Saturday, October 01, 2016

bruce wilder 09.30.16 at 7:52 pm

RP @ 199

1.) I do not think the election is “close” — I think the pseudo-probabilities assigned by 538 to give Clinton ~60% chance of winning are not representative of Clinton’s chances, but are statistically representative of the state of partisan politics and related divisions in the country. If 538 is on to something, it may be that the ability of elite manipulations to get an electoral result is eroding, but I think not fast enough for Trump given his negatives.

I guess my views are in the structural factors category. The vast majority of people do not pay much attention to politics and do not understand much when they do. So, most people will vote the Party label supplemented by vague, emotion-laden impulses, and this includes most people who do pay some attention and have committed to a political identity. The most persuadable voters can be the least knowledgeable and the least committed. This makes the mass electorate eminently manageable and politics an exclusively elite province. The rise of the plutocracy and the decline of social affiliation has exacerbated the tendency of politics to become exclusively responsive to the prejudices and interests of the (financialized) rich and the new class of creatives and professionals and managers that serve the globalizing plutocracy.

The numerical majority are neglected by politics, and actual victims of its economics. We are in this moment in a period of economic stability, but still it is unsatisfactory. It is not a recession, when fear is acute, but people are unhappy about declining wages, etc. The sense of rapid technological change and an ominous future fills the popular imagination. Most people are unhappy with elites and elite performance, in one respect or another, bubbling up into their consciousness in ways that may or may not make contact with what they think of as politics. It might be a sense that something is wrong, if elites cannot manage the “war on terror” or it might be a rising cable bill or poor cell phone service. It might be a shabby airport or a bank being fined or police shooting someone unnecessarily.

For a long time, the two Parties represented the masses differently. The Democrats gathered the cultural outsiders and the economic underclass, while the Republicans took on the mainstream WASP core and the middle class establishment as well as big business. But, things have been changing and I do not think either Party represents any mass constituency. There are vestiges, in the Republican ability to marshal evangelicals or the Democrats to turn out blacks, but that is a statement about the capacity to manipulate, not about representing interests.

We have two intensely unpopular candidates, neither of whom is credible as an advocate for the common interest or elite competence and integrity. A lot of people will vote against one or the other. A few will vote against both. And, a great many — maybe more than any of the above — will not vote at all.

The glue of trust and legitimacy that held party leaders to their popular constituencies and made elections so eminently predictable is failing. Not so fast that I think Clinton will fail of election, though I keep my eye on the observations of a few who think otherwise.

In the meantime, campaigns have to campaign and so the tools of manipulation and propaganda are trotted out and hot buttons are pressed and pressed hard.

In a healthy democratic politics, politicians pursuing office bring about rotation in office. The loyal opposition criticise and develop alternatives to the current line of policy. When a line of policy fails, the opposition are all over it, leveraging that failure as an opportunity to gain office by championing some alternative. That pendulum swings freely.

That has not been happening. The pendulum has not swung. The Parties have settled into a partisan stalemate and rotation in key offices of state has been arrested and failed policy has been continued and extended without alteration.

Careful observers have wondered why the neoliberalism that produced the GFC was not discredited. Why the neocons that promoted the Iraq War are still dominating the fp discussion. Why so many leaders of the surveillance state have continued in office from Bush thru Obama. Ditto for the Fed. Ditto for the Media punditry, for that matter.

I think elite politics does not depend on the voters. Politicians compete to deliver voters to the donor class in a sense, but policy performance in relation to common interests does not matter. This is partly about how plutocratic interests have been melded with the interests of the executive class and the managerial class by financialization, so there are no elite divisions that might lead an elite faction to seek mass support against another elite faction. It is also about the decline of social affiliation in the society at large. No one belongs to an organisation, so there are very few mass platforms that could support any challenge from below, even from the middle-class. No strong unions, churches, etc.

The dynamics of Clinton’s campaign have been remarkable. Clearly, Trump has been a welcome gift and she has been running hard on not being Trump. If the Clinton Foundation is rotten, never mind the Trump Foundation is a bigger scam. If Bill skimmed millions from a for-profit school, never mind Trump U is a bigger scam. If Clinton is a war monger, never mind Trump is crazy in his bellicose bluster. If Clinton is a servant to the plutocracy, never mind, Trump is a billionaire and a cheat. It goes on and on, this lesser evil calculus absolves Clinton of a multitude of sins.

Trump, for his part, has to be one of the most cringe-worthy candidates ever. He will apparently say anything to get audience response. And, sometimes he says something –seemingly random — that reminds people of what adaptive change might look like. Like maybe we should not be nurturing WWIII in Ukraine. ISIS is a product of failed U.S. policy. When he says the system is fixed and corrupt, he should know. The Democrats are so busy crying, “racism” they do not have to deal with the elite competence and integrity issues buried in anger about immigration and terrorism and trade policy. The challenge to the integrity of elections cannot be met as both Parties have been promoting concerns in an increasingly cynical fashion since 2000.

It is mildly interesting to see what other people, people who have enlisted their psyches in the election, do with the major issues, which are not being discussed as we focus on just how terrifying is Trump. I do not know why anyone would use CT to campaign, so I presume what is written here is meant to be reflective thinking.

The absence of mechanism and agency bugs me. I do not see the case for the Iraq War vote making Clinton a war criminal, but I see how hyperbole substitutes for shouting at the deaf. GWB made the worst fp blunder imaginable: morally wrong, incompetently managed, unimaginably costly in blood, honor and treasure. And, yet the political system cannot reject it. Neither Obama nor Clinton turns away in any but the most nominal terms. Clinton promises an “intelligence surge”! Because Bush’s surge in Iraq was so successful and Obama’s surge in Afganistan confirmed its wisdom?

I feel much the same applies to economics. Inequality has no authors. I harp on Obama’s failure to prosecute banksters because of my irrational hatred for Obama, apparently.

To me, Clinton seems to be insistent on persisting in failing policy, in economics and in foreign policy. That the “better” pilot seems determined to crash the plane is not an argument for substituting a pilot that does not know how to fly. Noticing is an argument for detaching from anything that involves pretending that the “better” pilot is trustworthy.
Rich Puchalsky 10.01.16 at 11:06 am

BW: “And, sometimes he says something –seemingly random — that reminds people of what adaptive change might look like.”

I think that this is pretty much John Emerson’s territory. He wrote a lot about populism and how the Democratic Party not only rejected populism but successfully redefined the whole legacy of populism as racist. This is easy to do because if you go back in time for half a century or a century, everything is racist in America — look at merian’s “the left was sexist in 1968, so of course it always is” bit above. Jonah Goldberg tried to do this kind of thing with his Liberal Fascism book but of course overplayed it with comical effect.

So for the moment let’s ignore the bit about liberalism vs neoliberalism. What happened is populist elements were pushed out and technocratic ones pushed in, as being a whole lot more responsive to both the wealthy elite and to the new class of what Thomas Frank calls the 10%. And part of this was a new version of the past is which populism became racism, and in which any new populist demand was dismissed as racist and therefore the Democratic Party was immunized against it.

So there can’t really be a left populism any more. There can’t really be a right-wing one either because the GOP is run by con men and doesn’t actually do anything with the populist tropes that it uses to raise money — Trump is only the latest example of this. The interests of the people can only be represented by the voices of the 10%, and when problems don’t affect the 10%, they don’t exist.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?