Trump: 0. Democrats: 0. The People: 1.


Donald Trump was handed a major defeat tonight when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reinstate his travel ban. The three-judge panel, which included a George W. Bush appointee, unanimously rejected one of Trump’s key arguments: that when it comes to immigration and national security, the actions of the executive branch are not subject to judicial review.

Although our jurisprudence has long counseled deference to the political branches on matters of immigration and national security, neither the Supreme Court nor our court has ever held that courts lack the authority to review executive action in those arenas for compliance with the Constitution. To the contrary, the Supreme Court has repeatedly and explicitly rejected the notion that the political branches have unreviewable authority over immigration or are not subject to the Constitution when policymaking in that context.

FDR was handed defeat after defeat by the courts, yet managed to turn their intransigence—which was arrayed against what a clear majority of the nation wanted—into a symbol of the old regime that needed to be gutted and into a source of even greater power for him and his party.

That’s a little hard to do when:

a) you were put into office by a minority of the electorate;

b) your policies are unpopular;

c) you and your voters belong to the party that is both creator and custodian of that old regime;


d) your proposals are being struck down by judges appointed by your party.

That signifies not an opportunity for you to wrestle that old regime to the ground—since in so many respects you don’t want to touch the old regime—but instead a crisis within the old regime, which you were elected to reform and save, not destroy.



It seems as if Trump’s campaign promises about immigration—his rhetoric about Muslims and refugees, his willingness to say what so many people in his party thought but were too polite or smart to say—will continue to come back to haunt him in court. If that overtly racist rhetoric turns out to sink him, or at least these policies, it’ll be another nail in the coffin not just of Trump but of conservatism and the GOP.

Throughout the campaign, I said that Trump’s rhetoric was a sign of the weakening of the conservative cause: a racist or nativist dog whistle used to be enough to mobilize majorities. No more: now the party needs a megaphone, just to mobilize an ever dwindling base. But if it turns out that that megaphone is precisely what sinks the policies the base wants, there’s going to be major turmoil within the party, from top to bottom.

This is the kind of political incoherence that weak parties in weak regimes find themselves in. Again, this is not a symptom of Trump, his erratic-ness, or his incompetence. This is a symptom of the impasse the Republican Party has found itself as the premises of the Reagan regime start to get shaky.


According to the latest Quinnipiac poll, there’s been a marked shift in public opinion on immigration.

Back in November, Americans were asked:

Do you support or oppose suspending immigration from ‘terror prone’ regions, even if it means turning away refugees from those regions?

At the time, respondents favored suspending immigration by 50-44%.

As of two days ago, those numbers have flipped. Now respondents oppose suspending immigration by 50-44%. That’s a 12-point flip in public opinion—against the president’s position.

With new presidents, and presidents we think of as politically potent, you expect to see the exact opposite trend line: that is, policies and proposals getting more popular, not less. Yet the opposite seems to be happening with Trump.

What so many on the left fear about Trump—wrongly, in my view—is his allegedly intuitive feel and appeal to the masses, particularly on these issues of nationalism, immigration, race and religion. Yet it seems that that is precisely where he is falling down. And not merely because of the incompetence of his administration. But also, critically, because of the opposition and resistance so many people have mounted. Making his policies chaotic, disruptive, and a big hot mess, actually turns people off to those policies because it shows that they (the policies) can’t deliver what most people want: a sense of a calm and stability.


This piece by Marc Tracy about Steven Bannon’s reading habits is really interesting and smart.

Tracy ran into Steven Bannon at an airport. Bannon was reading The Best and the Brightest.

At first glance, that makes sense: Bannon loathes the liberal Ivy League technocrats who populated the Obama administration and whose predecessors got us into Vietnam.

But what defined those Johnson-era technocrats, Tracy shows, is not that they knew what they were talking about; half the time, they hadn’t a clue. They were just part of the smart set, who by virtue of a certain temperament and repertoire of skills and attitudes, were presumed to be the natural leaders of the nation (not unlike the Vox set today, but I digress).

As Tracy argues, though, “Mr. Bannon seems less a repudiation than a reincarnation of the tragic protagonists of ‘The Best and the Brightest.'”


A couple of weeks ago, I was listening to NPR, and one of Trump’s flunkies, Sebastian Gorka—who has a plummy English accent of the sort that got Dean Acheson into so much trouble with the McCarthyite right; autres temps—was heralding Bannon as a strategic genius who thinks strategically and strategizes like no other strategist. The man needn’t know anything specific; it’s just his cast of mind that matters.

And Trump himself, I would add, is just the CEO version of the best and the brightest, peddling what he allegedly learned from the art of the deal as somehow the Rosetta Stone to governing a nation.


Jonathan Chait thinks Obamacare may survive, and Matt Yglesias itemizes all the ways in which Trump has met defeat thus far.

