Subscribe via RSS Feed

Author Page for Scott Lemieux

rss feed

The Trump Administration in One Cabinet Appointment

[ 59 ] November 26, 2016 |


As Paul recently noted, Ben Carson initially turned down a cabinet appointment because he was massively unqualified. (His obvious inability to run even a second-tier cabinet department didn’t stop him from running for president, of course.) But now he’s changed his mind, and why not?

Ben Carson has demonstrated the ability to do two things at a world-class level: perform surgical operations, and run lucrative scams. By his own admission, he is patently unqualified to run a federal agency. Nonetheless, he is apparently on the verge of accepting a job as secretary of Housing and Urban Development, a policy field in which he has no experience or expertise. One might think that this background makes Carson uniquely unsuited for the role of HUD secretary. But from another, more cynical perspective, he is absolutely perfect for the job.

If you’ve ever wonder what it would be like if the executive branch of the federal government was run by people with Michael Brown’s competence and Jeffrey Skilling’s ethics, you’re finally going to find out! But, it must be acknowledged that Hillary Clinton did use a private email server.


The Recounts Are Far More Likely To Help Trump Than Hurt Him

[ 80 ] November 26, 2016 |


The Clinton campaign has released a statement about the recounts that are being requested in Wisconsin and perhaps Michigan and Pennsylvania. And this time I actually think their judgment — that there was no point in calling for the recounts but they will participate now that they’re happening — was sound.

Here’s the thing: the chances that the outcome in the three decisive states will be overturned are almost nil. The odds are against Trump losing the Electoral College votes of even one state. And when the recounts validate his Electoral College in his victory, this will serve to legitimize his presidency. There might good-government reasons to do the recounts anyway. But contrary to a lot of arguments I’ve seen, one thing these recounts are not is good hardball politics. They will almost certainly work to Trump’s benefit by suggesting that the election was on the square and serving to mask the many ways in which the election was, in fact illegitimate.

For example, here’s a neener-neener from Alex Pareene’s latest kidding-on-the-square anti-Clinton piece:

Your side spent the last month of the campaign attempting to troll Trump by asking him to preemptively accept the results of the election, assuming he’d lose and claim it was rigged. In doing so, you guys also argued—persuasively!—that rigging a presidential election would be extraordinarily difficult, if not completely impossible. So, sorry, you kinda walked right into this one.

 If you buy this story, though, and you’re not just clinging to the comforting fantasy that the horrible thing you saw happen didn’t actually happen, you’ll have to explain how the apparently suspicious results that gave Trump his crucial upset victories in those key swing states seem to pretty clearly match up with the results in demographically similar counties in states that didn’t swing Republican. Were the Russians attempting to rig Minnesota and New Hampshire, too, and just came up short? Did they swing a couple upstate New York counties Trump’s way just to make his Pennsylvania victory look more plausible? Maybe! Or maybe you just lost.

Hahaha, you wanted Trump to accept the vote count results as legitimate and now the shoe’s on the other foot SUCK IT LIBS!

But, of course, it is nearly impossible for an election to be rigged in the way that Trump and Republican vote suppressors claim that Democrats rig elections. The recounts are not going to reveal a lot of voter-impersonation fraud or ballot-stuffing.  But this isn’t the point. The 2016 election was, in fact, a massive fail for American democracy:

Focusing on one, narrow element of the election that probably wasn’t severely dysfunctional is a great way to conceal and stifle discussion about what really went wrong. Trump will get to trumpet that the election was fair when it was anything but. If this is hardball anti-Trump politics it couldn’t be any more illogical.

To be clear, for once I don’t think Stein is trying to help Republicans here. Given that she’s a sucker for conspiracy theories, she may well think there’s a real chance that this will help Clinton. But, as usual, she’s wrong. The recounts will almost certainly help to legitimize Trump rather than undermining him.


Republicans Are Worse Than Democrats On Everything, An Ongoing Series

[ 46 ] November 26, 2016 |


Education policy is an area where a lot of Democrats, including the outgoing president, can be pretty bad on a lot of issues. It is nonetheless true that that Republicans can still be an entirely different universe of bad:

But DeVos, a former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, represents the most conservative corner of the movement. She and her husband have funded a series of efforts to turn public school funding into vouchers for students to attend private schools. They have also fought to prevent charter schools, including for-profit charter schools, from being more tightly regulated.

