearing about him doing (Presidenting while black?), so They Didn’t. Even. Try.

    • Halloween Jack

      You see this a lot on wingnut sites, a deep and bizarre dedication to the idea that the RINOs in Congress have rolled over and given Obama every single thing he’s wanted.

      I think that a lot of that ire is really about the belief that Congress, now that the GOP controls both houses, should simply impeach Obama, it doesn’t matter for what.

  • This post is the intelligent version of Jamie Kirchick’s weird fail today where he lists Corey Robin, etc. as “Trump supporters.”

    • Origami Isopod

      Oh, boy. I hope everyone has enough popcorn.

      • humanoid.panda

        This column, and the inevitable fight between the horrible Kirchik and the mildly less terrible people he is besmirching here reminds me of a classical Soviet joke: “During a Communist demonstration in DC, a cop starts beating someone with his club. The demonstrator screams- ‘why are you hitting me, I am an anti-Communist.’ To which the cop replies “buddy, I don’t care what kind of Communist you are.”

        • EliHawk

          I’ve also heard that joke told as being about the time Reagan met the Social Democratic PM of Sweden.

      • Colin Day

        In financial news, the stock price of Orville Redenbacher hit record highs.

    • D.N. Nation

      Half of my brain: Wow, whatta putz. Glenn Greenwald is most certainly not a Trump supporter.

      The other half: Hoo boy, is it going to be fun watching Glenn Greenwald get pissed over this.

      • “I know he’s not, but I want to make him deny it.”

        • Origami Isopod

          Can you imagine LBJ going toe to toe with David Cameron? Maaan.

      • JMV Pyro

        I think Greenwald is just one of those Cassandra addicts described up top. He likes being against “the system” and doesn’t really care much about party.

        • Sebastian_h

          Greenwald does come across as a Cassandra addict, but I would say that one of his best features is that he doesn’t care about party. He absolutely has a good point on how the left got MUCH quieter on Big Brother issues once Obama was in charge of Big Brother.

          It hurts two ways: objectively a lot of the Big Brother issues are a big deal AND people will notice you’re a partisan hack if you can only pay attention to Big Brother issues when you aren’t in power.

          • D.N. Nation

            Two can play at that game. The Intercept and Greenwald have been noticeably quiet about Trump’s tax returns, Paul Manafort, etc.

            • Aexia

              The Intercept and Greenwald also have an…. interesting blindspot with respect to Brazil and Venezuela’s governments.

            • Brien Jackson

              I’ve said it to Greenwald and I’ll say it again here: It’s 50/50 at this point that Greenwald is an out and out Russian agent.

          • Brien Jackson

            ” He absolutely has a good point on how the left got MUCH quieter on Big Brother issues once Obama was in charge of Big Brother. ”

            Um…no he doesn’t. On the one point this is just hand-waivy bullshit, because by “quieter” he means “they don’t think it’s a reason to vote for Ron Paul instead of Democrats with liberal politics on domestic issues.” On the other hand, he’s hand-waiving away the extent to which a huge chunk of the problem with Bush on this issue was the extent to which his administration refused to comply with the incredibly permissive scope of the law in this realm. FISA courts weren’t good enough for them, depsite how friendly they are, and they often wanted to break the law just for the sake of it. Greenwald can’t perceive that, though liberals may want to see the law changed, they can appreciate that there’s a difference between Obama acting within the bounds of statutes and what the Bush administration was doing.

            • Origami Isopod

              by “quieter” he means “they don’t think it’s a reason to vote for Ron Paul instead of Democrats with liberal politics on domestic issues.”

              This.

              • cpinva

                I just can’t think of any reason to vote for Ron Paul, or his cyborg offspring, Rand.

            • EliHawk

              Also, Greenwald likes to pretend that he was a righteous voice against the Bush Administration, when in reality he was right there cheerleading with it right until it became unpopular (like Andrew Sullivan, come to think of it). No zealot like a hypocrite.

      • Manny Kant

        I think this is mostly a fail in the way Kirchick describes what he’s doing than the actual content of the criticisms. He says he’s talking about left-wing Trump supporters, but then cites a lot of people who pretty explicitly aren’t supporting Trump (some are Trump-curious, while others are explicitly opposed to Trump).

        But I think the phenomenon he’s describing (poorly) is real. Greenwald and Robin aren’t Trump supporters, but it seems to me that it would be perfectly reasonable to describe them as “anti-anti-Trumpists.” That whole wing of the commentariat is much more concerned about a “new red scare” and the Democrats supposedly moving to the right than they are about Trump, and consider those liberal commentators who are mostly okay with Hillary Clinton and mostly concerned with Trump to be the real enemy.

        • This, which is why I say Scott’s post is the intelligent version of what the … um … chaotic Kirchick is trying to do.

      • JMP

        Glenn Greenwald, in his knee-jerk hatred of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for not giving him a pony, is effectively a Trump supporter, though.

    • Murc

      … Jesus Christ, really?

      I’ve had my issues with some of the things Corey has written, but to describe him as a Trump supporter?

      Honestly. It’s like some people are incapable of doing basic political analysis or grasping things like nuance. Like the hordes of folks who think Scott believes the Presidency is a supine, powerless position because he’s written a lot about how in areas of contentious domestic policy it is highly restrained by Congress.

    • rea

      Corey is very strongly anti-Clinton, and of course some of his commentors over at Crooked Timber are openly pro-Trump “lefties”. The question is, how for can you go with anti-Clintonism before you can be fairly characterized as objectively pro-Trump?

      • XTPD

        So I take it you never read Salon during the primaries?

        • rea

          Sure, the guys on the reviewing stand in Red Square, back in the day, were objectively pro-communist. That doesn’t answer the question of how far can you go in that direction before you can be fairly characterized as objectively pro-communist.

          • XTPD

            In all seriousness, though, saying that Trump v. Clinton is a wash to left-liberalism is probably that line. (See also, Bragman, Walker).

      • If there’s an express statement by Robin that the left should be working to defeat Trump & get Clinton elected, I haven’t seen it – not that I’m a Robin stalker who *would* have seen it. I just check in at CT occasionally.

        • rea

          See, e.g., here: http://crookedtimber.org/2016/08/02/trumps-indecent-proposal/

          Possibly not the “express statement” you wanted, but close.

          • Murc

            That was one of Robin’s better posts.

            • The Temporary Name

              Way down in that thread there’s an “I hope Clinton gets elected because we on the left can push against her.”

              http://crookedtimber.org/2016/08/02/trumps-indecent-proposal/#comment-688069

              Which is still bitter politics but it recognizes a practical goal.

              • Murc

                Careful there, TN. Conventional wisdom around here is that expecting to not have to constantly push against elected officials is pie-in-the-sky hippie talk.

                • (((Hogan)))

                  Whereas “vote only for people you know you can trust” is the height of pragmatism.

                • Murc

                  Whereas “vote only for people you know you can trust” is the height of pragmatism.

                  It isn’t. Good thing nobody here has made that argument, as near as I can recall.

  • JMV Pyro

    He’s got a narrative, and he’s deeply committed to it although it’s transparently wrong, and doesn’t even consider the possibility that anyone could disagree with him.

    Hasn’t Frank always been like this? I remember something about him responding to a critique of What’s The Matter With Kansas by a political scientist by penning an anti-intellectual screed calling that person an elitist, establishment hack.

    The man believes gets ideas in his head, thinks they are “The Answer” and is so completely stubborn he cannot accept the idea that he could ever be even slightly wrong. He wants his economically populist revolution dammit, and he will stamp his feet and question everyone’s character until he gets one.

    • bobbo1

      I think his narrative consists mainly of admiring populism as a style, and he doesn’t really care about the actual policy details. So Trump = Bernie as far as he is concerned.

      • Pat

        Plus both of them have penises, which makes them eminently more palatable than, well, you know.

        • sparks

          Is Palatable Penises a good band name?

          • DW

            “Palatable Penises: For the Discerning Fellator”

  • tsam

    But Frank has spent years arguing as if it was not only still 1996 but as if they were moving to the right. Nothing — not the fact that Obama has a far more progressive set of accomplishments than Clinton or Carter, not the surprising success of Bernie Sanders’s campaign, not Hillary Clinton running on arguably the most progressive platform the party ever has — can give him even the slightest pause.

    I hear this kind of stuff from liberals all the time, generally pointed at economic policy. The major tax cuts that blew up the revenue system were called Reagan tax cuts and Bush tax cuts. I remember Obama being a commie/fascist for trying to end those Bush tax cuts. They certainly aren’t above criticism, and some of the legislation Bill Clinton signed was pretty bad (Phil Gramm’s banking bill, for example), but it’s been only Democrats that have even recognized the income inequality problems.

    • JBL

      Here is a thing that annoys leftists: sentences like “it’s been only Democrats that have even recognized the income inequality problems.” There are plenty of people who do not identify as Democrats who take this view; Bernie Sanders and Kshama Sawant are two who happen to be elected officials. The Democrats are the only major political party that is home to people with this view, but that does not mean that only people who prioritize electing Democrats as their #1 political goal have this view.

      • rea

        (1) Surely Sanders qualifies as a Democrat, after running for the party’s nomination?

        (2) The Democrats are the only major political party that is home to people with this view, but that does not mean that only people who prioritize electing Democrats as their #1 political goal have this view. True, but it does mean that only those who prioritize electing Democrats are actually doing anything constructive about it.

        • JBL

          No, this view is very blinkered. For example, I have some friends who work for Fight for $15. “Electing Democrats” generically is not something they care about. Income inequality, yes; poverty, yes; electing politicians who care about these issues (regardless of the party they belong to), yes (in the Twin Cities, this sometimes means Greens, in NYC it usually means WFP, in Seattle in might mean SA); supporting primary challengers to crappy Democrats, yes. But not “electing Democrats” as a value or goal in itself.

          This is not the only possible reasonable view to take; I am not even claiming it to be *my* position. But it’s a perfectly sensible position and a perfectly constructive way to engage with politics, and there are plenty of people who hold it. Denying that such a thing is possible is weird.

          • so-in-so

            On a local level, it seems.

            Nationally, supporting Jill Stein for President will not help any Fight for $15 in the least. Since this post was about Trump/Clinton…

            • JBL

              The post to which I responded did not include the words “Trump” or “Stein.” (And I do not think that was an accident.)

      • tsam

        There’s a context to mentioning Reagan, Bush Jr, Obama and Bill Clinton in that comment.

        Sanders was more or less a Democrat, since he has always caucused with them, and the comment was aimed at people in power.

        • rea

          Was responding to JBL’s statement, “There are plenty of people who do not identify as Democrats who take this view; Bernie Sanders and Kshama Sawant are two who happen to be elected officials.”

          • tsam

            I was sending that to JBL–I could have been more clear about it, but this is two examples vs Congress and the president. I’m just not sure why that nit needed to be picked.

        • Aexia

          Not to mention, Bernie Sanders has functionally been been the Democratic nominee for his Senate runs (and most of his House runs?) with all the advantages that entails. (No Democrat on ticket, DSCC/DCCC backing, access to DNC data, etc)

          • JBL

            Yes, because Bernie Sanders the senator is not an idiot and he knows that going off and caucusing by himself would be stupid and pointless. But it’s not a mistake that he doesn’t run as a Democrat, and it’s not a mistake that his success was formative of the VPP.

        • JBL

          “Bernie Sanders is more or less a Democrat” is false. It is not a strange coincidence that all the DNC insiders were anti-Sanders from the get-go. Sanders is smart enough to know that if you are going to get things done as a senator you don’t go caucus by yourself. He also made the (correct!) decision that running for president as a Democrat would be strategically more effective than alternatives, but that’s not the same thing.

        • JBL

          Though if your point is that I should read an implicit “among major-party candidates for president” into your last sentence after “but” then I withdraw any objections.

  • Nobdy

    Here are two irrefutable facts that even you, Scott, cannot argue with.

    1) There is no real Hillary Clinton. She is a power mad harpy who will say and do anything to get elected. Her only commitment is to herself.

    2) The real Hillary Clinton is a right leaning centrist hawk who has a deep commitment to governing from the center right.

    I am old enough to remember when Hillary Clinton pushed heavily for Healthcare Reform and was seen as a leftist feminist figure. She has since drifted further left, which I guess puts her on the right?

    She voted for the Iraq war. That was wrong. She was more hawkish than the left would like as secretary of state. I get that. But man alive do a lot of people on the left have a weird Hillary derangement almost as bad as the right.

    As for Frank’s comments on Trump, I got nothing. He’s just an idiot, I guess. Trump remind him of Franklin Roosevelt and George McGovern?!? A cry for attention? A serious drinking problem?

    • priceyeah

      You might need to brush up on the meaning of the word irrefutable.

      • DrPretorius

        Whoosh

      • That's indisputable.

        • nixnutz

          I was initially offended by the suggestion that a font should be required to express sarcasm but people seem dedicated to proving me wrong.

      • rea

        Poe’s Law

      • priceyeah

        Yeah, I fucked this up. Sorry, Nobdy.

    • Peterr

      She voted for the Iraq war. That was wrong. She was more hawkish than the left would like as secretary of state. I get that. But man alive do a lot of people on the left have a weird Hillary derangement almost as bad as the right.

      Apart from Hillary derangement, there’s another dynamic at work here. She isn’t helping herself much in connecting with folks on the left when she brings up Henry Kissinger (let alone when “unnamed sources” talk about her campaign reaching out to folks like Kissinger, Condi Rice, and others to get their endorsements). As Dan Froomkin wrote, “whether Henry Kissinger is an elder statesman or a pariah has laid bare a major foreign policy divide within the Democratic Party.” This isn’t a Hillary v Bernie thing, but a general approach to foreign policy as Froomkin’s piece lays out. The whole thing is well worth reading.

      Getting the endorsement of the likes of John Negroponte may help Hillary convince a non-trivial number of Republicans who are appalled at Trump to cross over and vote for her. But there are two big problems with embracing this strategy. In the short term, it looks to some of those on the left as a classic triangulation move on her part.

      In the longer term, this may succeed in getting Hillary elected, but it works AGAINST getting Democratic control of the Senate or House, as it provides an opening for downticket GOP candidates to distance themselves from Trump. If I didn’t know better, I’d almost think that Mark Penn was somehow back in the campaign, urging Hillary to microtarget the neocon Republican vote.

