What’s wrong with the discourse of norm erosion?

We’ve now had, in less than 20 years, two presidents elected over and against the expressed preferences (not in a poll, but in actual ballots) of the majority of the voters. I think most Democrats, liberals, and leftists would agree that both of these presidents were or are disasters. So these two elections were democratic catastrophes on both procedural and substantive grounds.

Yet the single most important determinant of these two disasters—the fact that we have a Constitution that creates an Electoral College that privileges the interests of states over persons—cannot, by the terms of the discourse, be counted as a norm erosion. Indeed, when it comes to this main determinant of the Electoral College and how it works, there was no norm erosion in 2000 or 2016; the system worked exactly as it was designed by the text (I’m deliberately setting aside the Supreme Court decision in 2000 because that would get us into a whole other realm of controversy).

So we have a discourse of norm erosion that allows us to reel in shock at the way that Trump talks to senators, governors, and citizens, but that discourse has nothing to say about the very system, the very text, that produced this president that talks in this terrible and shocking way.

Indeed, insofar as some of the peddlers of that discourse believe that these cherished norms ultimately issue from the system and the text itself, and that it is that system and that text that need protecting, one can say that the discourse of norm erosion actually prevents us from tackling the very system, the very text, that produced this president that talks in this terrible and shocking way.


  1. dkloke October 25, 2017 at 10:30 am | #

    This also suggests that norm erosion is broader/deeper than is being recognized.
    Some parallel to sexual/other misconducts being overlooked/accepted to preserve status quo and protect individual goals.

  2. lxlxlxl (@ooolxlxlxlooo) October 25, 2017 at 10:35 am | #

    It’s insane to talk about norm erosion, or RussiaRussiaRussia, when we JUST NEED ONE PERSON ONE VOTE. It’s nuts. It’s like TV media refuses to focus on the simple fixes just because its not good for programming or something.

  3. Emorej a Hong Kong October 25, 2017 at 11:08 am | #

    One could also attribute election of Trump to the following:

    Political elites broke the norm of making more than a transparent pretense of caring about the middle and lower classes, leading to a majority of those classes breaking the norm of turning out as if they believed the pretense.

  4. Glenn October 25, 2017 at 11:12 am | #

    The Republican extreme right makes claims that the “Constitution is not a suicide pact”, and so violates the Constitution where it is found to be in conflict with the interests of the sovereign owners of the nation (specifically, its corporate funders).

    The Democratic right believes that the answer to present problems must be found in the text, if not explicitly, then by new interpretation, and so will not challenge the text, perhaps out of their fear of challenging the corporate interests who govern the election of government officials who daily serve as agents of these corporate interests.

  5. Kenny October 25, 2017 at 11:26 am | #

    There is no contradiction between the idea that there has been norm erosion, and the idea that the old stuff was also bad. The main reason the left should worry about norm erosion is because we need a source of solidarity and one of the main things norm erosion has produced is our inability to find one. That Trump is worse than Bush II is worse than the Constitution may or may not be true, and isn’t our problem.

    • Deadl E Cheese October 25, 2017 at 12:16 pm | #

      By “the left’ Kenny means liberals of the Lincolnian/New Dealer/Third Way variety. The actual left already has a locus of solidarity that’s not only completely detached from prevailing norms, but by-and-large hostile to them.

      That said, with that distinction, Kenny is correct. But then, it raises the question of why we want to prop this disjoining ideology up. Liberalism, whether the norms are kept or not, is doomed. We can see the liberal-conservative consensus crumbling into neoliberal authoritarianism or even outright fascism across the globe independent of how The Norms are kept.

    • Deadl E Cheese October 25, 2017 at 12:20 pm | #

      “I think most Democrats, liberals, and leftists would agree that both of these presidents were or are disasters.”

      Strong disagree on those first two. https://twitter.com/aedwardslevy/status/923214548886282240. Democrats have a 51/42 split in favor of W. Bush actually being good.

      Liberalism is a morally and intellectually bankrupt ideology that can only see six months into the future and two years into the past.

      • jonnybutter October 25, 2017 at 12:47 pm | #

        FWIW: You may be right or not, but that poll doesn’t really give support. Agree with @jakebackpack Jacob Bacharach on this one (on Twitter): “TBF, I think that the “Dems approve of GWB 51/42” story is basically just a data point in the extreme unreliability of opinion polling. Measurement of attitudes complicated by the fact that most people’s opinions are totally incoherent and inconsistent. People have recently heard some okay things about GWB, who they’ve barely heard about in 8+ years. So, okay, they “approve.””