The DeVos appointment signals that Trump is serious about the $20 billion school voucher plan he rolled out on the campaign trail. The proposal would redirect huge swaths of the federal education budget away from school districts and toward low-income parents, allowing them to spend a voucher at a public or private school of their choice, potentially including for-profit, virtual, and religious schools.


Public school student achievement in New Orleans has improved in recent years, in part because of increased family choice among nonprofit charter schools. But according to Douglas Harris, an economist at Tulane University and director of the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans, “We’ve never seen an effect as negative as the private school voucher program.” Harris doesn’t expect this evidence to dissuade Team Trump. “Of all the ideas I’ve heard bandied about in various policy areas, this is the one most likely to happen. Trump is talking about it and clearly thinks it’s a good idea. Republicans love this. Most policy is going to be driven by Congress, probably even more so under Trump than any previous administration. This is what they want to do. The stars are aligned.”

A pyramid scheme multilevel marketing heir-in-law wanting to funnel money to largely unregulated private schools. What could possibly go wrong?


[ 91 ] November 26, 2016 |

Finally, the embargo on Cuba achieves its objective. A policy success!

I’m sure Trump will, like Obama, work to make U.S./Cuba relations more rational as there’s not a dime’s worth of difference and all.


[ 64 ] November 24, 2016 |

Trading a 1st round pick for Sam Bradford was a really dumb idea.

I did enjoy the fact that Bradford’s sub-mediocrity managed to wake Simms from his usual slumber after some non-era and non-yardage adjusted completion % stats were put on the screen. “Daunte Culpepper completed 69% of his passes and HE WASN’T THROWING CHECKDOWNS JEEEEM.”

As requested by a commenter, Thursday football open thread.

The Airing of Grievances V: Jill Stein

[ 150 ] November 24, 2016 |

In the immediate aftermath of the election, Kara Brown had a loving tribute to Jill Stein:

Without ever possessing even a sliver of a chance of maybe possibly ever becoming President of the United States, Jill Stein continued her farce of a campaign drawing attention and support away from the only goal any of us should have had: defeating Donald Trump.

Now, she has the nerve to post these janky-ass Martin Luther King, Jr. memes.

[click through for infuriating-in-context meme]

I’m guessing MLK would not be thrilled with you right now, Jill! He’d probably wonder why you didn’t rally your supporters to vote for Hillary Clinton so, I don’t know, maybe we could avoid Donald Trump unraveling eight years of Obama gains and appointing two Supreme Court justices. I DON’T THINK HE’D FIND YOUR FUCKING MEME VERY HELPFUL.

I know that white people are not familiar with the concept of voting for survival and my god was that apparent this election. I of course blame myself for absolutely none of this, but I do feel like an idiot for even believing, when faced with this test, that this country would do the right thing.

Stein has apparently raised $2.5 million for recounts in WI, MI, and PA. I guess this is supposed to be a mitigating factor, but it pisses me off even more. What could be more Green than investing in almost-certainly-futile recounts to stop Trump rather than just, you know, telling your swing state supporters to vote for Clinton, the vastly superior candidate from any point on the left spectrum?

To me, Stein’s after-the-fact attack of conscience just underlies the extraordinary bad faith behind her entire enterprise. Nobody who knows anything really thinks that there’s no meaningful difference between a competent, moderate liberal and a grotesquely corrupt and unfit authoritarian committed to Coolidgnomics. Nobody can claim with a straight face that “1. Running an ill-informed buffoon for president every 4 years. 2. That’s about it” represents some kind of serious theory of social change that would justify putting the much worse candidate in the White House. The vast majority of Stein voters (or people on the left who just wouldn’t vote for Clinton) were just free riders who didn’t want Trump in the White House but expected this not to happen. This kind of thing works until it doesn’t.

To be clear, I don’t think that in the end Stein swung the election; like most such counterfactuals, it founders in Pennsylvania. I also don’t think this is much of a defense. In a period of political crisis, she ran a campaign whose only possible material effect would be to put Donald Trump in the White House, and spent her campaign reinforcing the ridiculous narrative that this was a race between to equally corrupt candidates who were similar ideologically. We can be extremely confident that this campaign was dishonest as well as counterproductive. When you willingly join a firing squad set to execute much of the New Deal and Great Society, it’s not much of a mitigating factor that you were ultimately given a blank.

