Subscribe via RSS Feed

Author Page for Scott Lemieux

rss feed

If Only…

[ 112 ] June 19, 2016 |


Exciting if true!

Justice Clarence Thomas, a reliable conservative vote on the Supreme Court, is mulling retirement after the presidential election, according to court watchers.

Thomas, appointed by former President George H.W. Bush and approved by the Senate after a bitter confirmation, has been considering retirement for a while and never planned to stay until he died, they said. He likes to spend summers in his RV with his wife.

But…unnamed “court watchers,” “mulling” retirement, suggestions that he would like to retire to do something the job allows him to do anyway…let’s just say that barring force majeure if the next president nominates Thomas’s replacement I’ll be shocked.


Green Party Presidential Campaigns, In One Tweet

[ 169 ] June 18, 2016 |

As always, it’s odd that heighten-the-contradictions arguments seem to carry less currency with those upon whom the contradictions will be most heightened.

“But I’d Rather You Do Another ‘Somebody Is Doing Leftism Wrong’ Song” [UPDATED! With RIGOROUS Data]

[ 388 ] June 18, 2016 |

Recently, Jacobin editor Conor Kilpatrick took some time off his busy schedule being the self-appointed Moral Conscience of the American Left to provide some rigorous data:

You don’t need Bijan-style analysis to see how beyond any possible allowance for hyperbole this risible dodge is. [UPDATE: But we got it anyway!] Indeed, even if you don’t read the blog regularly you can tell from the tweet itself. Note how Kilpatrick linked to one of the two posts of the dozens per week in the previous 30 days that was about an argument made by Freddie, rather than the front page. Doing the latter would be more relevant to his assertion, but anyone who actually clicked the link wouldn’t have to spend much time scrolling to see that Kilpatrick was full of shit.

Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. Where a certain type of online argument is concerned, he forgot to fix it for you: the first time as farce, second time as Freddie and hence beyond farce. To provide some background for the uninitiated, virtually any interaction Freddie deBoer has outside of his narrow circle follows an script with three brief acts:

To Freddie, the only worse thing than not engaging with him substantively is engaging with him substantively, and vice versa. So, during his most recent version of this routine, Freddie found the data complied by his friend the social scientician highly useful:

Past several years! Oh, dear.

If you think his whining routine seems rather pathetic both coming and going, well, you’re right. But there’s a logic to it. Freddie wants to be noticed and discussed. But his knowledge of American political history and political science is towards the shallow end of the pool, so when he makes longer-form arguments about electoral or legislative politics they tend to be replete with massive howlers. If given the choice between acutally defending a proposition like “it is unpossible for a national right to same-sex-marriage to have been created without the LBGT community leaving the Democratic Party en masse, because general election votes are the only possible source of political leverage” on the merits and frantically running away while asserting that you never actually wanted to argue in the first place, you can see why the latter seems like the more dignified option.

It’s instructive, however, that Kilpatrick and deBoer could think come up with such a ludicrous number and think their followers could find it plausible. They seem to spend so much time involved in an impenetrable, byzantine series of longstanding personal grudges and flamewars on Twitter that they seem to think it’s at least within the realm of probability that a prolific group blog could devote a large minority of its time writing about someone they allegedly don’t like. For that matter, it’s instructive that they think that the post under discussion was “about Freddie.” It was about Freddie’s argument. It was about how to think about electoral politics and about how major policy change has happened in American history, issues I have a longstanding interest in and know something about. On Twitter, conversely, arguments do tend to be personal, because it’s rarely possible to do good arguments 140 characters at a time. It’s therefore a perfect medium for Freddie, as it’s highly conducive to reducing arguments of any complexity to strawmen that can be easily if uselessly rebutted. He doesn’t really seem to care about the underlying argument — the point is to designate people as Not of The Left. Projection is a hell of a drug.

…more data!

But, of course, writing a whole blog post making fun of the ridiculous idea that you’re “obsessed” with people you rarely and never write about, respectively, makes you the REAL obsessive. This last profound insight based on the most important work in the left theory canon, I’m Rubber and You’re Glue.

