A Brief Overview of My Current Political Thoughts

I’ve not been writing on politics nearly as much as I have in previous times, in part because in this age of obvious corruption and complicity, I find it difficult and wearying, without the motivating prod of actually being paid for it, to write anything that I haven’t already said in broad and unambiguous terms.

That being said, I understand it’s useful from time to time to keep people up to date on these matters so they don’t have to go rummaging through the archives to find my thoughts. And thus: Brief statements on current political thoughts. In no particular order:

1. The president is the worst president of my lifetime, who is ignorant, bigoted, incurious, corrupt, has almost certainly engaged in criminal conduct before and after he was in office, is either a complicit or unwitting tool for the Russian government and its goals, never should have been in a position to become president, and now that he is president, should be removed from the office, whether through a Senate trial or simply by losing the popular (again) and electoral vote later this year.

2. Per the previous, the president amply deserved to be impeached by the House of Representatives, and amply deserves to be removed from the office he holds by the Senate. That he will not be removed, and that the vote for removal will not be anywhere near to close, is proof that the current iteration of the Republican party is complicit in the president’s criminality and has become little better than a criminal enterprise in itself.

3. Among the current Democratic candidates for president, I currently favor Elizabeth Warren and if I were a Democrat, would likely vote for her in the Ohio primary. With that said, all of the current Democratic candidates for president are substantially better than the current president (even Tulsi Gabbard, who I find deeply problematic but has no chance of being president, so I’m not going to worry much about her), so no matter which of them makes it through the primary process, I will be voting for them in November. Given the realities of our binary political system, anyone who says they oppose Trump but is not willing to vote for whoever it is that is on the Democratic side of the ballot in November is a complicit tool of Trump and the Republicans.

4. Foreign and domestic interests are currently doing as much as possible to suppress the vote of non-Trump supporters, online and offline. Register to vote, check that your registration is current if you did register, and be aware that all those highly clickable and repostable memes are designed to make you angry, confused, susceptible to misinformation and a vector for spreading misinformation to others. You should be smarter than that, and you should frustrate the people who do not want you to cast your ballot in November.

Aaaaand that should cover it for now, I think? Mind you, I might still write more about politics here if the mood strikes me, because that’s how this site works. But if I don’t, this is my current state of thinking. It’s not complicated! But in times like this, where one of the two major parties of the country is so wholly engaged in criminality and complicity, I think that’s fine.

95 Comments on “A Brief Overview of My Current Political Thoughts”

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts in such a succinct manner. I think a lot of us feel the same way, although I am not sure that it will be enough to root out the criminal enterprise in power at this time.

  2. 1. I agree 100%
    2. I agree 1000% and unfortunately concur that it is unlikely to happen
    3. Also favor Warren, but will vote for whoever gets the Democratic nomination. I have had the argument that you make several times with several people and never cease to be amazed that people are still willing to not vote if their candidate is not nominated.
    4. I have checked to make sure I am still registered twice in the past six months. Thank you for the reminder to check again

  3. It’s what you get when you privatise government; government for the privately powerful.

  4. I will also add, if I may … Please don’t just focus on the Presidential election. Please please please please vote downballot. Vote for your Senators and your Representatives at the federal and the state level. Vote like your life depended on it. (It does.)

  5. Thank you for this. I really appreciate it when artists use their platform to speak directly to important issues.

  6. “Given the realities of our binary political system, anyone who says they oppose Trump but is not willing to vote for whoever it is that is on the Democratic side of the ballot in November is a complicit tool of Trump and the Republicans.”

    I’m not an American, so I don’t _have_ this problem, but I can’t just sit by and let you get away with that _again_.

    Frankly, I believe that if you hold your nose and vote for the least worst, _that_ makes you complicit. If you justifiably believe neither candidate is worthy of the presidency, or any other political office, then America will get the government it deserves, not the one you helped elect.

    I do always say “if you didn’t vote, you have no right to grouse”, but as long as you voted you are free to complain that both parties are corrupt.

    America didn’t used to be a two-party state, and there’s no inherent reason it should remain so (though, of course, only violent revolution will change that now, as the Democrats and Republicans are not going to give up power).

  7. I agree with everything you said. I will vote for whoever the Democratic nominee is because all of them are better than that poor excuse of a human being that’s in there now.

  8. Derek:

    “Frankly, I believe that if you hold your nose and vote for the least worst, _that_ makes you complicit. If you justifiably believe neither candidate is worthy of the presidency, or any other political office, then America will get the government it deserves, not the one you helped elect.”

    Most of the time, I would agree with you, but this time is very different. It’s no longer a simple matter of making a principled protest vote against Trump by voting for someone other than the Democrat. The fact is that at the moment we do have a defacto two-party system, and right now a vote for a third party candidate helps to elect Trump. You cannot escape or avoid that simple fact.

    So, Americans are left with helping to elect Trump (directly or indirectly) and letting his assault on our democracy continue, or vote for whomever the Democrat is in an effort to protect the system and start undoing the damage. You said yourself that you don’t have any skin in this game. Fine, you’ve made your opinion known. However, some of us need to be far more practical and neither attempt to uphold delusional fantasies about how American elections currently work. The environment, consumer protections, LGBTQ protections, women’s rights, lives of refugees at our borders, and a slew of other important issues are under grave assault. Thus, we cannot ignore the serious long-term consequences of voting in a manner to make an otherwise meaningless political statements about the current system.

  9. I guess I am in the minority since my political opinions are the polar opposite of yours and always have been. I still buy and read your books; not seeing too much crossover into your writing. When it becomes more obvious then I will stop adding to your income. And of course you really won’t miss it too much. I usually ignore your posts but I am in a boring meeting to it seemed like a good time to respond. TTFN

  10. I look forward to a novel set on a world across which civilization has spread over several tens of thousands of years, empires driven by big men and rich men and the occasional Machiavellian conniver of whatever sex, and a world on which a huge continent is discovered far across a difficult ocean, on either side, from the existing imperial civilizations. And on which some little group of uppity colonists declares their independence and — protected by said vast oceans — quickly builds their own civilization with some significant moderation of the old big rich man driving force.

    From the point of view of the imperials, the new nation is a blip. Just a century or two of innovation, driven by the corollary to the Peter Principle that lets non-rich non-big non-men succeed and rise above the mediocre management that the imperial model requires, and the little colony becomes a world power, economically and militarily and in education and innovation.

    What happens when the protective oceans are no longer barriers to the old empires that have begun to be irritated by the existence of this brief upstart political innovation. Can it last, or does it get nibbled to death?

  11. @lizzielou2014 : I mean, have you read The Collapsing Empire?

    If so, did you not notice that its about climate change and how those in power deny it even when it is obvious?

    Because: Whoah.

    And now, I’ll sit back and look forward to John’s response to you. Good luck!

  12. Derek Broughton:

    Your comment boils down to “I don’t have experience with your political realities, and yet I feel compelled to make a statement that is not actually relevant to your current political situation but which nevertheless allows me to show my theoretical virtue on a matter that has nothing to do with anything in the real world.”

    So, well, thanks for that. Here’s your cookie.

  13. Derek: “America didn’t used to be a two-party state, and there’s no inherent reason it should remain so ”

    There IS an inherent reason the US is a two-party system: the constitution requires that to become president, the candidate must get >50% of the electoral college vote. It is not a “whoever gets the most, wins” system. If there are three main candidates and the candidates get 40%, 30%, and 30%, then no one wins, and the president is decided by CONGRESS.

