The Democrats’ loss on the eighth of November this year can, and still should, be made into a teachable moment for the American left and left-of-centre. The Democrats thought that they could win an election, under our current electoral rules, on the strength of a coalition of professionals, plutocrats and the traditionally-‘underrepresented’ minorities (blacks and Hispanics). But they lost, in a major way, among their traditional bases in rural areas and among white working-class voters; and this cannot be attributed solely to factors like racism (even though, yes, racism still is a real thing and we need to take real steps to counter it). Nor, it must be noted repeatedly and insistently, did the Russians have anything to do with why the Democrats lost, except indirectly.
No – there are three big reasons that the Democrats lost big in these distressed (but not minority) areas. The first one is the economy, and this is where the Democrats’ rears got handed solidly to them, with Clinton making less than no effort to appeal to working people in ‘old economy jobs’, cosying up to the big banks, and backing the same big corporate-friendly trade policies that hurt American workers throughout the entire election. The second one is foreign policy, where most white voters (and most voters in general) wanted a drawdown from wars that never seem to end and never seem to be winnable. And they particularly took a more doveish view on Syria than Clinton did.
But the third reason that the ‘left’ lost so heavily in these areas, is because they just didn’t bother with them. ‘Flyover country’ got written off. The people who live here got called ‘deplorables’. Those of us who supported Bernie in the primaries (again, most of us coming geographically from the rural North and Rust Belt areas) were accused by Clinton proxies – wrongly – of being ‘privileged’ and ‘entitled’. In short: locality (and in particular locality based in those parts of America which have been traditionally anchored in the ‘old economy’) no longer mattered to a Democratic Party, which now seems to value its jet-setting cocktail-party set, and its control over the commanding heights, over any other considerations.
By Chris Shaw
Gramsci rightly identifies that in the modern political environment, simply recognising actors as either public or private, in the realm of states or markets respectively, is problematic. Unfortunately the crux of international political economy has accepted this modernist doctrine, tacitly deifying the rationalist discourses of action and modernity which underlie such conceptions. For a large bulk of IPE, as well as other social sciences such as economics and political science, this is the held belief. Rationalism guides human action, which inevitably means a continuous desire for capital accumulation, the expansion of capitalist cultural doctrines, and the belief that the individual is entirely the scope of investigation.
But of course this public/private discourse is far too simplistic to truly understand the extent of social relations and arrangements which provide governance and institutionalisation. Gramsci noted that in the public sphere, there exists a dialectic of civil society (the collection of organic institutions that range from the mannerisms of society to the voluntary governance arrangements such as townhalls and churches) and the state (which is perceived as the mechanism of implementation, mainly reliant on coercion and top-down infrastructure). The way a functioning public government works is by reconciling these two (seemingly non-reconcilable) sides. Thus most modern states, particularly those in the Global North, rely on the combination of a coercive state framework and a civil society infrastructure which legitimises the coercive practices and top-down authority. Thus states, to a large degree, rely on not just pure monopolised violence, but also on legitimising ideologies which allow it to create discourses and frameworks that may well have been rejected by civil society in its capacity to be a separate sphere of public government.
Equally, the private side of this dialectical equation is in many ways constructed by these statist and domineering discourses. The development of a capitalist mechanism of accumulation, grounded in private property and the control of the means of production, came almost entirely from the state’s mandate of it. Large scale ownership of production outlets and the relations of wage labour, where artificial economic classes were created, are entirely developments of the state in its accumulation of land during the enclosures, its encouragement of state credit through the development of central banking, and its destruction of the organic feudal relations which preceded this capitalist construction. This is not to say that private property relations cannot exist without the state. A multitude of tribal forms of property as well as elements in the feudal system proves this to be false. However, the extent to which private property relations inform modern society, and the importance this is given, is a creation of statist dynamics, which is justified both through coercion (as seen in the enclosures) and the development of a justificatory doctrine (modernist concepts of rational human action and the deification of a business class) which brings civil society onside.
By Christopher Caldwell
New York Times
Not even those most depressed about Donald J. Trump’s election and what it might portend could have envisioned the scene that took place just before Thanksgiving in a meeting room a few blocks from the White House. The white nationalist Richard B. Spencer was rallying about 200 kindred spirits.
“We are not meant to live in shame and weakness and disgrace,” he said. “We were not meant to beg for moral validation from some of the most despicable creatures to ever populate the planet.” When Mr. Spencer shouted, “Hail, Trump! Hail, our people! Hail, victory!” a scattered half-dozen men stood and raised their arms in Nazi salutes.