        • jonnybutter October 25, 2017 at 5:07 pm | #

          Bad form, but I want to revise and extend my remarks a little.

          It is political elites and other beltway types (e.g. ‘journalists’) who do the most to normalize these creeps, not regular ppl, including Democrats. The latter can surely go either way, and aren’t necessarily very engaged politically, despite being called ‘Democrats’. It’s HRC canoodling with Kissinger and Michele O. hugging GWB that are the signals. It’s a neat trick to blame this kind of shit on regular ppl, particularly when it’s such a vague notion – ‘approval’. “Yeah, I approve of him now that he’s a painter!” There is tons of horseshit polling.

  6. BKS October 25, 2017 at 11:44 am | #

    The Electoral College didn’t “produce” Trump or Bush except in a very narrow sense of the term. Both garnered very close to the number of votes their opponent did, in Bush’s case a virtually identical number. Seating a president who wins 50.1 of the vote and assigning them 100% of presidential power can be argued to produce problems just as concerning, if not moreso, than the admittedly unjust Electoral College. I carry no brief for it.

    But a larger problem with the discourse of norm erosion is the presupposition that maintaining the basic norms of political governance would be a sufficient precondition for a just society to emerge. So long as the ruling party gets its policy decision right within that normative structure, the theory suggests, a just society can result. But leftists understand that this presupposition is ridiculously false. The normative structure of American governance needs to be radically restructured if anything close to a just society is to emerge, because that normative structure has deeply embedded elements that ensure the continuation of gross injustices. Trump’s erosion of norms of political communication present some problems, sure, but the idea that everything was fine before he came along and hacked the communication or staffing norms is liberal nonsense. Not claiming that’s your position, Corey, but there are plenty of other, weightier reasons to be concerned about normative political culture besides its acceptance of the Electoral College as legitimate. The deep entrenchment of lobbying, the acceptance of a superdelegate system, the corrosive rot running throughout the system of campaign finance, the requirement that candidates defer to military authority to be considered for high national office – all of these “normal” practices and many others are virtually invisible to liberals who see ruin in Trump’s bluster, laziness, and sheer stupidity.

  7. BKS October 25, 2017 at 11:46 am | #

    Apologies: I exaggerated the closeness of Bush-Gore, thinking only of Florida instead of the entire country. Still, only about .5% of the vote separated them.

  8. WLGR October 25, 2017 at 1:23 pm | #

    What makes the entire liberal norm-erosion discourse these days seem like an absurdly over-the-top self-parody is that the insidious foreign-backed influence allegedly responsible for this erosion of our sacred American norms and values is… a political tendency explicitly organized around the premise that our sacred American norms and values are being eroded by an insidious foreign influence! If only the slogan “Make America Great Again!” hadn’t already been taken, it’d fit these liberals like a glove.

    We leftists love to make fun of liberals’ ridiculous attraction to wannabe-tough-guy flag-waving jingo boosterism (“I’m John Kerry and I’m reporting for duty!”) as a phony Democratic imitation of the GOP genuine article, but in a deeper sense the liberals’ commitment to grounding their political convictions in an absurd baby-food feel-good propaganda vision of US history and politics is no less genuine than its reactionary counterpart. In fact, if anything the liberals’ version is the more willfully ignorant of the two, since if there actually is an inalienably rooted consensus founding norm of the American system, it’s hard to imagine a more historically appropriate candidate than white supremacy.

  9. Chris Morlock October 25, 2017 at 3:27 pm | #

    News flash: people love the wat Trump talks, even if they don’t agree with the content (or lack of). I fall into that category. He simply doesn’t care, is stupid, or is playing the “role” of the liberal/leftist bogey man. This erodes the false status quo of political correctness, corporate MSM propoganda, and general system of “statesmanship” that itself was totally out of touch.

    What the left needs is a brash talking warrior, and no one of that description exists. Why? Because of the pernicious PC culture where everyone meters and regulates their speech, the constant rhetoric falsely associating masculinity with forceful and passionate speech (policed by all members of the Left). Bernie can hold his own, because his convinctions and ideas are so strong, but there is no one that can match Trump in terms of his John Wayne image. The sooner the Left can realize that it is their wimpy outrage that made Trump and feeds his base, the more we can actually make progress and forget this unfortunate time in American history.

