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The Right Path, Prologue: The MRM, Manboobz, and the Possible Futures of the American Left

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To begin: a microcosm.

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Of all of the questions on my writings on the Men’s Rights Movement, the one I hear the most often is this:  Why?

Why bother researching a bunch of people no one’s ever heard of, and probably never will?  Why bother seeking to better understand where they’re coming from, if you know in advance you’re probably still going to disagree with them?  Why shine a spotlight on a group that features so many who are clearly trolling just to get into that spotlight?

I actually have numerous answers all to these questions, despite the fact that I don’t really understand the inherent lack of curiosity it takes to pose them.  But my primary answer to all of them is that I don’t actually think that the MRM is so fundamentally different from larger, more accepted political movements in the Internet age.

In fact, if you strip away the buzzwords used by MRM’s members as well as that specialty-niche stripe of on-line feminism that devotes itself to opposing them (more on that in a moment), what is the story of the movement, really?  I would argue that it is a group of people who feel largely displaced by the shifting cultural mores of the past few generations. They believe that those changes  are an attack on themselves, a moral and functional society, and humanity itself.  In some cases, the slights they see against their group are quite real and deserve attention from both the press and those making policy; in other cases, the perceived slights seem more a panicked reaction to the loss of real or perceived privilege that they incorrectly translate as civil rights violations; in still others, the slights themselves seem to be entirely imagined, made up out of whole and paranoid cloth.  Much of the latter two categories are allowed to fester because the group polices data strictly on the basis of adherence to dogma. All news, statistics, and academic findings that comply with the political narrative are embraced; all that contradicts the narrative is declared heresy, deviously planted by the enemy.  They quickly lose patience with those more moderate members and declare them traitors or tools of the opposition, casting them into exile. Their lack of ability to change minds outside of their own echo chamber is ignored, because they are so deeply embedded inside of that chamber that they truly believe they have the political upper hand; they really seem convinced that their total victory is but the breath of angels away from becoming reality.

Now I ask you, did I not just describe today’s movement conservatism to a tee (party)?

And like the Tea Party, the MRM has its own natural political enemies — by which I do not mean those that the MRM metaphorically “hunts,” but those that exist to metaphorically “hunt” MRMs.  (I know this for a fact, because I’m pretty sure I must have gotten an email from all of them in the weeks after the Daily Beast article was published.)   For the sake of clarity, let us not call these enemies “feminists” (most feminists I’ve talked to either aren’t aware the MRM exists or never bother to think twice about them) but rather Anti-MRMs.  Anti-MRMs typically self-identify as feminists, but they differ from that crowd in that they spend a significant amount of their free time reading MRM blogs and forums, reading blogs about MRM blogs and forums, writing about MRM blogs and forums, and cultivating communities that center around discussions of what MRM members are doing where.  I confess it seems kind of an odd choice of how to spend all of one’s free time to me, but hey — everyone needs a hobby, right?

From an outsider’s perspective, the Anti-MRMs have clear strategic advantages over the MRMs.  For one thing, they are more representative of the status quo and are therefore more likely to have those policy battles that the two groups disagree over go their way.  Moreover, on the whole they appear to be better educated, which is not entirely surprising since the MRM is typically distrustful of most forms of higher ed.   They have writers who communicate far more clearly.  (A large barrier to mainstream acceptance for the MRM is that it’s often not entirely clear what point a given MRM writer is trying to make.  This is a pretty typical example of what I’m talking about.)  Lastly and most importantly, the Anti-MRM crowd doesn’t appear to have nearly the bats**t crazy-to-sane person ratio that the MRM does.  (Unless, of course, you define people who hate the MRM but still live to follow them as if they were a hot reality television show as “bats**t crazy,” in which case ymmv.)

And yet…

It’s interesting to note that when you look over the Anti-MRM sites and articles, it’s fairly obvious that they are beginning to pick up cues from their enemies.  Ridiculous hyperbole is at nowhere the same levels on Anti-MRM sites, but it is there and it is growing.  So too is its willingness to embrace clear falsehoods that toe its party’s line.  For example, the article I am most referred to by those Anti-MRM who write to me is this piece on the MRM by activist Barry Nolan for Boston Magazine.  For a while, every other tweet sent to me was a link to Nolan’s story.  The Boston Mag article was even used as part of an otherwise very well-written critique of my own piece by the American Prospect.  The problem with the Boston Mag article, which I had actually read early on in my MRM research, is that none of it is true; the author basically made it all up.  Worse, it should be immediately obvious to anyone reading it that it’s made-up nonsense.

Nolan’s report paints a picture of MRM leaders pulling the strings that control our courts and elected officials, which is — pardon my saying so — as eye-rollingly dishonest as anything John Hembling has ever written.  Nolan claims that the MRM flexed their political muscles and had David Aptaker, a candidate for judge in the Middlesex Probate and Family Court, ousted for not being anti-women enough.  In fact, Aptaker withdrew his own name after the guy he was running against leaked to the press that Aptaker had perjured himself and falsified his financial disclosure forms. (The reason he falsified the disclosure forms, it turns out, is that he’d been giving money to two legislators who had recently been indicted on corruption and bribery charges.)  Nolan also insinuated that MRM leaders were poised begin a takeover of the Massachusetts Governor’s Council, which was as blatant a falsehood as his claim about Aptaker.  True, one obscure fathers’ rights activist did throw his hat in the ring (anyone can, really), but his primary defeat was so overwhelming as to be laughable.[1]  He was never seriously considered by anyone to get any votes at all outside of his immediate family and friends.

Similarly, there is the case of Manboobz, the Anti-MRM website run by David Futrelle.  Futrelle has been systematically cataloguing the most inflammatory and poorly reasoned utterances from the MRM for years.  He is in no way unbiased, nor to his credit does he pretend to be.  For example, if he comes across chat rooms on Redditt where MRM are supporting a particularly loathsome comment, he is happy to write about it.  If there is a chat room out there where MRM members come down hard on someone for making a loathsome comment, however, Futrelle is happy to pretend it doesn’t exist and simply doesn’t report it.  After all, the people who page click on Manboobz and donate their money come for a very specific product: seeing the enemy mocked.  No one is going to donates money to Futrelle for saying “hey look, here’s a something an MRM member said that isn’t nearly as terrible as other things I link too, even if I think he’s wrong.”

In one very specific way, Futrelle the businessman is similar to the businessman who runs Manboobz’s version of Mordor, A Voice for Men’s Paul Elam.  And since in the extremely unlikely chance that either of them ever reads this blog that sentence might well make each of their heads literally explode, let me clarify: Each runs a website that has paying customers, and the customers of each come for one singular purpose: to experience the hating of their political enemy as part of a larger community.

I bring all of this up because lately it has occurred to me that just as the MRM has followed the steps of movement conservatism at an vastly accelerated pace, so to has the Anti-MRM mirrored leftism in the internet age.

And I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

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As you all know, I’ve been growing more and more concerned that the American left is starting down the same road that has decimated the American right.  And though the key word there is “starting,” the thought that I might be correct and that in ten years time the left could be similar to today’s right actually worries me greatly.  It should worry you too.

After all, if it appears I’m being overly critical of Manboobz (or, for that matter, A Voice for Men) know that isn’t my intention.  After all, there’s a pretty significant difference between David Futrelle and the Democratic Party: 300 million people aren’t relying on Futrelle to govern them in a way that keeps their country from flying off the tracks.  Futrelle is just a guy on the intertubes doing his thing, and more power to him.  The reason I chose to start this series with the MRM and its internet antibodies is because we don’t really have MRM or Anti-MRM folks here, and I hoped having a place to consider some basic thoughts and concepts without them being attached to our home teams might be helpful.

In this coming series of posts, I will be starting with some assumptions that I take as givens.  My guess is that most people here will disagree with some or all of them.  Because of this, I am stating them in the introduction.  Best we get them out in the open and bicker about them now, that they don’t clutter up the threads too much down the road.

Here are my statements I take as given:

  • The American right has become a joke.  It is no longer conservative, in the classical meaning of that word.  Rather, it has become the most radical serious political movement since the 1960s.
  • Regardless of what they claim, the right doesn’t actually really stand for anything, and hasn’t in a while.  Rather, it defines itself as being whatever liberals aren’t, and its position on any given issue can change on any day in any given direction based on nothing more than Barack Obama making an offhand comment.
  • None of this is an inherent part of conservatism per se.  Indeed, much of what the right has championed for decades is as relevant today as it always has been, such as fiscal restraint, individual rights, and the instinct to look carefully before we leap into new social enterprises.  Rather, the right is a mess because of a very specific path they chose to pursue twenty years ago.  This path took advantage of captive media audiences to carve out a media ratings-based system that replaced its governance-based system.
  • When they were going down this path, the right set up various trail markers along the way: The systematic delegitimization of any press that did not report according to its wishes.  The granting of favor to talking points over policy, to star power over competence.  The casting out of heretics, followed by the decision to demonize moderates over extremists on the opposite end of the spectrum.  The blind declaration that “conservatism cannot be wrong, it can only be wronged.”
  • The left is nowhere close to the right, and liberals are quite correct when then say that this difference in scale is important.  However, I believe that liberals are still going down that same path that the right pioneered, and I believe I can see them approaching those same trail markers.  I’ve often said that more than any other group in my lifetime, today’s right reminds me the left in the mid-80s.  Today’s left is beginning to look a lot to me like the right in the mid-to-late-90s.
  • The left might not ever go as far into the wilderness as the right, and it would be best for the country if they didn’t.  As I’ve said before, the nation needs a set of professional, governing adults to get s**t done while the right figures itself out.  But even if the left doesn’t go as far out on their limb as the right has its, this path still brings trouble — to the left more than anyone.  Standing for something solid and concentrating on competence and anti-corruption could easily be the ticket to the left having power and influence for a generation, and they could use that power and influence as a springboard to make the kind of huge progressive advancements that this county has not seen since the days of FDR.  Sweeping obvious incompetence and corruption under the rug, coupled with a growing strategy of simply relying on the right to be so bats**t crazy that they’ll bail you out election after election is a way to lose the White House as soon as 2016 and the Senate as soon as this fall.

As you can see, we have much to discuss.

Later (hopefully this week) I’ll be putting up a post that more exactly lays out the path I believe the right took over the past 20 years.  It will be somewhat old hat to long-term readers of mine, but it’s probably necessary to restate here in this series.  After that I’ll take a look at what is probably our society’s most vulnerable minority and how the shift away from “good governance” and toward “making the right look bad” on the left — combined with the specifics of the Affordable Care Act — will be putting that minority at risk in a way it hasn’t been in generations.  Then I’ll try to zoom out and show the reasons I see the greater landscape changing on the left, and why I believe they are in serious danger of giving in to the path’s seductive call and embracing those same trail markers the right put up to guide them.

First, however, let me put this post to bed with an answer that I’m sure has been going through all of this site’s liberals’ heads since midway though this essay: Why on earth did the Anti-MRM crowd remind you of today’s left?

As I said, I got a lot of emails from the anti-MRM crowd last fall, many of whom identified themselves as Futrelle readers, all of whom were polite and cordial even as they ripped me new a collective “new one” for bothering to listen to the people I interviewed. The majority of those, as I say, referenced Barry Nolan’s Boston Magazine article as an example of why shutting down the MRM was so important.  At first I wrote back to people explaining what my research on the article had found.  I’m not sure why, but when I first started on my replies I thought they would let that argument go.  They didn’t.

Almost everyone I talked with criticized me for even researching the Boston Magazine article.  It was typical of the press, I was told, ignoring the greater problem of the MRM and focusing on Nolan.  (This despite the fact that I didn’t once mention Nolan’s article in my own.)   Didn’t I see that no matter what Nolan had done, the MRM was so much worse?  Wasn’t the price of one man with his heart in the right place telling tall tales small indeed, compared to the benefit of getting Massachusetts voters on the right side of the issue?  They asked me all these questions and many more as well, but mostly they all came back to one statement:

“False equivalence!”

I look forward to discussing this with you all over the coming weeks.

 

 

[1] How laughable was it?  I’m so glad you asked.