    This forces candidates to align themselves with a party that can get at least 50% of the vote. Because no one wants to leave it to congress to decide who is president. Which means the system inherently creates two main parties each vying for half the voters. Third parties have never won the presidency. And have only acted as spoilers in the races they run in.

    Being a two party system isnt by itself a major problem, but combine that with a political system where the party fundraising is driven by the president and the president can use their office to help congress people get reelected or not, the checks and balances intended by the founding fathers has disappeared. Republicans in congress must be faithful to Trump if they want his help getting reelected.

    Also, Trump is the absolute worst president in a century. He has used the office of president for nothing but fattening his wallet and fluffing his ego, at the expense of every other american. The man is a traitor.



  14. 1) delete “almost” and I’m in agreement
    2) Agreed
    3) Sorry, not voting for Warren, as the only published tax/social security proposal she currently has will cost us $500 per week. But I’m in California and have the luxury of not doing so and not impacting the results – if I was in a different state I’d have to think about it (and unfortunately seeing her lose in the general – looks 75:25 that Trump gets re-elected, due to vote suppression and goddamn Florida)
    3a) Senate matters, unfortunately: it’s vanishingly unlikely that Palapatine (sorry, McTurtle) is evicted from the leadership, so no court appointments for the Dems
    4) Can vote in Democratic primaries as an independent, so I am doing so (requested the ballot already)

  15. Thank you for this. If you don’t mind, I will copy and quote with attribution on my next round of petitions from the DSCC, the DNC, and any other acronyms desperately seeking my opinions and money.

    I do notice that the money blegs are getting smarter. The good surveys–the ones with somewhat better questions–now follow the donation act. Voting on “select only 3” priorities from a list of 7, 8, or 11 is still not easy, but it’s easier to believe that the answer matters.

    The problem for me, at times, is that I can’t tell you what messages will move swing voters or undecided voters. I’m not representative of that cohort. I think this psychographic is comprised of people who have a variety of reasons, good and bad, about not expressing an opinion, not knowing why politics matters to them, and whether they can even safely participate. A survey won’t fix that. But someone should find out, state by state, or even county by county, if this idea is a way to approach it.

    1. What are the reasons you don’t vote? Check 2 (or check all that apply).
    __ Concerned of your neighbor’s disapproval and potential regular unpleasantness
    __ Wary of being targeted by white fascist terrorists in surrounding neighborhoods
    __ I am in despair and don’t know how to move out of despair into effortful response
    __ I am already overwhelmed by my life, juggling job, family, church or spiritual commitments
    __ I’m OK with the consequences of not voting
    __I’m afraid the lack of privacy online and offline is now so bad that my vote is not longer private, or my vote can be changed after I vote

    I’d really like someone who knows how to ask these questions of the people most likely to not vote. Surely there’s a way?

  16. Just received the card from our state confirming that both DH and myself are registered to vote. OTOH, it appears the state is really pushing mail-in voting by not assigning voting precincts, which is okay, but I liked being able to go down, have my name checked off, and go into the little canvas booth with a ballot and pen.

  17. #1 – Yup (though like Not the Reddit Chris S, I, too, disagree with you about the word “almost”)
    #2 – Yup
    #3 – Yup
    #4 – Yup

    And Kara Hudson – YES-YES-YES, a thousand times yes. Do NOT ignore/overlook those down-ballot races, folks. The Rs quietly embarked on a strategy several decades ago that can best be described as “No office too small,” and it has worked very well for them precisely because too many non-Rs continue to ignore those down-ballot races.

  18. Not the Reddit Chris S: “Sorry, not voting for Warren, as the only published tax/social security proposal she currently has will cost us $500 per week”

    The vast majority of Warren’s proposals have effectively zero chance of being enacted by her administration should she win. The reason for this is the same reason that Trump will not be removed in the impeachment trial. The Senate is overly representative of rural, lowly populated states and is, thus, a body with a membership that skews toward conservative/Republican membership. There’s no realistic scenario that ends with Democrats in control of the Senate, even if their aggregate vote totals in 2020 are much higher.

    That said, her various plans for all sorts of things are important. They let you know where she stands. Plus, getting them into the national conversation is the real point. The GOP always has an agenda of tearing down some piece or other of government that is geared toward actually helping people. For example, they’ve been attacking the ACA since the moment it was passed and will never rest until they kill it. The Democrats need to be putting forth ideas of how to push government forward instead of fighting an eternal holding action that must eventually fail.

    As to the $500 per week (or $26000 per year). That’s a lot of money. As I said above, I don’t think it would actually happen, but have you considered that if all her other plans were enacted they might make your situation better in other ways? I obviously don’t know your personal situation, but are you looking at one policy in a vacuum?

    As you say, the existence of the vile Electoral College means that you can (very likely) afford to throw your vote away. However, I simply don’t understand the needing to think about supporting Trumps most viable opponent come Election Day. I will be arrogant enough to point you to our host’s own posting on the Cinemax Theory of Racism. Apologies for my poor web-fu.


    At this stage, if you’re not voting for Trump’s most viable opponent you’re supporting him. And while that might get you your nice lesser tax rate (HBO), you’re also subscribing to open racism, corruption, criminality, and selling out the U.S. to its foreign enemies. I’m sorry that the monetary price of not letting those seems high to you, but that’s what that support is being bought with.

    Finally, even if you’re correct about the tax stuff and it’s cost, I still think it’s in your financial interest to support Warren or any Democrat that could get on the ticket. GOP policies of stripping off regulation from businesses and the market always result in removing the controls that we have placed on our system that effectively moderates the Business Cycle. Without them, we have a much steeper Boom/Bust cycle encouraged. This almost always results in a market boom for a few years as companies play fast in loose in the new system, but it inevitably crashes in more extreme Bust. Like 2008. The sooner we get someone like Warren in the Whitehouse, the more likely we are to be able to bring matters under control and stop or mitigate that crash. Almost everyone suffers greatly in such events. The many Bank Panics of the 19th Century are a good indicator of what that would look like.

  19. To paraphrase Dan Savage on the topic of people squeamish about voting for the lesser of two evils, the advantage of such a vote is there being LESS FUCKING EVIL. If that isn’t painfully apparent to people in the present moment–I’m looking at you, Bernie Bros–I’m not sure what else there is to say.

  20. Kara Hudson: As a resident of west-central Ohio, I am, unfortunately, represented in Congress by Jim “I-saw-nothing-while-coaching-wrestling-at-OSU” Jordan, so I completely agree with the importance of voting in the contests below the presidential level; Jordan will never get my vote. John: I echo your comments on the current president; as bad as Nixon was (until now, the worst president in my lifetime), Trump is 100 times worse. Trump has to go, and if the Senate is too afraid to do what is moral and required of them by the Construction, then I hope the electorate has the courage and wisdom to boot him out of office.

  21. Not the Reddit Chris e., I wish voters would remember that just because a candidate campaigns for certain measures doesn’t mean that if they win the election those measures will become the law of the land. So Elizabeth Warren’s plans are an outline of what she would like to accomplish. She still needs to get the majority of both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court to support and uphold any radical changes she or any other progressive candidate proposes. Our political system just doesn’t encourage radical change but instead changes are made in increments. First, any new Democratic president will have to undo all of Trump’s executive orders…can everything he decreed in these orders be dissolved in one action? Then the new president has to get the majority of Congress to agree to enact laws that support his/her plans. Let’s hope that our new president also gets a Congress that doesn’t have a Republican majority because if the voters don’t throw the present bums out nothing is going to change.