    Norm erosion is fantastic, the “norm” of the last 40 years of corporate fascism is all good with me. PC was something invented by completely out of touch and scared post modern neo-marxists in college universities in the early 80’s in a blind attempt to try and get Reagan to stop dismantling the New Deal. It failed, and it failed in 2016, and it’s DEAD now. Move on and express your beliefs without restraint.

    • nastywoman October 25, 2017 at 10:56 pm | #

      ”The sooner the Left can realize that it is their wimpy outrage that made Trump and feeds his base, the more we can actually make progress and forget this unfortunate time in American history.”

      We always HAVE to tell ”the Dudes” – when they behave like a…holes – every time and day – and that they never listen – firstly – doesn’t mean that there always comes a time when they finally understand THEIR ”norm erosion” – and then they feel bad and the urge to tell everybody that actually they are NOT ”that” bad and very intelligent.

      And all of this has very little to do with being ”left” or anything like that as even Conservative Mormons seem to know when enough is enough.

      It’s like when I was 13 and had to send my much older cousin -(without dinner) to bed because he was really doing some terrible ”norm erosion” on the dinner-table!

      • nastywoman October 25, 2017 at 11:00 pm | #

        – and I really love this expression ”norm-erosion” it’s far more elegant than telling an a…hole that he -(or even she) is an ”a…hole”!

    • WLGR October 26, 2017 at 10:12 am | #

      Hm, I find it at odds with reality to interpret Trump’s aesthetic as a “John Wayne image” when aside from the chintzy knock-off Versailles image of his construction business, his individual personal image is pretty clearly that of a flabby entitled New York real estate broker who’s obsessed with frivolous tabloid gossip and couldn’t jog a marathon to save his life, and he doesn’t seem to spend any serious effort pretending otherwise. Compared to Trump’s fellow entitled east-coast elite scion George W. Bush, whose appeal actually was built around a heavily stage-managed John Wayne aesthetic, can you imagine a Trump photo-op on a ranch in cowboy boots clearing mesquite with a chainsaw?

      On the contrary, at a visceral level Trump’s aesthetic appeal with his core petty-bourgeois labor-aristocratic white male demographic seems to be precisely because his success obviously has so little to do with any physical or mental worth — they see him as exactly what they themselves would be if they’d been born with a billion-dollar trust fund, and to them his unearned success is an embodiment of the unearned success they seek for themselves and for the United States of America, in all cases resolutely refusing to admit the “unearned” part even if they fully well know it. So forget about John Wayne, Trump’s obvious action-star analogue is late-career Steven Seagal: an entitled, overweight, sexually-predatory reactionary dick, shambling his way through chintzy C-grade films in which dozens of martial arts stuntmen (who clearly could each knock him out in seconds with a hand tied behind their back) all pretend he’s the most fearsome secret agent on Earth who could knock them all across the room simultaneously with a single flick of his flabby wrist.

      • Chris Morlock October 26, 2017 at 1:13 pm | #

        Reading that description of Trump confirms that there is no understanding, at all, of what Trump represents to his supporters. You build it out as a Left wing fantasy where everyone who likes him is a white supremacist male and angry, etc. Essentially you are conveying a derogatory “redneck” or “hillbilly” stereotype basically.

        This is the attitude that fuels the Left’s decline. My point is that there is a real and tangible class warfare mechanism that is built into Trump’s popularity, and that he is popular among many working class people that do not share his specific belief system. The Left cannot process this (mostly because it would mean that they would have to admit they have lost the working class) and therefore cannot effectively combat the phenomenon.

        They like Trump because he is pushing against the status quo, however dubious and unreal that narrative is. I accuse many here, and Corey, or being prejudice against white working people in red states. They are working class, and they are the backbone of the country and deserve respect. The Left cannot, as a matter of fact, survive, remain viable, and have any authenticity without them.

        This soft bigotry against desperate working people who don’t share your social views is a new kind of racism. The answer is to focus on economic issues, just like Bernie uses and was so successful at until the establishment said no. The Left wing establishment.

        • nastywoman October 26, 2017 at 2:07 pm | #

          ”They are working class, and they are the backbone of the country and deserve respect”

          Wait a minute?! –

          These are my lines – and this is ”our” believe – the believe of anybody – REALLY on the side of the workers –
          And the tragedy that an a..hole stole ”our” words and so many of ”our workers” -(or naive fans of the f…ing moron) – believed his lies is in no way an excuse to draw ”the Duke” into this ”conversation” – as he – as a ”true gentleman” -(as my grandfather called him – who lived next to him in Newport Beach) – would have kicked Trumps butt – right back to his golden toilets.