He Seems Nice

[ 53 ] June 17, 2016 |


What is Donald Trump like to work for? Well:

“He was always very open about describing women by their breast size. Any time I see people in the Trump organization say how nice he is, I want to throw up. He’s been a nasty person to women for a long time,” says one crew member. “My girlfriend at the time was a production assistant on the show and he made a comment about her, knowing that he was mic’d and that we’d all hear it. He said, ‘Who’s that hot little girl running around?’ For a second I was like, Cool, Donald Trump thinks my girlfriend is hot. But then I was like, Wait, an old man said something about my 28-year-old girlfriend. Take it easy, homeboy.”

“He would talk about the female contestants’ bodies a lot from the control room,” recalls one midlevel producer. “We shot in Trump Tower, the control room was on the seventh floor, and he walked in one day and was talking about a contestant, saying, ‘Her breasts were so much bigger at the casting. Maybe she had her period then.’ He knows he’s mic’d and that 30 people are hearing this, but he didn’t care. That’s kind of him. During the campaign, when he was talking about Megyn Kelly, I thought: He’s obsessed with menstruation.”

How a party dedicated to imposing legal disabilities on women and undermining the enforcement of women’s civil rights made him their presidential nominee I’ll never understand.


[ 83 ] June 17, 2016 |


This is very well-turned:

I don’t dislike this new Ghostbusters movie because they’re all women, that’s silly and ridiculous. I can’t believe that’s even a question, with my history. I mean, my mom and sisters are all women and I know them, so how could I dislike other women that are not them? It doesn’t make any sense and, frankly, it’s below the belt. I mean, how dare you?

I hate the new Ghostbusters movie because my number one issue when judging a film is and has always been Hollywood finance reform. And frankly, I’m tired of all big blockbuster movies. The movie system is corrupt and I think we need to put our foot down, right now specifically in 2016, to put a stop to this new Ghostbusters movie as a signal that we’re done with all big hollywood blockbusters. And if you don’t agree with me, well, maybe you need to stop buying movie tickets with your vagina.


And the people I know, we all mostly agree, it’s either Hold That Ghost or NOTHING. We think the movie theaters should shut down if they’re not going to play Hold That Ghost. Yeah, we know some people get food and go to the bathroom at movie theaters, but if they’re going to play the new female Ghostbusters, that’s just as bad as showing Faces of Death 7 in our opinions! And those two things are so similar and interchangeable that I won’t bother showing or telling you why. That’s not good enough? Here’s a picture of a Bridesmaids DVD and a Faces of Death 7 VHS standing next to each other on the SAME SHELF.

This new movie Ghostbusters reminds me of the movie Ghost from the ‘90s and now that we’re not in the ‘90s I’ve decided I don’t like the movie Ghost. I’m going to say that Ghostbusters is the same as Ghost and hold Ghostbusters responsible for the things I don’t like about Ghost.


Now, if Elizabeth Warren and Jill Stein and Michelle Obama make a new Ghostbusters in a hypothetical four or eight years from now, I could get behind that idea. That vague notion that wouldn’t hold up under any scrutiny for a variety of reasons is CLEARLY a better option than this new Ghostbusters movie made by competent people that’s seemingly ready to be shown any minute now.

Wherever Did They Get This Idea?

[ 45 ] June 17, 2016 |

Matthew Continetti argues that it was a bad idea for his party to nominate a buffoonish demagogue as its candidate for president:

Trump and his supporters overstate his competitiveness by conflating the wishes of the Republican primary electorate with those of the general electorate. Trump will replicate his success, they say, by continuing to do the things that won him the Republican nomination: “telling it like it is,” accepting “the mantle of anger,” not being “politically correct.” This is a huge error. Not only do Trump’s utterances repel Democratic voters—a number of which any successful candidate has to win—but they also frighten Republican ones. Romney got 47 percent of the vote in 2012. To use a real-estate metaphor: How do you expect to build a skyscraper when you are demolishing the foundation?

I cannot dispute any of this. And, yet, it seems like this could use some, I dunno, historical context. “[W]hat failures of education and culture,” asks Chait, “could have left Republican voters predisposed to the propaganda of a grifter who is neither a wonk nor an orator, and who exploits their cultural resentments? Continetti does not provide any answers. Here is one:”


I believe that is what the kids five years ago would have called being “pwned.” Cf. also, Bill Kristol, who remains shocked that the members of his party would want as the presidential nominee what he gave them as the #2 on the ticket 8 years ago.