  22. I’ve tried expressing my take on the ‘don’t like either candidate’ thing in the past as:

    If I had two people in front of me where one was going to hit me in the head with a two by four and the other smelled bad and was going to spill coffee on my shoes, voting for neither (or an irrelevant third party option) will negate my input into the process. Since I could have actively voted for soggy shoes rather than concussions, I contribute to the bad stuff.

    I may not be thrilled with either option, but letting others drive the choice when I could have acted to make a difference is not constructive (in my opinion).

  23. @David
    The two party system (with varying parties) has been firmly in place since 1829. Political parties were viewed by the founders as an evil to be mitigated and the electoral college was the mechanism intended to limit their influence at the national level.
    It failed rapidly and visibly.
    Given that the general aim of the document was to promote a more perfect union between the states, while the actual result was a major civil war, it seems to have had serious design flaws.

  24. Something that’s gone largely unmentioned: Money in Politics.

    It’s said that our political system is “democracy” and our economic system is “capitalism.” I would suggest that that is changing, that our political system is becoming “capitalism” too. Consider that the Supreme Court has gradually been giving the dollar the right to vote, and with an anonymous ballot. Consider the political power that owning media outlets has given to some individuals and families. Consider the number of billionaires hoping to become President in 2021. (I firmly believe that Trump is actually a billionaire; I do suspect that the ten-digit number expressing his net worth has a minus sign in front of it).

    And it’s laissez-faire capitalism. Money increasingly determines what the laws are, and laws decreasingly determine who has the money. Our social system is, and has always been, a caste system based largely on wealth.

  25. @David
    > Wait — when has America not been a two party state?

    I’m gonna say, 1856-1860. Didn’t work out so well.

    The Progressive Party supplanted the Republican Party for the most part in 1912, but I’d attribute that to TR being top of the ticket.

  26. Paraphrase: “I live in a historically blue state, so i may protest the Dem for president if they are anything but perfect in my opinion”

    Real world translation: “I am priviliged in several categories and will not suffer much direct harm if Trump is elected another 4 years, and my ego demanding a protest vote for anything less than perfect is more important than any real humans who may suffer real harm by another 4 years of Trump, so fuck em”.

    Alternate translation: “i assume everyone else in my state will do the right thing and vote blue so i can be a special snowflake and stay home/protest vote and tell everyone they’re sheeple”

  27. If I was American I’d probably vote for whoever can beat Trump, but the “lesser of two evils” approach really doesn’t lead to good outcomes in the long term. If more Americans over the last 50 years had “thrown their vote away” for, I dunno, someone who supported some kind of universal health care system, there might be one right now.

  28. John, I completely agree with your positions.
    Some have added, as I will here, that giving big money a legal way to vote has totally corrupted our political system. Though that wasn’t enough, so the GOP has used organizations like the NRA, as a way to launder foreign contributions (which is illegal, but not enforced). So beg money controls the vote for itself.
    As for saying somebody like Warren is going to tax you blind, that is largely a boogy-man scare tactic. Unless you have assets of more than 50 million, the tax does not apply. But never fear, the wealthy will always find a way to hide their wealth from the tax man.

  29. Not sure that voting for someone who’s policies I disagree with because “they can’t get their agenda passed” is particularly reassuring, to be honest. “Vote leopard eating face party, it’s only an aspiration and they won’t actually do it so your face will remain uneaten.”

    Yes, I am lucky/privileged enough to live in California and old white rich-ish guy, so am insulated from a lot of the idiot in the White House’s worse impulses. Those more directly impacted are in the unpopulated bits and keep voting R religiously. I’m in San Diego County, which has a similar sized economy and about the same population that Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, and North and South Dakota combined do, and 0.2 of a senator vs 10.

    If I was in one of the swing states, I’d vote for a rotten turnip with (D) after its name. Warren is less appealing than said turnip, but I’d still vote for her.

    The best that can happen in 2020 is that we end up with total gridlock for two years, the worst is that Trump gets 4 more years. Having Warren as the Democratic candidate (or the not-a-democrat Bernie, for that matter), makes 4 more years much more likely.
    My vote won’t matter for President in California – of course I’m going to vote down ballot, though.

  30. Edit to add – it’s not the wealth tax that’s the issue, it’s the elimination of the Social Security tax limit and imposition of 14.8% on self-employed (who pay both sides, employee and employer) above the limit that is the tax increase – huge increase in the marginal tax take.

  31. I also don’t understand the logic that Warren/Sanders have poor chances vs Trump. Hillary Clinton was a stronger candidate than any of the current crop of “establishment democrats” and she lost; why would it be different now? I don’t think many people who voted for Trump will think “well Hillary was bad but boy do I love Joe Biden”, will they?

  32. One question regarding voting in the primary – your comments imply that you can’t vote for Warren because you are not a registered Democrat. I thought that Ohio’s primary was semi-open and that all you had to do to get a ballot for a particular party was ask for it.

  33. Apparently,I’m closest in viewpoint to Bloomberg, Biden, and Klobuchar. I’m not really a fan of the first two, but I’d vote for almost anyone (even Gabbard, barf bag in hand) to get rid of Trump. I don’t have the option of voting against Portman this year or I would, and because of gerrymandering I don’t really have much to help with Congress. Doesn’t matter.

    The bigger problem for me is that a significant fraction of America thinks that Trump and the Republicans are doing the right things (and that, apparently, nothing they do can be wrong, or illegal, apparently). The GOP has been planting and fertilizing this ground for some time, and it seems there’s a bumper crop of…something for harvest. If two sets of people have two different sets of facts, (at least) one’s going to be wrong. The normal ways of resolving such issues don’t seem to work. Trying to understand the other would help, but when that other mostly seems to want to screw you, it is hard to sustain. It also seems hard for me to believe that policies that sound like the plans of a Z-grade villain (with the logical coherence that implies) sound reasonable and just to a lot of people, but they do. I’m not sure how to change the perception of facts before physical and financial reality do it for us, probably with a lot of blood.

  34. @patmcculloch — Some people who voted against Hillary did so because she came with a lot of baggage in the form of her husband. Had she booted Bill’s sorry rear to the curb after the Lewinski scandal broke, she might have done better. At the very least, I wouldn’t have had to listen to self-proclaimed pundits argue that a vote for Hillary was simply an end run around the 22nd Amendment because “of course” Bill would have been running things.
    OTOH, it might have made no difference. (And clearly Hillary has a different view of Bill than I do, which is to be expected.)

  35. @patmcculloch and Leah – There’s also the thinking that Biden himself might have a certain appeal to Midwestern swing voters and working-class people (white and nonwhite alike). And I will say that the composition of his base in the primary seems to somewhat bear this out. (He also seems to be sort-of leaning into this appeal, though frankly he has not run a particularly good campaign thus far and it’s hard for me to discern a coherent strategy from his campaign beyond “hope the South Carolina firewall holds”).

    And of course even if Biden isn’t any stronger than Clinton, it’s possible that Warren and Sanders would be even worse. I worry that Sanders, in particular, would be obliterated by Trump in a general election.

    Or maybe I’m wrong about that – I thought Trump would lose handily to Clinton in 2016, and he won. But Trump is a demagogue, not an ideologue – there’s a big difference. And it’s worth at least considering what the GOP opposition research and propaganda division could do with a history like Sanders’.

  36. It amazes me how, 3-4 years later, people still don’t understand the depth of the HRC hatred.

    Me? 3 years ago I hated Trump. I also hated HRC. There was no way I was going to vote for either of them. I went for Gary Johnson, who managed to show himself completely unsuited for president in the last few weeks of the campaign. Instead of trying to figure out the lesser of 2 evils I chose to try and encourage a third party. Too bad that candidate was worse than Trump/HRC.