      • Manny Kant

        Unnamed sources in the Clinton campaign, I suspect, did not mention Kissinger at all. Politico mentioned Kissinger after unnamed sources in the Clinton campaign talked about reaching out to GOP foreign policy establishment figures. Read that Politico article again – nothing to suggest anyone told them the Clinton campaign was reaching out to Kissinger specifically.

        • Peterr

          Nothing except the second and third paragraphs:

          Condoleezza Rice, James Baker, George Shultz and Henry Kissinger are among a handful of so-called Republican “elders” with foreign policy and national security experience — people who have held Cabinet-level or otherwise high-ranking positions in past administrations — who have yet to come out for or against Trump.

          A person close to Clinton said her team has sent out feelers to the GOP elders, although it wasn’t clear if those efforts were preliminary or more formal requests for endorsement, or if they were undertaken through intermediaries.

          Using the definite article in the phrase “feelers to the GOP elders” is a clear reference to the specific folks mentioned in the previous paragraph.

          • Manny Kant

            Yes, I’m aware of that paragraph, and I don’t think it says what you think it says. Politico is trying to give that impression, but it’s carefully worded to not actually say anyone told them Clinton reached out to Kissinger. And I belief I saw that the Clinton campaign has denied reaching out to Kissinger.

            • DW

              Exactly. The class “Republican ‘elders'” includes Kissinger, C. Rice, Schultz, and Baker but isn’t exclusively them. So when the following paragraph talks about “the ‘elders'” you can’t assume that any of them, Henry, Condi, George, or Jim, are included in that use of ‘elders.’

              • FlipYrWhig

                Yup, Politico was being slippery, almost as if they know it would whip into a frenzy nimrods like Corey Robin, which it did.

          • jim, some guy in iowa

            saw on Dana Houle’s twitter last week that people connected to the Clinton campaign have said that they *haven’t* reached out to Kissinger for an endorsement

            but it serves as a metaphor or something

        • Phil Perspective

          Except we do know that Kagan, of Neocon fame, hosted a fundraiser for Clinton.

      • She isn’t helping herself much in connecting with folks on the left when she brings up Henry Kissinger

        The last go around on Kissinger I found a Kerry video wherein he highly praised Kissinger in a speech commending James Baker for receiving the Kissinger prize.

        In this day and age, Kissinger is not the reviled figure he should be in most of the population. While I would prefer for him to be in jail, or if not that, shunned, I’m willing to settle for “no baleful influence”. Those who are not so willing don’t have much impact (I’d guess) and should work toward moderating her actual FP.

        • EliHawk

          Also, if you go back and read the Halberstram book on (HW) Bush and (Bill) Clinton’s foreign policies, there’s plenty of mention of Kissinger. There was plenty of Kissinger love in the Bush administration (Scowcroft had been his deputy), but Kissinger didn’t like the Clinton one, in part because the NSC guys (Lake and Berger) weren’t Kissinger people or connected with his consulting group.

      • SNF

        I don’t think those endorsements are a move to the right.

        If she makes policy concessions to get endorsements, then that’s one thing. But most of these endorsements seem to be of the “vote for her because she won’t accidentally start a nuclear war” variety.

    • cleek

      She was more hawkish than the left would like as secretary of state.

      this notion that the left is uniformly pacifist seems to cause a lot of heartache.

      • Origami Isopod

        In terms of foreign policy? It pretty much is.

        • cleek

          the only modern President to not have at least one US military intervention to his name was Jimmy Carter – former nuke submariner.

          on the whole, the American left is less militaristic than the American right, but it has never been pacifist.

          pacifists congregate on the far left (and the libertarian right), but they most certainly do not speak for the rest of the left.

          • rea

            You give Carter too much credit for nonintervention (Iran rescue attempt, Afghanistan).

            • cleek

              ok, he’s at least the closest to zero.

            • wjts

              I don’t think Carter intervened militarily in Afghanistan, though, in the sense that we didn’t deploy any troops. (Advisors, maybe.) And the Iran rescue attempt was kind of a special case.

              • Warren Terra

                I’m not sure you’re making a useful distinction here: Grenada aside, Reagan’s notable interventions were in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Iran/Iraq, and Afghanistan – and none of them featured Americans actually killing a lot of people personally (well, the mining of Nicaragua’s harbors was pretty direct) – but we trained and equipped the people who killed a lot of people. That provides a fairly close parallel to Carter in Afghanistan (Reagan in Afghanistan is of course a very close parallel indeed).

            • enplaned

              Iran rescue attempt was not intervention as in trying to change the politics of a country — it was a rescue attempt of American citizens held hostage illegally. The hint is in the words “rescue attempt”.

          • Origami Isopod

            OK, I thought you were talking leftist vs. liberal, rather than just left of center.

      • Sly

        It’s not really pacifism per se.

        Revulsion at the Iraq War made a moderate liberal governor from the state of Vermont, whose chief domestic policy agenda was deficit reduction (to say nothing of wanting to be the candidate for guys who had Confederate Flags on their trucks), the darling of the left in the 2004 Democratic Presidential primaries. So while I think its somewhat silly to hold that vote against her, I’m not exactly surprised that people are still doing it. Iraq made a lot of people crazy.

        • rea

          whose chief domestic policy agenda was deficit reduction

          In all fairness, countercyclic deficit reduction is not unlefty. The economy was not obviously in bad shape in ’04, although the seeds of future disaster were certainly present.

    • Aardvark Cheeselog

      Here are two irrefutable facts irreconcilable assertions…

    • Bruce B.

      In addition to working on “irrefutable”, you probably want to refresh your grasp of “fact”.

      What is a fact is that your rush to gendered insults indicates that it’s less likely you’ll do any kind of real reflection, when compared to someone whose criticism of Clinton doesn’t embrace sexism so easily.

      Another fact is that there have always been left-wing warmongers and imperialists too.

      • Origami Isopod

        Did you reply to the correct comment? Because Nobdy’s first 3 paragraphs were straight-up sarcasm.

        • Bruce B.

          Sorry, I failed my Spot Obvious check. :(

  • John F

    But what concerns me is the palpable disappointment Frank seems to feel about the collapse of Trump. What person on the left could possibly be rooting for him to do well?

    I think there are some on the left who have spent their whole lives waiting and hoping for a populist/progressive/working class uprising of some sort (kind of like how early 20th century socialists eagerly awaited the day of the Great General Strike the way Christians awaited the Second Coming) so when they see someone/anyone spouting anything that sounds remotely populist getting any traction they the project all their hopes on that candidate- they desperately want to believe that their is some great anti-capitalist candidate out there- and when you are desperate to believe it is very easy to fool you- and you will get very angry when someone tries to tell you you have been fooled (try talking someone out of investing on a Ponzi Scheme after they have decided to invest)

    • humanoid.panda

      I think it’s a bit more complicated than this. I think these people are not deluded enough to think that Trump is their populist messiah – but I think they think that Trump is the perfect vehicle for their revenge on the neoliberals who are refusing to join them on the revolutionary path.

      • humanoid.panda

        To use a Cold War moniker, they are not pro-Trump, but anti-anti-Trump. But of course, the distance from that to pro-Trump is very short..

        • Origami Isopod

          Leftists hate liberals more than they hate conservatives, for the same reason the most intense religious wars occur between two different sects of the same religion.

          • Murc

            It’s somewhat more complex than that; there is, if I recall correctly, a fair amount of evidence that people tend to have much stronger negative feelings towards perceived traitors than they do towards perceived enemies.

            You expect perfidy from your enemies, to an extent you can even respect them for fighting you effectively, but traitors are just scum. This doesn’t just apply to politics, but to social dynamics in general.

            Leftists have long been convinced, sometimes justifiably, sometimes not, that liberals are always one step away from joining forces with conservatives to beat down any actual disruption to the status quo. Coupled with the aforementioned dynamic, that can lead to some vicious fights. Not one-sided ones either; liberals often lack the incandescent rage of leftists, but replace it with a withering contempt (again, sometimes justified, sometimes not) towards the latters sensibilities and priorities and tactics.

            • Origami Isopod

              Agreed, including “sometimes justifiably.” That old Phil Ochs song makes a lot of good points. And, yeah, liberal condescension is a thing. (Though, then again, so is leftist condescension toward women and PoC.)

              • Murc

                It’s all a big web of infighting.

                The same thing happens on the right, they just tend to hide it better and/or we’re not immersed in it so we just aren’t as aware.

                • Origami Isopod

                  Authoritarianism. They tend to fall into line more easily.

                • Richard Gadsden

                  I think it’s just immersion. The hate that the right (Tea Party, Trumpers, Christian nuts, etc) has for the GOPe is enormous. The racist wing came up with “cuckservative”, which, whatever it says about their weird sexual hangups, also shows just how much they hate the establishment.

                  The contempt in reverse is more obvious at the moment because of Trump (see Cruz, but also…), but it’s always been there.

            • Pat

              Good point, Murc. Liberals care about people and don’t want to see them hurt. So yeah, I can see why people rooting for social disruption would find them traitorous.

              • Murc

                The history of leftist/liberal conflicts is far more complex than that and does not simply boil down to virtuous liberals against burn-it-all-down leftists, especially considering the evolving nature of the term liberal, which these days in the US usually means “a commitment to economic and social justice equality (traditional leftist values) married to a commitment to the individual liberties and philosophies of the Enlightenment.”

                It hasn’t always been the case it has meant that, and it STILL isn’t the case in the political contexts of some other countries. When conservatives in the Andrew Sullivan mold hold themselves out as “classical liberals” they aren’t actually lying, because the term used to just mean a commitment to principles of individual liberty, regardless of how it was exercised and the power dynamics involved, and that was it.

                Furthermore, social disruption is often both necessary and desirable, and to characterize leftists as wanting to hurt people, as you do by implication, is both unfair and insulting.

                • LeeEsq

                  Leftists might also see some of the social concerns held by liberals as contradictory or not helping the more important economic/anti-capitalist politics that Leftists believe are very important.

                  Its really hard to determine where people concerned about Social Justice/Intersectionality on the Liberal-Left spectrum. Many see themselves as anti-capitalist to a certain extent but they all basically agree that working on economic issues will do nothing for social issues while Leftists like Thomas Frank or Freddie DeBoer think that all of these things will work themselves out once we get rid of capitalism because bourgeois social norms will go a long with it.

                • Leftists like Thomas Frank or Freddie DeBoer

                  I haven’t read Frank but from what I’ve read of DeBoer (little but too much), “Leftists like Freddie DeBoer” aren’t leftists in any sense I consider meaningful—they’re (at best) performance-art leftists.

                  Not that there’s anything wrong with performance art; all the best elites like it!

                • DW

                  they’re (at best) performance-art leftists.

                  Hey, if I get to throw Spaghetti-Os at him, I may have to reevaluate my stance on Freddie.

                • Origami Isopod

                  Furthermore, social disruption is often both necessary and desirable, and to characterize leftists as wanting to hurt people, as you do by implication, is both unfair and insulting.

                  I agree. “Social disruption” is a broad category, too. Black Lives Matter is social disruption.

                • Murc

                  Black Lives Matter is social disruption.

                  Tangent: I was in Baltimore over the weekend for Otakon and on Sunday one of the hotels was having a FOP event in the evening. Black Lives Matter showed up. It was… odd… having a police line, protestors, people getting arrested, etc. while a bunch of people dressed as animu characters milled around.

                • Pat

                  Thanks again – your point about BLM being a movement of social disruption is well taken.

                  I think of leftists as wanting to drive institutional change. I also think of leftists as being frustrated and external to the system. Unintended consequences are not impossible when institutions are driven to change rapidly.

              • cppb

                Good grief, did it take you all morning to construct that straw-leftist, or did you just have it lying around?

          • MPAVictoria

            Liberals hate leftists more than they hate conservatives.

            There I fixed that for you.

            • Origami Isopod

              Yeah, that must be why all the liberal bloggers here supported Sanders in the primary.

              • jeer9

                Uhhh, no. Lemieux and djw did not endorse Sanders. Campos, Loomis, and Attewell did. I suspect Brockington and Shakezula may have as well, though I am not absolutely certain.

                And apparently Lemieux’s profusion of e-mail love notes about Hillary to Sawicky last fall in some way led to the ill-fated bet about Trump which resulted in a guest-posting gig and Sawicky’s strange assertion that LGM was a hive of Hillary-mania. Clearly, he showed himself not to be a regular visitor but was drawing an inference without much public foundation.

                • Origami Isopod

                  First paragraph: OK, fair enough.

          • Phil Perspective

            Leftists hate liberals more than they hate conservatives, …

            Plenty of liberals hate leftists more than they hate conservatives. This site is a hotbed of that, among others.

            • Brien Jackson

              BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

            • tsam

              Oh come on man.

            • Origami Isopod

              Nah, they just hate you, Phil.

            • Manny Kant

              I don’t think this is even particularly true of someone like Chait, much less the front pagers here. Even Chait, imo, directs more of his fire at the Republicans than he does at the left, although it’s close enough to even that I’d grant you the premise that he hates them both equally. That is just not true at all of anyone here.

        • Manny Kant

          Ha, didn’t see this when I talked about Frank, Greenwald, Robin, et al, as “anti-anti-Trump” above.

      • JMV Pyro

        So “break the system out of spite”? Admittedly, Trump is the perfect vehicle for that.

        And here I was thinking that Stein was the chosen one of those types of lefties.

        • so-in-so

          You do need someone who can win for that to work.

          • JMV Pyro

            Stein doesn’t need to “win” in this scenario, she would just need to split voters enough for Trump to squeeze through.

            Even that’s assuming too much for her though

            • so-in-so

              But that’s indirect, support Stein so Trump wins, isn’t it? The more direct approach is just support Trump to win, then break things.

              • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

                Support Stein has 2 emotional payoffs:
                1- First, you don’t have to be responsible for Trump’s victory, just like many of the people who voted for Nader in 2000 are sure they’re not responsible for W’s victory.
                2- You supported a doomed candidacy, which in itself is deeply romantic for some, plus your candidate never got elected so you can continue to believe whatever you want about what great victories would have been achieved if only they had been elected.