The MRM activist Patrick McCabe — not to be confused with the brilliant Irish writer who penned Butcher Boy and Breakfast on Pluto — was just one of four Democrats running in the primary, but he was certainly the one campaigning most aggressively.  When local papers and voters groups invited Governor’s Council candidates from his district to sit down with the editorial staffs or answer questionnaires he was the only one that ever bothered.  The other candidates just referred people to their websites, most of which had little or no information.  Despite this, McCabe came in fourth out of four and managed to get but a third as many votes as the candidate who came in third.  This is not that surprising, according to those who cover that district that I spoke with last year.

If you have ever sat on a city council, school board, neighborhood association, or some other open-to-the-public government forum, chances are you know someone like McCabe.  He is a single-issue citizen who shows up to every meeting and with passion and zeal, repeating the same talking points and making everyone on the council or board silently wish their meetings were closed to the public.  Every public forum has one, and in Massachusetts 2nd District that guy is Patrick McCabe.

Coincidentally, McCabe is also one of the people who contacted me after the Daily Beast article, and he did so repeatedly until I was forced to ask him rather firmly to stop.  His reaching out was quite friendly at first, but they quickly became more and more hostile and, frankly, unhinged.  I finally asked him to stop contacting me after he began demanding that I contact the Washington Post and have them change the way they covered the National Organization for Women.

Believe me: he was never at any time a viable threat to take over any elected seat in Massachusetts, nor would he be in any other state of the union.  And there is simply no way that Boston Magazine would not have known this.

 

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276 thoughts on “The Right Path, Prologue: The MRM, Manboobz, and the Possible Futures of the American Left

  1. “I’ve often said that more than any other group in my lifetime, today’s right reminds me the left in the mid-80s. Today’s left is beginning to look a lot to me like the right in the mid-to-late-90s.”

    Could you justify these claims? In the mid to late 90’s the R’s were homophobes putting anti-gay props on ballots, while going after impeachment on Clinton. Rush Limbaugh was insanely popular and the leading voice of the party. The base of the party was racist and horribly anti-immigrant.

    Yes, I suppose minimally centrist R’s had a bit more sway then. A few R’s believed in global warming and evolution who were then driven out of the party. They were 97% awful, 3% corrupt shills.

    The problem with the current D’s is different. They have many wishy washy types who go along with whatever Washington insiders think. That is hardly the vile “proud to be ignorant about race and science” that was incredibly strong in the R’s.

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      • You mean the Romney that agreed to take on all of the far-right’s positions and talking points, and swear up and down that he really believed them?

        Because Dole ran in his primaries pretty specifically as they guy who wasn’t that guy.

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      • The Republican Presidential nominating process is skewed towards candidates who can appeal in urban areas. There are multiple large less-rural states that are winner take all — New York, New Jersey, Florida. Funding matters because ad buys in urban areas are more effective — native-son Gingrich won Georgia, but Romney won Atlanta and picked up his proportionate share of delegates. The 2012 campaign was full of headlines (until Romney chased the rest out) of the general form “X wins <some state>” with the subhead “Romney increases delegate lead”.

        It will be interesting to see what rule changes the Republicans make for 2016. But absent some changes, the deck is stacked against “small town values”-style conservatives.

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      • In both 2008 and 2012, the eventual GOP nominee was the least batshit guy available. In fact, the story of 2012 was basically the right-wing media hyping every possible alternative and watching it crash and burn before finally settling for Mitt.

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      • Kim,
        And he might have done surprisingly well — even with the handicap of having been an ambassador under Obama — if there hadn’t been another “urban” guy in the field who had been running for four years, acquiring commitments, accumulating cash and building enough of a state-by-state organization to make sure that signatures were collected and papers filed on time.

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      • I’d say that as seeing Dole with overly Rose color glasses. Romneys and Bushs and McCains and Christys say a bunch of stuff to appease the homophobes and racists and then pretend that they are more centrist in the general. Dole was better than Romney but not that much. Probably similar to what you would get from Christy.

        This pattern goes all the way back to Nixon, who told Dole to follow it:

        “To win the Republican nomination, Nixon told Dole, “you have to run as far as you can to the right because that’s where 40% of the people who decide the nomination are. ”

        http://articles.latimes.com/1995-05-07/news/mn-63504_1_letters-nixon

        Again, we all agree that the R’s are getting worse. That doesn’t justify an analogy with the D’s or libertarians or astrologists or Epicureans or the conclusion that any other group is getting stupider and more racist.

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    • Shaz’s point is spot on, in a way. The base of the GOP has always been crazy. It’s just that during the 90’s, they could appeal to the base in loud ways, then go make a deal with Clinton on the budget, unless Newt got pissy about where he sat on the plane. Plus, on social issues, like anti-gay referenda, to be blunt, a lot more American’s were bigoted assholes.

      The difference is, in the 2010’s Internet world, Bob Dole would’ve had to back up every crazy thing Republican Senator’s said, or face censure from the core of the party. Like Mitt Romney did in 2012, he would’ve had to shed every moderate policy proposal during a primary. So, yeah, maybe he still would’ve beat Pat Buchanan, but Clinton would’ve got 50% in ’96.

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      • Yeah the growth of niche conservative media as an outlet for the stupidity of the base has made the base more powerful.

        The difference is that the D base is not nearly as stupid, racist, and homophobic and so even if they had a niche media enforcing party discipline, it wouldn’t do much.

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      • And the D base would push for policies that would be good for America and would be willing to accpet small bore versions of them that could be scaled up:

        Reinstituting voters rights laws, instituting stronger campaign finance, a carbon tax used to fund environmental tech subsidies, more efficient Euro-Canada style healthcare, slightly higher taxes on the moderately rich and significantly higher taxes on the 1%, increased SS payments, increased environmental regulations, making colleges less expensive and more equal to each other, amnesty-based immigration reform, decriminalization or legalization of marijuanna, reduction of the harshness of criminal sentences to lower jail population, using mental health services to help the mentally ill instead of putting them in jail, ending the empirically unsupported test-based education system that is failing and instituting a proven-successful Canadian or Finish style system, increased gun control like they have in safer parts of the world, decrease in wasteful military spending and military adventurism, closing of Guantanamo and reinstituing rule of law and privacy, protecting gay rights and women’s rights, stopping the erosion of civil rights for blacks, restoring the right to vote to ex convicts,

        How is any of that similar to the gay bashing, antii-immigrant, anti-fact, anti-science campaigns and policies of the base of the right wing party?

        You might not like some of those policies and preferences, but surely you like many of them and see how the difference between them and the principles behind them is night and day different from right wingery.

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    • “The left is nowhere close to the right, and liberals are quite correct when then say that this difference in scale is important. However, I believe that liberals are still going down that same path that the right pioneered, and I believe I can see them approaching those same trail markers. I’ve often said that more than any other group in my lifetime, today’s right reminds me the left in the mid-80s. Today’s left is beginning to look a lot to me like the right in the mid-to-late-90s.”

      I second the request for backing these statements:

      1) As pointed out by Shazbot3, in the mid-1990’s the GOP was pursuing a foaming at the mouth and nihilist crusade against a President, making up lies as needed. Those lies were pushed out through a large media presence (Fox, Rush, the entire AM radio spectrum), and eagerly used by GOP politicians. Whom, one might recall, had Newt Gingrich as a leader.

      2) There is no comparable network on the left. Before somebody says ‘MSNBC’, please remember that an employee there who tweeted a dumb comment about ‘right-wingers’ being racist was promptly fired – compare and contrast to Fox. Also, I’ve seen nothing from MSNBC which could compare to the lies uttered by Fox News on a regular basis.

      3) The ‘prevailing winds’ are 100% different, and any analysis which fails to recognize this is worthless. The right has massive support from the economic elites, and the whackjobs on the fringe are extremely useful to them. The Tea Party has opposed efforts to rein in Wall St, for example, despite their rage at the bailouts, and in general has little problem with crony capitalism. The left (as opposed to tame liberals) is strongly opposed by the economic elites, because their goals conflict.

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    • “1) As pointed out by Shazbot3, in the mid-1990?s the GOP was pursuing a foaming at the mouth and nihilist crusade against a President, making up lies as needed. Those lies were pushed out through a large media presence (Fox, Rush, the entire AM radio spectrum)”

      Yeah, well Shazbot is wrong, at least on the Fox News front. Fox wasn’t launched until 1997, and it wasn’t until 1998/9 that it was available in major markets.

      It also wasn’t what we think of as “Fox News” back then. In fact, the head newsman and top-rated anchor then was Mike Schneider, a Democratic operative who eventually left Fox at the request of the DNC to run against Tom Ridge. Fox News didn’t start becoming “Fox News” until after 2000, and even then it was only hedgingly so until after 9/11. And even then it was nothing like it is today.

      As I said upthread, I’m not sure how old you all are, so I don’t know if you guys are young and have no idea that it hasn’t always been like this, or if you’re just engaging in revisionist history.

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      • Though in Shaz’s partial defense, Rush (not the band) was indeed a big deal in the early-to-mid-90’s – I had a co-worker who listened to him constantly, and a roommate who silk-screened some anti-Rush T-shirts.

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      • I didn’t say “Fox” did I? I said El Rushbo. You could also look at popular evangelical right-leaning groups (and their media arms) who had tremendous sway on the right (still do in different forms) in the 1980’s.

        The stupid “ignore those academic lefties and their lying reporter friends” has always been there on the right (since Nixon or the Southern Strategy, anyway). The often correct “beware of those centrists and center left editorialists at the NYT and their bias towards corporate power” has always been there on the left. But these two different media criticisms are fundamentally different.

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      • Sorry, you are right. However, the ‘entire AM radio spectrum’ comment is dead on.

        And the ‘liberal MSM’ supported pretty much everything in that witch hunt, and were suprised when the American people didn’t.

        And also the batsh*t insanity of the GOP was manifest, with the old guard fading away.

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  2. I don’t know if this is irrelevant or not but most people on this site are weird. The same is true for regulars at all political sites on the spectrum. Most people simply do not pay attention to politics and policy on such details and I think the majority go around without realizing about MRM and Manboobz.

    Freud would have a field day with the Internet because it seems to unlock the collective ID and also amps up hyperbole, sometimes harmlessly and other times not so much. The old theory was that the anonymity of the Internet made every one be jerks. However there still seem to be plenty of people who say really horrible things with facebook and twitter and have it be easily identifable. Tone on the Internet is partially a problem, you don’t really know anything about your opponent so you can be free to imagine all sorts of horrible things about him or her based on one poorly phrased sentence. The Internet is forever and things are not allowed to have the context of the day. Once you say something, it is part of you forever. All change is seen as hypocrisy on the Net.

    The Net also lets like-minded people find each other and this can be good and bad. On the good side, I imagine LGBT teens have more natural support groups than they did in the past and even if you are the one gay kid in your small town, you can find other LGBT teens to talk to. On the bad side, you have truthers, anti-Vaxxers, “race realists”, MRMs, pro-ANAs, also finding each other and providing support mechanisms. I believe research shows that hanging around with like-minded people generally increases radicalism and polarization. So in the Big Sort, liberal areas become more liberal and conservative areas become more conservative. At the end of last week, the Atlantic published an article that showed college education tended to make left-leaning students more left by graduation and right-leaning students more right by graduation.

    So it seems many to all groups are in self-enforcing feedback loops and can think of themselves as a majority because of such.

    We do seem to live in an age where liberal states are getting more liberal and conservative states are getting more conservative. For every victory on gay rights, the right gets a victory on some ill-thought out gun legislation that would only be seen as reasonable in the US.

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  3. I’ll take a look at what is probably our society’s most vulnerable minority and how the shift away from “good governance” and toward “making the right look bad” on the left — combined with the specifics of the Affordable Care Act — will be putting that minority at risk in a way it hasn’t been in generations.

    That’s a hell of a teaser! I look forward to it.

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      • I think its Non-completely sporking crazy people with a modicum of taste and decency who just wish all the nutbars would calm down. We are an endangered minority. In fact on a good day i think there are about 9 of us. Don’t ask about how many on a bad day.