    Takeaway #1: We really need another party or three in this country. There really isn’t much difference between the donkeys and the elephants. Current impeachment circus notwithstanding.

    Takeaway #2: Trump sucks, he’s a crook, he’s an idiot, he’s corrupt, I admit that. But, to be honest, 3 years in I’d still rather have him in than HRC. Trump is doing a lot of things I support. IMHO he would be a 100% better president if he forgot the password to his twitter account.

    The Clintons are at least as corrupt as Trump. Difference is they’ve had 40 years to figure out how to hide the corruption.

    FFS, this is supposed to be a place I go to for fun. Dafuq just happened?

  37. If your favorite Democrat breaks and goes third party, don’t follow them. It is voting for Trump. Because of the electoral vote, every little corner has to pile in as many votes for the Democratic contender as possible.

    I prefer Kloubachar over Warren. I think Amy will pull a considerably larger Midwestern vote than Warren. I also think Warren’s campaign promises are just that. They will go nowhere and she will fight too many unwinnable battles as President.

  38. “The Clintons are at least as corrupt as Trump. Difference is they’ve had 40 years to figure out how to hide the corruption.”

    Trump has been corrupt all his life, being taught by his corrupt father, who was taught by his corrupt father.

    The investigations of the Clintons have all come to nothing. Just since 2016 Trump had to pay $25 million in refunds to the suckers who bought into his fake university, was fined over $2 million for defrauding charities, had his fake charity shut down, and his kids have to take a remedial “how not to commit charity fraud” training.

    I would strongly suggest that you find better news sources, because whatever sources you’re using are filling your head with nonsense.

    “Trump is doing a lot of things I support.”

    Doesn’t say much for your character.

  39. So basically what you lucky people have is
    “Vote Cthulhu- now actually the lesser evil!”
    Well done you. You collectively have shown just how badly a purported democratic system can be fucked up.

  40. Timrowledge:

    It’s actually not like that at all, but thanks for the empty snark.

    Everyone else:

    For fuck’s sake, neither Clinton is running for president, and the fact you fell about yourselves blathering about either of them when someone dragged them across your trail with objectively laughable claims is depressing to me. It’s not 2016. Stop wetting yourselves about the Clintons. Focus on the now.

  41. Well clearly I don’t agree with you John but it’s your house. I am a tad disappointed that you think it was *empty* snark though. And for the record quite a few other purported democracies have been working very hard to make a mockery of the idea.

  42. Timrowledge:

    It’s entirely empty, yes, and if you’re disappointed in me for thinking so, imagine how I feel for you making it. And while you and I do not disagree on the subject of other democracies and their current state of being, it’s not on point for this particular conversational thread.

    Also: Comments off while I sleep. They’ll be back on tomorrow morning.

    Update: Comments back on!

  43. I’m not American though my grand-children are. Please get rid of him or our own blond buffon will import hyper-capitalism through trade deals and wipe out all the gains of near 50 years of regulation.

    The “don’t bother” party is winning and if you can persuade your oppenents’ likely supporters that it’s too much effort then you win. Each non-vote is a gain at much lower cost than changing someone’s mind and persuading them to vote for you.

  44. Haven’t read through all the comments, so excuse me if this has already been said, but I’m not so sure that removing Trump form office would be the best thing for the US. His removal would make Pence president, and Pence is just as evil and corrupt as Trump, but much less stupid and crazy, and therefore probably more dangerous.

  45. Of all the Democratic field, favoring Elizabeth Warren doesn’t seem to square with your assertion that fifty years ago you would have been a Rockefeller Republican.

  46. Fifty years ago I wouldn’t want to vote for someone like Elizabeth Warren because the GOP was substantially left of where it is today. It’s not just about personalities, it’s about the current landscape.

  47. @Margaret,

    Well, you don’t have to worry about Trump being replaced with Pence as the chances of the current membership of the Senate voting to remove him is approximately equal to my winning the lottery. And I don’t buy lottery tickets. Everyone in the Senate knows that he’s guilty as sin. The GOP members will simply refuse to remove him, anyway.

    However, if some miracle moved the 20 GOP senators to remove Trump, it would be the result of something so beyond the pale that I cannot imagine what it would be, given what is already known about him and tolerated/supported by his party. Whatever that would be, the damage would not be confined to Trump alone. There would be a political cost to anyone associated with him. It would make passing the GOP agenda more difficult in the short term, and have major effects on the next election (at least). This is one of the reasons that the GOP will not move to remove him. The official acknowledgement that the man they supported was bad enough to be removed from office would mean less GOP members of Congress. They’re venal enough to make avoiding that their top priority.

  48. Ah, you’re back! Curse vastly different time zones, cried the long-time ex-pat! Anyway, I just sit here with a sore neck because I’ve been shaking my head so hard now for the better part of the last 3 days wondering just how evil and completely crooked does a political party have to be that it’s come to a point where a full, blue-blooded socialist tree-hugger like myself desperately wants to hear ANYTHING John Bolton has to say? We see it almost every day – namely, the headline “He (IQ45) can’t go any lower” and yet….

  49. Ugh. Politics. Our political system is a mess. If we really have a choice, why does just about every public media outlet only air the debates between a Democrat or a Republican? Ross Perot was the last time a third party will ever be likely to be seen or heard debating in public media. I know the answer and it makes me mad. But what can I do about it? How can I, one person, help people understand that Democrat and Replubican are not our only two choices? What’s wrong with finding someone in the middle, someone who can empathize with both sizes, and someone with some actual moral values?

  50. A serious outbreak of TDS by many here! We should treat it as a variation of the coronavirus and quarantine the infected folks from any electronic based media to reduce its spread! ;>)

  51. Ah, the mating cry of the green-breasted third party chucklehead. The nonsensical squawking shouts out to anyone who will listen: “I dont understand the constitution and am overwhelmed by the dread of insignificance by only having one vote in ~120 million votes. So i will create an alternate wish fulfilment fantasy world where throwing my vote away turns into some radical vigilante throwing off the shackles of a two party system. I am the all powerful third party voter who redesigns entire nations by voting for some dumb fuck who will never win. Some day all the sheeple and whores and politicians will look up and shout “Save us!”…and I’ll look down, and whisper “no.”

    You fuckers really are batshit crazy arent you….

    Also, speaking of crazy mother fuckers, can people just stop invoking the “lesser of two evils” nonsense. Trump is an evil fascist who caters to neonazis and skin heads, sucks up to tyranta like Putin and attacks our allies like Nato. He seems incapable of understanding basic notions like consequences and might just ego/blowhard his way into a war with Iran. His trade war with china hurt everyone. And he still wants his boondoggle bigot wall that will cost a trillion dollars and reinforces his base racism. Trump is evil.

    Whoever wins the democratic nomination, be it Biden, Sanders, Warren, or Mayor Pete, the worst they will do, literally the worst thing they will do is…. —raise your whiney ass fucking taxes— Taxes are not evil. Taxes are not theft. So by all means shut the hell up about lesser of two evils.

    Sanders is not a face eating leapord. Warren is not cthulhu. Grow. The. Fuck. Up.

  52. You and I agree, mostly. I prefer Warren as a candidate, although by the time it comes time for me to vote in the primary, I’ll likely vote for Biden. I think Trump and the GOP, as currently constituted, are existential threats to the republic, and beating them soundly is a patriotic duty.

    That said, despite really not liking Bernie personally, if he should happen to win, I’ll vote for/work for him (grudgingly). Because, Trump is an existential threat.