…Good roundup of the GOP’s affair with Palin from Doug.

Trump And Political Violence

[ 195 ] June 17, 2016 |


Rick Perlstein makes a very important point about the question of Trump and riots:

That’s the score: four elections, two where violence drove the electorate toward the Republicans, and two where violence drove the electorate toward the Democrats. And here is the heart of the pattern. Listen to what Richard Nixon said in that 1968 acceptance speech, after he invited Americans to listen to the sirens in the night, the angry voices, Americans hating each other, fighting each other, killing each other. Later in the speech, he invited them to listen to “another voice. It is the quiet voice in the tumult and the shouting.” That was the voice he promised to embody. He promised calm.

What made his promise credible were the images, three weeks later, at the Democratic convention: the worst violence at any convention in U.S. history. And the way that same chaos seemed to follow the Democratic nominee wherever he went—like the incident on October 31 when a rally for nominee Hubert Humphrey was interrupted by a naked woman who dashed down the aisle carrying the head of a pig on a charger. After she was apprehended, her male companion, also naked, seized the pig’s head, leapt to the stage, and presented it to the speaker, economist John Kenneth Galbraith.

Chaos seemed to follow the Democrats wherever they went. So Nixon, promising quiet, prevailed.

Then, two years later, when chaos seemed to follow the Republicans wherever they went—it was a Democrat, Edmund Muskie, who offered the credible appeal, quoted above, for quiet.

History, really, is not so neat as all this. Still and all, the evidence is suggestive. It’s not that the chaos of political rallies that devolve into mêlées invariably favors the authoritarian party of law and order. Instead, it is the party to whom chaos appears to attach itself that the public tends to reject—especially if the leaders of the opposing party do an effective job of framing themselves as the quiet, calm, and centering alternative.

That is the lesson for Hillary Clinton. What is the lesson for us? It’s most decidedly not to encourage chaos at Donald Trump rallies. This very act of encouragement, after all, clouds the story: it would make it credible to frame the Democrats as authors of chaos.

Trump is a fascist. Trumpism leads to riots. Already, the backlash in ensuing: in the first round of polling since both parties provisionally settled on their candidates, 70 percent of Americans said they viewed Trump unfavorably, 56 percent “strongly” unfavorably. Among independents he lags 38 points behind Hillary Clinton in favorability, 20 points behind among whites; and even among Republicans his favorability rating has plunged from 42 percent in April to 34 percent now. Asked to choose between the three candidates on the ballot, Clinton, Trump, and Libertarian Gary Johnson, polling has Trump 12 points behind. He is the pig on the platter. Let him stew in his own blood. The public recognizes the chaos of which he is author, and they are turning away in disgust.

We needn’t address abstract questions of when political violence might be justified to deal with whether to encourage violence against persons or property at Trump rallies, which is a relatively easy question. It’s a terrible idea. This is not a desperate situation for the left. Facing an already uphill fight in the Electoral College because of the choice they’ve made to use the advantages the less democratic aspects of the American system grant them to maximize ideological purity rather than expanding their coalition, Republicans have selected a candidate who figures to be an anchor on their prospects comparable to McGovern or Goldwater. It would take extraordinary circumstances for Trump to win. Encouraging people to riot (as opposed to peacefully protesting) at Trump rallies is exactly the kind of thing the Trump needs and that anti-Trump forces do not. Let the already massively unpopular Trump own the chaos and then beat him badly at the ballot box.

Does Ex Ante Experience Predict Presidential Success?

[ 41 ] June 16, 2016 |


While it’s a statement against partisan interest in the 2016 elections, longtime readers will know that I’m dubious that “experience” tells us much of anything about whether or not a president will be successful. Julia Azari looks at the issue more systematically and reaches a similar conclusion:

There’s a slight correlation between years of experience and a worse ranking. It’s hardly a clear trend, but it’s not a ringing endorsement for the importance of political experience, either.3

So does having lots of national governing experience make you bad at being president? Here’s where the “correlation doesn’t equal causation” warning comes in. Lots of things could be driving the relationship between the kind of politicians that get elected and their success as president. Parties could gravitate toward more experienced politicians when the coalition has been in power awhile and is starting to fray. Also, two of the experienced-but-terrible presidents, John Tyler and Andrew Johnson, became president through succession (they weren’t elected). And for presidents who took office at times of crisis, like Franklin D. Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, it might have been an advantage to be unencumbered by political baggage.

