Jerry Dworkin calls my attention to this NYRB piece on Donald Chump, which includes this:
I recalled a remark that the philosopher Richard Rorty made back in 1997 about “the old industrialized democracies…heading into a Weimar-like period.” Citing evidence from “many writers on socioeconomic policy,” Rorty suggested that:
members of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers—themselves desperately afraid of being downsized—are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.
At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for—someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots….
One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion…. All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.
Let's hope Rorty sticks to his track record, and is wrong about this too.
So religious crazy Ted Cruz--"Lucifer in the flesh" in the memorable phrase of the former Speaker of the House John Boehner (himself not exactly a paragon of cosmopolitan virtue and enlightenment, but still quite a bit saner than Lucifer)--has dropped out of the Republican race after losing to Herr Trump in the Indiana primary. It is true that, early on, I endorsed Trump for the Republican nomination, not realizing how much impact that would have. Clinton, alas, will be the Democratic nominee, which means however this ends, it will be bad for humanity at large. Bear in mind that the various polls about Clinton vs. Trump so far all show Clinton leading substantially (the exception is the consistently right-leaning Rasmussen reports), but often with 15-20% of the electorate undecided. Trump will begin his assault on Clinton soon, which may or may not inflict damage. Assuming Trump does not pick a woman as a running mate (e.g., his wife or daughter) or find a minority running mate, someone who would no doubt make Uncle Tom look like Frederick Douglass, Clinton would be well-advised to pick the liberal Senator Sherrod Brown from Ohio, a crucial state to win, and a running mate more likely to appeal to Sanders supporters and working class white men. In the end, the demographics will propel Clinton to office: women, young people, African-American, Hispanic, and Asian-American voters will all vote for Clinton, or at least against Trump, by sizeable majorities (on the order of 60-90%), which will send not only Trump but hopefully many other Republican congressional candidates down in flames in November. With luck, the Republican Party will disappear from the face of the earth, or regroup in smaller factions, e.g., "the Lucifer Party," the "Libertarians" and so on.
An interesting essay by journalist Andrew Sullivan, who even works in some Plato, not implausibly. As with everything by Sullivan, the substance is mixed, but there are, as one of the several readers who sent this to me today said, some "gems." Herewith a few excerpts:
Could it be that the Donald has emerged from the populist circuses of pro wrestling and New York City tabloids, via reality television and Twitter, to prove not just Plato but also James Madison right, that democracies “have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention … and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths”? Is he testing democracy’s singular weakness — its susceptibility to the demagogue — by blasting through the firewalls we once had in place to prevent such a person from seizing power? Or am I overreacting?
For readers who don’t know why Illinois doesn’t have a budget 10 months into the fiscal year, it’s because the Illinois General Assembly won’t agree to Rauner’s “Turnaround Agenda,” which aims in part to make Illinois a right to work state and weaken unions. This budget impasse has caused many of the state universities to resort to layoffs: Chicago State (900), Eastern Illinois (177), and WIU to name just a few.
The specter of the quasi-fascist narcissist looms over everything these days, even outside the U.S.--when I was recently in Rome and Calabria, discussion invariably turned to Trump (and also to the corrosive and destructive effect years and years of Berlusconi had on Italy). Nate Silver has a useful analysis of how things can, and are likely to, go awry for Trump at the convention. Unless the Repugs end up nominating Kasich, the so-called "moderate" (though he appears far to the right of Trump on some issues, assuming one can have any idea what Trump stands for), this is all good news for the Democrats. Cruz will be considerably easier to beat, even for Clinton, than Trump.
I used to endorse a particular brand of politics that is prevalent at McGill and in Montreal more widely. It is a fusion of a certain kind of anti-oppressive politics and a certain kind of radical leftist politics. This particular brand of politics begins with good intentions and noble causes, but metastasizes into a nightmare. In general, the activists involved are the nicest, most conscientious people you could hope to know. But at some point, they took a wrong turn, and their devotion to social justice led them down a dark path. Having been on both sides of the glass, I think I can bring some painful but necessary truth to light.
Important disclaimer: I passionately support anti-oppressive politics in general and have only good things to say about it.,,,
There is something dark and vaguely cultish about this particular brand of politics. I’ve thought a lot about what exactly that is. I’ve pinned down four core features that make it so disturbing: dogmatism, groupthink, a crusader mentality, and anti-intellectualism. I’ll go into detail about each one of these. The following is as much a confession as it is an admonishment. I will not mention a single sin that I have not been fully and damnably guilty of in my time.