Mr. Spencer, however you describe him, calls himself a part of the “alt-right” — a new term for an informal and ill-defined collection of internet-based radicals. As such, he poses a complication for the incoming president. Stephen K. Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News, whom Mr. Trump has picked as his chief White House strategist, told an interviewer in July that he considered Breitbart a “platform for the alt-right.”
Perhaps we should not make too much of this. Mr. Bannon may have meant something quite different by the term. Last summer “alt-right,” though it carried overtones of extremism, was not an outright synonym for ideologies like Mr. Spencer’s. But in late August, Hillary Clinton devoted a speech to the alt-right, calling it simply a new label for an old kind of white supremacy that Mr. Trump was shamelessly exploiting.
Sponsored by none other than former Stalinist turned jingoist David Horowitz.
By Sophia A. McClennon
In late November three blocks from the White House, a group of leaders from the so-called alt-right, who many consider to simply be white supremacists, gathered for an annual conference called the National Policy Institute. Their goal was to discuss and debate the opportunities offered by a Donald Trump presidency for their white nationalist plans. In the wake of a rise in hate crimes, the meeting sent a chill throughout the nation.
But making America whiter “again” is not the only thing we need to fear with a Trump administration. Only two days after the alt-right convention in D.C., Turning Point USA launched Professor Watchlist, a website designed to call out college professors who “discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”
As Rebecca Schuman wrote for Slate, in other circumstances, these might be two unrelated events, but “as the president-elect’s surrogates cite Japanese internment as a ‘precedent’ for what may come, any ‘watch list’ of any sort is worrying.”
Trump’s inability to handle any sort of critique and his bullying of reporters and the media all suggest that we are about to enter an era of censorship, threats to free speech and other forms of suppressing dissent. When the “liberal” media come under attack it generally isn’t long before the “tenured radicals” come under fire, too.
I can’t say I’m particularly impressed with this article. It’s basically just a regurgitation of the standard liberal-left line that criticisms of political correctness are merely a case of right-wingers protecting their vested interests by spinning tall tales in order to divide the commoners and distract them from their supposed true interests (meaning liberalism or socialism). In fact, this is the standard response that the Left has always offered to ANY criticisms of leftist authoritarianism (e..g anti-Communists were really just apologists for Western imperialism and capitalist vested interests).
Reasonable people can disagree on how pervasive PC actually is when compared to competing philosophies (like neoconservatism, Christian fundamentalism, the alt-right or whatever). But it’s clear that PC has a very commanding presence in many institutions, particularly academia, most the mainstream media, self-style progressive corporations like Mozilla or Starbucks, mainline religion, etc. Of course, there’s also hard PC (the kind you find among lunatic SJWs on campuses) and soft PC (the kind Joe Biden or Tim Kaine probably believe in).
As a reviewer of my book on this topic recently said:
“Mr. Preston prefers the term “totalitarian humanism” over “political correctness,” though he explains it is not original to him. Its totalitarian nature is clear to anyone who, because of it, has had to face a threat to his job or a demand by a homeowners’ association to remove a Christmas tree, or certainly to anyone who has ever refused to bake a cake for a homosexual wedding.”
We could add to this many other examples such as the treatment of James Watson, Lawrence Summers, Kevin MacDonald, Norman Finkelstein, Brendan Eich, Tim Hunt, Ayaan Hirsa Ali, etc, etc. as well as the fact that alt right groups have to meet in public facilities under police protection. Or the banning of Chick-fil-A in Boston (an irony given the historic meaning of the phrase “Banned in Boston”). Not to mention actual violence carried out by antifa groups.
All of this is not equivalent to Stalinist or Nazi repression, but it’s an indication PC actually exists.
By Moira Weigel
A leftist writer describes how the Left has managed to shoot itself in the ass by acting like fools.
By Conor Friedersdorf
The coalition that opposes Donald Trump needs to get better at persuading fellow citizens and winning converts, rather than leaning so heavily on stigmatizing those who disagree with them. Chief among the problems with stigma as a political weapon?It doesn’t work.
So I declared after election day. And today, to start exploring the subject more deeply, I offer a case study of stigma wielded both needlessly and counterproductively.
The backdrop is the intra-left debate about “identity politics.” Did they cost Democrats the 2016 election? Or not? Is that even the right question? The subject was on Bernie Sanders’s mind when a woman in the audience of a post-election speech he gave declared that she wanted to be the second Latina senator and asked for advice.