If they’re right—and I’ve suggested that I think they are—Trump is going to start to look less and less appealing to his base.

It’s hard to overstate how devastating it can be to a president not to be able to win on signature campaign promises. Whatever ideological fervor he can muster, he starts looking weak. Very weak. And that is something that no president—least of all Trump, who has made a fetish of his efficacy and strength—can afford.


Listen to this story from Sunday’s Weekend Edition on NPR.

A California Republican congressman, who was reelected with more than 60% of the vote, thought he’d convene a friendly little conversation at a town hall. Hundreds of hostile constituents showed up, and after failing to respond adequately to their concerns, he had to have a police escort on his way out. One woman, who has never been politically active before, is quoted saying something like, “Apparently, this is now what I do on weekends.” And, apparently, these are being organized across the country.

So two takeaways:

First, this is happening in Republican districts. There’s a lot of criticism of the left—and frankly a lot of self-flagellating criticism on the left—about how we’re in a bubble, we’re only speaking to ourselves, and so forth. These types of events are happening in Republican districts, sometimes in Republican states. Criticize away, but don’t let your lefty angst blind you to the great organizing that is actually happening in these areas.

Second, also pay attention to all these people who were previously apolitical or not involved who are now getting involved. I’m seeing this everywhere, sometimes with people I know personally. This is not a movement of the usual suspects. People are changing right before our eyes: not because they’re getting lectured to or talked at with the right political line, but because they’re acting, getting out there in the streets, and doing things and learning things while and through they’re doing them. That’s what matters.



Establishment Democrats have been surprised by the longevity and ferocity of grassroots opposition to President Trump…

Longevity? The man has been in office for exactly 20 days.  I guess neoliberalism has fucked with the time horizon of these people more than I realized.


Back in the 1970s, Margaret Thatcher took stock of her party’s failure at the polls, took a close look at the opposition’s successes, and came to a realization: “The other side have got an ideology. We must have one as well.”

Nancy Pelosi? Not so much.


It still amazes me, when you consider how massive the racial wealth gap is in this country, that Hillary Clinton managed to present herself in the primary as the candidate concerned with racial equality while simultaneously claiming, “Not everything is about an economic theory.”

I hope, the next time we have to fight this fight on the left, people realize that when a candidate is saying something like that, she’s not signaling an intention to confront racial inequality. She’s actually telling you, in no uncertain terms, that she won’t.


About a month ago, we were hearing a lot about how the problem with democracy is that it mobilizes the masses, who then threaten democracy by making it difficult for elites to preserve liberal principles like the rule of law and the integrity of institutions. Now we’re seeing that it may be those very masses who actually save democracy and those liberal principles.


  1. LFC February 9, 2017 at 9:58 pm | #

    A digression on accents.

    I heard that Sebastian Gorka interview also. I’d never heard of him before and have not done any research on his bio, but his English accent, while indeed “plummy,” seemed genuine enough: he might have been overdoing it for effect, but he did sound English/British.

    Without specific reference to Acheson, whose voice I’m not sure I’ve ever heard, the accent that some elite Americans spoke in the mid-20th century I think is not really the same: it’s kind of halfway in between what we now think of as a ‘standard’ American accent and an English accent. Acheson, who was an Anglophile, might well have been toward one end of the sound continuum; but if one listens to FDR, for example, what one hears is a patrician mid-20th century American speaking with some vague English overtones. But it’s not like what Churchill or other British politicians sounded like, for ex., and I have this fresh in mind b.c a few wks ago an ‘oldies’ radio show broadcast their (FDR and Churchill) statements to the public from the White House in, if I recall correctly, Christmas 1941, when Churchill was visiting for talks. Churchill may not be the best example here b.c of his particular speaking style, but I think the basic point stands.

  2. ronp February 9, 2017 at 10:17 pm | #

    Good post, I think you needn’t take a swipe at the Vox set as you are a super educated intellectual too, we need more cross over to the working class from the lefty professional and technical set, hard to do, but effective when it happens.

    • Federico February 10, 2017 at 5:32 am | #

      I agree with a need to reach a wider public (Owen Jones does this quite well, I think), but that is precisely why we should critique Vox. Robin’s previous piece on Vox does a good job of detailing one of Vox’s recurring errors. Another great, worthwhile critique is found here:

  3. Roquentin February 9, 2017 at 11:03 pm | #

    Re: #9

    Early in the Clinton/Sanders fight during the primary, I bought the rhetoric more than I should have. After hearing it so many times, I really started to believe that identity politics were so important to a certain segment of the population that this was the only concern that mattered. Getting a woman elected mattered more than anything else, or so the claim went, and if the price of admission was putting all their support behind a center-right neoliberal currently being hounded by the FBI, so be it.