      • Spiny

        I think there’s elements of both. John F is right that there is a part of the left that wants an anti-capitalist avatar, and doesn’t care what form it comes in. This same part has also spent decades being disappointed in the Democrats for not providing this, and so often will spitefully glom on to folks like Ron Paul, in a betrayal of large blocs of the progressive coalition.

        • Aexia

          Some of them think Ron Paul *is* that anti-capitalist avatar of true progressivism.

    • I don’t think Frank wants Trump to win. I think he is concerned that a Trump flameout is going to be used relentlessly by the establishment to shout down any attempt at a liberal policy stronger than the incrementalism currently being proposed.

      As I state below, my concern is that the collapse of Trump is going to lead to a low turnout election, with the Republicans retaining control of the Senate. We need a scary Trump to generate a wave big enough to flip the Senate.

      • Spiny

        If this is Frank’s concern, he’s completely failing to express it. What comes across much more clearly from him is disappointment that a liberal he doesn’t like might win with a decent mandate, because he decided long ago she’s not the right kind of liberal.

        • I would place Hillary in the center-left camp, which is perfectly fine for a president. I don’t know that I would classify her as a die-hard liberal, but I also think a die-hard liberal would find it difficult to govern if elected.

          • Spiny

            Sure, but whether or not she is a die-hard liberal (however we choose to define die-hard) isn’t really the point. What her degree of die-hardiness is should make no difference to the desire of any left-leaning American to see Trump defeated in a humiliating fashion. Him getting 45% or 30% will do nothing to increase the ranks or influence of the left in the progressive coalition. But a 30% outcome will both signal a repudiation of the right wing and change Congress in ways that would do a lot to enable to liberal policies Frank claims to want.

      • ForkyMcSpoon

        I really don’t get how people can think a big win for the Democrats will mean they’ll be less inclined to enact liberal policy.

        First, there’s the fact that ticket-splitting is less common, so Democratic hopes of taking Congress and therefore having any chance of enacting liberal policy hinge on Trump losing by a large margin. As you mention*.

        Second, Hillary is campaigning on a more liberal platform than ever before, so why would Democrats conclude after winning with such a platform that they shouldn’t and won’t enact any of it? And relatedly, what reason is there to think that a narrow victory would lead to Democrats pushing for more left-wing policy?

        *But your concerns seem to be a catch-22: any wave that’s big enough to deliver the House is going to show up in the polls, but those polls will also make Trump look less threatening and therefore might lead to complacency which undoes the wave. On the other hand, people love voting for a winner and don’t like voting for a loser, so it would tend to be Trump supporters who don’t show up if turnout is depressed.

        Also, winning the Senate is not as hard as you seem to think. It does not require a wave. The House requires a wave (>8 pt victory probably necessary to make it likely).

        • EliHawk

          I mean, you have these people concern trolling that a landslide that comes from demonstrating Trump’s lack of temperament means there won’t be any mandate for liberalism, which ignores that the last time a Democrat won an election with literally that exact playbook, we somehow ended up with the most successfully liberal domestic agenda in the last 75 years.

          • Aexia

            The people concern trolling about Hillary winning by *too much* also don’t think Obama’s first two years were all that great either.

        • I really don’t get how people can think a big win for the Democrats will mean they’ll be less inclined to enact liberal policy.

          You mean like taking the public health care option off the table before ACA negotiations even started, even though Obama had the largest Senate and House majorities in recent history? A ‘big win’ for Democrats doesn’t automatically translate into a liberal policy. Even with large majorities, there will be sufficient DINOs and Blue Dogs to put a brake on what can be accomplished. What having Dems in control does, however, is inject some much needed sanity into the process.

          • (((Hogan)))

            taking the public health care option off the table before ACA negotiations even started

            Umwhat?

          • You mean like taking the public health care option off the table before ACA negotiations even started, even though Obama had the largest Senate and House majorities in recent history?

            Obama campaigned for a public option (mentioning it in speeches, etc.) well into the ACA process:

            President Barack Obama promoted the idea of the public option while running for election in 2008.[5] Following his election, Obama downplayed the need for a public health insurance option, including calling it a “sliver” of health care reform,[6] but still campaigned for the option up until the health care reform was passed.[7]

            Ultimately, the public option was removed from the final bill. While the United States House of Representatives passed a public option in their version of the bill, the public option was voted down in the Senate Finance Committee[8] and the public option was never included in the final Senate bill, instead opting for state-directed health insurance exchanges.[9] Critics of the removal of the public option accused President Obama of making an agreement to drop the public option from the final plan,[10] but other journalists pointed out that the agreement was probably based more on vote counts than backroom deals, as substantiated by the final vote in the Senate.[11]

            I think he was right to downplay it as it wasn’t the be all and end all of health care reform, and it was sufficiently controversial that you wouldn’t want to tie the whole thing to it.

          • ForkyMcSpoon

            Rather than litigate how much more Obama could’ve gotten through during the 3 month window where they had a filibuster-proof Senate majority and where the votes would’ve come from, etc. – the only point that matters to what I said is whether you think Obama and the Democrats in Congress would’ve passed more liberal legislation and set more liberal policy (in the executive) had Obama’s win been narrower in 2008.

            I have a very hard time thinking that would be the case. I mean, for one, Al Franken only won by literally ~300 votes, and Obama doing worse means Franken loses and there’s no 60-seat majority.

            It seems to me that if you don’t want liberal policy to pass, that aim is achieved far more easily with a narrower margin than a larger one.

          • Manny Kant

            Ah, I see. The leadership did not take the public option off the table until well into the process – it wasn’t fully buried until Lieberman rejected Medicare buy-in, which was long after it became clear that this would be a party line vote that every single Democrat in the Senate would have a veto over.

            • I don’t see that “the leadership” did this:

              The public option was featured in three bills considered by the United States House of Representatives in 2009: the proposed Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962), which was passed by the House in 2009, its predecessor, the proposed America’s Affordable Health Choices Act (H.R. 3200), and a third bill, the Public Option Act, also referred to as the “Medicare You Can Buy Into Act”, (H.R. 4789). In the first two bills, the public option took the form of a Qualified Health Benefit Plan competing with similar private insurance plans in an internet-based exchange or marketplace, enabling citizens and small businesses to purchase health insurance meeting a minimum federal standard.

              Ultimately, the public option was removed from the final bill. While the United States House of Representatives passed a public option in their version of the bill, the public option was voted down in the Senate Finance Committee[8] and the public option was never included in the final Senate bill, instead opting for state-directed health insurance exchanges.[9] Critics of the removal of the public option accused President Obama of making an agreement to drop the public option from the final plan,[10] but other journalists pointed out that the agreement was probably based more on vote counts than backroom deals, as substantiated by the final vote in the Senate.[11]

              (I quibble with the “the leadership took it off the table” formulation because it sounds like personal opposition by Reid, Pelosi, or Obama caused the public option to be removed when it could have passed.)

              ETA: Just nitpicking!

              • Manny Kant

                Yes, you are correct – they dropped the public option because they saw it could not pass.

                That said, I don’t think I was inaccurate – the public option was defeated in the finance committee, but the full Senate never voted on the Finance committee bill. They voted on a bill basically put together from the various committee bills by Harry Reid, from what I remember. I think it’s fair to say that leadership dropped the public option, but I agree that this was because it wouldn’t have passed.

      • Manny Kant

        The idea that a Trump flame out will help the Republicans retain control of the Senate is nonsense, I think. Republicans will be more demoralized than Democrats.

    • pseudonymous in nc

      I do think that Frank has been re-writing the same book ever since One Market Under God (and the early numbers of The Baffler) and he’s going to keep re-writing it until he’s vindicated, damnit.

  • so-in-so

    Those people supporting Clinton are TRUE leftists…

    • D.N. Nation

      Buck up, lil’ feller, I at least noticed your trolling.

      • so-in-so

        Sorry, forgot the sarcastic font…

        This campaign season HAS been hard on irony detectors.

  • BGinCHI

    Maybe it was Thomas Frank that was the matter with Kansas all along.

  • I think Frank is expressing his concern that Hillary may look at the polls and decide that she really doesn’t need the Sanders folks all that much to win the election. Not saying that she is doing so, but I also don’t think it is unreasonable to feel that way.

    Secondly, I think the recent collapse of Donald Trump may wind up translating to a low turnout election, which traditionally favors the Republicans. There are many people who were lukewarm to Clinton to begin with, and may see a projected landslide victory as reason to just stay home. We need those people to come out to help flip the Senate. I think for Hillary to take office with Republicans still in control of the Senate would be disastrous.

    • humanoid.panda

      I think Frank is expressing his concern that Hillary may look at the polls and decide that she really doesn’t need the Sanders folks all that much to win the election. Not saying that she is doing so, but I also don’t think it is unreasonable to feel that way.

      This formulation makes sense, but this is not at all what Frank said. His complaint was that Hillary already stabbed Sanders supporters in the back.

      Secondly, I think the recent collapse of Donald Trump may wind up translating to a low turnout election, which traditionally favors the Republicans. There are many people who were lukewarm to Clinton to begin with, and may see a projected landslide victory as reason to just stay home. We need those people to come out to help flip the Senate. I think for Hillary to take office with Republicans still in control of the Senate would be disastrous.

      And preemtively screaming that Hillary is a neoliberal sellout is a great GOTV tactic!

      • I think it is pretty much common knowledge that there is a not insignificant percentage of Hillary’s supporters who are doing so only because they detest Trump more than they detest her. Without scary Trump to drive them to the polls, they will probably just stay home. Whether Hillary is indeed ‘neoliberal’ or not is debatable, but it is also common knowledge that she primarily shifted left because of the strength of Sanders’ and Trump’s relative campaigns. With both of those threats eliminated, she may very well revert back to norm. Given that anyone on the left who has the temerity to voice concerns is nearly immediately shouted down as a closet Trumper, perhaps the only way she will keep looking left is for Trump to get his act together.

        • humanoid.panda

          Again, no matter the merits of what you are saying, this is not at all what Frank wrote.

        • Pat

          Really, C.V, look at the platform that she is espousing. That’s what they’re going to do. No Democrat is going to go against it. Some may not be as enthusiastic on all the policies as one might like (which is why you should keep an eye out), but that platform is “the norm” to which anyone will revert.

        • CD

          common knowledge that she primarily shifted left because of the strength of Sanders’ and Trump’s relative campaigns

          ?

          calling vague bullshit “common knowledge” doesn’t make it true

          • Oh really? So Clinton was campaigning as the great liberalist right from the start? Sanders had no impact?

            • ForkyMcSpoon

              Elizabeth Warren had an impact. Her platform was significantly to the left of Obama’s and her 2008 platform from the start. She didn’t want to run against Warren and the environment was already to the left of where it was in 2008.

              Sanders pushed her further to the left.

              • FlipYrWhig

                I don’t think Sanders did much of anything. IMHO it comes down to reiterating reservations about TPP and further attention to college financing, and that’s about it. Somehow everyone has thrown in the memory hole the way that Hillary Clinton was popularly considered a radical feminist social justice warrior until the year 2002.

                • EliHawk

                  Or the fact that the Democratic Party is more liberal after eight years of Obama, because that’s what happens when you have a popular, successful leader. Clinton gets to lead Obama’s party, no matter where she was in ’08 or ’02, just like when Bush got to the brass ring in ’88, he was leading a party of Reaganauts, not Rockefellers, and had to campaign like it.

            • Manny Kant

              Oh really? So Clinton was campaigning as the great liberalist right from the start?

              More or less? She’d moved considerably to the left well before it became clear Sanders was a threat. There’s a few things that were probably Sanders inspired (opposition to TPP, notably, which not even someone as in the tank for Clinton as I am believes she’s particularly committed to), but for the most part her move to the left was not inspired by Sanders.

        • mongolia

          but it is also common knowledge that she primarily shifted left because of the strength of Sanders’ and Trump’s relative campaigns.

          aside from going against trade deals, being more explicitly for debt-free college, and being for a public option, what positions has she shifted on since her campaign started?

          one thing that has confused me (well, not really confused since this sort of thing is common) is the notion that there has been some sort of “pivot” by hillary (and obama in previous years). i mean, sure, there’s a bit of a rhetorical shift when you’re in a dem primary to a general election, but it’s a shift in the topics you’re talking about, and in the case of clinton when she talks about economics, its almost identical to what she said in the primary.

          • Manny Kant

            Clinton’s pivot appears to consist of urging Republicans to vote for her on the grounds that she’s not an insane con-man. This apparently irritates numerous leftists, even though she’s not actually moving right on policy.

    • Manny Kant

      Secondly, I think the recent collapse of Donald Trump may wind up translating to a low turnout election, which traditionally favors the Republicans.

      Wait, you’re seriously suggesting that the collapse of the Republican presidential nominee’s campaign will be good for the Republicans? Can you provide any historical examples of this?

      • The rational version of this is that a premature, sustained collapse of the presidential campaign might depress Dem turnout/allow Republican reorganisation toward down ticket races to allow them to maintain control of the House.

        Of course, they are likely to maintain control of the House anyway, so. But in the few scenarios where we get congress, we need a pretty big gap which means, probably, a pretty big turnout of the base.

      • I’m saying that reduced voter turnout typically favors Republicans. There are many people out there who are not voting for Hillary so much as they’re voting against Trump. Take Trump away, and and the motivation for them to vote goes away, too.

        If I were Hillary, I would make this election less about her vs. Trump and more about who do you want controlling the Senate (and House) to keep people motivated to come out and vote. Give her the tools to push that liberal agenda.

        • jben

          I’m saying that reduced voter turnout typically favors Republicans

          That might be the case in general, but I also recall studies showing that people who think their candidate is going to lose are less likely to turn out. So in the event of a possible landslide, lower turnout might actually help both Clinton and the Democrats.

    • catclub

      There are many people who were lukewarm to Clinton to begin with, and may see a projected landslide victory as reason to just stay home. We need those people to come out to help flip the Senate. I think for Hillary to take office with Republicans still in control of the Senate would be disastrous.

      Nixon lost GOP senate seats in 1972 if I am correctly misinformed. This would be a real bummer. Was 1972 low turnout?

      One expects bandwagon effect to help Clinton and Democrats.
      Disillusion is by losing side.