The Irreplaceable SEK

[ 27 ] November 23, 2016 |

Like most of my colleagues, I never met Scott in “real life.” Although it’s an increasingly odd thing to say; after all, I interact more with most of my closest friends from “real life” online, and it’s not really less real. His horribly premature death is a tragedy I haven’t even begun to process yet (on top of the other such tragedies November 2016 has given us, tragedies we needed SEK to write about.)

I’m glad that Erik linked to Scott McLemee’s tribute to Scott. As it happens, when I heard that Scott’s health had taken I severe downturn I was also thinking of the “Ivan Tribble” controversy and Scott’s inability to attain the academic position he merited. The hollowing-out of This Thing Of Ours has many dimensions and has been caused by many things. But it was kind of remarkable to see a self-appointed Gatekeeper Of Intellectual Standards 1)make one transparently specious argument after another about a medium he didn’t understand and 2)openly boast about basing decisions for precious tenure-track positions largely on random personality trivia. Scott’s body of work was, in addition to its many other virtues, a compelling rebuke to assumptions that writing for a general audience is somehow “unserious.” Had he focused on writing jargon-filled articles that would sit permanently unread he would have had a better chance at economic security, but the world would have been much poorer for it. As Paul and Rob both said, something has gone seriously askew when a talent like Scott was ultimately forced to write clickbait for a living.

He was a good man and a great talent who produced a body of work I will never stop coming back to or learning from. It was a privilege to have him here and I am deeply saddened by that he will not be adding to it. The most sincere condolences to his family and friends.

More Please

[ 110 ] November 21, 2016 |

ryan is a working man

This is more like it:

Hopefully this is the sign of a serious push by the left flanks on Schumer.

I’m finding all of these discussions what to do if Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell offer decent legislation that advances progressive ends faintly surreal. I mean…”Paul Ryan” we can stop right there. At best you’re going to get terrible legislation, like the Trump infrastructure proposal, framed in a concern trolling manner (“you said you wanted infrastructure! Now you don’t want to vote for a bill that mostly consists of tax breaks for projects that would be built anyway! Make up your mind!”) Should we be worrying about what to do if Trump nominates Pam Karlan to fill Scalia’s seat too?

This really isn’t complicated. The default position for Democratic legislators is “don’t vote for anything, because this is right both substantively and politically.” If there’s ever an exception we can deal with it then.

Politics Is Identity Politics

[ 512 ] November 21, 2016 |
President Reagan greets Sen. Jesse Helms at a dinner honoring the North Carolina Republican in this June 16, 1983 photo in Washington. (AP Photo, Ed Reinke)

President Reagan greets Sen. Jesse Helms at a dinner honoring the North Carolina Republican in this June 16, 1983 photo in Washington. (AP Photo, Ed Reinke)

Above: Remember the Good Old Days, When Politicians Avoided Appeals to Racial Identity?


I was going to ignore Mark Lilla’s “identity politics” essay — it’s pretty much the definition of self-refuting — until I saw that Bernie get back on the “class not identity” chicken. So let us get to the grim task at hand:

The moral energy surrounding identity has, of course, had many good effects. Affirmative action has reshaped and improved corporate life. Black Lives Matter has delivered a wake-up call to every American with a conscience. Hollywood’s efforts to normalize homosexuality in our popular culture helped to normalize it in American families and public life.

Note here that Lilla is playing the same card from the center that is sometimes played from the consciously anti-liberal left, identifying “improved corporate life” and “Hollywood’s efforts” as the primary goals of “identity politics,” and describing the end goal of Black Life Matters as delivering a “wake-up call.” The silliness of Lilla’s argument would be more ready if he identified products of “the moral energy surrounding identity” like the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Act, additional antidiscrimination laws at the federal and state level, a federally established right for a woman to choose to obtain an abortion, a federal right to same-sex-marriage, etc. This would also allow us to see that far from being settled issues these rights are all under serious threat and many or all are about to be diminished severely during a Trump administration. A “wake-up call” is not enough to address the effects of unjustified police violence and mass incarceration. And of course, none of these issues can be meaningfully separated from class. It isn’t affluent women in big cities who will have their effective access to safe abortions severely curtailed if Roe v. Wade is further cut back or overruled. Mass incarceration combined with felon disenfranchisement (and other forms of vote suppression) is crucial to Republicans maintaining advantages in state and federal legislatures. Lilla gives away the show by trivializing the issues at stake from the get-go.