The absence of a strong connection between experience and success also suggests that the experience gained in other government positions, especially Congress, may not cultivate the qualities that are necessary for presidential leadership. James Buchanan, who had a whopping 26 years of government experience before he was president from 1857 to 1861, is an instructive example. Scholars have concluded that he lacked the moral courage to lead the nation as tensions between North and South increased. More governing experience, to the best of our knowledge, does not increase moral courage.

The fact that Buchanan has one of the most impressive cvs of any president ever and Lincoln one of the thinnest should give us pause when putting too much weight on political experience, and looking at presidents as a whole doesn’t change it much (although, of course, what constitutes a successful presidency is itself an inexorably contested question.)

The biggest reason to oppose Donald Trump is the political coalition he heads. And he would probably be worse and possibly far worse than a generic Republican because of his temperament, his judgment, and utter contempt for basic norms, his explicit race-baiting. But I don’t think “experience” per se is the issue.

The Running Mate

[ 379 ] June 16, 2016 |

U.S. Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez stands as President Barack Obama (not pictured) introduces him to be his next labor secretary, at the White House in Washington, March 18, 2013. Before joining the Justice Department in 2009, Perez was Maryland's labor secretary. If confirmed by the Senate, he will replace Hilda Solis, who resigned in January. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS HEADSHOT) - RTR3F5QC

I explore some of the most frequently mentioned potential running mates for Clinton here. In summary:

  • Brown: this is a ridiculously bad idea, and it’s odd so many political scientists didn’t identify the obvious downside.
  • Castro: Meh.
  • Warren: Maybe, although Massachusetts Dems better have something better than Coakley III: The Revenge of the Fundamentals in mind.
  • Perez: Sounds great to me.

Tyranny of the losers and the politics of gun control

[ 109 ] June 16, 2016 |

This is a guest post by Lisa L. Miller. Lisa is a (freshly promoted!) Professor of Political Science and the 2015-16 John G. Winant Visiting Professor of American Government at the Rothermere American Institute at the University of Oxford. Her most recent book, The Myth of Mob Rule: Violent crime and democratic politics, is published by Oxford University Press.

Growing up in the United States means learning that the Framers of the Constitution were preoccupied with tyranny of the majority and thus created a system of “checks and balances” designed to mitigate its possibility.

Yet, what Americans call “checks and balances,” political scientists call “veto points” – structurally embedded political opportunities for the electoral losers to block or override the winners – and the U.S. is rife with them.

The vilification of the American public and its political leaders for not enacting gun control obscures this fundamental cause of gun control failure, tyranny of the minority, which is made possible by the very checks and balances that Americans so routinely celebrate.

The disproportionate Senate – where each state has two representatives regardless of size – is a particularly stark example of just how easily and routinely political minorities override political majorities, and its impact on gun control policy is profound. A 2015 bill, for example, which was proposed after the shooting deaths in San Bernadino, California that killed fourteen people, would have extended FBI background checks to every gun purchase, including currently unregulated gun shows and online sales. The bill went down to defeat with just 48 yea votes to 50 nays.

But the 48 Senators that voted in favor of the bill actually represented 58% of the American population. The 52 who voted against the bill represented just 42%. A very similar bill was defeated in 2013, despite 54 votes in favor, due to an arcane Senate rule known as the filibuster. In that case, the 54 yea votes represented a full 62% of the population.

In other words, all the talk of Americans’ attachment to guns and demands that Congress act overlook the fact that a pro-gun control majority exists and, but for the undemocratic structure of the Senate, the United States would have substantially more gun regulations

And the Senate is not the only veto point that makes it hard for the pro-gun control majority to see its policy preferences enacted. Separation of powers means that opponents of any type of gun control measure need claim only one of the three branches of government at the national level (the House of Representatives, the Senate or the Presidency), since all three are required for passage of legislation. If all else fails, there is always the Supreme Court, which, after more than a century of upholding gun control legislation as perfectly consistent with the Constitution, has begun to strike down legislative acts aimed at reducing gun violence (e.g., U.S. v. Lopez, D.C. v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago).