    But mostly, politics is depressing- the idea that many in this country have decided that that diseased ham is worthy of commendation speaks poorly about them, and our education system.

  53. lordfarquad – I do actually find your argument convincing (not being sarcastic). Maybe I’ve become anesthetized to the Trump crazy and seeing it as a low daily background roar rather than how insane it really is. Thanks.

  54. And to those who say that they won’t vote for Warren if she’s the candidate (and I hope she will be) just a reminder that there are plenty of other races out there that need your vote. For example, in the Senate, in the House, and in the local races. One of the smartest things the GOP did (partly because of it’s long term funding from groups like the Koch brothers) is focus on all the races while the democrats haven’t focused on a 50 state strategy since Howard Dean was running the DNC. As we’ve seen recently, you need representation in all chambers of democracy, you can’t simply rely on winning the Presidency to stop craziness (aka, Merrick Garland’s stolen seat, and all these voter suppression tactics used in Georgia etc..).

  55. OK I’m going for a consolidated reply here. Apologies if something gets obsoleted by a comment posted while I’m composing this.

    I currently favor Elizabeth Warren and if I were a Democrat, would likely vote for her in the Ohio primary.

    Eh? Is there something stopping you from being a Democrat? Registration with a minor party? I’d think now would be a good time to be able to weigh in on the D nominee.

    In This Thread: many people to whom this applies.


    Hillary Clinton was a stronger candidate than any of the current crop of “establishment democrats” and she lost; why would it be different now?

    The D candidate, whoever that turns out to be, will not have been the target of decades of smearing by the media. Also, marginal voters who stayed home in ’16 because Hillary was a Sure Thing are, we hope, more likely to turn out to vote against Trump. We hope.

    I can’t call out individuals anymore. Already I am over budget and past deadline for this. To all the people who are disgusted with Clinton’s corruption: name a corrupt act that she engaged in. I bet you can’t, or else you’ll come up with some debunked BS like Uranium One. Clinton was smeared by the NYT and basically every other major news outlet. And also, too, she’s not on the ballot and won’t be, ever again.

    People who feel icky about voting for a less-than-ideal candidate: write in your own %!#@$#@! names then. Or grow up and recognize that voting is not like shopping for the ideal consumer widget, where you get to pick exactly what you want or maybe do without. Somebody will be inaugurated President in 2021: do you want Trump or not? If the answer is “no” and you want to help produce that outcome, vote Democrat.

    People who say that voting for the lesser evil is not so great in the long run: in the long run we are all dead, and when the greater evil wins we are dead sooner, as a rule. You can pick the greater evil or the lesser one. There’s not a third choice.

    People who still aren’t satisfied that that there’s not a third choice: your great hope is that the Republican Party (a clownish criminal conspiracy of greedheads, grifters, plutocrats, and Bible-worshiping theocrats) eventually collapses under the weight of its own incompetence and corruption. Since another four years of their rule will very possibly result in the situation where there is never again an election that means anything, your best bet is to vote D this time around, and hope that you can find enough like-minded people to form a possibly-winning Party if the Rs implode after a defeat. Because that will make your ideal Party a possibility instead of a pipedream.

  56. Personally, I’ve always been rather disappointed by our system’s design, as it actively discourages third parties. That being said, the best way to solve this problem is not to vote for third party in any competitive race (rack up the tallies if you want when it won’t matter), but to work to support candidates and organizations which try to improve our voting system to allow for them to have a chance in the first place. The electoral college is a big blocker but it actually starts with the voting system in the first place. Ranked choice or other similar options would be a far bigger boon to give third parties a chance to establish themselves in the first place at lower levels, which might give the boost needed to reform other parts of the system. I was very disappointed to see Gavin Newsom veto it in CA, and I will be very interested in checking out who is running against him next election.

    With regards to why people don’t vote, I was personally raised to consider voting part of my civic duty and have voted in every election since I was old enough. However my ex-husband refused to vote for years after he voted for Perot (in the first election he was old enough to vote) and was so frustrated by the electoral college that he refused to vote again. He finally registered again years later just so he could vote against Schwartzenneger but mostly just copied my ballot after that point because he didn’t care enough to do his own research and trusted my judgement. I suspect he would not have bothered to vote after that if not for me and I have no idea if he votes anymore now that we are divorced.

    My boyfriend didn’t vote for years as well after voting for Nader and Obama and becoming disillusioned with the process. His main argument is that he didn’t believe voting actually did make a difference and that the system was too broken anyhow. He recently has started voting. Reading Steven Pinker’s books apparently got him to the point that he was willing to at least pretend the system works well enough to play along, even though he doesn’t truly believe it. But I can’t honestly say that I know who he’ll vote for president, because he’s very scared of socialism and identifies as leaning more conservative these days, even though he’s not a big fan of Trump. On the plus side he’s become very involved in Better Angels which seems like a great organization to at least keep the lines of communication open.

    I think the fact that people act as if the presidency is the only office worth paying attention to is a core problem with participation in our democracy. At the national scale it’s easy to feel as if your vote really is an insignificant drop in the bucket that nobody cares about. You’re far more likely to be able to effect change at the local level, and often that’s where things happen that touch you more directly, but we also don’t really hear a lot about the local politics (gets even worse these days with the way local news has collapsed) so it’s not easy to really be informed about who to vote for.

  57. As an outsider (Canadian) this discussion is fascinating to watch.

    In the last Canadian Election, I loved the party leader (Jagmeet Singh – NDP), but very much disliked my local NDP candidate. I ended up voting for the Green Party because we can’t vote separately for who we want to be Prime Minister, we elect a party, and the party leader becomes Prime Minister. People have different reactions to this. Some say I threw away my vote, some said it was a protest vote. I just voted with my conscience.

    In 2015, I held my nose and voted Liberal, because nothing was more important than getting Stephen Harper out of office and my party didn’t have a chance of winning under their leader. Harper did irreparable harm to marglinalised people in Canada and dog whistled to bigots. I don’t love Trudeau, but I knew Harper needed to go.

    Strategic voting changes based on circumstances. In one election my strategy might be different than another. The last American election called into question everything I know about strategy as I thought Clinton would be a shoe – in. I could have seen myself voting for a third party in the last election as I thought for sure Trump wouldn’t win.

    I think, if I were American, I would not only be voting for whatever democratic candidate is selected, I would be on the campaign trail fundraising my tush off for that candidate.

    My humble outsider speculation.

  58. Cari: “disappointed by our system’s design, as it actively discourages third parties”

    Our system was the best designed democracy ever, when it was designed. Since then, though, other democracies have found major flaws that they fixed in their version.

    “I think the fact that people act as if the presidency is the only office worth paying attention to is a core problem”

    Well, the presidency has way too much power. A lot of that stems from the fact that the president essentially is leader of the political party, which means every republican senator in the senate is keeping in mind that their vote for trumps impeachment would cost them GOP party money and support for their reelection. Somehow, the political parties need to separate the executive and congressional branches. There is currently a law that prohibits military people from wearing uniforms at political rallies; i think we need something that prevents the president from meddling with congress elections. Endorsing. Party money. All that should be seperated. Not to mention congress is supposed to declare war, but the president has become nearly his own general who can do what he wants. And the supreme court is just out of whack. Having judges be in for 40 years is just crazy. All based on the president.

    The other big thing is simply that a lot of people simply cannot get over having only a 1 in a hundred millionth say in the presdential election. Its like the phenomenon where lottery ticket sales spike when the prize gets really big. Its a one in a billion chance to win. So when the prize is half a billion, people start buying tickets who wouldnt have bought them before.