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      • I’ll put my dollar on the subset of developmentally disabled who also have a physical disability. They tend to need less-usual more-expensive kinds of care. The ACA’s emphasis is on providing care to more “ordinary” people (with no disrespect intended).

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      • I think its Non-completely sporking crazy people with a modicum of taste and decency who just wish all the nutbars would calm down.

        High Broderites? {{reads on}} Oh, sorry. I thought you were going in a different direction.

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      • I’ll put my dollar on the subset of developmentally disabled who also have a physical disability.

        Given the federal mandates on that subset coupled with the lack of federal money to pay for such mandates, those poor people were screwed from the start. I’m only familiar with their schooling, but federal requirements are painfully expensive and are more often honored in the breach. (In fact, several members of my family’s professional jobs involve developmentally and physically disabled children, and trying to acquire the resources to properly care for them).

        Not through lack of caring, but simply lack of funds.

        Then again, the ACA wasn’t trying to solve every individual’s healthcare problems, whereas federal mandates on disabled children WAS a focused solution that they just decided not to pay for and left states and schools struggling.

        Which leads to some truly awful places, especially in the more poor districts.

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      • Good call, Michael. I had a student whose sister had Downs Syndrome, and she did an excellent resesrch project looking at advances made in policies for the physically disabled compared to those for the mentally/cognitively disabled. There’s a real political disability in not being to effectively organize and speak for oneself.

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      • To me, the distinction between physical disability and mental/cognitive/developmental disability mirrors the distinction between physical health and mental health. Because the latter in each dichotomy is harder to “see” — less tangible — it was long disregarded. All pertain to health and all should be considered as such.

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      • Three years as a state legislative budget analyst with a number of the line items for such spending in my portfolio was eye-opening. Budget staff here spend some part of the time between legislative sessions going out “in the field” to learn how the money is being spent. I encourage anyone who thinks state government is filled with overpaid slackers to spend some time with the care-givers involved: dedicated people doing an extraordinarily difficult job with generally inadequate resources.

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      • I’ll put my dollar on the subset of developmentally disabled who also have a physical disability. They tend to need less-usual more-expensive kinds of care. The ACA’s emphasis is on providing care to more “ordinary” people (with no disrespect intended).

        More than you know…

        Last week, I attended a support group for Dads with special needs kids. I may have been the only father with a child that did not have a physical disability. These families spend far more than I have to for my autistic son. Some of them are dropping between 2 to 4 grand a month on medical care.

        We had a speaker: a health insurance advocate. His clients are parents with special needs children, most if not all of them with physical disabilities. He constantly deals with the insurance companies and the claims-related issues and he also works with families to prepare their applications for different state programs.

        In his professional opinion, the implementation of the ACA has had two consequences, neither of them for families with disabled children. The first is that insurance companies have stepped up their efforts to deny claims at a level that the advocate says is unprecedented. Big users of medical services like families with disabled children are amongst those in the crosshairs. Every one of the parents that has to deal with the insurance companies has noticed this. A lot of time, they can win these fights but it takes them a lot longer.

        According to the advocate, the second consequence is that most of the insurance providers operating in the State of New Jersey stopped offering PPOs after the Affordable Care Act went into effect (he thinks they will again at some point but not now). I went to a website that provided me with quotes for insurance plans and I didn’t see any PPOs.

        In my experience dealing with my own son’s treatments, while his physicians are covered under our plan, his various therapies are administered by out-of-network providers. This was common amongst all the fathers in this meeting. The best providers of the different forms of therapy (OT/PT/Speech/ABA, etc.) don’t want anything to do with the insurance companies. Therapy is also quite expensive and it doesn’t take long for people to hit those annual deductibles.

        An EPO does not cover close to what a good PPO can cover so these families are forced to cover additional out-of-pocket expenses. In the case of a few of the fathers, their costs are so high that they’ll qualify for state aid. To the extent people in this situation have to pay more out of pocket because of the issues with their insurance providers, they’ll apply to the state to have those expenses reimbursed through aid programs.

        I don’t know how badly they were screwed prior to the ACA but my anecdotal experiences and stories shared in my group tell me it’s much worse now.

        Then again, the ACA wasn’t trying to solve every individual’s healthcare problems

        Of course not but I have little interest in hearing how society has benefitted from something like this when all I see happening is a shifting of the burden from the uninsured to others, largely because of the actions by the insurance companies who are still making money hand over fist.

        Then again, I’m sure the advocate was just a shill for Fox News. ;)

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    • “I’ll take a look at what is probably our society’s most vulnerable minority and how the shift away from “good governance” and toward “making the right look bad” on the left — combined with the specifics of the Affordable Care Act — will be putting that minority at risk in a way it hasn’t been in generations. ”

      I predict that it will be a stew of ‘both sides do it’ equation of fringe liberal elements with mainstream right-wing elements, with big chunks of ‘ignore the destructive things that the right has done’ floating in it.

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      • “I predict that it will be a stew of ‘both sides do it’ equation of fringe liberal elements with mainstream right-wing elements, with big chunks of ‘ignore the destructive things that the right has done’ floating in it.”

        Yes, because the important thing isn’t that those disenfranchised be helped, it’s that the proper PR is executed while they’re being fished.

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      • with big chunks of ‘ignore the destructive things that the right has done’ floating in it.

        You think Tod ignores, or wants people to ignore, the destructive things that the right has done? So I take it you haven’t read much of what Tod has actually written…

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  4. I would entirely dispute your second point. Consider environmental issues, for instance. The modern environmental movement basically began in the 1970s, and since then the right has always pushed for fewer restrictions on businesses and looser pollution controls. Of course they move back and forth with the tides of public opinion–but they are always more pro-polluting-business than the liberal movement. The key is to look at the relative positions of the two movements. Relative to the left, the right has always been in favor of looser environmental regulations, for as long as that’s been a live political stance. It has always been more opposed to unions. It has always been more opposed to safety net programs. The public eye moves from issue to issue, and both parties adjust their positions to ensure that they can win elections (thus the GOP passage of Medicare Part D, which only came after considerable arm-twisting). But relative to one another, the two broad movements that define much of our politics are in fact relatively stable and have clear stances on many important questions.

    In general, I think this series would benefit from you reading and arguing with Corey Robin’s definition of conservatism as a political argument in favor of existing power structures and hierarchies. It’s not a content-free movement at all. If Barack Obama came out tomorrow for a program of ending the solar power subsidy, the right would not suddenly start supporting it. They would probably complain about the way he was implementing it, or that he wasn’t doing it fast enough or smoothly enough or whatever–that’s what opposition movements do when they don’t control the presidency. But you’ll never see the right push for stricter pollution controls than the left, and that’s where your theory breaks down.

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      • Teddy Roosevelt was the most liberal candidate on environmental issues every time he wan for President. Bull Moose party and all that. Note Dan said ‘the left’, not Democrats.

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      • Jesse’s correct. Although it’s also worth noting that the categories of right and left are a bit scrambled pre-FDR, especially around issues of race. Still, I think any concept that usefully applies to both 1940 and today is pretty stable, contra Tod.

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  5. More thoughts on poliarization which might be or might not be relevant.

    When I was in law school, we often talked about the standard for when something should go to trial or not is whether “reasonable people could disagree” over the facts or outcome. Did X run a red light or did Y run a red light?

    It seems we have reached an age on the Internet where reasonable people cannot disagree and almost everyone assumes that the opposition or dissenters is being unreasonable at best and a horrible asshole at worse. Here is an essay on trigger warnings and losing meaning:

    http://www.theawl.com/2012/05/when-trigger-warning-lost-all-its-meaning

    The essay is nearly two years old but a woman named Sussanah Breslin came out against the concept of trigger warnings as being condescending at best. This got her labeled a “certifiable asshole” by both Jezebel and Feministing.

    It seems to me that you should be able to critique Breslin’s stance without calling her a certifiable asshole but maybe not on the Internet. I would also like to think that reasonable people can disagree about whether trigger warnings are good or not.

    Michelle Goldberg also wrote about Feminism’s horrible twitter wars in the Nation and how social media is being used to bash someone for minor and major doctrinal disagreements.

    Doctrinal fights like this are always bad.

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    • People are in general unreasonable critters.
      Why else can feminism try to say that women only colleges should still exist,
      while fighting the fight of all fights to get women allowed to fight on front lines?
      [Yes, the list goes on. feminism is an easy target. ask again and I’ll choose another]

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      • I picked this because trigger warnings seem like they have gone too far and might count as a kind left-wing censorship. It is something that started as reasonable and then spiraled into something completely different. Or as a friend noted between spoilers and trigger warnings, the Internet found great ways to make sure that people don’t read anything of value.

        The New Republic featured an article today on how universities are starting to use trigger warnings. What is the next step? Excusing students from reading certain material? Do we move Hamlet from the syllabus? Tess of D’Ubervilles? Euripides? Aristophanes? A Tree Grows in Brooklyn? The Turn of the Screw? Chinatown?

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      • How is a trigger warning be censorship?

        Saying, “Hey, I’m about to use the R-word, if that gets to you please read later, or skip,” censorship?

        Obviously we cannot TW everything, but the big ones: sexual assault, violence, abusive language, misogyny, racism, and so on, can easy be noted at the start of a post.

        This isn’t hard.

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      • There will never be universal agreement over what deserves and what does not deserve a trigger warning unless one wants to be overly broad and basically make a very long trigger warning. Is it automatically right when Bill says “X deserves a trigger warning” or are there arguments one can make to say that Bill is wrong and X does not deserve a trigger warning?

        What does one do with the trigger warning if a student announces they will be unable to handle the material? Excuse it from their grade? Suppose a student is a Victorian Studies major and signs up for a seminar of Thomas Hardy novels. The seminar requires a paper on Jude the Obscure, Tess of D’Ubervilles, Far from the Madding Crowd, and The Mayor of Casterbridge. Tess of D’Ubervilles probably would get a trigger warning because of the rape. Do we excuse students from writing the paper.

        My point was also that there is a difference between saying “I disagree with you that trigger warnings are condescending” and “You are a certifiable asshole for saying that trigger warnings are condescending.”

        http://www.newrepublic.com/article/116842/trigger-warnings-have-spread-blogs-college-classes-thats-bad

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      • NewDealer,
        there are a variety of forms of literary criticism that do not require reading the damn book. And perhaps the teacher might give the brief places where one might want to skip, were one so inclined.

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      • — You are engaging in a very annoying style of argument that says, roughly, “In the presence of a gray area let me demand a bright line.”

        You ain’t gonna get one. No bright lines.

        But trigger warnings for the big-trauma events are not too much to ask. They’re easy enough to add. For the most part the topics that need a warning are obvious. For the ones that are not obvious, do your best.

        Crying censorship is deeply unserious.

        Regarding that student and their teacher: the presence of a trigger warning is a separate issue from the teacher’s policy. The TW lets the student know what is coming. What should the teacher do? I dunno. What would you do? Traumatize the student?

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      • Veronica – for university classes I’d say that the best idea might be noting on the syllabus that the course readings include scenes of rape. If someone can’t handle that, they can drop the course, but you can’t take an English class where you’re unable or unwilling to read the assigned texts.

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      • Kat,
        Oh, that’s purely ridiculous. If you’re asking for literary criticism, and entire schools of literary criticism don’t require reading the actual text, then why say they can’t take the course?
        [Also: how many Literature classes would not contain a rape of some sort?]

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      • — I suppose.

        Thing is, I don’t work in education. I don’t have kids. I didn’t even finish high school. So I’d rather not have to carry the weight of deciding how schools should deal with this.

        But it is a distraction from the issue, one of those dishonest rhetorical tricks to derail a conversation. We are talking about the need for trigger warnings in articles and blog postings, not about university courses. I will leave it to universities, their administrators, their professors, and their students to hash that out.

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      • Katherine: I don’t know about college, but in high school the teacher generally just has alternative texts selected.

        They might not be ‘ideal’, but they’re good enough. And that’s for students whose parents have religious objections to the material, so I’d imagine if it’s a good enough solution to moral disapproval it can certainly work for someone who has a trauma worth avoiding.