Some will say that gun control is precisely the type of policy that was intended to be addressed by state governments, not the national government, and that allowing Congress to increase the scope of its jurisdiction on this issue is precisely the sort of governmental and majoritarian mission creep that the Framers of the Constitution were trying to guard against.

But even if we think we should emulate the intent of 18th century Englishmen in the 21st century American context (and it’s not at all clear we should), such claims give us little guidance as to which subnational majorities should be able to override national ones or when. When and why, that is, should non-majority policy views be permitted to disrupt or downright override the majority? We might all agree that there are times when political losers should be granted such extraordinary power, but that is quite a different matter from allowing them to override majorities as a matter of routine politics.

Moreover, gun control is the worst type of policy to leave to state governments because it falls prey to precisely the kind of inter-state activity that individual states cannot regulate without cooperation from others. Far from being so-called ‘laboratories’ of democracy, states are cross-contaminated by free and open borders, meaning that strict gun laws in one state are routinely thwarted by liberal laws in another. Ironically, spiraling violence was a major impetus for the Constitutional Convention, which sought to strengthen the capacity of the national government to solve national problems, not to hamstring it.

Enacting public policy is harder than simply blocking it and the U.S. system of separation of powers, mal-apportionment in the Senate, federalism and judicial supremacy allows extremist views to maintain the status quo, even when a sizeable majority of the public wants change.

Let’s start a new narrative: Majority rule is not tyranny and losing is not oppression. The American political narrative of checks and balances is overly preoccupied with the dangers of political majorities when the true threat to American democracy is the ability of electoral losers to nonetheless defeat the policy preferences of the winners.

This, in turn, creates enormous frustration among the electorate and delegitimizes politics and politicians, driving people even farther away from the political process and making it even more likely that political minorities will have disproportionate influence on policy.

Recognizing this may leave the electorate even more pessimistic about the prospects for gun control than before. But without acknowledging how our constitutional system facilitates rule by a virulent political minority, we risk pouring large amounts of political energy into efforts to change hearts and minds when, in fact, a majority of minds don’t need changing. What we need is to undermine the idea that rule by the few is the American way and to identify ways to overcome obstacles to implementing majority preferences.

The Party Left Me And Other Complaints of the Voter-As-Atomistic-Consumer

[ 180 ] June 15, 2016 |


Freddie deBoer has made his quadrennial Dramatic Exit from the Democratic Party. Are the unexpected success of the Sanders campaign, the fact that a very brief period of unified Democratic government produced a collection of progressive reforms with fewer than five equals in all of American history, and/or the facts that the Democratic candidate will be running on the party’s most progressive platform in decades encouraging signs? Nope — as we know, for Freddie politics is supposed to be the instantaneous boring of wet tissue paper, and if you don’t fully succeed the first time you play you should take everybody’s balls home and destroy them.

Before we begin, it’s worth noting at the outset that deBoer repeatedly frames this as a dispute with the “Sanders campaign.” But of course it is not. It is a dispute with “people who will not support the Democratic candidate for president, despite the many horrible foreseeable material consequences for the most vulnerable people in America that would flow from a government controlled by Trump and a Republican Congress.” Bernie Sanders has repeatedly said that despite their real differences Clinton is vastly preferable to any Republican and that defeating Donald Trump is a critical imperative for anyone on the left. deBoer is against Sanders and most of his supporters here, not with him. It is also worth noting that this is not an ideological dispute; it is not about FAILING TO RECOGNIZE THAT THERE ARE PEOPLE TO YOUR LEFT. Noam Chomsky believes that swing-state voters should support the leftmost viable candidate in general elections; Tom Friedman, conversely, shares Freddie’s view that there really needs to be a third-party candidate that agrees with him in every detail because coalition-building should be obsolete for today’s consumer.

Anyway, most of this very long piece is just a list of ways in which Hillary Clinton is to Freddie deBoer’s right, which is of course neither here nor there in terms of the question the general election presents, i.e. is “she substantially better than Donald Trump?” This has all of the problems that “dealbreaker” arguments always have. It is worth noting, however, just how threadbare some of his “dealbreakers” are, and how nutty the theory of politics they’re connected to is:

I am opposed to a Hillary Clinton presidency because I find that, despite the way her supporters claim her as some sort of champion of social liberalism, she has in fact had to be dragged to progressive opinions on social questions for years. She was publicly opposed to gay marriage up until that point where it became untenable for a Democrat to be so. Her previously-mentioned support for the crime bill and welfare reform demonstrates a failure to understand where social problems come from. Her squishiness on abortion concerns me. In general, her stance on social issues frequently seems defensive and motivated by political concerns rather than principled.