      • EliHawk

        It was a 55% turnout: Lower than 60-68, higher than anything since except for 92, 04, and 08. So ‘low turnout’ relative to what came before, but part of a general overall turnout decline. The Senate GOP lost two seats overall, but had a tougher map: The GOP had gained 3 in the 66 midterms and had 20 seats up the Democrats 14. (There was good sized churn: Dems picked up seats in 6 states (ME, KY, IA, SD, CO, DE) and the GOP picked up in 4 states (OK, NM, NC, VA) He did gain 12 seats in the House, but overall it was a rather lonely landslide on the coattails front. Plus the parties were still ideologically confused then. Plenty of Nixon’s biggest margins were in the South, which still sent Democrats back to DC (Whether segregationist like James Eastland or New South like Sam Nunn) and it was still possible to run as a different kind of Democrat some of the time. So Nixon could win Mississippi, Georgia, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Florida by 45-60 points and they’d still only send 11 Republicans to Congress out of 43 seats. That doesn’t happen these days.

    • Phil Perspective

      We need those people to come out to help flip the Senate.

      We’ll probably flip the Senate this election anyway. I’m more worried about January 2019 and the House this year.

  • NickFlynn

    I think Frank’s problems are a mix of

    1) The commercial appeal of Slatepitch style journalism

    2) The human tendency to start believing your own hype, forget how to do your actual job, and instead start inhaling your own farts. (see Gladwell, Malcolm + eleventy billion other better examples.)

    Completely trivial example of 2):

    I am old enough to remember when Bob Costas was a breath of fresh air in the world of sports broadcasting. This is actually true, however much it is hard to believe now. The corrosive effects of people lauding him for this, over time, produced the parody figure who currently blights the airwaves.

    • start inhaling your own farts. (see Gladwell, Malcolm

      who perfected his writing technique by inhaling his own farts ten thousand times!

  • Lit3Bolt

    Am I wrong in concluding that many in America’s journalistic and academic left are deeply and inexplicably ignorant of American history?

    I really don’t get the infatuation with made-up narratives, endless name-dropping for “liberal street cred,” counter-factual, contextless historical examples, the lust to project political fantasies on perceived allies or enemies, and an insatiable desire to take the fight against the “true enemy” of the pragmatists and realists in their midst.

    Is their some financial or other possible incentive I’m missing as an explanation for this behavior?

    • JMV Pyro

      The punchline is that Frank has a PhD in US History.

      • Lit3Bolt

        So he has to be trolling for clicks, right? Or setting up a pre-election narrative for post-election strutting and preening when a Republican House blocks everything except drone attacks on suspected terrorists?

      • JBL

        This just suggests that the answer to Lit3Bolt’s question is “yes.”

      • Is it significant that his Ph.D. is from Chicago? (That is, is Chicago’s history department notoriously anything in particular?)

        • Mac the Knife

          Notoriously willing to give a degree to David Brooks

    • John F

      I really don’t get the infatuation with made-up narratives, endless name-dropping for “_____________ street cred,” counter-factual, contextless historical examples, the lust to project political fantasies on perceived allies or enemies, and an insatiable desire to take the fight against the “true enemy” of the pragmatists and realists in their midst.

      You see this by folks on both the far left and the far right, it is, more or less, a personality type/defect.

      • Origami Isopod

        It’s not even limited to formal politics.

  • Spiny

    The underlying problem is and always has been a belief which Frank shares in common with many on the far left, which is that his political opinions would be widely popular if only the media/elites didn’t brainwash the masses.

    It’s an arrogant and weirdly anti-intellectual thing for purported intellectuals to believe, essentially it argues that there is no need to understand what might be appealing about conservative or moderate liberal ideology. But it hits the lizard brain hard. And to continue to believe it while parts of left political opinion are winning (like with gay rights) or at least moving the conversation (like with racial justice), and the Democrats are moving left, you have to believe that it’s all just more brainwashing.

    • Origami Isopod

      It may be irrational, but that kind of arrogance is not exactly rare in intellectual circles, regardless of political leanings.

      That said, your comment does make clear the connection between leftists like Frank and the “WAKE UP, SHEEPLE!” demographic.

    • JMV Pyro

      Actually understanding why different ideologies appeal to people and figuring out how to respond to that requires way more effort and flexibility then these people want to put into politics.

      • witlesschum

        The thing about Frank though is that he does understand that.

        Whether you exactly buy the thesis of What’s the Matter With Kansas? or not, it’s based upon an attempt to understand why conservatism appeals to people who aren’t rich. He at least understands this is a question with an answer more complicated than the above. But he’s now acting like that’s not the case.

        • Spiny

          It’s strange because What’s the Matter with Kansas? has I think come to symbolize this lack of interest in why people might believe different things. When people invoke it, they mostly do so for the “voting against their own best interests” argument. And yet as you say the book itself is not so simplistic.

          This might be where humanoid.panda’s point at the top about resentment from his advice not being taken over a decade ago starts to come into play.

        • JMV Pyro

          I think it comes down to race, which is something that Frank has a blind spot about even on his good days.

    • John F

      The underlying problem is and always has been a belief which Frank shares in common with Scott Adams, which is that his political opinions would be widely popular if only the media/elites didn’t brainwash the masses.

      Literally, as in Scott Adams has in fact blogged that the only reason people don’t realize that he, Scott Adams, is speaking truth is that they’ve been brainwashed.

      • Spiny

        Oh yeah, I think it’s generally a common belief among people with extreme minority political opinions. It’s hard to be fair and honest about other peoples’ motivations when you disagree so vehemently with the direction of politics/culture.

        • Loofah

          Spiny on the other hand IS fair and honest enough to be able to share this objective observation with the rest of who would understand it already if only we weren’t so brainwashed by our lizard brains…

          • Spiny

            I have my own blind spots, for sure, and I try to be conscious of them. What I don’t do is take false comfort in the belief that I and those who think like me have been unjustly denied our due by nefarious brainwashing plots. A lot of people just disagree with me, because of lizard brain and non-lizard brain reasons which make sense to them.

      • Lit3Bolt

        “I keep telling this person how to think and behave, and it’s not working. Must be defective.”

        Typical engineer, lol.

      • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

        I find it amusing that the people who are the biggest believers in brainwashing being common among Americans are also convinced that they’re impervious to it.

        • Spiny

          This is the arrogant part. They imagine a world with elite brainwashing that’s so effective that the obvious truth of leftist ideals is perpetually denied, then also imagine that they possess the rare gift for seeing through the bullshit.

          • Loofah

            As opposed to the humble way Spiny and GBWR are able to see through the bullshit of the leftists (all of ’em)

          • Loofah

            Because, you know, all those Fox News watching wingnuts who think Obama is a Muslim etc etc etc haven’t been brainwashed at all. You just have to walk a mile in their shoes and understand their motivations to see that the view that Obama is a secret Muslim (or fill in the blank with the whacked out belief of your choice) is every bit as valid as the view that he isn’t.

            C’mon people: open up those minds!

            • Spiny

              You seem to be mistaking my actual argument for an “everyone should just be nice to each other no matter what they believe” argument. Telling people who say an arrogant thing about others that they are being arrogant is not in itself arrogant.

              Be forthright about what you believe, tell others why you think they’re wrong, by all means. But if you won’t do others the basic courtesy of directing your arguments to them, instead of the shadowy brainwashing forces you imagine determine all their opinions, then you can hardly be surprised when they ignore you.

    • Matt McIrvin

      The parts of left political opinion that win immediately cease being left, and are the worthless crumbs that the Man gives us to keep us quiet.

      I’ve read a lot of bitter rants over the past few years about how liberals sold out everything in exchange for their stupid gay marriage.

      • ForkyMcSpoon

        Meanwhile the number of straight people telling us that we must never forget that Hillary came to support gay marriage only belatedly…

    • Solar System Wolf

      The thing that’s probably biting Frank’s butt now is that for the first time in a long time, the left got a fair public hearing for its ideas in the form of Bernie Sanders, but Bernie didn’t go on to win the nomination. Instead of cherishing the hope that one day people would resist the brainwashing and hear the message, he must now face the idea that maybe people did hear it, but decided something else this time. It’s a letdown.

      • tsam

        There’s middle ground here–I don’t think very many Democrats were at all opposed to Sanders’ ideas, but Clinton ended up winning. I wanted Sanders to win, but I’m forever grateful that at least SOME of what Sanders said ended up being part of the platform, and that a lot of Democrats feel they should pressure Clinton to govern with those principles.

        • Solar System Wolf

          No, I don’t think Democrats were opposed to Sanders’ ideas. But neither did he ride to an overwhelming victory on a sparkly unicorn of populist sentiment, which embittered leftists like Frank have been saying for years would happen if only their message wasn’t squashed by the Man.

          • tsam

            I have a good friend who says stuff like that all the time. It’s exhausting. When you counter him, he dodges to some other issue or spits out a hilarious non-sequitur.

            I try to remind him that Democrats voted for the Democratic nominee, but he insists that Sanders losing was unpossible because the DNC and DWS and reasons so shutup that’s why which is central to his point.

    • The underlying problem is and always has been a belief which Frank shares in common with many on the far left, which is that his political opinions would be widely popular if only the media/elites didn’t brainwash the masses.

      I think it is properly referred to as propaganda marketing :-)

      • Spiny

        Much like with sufficiently advanced technology and magic, the line between great marketing and brainwashing is indeed faint.

  • Colin Day

    Yes, Clinton is the candidate of sanity. But Frank makes it sound like an insult.

  • priceyeah

    Thank you for that, Scott, that was fucking terrific.

    “Headlines show” is the thinking person’s “many people are saying.”

    • Matt McIrvin

      Studies show!

      • N__B

        Five out of six dentists agree…

  • witlesschum

    Frank’s always had a thing about quote unquote cultural elites and how they think they’re so cool and they’re shitting on quote unquote ordinary Americans and why do they think they’re so cool, huh? Barack Obama comes off as pretty cool, so that may explain part of why Frank won’t take half a loaf of yes for an answer. I think he somewhat buys into the conservative version of what counts as an elite and he seems almost monmaniacally anti what he thinks of as elite.

    • JMV Pyro

      Which is weird since Frank fits the biography of those elites himself.

      I think that’s one of the reason why he always rubbed me the wrong way. He comes across as trying to hard to be the voice of the working American when he really, really isn’t.

      • Lit3Bolt

        Him and Emmett Rensin. Something about realizing you’re bourgeois provokes an extreme reaction in these clowns…

        • Scott Lemieux

          According to Rebecca Schoenkopf, he once excoriated the editor of the OC Register for wearing a suit. Rensin’s “Jon Stewart is destroying America” essay is very much in this tradition.

          • FlipYrWhig

            That explains EVERYTHING about this stupid motherfucker right there. Perfect. I know EXACTLY his type. Scourge of my professional life.

          • Phil Perspective

            Interesting that you quote Rebecca Schoenkopf there but don’t mention her recent greatest hits.

            • Origami Isopod

              Why should he have? How are they relevant to the discussion in this immediate subthread?

              • Phil Perspective

                She called Jill Stein the c-word the other day. The one that rhymes with punt. Then she writes an article saying it’s no big deal if WJC did in fact rape Juanita Brodrick.

                • calling all toasters

                  Thanks for steering me to those two articles! I really enjoyed them! Anything else making you furious lately? And, if so, could you post links?

                • Origami Isopod

                  Okay, those are both terrible, and while I didn’t have any respect to lose for Schoenkopf because I didn’t really know who she was, I don’t have any now.

                  I still don’t see how either anecdote proves she’s lying about Rensin. I mean, she sounds like an asshole, but “asshole” and “liar” are not mutually inclusive.

  • David Allan Poe

    He grew up a Reagan Republican, had a come-to-Jesus moment in late adolescence, and grafted a lot of new language about class and socialism onto a skeleton made out of distrust of “identity politics” and reflexive hatred of the Democratic Party. His anger at being duped by Reagan transferred into a refusal to be swindled by (Bill) Clinton. Same thing happened to me, and I see the same sort of pattern in a lot of straight white men of a similar age.

    I got over it, though it took some doing. Maybe he will.

    • Origami Isopod

      grafted a lot of new language about class and socialism onto a skeleton made out of distrust of “identity politics” and reflexive hatred of the Democratic Party.

      This makes a lot of sense to me; thanks for articulating it. I’ve seen that dynamic happen in other contexts (e.g., grafting the language of social justice onto conservative beliefs about gender and race).

    • JMV Pyro

      That makes a good deal of sense.

      I guess not everyone can have a model, John Cole transition.

  • Alex.S

    certain of his less bloodthirsty foreign policy proposals almost remind one of George McGovern’s campaign theme: “Come home, America.”

    Huh.

    I guess if someone ignores almost everything Trump has said or done, then it’s possible to construct a left-wing populist peaceful Trump. Frank goes there in his field. But he can’t quite reach that level with something outside of it, where he has to acknowledge Trump’s warmongering and xenophobia.

  • jlredford

    I think that Frank, like Matt Taibbi, was massively disappointed in Obama’s failure to decisively deal with Wall Street. Sure, there’s Dodd-Frank, the CFPB, and a lot of big SEC fines, but the Street is still as big and bad as ever. In their minds the failure to actually jail people who certainly deserved it taints everything else Obama managed to do. This one big whiff proved that he’s a tool of the oligarchy. The Clintons, past and future, are even more entwined with the banksters, and so even more suspect.

    This is a pretty common view, actually, and has some merit, but there’s more to running the country than money. On every other issue Bill/Obama/Hillary are better than any possible GOP candidate. And on this too, it’s embarrassing that Frank would take Trump seriously when he talks about not being beholden to the oligarchs.

    • Lit3Bolt

      I think the bankers threatened Obama with their big reveal; it’s fraud, all the way down.

      Obama the pragmatist decided he didn’t want to pull the plug on the credit bathtub and force everyone back to subsistence farming because principles.

    • Sebastian_h

      The fact that essentially no one went to jail is indeed a serious indictment of Obama’s administration. It looks to be part of his move-on and fix things for the future mentality which showed up in the war crimes question as well. The problem with that is that in the case of bank managers they learned that they definitely can get away with it all. Clinton will very likely be worse on this issue. Of course Trump would be even worse still, which is exactly why the “no difference” brigade gets traction even though they are wrong.