        • WLGR October 26, 2017 at 3:42 pm | #

          And my point is that there’s a real and tangible class warfare mechanism built into white supremacy itself: the project to ensure white workers as an irrevocably privileged subset of the overall working class, guaranteed the best jobs for the best wages while nonwhites work harder for less. The race/class relationship for these people isn’t race vs. class, it’s race as class, i.e. whiteness as the mark of what socialists as far back as Marx and Engels have dubbed the labor aristocracy. If the so-called left in the US can’t process this, it’s because they haven’t been fully weaned off of a feel-good baby-food narrative of US history, where struggles for liberty and equality among whites (Jacksonian democracy and so on) have been inherently distinct from struggles to maintain and extend white supremacy.

          In a strictly material economic sense, the primary “backbone of the country” has been the exploitation of its nonwhite lower classes — African slaves, various waves of “hunky” and “swarthy” European immigrants who only after long decades were retconned as fully white, Chinese and Mexican/Chicano migrant workers in the West, and others — along with the theft of land from indigenous peoples. Marx’s famous antebellum remark “cause slavery to disappear and you will have wiped America from the map of nations” wasn’t just an observation about the South, after all. But you are right in another sense: the ideological backbone of US nationalist exceptionalism has indeed been the struggle of the white masses to advance their own economic interests, primarily at the expense of nonwhites, while ignoring or downplaying the economic class significance of racism. We can try to figure out how to reforge this historical and present-day struggle into a future struggle for genuine human emancipation, but we can’t do that by pretending it’s something other than what it is.

          • nastywoman October 26, 2017 at 4:11 pm | #

            But actually – and thusly coming back to John Wayne – the final destiny to the Hall of Shame of the ”A…hole” will NOT because of his willy nilly politics – it will be because a lot of very… should we call them ”old-fashioned” conservatives are even more disgusted about the ”sick dude” than the so called ”Left”.

            So it will be some real ”John Wayne” types -(the ”Types” who already call him ”a Democrat”) who finally will make sure that Trump finally will be remembered as the ”F…cking Moron” he is and NOT as a ”honorable US Conservative”.

          • Chris Morlock October 26, 2017 at 5:06 pm | #

            Again, that philosophy which basically boils down to “bad white man” and “the working class are a bunch of white supremacists” is going to get us one thing: another humiliating loss. Your talk at working whites, not with them. And they experience the consequences (including economic) of your prejudice. Explaining this lofty, overbearing and silly neo-marxist dribble is one of the biggest reasons we exist in Trump’s America.

            The metrics of this identity politics have become so confusing and intellectually dishonest that no one can follow it anymore. Running a “oppression Olympics” has yielded nothing more than a reality TV star as president. The Left lost the working class when they made it all about race.

            The bulk of the problem is that there are really only two identities, worker and owner. Going into any calculus beyond that at this point, where we are basically facing corporate Oligarchy, is simply futile.

          • WLGR October 27, 2017 at 10:31 am | #

            Chris, Hillary Clinton’s humiliating loss to Donald Trump doesn’t belong to “us,” since I’m not a Democrat; I’d rather identify with a political tendency that refuses to make concessions to white nationalism, even if it means forfeiting the possibility of winning electoral majorities in a white supremacist nation-state like the US. But this position has nothing to do with prejudice or bigotry against white racists, on the contrary it takes their white nationalist convictions seriously enough to respect them as an actual economic class position (the class solidarity of the racialized labor aristocracy against both global capital and the global working class) and simply holds that the internationalist left should acknowledge this class position and oppose it.

            Hypothetically, if I was a white nationalist, I would actually feel far more talked down to by your position, which would seem to write off my white nationalist convictions as a silly delusion resulting from my confused misunderstanding of non-white-nationalist leftist ideology, implying that I should be able to quickly snap out of it after a few simple conversations with a non-white-nationalist leftist. But hypothetical-white-nationalist-me wouldn’t feel too bad about your condescension, because your position would seem self-evidently false in light of the obvious global division of wealth and income between nations and races, where even the most downtrodden poor white worker in the First World is generally still far better off economically than billions of poor nonwhite people in the Third World. Hypothetical-white-nationalist-me would simply ask you to square this obviously existing inequality with your claim that the only two identities are worker and owner, and would feel quite vindicated watching you fumble for a straight answer.