    However, evetually I’ve wised up. Feminism, for the Clinton campaign, instead was used as an excuse to be center-right. The important things was that this gave them the perfect alibi to be as shamelessly lassiez-faire as they’d always wanted to be. Looking back, it was all pretty obvious. The logic went “We’re electing the first woman president, we don’t even have to pretend to give a shit about labor or social democracy. In fact, we can get away with actively opposing it.” To be fair to Clinton, this was the racial logic of the Obama presidency transferred to gender politics. It was almost identical “We’re electing the first black president, we don’t even have to pretend to give a shit about labor or social democracy. In fact, we can get away with actively opposing it.”

    If I have any sympathy for Hillary, it is only because she got stuck holding the bag. She tried running the same tired old playbook when the people were already wise to the con. She tried to get in at precisely the moment when the Democratic Leadership Council/New Democrat style of politics went kaput. It’s a pretty thin gruel though. I can’t lie. When I think of HRC I mostly feel contempt. You can only pull a con so many times and keep expecting it to work, and it’s hard to feel bad for a grifter who didn’t get her turn.

    • Donald Pruden, Jr., a/k/a The Enemy Combatant February 13, 2017 at 3:57 pm | #

      I should say that I happen to support identity politics, not only for the purpose of that equality-under-the-law thing but also as one powerful weapon against the neo-liberal agenda. I agree that both Obama and Clinton deployed identity politics as a helpmeet to neoliberalism. Clinton far more than Obama because the latter was largely disinclined to reference matters of race unless forced to by some national tragedy; indeed, his general silence on race made him appealing to many Americans until Fox/Trump et al turned him into [my air quotes] a fictional character we could name “Osama bin Hussein”. Also, Trump’s spluttering misogyny was perceived by Clinton and her supporters as the self-inflicted wound that identity politics’ would cast a glaring light upon so that all could see it for what it is.

      Even though he lost the popular vote, he won enough votes in the right states where it mattered to gain the White House. But it is worth noting that Trump’s misogyno-racism did NOT count as a “deal breaker” for his supporters, but it was probably the most attractive part of his overall sales pitch to those supporters. In the face of that, what is the identity-politics left supposed to do? Focus on the “economy” so as not offend or drive away potential allies? Does anyone really believe that what we call “the economy” is without any lived intersectional identitarianisms? Does any conservative and White male economist really believe that the economy is not – somehow – White and male? How about the persons who constitute the core of Trump’s support: . What do you think THEY think? If these potential allies voted for Trump, one can forgive the identity politics left for indulging in some industrial strength eye-rolling when lectured about its allegiance to identity politics leftism. Seriously, is “the Trump voter” really a potential ally in the end?

      Furthermore, I am inclined to borrow Corey’s overarching thesis in order to point out that it was the reactionaries that first created “identity politics” as weapon against the “subordinate” populations of the world. We who identify as African American did not invent our “Blackness”; it was imposed upon us. Part of our project is to re-define Blackness in order that stigma is removed while recognizing it as a historical creation based on a fiction. Again, if we know this we can re-weaponize identity politics in order deploy it against misogyno-racism and neoliberalism.

      In noting your observation that “You can only pull a con so many times and keep expecting it to work, and it’s hard to feel bad for a grifter who didn’t get her turn.”, I would note that the “tell” is not that she did not get her turn but rather that HE did. We do indeed have a Grifter-In-Chief now and this is in spite of the fact that his own spectacular failures are public knowledge. I would argue that the success of the con says less about the con artist than it does about his marks. For proof, witness the many news articles – print and broadcast – that go under that genre of journalism that Chris Hayes, in some episodes of “All In”, has labeled as “The Trump Pastoral”. The folks at the center of these pieces have, in varying degrees, bought the con. Their brand of identity politics lay at the center of their vulnerability to the con, whereas our own identity politics is the very reason we American Blacks are nearly impervious to it – and always will be.

      I hope “The Trump Pastoral” genre gets wider recognition as a “thing” because it will give clues to the reasons for our present historical moment.

  4. stevelaudig February 9, 2017 at 11:30 pm | #

    “What so many on the left fear about Trump—wrongly, in my view—is his allegedly intuitive feel and appeal to the masses, particularly on these issues of nationalism, immigration, race and religion. Yet it seems that that is precisely where he is falling down.” How does the notion of “masses” fit in with the fact that the “white masses” are shrinking. Which is the point of the argument as I understand it. It’s on the way to being a small mass.Trump’s feel for the right center”mass” coincided with Clinton II’s “unfeel” for the “left center” mass. Theirs was a handshake or yin-yang message in a sense. It’s hard to stay enthusiastic for a nasty. Reagan’s sunniness masked the lizard. Trump shows full on lizard. 25/8/366.