      • Origami Isopod

        As much as I would like for there to be prison terms and heavy financial penalties for war criminals and banksters, I am not sure if these are decisions presidents can make on their own, in terms of how much political power they actually wield. Maybe I’m giving Obama too much of the benefit of the doubt, I don’t know.

        • JBL

          I think it’s pretty clear that Obama couldn’t have made such a decision on his own, and also that he wouldn’t have if he could have. And ditto Clinton.

          • Geeedavey

            I believe it was a pragmatic decision. I think it would have been very difficult to get a conviction, and even harder to make it stick. When Bob McDonnell had his conviction overturned by the Supreme Court it shows just how hard it is to convict anyone on fraud or bribery and have it upheld. His bribery was pretty obvious to anyone reading the facts of his case.

            • EliHawk

              The way I see it, you have two of the most elite, aggressive, ambitious, publicity hound seeking US Attorneys’ Offices in SDNY and EDNY, who have put the fear of god into Albany and FIFA, respectively, and yet weren’t able to ‘put all the banksters in jail’ and give them nasty perp walks. It’s because proving those charges is quite hard, and often the scandal is what’s legal. But you have a whole discourse on the interwebs of ‘Jailing Wall Street was super easy. But He. Didn’t. Even. Try.’

              • Manny Kant

                Right. I don’t at all believe that Bharara and Lynch would have been willing to not prosecute banksters if they’d had strong cases against them, and I don’t believe Holder and Obama really could have done anything, much less want to to do anything, to stop them if they had.

                The problem here isn’t Obama, it’s that these cases are hard to make, and a lot of the stuff they were doing is legal.

            • JBL

              “Obama is the kind of person who would think it pragmatic to not try to prosecute any banking executives” is precisely the content of the criticism; it cannot also be the content of the retort.

          • Yes, if we’re going to look to criticise Obama, let’s look at things that 1) were easily within his power and 2) would have been a big deal. How he handled the mortgage crises stands out.

            I also would love that people who were obviously reckless to criminal to extreme critical would face all the justice they deserve. But enacting that against our elites with the current legal regime and Republican party is very difficult. Just consider his attempt to close Gitmo.

            • tsam

              True story.

              I thought that out of that 797 billion (?), some direct mortgage relief would have bailed out both homeowners and banks. But instead, the banks ended up with most of it and a whole bunch of people still lost their homes, setting them back 10 years in life.

              • FlipYrWhig

                Odd, the way I remember it there was a political protest movement around that same time caught fire with the suggestion that helping people with their underwater mortgages was an improper and unfair use of public money, because they had been Taxed Enough Already. They were known by an acronym of some sort.

                • tsam

                  I really wonder how many of those doofuses lost their houses in all of that.

      • junker

        In a world with a million problems and a limited amount of resources I think Obama decided that other priorities were more important. The stimulus and the ACA just barely got over the finish line. Would he have gotten those if he the administration was enmeshed in a bitter struggle over prosecutions?

        I think it’s fair to decide for yourself what Obama should have focused on, but I don’t know that it’s fair to pretend they could have gotten everything done, and that therefore a failure to do something implies that Obama didn’t think it was a big deal. I think the dilemma here is between “prosecutions and the ACA,” not “Prosecutions and no prosecutions.”

      • Aexia

        The problem was that the economic collapse was caused by actions were generally a combination of being

        1. diffuse in responsibility

        2. incredibly difficult to prove

        3. largely *legal*

        • DW

          Yeah, look at all of those UK and EU banksters in jail, and Obama. Just. Didn’t. Try.

          • Richard Gadsden

            The narrative here is that we didn’t lock anyone up, where at least you all got Bernie Madoff.

          • Phil Perspective

            Why did Iceland jail theirs? Even if the sentences later got reduced. It’s hilarious saying that proving criminal intent was/is hard. Look at the billions in fines. They made a conscious effort not to prosecute.

            • Origami Isopod

              Iceland probably has very different laws than the U.S. does. As was said elsewhere in this thread, a lot of the financial fuckery that happened was, and AFAIK still is, perfectly legal here.

            • J Smith

              Because Iceland is not a state or territory of the U.S. Rather, it is a separate nation.

            • Manny Kant

              Because Iceland has a completely different legal system from the US? (Notably, a civil code system that is a lot more friendly to prosecutors than the common law system in the US)

        • SIWOTI

          I don’t think that it would have been difficult to prove. You would have had to do it the way you often do organized crime prosecutions – get the guys on the ground to roll over first and implicate the guys in the next level up.

          The would have meant prosecuting mortgage brokers, a lot of people on the ground who encouraged things like NINJA loans, mortgage fraud, and having them roll over on the next level of bankers, the guys buying these things up to package them in CDOs. What did they know and when did they know it? And the cycle continues until you get to the C-level suites.

          Each of these actions which contributed to the economic crisis were individual in nature, so someone was responsible somewhere along the line.

          All of the cases would have been fact intensive, which is different from being difficult to prove.

          There’s bad judgment, which is legal, and there was fraud, which wasn’t. Largely legal means that it wasn’t legal. There were prosecutable violations of law, and building cases should have been done. Not all of them would have reached up to the C-level suites, because there were some useful idiots in those positions who allowed it to happen, even if they weren’t a part of it. But there would have been some big fish caught along the way.

          The 2008 financial crisis should have been the law school Class of 2008 employment act, and it was a real missed opportunity.

          I think the real reason why they weren’t prosecuted was because of the collateral effect on the rest of the global economy. You saw the same kinds of concerns implicated in the HSBC non-prosecution in 2012. (See https://theintercept.com/2016/07/12/eric-holders-longtime-excuse-for-not-prosecuting-banks-just-crashed-and-burned/)

          The sad thing is that criminals got away with crimes, and nobody has confidence in the banks anyway. Would have been better off charging the lot and dealing with the fallout.

          • Solar System Wolf

            I worked on a mortgage fraud case in 2008, and trying to pin the fraud on the banks was difficult, given how insulated they had made themselves in the chain from the fraud that was occurring in the loan originations.

            The bigger, better cases could have been brought by the government for securities fraud in the way the banks passed off crappy loans to each other and failed to follow legal processes in moving the loans into securitized trusts. I think the Justice Department was scared to go there and settled for fines instead, but really I think they should have.

          • J Smith

            Please point out which provisions of the U.S. Code and Fed Regs were violated, by whom, how and when. It would also help if you could illuminate this analysis with some case law. Finally, some idea of the evidence to be presented, its admissibility and relevance may also be beneficial.

            This should be pretty easy, as I understand it, so I’ll take a quick bathroom break while you do that.

    • humanoid.panda

      I think that Frank, like Matt Taibbi, was massively disappointed in Obama’s failure to decisively deal with Wall Street.

      I think that this sentence perfectly describes the disagreement between leftists and liberals. From where I stand, within the bounds of liberal, pluralistic politics, its almost impossible, and hardly advisable to “decisively deal” with any major institution/practice.

    • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

      I’m just guessing because I don’t think he’s ever said why he didn’t prosecute them, but I imagine it was a combination of:
      1) Primarily, he became President during the worst economic crisis since the Depression. To have prosecuted the bankers would have created major turmoil because it would have meant changing the top management at the banks in the middle of a banking crisis. I note that FDR didn’t prosecute anyone, either.
      2) Secondarily, it would have consumed his administration’s time and energy for several years, and given the poor record of convicting CEOs, probably have resulted in only a few convictions, most or all of which would have been reversed on appeal. Obama simply had other priorities.

    • EliHawk

      I think that Frank, like Matt Taibbi, was massively disappointed in Obama’s failure to decisively deal with Wall Street.

      I think, even bigger than that, is the problem that for people like Frank and Tiabbi, politics and ‘decisively dealing with Wall Street’ is about pantomime heroes and villains and not actually solving problems. They’d be happier if, say, the DOJ gave Jamie Dimon and a bunch of other Bank CEOs long prison terms and never bothered passing Dodd-Frank or establishing the CFPB. Actually building institutions that have real impact and fight the systemic risk that helped cause the crash are just opportunities for selling out. That’s one thing I hate about the 1% vs 99% discourse on the left: Far too often it’s focused on punishing the 1% than it is paying attention to policies that will help the rest.

    • Bruce B.

      I continue to share their disappointment about this, in the sense that I’d really like to see hides nailed to the wall and possibly heads on pikes. But it didn’t take all that long for me to realize that this wouldn’t happen, and that trying to make it happen would waste energy that could go into something that might happen. The ACA, vast and far-reaching as it is, was a much easier undertaking than a real purge of Wall Street would be.

      I don’t like that reality, but I can’t see a way to change it except lil’ bits around the margin for a long time to come.

    • Manny Kant

      On every other issue Bill/Obama/Hillary are better than any possible GOP candidate.

      They are better than any possible GOP candidate on Wall Street stuff, too, surely?

  • not being beholden to the oligarchs.

    Well, he’s not. Other than some Russian ones.

    • so-in-so

      And himself…

  • royko

    I’m sick of this whole Trump-as-liberal meme. He was, in the past, a bit squishier on some culture war social issues, as is pretty typical for city-dwelling non-religious business types, but he’s also shown a total willingness to abandon any principal and say anything to further this bizarre campaign-like performance art he’s doing, and he’s desperately in need of support from the core Republican constituencies, so he’s going to be pretty reliably anti-abortion regardless of what he may have thought on the subject 20 years ago.

    One of the longstanding tensions of the Republican coalition has been the fact that in some ways, the .01% pro-business conservatives who dominate the direction of the party are at odds on some issues with their base voters. They’ve held things together by poising the populist well, by convincing their voters that any policy to help working and middle class Americans is really just a handout for the blahs. Their voters do see working Americans getting squeezed right and left as jobs leave the country, but they’re lost in the rhetoric of makers and takers. If we just stop giving handouts to welfare queens and start giving even more tax cuts to the “job creators”, they think things will get back on track. If we just end food stamps and the death tax, the middle class will be doing great. What?

    The only time the cracks begin to show are with immigration reform, where the xenophobic and racist sentiments meant to keep base voters from supporting a safety net also make them unwilling to bring in the cheap foreign labor that the business sector likes. The party leaders haven’t found a way to square that circle.

    So there are a few veins of populism buried deep in the Republican party, but wrapped in so much racism there’s no way for the current progressive coalition to tap into them, and nothing the conservative coalition wants to do with them, except twist them into more calls for tax cuts. Trump himself certainly isn’t going to do anything with them except keep stoking the white hot coals of xenophobia.

    Then again, the whole exercise of pining for conservative populism is pretty racist anyway, as it amounts to “Liberalism isn’t legitimate unless older white males are on board.”

  • glasnost

    I’m pretty skeptical that Scott’s take on Frank is fair here, although it’s impossible to tell because Scott doesn’t actually provide a link anywhere to the piece he’s citing (which, for the record, is Breitbart-style bullshit), but even if the worst of it accurately reflect’s TF’s views, I’d like to make a few counterpoints.

    1). Speaking for myself only, I didn’t really come to loathe Trump myself until.. I don’t know, June? May? While he was winning the nomination, it was easy to have mixed feelings about him. He wasn’t just whipping up on empty suits like Rubio/Jeb, he was beating Ted Cruz, and Ted Cruz is basically Paul Ryan with an extra dose of confrontationalism. A lot of people feel like they’ve been fighting a 40-year Republican Master plan designed by Grover Nordquist to eliminate social spending in the USG and dramatically escalate class warfare in favor of the rich. Despite his shit tax plan, Trump ran on a lot of anti-Wall street rhetoric and it seemed plausible that his voters were responding to a broader anti-Wall Street agenda. Whatever Trump was defined by, it wasn’t eliminating social spending. He had a multi-faceted posture of bullshit against various Randite elements – no touching Social Security, the trade stuff, the laughably false stuff about being beyond big money b/c billionare, open dominance politics vs. the Kochs, etc etc. Yes, I know it was ludicrious, listen to the words here- it was about his voters liking it, or at least our perceptions that his voters were liking it.

    It’s clear now that DT doesn’t give a shit about any of this stuff, but he also didn’t and doesn’t give a shit about Paul Ryan’s agenda, very much unlike most Republican activists. That seemed important, and it’s important no matter how shitbag, or hypocritical, or horrible Trump is. Because DT is a four-standard deviations level of incoherent and transparently dishonest, but he seemed to be paving a road to let less garbage fire Republican politicians follow his lead.

    And this all matters because, whatever you want to say about BO, with a Republican lock on the House two decades in the making and not letting up any time soon, domestic fiscal policy in the BO administration – all the stuff related to congress, and it’s a lot – has been shit. And you know it’s been shit. I’m not blaming BO (in this paragraph), but sequestration has led to declining domestic spending since 2010. That’s screaming red light awful. Our infrastructure is broken, our legal system is starved and predatory, Obamacare needs help, things are generally shit – 48% of the Democratic party that voted for Sanders agrees with me here -, and since we’re not taking back the House anytime soon, a factional split in the Republican party, with one faction openly repudiating the minimal state, is the only realistic chance we had.

    That’s a lot of people who do, in fact, care about this country’s treatment of minorities still had mixed feelings about Early Days Trump.

    Obviously, things look different now. And yes, the signs were there early on, no doubt. But it’s a legit debate to balance the need to break the Paul Ryan hammerlock on US domestic policy (which would lead you to want some kind of Trump-like Republican split – which is also helping HRC landslide right now, BTW) with the need to protect people from Trump’s white supremacist bullshit by rooting for his total collapse. If you want to say I only care about rich white people because I emotionally responded to Ayn Rand candidates being rhetorically pwned, well go ahead, cast your stones, best wishes.

    Point 2) Look, I like LGM and I don’t dismiss Scott’s take on BO’s accomplishments. I’d say he did the best he thought he could do on many issues. But he fucked up really horribly certainly as bad as Bill Clinton, arguably much worse – on a couple of hugely important topics – namely the foreclosure crisis and the debt ceiling negotiations that created the sequester – two areas where he almost certainly had the power to do more and botched it, no Green lantern required – and we’re basically lucking out that the US is more or less recovering on its own, because the Repubs have neutralized most of the Federal Government. Some serious dissapointment in BO is legit. See: Sanders, Bernie.