            But back to speaking from the internationalist left, not the white nationalist right: it’s true that worker and owner are the only two identities in an absolute sense, “in the final instance” as the good old lingo would put it, but it’s also true that the instances before the final instance exist and can’t be disregarded. Imperialism can be interpreted as the ownership of oppressed nations’ land and labor by the imperialist nation as a whole, patriarchy can be interpreted as the ownership of women’s reproductive and emotional labor by the male sex as a whole, and so forth, even if some of the individual “owners” are also workers. If we don’t challenge and resolve these antagonisms in their specificity before challenging the worker/owner antagonism in general, all we’d likely end up doing is sublimating the worker/owner antagonism onto terrain we’ve already trained ourselves to disregard, which means we wouldn’t really be challenging the worker/owner antagonism in any deeper sense at all.

  10. Pat October 26, 2017 at 8:30 am | #

    I continue to be surprised and disappointed by this. Hillary Clinton’s partisans have now spent nearly a year blaming a variety of actors and social factors for Trump’s win, from the actions of James Comey, Vladimir Putin, Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, Anthony Wiener, and others, as well as racism and xenophobia in the electorate, yet the one factor that was most clearly dispositive—the Electoral College—is barely mentioned. Indeed, Corey Robin might be the first person I’ve seen to mention outside of Twitter etc.

    I honestly would have guessed the Popular Vote Compact to have received some attention. But I appear to be no better at guessing in that respect than in any other area where I’ve made disappointed predictions.

    • WLGR October 26, 2017 at 4:25 pm | #

      Pat, this liberal reluctance to talk the Electoral College after 2016 indeed seems odd compared to more widespread anti-EC rhetoric after 2000. I think a good explanation might begin with what Slavoj Žižek describes as a way of distinguishing between democracy and populism: at least in liberal ideology, “democracy” means an electoral system that mediates political conflict through formal rules and norms, with all political actors agreeing to respect these rules and norms regardless of what outcomes they produce, whereas “populism” means a willingness to ignore or override these rules and norms if their outcome is seen to contradict the will of the people, however “the will of the people” is defined. (Nota bene, there’s also a key distinction between populism and socialism, where socialists reject the populist concept of a unified bloc called “the people” as an ideological mystification of the class antagonisms contained within “the people” itself.)

      In any case, compared to Bush vs. Gore, Trump vs. Clinton was seen as much more directly embodying of this distinction between populism and democracy, and the liberal democratic response to populism’s attack on rules and norms is to defend these rules and norms as sacrosanct. Accordingly, attacking the Electoral College for giving us Trump would be seen as contributing to the same rule- and norm-eroding ideological forces that they see as the deeper problem with Trump — which is tragically ironic, since they’ve opted instead to go after Trump using frenzied hyper-nationalist fear-mongering about shadowy foreign conspiracies to undermine the United States from within, a tactic that actually does contribute to the same xenophobic and racist ideological forces that actually are the deeper problem with Trump.

  11. Billikin October 26, 2017 at 4:24 pm | #

    Have social norms in the US eroded? All you have to do is look at old TV shows of the 1950s and 60s to see that they have. Some norms, such as “Father Knows Best”, are best left in the dustbin. But the US does seem to be a meaner, more selfish, less cooperative place. OTOH, as far as public policy goes, liberal proposals poll well. Same gender marriage is a fact, and interracial marriage is on the rise. The recent bump may be a one time blip, though.

    So why the political disasters of this century? My inclination is to blame the Democrats most, for their failure to see that policies with widespread popular support are enacted. The Democrats seem to be inept politicians, by contrast with the Republicans, but I don’t believe that anymore.

  12. nastywoman October 26, 2017 at 7:04 pm | #

    ”Again, that philosophy which basically boils down to “bad white man” and “the working class are a bunch of white supremacists” is going to get us one thing: another humiliating loss.”

    As in the meantime the general conversation has turned into ”Decent Human Beings” against ‘Disgusting Pigs” – a lot the Fans of the F…face don’t realize yet – how ”cleaning out” the ”norm erosion” -(not only in ”Liberal Sin City”) reminds everybody – everyday – that all kind of ”Pigs” are already gone – BUT the Predator in Chief is still rolling in the mud –

    And – as already mentioned it always takes some time until ”the news” have reached the last corner of our homeland BUT then – WOW – the ”F…king Morons are brought down with such a force – that it is incredible entertaining – and so Trumps destiny ”in hell” is already sealed – and only the question remains how long it will take with him…?