        Sometimes it can’t be avoided, obviously — in that case, it’s up to the student to decide if it’s worth it — but really, if there’s something in a given work of English literature that’s might trigger something, how hard is it to select an alternative work for that student to use? It’s not like there’s a paucity of works to choose from.

        Obviously, like anything else, you’ll have to find the line for yourself (no bright lines). You can’t avoid discussions of rape on a class that is about, say, the psychology of sexual assault. But if you’re teaching English Lit, well — your first problem is figuring out which texts to use out of the massive glut of good works available.

        In the end, though, the maxim “Try not to be a jerk” is pretty useful. Try to make reasonable accommodations, and you will find most people are reasonable back. Those that aren’t? They’re going to cause trouble no matter what you do or don’t do, but at least you have a documented history of being reasonable….

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      • As far back as the mid-90’s, I had professors offer up such choices as “we’re going to be discussing some birth of the enlightenment theories of political power and, as such, we’ve got a reading from the Marquis de Sade. Let me know if you don’t want to read him and I can assign something else for you.”

        This was about 15 years before I heard the term “trigger” as it’s used now.

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      • “and entire schools of literary criticism don’t require reading the actual text”

        i normally wouldn’t take the bait, but i just gotta. whuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut?

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      • Jaybird,

        Trigger warnings — they just seem unobjectionable. Perhaps overused, but not having any real traumatic issues to deal with, I’m not the best judge of that. What’s wrong with a heads up? And finding a reasonable accommodation if one is to be had?

        Sometimes I think there’s a certain strain in the American psyche, a social meme that says suffering is good for you, and sparing someone suffering makes them weak.

        Like…the opposite side of ‘coddling someone too much’, there’s a side of ‘run them through the ringer to toughen’ em up’. I can get the former — I mean, i see the thought processes that can lead to overly sheltering a loved one. I just can’t really get the latter as well.

        Do you know there’s people who can actually be described as ‘pro-bullying’? Or the folks that whine about how modern playgrounds are all plastic and soft-edges and deep, soft ground, and how when they were kids they didn’t need all that stuff.

        *snort*. My kid *cracked* his wrist falling from a jungle gym. That same playground, 20 years ago? It would have shattered, because he’d have landed on concrete. The plastic slides? They replaced metal ones that used to cause burns — turns out metal gets REALLY hot in the summer sun in Texas. And soft edges? Kids don’t give themselves concussions or need so many stitches when they slam into them at high speed.

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      • I might be wrong about this but I thought that students at a universtiy level were supposed to be able to handle material that isn’t exactly agreeable for a variety reasons. One of the most poignant criticisms that people have of the various forms of the modern right is that they cut themselves off from anything that contradicts their world view. Trigger warnings and alternative material do the same thing. If you sign up for a course than you should be able to read the material in the course. You don’t have to like it or agree with it. You can hate it with a passion but you have to be able to confront it and work with it.

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      • True enough, but I’m not sure one should be blocked from a class because one was recently raped, and thus can’t manage to get through a given work because of, you know trauma.

        Which is what trigger warnings are for. Not for “eww, ick” but for the same reason soldiers suffering from PTSD might decide not to watch the latest war porn movie at the cinema.

        If you’re taking a class on Greek and Roman mythology, is there a substantive difference if you don’t read yet another Zeus rapes himself a mortal tale, and instead read a different greek myth? Adult or child, trauma is still trauma. Making some poor victim relive it just because you’re not willing to offer them a slightly different work to digest and study seems….pointlessly cruel.

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      • morat20, I imagine that class room discussion works at lot easier if everybody at least theoretically read the same thing rathern than a bunch of different things.

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      • Morat, I was more trying to be descriptive than critical. Profs have been making accommodations for students based on the authors of the works for a looooong time.

        (I mean, the excerpts weren’t the ones dealing with sex. They were just dealing with power. The prof, however, knew that there might be some who would have a problem with being asked to read stuff from the MDS Himself and went out of her way to make sure that students could read something else. This is something that happened all the way back in the primordial 90’s.)

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      • morat20, I imagine that class room discussion works at lot easier if everybody at least theoretically read the same thing rathern than a bunch of different things.
        Indeed, and I am aware that college professors are — by and large — not trained educators (you’re lucky if they’re subject matter experts, but it’s increasingly likely they’re merely working towards being such, as the actual experts are busy writing papers to keep their jobs while TAs and grad students handle the teaching load).

        However, it is a relatively trivial problem in education to handle that. In fact, the solution is so common that anyone with any schooling whatsoever has encountered it multiple times over their education, generally after missing a class due to illness.

        You give them something else to do. An extra essay, an extra book to read, further analysis to do…something.

        It’s neither hard not rocket science. I mean, keep in mind — short of specialist courses in vile crimes and deviant psychology — no college class is going to be so chock full of triggers that a student, even one with a recent and painful set of traumas, is going to have to be compensated for more than once or twice.

        There’s no “Rape Literature 101” and “Anatomy of a brutal beating 102” classes.

        In real life, a student might have a problem with ONE assignment or ONE assigned reading or ONE classroom discussion, which is trivial to work around for a student. Not dozens upon dozens, or weeks of missed classes.

        Even if the class topic is a singular, long work, the student can simply receive a summation of the small bit they missed (“I know due to circumstances unique to you, that reading about the rape of X by character Y we’re supposed to cover next week is perhaps not the best idea. Rather than read the scene and discuss it in class, I shall give you a synopsis, and you may miss the next class if you go ahead and write an essay about character X’s moral development over the first third of the work”) — and by and large, triggers are a handful of things that once worked around, a teacher has a solution in hand for further use.

        By and large, the same parts of the same works are going to cause problems with a small minority.

        It is literally the work of a few hours to accommodate those students for the entire time you teach that work, for the rest of your career as an educator.

        Yes, it requires the teacher to spend a modicum of effort now and again. That is, you know, what they’re paid for. At least in K-12. Educating students is sadly a distant second in many colleges.

        (Seriously, worst professor I ever had? He was very, very, VERY good at his subject. He made lots of good money doing it, fixing the messes other people made in the field. The man literally could not convey knowledge to save his life. His response to everything was basically “That’s how it’s done in the industry” and “You’re not doing it up to industry standards” which might have been well and good if we knew what those standards were, or even worked in the industry. It was like learning Spanish from a teacher who didn’t speak your native tongue, other than the ability to say “That’s not how you say it in Spanish”)

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      • You all seem to be thinking that folks automatically don’t read TW’ed material. This ain’t the way it is. I mean, sometimes we don’t; sometimes we do.

        Real fact: I appreciate when I see a TW such as “transphobia.” When I see it, I know what is coming. I can brace myself.

        Likewise for other triggers. My BFF is a sexual assault survivor, and he very much likes warnings before I mention the r-word. So I am careful. If I need to bring up that topic, I let him know first. Maybe we steer the conversation a different way. It depends where he is emotionally that day.

        (The guy has other triggers I won’t mention in this thread. And I have triggered him hard. It’s rough. He literally ran away from me one day because I was saying something gross, and he know where it was going, and he knew he couldn’t bear to hear it, and he didn’t want to take the chance he could stop me in time. So he ran.)

        So the big question: can a sexual assault survivor read Leda and the Swan?

        Of course they can; survivors have been reading it for ages. But the point of a TW is to let them know it is coming, so they can make a choice: read it now, but be ready, read it later, or maybe don’t read it at all.

        Give them the choice.

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      • but I’m not sure one should be blocked from a class because one was recently raped, and thus can’t manage to get through a given work because of, you know trauma.

        Giving an alternative may work sometimes, perhaps frequently, but not always. Sometimes the purpose of the course is to study particular writings, and to not study those is to miss the lesson. This is especially the case if the structure of the class is to discuss those readings, to draw out what other students find in them.

        Trigger warnings are appropriate. If trauma would block a student from getting through the work, that really sucks, but better that they have that warning up front than sometime past the add/drop date. And as Veronica indicates, if I read her right, sometimes people just need the trigger so they can mentally prepare themselves. They can get through the reading; they just don’t want to be caught off-guard.

        Are trigger warnings overused? Probably both over and underused, on a case by case basis. But it seems to me like there’s a very minimal cost of employing them, and the benefits are potentially very substantial. It’s a very ounce-of-prevention-pound-of-cure situation, isn’t it?

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      • dhex,
        one can write a damn fine paper about the banning of Huck Finn — discussing the implications and the organizations on both sides, without actually reading HuckFinn.

        One can contextualize, and show where the writer was coming from, what he wanted to accomplish, and what he actually did accomplish — mostly without reading the material.

        These are branches of historical analysis, but they are valid literary criticism.

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  6. We’ll where you go with this, but i’m not sure. There has always been partisan fighting among groups. The R tries to make the L look bad and vice versa. That is the nature of politics some i’m uncertain if liberals are going more to making R’s look bad or its just the normal partisan stone throwing. Also if you admit the R has gone off the rails on a crazy train, the makes a really easy target. At some point, the people who make the really easy target are the prime reason for being an easy target.

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  7. Golly, I love Manboobz.

    I know, you all are surprised.

    Thing is, Manboobz is funny, so maybe we can put it into a category similar to The Daily Show. Which is no excuse for believing a bullshit article. But it surely is a site worth reading.

    Really. The MRAs are hilariously awful. I mean, they’re waaaaaay worse than libertarians. :)

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  8. Indeed, much of what the right has championed for decades is as relevant today as it always has been, such as fiscal restraint, individual rights,

    Is this actually true, or is it just an assumption we’re accustomed to making about what conservatism is? If you’re anyone other than a straight white man, conservatism – not just individuals, but conservatism as a movement and ideology – has been pretty consistently against your rights: not for decades, but for centuries. Because conservatism is, at base, a preference for the status quo over change, and therefore a preference for established power relationships over anything that increases the rights of disempowered people. Conservatism also includes a record of disregarding rights and liberties in the name of security – such as with Joseph McCarthy in the Cold War era.

    And fiscal restraint? Conservatism hasn’t been in favour of that for a few decades, not if you consider Reagan to be a conservative (and most conservatives do); the United States’ rapid upward spiral of debt began with him and intensified with Bush, in both cases driven by military spending strongly supported by conservatives. The Conservative Party in Canada are also highly adept at moving the country away from surplus and into debt. A more accurate phrasing is that conservatism is opposed to non-security domestic spending – aside from corporate subsidies – and in favour of lower taxes.

    Sorry for going off-topic, but I think these kinds of unquestioned assumptions deserve to be questioned.

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    • I will second in saying this is in no way off topic.

      And I would agree with what you say, at least up to a point. Fringe political parties may exist to truly champion specific causes, but major established parties exist first and foremost to leverage power into capital and more power. Despite that, there are some identifying causes that all parties hang their hat on publicly, regardless of how that translates into behind the scenes actions.

      So yes, I agree that the right has had no qualms with government spending without hesitation while it is in power, in the same way I agree that the left has had no qualms with, say, writing helpful legislation for and granting subsidies to the oil industry, the banking industry, or any other group of corporations “we all know” they are against.

      Acknowledging that, however, I still maintain that those political/cultural identifiers mean something, even if they aren’t as important to each side as each side likes to pretend.

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      • Tod, an earlier comment I made to this effect seems to have vanished, so let me push back a little here. I think you’re making two errors here–first, your response conflates the left with the Democratic party, when they’re distinct entities (albeit intertwined, although not to the same degree as the GOP and the conservative movement). The liberal movement/the left certainly has qualms with subsidizing the oil industry.

        Secondly, even if we restrict our analysis to parties in government, I think you have to look at this relatively. The Democrats aren’t uniformly hostile to the oil industry, certainly, but the median Democratic congressman (and certainly the median Democratic activist) is much more antagonistic to them than their equivalents in the GOP. It’s not enough to show that the Democrats have occasionally helped the oil industry; you have to compare it to their main opposition, which is essentially always more pro-drilling and pro-oil.