Sanders expressed agreement that the political process needs more people of color. Then, perhaps thinking of Hillary Clinton’s failed “I’m with her” campaign, he advised:
It is not good enough for somebody to say, “Hey, I’m a Latina, vote for me.” That is not good enough. I have to know whether that Latina is going to stand up with the working class of this country, and is going to take on the big money interests… This is where there is going to be division within the Democratic Party. It is not good enough for someone to say, “I’m a woman! Vote for me!’” No, that’s not good enough. What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry.
Here’s where stigma begins to enter the picture. In The Washington Monthly, contributing writer Nancy LeTourneau argued that Sanders demeaned his Latina questioner.
Weak and corrupt liberal and social democratic politicians, masking their sell out to neo liberal corporatism behind a mask of snobbish cultural liberalism, have betrayed the working class.
This is the text of a lecture delivered to the H.L. Mencken Club on November 5, 2016.
The topic that I was given for this presentation is “Anarcho-Fascism” which I am sure on the surface sounds like a contradiction in terms. In popular language, the term “fascism” is normally used as a synonym for the totalitarian state. Indeed, in a speech to the Italian Chamber of Deputies on December 9, 1928 Mussolini describe totalitarianism as an ideology that was characterized by the principle of “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”
However, the most commonly recognized ideological meaning of the term “anarchism” implies the abolition of the state, and the term “anarchy” can either be used in the idealistic sense of total freedom, or in the pejorative sense of chaos and disorder.
Anarchism and fascism are both ideologies that I began to develop an interest in about thirty years ago, when I was a young anarchist militant who spent a great deal of time in the university library reading about the history of classical anarchism. It was during this time that I also became interested in understanding the ideology of fascism, mostly from my readings on the Spanish Civil War, including the works of Dr. Payne, whom I am honored to be on this panel with. And I have also looked into some of these ideas a little more since then. One of the things that I find to be the most fascinating about anarchism as a body of political philosophy is the diversity of anarchist thought. And the more that I have studied right-wing political thought, the more I am amazed by the diversity of opinion to be found there as well. It is consequently very interesting to consider the ways in which anarchism and right-wing political ideologies might intersect.
This is an interview I gave to a radio program earlier today. A number of topics were discussed including Donald Trump, anarchism, the alt-right, the claims of race-realism and IQ determinism, and a range of other controversial ideas.
An interesting and wide ranging discussion with a leading figure in the Alt-Right.
An interesting discussion between an alt-rightist and a more conventional conservative.
A must read for anyone that wants to understand present days economics and politics. The article, appearing in a leading liberal journal, acknowledges what I have been saying for years, i.e. that what passes for the “Left” in today’s world is simply the left-wing of capitalism allied with the cultural Left that has repudiated whatever populist, libertarian, decentralist, or anti-capitalist tradition the U.S. Left would have ever had. This writer even acknowledges the role of the Dutton strategy in bringing about this state of affairs.
By Matt Stoller
t was January 1975, and the Watergate Babies had arrived in Washington looking for blood. The Watergate Babies—as the recently elected Democratic congressmen were known—were young, idealistic liberals who had been swept into office on a promise to clean up government, end the war in Vietnam, and rid the nation’s capital of the kind of corruption and dirty politics the Nixon White House had wrought. Richard Nixon himself had resigned just a few months earlier in August. But the Watergate Babies didn’t just campaign against Nixon; they took on the Democratic establishment, too. Newly elected Representative George Miller of California, then just 29 years old, announced, “We came here to take the Bastille.”
The left-wing of capitalism, the newly rich, the rising upper middle class, the managerial elite, and the new class are eclipsing the traditional WASP elites and the Sunbelt insurgency of postwar era as the dominant factions of the US state, ruling class, and power elite.
By Robert Frank
New York Times
For the first time in decades, the wealthy are set to deliver a landslide victory for a Democratic presidential candidate.
While polling data on the rich is imprecise given their small population, polls of the top-earning households favor Hillary Clinton over Donald J. Trump two to one. The July Affluent Barometer survey by Ipsos found that among voters earning more than $100,000 a year — roughly the top 25 percent of households — 45 percent said they planned to vote for Mrs. Clinton, while 28 percent planned to vote for Mr. Trump. The rest were undecided or planned to vote for another candidate.