    • nastywoman October 26, 2017 at 7:20 pm | #

      and about:
      ”The bulk of the problem is that there are really only two identities, worker and owner.”

      NOT in America – as compared to a lot of the ”political very conscious” European workers – US workers have much less of a class consciousness.

      Like when we interviewed a lot of the very angry workers in the Rust Belt –
      Even as the majority of them blamed our own government – the desire to seriously changing or ”overthrowing” some ”capitalistic system” just wasn’t there.
      All the workers wanted was to profit (again) much more from the system –
      just like their ”hero” the nasty Greedster in Chief.

      • Chris Morlock October 27, 2017 at 3:11 pm | #

        You seem to agree with Eugene O’neill’s quote “The dream of the American worker is not to work.”

        Class consciousness created FDR, the New Deal, and the Great Society. It’s where you and I come from, educated working people. 75% of Americans were Conservative Social Democrats coming out of the Depression, and it yielded the greatest time in world history- education, healthcare, the civil rights movement, and a society that valued workers.

        That memory, still present on an almost genetic level with all working people in the USA, is still available to combat the forces of corporate fascism and neo-liberal and neo-conservative ideology. The reason the Left lost, and is losing, is not to recognize this and to recognize Trump has, through evil and insidious alchemy, tapped into this. Every time you disparage and divide working people based on the color of their skin is playing right into political and cultural obscurity. White nationalism is not why Trump won. White supremacy might be a problem in US society, but it’s not the reason from practically anything that’s happening right now. Wake up and smell the stats: 50% of America is poor. 80% of Americans are 1 paycheck away from bankruptcy. The leading cause of bankruptcy is medical bills.

        Overemphasizing white nationalism and Imperialism in the USA today is like walking onto a plantation and being obsessed with the inequalities of the field slaves vs the house slaves. Wake up, we are all on a plantation.

        • nastywoman October 27, 2017 at 6:58 pm | #

          “The dream of the American worker is not to work.”

          No – the dream of every worker I know is having a ”great job” which pays a living wage – and as there are places in this world where – right now workers have… perhaps not ”great” – but pretty good jobs which pay living wages I really have a problem with this idea that ”we are all on a plantation”.

          As it is a lot like this health care thing – which a lot of pretty cool countries have kind of under control – or let’s say in such an admirable way that we have to ask ourselves why we are unable to just copy it – and not that but also having the already mentioned ”good and secure jobs for workers – with livable wages and long vacations” – and let’s throw in some ”free education” and most important some ”payable housing” too.

          And all of this is available if a sufficient majority of voters and workers in one of these modern democracies believe in it – and so lets NOT disparage and divide working people based on the color of their skin – just remind them that they never will get their 4 weeks vacations on ”the beach” if they keep voting for incompetent f… morons or a…holes…

          • Chris Morlock October 27, 2017 at 7:12 pm | #

            I want free healthcare, education, and the right to a job too. My critism is that the Left has forgotten how to get there, and has actually gone in the opposite direction. This is obvious in how the working class (the majority of which is white), has completed their exodus from the “Left”, both as a political party and as a social ideology.

            When we ostracize and demonize Trump supporters and side with corporate neo-libs and democrats, we doom the Left to complete obscurity. It will only get worse.

            If Trump can “erode the norms” of the status quo and call into question the very legitimacy of government while pushing some small gains against global Capitalism through a quasi-nationalist rhetoric (and action through the removal from TPP) I say good. It’s more than Democrats have been able to do in 50 years.

            Instead of capitalizing on this, the Democrats are talking about Russia, and the “Left” is talking about nearly imaginary “white supremacy”. It’s all wrong! Bernie is in town halls discussing healthcare and talking with white working people, not condescending to them or their poor political choices. Let’s just hope he stays alive.