    • Gregor Sansa

      But he fucked up really horribly certainly as bad as Bill Clinton, arguably much worse – on a couple of hugely important topics – namely the foreclosure crisis and the debt ceiling negotiations that created the sequester

      On foreclosure, I totally agree. But on debt ceiling? I can imagine contrafactuals that come out better, but none of them without risking something; and others which avoid risks that didn’t turn out to happen. But neither of those counts as “fucked up really horribly”; more like “not what I’d have gone with, but who knows”.

      • glasnost

        We locked ourselves into a fiscally contractionary policy for 10 years. It was a horrifically awful outcome. Boehner-Ryan-Mcconnell literally designed it to engineer an economy crappy enough to help a Republican take back the White House in 2016. I’d say had a better than even chance of working. There’s a reason the Abramowitz model expected a normal republican to win this year.

        Sure, a posture of vetoing anything that wasn’t a total climbdown (or a real figleaf 99% climbdown) had some risk involved, but per above, anything other than that also had huge risk – of a macroeconomy so bad as to hand 2016 to a Repub -, while also hurting real people very badly.

        It was a difficult situation. It was also a serious fuckup with bad consequences for everyone. The difficulty can lead you to call it tragic if you want, but avoidable catastrophes don’t give you credit for trying.

        • Gregor Sansa

          But there’s no guarantee that it was avoidable. Being a hardass could have just led to an actual long-term shutdown and that could have been worse. You might find it unlikely but it’s certainly not a crazy idea.

          • Brien Jackson

            Since we’re not talking about the shutdown but the debt ceiling, this undersells things a lot: Passing the threshold could possibly have caused a global economic meltdown. It’s outrageous that it came to that, but that’s the fault of GOP hostage takers whose agency Obama couldn’t control. Blaiming Obama for recognizing that Congressional minorities have real power and can use it to really awful ends if they want when they have leverage is just stupid.

            • Richard Gadsden

              One of the RW memes is that “the House of Representatives has the power of the purse” and that the Senate or President rejecting a House budget is unconstitutional.

              Which wouldn’t pass a fifth-grade civics class, but there’s no wonder the budget negotiations are such a disaster when the base believes that.

              • Manny Kant

                All revenue bills must originate in the House. That’s all the Constitution says on the matter (it is true, however, that the president cannot veto a budget, because budgets are concurrent resolutions, and don’t have the force of law; the president can of course veto both tax and spending bills).

                This was based on the English tradition of the Commons having primacy over taxing and spending, but notably did not develop into complete control by the House of that process in the way that it did in the UK and other Westminster systems.

    • XTPD

      Here’s the pice Scott cited. It dates back to July 28, though, so I’m not sure why he’s doing a takedown of it just now.

      • Alex.S

        Two days ago Thomas Frank published a piece with a headline of “With Trump certain to lose, you can forget about a progressive Clinton”. This is in contract with the July 28th piece titled “Hilary Clinton needs to wake up. Trump is stealing the voters she takes for granted”. The funny picture of comparing the two headlines is making the rounds on twitter, so Scott wrote a piece looking at the two articles.

    • tsam

      1). Speaking for myself only, I didn’t really come to loathe Trump myself until.. I don’t know, June? May? While he was winning the nomination, it was easy to have mixed feelings about him. He wasn’t just whipping up on empty suits like Rubio/Jeb, he was beating Ted Cruz, and Ted Cruz is basically Paul Ryan with an extra dose of confrontationalism.

      The 4(?) years of birther bullshit that eventually lead to Obama releasing his long form certificate didn’t make you loathe him?

      • While he was winning the nomination, it was easy to have mixed feelings about him.

        I’m hard pressed to see how. I can loath all the Republican candidate simultaneously, and if you weren’t concerned about Trump then you weren’t paying attention, sorry.

        • tsam

          I have the feeling that maybe glasnost wasn’t taking Trump seriously at first (I sure didn’t) so directed most of his/her loathing elsewhere, maybe. But this birther shit made me decide that Trump is a useless shit of a person long before he made this run at the presidency.

          • N__B

            You weren’t much exposed to him until the aughts. I’ve loathed him since the 80s.

      • royko

        I’ll add: “Most illegal immigrants are rapists and murders” didn’t make you loathe him? “Megyn Kelly is on the rag” didn’t make you loathe him? The wall? Cutting off Muslim immigration?

        I mean, yeah, he’s a wildcard. He’s doing this for kicks, so he’s willing to go against conservative orthodoxy from time to time and to do things that annoying pundits say are no-nos. And the other candidates were horrible, too. But it’s been obvious he’s a horrible and dangerous human being as long as he’s been in this thing. And there was never any chance in hell he was going to seriously go after Wall Street, occasional rhetoric aside.

        • XTPD

          To be fair, Trump’s most plausible competitor was the fish monster.

        • Geeedavey

          Thomas Friedman recently had an op-ed piece about Trump where he actually used the words “He’s a disgusting human being. His children should be ashamed of him.” This isn’t a new development. I have been revolted by Trump since the Central Park jogger case in 1989 (look it up sometime, this was Trump at his most disgusting). He mocked the disabled reporter in November of last year. The guy is a racist, misogynistic pig running a white supremacist campaign, and its only recently that you started to loathe him?

        • tsam

          Yeah–he had a shitty history before his opening comments, which put him squarely in the “holy shit this big mouthed little shit is fucking nuts”.

        • Caepan

          Heck, Donald Trump’s been dead to me since he tried to make the USFL into a fall pro football league!

          (pushes trilby hat back, puts feet wearing $500 “authentic” work boots up on desk)

      • sharculese

        stoking xenophobia, cozying up to white nationalists, encouraging violence against the press, making sexist remark after sexist remark, the list goes on.

        But he said some mean things about Wall Street that he didn’t back up with substance, so how bad could he really be?

        • glasnost

          All I can tell you is, to use a very crude heruistic, “what appeared to be going on?” When media coverage of Trump had a large soupcon of his picking fights with Randites, it was easy to conclude that this was part of why he was attracting support. And since the main source of info about the guy was CNN, his campaign, especially at first and regardless of whatever he was actually saying, really was more or less whatever CNN was emphasizing (or what the NYT told me CNN was emphasizing). That was basically all I knew about him.

          Yeah. There was early evidence that he was a crude immigrant basher, but frankly, it didn’t seem like anything new. “Build a wall didn’t seem like anything new – the Republican base attitude has been “deport everyone” since forever. It faded into the background. And, it didn’t really matter how loathsome he was as a person when his only relevance was “destroying the conservative movement: yes?” His personal loathesomeness didn’t appear to have implications beyond the poor bastards who had to interact with him.

          gradually, he developed a more distinct fan base than “Republicans attracted to superficial condemnation of Republican grift”, and it turned out to be white nationalists, etc etc etc. Coverage of it, and thus awareness, was a gradual process. Ok, someone paying attention would have seen it sooner. Cast the first stone. Even now, splitting the Republican party is god’s work and it seems plausible that the Forces of Good will be net better off, have more actual power, etc, thanks to DT winning the nomination. Under a certain limit, his faction grows, Republican political power writ large, shrinks.

          • tsam

            “Build a wall didn’t seem like anything new – the Republican base attitude has been “deport everyone” since forever. It faded into the background. And, it didn’t really matter how loathsome he was as a person when his only relevance was “destroying the conservative movement: yes?”

            It certainly wasn’t new, that’s true. But from prominent party members, like presidential candidates, it usually doesn’t include statements like “they’re all rapists and murderers”.

          • djw

            This reads like it’s from some alternative universe. The ban on Muslims entering the country was proposed in December. “Mexico is sending rapists” was a statement he made within a few days of announcing his candidacy, IIRC. Refusing to renounce David Duke’s support was in February. “Kick the crap out of them and I’ll pay the legal fees” re: protesters was February. On the planet I live on, all of these things were widely discussed in the press coverage of Trump’s campaign. That he was running a campaign based on white nationalism was perfectly obvious within months, if not days, of the beginning of his campaign 14 months ago.

            • tsam

              Right–and his Twitter feed between 2012 and 2015 was a cesspool of bigoted sewage. He was perfectly detestable long before his creepy debutante ball in Trump Tower.

            • JBL

              Many people, even people who are interested in American politics, do not pay a lot of attention to news about presidential campaigns of a party to which they don’t belong months before they will have a chance to vote. Not that Trump isn’t awful — but he’s awful in different ways than, say, Cruz, and a person paying only marginal attention could easily have interpreted that difference as an improvement.

              • djw

                Many people, even people who are interested in American politics, do not pay a lot of attention to news about presidential campaigns of a party to which they don’t belong months before they will have a chance to vote.

                This is true, but glasnost was going on about how Trump didn’t seem bad if you got all your information through CNN. I don’t watch it religiously, but I’m pretty sure this stuff was all well covered there.

        • Origami Isopod

          stoking xenophobia, cozying up to white nationalists, encouraging violence against the press, making sexist remark after sexist remark, the list goes on.

          None of that affected Glasnost.

      • JB2

        Don’t forget mocking the disabled reporter; this is showing up in polls as one of the real turnoffs, right up there with the Khan family.

    • ForkyMcSpoon

      It was easy to be more amused than afraid of Trump during the primaries. And even now, I still have that mixture of feelings. Especially since his polls against Clinton and Sanders were generally so awful, it was easy to dismiss him as having no chance.

      But the fact that he was an awful person who would be an awful president was never in question. Him spouting some BS about Wall Street or being neutral with Palestine (a meaningless statement if you don’t know what he considers to be “neutral”) or dishonestly claiming he was opposed to intervention in Iraq and Libya or whatever else that might have been appealing did not give me any mixed feelings.

      I did enjoy, however, how in his bullshit artistry, he had violated some Republican orthodoxies without any consequences in the primaries. And particularly when he took down Jeb! for saying Dubya kept us safe.

      But I think some of those are things only Trump could get away with for various reasons. Whoever runs in 2020 may borrow some heresies from Trump, but I think they will mostly stick to the GOP orthodoxy.

    • Scott Lemieux

      which, for the record, is Breitbart-style bullshit

      Oh, fer Chrissakes. Sorry I forgot to include the link to the first column. It was extensively quoted! You could have googled it in 3 seconds! Do you seriously think I was trying to keep people from the truth about his awful column?


      Trump ran on a lot of anti-Wall street rhetoric and it seemed plausible that his voters were responding to a broader anti-Wall Street agenda

      For the reasons explained, you’re a massive sucker if you believed that.

      balance the need to break the Paul Ryan hammerlock on US domestic policy

      There was never any chance that Trump was going to do this.

      On point 2, I’ve never said that there was no reason to criticize Obama or that he did everything well. I’m saying the idea that the Democratic Party hasn’t moved to the left and Obama didn’t accomplish anything — with, without a hint of exaggeration, is Frank’s position — is absurd.

      • Posting wrong on the wrong topics and then responding to criticism wrongly…is there no end to your perfidy, my good fellow?! None at all!?

    • David W.

      There wasn’t a foreclosure crisis really, there was an unemployment crisis as a result of the housing bubble bursting. If you don’t have a job, you can’t afford to make any house payments, and the fact was that many people were already tapping into their home equity as a line of credit before 2007 during Bush’s jobless recovery from 2001. Combine that with resorting to dubious mortgage underwriting practices rather than requiring things like 20% down-payments, and it’s hard to see what could have been done to help everyone. It’s an article of faith on the Further Left that Obama Didn’t. Even. Try. with foreclosures, but they’re focusing on the wrong problem.

      • Solar System Wolf

        It was a double whammy — an unemployment crisis coupled with mortgage loans written purposely to go off like bombs at some future date. Consumers were told they would be able to refinance before the loans reset to their higher rates. Every time the loans flipped, the banks made money. If some people couldn’t refi and lost their homes, no problem — the price of real estate was only ever going to go up, not down, so selling a few homes at foreclosure is still going to make money. The banks were making money coming and going. The only reason it stopped is because so many loans were made, there was no way the economy could sustain so many going bad at one time.

    • Junipermo

      Long time lurker, first time commenter here. I hope I’m not out of bounds for jumping in, but I just have to respond to this.

      When a man starts out his campaign by labeling Mexicans as rapists, the best case scenario is that the candidate is whipping up white nationalism in a cynical and ugly ploy to gain votes. Best case. Worse case is that he believes the noxious racism he’s spewing. At the end of the day, to people of color (like myself), it’s a distinction without a difference. In the long history of this country, we have seen what happens when whites demonize non white men as uncontrollable rapists-in-waiting. The extreme danger of this kind of rhetoric poses to people of color is real.

      Given this, it is extremely hard to take seriously anyone’s claim that he/she cares about minorities but had “mixed feelings” about Trump.

      • Long time lurker, first time commenter here.

        Welcome!

        I hope I’m not out of bounds for jumping in, but I just have to respond to this.

        Not at all! Your jumping in is perfectly reasonable.

        Given this, it is extremely hard to take seriously anyone’s claim that he/she cares about minorities but had “mixed feelings” about Trump.

        Spot on.

        • XTPD

          I’ll admit, I had mixed feelings about Trump during the primaries too. Specifically, the feeling “Motherfuck Trump” was mixed with “Destroy Ted Cruz” and schadenfreude at the GOP committing electoral suicide.

      • tsam

        Given this, it is extremely hard to take seriously anyone’s claim that he/she cares about minorities but had “mixed feelings” about Trump.

        It’s the “what’s in it for me” paradox. How much do I actually care if I can catch tasty tax cut?

        This question answers itself if you’ve made it this far into the internal discussion.

        ETA: Keep on posting!

    • a_paul_in_mtl

      The signs that Trump was running on bigotry were there for anyone long BEFORE he even jumped into the race over a year ago~ Like, I don’t know, when he was pushing that birther crap about Obama. Sheesh.

    • Manny Kant

      I’m pretty skeptical that Scott’s take on Frank is fair here, although it’s impossible to tell because Scott doesn’t actually provide a link anywhere to the piece he’s citing

      I’m pretty sure that’s not what “impossible” means.

  • Gregor Sansa

    I think Atrios/Bartlett have it right. Clinton’s rhetoric would be within the bounds of “moderate Republican” if she would just say “… and what about those stupid hippies, amirite?” every other sentence. And some of her friends have said that in the past, including her husband, so let’s totally blame her for that.