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      • Exactly. Mary Landreiu is horrible on climate and oil stuff. Of course she is. She’s from Louisiana. Joe Biden was horrible on bankruptcy and credit card stuff. Of course he was. He’s from Delaware. But, both of them are better on every other issue (as a liberal) than any Republican candidate.

        Now, if you want to eliminate the Senate or give extra Senate seats to larger states so small states with powerful industries dominating them have less power, I’m all ears. But, any Senator from Louisiana for the next few decades at the very least is going to be friendly to extraction industries. Just like every Senator from Connecticut is going to be friendly to insurance interests. OTOH, a Senator from California doesn’t have to be necessarily friendly to Silicon Valley or Big Ag, because there’s a lot more of a varied industry.

        I guess what I’m really say is, screw small states. ;)

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      • Ok, I guess.

        But if that’s the route the both of you are going to go — the people in power don’t do what the REAL left wants to do, so what they do doesn’t count — then it also pretty much negates KMW’s point.

        After all, the GOP civil war didn’t exactly happen by accident.

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      • I think that’s oversimplifying. The GOP certainly doesn’t always do what the conservative movement wants it to (same goes for the Dems and liberals, obviously). But it’s just as foolish to say that there’s no influence there. It’s complicated and feedback runs both ways, because these are some messy Venn diagrams. But here’s an example of what I’m thinking–take the 2002 campaign reform law. It passed the GOP House and the Senate (which was split 50-50 at the time IIRC), and was signed into law by George W. Bush. Yet it’s pretty clearly unfair to credit or blame the conservative movement for that bill, because if it had been up to them alone it certainly wouldn’t have passed–they were dragged into supporting it via a mixture of public opinion and pressure from the Democrats. On the other hand, something like the Iraq War was much more clearly a product of the conservative movement–they were the ones pushing for it and moving the ball forward.

        How to tell the difference? Look at what activists are saying, look at what party volunteers are saying, look at what National Review and the Weekly Standard are saying, etc etc.

        The Democrats don’t always follow the advice of the left, nor the GOP the right. But neither are they completely unrelated. It’s complicated.

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      • Tod –

        All political parties make compromises. But that’s not what I’m pointing at. If you say that “individual rights” and “fiscal restraint” are hallmarks of conservatism as an ideology, that requires at minimum that influential people (media, advocacy, politicians, et cetera) who identify with conservatism as an ideology are, on average, more supportive of “individual rights” and “fiscal restraint” than the average people who identify with liberalism or the left.

        This is flatly not the case, as supported by the statements that I made above. Liberals have a better record of fiscal responsibility than conservatives. Liberals have a far better record of supporting individual rights than conservatives. Hence, those cannot reasonably be described as causes championed by conservative ideology.

        Your comparison would only be a propos if you demonstrated that liberals have been more supportive of corporate subsidies than conservatives, and if someone had claimed that opposing corporate subsidies was a central, guiding principle of liberalism. (It’s certainly a guiding principle of the left, but leftism and liberalism are different ideologies, as far apart as liberalism and conservatism, and apart from Bernie Sanders, leftism is nonexistent in the American political landscape.)

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      • Right. There are people in the Democratic Party who are not great on any number of issues. However, the vast majority of them are better than the alternative (for instance, compare David Vitter to Mary Landrieu) and in cases where they aren’t, most of the Left wants that person primaried, if possible (for example, every liberal I know prays Dianne Feinstein decides not to run for reelection).

        In fact, if I had to guess, Tod, most of the people who are bad on the things you’re pointing out (corporate subsidies and the like) are alot closer to the DLC/neoliberal wing of the Democratic Party that you’re afraid is going to be pushed out by Elizabeth Warren and the like than say, the left wing/populist wing of the party.

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      • It’s complicated and feedback runs both ways, because these are some messy Venn diagrams.

        I’m okay with that to a degree. But in practice I see this (often) winding up where the same bag of evidence with a dash of special pleading winds up supporting “they’re always the wrongest of the wrongso!”

        Not that this is what is happening here, just an offhand observation.

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      • the DLC/neoliberal wing of the Democratic Party that you’re afraid is going to be pushed out by Elizabeth Warren and the like

        I’m not clear whether this is the/a crux of what Tod is going to end up saying, and it might well be a basic misconception to conclude that it is. But given that he’s choosing to hide the ball while setting up an elaborate scaffolding to make a hopefully airtight case (which is great – we don’t want him to go shooting off half cocked or anything), I can’t blame Jesse for suspecting it might be, and indeed I am also fairly eager to find out as well. I’m trying to figure out what other basic contentions (read: concrete predictions) his thesis might eventually take him to, and there are certainly some, but I also find that particular one to be unfortunately probable to be an important component of the basic argument. I guess we’ll find out.

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      • There’s actually kind of a funny thing where sometimes I like the extremists more than the moderates. Or at least I have an attraction. I’d vote for Dennis Kucinich for congress and I’d vote for Ron Paul.

        I’ve seen numerous races over the years where I end up not supporting the guy that, on paper, I should support mostly on the basis that he or she is a shill who simply has no principles and will not actually do anything other than immediate expediency, which has problems.

        The problem with people away from the center, though, is that even if I like them more on one level, chances are that they are really bad on at least some issues that I care deeply about. The same thing that leads them to be the lone voice of sanity on one issue leads them to be the guy who is saying that thing I just cannot believe on some other issue. Something the shill is too smart to say or advocate.

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      • “Acknowledging that, however, I still maintain that those political/cultural identifiers mean something, even if they aren’t as important to each side as each side likes to pretend.”

        In the sense that they are lies which are not questioned by the establishment, yes.

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    • I agree with Dan.

      It also raises the question of why “fiscal restraint” or “low-spending” is a good.

      Obviously one should not be spendthrift but it seems to me that spending is not axiomatically bad. Why shouldn’t the government spend money on research, public health, education, transportation, courts, etc?

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      • I prefer “fiscal responsibility” to “fiscal restraint”, in speaking about policy virtues. What matters isn’t how much you spend – it’s what you spend it on, and making sure you have enough sources of revenue to cover spending. (I’m fine with deficit spending to provide economic stimulus in recessions, but you need to be planning how you’re going to pay that back once the economy’s on a strong footing again.)

        It shouldn’t be about high spending or low spending, but about ensuring you’re balancing your books.

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    • Katherine,

      Sorry for going off-topic, but I think these kinds of unquestioned assumptions deserve to be questioned.

      Seems to me it’s not only on topic, but a criticism leveled at Tod’s entire thesis. I mean, I agree with your above description, which, if correct (and I think it’s correct), would show that the core values Tod’s attributing to conservatives isn’t descriptively accurate.

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      • I’m not so sure liberals get off scott-free. Since Clinton, the Democratic party has both shifted center and broadened — like the GOP, they aren’t the same party they were in the 70s. Better in some ways, worse in others…

        And yet the same saws get trotted out about both. What are they really about today? What motivates them? What causes do they come back to, time and again? Not 30 years ago, but over the last twenty? The last ten?

        I think assumptions are made about both parties, even by people who darn well DO know better, that simply don’t appear to be true anymore.

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      • morat,

        Sure! It’s just that an institutional analysis based on a specific ideological analyses can only be as good as base-level descriptions are accurate. I think the description is nigh on impossible without a bunch of simplifying assumptions, so we’re already into the not-descriptive-accurate realm pretty quickly. Which is precisely where Katherine’s comment was directed, it seems to me.

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      • “Seems to me it’s not only on topic, but a criticism leveled at Tod’s entire thesis. I mean, I agree with your above description, which, if correct (and I think it’s correct), would show that the core values Tod’s attributing to conservatives isn’t descriptively accurate.”

        I think not, because I don’t know that my thesis has anything to do with what any party’s core values are or are not. I had only put that bit in there to point out that it wasn’t conservatism itself that brought the right where they are today; after all, they have been on the right forever and not been this kind of mess. Rather, I believe that the danger comes when you start, for example, systematically delegitimizing the press and sources of data for not saying what you want it to say. I thought I was fairly clear on this point in the OP, but I guess not.

        I don’t know how young most of y’all are, but the growing trend on the left to encourage its members to eschew things like the NYT’s reporting, journalists who work on public radio, and fact checking sites/publications is actually incredibly new, and would have been unthinkable even ten years ago. And it really does mirror what the right was just starting to do back in the mid-90s, back when even the GOP took the NYT’s reporting and fact-checking sites seriously.

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      • Tod – I’m certainly familiar with portions of “the left” who don’t trust any of the mainstream media (NYT, even BBC), but none of them are people who would – even if they lived in the US – consider voting for the Democratic Party.

        The Right lines up behind – and controls – the Republican Party to an extent that will never be the case with the Democratic Party. Some portions of the left are on the fringes of the Democratic Party, voting for it but having little influence; other portions are outside of it and opposed to it altogether. The opinions of these people don’t have major implications for American politics, because – again, unlike the far right – they have negligible power or influence in American politics.

        That’s why the comparison doesn’t work.

        (In addition, there are very good reasons for the left – and others – to be skeptical about the New York Times, given the backing it provided to the propaganda pushing the Iraq War.)

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      • unthinkable even ten years ago… the growing trend on the left to encourage its members to eschew things like

        the NYT’s reporting,

        This dates back more or less exactly ten years (actually eleven-plus), to when the blogging enterprise reallly first took off in response to the NYT’s reporting failures regarding the Iraq War. Trust on the left has never been fully reestablished.

        …journalists who work on public radio

        Do you listen to NPR, Tod? Sure, there is an overall left lean, but their reporting and political analysis can be the absolute model of vacuousness at times. Other times it can be great. The left has recently thought it’s detected an uptick in problematic reporting at NPR from what I understand. Given a generally acknowledged pre-existing kernel of utter dreck coming out of NPR (just ask the Right to confirm!), is it possible they’re right that an uptick might have occurred, especially from the perspective of someone with lefty sensibilities (or is allowing that looking at such questions from such a perspective exactly what you’re trying to go after)?

        …and fact checking sites/publications

        These vary in quality tremendously. Where criticism is justified, it’s justified. Or is it not? Is your thesis that what’s problematic is giving into any temptation to critique any self-appointed refs at all, regardless of whether critique is justified? I think this is a key question you will need to address in laying out your case.

        IMO, the problem is not that the right ever worked the refs at all. Of course you work the refs some. But you can go overboard, and in fact go somewhat nuts while doing it. Or, you can avoid that. It doesn’t indicate anything that the left works the refs a bit.

        Do they begin to go off the rails doing it? If that’s in fact the case you want to make, then I support your making it – but you gotta make it by examining the criticism that may do this in some detail and demonstrating that it does, like you have done with the Right. But if you intend merely to gesture toward some ref-working and say that in itself is a “mile marker” that indicates a departure onto the path the Right has taken, well, I don’t think that’s a case to a point of any consequence.

        Advocates, parties, factions, etc. should critique the self-appointed refs that critique their claims. Ultimately, that’s just defending the claims you’ve made. The public should want that from advocacy orgs of all kinds, including parties. I don’t know what exactly constitutes evidence of going from reasonable ref-working to starting to go off the rails, but IMO you’re going to have to define that in order to make your argument.

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      • “I don’t know how young most of y’all are, but the growing trend on the left to encourage its members to eschew things like the NYT’s reporting, journalists who work on public radio, and fact checking sites/publications is actually incredibly new, and would have been unthinkable even ten years ago. And it really does mirror what the right was just starting to do back in the mid-90s, back when even the GOP took the NYT’s reporting and fact-checking sites seriously.”

        This is wrong for all sorts of reasons, many of which Michael Drew points out.

        I want to add that it is (the dreaded) false equivalency to compare, say, Noam Chomsky’s criticisms of the right leaning, pro-corporate slant of the NYT and WaPo and NPR and Rush Limbaugh’s belief that the centrist media is engaged in a conspiracy to have black Muslim, black panther, climate scientist, communists ruling America by next year.

        The left, driven by academics, has always had this criticism of the main stream media. Always. But it is not a pernicious distrust, nor are the criticisms -even if you disagree- entirely invalid. The right’s critcisms have always been around too -watch old evangelical religious shows- and they have always been mildly insane and pernicious.