        • WLGR October 28, 2017 at 4:23 pm | #

          I really hope you’re conscious of the irony in using genetic memory as a metaphor in a discussion about racism, but regardless, you can’t have it both ways: if the social democratic welfare state is fixed in the “genetic memory” of white First World workers due to its historical impact since the late 19th to early 20th centuries, then guess what, so are racism and imperialism due to their historical impact since far earlier. And as I’ve been saying, the class consciousness that led to social democratic welfare states in the First World wasn’t class consciousness as “workers” in an absolute sense but class consciousness as a white labor aristocracy, and the occasional currents among the white working-class left that have tried to push for the former instead of the latter have usually been violently suppressed, both by the capitalist state and by the initiative of the white labor aristocracy themselves. If we want to advance the class consciousness of white workers as workers, not as white workers, then we can’t rely on their memory (neurological, cultural, institutional, “genetic,” or otherwise) of a social democratic welfare state independent from racism and imperialism, because such a thing has never actually existed — instead we need to try to develop something entirely new.

          If you’re interested in doing that, then great, but if you’re only interested in clinging to the old models like a safety blanket while ignoring and downplaying the crucial importance of imperialism and white supremacy, then (easiest thing in the world to say but here goes anyway) you’re the reason Trump won.

          • Chris Morlock October 28, 2017 at 7:47 pm | #

            I’d argue your model is actually the “old” one in 2017. Using terms like “white labor aristocracy” is how the Left loses. You’ve turned race upside down and have confused it as the defining feature of your class warfare analysis. It lost in 2016 and will continue to lose, and doubling down on half baked Neo-Marxism stewed by post-modernists will win you points at the cocktail party and get you laughed out of town in any red state. Again, look at Bernie and what he is doing. Our Revolution is not pimping college race theory at all, instead appealing to white workers and empathizing with them. It’s the only winning strategy.

            The Left’s need to punish “white” people is absurd, and you’d think the rhetoric would tone down a bit after such humiliation. If corporate dems don’t stop fantasizing about Russia and the intellectual Left doesn’t stop fantasizing about “white labor aristocracy”, you’ll have Trump x2.

            White labor is poor and desperate, just like everyone else. The majority of poor and working poor and the working class in general is White. If they choose to ID themselves that way why would you endeavor to strip them of that “identity politics”?

            If you can’t learn to respect the Trump voter, all these evil white men will continue to do is vote for him.

          • WLGR October 30, 2017 at 10:42 am | #

            Chris, you’re clearly just throwing any vaguely academic-ish buzzwords you can think of against a wall if you think this has anything to do with postmodernism. The approach focusing on the First World white working class as a labor aristocracy is actually relatively new, having developed in detail largely since the ’70s and ’80s, and is pretty deeply unpopular among traditionally Marxist circles in First World academia, having gained the most currency among minority radical organizers like the old Anti-Racist Action network. The voices on the white imperialist-nation left that have emphasized this point have been few, idiosyncratic, and largely ignored; for example, how many left-liberal types who fetishize George Orwell are aware that he repeatedly emphasized points like this:

            The European peoples, and especially the British, have long owed their high standard of life to direct or indirect exploitation of the coloured peoples. This relationship has never been made clear by official Socialist propaganda, and the British worker, instead of being told that, by world standards, he is living above his income, has been taught to think of himself as an overworked, down-trodden slave. To the masses everywhere ‘Socialism’ means, or at least is associated with, higher wages, shorter hours, better houses, all-round social insurance, etc. etc. But it is by no means certain that we can afford these things if we throw away the advantages we derive from colonial exploitation. However evenly the national income is divided up, if the income as a whole falls, the working-class standard of living must fall with it. At best there is liable to be a long and uncomfortable reconstruction period for which public opinion has nowhere been prepared. But at the same time the European nations must stop being exploiters abroad if they are to build true Socialism at home.

            Far from accepting this approach, the problem with most of the intellectual left that it rejects this approach and has no better explanation for the historical facts about class and race that this approach addresses head on — and the Bernie Sanders social-democratic left has the exact same problem. Both groups fail to understand that racism isn’t some minor switch that can be flicked on or off in white Trump supporters’ minds, but is actually central to their view of how the current class system works, on both a national and especially a global level. It’s not that they’re willing to entertain ideas like Trump’s racism to the extent that it’s compatible with their working-class consciousness, it’s that they’re willing to entertain ideas like Sanders’ social democracy to the extent that it’s compatible with their racism, and they’re arguably much less naive than Sanders and his left-liberal supporters about the imperialism necessary for ideas like these to work.

  13. Edward October 27, 2017 at 5:39 pm | #

    Trump’s “norm erosion” may or may not be a real problem, depending on whether it changes the way politics operates in a significant way. For example, not dealing respectfully with opposing viewpoints might deepen divisions in society, or make a constructive discussion more difficult, or make it more difficult to mobilize the country to tackle problems. U.S. politics is so messed up it isn’t obvious to me that Trump’s “norm erosion” will really change things.