Hillary Clinton is running the most aggressively pro-reproductive-justice campaign of any major party candidate in history, and it’s not close. She doesn’t merely favor the restoration of Roe v. Wade; she favors ending the Hyde Amendment, and has made the explicit case that barriers to abortion access disproportionately affect poor women. Is this celebrated? Nope; deBoer remains concerned about her “squishiness” on abortion because of disagreement on a single issue. He is, however, not so concerned with reproductive rights that he thinks it’s at all important that Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and/or Anthony Kennedy be replaced with justices who support the restoration of Roe rather than its overruling. Why, it’s almost as if his real concern is not the reproductive rights of American women but finding any possible pretext to declare himself too good for the Democratic Party. (Note the Catch-22 deBoer is setting up for the Democratic Party here, his preemptive refusal to ever take “yes” for an answer. Even as the Democratic Party is shifting to the left, it’s still never worth supporting, because if you have to move to the left it doesn’t count.)

But worse than that is that the conception of politics here is absolutely ridiculous. Of course Hillary Clinton is in part “motivated by political concerns.” That’s what politics is. Trying to get people in positions of power to move in your direction is why ordinary people engage in politics. Drawing sharp distinctions between “principle” and “politics” when dealing with leaders of large brokerage parties is making a category error. Hillary Clinton will nominate judges who will restore Roe v. Wade, and she will veto any bad abortion regulations a Republican Congress would put on her desk. What mixture of principle and prudence motivates her is completely irrelevant.

Three presidents can be plausibly said to have greater records of progressive accomplishment than Barack Obama: LBJ, FDR, and Lincoln. Were these men, as deBoer suggests they must be, consistent left-wing ideologues, men who were committed to consistent left principles who did not concern themselves with practical politics and never had to be “pushed” from the left? Er, no. Good God, no. They were practical men. They were not ideologically consistent. They had progressive records in large part because of the organized pressures from the left placed on them. Lyndon Johnson had a voting record in the Senate that makes Hillary Clinton look like a Wobbly. Did civil rights and labor groups follow deBoer’s advice, refuse to work with him and support him, and seek to throw the election to Goldwater in the hopes that a REAL ally could eventually control the White House? No, they did not, because they understand politics as deBoer does not. And the result was arguably the most progressive domestic policy presidency ever. The Emancipation Proclamation was a compromise motivated in large measure by political expediency. So what? Who wants political leaders who disdain politics, who aren’t responsive to their constituents?

And it’s amazing that deBoer would bring up same-sex marriage, which constitutes about ten own-goals for his worldview. The national right to same-sex marriage was created through a path that deBoer repeatedly assures us can never work. Did the LBGT community leave the Democratic Party because Democratic leaders continued to nominally oppose same-sex marriage? No, they did not. They recognized that politicians who can potentially be pressured to adopted your favored positions are better than those who cannot be. They also recognized that what presidents do is a lot more important than what they say. Bill Clinton nominally opposed same-sex marriage when he took office, and so did Barack Obama when he took office. And yet, the four Supreme Court justices they appointed were all in the Obergefell majority. And the four first choice Republican nominees all dissented. And it’s also worth noting that the swing vote that lead to victory, Anthony Kennedy, was on the Court because a lot of liberal voters held their noses and voted for Democratic senators like Howell Heflin and Richard Shelby and Sam Nunn, who were a good sight less than ideal but were still with the party on some key issues like “should Robert Bork be confirmed to the Supreme Court?” Same-sex marriage is a perfect illustration that the White House is generally where changes end, not where they begin. And it’s also an excellent illustration that you don’t walk away from the political coalition that’s closer to your interests because you don’t win immediately.