    Voting is a 1 in a hundred million effect so a lot of people only get involved in the really big races. Its weird logic, but it seems to be at play here.

  59. Totally agree with Cari B. in regard to 3rd parties – if you want to ever have a viable 3rd party candidate for president, then do the groundwork and support 3rd party candidates at the local, state, and congressional levels. Until then, we live in the real world, in which we will 100% guaranteed have a president elected this year with either a D or an R by his/her name.

    Per John’s point #4: “…all those highly clickable and repostable memes are designed to make you angry, confused, susceptible to misinformation and a vector for spreading misinformation to others.” Completely agreed, and I’ve gotten braver about fact-checking my Facebook friends’ posts lately (I absolutely hate wading into social media arguments, but occasionally I can’t resist). Media literacy is so so important, and so so lacking among so many people. People don’t realize how easily manipulated they are. (Yes, I’ve had to check myself and my own confirmation bias for this reason too.) And it’s only going to get worse the closer we get to November.

  60. Unless the Democratic Party can regain the loyalty of those 200 or so “Blue” counties in the Midwest and western PA that went for Trump in 2016. . . And pick off the Republican suburbs . . .

    Trump wins again. Even as he loses the popular vote.

  61. Our host can obviously defend his own decisions, but IIRC in some jurisdictions declaring in a partisan primary has certain consequences, such as the inability to vote in the other one unless you switch at the local clerk’s office. Election law is very odd, and very much state dependent.

  62. I’m a Canadian, so I can’t vote in American elections. What I will say is that I hope people have learned from 2016 and will take the threat of Trump’s re-election seriously. Whoever the Democratic nominee is, I urge any American reading this to vote for them. The whole world depends on your ballot.

  63. John (before you reach hammerward): It *is* worth paying attention to Hillary–as an object lesson, for what the GOP and the right did to her over the years: turn her into an allegorical figure of corruption, deceit, bad-wifery, and even treason. The campaign was relentless and effective (as were the rest of the efforts of the neocon propaganda machine), and it was a non-trivial component in her losing the Electoral College. I had, as Han Solo might say*, a bad feeling about her campaign, even as I recognized both her virtues and limitations. Turned out my feelings were not unjustified.

    Other subtopics: Down-ballot attention and action is crucial–how else did the GOP get control of so many state governments (and thus gerrymandering opportunities) and a stranglehold on the Senate? And David beat me to the observation that multiparty parliamentary systems are subject to their own flavors of incompetence and paralysis–just listening to the BBC World Service gives glimpses of how multiparty government can screw up in Israel, Italy, and the UK. As for the moral-and-ideological-purity contingent and their scorn for lesser-evils: Remember what the enemy of the good is.

    * Sorry–I’ve been watching the Star Wars re-rebroadcasts on cable. FWIW, they’re not holding up all that well.

  64. “To paraphrase Dan Savage on the topic of people squeamish about voting for the lesser of two evils, the advantage of such a vote is there being LESS FUCKING EVIL.”

    Extremely well said!

    This childish, self-indulgent,” stick it to the two-party system/imperfect candidate” brand of voter-booth activism is, as people upthread so eloquently put it, indicative of some serious privilege. After all, why bother doing what little you can to mitigate sociopolitical damage when you and yours are protected enough from the consequences of electing the greater of two evils that the negative fallout doesn’t matter?

    What a cold, selfish, and self-righteous thing to do!

    Shouldn’t” voting your conscience” involve giving careful thought to the millions of others who will undoubtedly suffer if this president and his marry band of sociopathic bullies are allowed to remain in power?

    More importantly, while wealth may not trickle down, the widespread misery that results from oppression has a funny way of trickling up, just saying.

    I work at a university who can’t support their faculty because 60% of its student body is Hispanics who have parents who are afraid to complete FAFSA paperwork lest they be rounded up and either deported or heaved into a concentration camp on the border.

    This is just one reason why university enrollment is down, but the consequences of this one problem are pretty devastating for those mostly white, mostly male, middle and upper- middle class college educated people who thought that they were safe.

    If you’re an adjunct professor, you’re really in trouble, as what little classes there are get ruthlessly and automatically distributed among tenured and tenure-track faculty first.

    These phenomena are not confined to this university.

    How long do you think colleges and universities are going to be able to limp along if Trump manages to accomplish his stated goal of cutting, or completely eliminating, student aid? How many other jobs (E.G., plant managers, admissions staff, admins for various departments/centers, campus librarians, academic and career counselors, food service staff, security staff) are going to be cut in the aftermath?

    A progressive candidate may institute policies that inconvenience (I doubt very seriously that you will be harmed in the same ways that underprivileged groups are) you and yours, but the profound and far-reaching consequences of your tantrum at the voting booth are going to devastate others. And when said consequences inevitably make their way to you and yours, remember that in voting the way you did, you were and are knowingly complicit in it all.

  65. Israel is screwy because 120 seats in knesset need 61 votes to choose prime minister.. this is exactly the same problem as US constitution requiring >51% EC votes to win presidency: it pushes for a two party system. If knesset is split evenly among 4 main parties and a hanful of odd ducks, to get 61 votes, two main parties might agree to vote together, but they are still a vote or two short. Af which point, one or two odd ducks suddenly have ousized influence on who is prime minister. And if the odd ducks are extremists, the main parties might make extreme promises to get their support.

    We see this nonsense happen in US when dems in senate were a vote or two short and would bend over backwards to appease Olympia Snowe to get one more vote.

    People cry about how terrible it is to not have third parties, but when you have say 4 main parties all approximately equal in size, the minutia of the rules of government could accidentally let 25% of the people rule the other 75%. Or possibly, require fragile coalition building and basically bribery to get anything done. And say what you will about the American form of government, but it is MESSED UP and could easily collapse if multi parties were enabled but the rules for dealing with them were not handled well.

    “Democracy” by itself doesnt promise a good system.

    The devil is in the details.

    One only has to look at gerrymandering to see how screwed up things can get here.

  66. To answer Dawn, and to reflect on Cari B: if you want viable third parties you have to vote down ticket. Waaaaay down ticket. All the way at the very bottom, in the off years, for your city council members, your local school board and all those other boring forms of government.

    I say this because my representative on the city council is an honest-to-Zeus Socialist. (Whom I don’t like, but that’s due to their working method on the city council rather than their positions.)

    When we think about third party presidential candidates in the past 30-odd years they haven’t been “third party” so much as “independent”. Nader had a small party behind him, but I don’t think anyone in the senate, or the house, or any governors. Perot didn’t have anyone either. If there’s going to be a real third party it needs to be a force at all levels of government.

    (eldrichostrich, please don’t say that! Did you *see* what happened in the UK?)

  67. Not the Reddit Chris S: “Thanks”

    Welcome to the resistance. Be sure to grab a party hat on the way out.

  68. We did the best we could with democracy when we started the country- we didn’t have a lot of examples to work with. The sad bit is this idea that somehow we shouldn’t continue to reform and improve the implementation over time because of this concept that the founders were omniscient or that any improvement would cause more problems than it solves (those are the most honest arguments I hear against it, the rest mostly are thinly veiled rooting for their own team complaints).

    But status quo is a powerful thing and is extremely hard to fight against, and there’s no reason either of the big parties would be particularly interested in giving up what power they do have. This is why ranked choice voting or something similar seems like a necessary first step towards reducing the power of the big parties- it’s nearly impossible for any new party to get a foothold when supporting them translates to not much better than voting for your least preferred option. Also ranked choice voting in primaries would be huge in sorting out who actually does have broad support, certainly would have been a big help for the Republican primaries in 2016 and would be a big help for the Democratic ones now if only they’d gone that route.