First, dogmatism. One way to define the difference between a regular belief and a sacred belief is that people who hold sacred beliefs think it is morally wrong for anyone to question those beliefs. If someone does question those beliefs, they’re not just being stupid or even depraved, they’re actively doing violence. They might as well be kicking a puppy. When people hold sacred beliefs, there is no disagreement without animosity. In this mindset, people who disagreed with my views weren’t just wrong, they were awful people. I watched what people said closely, scanning for objectionable content. Any infraction reflected badly on your character, and too many might put you on my blacklist. Calling them ‘sacred beliefs’ is a nice way to put it. What I mean to say is that they are dogmas.
Thinking this way quickly divides the world into an ingroup and an outgroup — believers and heathens, the righteous and the wrong-teous. “I hate being around un-rad people,” a friend once texted me, infuriated with their liberal roommates. Members of the ingroup are held to the same stringent standards. Every minor heresy inches you further away from the group. People are reluctant to say that anything is too radical for fear of being been seen as too un-radical. Conversely, showing your devotion to the cause earns you respect. Groupthink becomes the modus operandi. When I was part of groups like this, everyone was on exactly the same page about a suspiciously large range of issues. Internal disagreement was rare. The insular community served as an incubator of extreme, irrational views.
...and how their convention could end (hopefully!) in chaos. Note this article was written before Rubio dropped out, so there are now even more "unbound" delgates going in. (Eric Schliesser points out, correctly, that Rubio has only "suspended" his campaign, so his delegates are not, yet anyway, "unbound." Suspension allows Rubio to finish paying off campaign debts, among other things, and may give him some leverage at the convention.)
The 2016 election is shaping up as payback time in our crippled democracy. The people have discovered ways to express their long-smoldering contempt for the regular order. Power politics, they discover, can be both mischievously fun and also purposeful.
Bernie Sanders delivered that uplifting message again with his upset victory in the Michigan primary. The press had been hinting crudely that Senator Sanders should really give it up, so Hillary Clinton could proceed unblemished to the nomination. Bernie wisely ignored the media dopesters.
As I wrote a few months ago, Donald Trump has taken the low road to political upheaval, while Senator Sanders has taken the high road to peaceful revolution. But both candidates are addressing many of the same fundamental wounds and inequities that working Americans have experienced for a generation. Trump is foul and unfair, a shrewd demagogue. Bernie is the honest visionary, urging young people to take themselves seriously as citizens and claim their role in a “political revolution.”
Trump and Sanders are forcing the political system to confront some malignant deformities in American life that both parties have tried to ignore, because, in their different ways, both are to blame. People feel betrayed, abandoned by representative democracy in favor of powerful interests.
[W]orking-class white people who make up the bulk of Trump’s fan base show up in amazing numbers for the candidate, filling stadiums and airport hangars, but their views, by and large, do not appear in our prestige newspapers. On their opinion pages, these publications take care to represent demographic categories of nearly every kind, but “blue-collar” is one they persistently overlook. The views of working-class people are so foreign to that universe that when New York Times columnist Nick Kristof wanted to “engage” a Trump supporter last week, he made one up, along with this imaginary person’s responses to his questions....
Last week, I decided to watch several hours of Trump speeches for myself. I saw the man ramble and boast and threaten and even seem to gloat when protesters were ejected from the arenas in which he spoke. I was disgusted by these things, as I have been disgusted by Trump for 20 years. But I also noticed something surprising. In each of the speeches I watched, Trump spent a good part of his time talking about an entirely legitimate issue, one that could even be called left-wing.
Yes, Donald Trump talked about trade. In fact, to judge by how much time he spent talking about it, trade may be his single biggest concern – not white supremacy...
It seems to obsess him: the destructive free-trade deals our leaders have made, the many companies that have moved their production facilities to other lands, the phone calls he will make to those companies’ CEOs in order to threaten them with steep tariffs unless they move back to the US.
Trump embellished this vision with another favorite left-wing idea: under his leadership, the government would “start competitive bidding in the drug industry.” (“We don’t competitively bid!” he marveled – another true fact, a legendary boondoggle brought to you by the George W Bush administration.) Trump extended the critique to the military-industrial complex, describing how the government is forced to buy lousy but expensive airplanes thanks to the power of industry lobbyists....