        Now is their some insanity in the left? Sure. As is there is in any group, including centrists and “Ordinary Times Followers.” But the difference is in how many of these folks there are, their institutional power, the growth of their power within the instituiton, etc., within the left and the right. That difference is so huge and the difference is not shrinking in the future,

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      • “but the growing trend on the left to encourage its members to eschew things like the NYT’s reporting”

        Also, I want some evidence that the left has a general (not just one rare example) habit of dismissing or “eschewing” NYT reporting. The editorials, sure. But the reporting? There is a habit of picking at fine details of the reporting, but saying that it is fundamentally not worth reading or to-be-eschewed? I don’t see that.

        Fact-checkers are centrist editorialists by another name and are a new thing, in that sense. The idea that they have any authority is like pretending David Broder is an authority.

        What should have authority is the voice of academics who have produced peer-reviewed publications. But they are too left wing, I guess.

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      • Of course, Shaz, the differences of degree and kind you talk about are (will be) off-point and cardinal examples of liberal refusal to consider the case, because Tod’s point is (will be) that, completely conceding those actually existing glaring distinctions of degree and kind, nevertheless there are indications that it may be possible for trend lines to one day begin to point (or perhaps they already do…) toward the left starting to move in the direction of one day being able to arrive at the kind of place that the right currently find itself in… if those trends stay in the same direction and intensify steadily for years.

        …Which is (will be) valid. The left should guard against that.

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      • Fact-checkers are centrist editorialists by another name and are a new thing, in that sense. The idea that they have any authority is like pretending David Broder is an authority.

        And as various people have pointed out, there are certain ‘fact checkers’, like PolitiFact, that are total crap. They will correctly lay out why certain statements are true or not true, and then give completely insane ‘ratings’ of those statements, usually in an an attempt to be ‘centrist’, aka, asserting that both sides lie equally. (Which usually means rating the right’s statements as more truthful, and the left’s statements as less.)

        This is a pretty *objective* objection to them. You can show PolitiFact should not be listened to merely by using PolitiFact’s own facts, where they explain the literal truth of the matter is one thing, and then rate it something else in an attempt to make the left lie more and the right lie less.

        The question is, has the left ever attacked a fact checker *for telling the truth*? (Not just the guy who originally made the lie, the left as a group.) Has the left ever doubled down on a lie and insisted it was true despite it not being so?

        The right does that all the time. The left? Not so much.

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      • The question is, has the left ever attacked a fact checker *for telling the truth*? (Not just the guy who originally made the lie, the left as a group.) Has the left ever doubled down on a lie and insisted it was true despite it not being so?

        Ever?? Of course it has. How obsessively, absurdly, self-transformingly, or increasingly in a way that tends towards those? That’s the question.

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      • Of course, Shaz, the differences of degree and kind you talk about are (will be) off-point and cardinal examples of liberal refusal to consider the case, because Tod’s point is (will be) that, completely conceding those actually existing glaring distinctions of degree and kind, nevertheless there are indications that it may be possible for trend lines to one day begin to point (or perhaps they already do…) toward the left starting to move in the direction of one day being able to arrive at the kind of place that the right currently find itself in… if those trends stay in the same direction and intensify steadily for years.

        http://xkcd.com/605/

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      • Ever?? Of course it has. How obsessively, absurdly, self-transformingly, or increasingly in a way that tends towards those? That’s the question.

        The question I was trying to get across, and didn’t, was have they ever *continued* to insist something untrue? Not in a reflexive ‘How dare you accuse us of lying’, not in a sort of mumblely ‘Well, that’s a matter of opinion’ after getting proven wrong.

        You’re right in that the right seems to do this *obsessively*, and even attempts to bend the entire universe *around* their lie in increasingly surreal ways, until the lie itself is rallying cry.

        But while the left isn’t to that point, they also aren’t even to the point before that, where lies continue to float around inside it after being disproven.

        Is there anything that the left currently insists is a fact despite that being publicly demonstrated was it wrong, oh, a year ago? (With some minimum level of ‘public demonstration’ there….just being wrong and no one in the media calling them on it for a long time doesn’t really count.)

        I could come up with a half-dozen examples of that on the right, and I can’t think of a single one on the left.
        At its worse behavior, the left will just let lies disappear down the memory hole without ever admitting they are lies…but it won’t keep *saying* them.

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      • The question I was trying to get across, and didn’t, was have they ever *continued* to insist something untrue? Not in a reflexive ‘How dare you accuse us of lying’, not in a sort of mumblely ‘Well, that’s a matter of opinion’ after getting proven wrong.

        You’re right in that the right seems to do this *obsessively*, and even attempts to bend the entire universe *around* their lie in increasingly surreal ways, until the lie itself is rallying cry.

        But while the left isn’t to that point, they also aren’t even to the point before that, where lies continue to float around inside it after being disproven.

        I respect this assessment but I still think I’m not quite so dismissive as you (and I’ve made clear I’m pretty sanguine about, though still receptive to, Tod’s take on this). Here and there, even what you’ve clarified you mean happens on the left. It has to – this is just what partisans of any kind will eventually do in a place as big and old as the U.S. The issue is… how much, and how much is it increasing? Enough that it should worry the left that they could become like the right (and, how much of a hellscape is it, really, on the Right even for that matter? They’re doing what partisans do, too….)

        That’s the question Tod will hopefully explore for us.

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      • Not too far in the past, but the left conceded the facts of the case pretty quickly as they became public. Certainly within the year span that is referred to.

        I have difficulty addressing the question of “ever” because I can come up with cases where “That’s just extremely misleading and not actually a lie” or “Yes, some people on the left did but the left as a whole did not” are not unreasonable defenses.

        And I’m evaluating leaning against future general criticisms of the Democratic Party or the left in any event.

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      • I am positive that Tod’s case will be better than that.

        Based on what evidence? Hmmm? A limited data set perhaps??? Thought so.

        [opens up Excel, begins to quietly delete spreadsheet graphs he was up all night making]

        Good god, man, save the data! Nothing will generate hits and links like predicting the specific day on which the Transformation will be Complete. Who can argue with a graph, being all sciencey and stuff?

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      • Oh, indeed, and I’m not trying to say that Tod’s stuff will be wrong. (It might be, it might be, I’m not going to waste my psychic powers on that when I have lottery tickets I could be buying. I’m still slightly more baffled by the MRM analogy hint than this part.)

        I’m just saying that despite the left’s objections to certain ‘fact-checkers’, the left and the right have pretty fundamental differences towards the truth, and the left’s objection to things is not just a scaled down version of the right’s…the right’s entire strategy requires lies, whereas the left just sometimes get annoyed by false equivalency. Point out *actual* lies that people make, and the left gets embarrassed, makes some lame excuse, leaves, and never mentions it again, while the right starts screaming about fascism and makes the lie a party plank.

        The left might, in some hypothetical future, end up where the right is…but I have no idea how anyone can predict how. Especially because there are actual differences between party platforms.

        This is a rather fundamental issue with anyone who tries to assert the left will turn into the right. The problem is that the left and right are not some sort of mirror images of each other. The left wants certain things, the right wants certain things, and what the left wants are *objectively* more popular. The left doesn’t *need* lies to position itself as populist.

        In fact, it’s probably worth mentioning that the last time the left was ‘crazy’, (Apparently the mid-80s?!?!) it might have been many things, but ‘liar’ was not one of them.

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      • Could we look at examples like how John Edwards’s’s love child was treated by the press? Is that too far in the past?

        Erm, I think you’re conflating two different things. The affair, and the child. And I think you’re trying to talk about media bias or something.

        I’m talking about the timeline between a lie by the left being pointed out it’s a lie, and the left admitting it’s a lie. How long it takes the media to point out something is a lie is something else entirely.

        The fact that Edwards had an affair was pointed out by reputable news sources in July 2008.(1)
        On August 7 2008 he had admitted to that affair.

        He also asserted that the child she had was not his. Which was something that had not been proven by the media, and in fact never would. We only know it was his child because he *admitted it* in 2010. (Admittedly, at some point in his many legal troubles, there probably was going to be a court-ordered paternity test, so let’s not pretend he told the truth out of nobility.)

        tl;dr: John Edwards admitted he was lying about the affair less than a *month* after the media proved he was lying. He admitted he was lying about the child without anyone ever proving that.

        Although this does not actually prove my point at all. My question was about *the left*, not the specific liar. The question is, if John Edwards had continued to lie and never admitted the truth, would the left have ignored the reported facts and believed him? Would he have continued to be considered ‘a respected member of the left, attacked by malicious right-wing lies’? I say no, but we can’t actually tell in this hypothetical. (Even the crazy-right is unlikely to keep believing lies after the *liar* admits to lying.)

        1) You’ll forgive me if I don’t start count an anonymously-source The National Enquirer story as ‘a reputable news source’, but it’s still less than a year if you count from that story in late 2007.

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    • In fact, if I had to guess, Tod, most of the people who are bad on the things you’re pointing out (corporate subsidies and the like) are alot closer to the DLC/neoliberal wing of the Democratic Party that you’re afraid is going to be pushed out by Elizabeth Warren and the like than say, the left wing/populist wing of the party.

      Insofar as that’s true, it’s not so much out of principle as out of an irrational hatred of business that makes them really, really awful in other ways.

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    • Yup. Even though I don’t comment here much anymore, for a variety of reasons, I’m probably one of the most leftie and ideological people that has posted reguarly.. But, even then, I only want to push the Democratic Party to the left on issues because I believe it’ll help them electorally and most importantly, I have actual data on my side to show I’m (likely) right.

      For instance, I think there should be mandatory union elections in every business over 25 employees yearly and handguns should be banned. I’m not asking for critiques on how those are dumb ideas. Just a statement of my beliefs. But, I know those are extreme far-left positions that wouldn’t get 20% support, let alone majority support. But, I do support the Democrat’s being more forceful on gun control legislation that is popular (along with rhethroic that fights against the 2nd Amendment is about individual bearing of arms) and pro-union policies that are also either popular or won’t result in a backlash (EFCA and so on).

      I’m not asking for some crazy leftward swing where the Democrat’s sound like 80’s UK Labour and I’m on the left wing of the party. The truly nutty people on the left, who are actually consistent with the nutty people on the right who actually get nominated for things, have even less power in the Democratic Party than lite social democrats like I do.

      So, yes, Tod, I admit it. I want to move the Democratic Party to the left. But, that’s only because I think the US deserves to have a party on the center-left and center-right, not the center and far-right. If some neoliberals or suburban Dad’s move to the GOP as a result of the DNC shifting left, so be it.

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      • My friend calls this part of the left the “nothing is good enough” crowd.

        I went to undergrad during 2000 and the big debate on campus was of course Gore or Nader (Bush supporters were barely existent enough to appear on the radar).

        Something some what similar happened in 2012 with Robert Unger and other lefites arguing that Mitt Romney needed to win for the nation to “wake up” and become truly left.

        This is the old “heightening the contradictions” logic and I dislike it.

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      • There’s a part of the left that will never be happy with any result possible in a democracy. In the North Atlantic region the left was never stronger than in the 25 years after WWII. Yet once generation that couldn’t remember anything else came along, the left responded to this society by attacking it.

        Hubert Humphrey was arguably the most left presidential candidate ever nominated by a major party, the response of the left to him getting that nomination was to riot in the streets.

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      • I think it is a great shame that Hubert Humphrey was defeated in 1968.

        You are right that there are sections of the left and right (a larger section on the right) with what can be achieved in democracy.

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      • There’s a part of the left that will never be happy with any result possible in a democracy.

        And a part of the right, and of libertarians.

        Is it still ATSDI if I’m talking about my side?

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    • Electoral nihilism is a long and venerated tradition among the left. Most of the European Social Democratic parties have their origins in debates among Marxists on the prospects of reform through democratic political instutions. The social democrats believed that ballot box can be used to create a socialist society and the Communists did not. The American left has similar been divided. Even when we had a socialsit party, they weren’t to really that enthusiastic about electoral politics.

      Electoral politics is about compromise and doing whats realistically possible. You have to recognize that there are going to be millions of people that disagree with you always. Electoral nihilism allows for political purity.