  5. Roquentin February 9, 2017 at 11:31 pm | #

    Forgive the double post, but I feel like I have to add this, because it’s too funny. Hillary is like the person who shows up to the party, all dressed up, when it was basically over an hour ago and there’s only a couple of very drunk people there along with the host who mostly just wants to go to bed. She’s the person who tries way too hard to be trendy, like a kid who went out and bought $100 worth of pogs, right around the time the fad died and no one cared anymore.

    She’s like one of those passed their prime rock bands, who used to back stadiums, but now that the record sales are fading so they make desperate attempts to ape the hot trends of the day in a transparent and cringeworthy manner that everyone sees through.

    She’s like the movie, packed full of stars, with a massive budget and tons of promotion behind it, that still somehow manages to be lousy and flops at the box office.

    Actually, perhaps the best metaphor of all is one I saw on an episode of Top Chef of Chopped, I can’t remember which. When one of the judges was giving a contestant a dressing down, he said something to the effect of “You’re like the kid who answers every question on the test right, but you still want to fail him.” That’s Hillary. That’s the Clinton campaign. Always too on the nose, like the suck-up in class most people privately can’t stand.

    • DreadPikathulhu February 10, 2017 at 2:48 am | #

      Get over yourself. She still got three million more votes than the opposition. Plenty of people like Clinton, they just happen to live in the wrong places.

      • Roquentin February 10, 2017 at 8:30 am | #

        Never underestimate the power of denial. People repeat this fact, that she won the popular vote, as if it means something, as if they were somehow unaware that the Electoral College determined the presidency instead. The US is not a democracy, not in the strict sense, and you and I damn well know it. You can not like this fact, you can hate it all you want, but that does not change that this is how presidential elections function here. So forgive me for not being blown away about the popular vote argument. You can make it again when you lose in 2020, I’m sure it’ll make you feel a lot better that time too.

        I make these arguments because Ithe brawl between liberals and the left is far from over. It’s going to come back with a vengeance, and it’s going to come back soon.

  6. Chris Morlock February 10, 2017 at 1:56 am | #

    I’m wondering about the euphoria the left has today in terms of a “big win” isn’t tragically short sighted. The 9th is the most overruled court in the land, and is noticeably unpopular among Trump supporters and the right in general. Are we asking a 4:4 Supreme court to come out with a landmark ruling against this? I guess the ultimate hope is a split decision and a push?

    The way it seems now is that Trump used racist language as a dog whistle for the left, and they took the bait. Now we are in the odd predicament of having to defend the position that an immigration ban should not be unilaterally achievable by an executive order. When Trumps legal team gets it together (not some DOJ flunky) they are going to savage the argument with parallels to neo-liberal policies of travel restrictions going back 30 years. They will also hammer out the line that some Muslim countries have the exact same ban, that 87% of the world’s Muslim population is not effected, and that the visa program is in dire need of overhaul. They can also pull the intelligence card at will and create the argument of knowledge of imminent threats.

    Trump can also easily manufacture an “incident”, which I agree is going off into conspiracy theory, but it’s tailor made for corporate media coverage.

    I wonder if this was the wrong battle to fight. Far worse than a temporary ban is the actual Visa overhaul that is supposedly forthcoming, with the full support of congress. Did we just but our heads on the chopping block yet again?

    • Chris Thomas February 12, 2017 at 11:47 pm | #

      Speaking as an aging lawyer involved tangentially in this fight, it was exactly the right time to fight. The Trump administration argued that the courts lacked power to review (under any standard) unilateral executive action in the immigration and national security areas.

      Not contesting that argument in a nation on permanent war footing would have been insane.

      Trump might be able to come up with something new that survives deferential scrutiny. But preserving a role for the courts was the necessary fight. What else would one save the dry powder for.

      As for the Ninth Circuit’s reversal rate, that stat is a bit misunderstood. The Supreme Court typically does not grant cert (discretionary review) merely to fix bad results. It grants cert to address important issues and circuit splits in cases with a clear record. Further, the Court more often than not will follow the recommendation of the Solicitor General on the appropriateness of cert. And the Ninth Circuit is a large one that of necessity cannot take en banc review of many of its three-judge panel decisions.

      Putting that all together, that creates a disproportionate number of outlier panel decisions that are ripe for cert, particularly in cases the government loses. If your goal is to obtain cert to create favorable case law rather than win, you skip en banc review.

      The number of cert petitions granted is exceedingly small, perhaps 3% even for real cases. Many years the NInth Circuit is reversed more than others, but that has more to do with size and case selection than with ideology..