    I’m not saying Clinton refrains from hippie-punching entirely. But she is remarkably abstemious in that regard, especially given that she had more than enough opportunities during the primary, and I give her a lot of credit for that. But I can see how a preconceived notion that she must be a copy of her husband, would blind you to that. So I could imagine how you make the Frank mistake.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Clinton’s rhetoric would be within the bounds of “moderate Republican”

      ?

      • DW

        Nelson Rockefeller, Margaret Chase Smith, that black senator from Massachusetts; you know, people who’ve been out of politics for decades.

        • One thing that bugs me about this is so freaking what. It wasn’t like the whole of the Republcian party was like that. They were on the leftmost end of the Republican party. There were rightmost Democrats that overlapped. It’s not meaningful to call the former “Republicans” without some modifiers, i.e., “outlier even in their time”. (Your “as have not existed for decades” is good, but needs to go further.)

          • Scott Lemieux

            I’ve said this before, but the “Rockefeller Republican” label applied to Democrats is just dumb. Either it’s meaningless in a misleading way (there used to be some actual liberals in the Republican Party decades ago, who gives a shit?) or it’s far to generous to the GOP.

        • EliHawk

          What’s funny is the first time Hillary Rodham came to national attention was calling out that Black Senator (Edward Brooke) from Massachusetts as part of her Wellesley commencement address.

      • Gregor Sansa

        In the sense of “blue state Republican”…. ok I give up. I had a point but when the number of qualifications necessary for validity exceeds the good deeds of the Romans better just quit.

        • tsam

          I’ve painted myself into that corner before.

          Might I suggest posting Navy SEAL copypasta and running like hell?

      • ForkyMcSpoon

        The argument is that tribalism matters more to them than actual policy positions, not that her policy positions resemble a moderate Republican’s. I.e. it doesn’t matter what you think about minimum wage as long as you hate the right people and are One Of Us.

        In other words, Hillary Clinton would be acceptable to many Republicans if she simply bashed Democrats and had the appropriate cultural signifiers.

        There’s something to that, as the GOP base is rather forgiving of Trump’s deviations from conservative orthodoxy on some issues (trade being the most consistent one). But I don’t really buy that Clinton’s platform could be sold to a GOP audience with enough hippie punching.

        Certain elements of it, sure. You’re seeing that with Trump talking about investing in infrastructure. Not hearing any complaints about that. Then again, the Congressional GOP knows he’d need them to pass it in order for anything to come of his bullshitting, so they don’t care.

  • Bitter Scribe

    What has always annoyed me about Frank is that he seems to almost completely ignore the role of racial/sexual bigotry in the rise of conservatism, and of Trump in particular. He always seems genuinely perplexed as to why white Republicans consistently vote against their own economic interests, and never even considers that appeals to bigotry might account for this.

    • Gregor Sansa

      I agree. But…. yeah, well pretty much everyone ignores the role of first past the post in the rise of conservatism, and of Trump in particular. So I’m used to feeling like that.

      • Matt McIrvin

        Trump-like politicians are on the rise all over the world, though, in countries with all kinds of different political systems.

        • Well, perhaps not all kinds of different political systems: I see no Trump-alikes in Somalia, Myanmar, or North Korea! But perhaps it’s just a matter of time…

        • Manny Kant

          But notably not in Canada, which does have a first past the post system.

  • CDT

    Scott, respectfully, you are willfully misreading Frank’s Guardian columns. Perhaps that is why you do not link to them, although you did find rom to link to the Glengarry Glenross script. Frank’s point is that Trump’s implosion has ended the media narrative that the Sanders and Trump phenomena demonstrate that economic discontent needed to be taken seriously. Frank’s point was not that he believed Trump’s populist appeals, or that they were sincere as were Sanders’. He was commenting on how the media narrative, by equating support for Sanders and Trump, allowed economic justice issues to penetrate the narrative. The point of his latest column is that Trump’s collapse has taken with it any need for political and media elites to take economic discontent seriously.

    • trollhattan

      And the point of the points is the Dems are now busy writing those things out of the platform?

      It would be irresponsible not to speculate….

    • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

      If that’s Frank’s point, I think I respect it less than Scott’s version.

      Looking over the past century in the U.S., I hear a lot of talk about how populism is about to finally exercise political power, but I see little evidence that it ever does.

      And to the degree that populism has exercised political power, it’s been in service of racism primarily.

      I’d love to see economic justice, but I’m pretty sure it’s less likely to happen than, say, science giving us eternal youth in a decade or two.

    • FlipYrWhig

      Not provided: any evidence that Donald Trump ever gave two shits substantively or even rhetorically about “economic discontent.” He said trade deals were bad but that he’d make them better. He said something about hedge funds and taxes. That’s about it, no? To take that as grounds for cooking up a whole theory about how Trump and his voters are actually liberal populists just struggling for the right conceptual vocabulary is a spectactular display of wishful thinking. But that’s Thomas Frank for you.

      • so-in-so

        I recall a very brief mention that taxes on rich people obviously had to be higher. Maybe a month, early on. Also the Social Security needed to be protected. It still was only “interesting” in that a GOP candidate was saying it. By winter, he had reversed all of it.

        Maybe he said “the SS had to be protected” and we made the wrong assumption?

        • FlipYrWhig

          Even that isn’t really about “discontent” per se, IMHO. He didn’t say rich people should pay more in taxes so that the treasury could offer more benefits or new social safety-net programs for the people who hurt the most, or something like that.

          • so-in-so

            That is what some people assumed he meant. It’s Trump, who knows what he intended; he might no longer recall himself what he meant (and probably denies saying it, even when confronted with video).

    • Scott Lemieux

      Perhaps that is why you do not link to them

      Um, at the time you posted your comment, both columns were linked. No, I was not trying to hide the content of these easily googled, extensively quoted columns.

      Frank’s point is that Trump’s implosion has ended the media narrative that the Sanders and Trump phenomena demonstrate that economic discontent needed to be taken seriously.

      It’s a bad argument he supports by lying about the content of Clinton’s campaign. (And his RNC column is far, far more Trump-friendly than you’re letting on.)

      The point of his latest column is that Trump’s collapse has taken with it any need for political and media elites to take economic discontent seriously.

      His “evidence” for this is a shift to the right by Hillary Clinton that is not, in fact, happening. And his argument that Hillary Clinton would be more likely to govern from the left if she won narrowly remains silly.

      • CDT

        “Trump friendly?” Frank called him a bigoted, racist, ignorant, untrustworthy vulgarian with a history of predatory business practices, for whom he could never vote, and who frightened him every time he spoke. Frank did not praise Trump, but rather comment on the odd spectacle of Trump trying to appeal to liberals (not credibly, mind you), at the same time Hillary was gearing up to move to the right to capture establishment Republican votes. At the time that column was written (before Teump attacked the Khans, et al), Frank thought the usual approach of tacking to the right would be a mistake given the anti-establishment the mood off he electorate. Subsequently, Trump’s further meltdown swamped that factor.

        • Scott Lemieux

          Yes, but that graf of denouncing Trump (and note I never claimed that Frank prefers Trump per se) came after graf after graf of his taking a few stray comments and suggesting that Trump’s primary strategy was appealing to liberals, which is false. The idea that breaking up Wall Street was any kind of theme at all at the RNC — let alone a dominant one — is ridiculous.

          Again, the double standard is just staggering. Clinton is actually doing the things to appeal to liberals Frank projects onto Trump on a consistent basis, and yet he tells this science-fiction inversion of the truth in which Trump is running to the left and Clinton is running to the right. His analysis of the Democratic Party has been obsolete for a decade and where the Republicans are concerned he’s just imagining things.

      • Manny Kant

        And his argument that Hillary Clinton would be more likely to govern from the left if she won narrowly remains silly.

        This is the most important thing. The wider a Clinton victory, the more Democrats in the House and Senate. The more Democrats in the House and Senate, the further left Clinton is able to govern. Period. That’s all that actually matters for what the 115th Congress accomplished. Longer term, I suppose there’s arguments to be had, but the long term is so difficult to predict that I really don’t think it’s worth it, and it’s very clear that Frank isn’t talking about the long term.

        • CDT

          That would, indeed be a silly and stupid argument for Frank to make. Fortunately, he didn’t. There appears to be a widespread mistaken impression that Frank is a Nader not-a-dime’s-worth-of-difference loon. He’s not. He is a keen observer about how the conventional narrative constrains the range of acceptable policy debate by Very Serious People. Frank found Trump interesting/potentially useful because he temporarily threw the VSP off their game and compelled them to concede that perhaps the angry rabble needed some stroking. it was never about him being delusional enough to think Trump was preferable or even acceptable (like, say, many commenters at Naked Capitalism do). Trump was only useful in his view and mine) to the extent his popularity in combination with Sanders forced some consideration that perhaps the status quo and cautious incrementalism were inadequate under present circumstances. Frank has some interesting things to say, but if you want to willfully ignore whether are in the interest of HRC tribalism, go for it.

          • Scott Lemieux

            This is completely non-responsive. In the second column Frank’s entire argument is that the implosion of Trump’s campaign is a bad thing, and it was better when he was performing better and had a chance of winning. This logically entails the assumption that the closer the election the more likely Clinton is to govern from the left. And the problem is that no amount of gibberish about framing can make this argument any less transparently wrong. He also argues that Clinton is running to the right because of Trump’s implosion, which is just flat-out dishonest.

            • tsam

              Why won’t you just admit that Hillary is a Republican?

    • a_paul_in_mtl

      Er…with the greatest possible respect, CDT, are you seriously saying that if Trump were neck and neck with Clinton in the polls, that the lesson that would be propagated by our corporate-controlled media is that Clinton needs to promise a dramatic shift to social democracy to win?

      Honestly, are people seriously imagining that Trump’s supporters are supporting him out of a hankering for social democracy? That this is a remarkably simplistic or utterly mystical take on the situation ought to be confirmed by the fact that Trump is definitely not offering anything resembling social democracy. For Trump and his supporters, “economic justice” is nothing more or less than “sticking it to those dastardly foreigners who keep stealing from us”.

      And any media narratives that have “equated the Sanders and Trump phenomena” have generally not been meant to be complimentary to Sanders or supportive of his policy proposals, so I really don’t see how the absence of such narratives is a blow to progressives.

      • CDT

        Uh, no. I was trying to explain Frank’s point, with which I agree: namely, that before Trump collapsed the elites and their captive media were almost shaken up enough about widespread disenchantment to throw a bone to pacify the rabble. Now that Trump has completely self-marginalized, the narrative is reverting back to the economic status quo being pretty much okay. All of us including Frank always understood that Trump is no working class hero and that much of his appeal is to simple bigotry. But the media was loathe to acknowledge that, which meant they had to attribute Trump’s popularity to legitimate economic grievance. Now that Trump has gone off the rails, there is no longer a need for elite opinion to concede there is any basis for economic grievance.

  • Alworth

    It’s weirdly common to hear people on both the right and left arguing that Hillary is secretly very conservative, never matter what she actually says, and Trump is secretly very liberal.

    • twbb

      Trump has taken liberal positions, though. And then taken the opposite position shortly after. Sometimes in the same sentence.

  • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

    I’m reasonably sure that we’re not all living in a computer simulation, but for a lot of people the internet has become a place where they can embrace unreality and find enough people who agree with them that they feel validated.

  • kped

    Taibi had a pretty bad column in Rolling Stone along similar lines. Like, howlingly bad (note: When you approvingly quote Douthat and Reihan Salam…it’s not a good sign…), talking about this new “working class Republican party”.

    He talks about the abandonment of white working class voters to Republicans as a consequence of Democrats support of globalization. That’s it. That’s his argument. No mention that Dems didn’t go there until 1993, well after they “lost” white working class voters. No mention that Democrats consistently win states that have been most hurt by globalization (rust belt). No mention of racial causes for losing white voters…nope, it’s NAFTA in 1993 that did it!

    The problem with all of this is that the Democrats went so far in the direction of advocacy for the global religion that they made something as idiotic as the rise of unabashed nativist Donald Trump possible.

    I mean…no. Not even a little. Seriously, this is all so fucking stupid. I read Taibbi and I see a more clever DeBoer nowadays. His arguments are shit, but at least he can write a sentence.

    edit:(god…just started reading his new one about “the media is biased because they report on Trump…” he’s getting worse by the day. SOrry asshole, I’ve watched CNN, and they do cover those dumbass emails you think are so important. But…they actually do journalism on them and find out if there is a scandal. Really, shocking because I agree CNN sucks, but they are not shilling for Hillary. God, when did Taibi become such a low grade hack?)

    • D.N. Nation

      Taibbi’s postmortem on Bernie didn’t mention voters of color once. These guys have always had their blind spots, granted, but this year for whatever reasons has made them enormous.

      And it always follows the same script. Bernie/Clinton, the rise of Trump, Brexit, etc. It’s always the same shit. Poor, poor, hard-workin’ white hard workers, ya know, just like ________________ (enter: Greenwald or Taibbi or Jeb Lund or Freddie or Leonard Pierce or whoever the writer is prancing about in playtime dress-up like a class and type of person they clearly are not) would only ever vote for Trump because booga booga Clinton/neoliberals, and booga booga ________________ (enter: random HRC campaign tweet or strategy or endorsement or something no one outside their circle cares about) and also Reagan never happened and the Southern Strategy never happened, therefore I mean don’t get me wrong I don’t want Trump to win but wouldn’t it be funny if he did I mean I’m just saying. Glib, self-promoting, delusional, waffling garbage.

      • kped

        This is a perfect distillation of these clowns. Thank you!

        Taibbi tweeted about Dems ignoring their base by electing Bernie, and I responded that he was kind of missing a big chunk of the base in that formulation. But he kept on with that, and it appears is still banging that drum. The internet “left” really needs to get over this racial blind spot, they are embarrassing themselves.

        • tsam

          Taibbi tweeted about Dems ignoring their base by electing Bernie, and I responded that he was kind of missing a big chunk of the base in that formulation. But he kept on with that, and it appears is still banging that drum. The internet “left” really needs to get over this racial blind spot, they are embarrassing themselves.

          This is an odd thing to say, since the base and most of the rest of the Democrats voted and caucused. The base got their say, so did everyone else–whoever the base actually is, which I feel is a bit of a silly way to analyze the party. Being a strict D voter doesn’t necessarily mean you possess a certain list of views that make you a member of the “base”.