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      • Well, maybe part of the reason for American socialists not believing they could get anywhere with the ballot box that is their leader got thrown in jail, basically in violation of the 1st Amendment.

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      • Which Conservative threw the Socialist Leader in jail in violation of the 1st Amendment?

        I certainly hope that the Supreme Court gave the case a hearing and the Liberals on the court decided that they cared more about Principle than Naked Power!

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      • , the Socialist Party was ambivalent about electoral politics when Debs was free and campaigning for President to. Debs was also involved with the International Workers of the World which specifically denounced electoral politics as a shame. Emma Goldman and company also had doubts about it. The Far Left always had difficulty adjusting their message for an American audience. Techniques that work in Imperial Russia do not necessarily translate to the United States.

        , the GOP supported Red Scare politics to and gave us the sequel in the 1950s.

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      • , if Humphrey won the 1968 election we would have gotten four liberal Supreme Court justices and probably a continuation of the Warren court. Congress was dominated by liberals at the time so we would have probably gotten more Great Society Legislation like Mondale’s plan for universal pre-K and Kennedy’s universal healthcare passed.

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  9. Tod,
    My main criticism with your work on MRM is that you’re choosing an easy fish to hook.
    It’s small, and really seems to like your bait.

    May I suggest you take on Twilight readers next? They’re considerably larger in number
    (therefore making your research more valuable, as it investigates a fairly large portion of America — at least 10%, say…). Also, it’s a bit harder of a challenge to talk about their goals (though they certainly exist), because they are a lot less organized, particularly politically.

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      • You should just do Twilight then. Although I think all the really gritty criticism has been done. I think it’s quite an interesting series, but for what it implies about the author. (Then again, lots of bad books are interesting precisely for that reason).

        Or if you wanted real fun, you could do 50 Shades of Grey (since it started as Twilight Fanfic) and see how the two interrelate.

        Although be warned, I’ve been informed actually kinky people start frothing at the mouth about that. (The main male character is, I understand, a collection of traits most kinksters would label ‘Stay away from’ rather than ‘Oh, nice catch’).

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      • morat,
        no, the key in understanding Twilight, and critiquing it properly, is in understanding directly why it is popular.

        Of course, to write that i’d have to turn in my liberal card.

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      • :D I know you were joking. But (although this might’ve been part of why you made the joke), it is important:

        I think the assumption that we know who “Twilight readers” (or, for that matter, people who listen to *shudder* Kenny G) are, that they’re a simply stereotypable set, is a large part of what’s wrong with your country, this country I love living in; closely related to what you’re writing about here and have written about before.

        Believe it or not, I started reading the books because one of my dear friends who is a successful molecular geneticist and not a half-bad poet recommended them to me. (She did a double undergrad in biology and English. She loves Shakespeare in an analytical and profound way. Etc.)

        (I only like them when I’m literally in a delirium. But lots of my friends who like them have no such qualms.)

        My dear friend and officemate has taught me not to EVER say “you people” or “*those* people”, even when joking. I started not doing it just because I am fond of her and she asked me to; but more and more I try to keep that habit of mind out of the rest of my life, even though it’s nearly impossible to do.

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    • Not sure if you’re curious, teasing, or both, but I have not. Yet. One of MANY casualties of my severe lack of pleasure reading time, not one of the most-mourned. However, I really enjoyed the six month period where many of my friends (some of whom never read, some of whom read tons) kept wanting to tell me all about it and how good it was. In great detail. In places like the grocery store. Mostly using non-specific pronouns that didn’t really involve making it clear that they were talking about a book. :D

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  10. I think it’s important to distinguish cultural polarization from polarization on issues of politics/economics.

    I think the fact that most tea partiers love a lot of socialist policies (medicare/SS) shows that polarization is less on substance, and more on how these things are talked about, and the narratives/mythologies attached to them.

    So Liberals don’t like how Conservatives talk about American power, and about welfare queens, but both still mostly believe in America as the ruler of the world, and equality of opportunity with a basic social safety net as the ideal social contract.

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    • Actually, as a *gasp* liberal internationalist and somebody who supports a cut in the defense budget of probably 50% at the high end, my actual belief is that the few times when intervention is necessary, nobody else is going to do the job, mostly because somebody on the Security Council will block it.

      At this very moment, the decline of American global power isn’t going to result in Sweden or Canada gaining more global power. It’s leading to China, Russia, or India gaining more global power. Of those three, I’m only really comfortable with the last at the moment.

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    • “I think the fact that most tea partiers love a lot of socialist policies (medicare/SS) shows that polarization is less on substance, and more on how these things are talked about, and the narratives/mythologies attached to them.”

      On on the old basis that money going to them and people they like is good; money going to others whom they dislike is bad.

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  11. But seriously, regarding a site like ManBoobz, and what I shall loosely call the Internet anti-misogyny brigade — I keep finding articles like this:

    http://www.salon.com/2014/03/02/doxxing_victim_this_isn%E2%80%99t_about_porn_this_is_about_humiliation/

    And on that, I say this shit is serious and we are right to be shouting about it. And the MRAs (and related horrible men) might be a small group, but I think their voices get magnified, since a small gang of douchebags is a small gang of douchebags. But give them 4chan and creepshots and suddenly they have power.

    You know, there is this thing that has been happening to me: random assholes taking photos of me on the subway. I assume these are getting posted somewhere. I’m not happy about it.

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    • I don’t blame you, but unfortunately that’s not gonna get better. Cameras are ubiquitous and that’s only going to become more and more the case. All the yelling about Google Glass missed the point — it’s not anything new. It’s actually a really expensive, really obvious hidden camera. You can get much better ones, much cheaper, and much less obvious. People do. They’re not hard to find or hard to buy.

      And that doesn’t even count the ones we carry in our pockets.

      There’s good sides to living in the panopticon (more and more abuses of authority, crimes, and the like will be caught on film) and downsides (there’s not going to be privacy anywhere outside your own home anymore, and if you’re in public the world can see you).

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      • — Fair enough, but it is shocking just how horrible men are to these women.

        (And it is men versus women. This is a very gendered phenomenon.)

        The key point is this: it ain’t about sexy-sexy, since hot-sexy images are easy to come by on the Internet, produced in consensual ways. (Well, largely consensual; we can critique porn another day.) But these pictures are clearly non-consesual, and that is indeed the point.

        The point is to abuse women, to cheapen them, to reduce them. These men hate women. They probably hate themselves too, somehow, in some pseudo-Fruedian way. They hate the power they perceive in women, which is the power to say “no,” to be amazing and beautiful on their own, without the men.

        I think it was Audre Lorde who said (paraphrase): “It is not that they think you are powerless. They see your power, but they don’t want it to exist.”

        It fucking sucks and I hate it and I want to destroy these men.

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      • No, but Google image search, as far as I understand it, will match particular patterns in particular images. However, it doesn’t do any sort of facial recognition. So unless I had the image from the jerk’s camera to search with, I really can’t hope to find it.

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      • My sweetie’s been playing with it recently; and what it seems to match first on color. So if you’re riding in similar-looking trains and wearing the same coat, etc., you actually might come up with something using a photo a friend takes for the search.

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  12. Pingback: Satire *is* dead. | Ordinary Times

  13. First, however, let me put this post to bed with an answer that I’m sure has been going through all of this site’s liberals’ heads since midway though this essay: Why on earth did the Anti-MRM crowd remind you of today’s left?

    Well?

    Are you going to answer that question?

    The fact that two different groups of people claim to be a victim of false equivalence doesn’t mean they are similar, or even that both their claims are wrong, or both right. Someone who says ‘Stop comparing my jaywalking to the murders he committed’ has a point, someone who says ‘Stop comparing my two murders to his five murders’ does not have a point.

    Saying they’re the same because they both happen to have the same objection to criticism is…

    …wait a second. Did you set this up so that *someone else* would assert false equivalence? Are you trying to do *meta*-false equivalence, by equating all claims of false equivalence as the same?

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    • Well, to be fair the MRM crowd does tend to lean right — all the way into explicit white hate territory — and the anti-MRM crowd leans strongly left. So, yeah, there is that.

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      • I’m not trying to argue against the MRM people being on the right (That’s the only place misogynistic asshats are allowed to be, and the MRM crowd is like 75% misogynistic asshats and 25% over-privileged idiots who sorta have a ‘real complaint’, or at least suffered a small slight against them, but fail to realize that they’re living in a position of privilege and that women have fifty times the legitimate complaints they have.), and the anti-MRM people being somewhat left. (Although they’re often just anti-idiot.)

        What I’m trying to figure out how this means anything at all about where the left and right are headed. Why MRM instead of environmentalism, or gay rights?

        I mean, I can sorta see why MRM would work as an analogy for the right…they’ve both a bunch of unrelated and somewhat stupid grievances pretending to be a movement, so I can *kinda* see that. (Despite this fact this is a gross oversimplification of the right…the right is a puppet directed by special interests using said grievances, whereas the MRM is just a bunch of idiots who direct themselves, so they don’t actually operate similarly at all.) But I’m not really sure how anti-MRM works as analogy for the left…the anti-MRM barely exists at all as a ‘movement’.

        The left is not a tiny vocal minority following the right around and complaining about what they do, the left is not a *reaction* to right wing insanity. The left is an actual political movement that was cleverly marginalized by the right and then somewhat failed to take advantage of it as the opposition slipped swiftly and deeply into insanity, and is now actually stepping up and doing something.

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  14. I look forward to reading your future posts on the topic. Here’s where I think your analysis might risk a misstep or two:

    The first is a point similar to ‘s and ‘s above: a possible conflation of “the left” and “the right” with the Dems and the GOP. I’m not sure how you get around this, at least when it comes to American policy and recent history. It’s all very messy.

    The second is related to the first and it’s that in your givens at the end of the OP, “the right” and “the left” are seen as things that make decisions to act. But it’s probably more accurate to say that certain people who are members of each political tendency, or who are identified as such, choose to act. And it is the political structures and technology (first-past-the-post voting, primary voting, cable news, for example) that condition how they can act. Like the first point, I’m not sure what the solution is. We all have to use shorthands and shorthands are by definition imprecise. If you made all the caveats and qualifications that my comment here is raising, your writing would be unreadable.

    At any rate and again, I look forward to reading the future posts.

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      • Well it’d create enormous incentive to transfer the majority of your assets over to your heirs well prior to your death. In turn it’d then create a need for a sprawling complex of financial regulations and capital controls that would strictly impede the ability of people to transfer assets from one to another. In turn that’d suck up state resources and distort the economy like a black hole. Oh and it’d also elevate the tragedy of unexpected deaths into a somehow even higher level of tragedy and misery. Also it’d cultivate a massive backlash and consign liberals to the electoral rump for at least a couple generations.

        On top of all that it probably wouldn’t raise much dough.

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      • I think is asking how would an estate tax solve the problem of nepotism on a theoretical level.

        The problems of accumulated wealth is that it just goes from generation to generation and that family doesn’t need to care about the day to day realities of living. Earning enough money to pay the rent, staying in budget, etc. So the family just uses their wealth to get close to power and defeat both.

        In theory, a one hundred percent estate tax would get rid of the Paris Hilton’s of the the world and everyone would need to learn to work.

        This is the theory.

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      • I think I agree ND, but as you aptly noted the question of value and property is an extremely dicey one. If we carved out a big exclusion so that a lot of people were spared those indignities then the whole thing would become a sucking chest wound in the body policy. People would either escape through the exclusion or, if you were super rich, they’d flee their assets out of the country or otherwise finds ways to transfer or shield their assets. Trust funds and “charitable” grants would explode. So the government wouldn’t make any dough and it’d be hated by everyone.