  7. WLGR February 10, 2017 at 10:23 am | #

    As many others have noted, the idea of Bannon as super-duper-genius seems to persist in large part because DC politico and media types actually tend to be incredibly undereducated, and for someone in these circles to demonstrably go cover to cover with a book of non-contemporary and non-pop-oriented political theory/philosophy immediately puts them in the upper intellectual echelons by default. Even the Tracy piece seems to imply that Bannon reading the Halberstam book means this book must inherently say something deep and profound about who Bannon is, as if it’s categorically out of the question that he might read a range of ideas with which he agrees only marginally if at all. Another interesting case of this mindset is the fetishization of both Bannon’s and Charles Koch’s citations of Lenin as an influence on their view of political strategy, the notion apparently being that Lenin is some kind of Sun Tzu or Machiavelli for modern political insurgency, regardless of whether one is a Marxist seizing state power from the Tsar, a neoliberal seizing state power from the social democrats, or a white nationalist seizing state power from the neoliberal establishment.

    Of course I can’t help but find it a bit depressing that even after having injected themselves with the meme that Leninism can function as some kind of ideologically neutral strategy manual, the libs themselves still refuse to read or acknowledge the man’s actual ideas, as if his writings were literally the Necronomicon or something — maybe if only Nixon could go to China and only Clinton could dismantle welfare, then only Bannon and Koch can read State and Revolution. (Although it’d be much more interesting if any of these people would read and cite Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, but that’s neither here nor there.)

    • Roquentin February 10, 2017 at 11:29 am | #

      I think you’re absolutely right.

      That Quartz article on Bannon and Lenin ( was the single dumbest piece of commentary I’ve read since the election, and that’s no small task.

      Notice that in the entire article, start to finish, not a single text of Lenin is cited. Not even a lazy one they could have found in a few minutes with Google or Wikipedia. I know, it’s anathema for these types of people to actually read Lenin, but somehow they still want to take the utterly absurd step of claiming to understand the first thing about his political theories. That they use this kind of logic to display open contempt for the wishes of large swaths of the population is just the icing on the cake.

      • WLGR February 10, 2017 at 2:05 pm | #

        This all makes me think back to 7-8 years ago when these same media/politico types were treating it as bizarre and inexplicable that Glenn Beck was exhorting his Tea Party followers to sit down with Hayek’s Road to Serfdom. At the time I assumed they were reacting to the perceived fringiness of Hayek and his specific ideas (even though his influence on mainstream political/economic discourse is arguably substantial enough to warrant sustained attention) especially since Beck was simultaneously hawking genuinely unhinged texts by complete intellectual snake-oil salesmen, like W. Cleon Skousen’s 5,000-Year Leap. Now I’m more inclined to think they literally just couldn’t wrap their minds around the idea of anybody unaffiliated with a university, let alone the alleged rubes from “flyover country”, ever deigning to read any nonfiction book not published within the last 5-10 years under a title like Treachery: How [Opposing Party Leader] and the [Opposing Party] are Murdering, Raping, and Eating American Children.

  8. stevenjohnson February 10, 2017 at 11:47 am | #

    First sentence of the OP has the phrase “major defeat.” Really?

    And the general drift of the OP, that a few bumps in Trump’s signature programs denotes his weakness forgets that if this might mean the triumph of the Republican establishment.

    It’s not clear but it seems as if too many people have somehow assumed that feminism is left wing. This is not the case unless bourgeois democratic equality is now as far left as the heirs of the great purge of Communism can see.

    Also, Trump’s base is not any significant portion of the population, but Wall Street (significantly, minus politically engaged rivals like the Kochs or Soros,) and the mass media. (Yes, the mass media. The Putin treason campaign still is far from the endless email/Clinton Foundation/Benghazi treason campaign the mass media pushed so relentlessly against Clinton.)

    On the other hand, contra anti-democratic theorists, winning the popular vote still matters, even if the law is the Electoral College. Clinton’s victory means the grounds for a genuinely left movement as still very, very shaky. The wretched commitment even now to Trumpery strongly suggests the Sanders swindle is still very much the agenda.

  9. jonnybutter February 10, 2017 at 12:30 pm | #

    For those of you who didn’t hear about this in their feed or whatever, a commercial for today’s and tomorrow’s Must Read: There Are No Good Reasons Not to Fight. You’ll like the author.

  10. LFC February 10, 2017 at 12:50 pm | #

    At the end of Tracy’s piece on Bannon’s “reading habits,” Tracy mentions Walt Rostow.

    An excellent book on Rostow (in case anyone’s interested in him) w/ particular reference to Vietnam is David Milne’s American Rasputin: Walt Rostow and the Vietnam War (2008).

    • WLGR February 10, 2017 at 4:04 pm | #

      These days Rostow is largely remembered for inventing the “five stages” model in his 1960 book The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto, which might be the Platonic-ideal form of the teleological utopianism about capitalist “development” I was alluding to in an earlier thread on this blog. IMO the highest praise Rostow’s book deserves is for being genuinely ahead of its time, with a conceptual and stylistic depth that anticipates the invention of PowerPoint by several decades.