He continues, in vain, in this vein:

I reject the insistence that it’s my responsibility to vote for Hillary Clinton out of support for the “lesser evil” because the lesser evil argument contains no coherent argument for how change occurs. The lesser evil is not good enough; lesser evilists never articulate a remotely compelling vision of how one proceeds from the lesser evil to the greater good. Politics is a form of negotiation. The lesser evil argument compels us to concede to our negotiation partner (the candidate we are meant to support) our only source of leverage (our vote) before receiving any concessions at all. You might try this in any other form of negotiation and see how well that works for you. Promising to vote Democrat no matter what ensures that Democrats have no reason whatsoever to actually improve as a party. And as long as Republicans are in a death spiral, “better than the Republicans” is a designation that simply gets worse and worse over time. Lesser evil thinking is a road that has no ending and inevitably leads to the bottom.

deBoer attacking other people for lacking a “coherent argument for how change occurs” is…astounding. There’s a reason why this argument operates entirely at an abstract level, with no historical examples. This is because history has continually and decisively refuted deBoer. Voting for Johnson, as we’ve discussed, was a classic “lesser evil” vote in the sense that he means it. So was FDR, given the many compromises the New Deal had to make with the white supremacist faction of the party. So was Lincoln, an incrementalist on an issue of the utmost moral urgency. Major progressive reforms are almost always the result of lesser-evil voting and coalition-building, and are virtually never the result of dramatic flounces out of the coalition, as the same-sex marriage movement shows. Did movement conservatives take over the Republican Party by voting third party if they didn’t win? They did not. They try to get their candidates elected in the primaries, they won some and they lost some, but they kept pushing. It’s not complicated, but it works. As a theory of political change, it’s perfectly coherent. deBoer’s isn’t even a theory; it’s a retrospective justification for his belief that he’s too good to form any political association with people on the left he deems not left enough. Let’s say enough of the left agreed with deBoer to successfully throw the election to Trump. Do you think this would be good for the American left? That it would increase their influence? The whole idea is nuttier than a warehouse full of fruitcakes. It’s a ridiculous idea in theory that has an extensive record of failure in practice.

Refusing to support Hillary Clinton from any point on the democratic left and trying to persuade others not to do so, although this election presents one of the widest gaps between the parties of any presidential election in American history, can mean one of two things. One is that all of the horrors that would flow from at least four years of a President Trump almost certainly joined by 4 years of a Republican Congress are a price worth paying to “punish” the Democrats (note: it is not Democratic leaders who would actually bear the brunt of the punishment, but people of much less privilege). This is a monstrous position, in my view, given that the horrible things are certain and the speculation that the bad things would lead to better things implausible in the extreme, but if it’s your position at least own it. Conversely, you could privately believe that Sanders is right that President Clinton would be significantly better than President Trump, and you don’t actually want the latter to happen, but you feel comfortable publicly trying to persuade people not to support Clinton because you’re confident it will be ineffectual. In some ways, this is even worse. I mean, at least “heighten-the-contradictions” is an ethos. “I refuse to support Hillary Clinton as long as I’m sure I won’t matter” isn’t “principle”; it’s “utter wankdom.” If that’s your position, why bother writing about electoral politics at all? Just write in the only person who could ever be worthy of your vote — yourself — if you bother to vote at all, and be done with it.

“If We Had Nuked Denver After Columbine, We Never Would Have Had Any of These Problems.”

[ 232 ] June 14, 2016 |

Donald Trump lickspittle and aspiring sports radio hot-taker Chris Christie has some very serious ideas about how to combat terrorism:

The proper response to a sexually confused native New Yorker who exploited the weak gun laws of Florida and the United States to buy an assault rife and commit an anti-gay hate massacre in a night club, according to Christie, is to bomb a foreign country.

He hasn’t decided which one yet.

“It’s unacceptable to allow this kind of stuff in our country and for us not to fight back, and we need to fight back, and that’s all these people understand,” Christie told the radio show. When the hosts smartly pressed the New Jersey governor on exactly where that fight should take place, he responded: ““You gotta get over there and start making them pay where they live. It’s an ugly and difficult thing but if we don’t get over there, they’re coming here, and they showed it again this weekend.”

So, unless I’m misunderstanding Christie, he wants the U.S. military to drop bombs on Port St. Lucie, Florida, since that’s where the American-born gunman has lived for the past few years. (A particularly odd choice since Christie’s Mets train there every spring, but I digress…)

How Donald Trump ever captured the Republican nomination is a mystery we’ll probably never be able to solve.

Page 3 of 84712345...102030...Last »