Trade is an issue that polarizes Americans by socio-economic status. To the professional class, which encompasses the vast majority of our media figures, economists, Washington officials and Democratic power brokers, what they call “free trade” is something so obviously good and noble it doesn’t require explanation or inquiry or even thought. Republican and Democratic leaders alike agree on this, and no amount of facts can move them from their Econ 101 dream.
To the remaining 80 or 90% of America, trade means something very different. There’s a video going around on the internet these days that shows a room full of workers at a Carrier air conditioning plant in Indiana being told by an officer of the company that the factory is being moved to Monterrey, Mexico and that they’re all going to lose their jobs.
As I watched it, I thought of all the arguments over trade that we’ve had in this country since the early 1990s, all the sweet words from our economists about the scientifically proven benevolence of free trade, all the ways in which our newspapers mock people who say that treaties like the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement allow companies to move jobs to Mexico.
Here, including ads and text. Some of the ads could be borrowed verbatim by the Democrats come the fall, but others just make clear that the likely nominee of the Republican Party has a long history of liberal positions, which might turn off the increasingly mythical "conservative" voters, but won't matter to many of those turning out to vote for him.
College-educated elites, on behalf of corporations, carried out the savage neoliberal assault on the working poor. Now they are being made to pay. Their duplicity—embodied in politicians such as Bill and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama—succeeded for decades. These elites, many from East Coast Ivy League schools, spoke the language of values—civility, inclusivity, a condemnation of overt racism and bigotry, a concern for the middle class—while thrusting a knife into the back of the underclass for their corporate masters. This game has ended.
There are tens of millions of Americans, especially lower-class whites, rightfully enraged at what has been done to them, their families and their communities. They have risen up to reject the neoliberal policies and political correctness imposed on them by college-educated elites from both political parties: Lower-class whites are embracing an American fascism....
The Democrats are playing a very dangerous game by anointing Hillary Clinton as their presidential candidate. She epitomizes the double-dealing of the college-educated elites, those who speak the feel-your-pain language of ordinary men and women, who hold up the bible of political correctness, while selling out the poor and the working class to corporate power.
The Republicans, energized by America’s reality-star version of Il Duce, Donald Trump, have been pulling in voters, especially new voters, while the Democrats are well below the voter turnouts for 2008. In the voting Tuesday, 5.6 million votes were cast for the Democrats while 8.3 million went to the Republicans. Those numbers were virtually reversed in 2008—8.2 million for the Democrats and about 5 million for the Republicans....
Clinton will be the Democratic nominee, which we knew after her landslide victory in South Carolina and her respectable victory in Nevada. The problem facing Bernie Sanders is pretty simple: African-Americans are not voting for him in meaningful numbers. Clinton won by lopsided margins in all the Southern states (Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, Arkansas, Virginia), and also squeaked out a victory in Massachussetts. Sanders carried his home state, Vermont, by a landslide, but much more interestingly won by sizeable margins in Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Colorado; neither Colorado nor Minnesota has a large African-American population, but Colorado has many Hispanics, who, as Nevada showed, are more receptive to Sanders (I don't know the demographic on Oklahoma, but I believe it is also a fairly white state). I expect him to carry on perhaps through the convention, thus pushing Clinton to the left.
Meanwhile, in Mordor: despite being the frontrunner since forever now, Trump still can't get Republican primary voters to rally to him. Although he won seven states (Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Massachussetts, Virginia, Vermont), in all but Alabama and Massachussetts (!), the next two highest vote getters got more votes than he did; indeed, Trump won three states by slender margins: Arkansas (Cruz was a close second), Virginia (Rubio), and Vermont (Kasich). In no state did he command a majority. Cruz won Texas, Oklahoma, and Alaska, and Rubio won Minnesota. Kasich and Carson continue to siphon Republican votes away for no discernible purpose.
I think all Democratic and civilized voters should throw their support behind Ted Cruz at this point: unlike Trump, he has no prospect of appealing to so-called "moderate" or "independent" voters in a general election, and will be much easier for Clinton to defeat. And if he and Rubio stay in this, they may yet deprive Trump of a clear win in the delegate count come the convention, at which point the "Establishment" will block Trump (though doing so will also cost them the general election happily, as mad Trump voters either stay home or vote for him a third party candidate).
Comments are open for any thoughts from readers on this on-going circus.
ADDENDUM: This is a pretty useful analysis of how Trump under-performed expectations on Super Tuesday, and also why he will still be destroyed, if not in the nomination fight, then in the general election.
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)