      • LFC February 10, 2017 at 5:21 pm | #

        My understanding is that Rostow’s The Stages of Economic Growth assumed, along with most modernization theory of that era, that all societies would pass basically through the same stages in roughly the same way. Today’s versions of modernization theory, whatever one thinks of them (and I don’t necessarily think much of them), are not quite that homogenizing in outlook, or if they are perhaps do a somewhat better job of hiding it.

        Michael Latham’s The Right Kind of Revolution (2011) is a concise history of how reigning ideas of modernization and development have intersected with and/or influenced U.S. foreign policy. I doubt you will much like the book, so not recommending that you read it. Luckily 😉 you can read my mini-essay on Latham instead:

        • LFC February 10, 2017 at 5:30 pm | #

          p.s. I got the title of the Milne book slightly wrong: it’s America’s Rasputin (not American Rasputin).

  11. jonnybutter February 10, 2017 at 12:52 pm | #

    If I have any sympathy for Hillary, it is only because she got stuck holding the bag.

    Agree with you Roquentin. Obama (and her husband, for that matter) both are able to kind of skate, and HRC, who – influential figure though she’s was, has never actually been president – is..well, yes, left holding the bag. BO has been pres and theoretically head of the party for *8 years*, but most ppl don’t blame him. Oh no, Barack is cool.

    I definitely fully blame her too, but…it’s striking how much the goat she is. And it goes beyond just sexism. She always ends up making me think of Nixon, and not just because she’s secretive; also because of the humorlessness, the doggedness, the intelligence, the almost touching social haplessness.

    Bottom line: she appointed herself, and failed spectacularly. But Barack is not that cool, actually. Trump is more his legacy than HRC’s, IMHO.

    • s.wallerstein February 10, 2017 at 4:00 pm | #

      jonny butter,

      The comparison of Hillary to Nixon is very apt. Another point is that while both lie a lot, both are somehow uncomfortable about lying (strong superegos) and thus, do not hide well that they are lying. Obama, on the other hand, lies fluently.

      • Roquentin February 10, 2017 at 5:52 pm | #


        I wondered for quite a while how Trump could be perceived as honest when he is so transparently a pathological liar. But then I get to thinking about that old George Carlin comedy special “You’re All Diseased” were he’s talking about Bill Clinton, and describes him as “honest about being full of shit.” I think that’s a big part of it, that Trump’s lies and falsehoods are so transparent no one feels deceived by them. We all have a good laugh at “alternative facts” because it’s ludicrous to the point were Trump is almost winking at you behind it. The very fact he’s such an ineffective liar (one has to believe the nonsense for it to work), makes his administration paradoxically honest about its intentions. It’s strange to say, but there’s certain comfort in being lead by a total imbecile. One doesn’t have to worry much about him pulling the wool over their eyes.

        The second factor is that he doesn’t bother with euphemisms and dog-whistles to carefully code and obscure his racism and bigotry. That kind of rhetoric has been the bread and butter of the GOP since the 70s, and its voters have long since grown tired of having to put a fig leaf over their sentiments to make them publicly acceptable. Trump is “honest” in this regard as well.

        • s.wallerstein February 10, 2017 at 6:35 pm | #

          Roquentin, People often believe that someone who seems “authentic” is truthful, and Trump seems relatively “authentic” compared to other political figures. Therefore, many people erroneously conclude that he is truthful. I’ve made the same error myself in personal relationships.

      • LFC February 10, 2017 at 10:30 pm | #

        Really, s. wallerstein, you have outdone yourself with the assertion that Nixon did not lie well or was uncomfortable about lying because he had a “strong superego,” whereas according to you Obama lies “fluently” — presumably (?) because Obama does not have a strong superego.

        Freud is twirling in his grave. Just for starters.

        • s.wallerstein February 11, 2017 at 8:30 am | #

          Roquentin, Thanks. It is funny.

  12. BBethany February 10, 2017 at 1:54 pm | #

    #8: Chuck Schumer just said no to Gorsuch in the NYT. It seems all those angry phone calls are working; the voters are finally getting through to their representatives. Keep it up!

    For their part, Dems need to make Manchin toe the line on this one.

  13. fivetonsflax February 10, 2017 at 7:27 pm | #

    @jonnybutter Ah yes, blame the black guy for the rise of the white supremacist. Can we please put the blame for Trump where it belongs: on Trump and his supporters?

    • jonnybutter February 10, 2017 at 10:24 pm | #

      There’s a difference between ‘blame’ and ‘legacy’, fivetonflax.

      It’s true but not very profound (trivially true) to say racists are responsible for their racism. Yes, we know ugly, racist people are ugly and racist, and that they are responsible for themselves. But I think the main political party that opposes them shares some responsibility for electoral results and other things too, don’t you? If you are a professional politician running the only opposition party to reactionaries and racists, and you suck at opposing them and suck at leading in general, that’s on you.