          (Taibbi’s comment is what is odd–not yours, by the way)

          • Brien Jackson

            Well this has been the essence of a whole bunch of internet lefty commentary since the beginning of the Netroots era: They view THE BASE as them and people like them, and moreover think that being THE BASE should put added weight on their voice in intraparty politics. And if they don’t get their way, even if it comes in the form of an election, then the choice is by definition illegitimate because they’re THE BASE.

            They’re only making it more explicit now that we’ve had an actual case study into the extent to which Democratic voters agree with them and they got trounced.

            • tsam

              Right–totally agreed, and I feel like it’s mostly a purity contest of sorts–the kind that leads to rather unproductive and unnecessary conflicts.

            • EliHawk

              So much this. The Netroots think they’re the base, and a credulous political press that spends so much time in things like Twitter and protest rally type events where they show up, massively tends to amplify their argument that Netroots (or the people who show up at Senders rallies) = The Base. And it filters into coverage, like Clinton must appease The Base with a Sanders-like Veep pick. Never mind that if Dems picked their VP picks to suck up to their base vote, every Vice Presidential pick for the last 40 years would be a black woman.

              • Brien Jackson

                I wouldn’t say “Netroots” per se. Going from the opposition to the majority/White House cleaved a bunch of that, and there are plenty of commentators who came out of that movement, notably Kos, who are perfectly sane and self-aware.

                But there’s a big section of that group who thought that being THE BASE (which they aren’t, of course) meant that there’s was the only legitimate viewpoint in the party and that the only way they could lose was through nefarious means.

                • Manny Kant

                  The extent to which the pre-2008 “Netroots” has split into mutually loathing groups over the last eight years is actually kind of fascinating. Someone write something about that.

            • Solar System Wolf

              ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US

              • tsam

                GET OUT MY BASE STOP KILLIN ARE DUDEZ

          • kped

            I knew you were talking about his comment. When I tweeted him, I mentioned that these young, mostly white people were certainly part of the base, but so were many more, who happen to prefer another candidate. But guys like Taibbi see…guys like Taibbi, and that’s all they really see. They don’t see the broad coalitions that make up a party, the only group that matters is the one that looks and acts and thinks like him.

            • tsam

              I think you’re right on here.

            • Origami Isopod

              “You gotta treat broads like shit” probably appeals to Taibbi.

        • FlipYrWhig

          The Democratic base is middle-aged women and people of color of all ages. The candidate who prevailed with them, appropriately, got the nod.

      • Donna Gratehouse

        Yes! This is perfect. They really do pretend the Southern Strategy, Reagan, and now GWB didn’t exist and all our political problems are due to Bill Clinton signing NAFTA. Though, weirdly, no Republican who voted for/supported it ever paid a penalty. John Kasich has never met a free trade deal he didn’t love and still managed to be reelected to Congress and elected Governor of Ohio.

        • FlipYrWhig

          Yup. I really do find it quizzical that alt-left conventional wisdom has congealed behind the idea that working-class people hold Democrats responsible for NAFTA and/or globalization, so they’re punishing them by voting for Republicans, despite the fact that Republicans were similarly keen on NAFTA and globalization during that whole supposedly fateful stretch of American political history and haven’t done anything to counteract their effects in the meantime. It’s almost like it’s a bad explanation jerry-rigged to fit a preexisting gripe-slash-wish!

    • liberalpragmatist

      OTOH, what happened to Matt Stoller? I was only familiar with him in his OpenLeft days, and as late as 2012 he was writing stuff like this for Salon. Now though while still clearly on the left, he’s instead favorably retweeting this Clay Shirky piece on the futility of protest voting.

      Has he written or is anyone familiar with what made him change his mind?

      • tsam

        What’s wrong with that Clay Shirky piece? All looks pretty correct to me.

        • kped

          I think his point is he was a purity pony in the past, but has moved in a better, more pragmatic direction, including his tweeting of that good article by Shirky.

          • tsam

            Oh–well good on him, then!

          • liberalpragmatist

            Right – I mean, from his Twitter feed, which is very good – he’s clearly on the left flank, Sanders-friendly, etc. But he seems to no longer be a “heighten the contradictions” leftist, even if he remains critical of neoliberalism.

            He also, back in his OpenLeft days, seemed to have major beef with Obama. He rarely tweets about Obama these days, so maybe he remains disappointed in him, but what he’s said of this year’s presidential race seems out of character with his prior writings.

      • Phil Perspective

        I don’t think he’s favorably RT’ing it. Can you direct us to said tweet? Sometimes people RT crap they don’t agree with.

    • kped

      His take today on the media is terrible. Basically, CNN and MSNBC are Fox News left. Ignore the fact that they both breathlessly reported Benghazzi/Email server/DNC Emails. Ignore that they did indeed report on the nothingburger that was “Clinton Cash” (and…he approvingly cited the Daily Caller and Breitbart for reporting on that, while saying “maybe it was nothing, but”….like, asshole, before saying they did good work, how about doing some research for your stupid op-ed?), ignore all of the right wing voices they have employed (Corey Liewindisky or however you write Trumps fucking ex campaign managers name!).

      Nope, forget all of that, since CNN and MSNBC actually report on the dumb shit Trump says, they are equal to Fox, and that’s why the media is failing. I mean, ignore that millennials are abandoning old TV media for everything, not just news. Pretend that the real reason is CNN is too partisan against the right.

      Seriously, it’s the same stupid shit over and over. Ignore all evidence, just keep spewing your pet theory (in this case…both sides). Damn the facts!

      Young people go online for their news because it’s convenient and that’s how young people consume media. Full stop.

  • CDT

    FWIW, I don’t think you can lump Frank into the purity pony category, and her certainly does not advocate chasing the elusive socially conservative white male voter. He does say, quite rightly, that the Democratic Party establishment has done little to push back against globalization and conservative austerity policy. It wasn’t so long ago that both Obama and HRC were on the deficit cutting bandwagon and looking for the grand bargain on Social Security. Frank does not advocate abandoning social liberalism to cater to bigots. He does advocate that Democrats do more in the economic policy area to help their traditional working person base. His recent comments were a lament that Trump’s implosion and Sanders’ defeat will make it easy for TPTB to go back to sleep on those issues. By no means is he one of those who sees no difference between the Semocrats and Republicans. He sees, as I do, that overly cautious Democratic policy and rhetoric on economic issues is a missed opportunity.

    • Donna Gratehouse

      Given that Clinton is running on expanding Social Security I’d say the Establishment Dems have gotten the memo on austerity. Lefties were right to be angry at the Grand Bargain b.s. and our pushback on it played a big part in defeating it.

      • Brien Jackson

        Not that this is necessarily wrong, but it’s worth pointing out how incoherent a lot of “leftie” policy demands can be: The same lefties who (rightly) bemoan austerity were hell bent on the Bush tax cuts expire, even to the point that they bitched and moaned when Obama traded a partial extension for an extension in unemployment benefits, which is….AUSTERITY!

        • CDT

          Brien: what annoyed me, at least, was Obama’s weak approach to the negotiations. Doing nothing would have resulted in the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, as the ten-year lifespan was necessary for Bush to pretend they wouldn’t cause a deficit. Had Obama simply let that happen, he would have had a stronger hand. He could have called for “Obama tax cuts” aimed exclusively at the non-rich and blasted the GOP for opposing extension of unemployment insurance. Instead, he accepted the Republican framing, depriving himself of leverage.

          • Donna Gratehouse

            Yeah but no way in 2011 was there going to be an even temporary tax increase on middle class Americans. I understood why Pres. Obama had to keep the Bush tax cuts. I was furious when he pivoted immediately to Teh Deficit™ afterward.

          • FlipYrWhig

            Yeah, so, maybe you don’t remember that Senate Democrats BEGGED HIM not to do that, and not just the Blue Doggie types but Barbara Boxer and Russ Feingold too.

        • Donna Gratehouse

          I’m not saying they/we(? because I consider myself a good lefty despite supporting Obama and then Clinton) have been right about everything but we were right on the execrable Simpson Bowles Granny Starving Plan.

      • CDT

        Yes. They also need to get the memo on “trade” policy, investor-state dispute resolution, and deindustrialization.

      • CDT

        I remember some months ago getting constantly accused of being a naive and sexist Bernie Bro for expressing skepticism about HRC’s commitment to progressive economic policy. Glad to hear you agree that HRC needed some convincing on the grand bargain issue. Perhaps you could put in a good word for me if you run into my former vociferous critic, Democratic Diva.

  • milx

    Thomas Frank. A man who made his entire reputation on a book that wasn’t accurate. What’s the matter with Thomas Frank? Nothing new. http://www.vanderbilt.edu/csdi/includes/kansasqjps06.pdf

  • Donna Gratehouse

    I’ve come to the conclusion that there are many white people on the Left, like Frank, who reflexively conflate “working class” with “white and male” because they honestly believe that poor women and PoC are mostly on public assistance (or, in the case of women, dependent on male partners) and don’t work.

    • You may very well be right about “manyh white people on the Left”, but I just can’t see how Frank (at least) can honestly believe that. I mean, he can surely read, even if he doesn’t go anonymously into the bazaars like Aaron the Orthodox to see the plight of his people in person.

    • jben

      I don’t think its anything that explicit. Like most of our political class, they still talk as though it’s 1955 and the demographics now are the same as they were then. They still think the “white working class” is the key to winning national elections. That is no longer the case.

      Though there was that particularly dim Bernie supporter who tried to appeal to a black caller by saying “You know Sanders supports welfare?” So clearly it is out there.

    • CDT

      Hmm. I’ve read pretty much written by Thomas Frank dating back to the Conquest of Cool, and I don’t think you can throw him in with those who conflate “working class” with “white.” His long-time grievance is that media, society, and post-DLC Democratic Party elites have aided and abetted the Republicans’ intentional destruction of the middle class. His proposed course correction is for the party to pursue economic policies (expanding Social Security, higher wages, stronger unions, more progressive taxation , etc.) — stuff Democrats used to be serious about. He is most assuredly not one who wants to make cultural appeals aimed at angry white bigots.

      • Scott Lemieux

        His proposed course correction is for the party to pursue economic policies (expanding Social Security, higher wages, stronger unions, more progressive taxation , etc.) — stuff Democrats used to be serious about.

        And when major Democrats, including the nominee for president, began to support these policies, his reaction was to call them worthless neoliberal shills while getting excited about a bufoonish white supremacist Republican because his daughter vaguely gestured towards a good policy nobody in his party supports in one line in a speech once.

        • CDT

          Did Thomas Frank once steal your lunch money? Because that description bears only the slightest relationship to reality.

          • Scott Lemieux

            Um, I extensively quoted him. He unambiguously claims that Clinton is running to the right and is ignoring liberal policy proposals. He unambiguously takes one isolated gesture from the candidate’s daughter and uses that to construct a narrative that Trump is making a major appeal to liberals. I’m sure you’d prefer he was arguing something else, but that’s his actual argument, your bare assertions notwithstanding.

            I mean, your previous comment is quite remarkable. You claim Frank wants Clinton to endorse certain policy proposals. Clinton gives a speech endorsing literally every one of these proposals. Frank calls it worthless neoliberal drivel and flat-out argues that Clinton is pivoting to the right. You don’t dispute any of these specific points, but just assert that since the argument is bad it can’t be the one Frank is making. But it is.

  • jcc2455

    Frank’s out of his mind. And yes, of course, we have to elect Clinton. That said, the reflexive defense of Clinton from criticism from the left gets a little grating after awhile.

    For example, try being being a little more honest, or even just a tiny bit analytical on trade. The facts:

    1. Obama on campaign trail pledges to renegotiate NAFTA.
    2. Obama’s economic adviser goes to Canada during the campaign and says “don’t worry, that’s just for the rubes. We gotta get elected.”
    3. Campaign vigorously denies Goolsbee said that.
    4. Obama elected.
    5. 2009-2016, NAFTA = crickets.
    6. TPP negotiated by Obama administration during Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State.
    7. Clinton declares TPP “gold standard” trade agreement
    8. Clinton runs for President.
    9. Sanders runs for President.
    10. Sanders does surprisingly well. Anti-TPP message is major piece of success.
    11. Clinton suddenly discovers flaws in TPP (despite having Goolsbee as “informal advisor”, among many other obvious signs of insincerity)
    12. Sanders loses.
    13. Clinton nominated.
    14. Obama declares intention to push TPP through lame duck session to cement his legacy.
    15. Clinton, furious at her predecessor undermining a key plank of the most progressive platform in human history and double-crossing her on what is now an issue of conscience, publicly excoriates Obama for selling out American workers…… wait. What?

    I mean really. Nobody on the planet thinks that Hillary won’t do absolutely everything in her power short of losing the White House to pass TPP. Except maybe Scott and Erik.

    • CDT

      I agree with all of that. And so would Frank. Except for the part about Frank being out of his mind. The straw man version of Frank described by Scott, sure. The real Frank, no.

    • Scott Lemieux

      I would recommend reading the posts before commenting.

      • MDrew

        Is there a point at which you are going to stop defending her from the left, since the point of electing this person whose governing actions are completely unpredictable is now thought to be to have a politician who is more able to be influence by political pressure?

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  • los

    T Frank, 2nd paragraph
    “the republicans were trying to win the support of people like me! not tactfully or convincingly or successfully, of course: they don’t know the language of liberalism and wouldn’t speak it if they did; and most of the liberals i know will never be swayed anyway. But they were trying nevertheless.”

    For a long time, cons have tried sounding like “the good guys”
    * “Democrats are the KKK. GOP is the part of Lincoln”
    * “Republicans led the civil rights/vra fight”
    * “crony capitalism is a no-no”

    of course, the claims have been
    * revisionism, when the longstanding conservative practice has become hyuuuuuugely unpopular (burning crosses).
    * Lies/crude doublespeak (conservatives still oppose what they claim to have supported). death panels, etc.
    * haphazard truth. Truthful only when e.g. a single conservative legislator’s nephew dies by HIV/AIDS.
    * Teaspeak. “right to work for a pay cut”. “freedoms and liberties”

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  • MDrew

    Acting indignant about calling Clinton’s campaign neoliberal.

    Accusing others of lying about the content of her campaign.

    Fun with specificity.

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