The spread was even wider among the highest earners. For those earning $250,000 or more — roughly the top 5 percent of households — 53 percent planned to vote for Mrs. Clinton while 25 percent favored Mr. Trump. The survey’s margin of error was plus or minus four points.
An interesting comment from William Gillis, the director of Center for a Stateless Society.
“There’s a number of folk celebrating the collapse of the legitimacy of US civic institutions, but regrettably it’s not so simple as de-legitimize the state and presto anarchism. Liberal democracy is an incoherent, ultimately unstable and unsustainable system, but there are many more stable configurations of society and a lot of them are far more dystopian.
Our strongest critique against liberalism is not that its founded upon horrific, unnecessary and intolerable violence — although it is — but that it is insecure against slow rolls or sudden descents towards outright authoritarianism and fractious civil war.
When the civic religion of a country withers and the treaty of liberal democracy is revealed as nothing more than paper, smoke and mirrors, what is most often released is the mass of fascistic predators who have grown fat slowly nibbling the democracy’s flesh from within. The collapse of a democracy is most usually a reconfiguration of power, hardly ever its abolition.
That is not remotely to suggest that anarchists stop or show timidity in our efforts to delegitimize the state, but rather that we must stay steely-eyed about the incredibly hard work to prepare for such a collapse and survive it, much less guide it.
When the president of the Second Spanish Republic called his ministers, his assistants and secretaries and found that they had all abandoned their posts — his government de facto dissolved like a silly dream — the people of Spain were already building barricades and raiding the armories. Either for the fascists or for the anarchists.
We lost that war.
In part because we did not get to choose its outset. And were not ready for its vicissitudes.
There are far far far more Trump brownshirts in this country than there are anarchists.”
This body of comments contains some interesting insights, and some ideas that I certainly agree with. However, I think it is also an example of some of the limitations I have seen coming from various anarchist and leftist analyses of the present political situation. It is not uncommon to find commentary portraying Donald Trump as some unique threat to the established system of “liberal democracy” who is hell bent on moving the United States towards some kind of more overt authoritarianism if not outright fascism. This kind of analysis is common not only among the usual left-wing and left-liberal crazies, but also among many level headed people, and even some people on the right (such as the writers at National Review).
After Wednesday’s debate, Democracy Now! spoke to Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party’s presidential nominee. She and Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson were excluded from the debate under stringent rules set by the Commission on Presidential Debates, which is controlled by the Democratic and Republican parties.
Jill Stein is the only candidate in this election that comes close to being an actual radical, or even an actual liberal. The Trump movement is a parallel to France’s National Front. The normal Republicans are even further to the right (more like El Salvador’s ARENA or Israel’s Likud). Hillary is a center-right politician in the vein of Richard Nixon (or the Christian Democratic Parties in Europe or Latin America). Even Bernie ran as a recycled New Deal Democrat (we used to have tons of guys like that in Congress, even representing Southern states like Fritz Hollings from SC or Al Gore when he as a senator from TN). Gary Johnson is just a moderate-liberal Republican like John Anderson or Mark Hatfield. Jill doesn’t even strike me as being that far left. Her politics are similar to 1970s McGovern Democrats, and many of her views would be entirely mainstream in Europe and even Latin America, perhaps even in India.. US politics is like something you would find in the most retrograde Third World countries that still manage to practice formal democracy (like El Salvador or Bangladesh).
Andy Nowicki grabs himself a front-row seat at the Circus Maximus. I sure hope popcorn isn’t part of the psy-op!
Three Presidential elections ago, I wrote an article for The Last Ditch entitled “I Loathe Democracy.”
In that piece, composed just days prior to the W. vs. Kerry throw-down of ’04, I noted the “elementary error in logic in the very notion of trusting the majority,” which is after all the principle upon which democracy is predicated. But, I added, the dimensions of my vitriol wasn’t limited to a mere quibble over an unsound calculation:
In the face of a particularly pitiful election selection, Ann Sterzinger makes the case for giving oneself the first and final vote.
Personally, were I American, I’d either just stay home or turn up only to draw a cock on the ballot paper, in line with my anti-democratic precedent (#Brexit exempted). Still, I suppose voting for oneself, or “no confidence”, works as another way to inoculate oneself from the pozz of the team-sport/herd-animal mentality undergirding electoral politics.
Also: Hurhur…she said “minge”….
On what is probably my favourite episode of this ‘cast, the Savage Hippie crew discuss moralism and its discontents with Jim Goad. (Catch 18A here.)