      Responsibility ought to be shared by the whole crappy, out of touch, conservative Democratic party, the party of the DLC, of Bill Clinton, and HRC, and Al Gore and John Kerry – and Barack Obama. HRC was a terrible candidate, and had terrible politics, and she blew the election to the white supremacist – almost unforgivable. But BO (and Bill Clinton) were freaking president for 8 years, not HRC.

      BO was nominally the head of the party – a party he did not care to lead. He had a massive nationwide organization in 2008 that he let wither away, as the Democratic party itself also withered in the Obama years; he had a mandate for change (it was his motto, I believe) and he largely did not fulfill that mandate. He decided to play it safe at key moments, and to do quite a few pretty unwise things. He’s what we used to call a ‘conservative’. When millions of ppl were losing their houses, he decided to take care of the banks; when he met with implacable (and racist) obstruction and hostility, he thought he should ‘look reasonable’ and try to make bipartisan deals. He took care of himself, politically, IOW.

      All that doesn’t mean that he didn’t also do good things and show good judgement at times. He did. But a presidency is judged by what happens, not mitigating factors.

      I said ‘Trump is BO’s legacy more than he is HRC’s because he was president and she wasn’t’. That is WAY different from ‘I blame the black guy for the white supremacist and his supporters’.

      Now, if we’re talking about proximate *blame* – your word, not mine – then, sure, HRC blew the election. And yes, racists are racists, so obviously they are responsible for that. But Trump is not really HRC’s *legacy* – my word. She does have some kind of legacy of her own (and it’s not good for the most part, IMO), but not the legacy of a president because she didn’t affect the world in a profound and sustained way like a president does. Because she lost, twice.

      It’s letting the Dems off the hook to say that Trump is the legacy of white supremacism and nothing else. If there was only one party instead of two, that would be different. But – although it doesn’t seem like it sometimes – we actually have two parties. And the other party, the Democratic party, including the US president and head of that party for the last 8 years, clearly failed, too.

  14. Thomas Rossetti February 10, 2017 at 8:47 pm | #

    Apparently the black guy was a neoliberal. Neoliberal is a liberal whose politics is open to having a commitment to process and accepting the necessity of defeating conservatives and radicals of what ever certainties at the ballot box. Neoliberal is used by Marcuse radicals to rise above the mundane task of having to win your case in the marketplace of ideas. So was Irving Kristol a neoliberal or a neoconservative? Or does it make any difference what the correct answer to that question is? Since when did a true liberal of say a Rooseveltian stripe have to be opposed to a mixed economy or all aspects of capitalism.

    As a point of fact Dean Acherson’s accent was Canadian. His mother was a Gooderham of the Ontario distillery family. He grew up in that old Victorian mansion next to the entrance to the St. George station of the Toronto subway. I guess he was a neoliberal before his time. What bin of history do all those old liberal cold warriors of the ADA get consigned?

    • Chris Morlock February 11, 2017 at 6:58 am | #

      Neo-liberal has to be the most overused term of 2017. Like all pop-usage terms there is little intellectual or historical understanding. The term has also been redefined in intellectual circles many times going back to the 30’s.

      What it has come to mean is a liberal who has adopted pro free-market ideology completely separating themselves for socialists. It also has become synonymous with globalism. It also has been repeatedly conflated with neo-conservatism in the sense that both ideologies favor global capitalism and market forces over nation-states, although it’s hard to see how neo-conservatism is not intrinsically Statist.

      On social issues it’s much harder to nail down, but it can man anything from a kind of progressive social ideology to a standard center left view on the usual god, gays, and guns talking points.

      I like the new meaning of the term personally as it allows people to associate all types of political ideologies including Reaganism, Globalism, and pro-free market thinking and virtually all of the presidential administrations pro-market approaches since Reagan. An over simplification maybe but it already has some strong usage in populist rhetoric.

      • WLGR February 13, 2017 at 11:09 am | #

        Neoliberalism has been a broadly accepted concept in social science and political theory for decades, and just because undereducated mainstream politicos in the US have recently been encountering the term for the first time doesn’t make it some strange newfangled neologism (similar to the mainstream reaction to “antifa”). Admittedly there’s confusion about what it means even among people who accept its use, but one obvious point is that since it’s a term and an ideology with thoroughly international roots, it doesn’t really have anything to do with the atypical American usage of “liberal” as referring to supporters of the Keynesian welfare state and the “New Deal”- to “Great Society”-era Democratic Party — in fact it means much the opposite, referring to the broader and more philosophically literate sense in which “liberal” means a supporter of capitalist markets and opponent of contra-market programs like the welfare state. So to insist on trying to derive “neoliberal” from the US sense of “liberal”, the way you two are doing, is pretty much to guarantee that nobody who accepts the term will regard your dismissal of the term as worth taking seriously.