    Viable third parties isn’t a magical fix for anything, but a system that allows them to have a real chance also pushes parties to work harder to earn votes since they can’t so easily count on people who don’t have good alternatives. It also gives people more motivation to actually participate in the system since they might like their choices better. No system will solve the real problem of representative government completely, which is that most people who’d you actually really like and trust and want in the role would never really want to subject themselves to running for office. Certainly you couldn’t pay me enough to do it.

    With regards to the choice on lesser evils, to me it’s a rather easy choice. To be fair my priorities align with most of the democratic party priorities on issues. Trump represents many things I find abhorrent about any politician, regardless of his stance on issues, so I’d like to think I wouldn’t vote for him under any circumstances, even if I aligned with him politically. But I’m not in that position so it’s easy for me to say. I was horrified enough that he was doing well in the primaries and was concerned about the lasting impact that would have on legitimizing future campaigns of that type. Now he’s thoroughly slimed so much of the political process in this country that I fear for future elections regardless of whether he gets booted out this year (and if he gets elected again, it will further legitimize the mess). But having spoken to my boyfriend a lot about his conservative views I start to understand a little better why even some people horrified by him may vote for him (or why they convince themselves he’s not as horrifying as he is).

  69. I agree on all counts. One thing about what you said though. Ohio is an open primary state. You do not need to be a registered Democrat to vote in the Democratic primary. All you have to do is request a Democratic primary ballot when you go to vote (I am a precinct election judge, also known as a poll worker, in Ohio). If you feel strongly about any of the Democratic candidates, I urge you to do so in order to have your voice heard.

  70. The D candidate, whoever that turns out to be, will not have been the target of decades of smearing by the media.

    But couldn’t this be seen as a strength? Clinton was a thoroughly known quantity during the 2016 election. Yes, the GOP (and the media) managed to make hay over her emails, and yes, her approval ratings went down somewhat. But there was a limit to the level of damage they could do, because they for the most part they had already done it. And to a somewhat lesser extent, I think the same is true for Joe Biden.

    Sanders has high name recognition, but he has never been the target of a sustained assault by the conservative media, much less Donald Trump. Can he survive a barrage of TV spots highlighting his association with the Sandinistas? His apparent sympathy for communist regimes and left-wing dictators? And while I don’t think stuff like that “rape fantasy” essay is nearly as problematic, it certainly won’t help, and it will all feed into an image of Sanders as a weirdo radical who wants to revolutionize the country during a time of economic prosperity. For fuck’s sake, they called Barack Obama a communist – with Sanders, they could make a pretty convincing case. And liberal cities notwithstanding, America is still fundamentally a center-right country.

    Maybe he can withstand all this. But while I could certainly be wrong, I don’t think so. I think Bernie Sanders and his movement would be shredded in a general election.

  71. But status quo is a powerful thing and is extremely hard to fight against

    American history is actually a remarkable statement about how often the founders vision has been remade substantially. Status quo is *not* an accurate description of that.

    Viable third parties isn’t a magical fix for anything, but a system that allows them to have a real chance also pushes parties to work harder to earn votes since they can’t so easily count on people who don’t have good alternatives.

    On the other hand, third parties let voters get away from figuring out coalitions that bring people together on policy solutions and allow continuing and toxic polarization and the breaking apart of the country into smaller and smaller factions. Yay for the American Nazi Party getting electoral votes!

  72. I’m not sure what we’re seeing now in the Republican party is a great example of how having only two parties is helping push a party towards policy solutions and away from toxic polarization.

    American history does show many examples of us evolving the founders vision, but as a general rule things have to get pretty bad before we do actually take steps in a lot of cases (see civil war). It’s just a natural thing that it’s easier to get things changed while things are in the planning stages than to rework something already in existence. We’d have had a far easier time doing a better job reforming our health care system if we didn’t have the legacy of so much of that being covered by employment historically- it makes it far more difficult to reform because of people’s fear of losing the status quo when they personally aren’t as harmed by the current situation.

    The hodgepodge that is our election system is hard to reform for similar reasons- those that benefit from the status quo of not having reasonable non-partisan national standards for how our elections function have little interest in changing it (and thus they talk about the brilliance of the founders devolving it all to the states). If you were advising a country newly establishing an election system how to design elections and they wanted to do a system like ours you’d tell them they were nuts, but good luck changing it.

    To be fair the last major change we’ve probably done was transitioning the party primaries to a more democratic and less controlled process (and as I recall there was quite a bit of ugliness prompting that), and I can’t say that’s worked out all too well of late.

  73. Comparing a system like ours with a parliamentary system like Israel, England, Germany etc has is apples and oranges.

    There is no possibility for a third party to succeed in the US under the current rules. Full stop. Third party votes are only protest votes for the forseeable future unless there is major structural changes; like Constitutional amendment levels of change.

    I know that’s not what people disaffected with the two parties want to hear. But it is the unpleasant truth.

    Unless you are willing to simply be a spoiler, voting for the LESS BAD candidate is what you are faced with under the current system.

  74. Perhaps, unlike the beasts in the book Animal Farm, we can go back and evaluate whether our new model, Reaganomics, is working out for us.

    The length of time, starting from the end of WWII, to Reaganoomics, (under President Reagan) and then to today, is roughly equal, so we should be able to roughly evaluate. For example, to see such things as whether wages were tied to gross domestic product, or productivity, back in the day as opposed to now.

    The old slogan, “It’s the economy, sunshine” is still relevant today for causing populism and Trump. I don’t know any economics myself, but I like page 122 onwards of the book Growing Pains.

  75. American history does show many examples of us evolving the founders vision, but as a general rule things have to get pretty bad before we do actually take steps in a lot of cases (see civil war).

    Mmm. That’s not really a general rule in American history.

  76. The state-by-state nature of primaries can be maddening. In my state, anyone can vote in any party’s primary no matter what your registered affiliation, but in case of a runoff you must vote for in same party’s runoff you voted for in the primary. If you vote D in the primary, you can only vote in the D runoff. If there is no D runoff but there’s an R, too bad. You can’t switch over.

  77. Several points I like to make:

    1) Both parties, indeed our entire political system, has gotten increasingly rightwing, corrupt, and incompetent. The Democratic Party consistently becomes as rightwing, corrupt, and incompetent as the Republican Party was earlier.

    2) Both parties use split-the-difference, divide-and-rule, lesser evilism to get those donations, the votes, and maintain their position.

    3) Neither party (especially the Democrats want to govern) so much as to use the government to get paid by working for the wealthy.

    4) Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are rejections of the status quo which is killing evermore Americans. Just look at the growing homeless population over the the last thirty years or unending wars of the last twenty. Under both parties. The screams of racism, sexism, pie-in-the-skyism, and Russia! while sincere are themselves a denial of the sheer desperation that created the refusal to accept more of the same that makes a socialist and a real estate grifter viable candidates.

    So, God help us, here we are. This time next year one of the two will be president for the acceptable mainstream candidates really aren’t.

  78. 1. Is there a logical means by which one can both advocate for political pragmatism and democracy? (I can’t come up with one, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one.)

    2. Given that the EC determines the POTUS and a popular victory definitively does not affect who becomes POTUS, can someone please explain the value of belligerently/condescendingly advocating for political pragmatism in the presidential election?

    As someone who would like a democracy (despite its many flaws), I’m in favor of everyone voting, everyone voting freely, and everyone voting however they darn well please; the more informed and in line with their actual preferences, the more of an actual representative democracy we’ll be able to have.