But the fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life

I dunno, just me but I would say that the ongoing segregation of our schools is a far greater factor in any such bubble that any alleged “fixation on diversity.” Whoops — did I just engage in “identity politics” by noting the concrete effects of ongoing racial discrimination and their material effects on American politics? Sorry about that!

By the time they reach college many assume that diversity discourse exhausts political discourse, and have shockingly little to say about such perennial questions as class, war, the economy and the common good.

I have to say, I’d like to see some actual evidence for such claims. It sure seemed like Sanders’s appeals on economic policy were effective at reaching young people who only care about diversity.

How to explain to the average voter the supposed moral urgency of giving college students the right to choose the designated gender pronouns to be used when addressing them?

Who could possibly care about the dignity of a group of people routinely subjected to discrimination, harassment, and violence, amiright? Where is the MORAL URGENCY?

This campus-diversity consciousness has over the years filtered into the liberal media, and not subtly. Affirmative action for women and minorities at America’s newspapers and broadcasters has been an extraordinary social achievement — and has even changed, quite literally, the face of right-wing media, as journalists like Megyn Kelly and Laura Ingraham have gained prominence. But it also appears to have encouraged the assumption, especially among younger journalists and editors, that simply by focusing on identity they have done their jobs.

First, I would say that the attempted diversification of the major American media is an…incomplete project. Second, an alleged tendency among journalists “simply by focusing on identity they have done their jobs” is something I’m going to need more evidence for than random anecdotes from someone who’s obsessed with spotting “identity politics” while sojourning in Europe.

But it is at the level of electoral politics that identity liberalism has failed most spectacularly, as we have just seen. National politics in healthy periods is not about “difference,” it is about commonality.

I see, so Donald Trump riding the politics of white resentment to the White House is the fault of “identity liberalism?” And when have American politics ever not involved “difference”? Wait, he has an answer:

And it will be dominated by whoever best captures Americans’ imaginations about our shared destiny

He wrote this in the immediate aftermath of Donald Trump winning a presidential election. Really.

Ronald Reagan did that very skillfully

Remember that campaign that started in Philadelphia, Mississippi talking about states’ rights and talked about strapping young bucks buying Cadillacs with welfare checks? It was an appeal to our shared destiny that did not involve a politics of “difference.”

So did Bill Clinton, who took a page from Reagan’s playbook. He seized the Democratic Party away from its identity-conscious wing,

That’s…one way of looking at it!

concentrated his energies on domestic programs that would benefit everyone (like national health insurance) and defined America’s role in the post-1989 world. By remaining in office for two terms, he was then able to accomplish much for different groups in the Democratic coalition.

It’s interesting though — he might have “focused” on national healthcare reform legislation, but he didn’t preside over its enactment, although he did sign a terrible welfare reform bill, a terrible anti-LBGT bill, and some bad crime control bills. (None of which had anything to do with identity politics, of course.)

I do have a very dim memory of a politician who is not mentioned in Lilla’s piece. He abandoned Clinton’s “seizure” of the party from its “identity-conscious wing.” If I recall correctly, this guy not only won two terms in office but actually signed a major health care reform law, as well as several more good laws and many fewer bad ones than Clinton. Anyone remember?

We need a post-identity liberalism, and it should draw from the past successes of pre-identity liberalism. Such a liberalism would concentrate on widening its base by appealing to Americans as Americans and emphasizing the issues that affect a vast majority of them. It would speak to the nation as a nation of citizens who are in this together and must help one another. As for narrower issues that are highly charged symbolically and can drive potential allies away, especially those touching on sexuality and religion, such a liberalism would work quietly, sensitively and with a proper sense of scale. (To paraphrase Bernie Sanders, America is sick and tired of hearing about liberals’ damn bathrooms.)

Nah. Also, on what planet did Hillary Clinton not appeal “to Americans as Americans” or “emphasize issues that affect the vast majority of them?” You’d think from Lilla’s account that Clinton’s speeches consisted of thirty seconds of shout-outs to various democratic constituencies, “elect me, I’m a woman!” and leaving the stage. It’s certainly true that the media failed to report on the important economic issues that Clinton’s campaign talked about constantly, but I don’t think an excessive concern with “identity politics” is the problem. Have our schools with their excessive fixation on diversity caused the media to become selectively obsessed with email server management?