        The basic idea is that during the 1930s and ’40s, the Depression and WWII forced liberals in the traditional laissez-faire sense to retreat against the labor-oriented politics of social democracy, and liberal defenders of market capitalism had to retool their ideology and strategy to regain the offensive. In the new political apparatus they created, laissez-faire opposition to the state continues as an ideological sideshow to confuse the left, whereas the main political thrust is to actively command state power as a tool for maintaining and expanding markets — and perhaps most importantly, the solution for any market failures that do arise is never for new state programs to constrict or replace the market, but for the state itself to create new markets by fiat, as with initiatives like cap-and-trade for carbon emissions permits or the Obamacare exchanges for health insurance. The more potential opponents of neoliberalism can be confused into ignoring or even supporting such strategies the better, which is why these people actively promote obscurantist rhetorical tropes like “state versus market” and “liberal versus conservative”, not to mention promoting various forms of ethnonationalism whose leaders can easily be drafted into implementing their agenda (e.g. India’s Narendra Modi, simultaneously a neoliberal comprador and a mass-murdering Hindu fascist). If you’re not clued in to at least that much, you’re still oblivious to the full gravity of the problem.

        • Chris Morlock February 13, 2017 at 12:02 pm | #

          My point is that it’s already been co-opted into another meaning from the historical poly-sci definition. I like the term and it’s new meaning, because in populist rhetoric it’s been very difficult to for everyday people to differentiate between Liberal Democrats that favor New Deal / Great Society economics and those that are essentially pure free-market advocates. People also are starting to use the “corporate Democrat” moniker more and more, which I also think is good.

          It’s all about creating awareness of the problems with the Democratic party, and how every presidential administration since Reagan has been a clone of “trickle down” economics. The only real difference being that the ones that were called Democrats actually did far worse things than the Republican ones could have dreamed of.

          If in a more complex sense Neo-Liberalism means that the government has a duty to create new markets through policy, then I think that also illuminates the complete failure of this poly-sci theory. From NAFTA to removing restrictions on mortgage lending to the APA’s individual marketplace, all of these policies have extremely negative connotations and are generally associated with failure.

          • WLGR February 14, 2017 at 1:54 pm | #

            See though, my point is that understanding neoliberalism in the more vague sense you’re talking about (where it’s synonymous with “pure free-market advocates”) isn’t just an alternative definition, it’s an active misinterpretation of what the neoliberal ideological movement is all about. People like the Koch brothers might provide funding for a wide range of laissez-faire “drown government in the bathtub” type political voices, but the core tenet on which they’re actually acting is that state power should be pressed into service on markets’ behalf. Arranging mainstream ideological space around an illusory opposition between governments and markets is a way to convince people who might otherwise oppose neoliberal policy interventions that any government intervention is inherently anti-market and thus anti-neoliberal, even an intervention like the ACA or cap-and-trade that directly functions to reinforce and extend the hegemony of markets. To break out of this ideological trap, we absolutely need to shatter the idea that neoliberalism is synonymous with “markets good, government bad” which it absolutely isn’t. (Also since you mention it, “trickle down” is another good example of an idea useful to neoliberalism for propaganda purposes but irrelevant to its real goals and motivations — capitalist profit in the market is a suitable end in itself, and convincing gullible people that these profits will trickle down to benefit them is nothing more than a means to that end.)

            On that note, understand what it means for us to say that neoliberal policies have failed. From our perspective the problems these policies are allegedly supposed to solve remain unsolved (e.g. people unable to afford health care, catastrophic climate change, etc.) and therefore the policies have failed, but from the neoliberal perspective these catastrophes themselves aren’t inherently a problem at all. To them the real problem is that people affected by such catastrophes might organize politically to overcome the hegemony of capitalist markets, and in the sense of deflecting the potential political impetus for a serious non-neoliberal governing agenda (“how can you be so stubborn about demanding actual socialized medicine, look at those kooky teabaggers attacking the ACA!”) the neoliberal agenda has been a smashing success.

  15. b. February 13, 2017 at 11:37 am | #

    “Trump is going to start to look less and less appealing to his base.”
    Which lets the BAU Democrats off the hook. What we need is a rejection of all incumbents, across the board.

    At this point, selecting candidates for any federal or state office by lottery is starting to look really appealing. It can’t possibly be much worse than Trump/Clinton, and in any case – as you appear to be saying – at the worst, it’ll “heighten the contradictions”.

    {Trump’s] “willingness to say what so many people in his party thought but were too polite or smart to say…”
    I prefer “cowardly”. None of these, on either side, are polite, let alone smart.

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