  79. (From one of the WaPo facebook pages this morning)

    Washington Post Opinions and Outlook
    8 hrs ·
    The president’s entire defense was like a sci-fi series, Dana Milbank writes.
    – The plot wasn’t terribly complicated (lawyers used only about 14 of their allotted 24 hours)
    – There were robots (Patrick Philbin) and aliens (Ken Starr, Alan Dershowitz)
    – There were special effects and simulated explosions.

  80. My problem with the entire Dem field is that none of them seems to have the instinct for gutter fighting that Trump takes for granted.

    If just one of them, and I don’t care who, stood up and said, “I will kick Trump’s f’ing ass!”, they might not win the primaries but the energy shift would be palpable. Instead they drone on about pie-from-the-sky social policies, yadda yadda yawn.

    I still dread the rise of Bloomberg, and can see him wiping the floor with the entire milquetoast field, exactly as Trump did with the GOP 4 years ago. I hope I’m wrong.

  81. From a European perspective, the biggest advantage of your current political situation seems to be that it’s really, really easy to have a clear cut standpoint (and I guess the brevity of this post mirrors that stance). The choice between the plague and the cholera can be hard, but the choice between a deadly, malicious, highly contagious and far-spread virus stem and an ordinary flu is really easy.
    On the other hand, clear cut standpoints in politics usually mean that everybody promises far too easy solutions for decidedly complex problems, and that’s dangerous too.

  82. Not cool: “is there a logical means by which one can both advocate for political pragmatism and democracy?”

    I’m not sure what you mean by pragmatism here. Pragmatism by my understanding means having a focus on whatever works, with little focus on the theory of why it works. I would say the US constitution is highly pragmatic, in that the founders copied ideas from history they thought might work, put together a hodge podge of completely unrelated rules into a single document, and ran with it.

    They were also highly pregmatic in that they wanted all the states to ratify the document, and most of those states had slavery. So, while the declaration of independence talks theory about all men are created equal, the constitution had to deal with a very pragmatic problem: if slaves were counted to determine number of house seats in congress, the South would dominate congress and the North would have little power. If slaves were not counted at all, Southern states threatened to not ratify. So the 3/5ths compromise came about. It said “other persons'” would be counted as 3/5ths for purposes of determining house seats. There was no consistent underlying theory that could justify this. But it was highly pragmatic in that it got the constitution ratified by all the states, not just the North. The US was founded on pragmatism.

    No where in the Constitution is the word slave or slavery ever mentioned. It was avoided for entirely pragmatic reasons. For one, the theorists could not square the “all men are created equal” theory with the realities of widespread slavery, and they didnt want the concept of slavery to be round-about endorsed by mentioning it as allowed in the constitutiion, so they completely avoided it. For another, slave owning states would never ratify the constitution if it in any way restricted their use of slaves. The solution was pragmatic to the core.

    Funny thing about pragmatism, its not very focused on the future. It doesnt care about fundamental principles and where they may eventually lead. There were some theorists among the founders though, and when the highly pragmatic constitution was ratified with its “equal, in theory, but slavery in reality” pragmatism, the theorists mostly predicted that the fight they avoided in getting everyone to ratify was merely kicked down the road. The theorists forsaw the civil war. The pragmatists shrugged their shoulders and said, meh, I will be dead by then, let the future figure it out.

    “I’m in favor of everyone voting, everyone voting freely, and everyone voting however they darn well please”

    But thats isnt democracy. Democracy is simply a form of government run by the people for the people, usually implemented through elected officials. Thats it. How the officials are elected is an entirely pragmatic piece of democracy. You can see this by just how many different ways different democracies elect their highest leader.

    In some of those democratic systems, you can vote on a ranked balot, meaning you can vote and rank Justin Bieber as your first choice. But if you are the only person to be a Belieber, then your first choice is thrown out, and they use your second choice.

    If you vote in a place with a single mark ballot, it is up to you to figure out which candidate you prefer is NOT the candidate that would have been eliminated from your ranked ballot. Meaning, you cant vote for Bieber on your single mark ballot if you want your vote to have any effect. You have to figure out which candidate on your ranked ballot would be the candidate to get closest to fifty percent of the single-mark ballots and vote for them.

    Here’s the thing. In a ranked ballot, putting Bieber at the top means you think Bieber is the person closest in ideology to your own ideology. If no one else votes for Bieber, ranked ballots pick your second choice, who naturally is further away from you politically speaking. Each of your choices is eliminated until they arrive at your choice that closest represents the people as a whole.

    Democracy isnt about you getting Bieber to be your representative. And it isnt even about you making everyone know that Bieber was your first choice. All democracy is about is finding the candidate that most of the voters will support. That candidate is likely not perfectly aligned with any voters politics. Every voter is compromising in some way. The guy who votes Bieber as his first choice and Biden as choice number 6, and trump as choice 12, is making a compromise to go with Biden.

    And its the SAME compromise whether it was done via ranked ballot or single mark ballot. You want Bieber because he perfectly represents your politics. But no one else does. And if it turns out the candidate closest to the middle of the voters that is closest to you is Biden, then you could rank ballot Biden higher than Trump. Or you could single-mark ballot Biden with no other marks, and your compromise is EXACTLY THE SAME. The distance between you and biden is THE SAME, and it doesnt matter whether you voted Biden 6th on your ranked ballot or voted biden on your single mark ballot. Either way, Biden isnt your ideal, but he represents the position of most of america.

    There is no democratic theory that can change that. There is no pragmatic solution to fix that. In a world where people land on a large spectrum of ideas, most people will not be perfectly aligned with their representatives. Nothing can change that. Ever.

    You can vote “however you darn well please” but that doesnt mean you get representaives perfectly aligned with your politics. No one does. Thats a fundamental mistake that third party voters make. They think those of us who single mark Biden are perfectly aligned with Biden because we’re sheeple. I voted for Hillary in 2016 not because she perfectly aligned with my politics, but because it comes down to her or trump and she is far closer to my politics than trump.

    The only thing ranked ballot voting really improves over single-mark ballot voting is it encourages people further away from center to make it clear which center candidate is their preferred choice. The protest vote for third party is throwing your vote away on a single mark ballot. It simply doesnt count for anything. It is a spoiler. And yet, people have a tendency to protest vote. For that reason only, i support ranked ballots. It doesnt change the compromises people have to make between Bieber and Biden, but it does tend to encourage more people to vote in a way that makes an actual difference. Protest voting doesnt make a difference. People protest vote, and their biggest justification is they want to “send a message”. They feel like they arent being heard. They hate the distance between their preferred candidate (Bieber) and the center candidates (biden/trump) and so they protest vote. But on a single mark ballot that actually results in the furthest-away center candidate winning. Ranked voting lets beliebers make their first choice known, which is ignored, and the system finds the closest center candidate for that voter. But the compromise is the same. No voter gets a candidate that perfectly aligns with their views.

  83. John: “Fifty years ago I wouldn’t want to vote for someone like Elizabeth Warren because the GOP was substantially left of where it is today. ”

    50 ± 2 years ago my choices were Nixon v. Humphrey and then Nixon v. McGovern. My vote clearly was “not Nixon” both times, regardless of the overall average position of the Republican party.

    Although Humphrey was too tied to Johnson and the Vietnam war, I still held my nose and voted for him. People who sat on their hands because Gene McCarthy wasn’t running and Bobby Kennedy was dead elected Nixon. (Third-party George Wallace sure didn’t help.)

    I was rather more enthusiastic about George McGovern, whose policies today would seem fairly modestly leftish. But we know what happened.