But, of course, takes like this never address what candidates are actually saying. As always, any election with a bad result means that the Democratic Party should do what the pundit is saying it should be doing had it won. But advocates changing the direction of the party need to make a case on the merits, and in this case I’m giving a hard pass.

…Echidne has more.

Saving Medicare

[ 135 ] November 21, 2016 |

There are going to be many, many battles, but this will be the most important:

Trump’s election has sprung into overdrive a debate we’ve been having in the world of politics for more than a year: Is Trumpism largely about economic distress tied to globalization and neo-liberal economics or is it mainly driven by a white racial backlash against minorities Trump supporters believe are cutting to the front of the line in the race for economic preferment and cultural centrality? I largely put myself in the second camp. But as I think most people realize, these are not mutually exclusive explanations. And whichever side of the equation you come down on, what the Democrats need are issues that cut across the regional/racial/class divide we saw in the 2016 election.

Medicare does that.


Getting rid of or gutting Medicare is incredibly unpopular. It can only be accomplished by a mixture of bamboozlement, scare tactics and unified party government which will allow the GOP to push the change through regardless of public opinion. Saving Medicare or giving everything in the effort to do so is a tailor-made way for Democrats to cut across the Trump-Clinton divide and undermine the idea that Trump or the GOP have the interests of the middle class or really anyone but libertarians and the extremely wealthy at heart.

I’ll summarize my point. Medicare is hugely important for everyone, for the reasons I noted above. But it should become a central focus even if those who don’t see it as the most important issue because it is an issue where Democrats can score a win and in doing so they will empower the opposition to defeat the Trump GOP on other critical fronts. Critically, it is a cross-cutting issue. They will either drive a wedge between Trump and the GOP or undermine for many voters who supported Trump the belief that he cares about the needs of people like them.

There cannot be any political weapon left off the table. As Marshall says, this is one where the right politics and the right policy line up perfectly.

Can We Try This Year Over?

[ 42 ] November 20, 2016 |

Sharon Jones, R.I.P.

NFL Open Thread

[ 129 ] November 20, 2016 |


Last week, when anyone with any conscience really needed some bread and circuses one of the two early games in my market was Rams/Jets, an inspiring tale of what bad talent poorly coached can accomplish on offense. Apparently, Jeff “7-9” Fisher was as bored as I was, since the guy he traded up to acquire with the #1 overall pick has finally been deemed more playable than Case Keenum. Tanier explained two weeks ago why this was overdue:

How much more of Keenum are Rams fans, football lovers and sane human beings expected to take?

Now is not the time to start Goff. Last month was the time to start Goff. After the four-interception London catastrophe and bye week was the time to start Goff. Now is long, long past the time to start Goff.

There is no good football reason to keep Goff on the bench. Oh, there are plenty of plausible-sounding-but-bad football reasons. Emily Kaplan itemized them in a recent MMQB feature: He’s learning footwork and terminology, learning how to read defenses, adjusting from an Air Raid college offense with fewer adjustments and variables than the offense the Rams hypothetically run, and so forth.

Piffle, poppycock and balderdash. These are the same things every rookie quarterback must learn. None of them are left moldering on the bench while a third-string-caliber veteran pretends to be a switch-pitcher.

Either Goff is spectacularly unready, even by the standards of rookie quarterbacks, or the Rams have no idea how to properly develop him. Goff did not look spectacularly unready leaving Cal, no one on the Rams coaching staff has developed a quarterback in this millennium, and Kaplan quotes Rams coaches stating that they won’t change their offensive scheme (masterpiece that it is) to acclimate the rookie. So this mystery of whether Goff or Jeff Fisher’s staff is the problem doesn’t seem all that hard to solve.

The Rams need to start Goff immediately. If he really cannot outperform Keenum, then it’s an indictment of the brain trust that traded up to acquire him, one that should cost all of them their jobs. That may be precisely why Goff isn’t playing. Better to bury the kid on the bench and be thought a fool for one more year than stick him in the lineup and remove all doubt.

That’s the kind of reasoning that has kept the Fisher Rams under .500 for years. The only thing funny about it is Keenum’s highlight reel.

Either Keenum started about 5 weeks too long, or the Rams made one of the worst trades in NFL history. Come to think of it, both of these things could still be true.

For the people who want to talk hoops in these threads, I can say that the LeBron hot take uncovered by Magary in the Easterbrook section is one seriously spicy meatball. I give it four Baylesses.

Page 4 of 880« First...23456...102030...Last »