    However, the complaint leaves a bitter taste in my mouth because I don’t think it is a complaint based on a systematic examination of the problems with U.S. politics and a ranking of their importance. What kind of “norm erosion” is involved with U.S. orchestrated coups in Iran, Indonesia, Chile and elsewhere to install essentially fascist regimes? Issues like this have been frozen out of U.S. politics. Somehow the deep state decides what is or is not an issue and it is done in a selective and not consistent way.

  14. nastywoman October 27, 2017 at 7:38 pm | #

    ”I want free healthcare, education, and the right to a job too. My critism is that the Left has forgotten how to get there,”

    Sorry – but nobody than ”the Left” -(including Bernie) – knows better how to get there – and the fact that in our homeland this fact has been forgotten – because a bunch of US greedy idiots outsourced their workers jobs to a dimension no other ”Social-democratic” modern country did – and then a lot of these depressed and confused workers voted for a lying a…hole – should be exactly seen like that – with the consequence to get as fast as possible rid of the Moron – in order that – YES – guys like Bernie could finally get the US workers what they deserve!!

  15. nastywoman October 27, 2017 at 7:48 pm | #

    – or do I have to tell – that a lot of Americans voted for the Moron in order – how did you (seriously?) describe it? –

    “eroding the norms” of the status quo and call into question the very legitimacy of government while pushing some small gains against global Capitalism through a quasi-nationalist rhetoric”

    – or did you mean to write:
    The ultimate A… hole awoke the lowest and ugliest nationalistic instincts of the US voters and workers?

  16. nastywoman October 27, 2017 at 7:55 pm | #

    – and what I truly think is ”the weirdest thing” – Voting for somebody with the hope that this ”somebody” destroys the own ”government”.

    I mean – where else in the world is such insanity done? – That a completely unhinged dude – who tells ”the people” absolutely straightforward that his main purpose is ”to burn the whole thing down” – gets the votes to do it??

  17. Lichanos October 28, 2017 at 5:55 pm | #

    CR makes an excellent point. It is similar to those pundits who bemoan “our broken system.” Obama said that too. It ain’t broken: it’s working just fine for SOME people!

  18. Jim October 28, 2017 at 6:29 pm | #

    The U.S. doesn’t have a one person, one vote system because the Founding Fathers established the country quite explicitly as an oligarchy. At the beginning only white men with property had the franchise. Eventually all white men had it but, as we know, slaves and women didn’t get the vote until much later. At the Presidentil level, we still don’t have one person, one vote. The Electoral College was created not just to privilege states over people but rural, less populated states over the populous states, just like the Senate. So, I agree, it is the system that is at fault; but it is a system that privileges the norms of racism and authoritarian rule and, increasingly, the blind worship of all things military. This is why few nations have used the US Constitution as a model. A true democracy is inherently a liberal system. “Conservative” ideologies are nearly always thinly disguised versions of authoritarian and militaristic rule.

    • jonnybutter October 28, 2017 at 8:42 pm | #

      few nations have used the US Constitution as a model

      I don’t have a cite, but I’m pretty sure (e.g. postwar Japan) even the USG doesn’t recommend a presidential system to countries setting up new governments. I’d say other features of the US constitution have been used (at least nominally) in many many other countries though.

      • mark October 30, 2017 at 5:35 am | #

        I recommend ‘The Expanding Blaze: How the American Revolution Ignited the World, 1775-1848’ by Jonathan Israel, published in August of this year.

  19. nastywoman October 29, 2017 at 12:57 am | #

    ”If you can’t learn to respect the Trump voter, all these evil white men will continue to do is vote for him.”

    Okay – but am I allowed NOT to respect the Neo-Nazi Voters in Europe and all these truly fascistic evil men in Europe? –
    (as I’m currently residing in Europe and with more than just the US citizenship I have the duty to vote in Europe)

    And if I’m NOT respecting the voters of these European F…faces will all these ”evil men” continue to vote for the Leading F…faces?

    And did you notice that I didn’t use the word ”white” for these ”evil men” -(and woman)

    So is the desire to be much nicer? to US voters of the main F… Moron just another example of American exceptionalism?
    Because US voters are even more… dare I say ”moronic” than European ones?!

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