        Also it’d do diddly squat about nepotism; in fact I dare say it’d make nepotism -worse-. If I’m Paris Hilton’s Grandpa in this world I know that I either cannot leave my vast wealth to my descendants or that I’m going to have to go through much convolution to do so (and I may get caught and they’ll end up with nothing). What does a caring, wealthy and influential person do in this case? The answer is MORE nepotism. If you can’t use your wealth to make your descendants better off by simply giving it to them then you would use it while you were alive to put them in the very best position you possibly could. You’d pay off people and buy companies to establish Paris in some kind of cushy well paid sinecure and do everything you could to secure her in such a position. Nepotism would explode. Rich people would be liable to create entire companies just for the purpose of paying their kids a fat annual salary. The public service would be packed with useless relatives of the well connected to a degree that’d make our current state look svelte by comparison. It’d be an utter fiasco.

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      • What does a caring, wealthy and influential person do in this case? The answer is MORE nepotism.

        This. It’s so obvious that I wonder if the folks who are linking the estate tax to nepotism simply misunderstand what nepotism is. Do they think it means being born rich, or simply inheriting money?

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    • I think a 100% or at the very least, a high level of estate tax over say, $10 million dollars, with large asides for family farms and small businesses (ya’ know, for the 3 family farms in the past 100 years that have actually been lost due to the estate tax) could probably get majority support.

      Obviously, a 100% estate tax for any amount of money is dumb, impratical, and also, bad politics.

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      • Well, currently, there is a limit of $10.6 million for married couple, and $5.3 million, for singles, and then a 40% tax kicks in. 40% is perhaps not what you’d consider “high,” (though it is just above the current highest income tax bracket) but considering the amount of money involved at that scale it’s not peanuts either.

        Also, , the gift tax and the estate tax have the same exemption: money you give to people during your lifetime draws down the amount of estate you can have before the tax kicks in, for exactly the reason you describe. Of course, you can effectively do the same thing with trusts & stuff (not sure whether that gets you out of paying tax entirely, but it certainly helps), and this (and the pitfalls you mention in your above post) is also the reason people with millions in assets don’t generally keep them in a bank account.

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      • “Obviously, a 100% estate tax for any amount of money is dumb, impratical, and also, bad politics.”

        Which is exactly what Pareene proposed (even if being facetious) and Loomis proposes (Loomis is never facetious.)

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      • An excellent point Cathy, to which I’d respond that the wealthy, with vast resources, time and all the incentive in the world to cheat, currently and in a 100% tax world guaranteedly, would find a million ways to circumvent such exclusions. The capital classes of the world would pay billions to the lawyers, corporate structurers and fininciers to punch holes in or around such laws. What would the (despised) liberal advocates and IRS officials be paid to plug those holes? 45k a year and a series of angry influential people blowing up your bosses phone? Yeah that’d be an even fight.

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      • a’ know, for the 3 family farms in the past 100 years that have actually been lost due to the estate tax)

        The only reason it’s not a lot more is because people have to burn money hiring lawyers to draw up trusts to preserve them in response to the danger, not because there’s no danger. In other words, a portion of the intended estate tax gets transferred to lawyers’ pockets, and the government doesn’t get what it’s theoretically supposed to get. It’s a great system; who could question it?

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      • That seems….unsourced and highly convenient.

        “The only reason this famous example never happens is because all the people who WOULD be real-life examples hired lawyers and it cost so much that they didn’t lose the family farm, so I can’t point to them as examples!”

        You get to bag on the estate tax, lawyers, regulation, the tax code, and any real world examples are, of course, unable to be pointed to because of all those awful things you just said.

        Seems..circular.

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      • Morat.

        Until he retired a couple of years ago, my best friend’s dad helped set up these trusts in Iowa. He had been a farmer himself, until he gave up in the ’80s trying to make it on marginal farmland in NW Iowa, then went to work for Wells Fargo. He didn’t do the actual lawyerly work, but he worked with farmers to help them understand how to do this, and he helped manage farms put into trust.

        It’s a real thing. And I’m not actually bagging on the lawyers. I’m bagging on those who support policies for where they think the money goes and don’t take a careful look at where the money really does go.

        The “cost so much” line is yours, not even remotely mine. Lawyers cost, full stop. Whether “so much” or “not so much,” eh, that’s not the issue.

        You seem to be criticizing the argument that people actually do respond to incentives. Let me know how that works out for you in the real world, eh?

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      • @james-hanley:

        The “cost so much” line is yours, not even remotely mine. Lawyers cost, full stop. Whether “so much” or “not so much,” eh, that’s not the issue.

        I would think that’s exactly the issue. If we’re talking about the pathological failure cases of a tax and how much they can potentially cost, being able to avoid those failure cases cheaply makes them less of an issue as long as the tax is otherwise working as planned, yes?

        I’m all for being able to keep the family business intact after the founder dies, not because I think the kids have any right to acquire a valuable business tax free but because shutting down and liquidating an otherwise healthy business is bad for everybody. I’m interested in seeing the data showing that actually happens on any meaningful scale or that the methods to avoid it are onerous and expensive.

        A quick search led to this CBO report which is a bit out of date but should give a ballpark. It looks like in 2000, there were 13 farm estates whose liquid assets couldn’t cover a 40% estate tax assuming a $3.5M exemption. All sorts of caveats there (how do we define “farmer”, etc.), but either it’s pretty easy to avoid the problem, the problem isn’t that big, or the problem is very big and a lot of money is going to a lot of attorneys to hide it.

        In any case, it seems like a problem that could be handled in all sorts of ways that don’t involve eliminating the estate tax.

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      • T-Frog,

        I wasn’t arguing for eliminating the inheritance tax. I was just arguing that it’s not a non-existent problem, and that the reason it’s not prevalent is not because it’s not a real possibility, but because people take steps to avoid that real possibility. And to the extent those steps actually deprive the government of some of the expected revenue, the scarcity of such cases may actually indicate a policy that’s not doing as much of what its supporters want it to do as they think it is.

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  15. The American right has become a joke.

    How do you square that statement with the fact that the Republican Party controls the House and will likely keep it in this year’s elections; is likely to pick up some seats in the Senate; and the fact that Romney got over 60 million votes (47 percent of the electorate)?

    If the right is a joke, then an awful lot of Americans are in on that joke.

    As for the rest, I’m not sure how anyone is really disagreeing. This is probably the oldest plot in the history of the world. An underdog comes up, makes it to the top, then gets usurped by the next rising underdog. Rinse. Repeat. In a presidential election system that plot will play it with the two dominant parties over and over again, with one party dying periodically and being replaced by a new one. Do people really believe that we’ve reached the end of history this time?

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    • You’ll need to wait for the next post for me to fully answer that, but my short answer is this:

      Leaning heavily on populism can always bring you votes, for a time. The GOP still has elected officials, sure. But they lost a presidential election and seats in the house to incumbents who we’re presiding over an anemic economy and who had just passed sweeping and unpopular healthcare reform. They lost the chance to take the senate by taking very electable candidates or incumbents and replacing them with more “pure” candidates that showed up to the mainstream public as nutjobs.

      But past that, there’s a separate and more important issue where the right is wildly failing — and where the left is sadly following suit. And that is this: the purpose of the government is actually not to have interviews on TV and radio and hold pressers. Eventually, someone has to take up the reigns and do the boring day-to-day work or running the country. Take a look at the *elected* legislators of the right who have had clout and power with both it’s media and its base over the past 4-6 years: Cruz, Bachmann, Palin, King, Gomert, DeMindt. Do a Google search and see what actual legislation these people have passed, or even introduced. Good luck with that.

      That is why the right is a joke. Because calling pressers to warn of sharia law taking over a decade after 9/11 and bringing vote after vote to overturn the ACA just so you can have the biggest tally mark for voting on a losing cause is many things, but governance is not one of them.

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      • Oh, and I forgot this: their party is bleeding membership like sieve. Before Obama took office, close to 35% of the country’s registered voters were Republican. It’s now been gutted by a third, and is threatening to dip down in the teens.

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      • GOP just held their 50th ACA repeal vote fwiw. Also while R’s held the house in the last election more people voted for D’s in house elections than R’s. Gerrymandering can do a lot but at some point if you can’t get a majority of people to vote for you, then you are boned.

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      • But past that, there’s a separate and more important issue where the right is wildly failing — and where the left is sadly following suit. And that is this: the purpose of the government is actually not to have interviews on TV and radio and hold pressers.

        With 24-hour news channels, Facebook, Twitter, a million bloggers jumping on any and every mistake real or perceived, and dozens of old-school political pundits who have to be in constant attack mode to compete with new media, there are fewer and fewer incentives for politicians to ever do anything, and more and more incentives for them to talk about what their esteemed evil colleagues on the other side of the aisle are doing or not doing or might do if we don’t remain ever vigilant!

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      • The problem with that argument, Tod, is that there’s no evidence that Democrat’s, even those who are “fringy” are doing or supporting as dumb things as the GOP is doing. Now, they may be supporting policies you don’t like, but again, what populist things said by Democrat’s have just been dumb or rhetoric for the sake of rhetoric?

        Because I can easily find things you may not like (free trade, taxes, etc.), but I’m not seeing things being claimed by Democratic legislators that are straight up untrue and I’m not seeing Democratic candidates or officials pushing political strategies that will hurt them with the moderate vote. If anything, whacking at the neoliberal Washington Consensus might actually get some non-voters on their side.

        Also, yes, a lot of Democratic politicians are going to try to get on TV. Here’s a secret – all politicians in every country try to do this. We just have more TV time to fill. I know people who are living in Australia, Canada, and a couple of other foreign countries. Guess what, they complain about politicians grandstanding in TV interviews as well. That’s part of the job.

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      • Not to put too fine a point on it, Jesse, but I know in advance that I’m not going to be able to convince you no matter what I say, because you kind of are the problem — you’re already where I worry the left is headed.

        And apologies in advance if I am misremembering, but was it not you that has argued here that all someone needs to be given the keys to power is on the left and the enemy of the right? That whatever they do in office — how corrupt they are, whether or not they can actually govern or accomplish anything, whether or not they bother to actually do the work we elect them for — comes in second to just being on the right team?

        I know I’m never going to convince you.

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      • Chris and Jessie are both right.

        Chris is right that there is a slow hardening of both sides to engage in legislative action, for a variety of reasons. (I should add that legislative pork helped pass a lot of legislation and with less of it now…)

        But Jessie is right that left wing academics criticisms of the mainstream press has always been a good thing by and large. Left wing academics criticized the treatment of criminals and the drug war in the main stream press. Still do. That is a good thing.

        The far left, again heavily populated by and heavily influenced by academics, does not fundamentally distrust MSM reporting. Rather, they criticize the pro-corporate, sometimes subtly homophobic amd racist slant that is taken by the MSM. That has always been a good function.

        By contrast, the right fundamentally distrusts the mainstream media because it is enthralled to academic types and their global warming science and social science, and pro women, pro gay, destroy America agenda. This right wing criticism is absurdly false and pernicious in large doses.

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      • Oh, and I forgot this: their party is bleeding membership like sieve. Before Obama took office, close to 35% of the country’s registered voters were Republican. It’s now been gutted by a third, and is threatening to dip down in the teens.

        This, to me, is the interesting issue. What happens next?

        There are a few possibilities. One is that we enter a period of mostly one-party rule, when most of the action will take place in the primaries. Another is that the Republican party fractures into two or several factions that eventually become viable parties in their own right. My money is against either of those things happening though.

        The fact still remains that the American median voter may be increasingly liberal on a number of issues, but not strongly progressive. And neither is the American median voter likely in favor of a strong social democratic welfare state, though she probably does want a fairly robust set of entitlements. That describes a moderate Republican just as easily as it describes a centrist Democrat.

        Plus, the American system is built for two parties. My guess is that the in-fighting happening within the Republican party will work itself out over the next several years. If the moderates win, then we go back to business as usual. If the reactionaries win, then the Republican party will likely fade and some other center right party will take its place.

        This is all speculation of course. In the words of the sage, “making predictions is hard, especially about the future.”

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      • their party is bleeding membership like sieve. Before Obama took office, close to 35% of the country’s registered voters were Republican. It’s now been gutted by a third, and is threatening to dip down in the teens.

        This isn’t my area of specialty, or even any noticeable attention, so I don’t really know (and with the research you’ve been doing, I’m inclined to trust what you say over my own gut feelings, whatever they may be). But this Pew study would seem to not match your claim (although it’s focused on party identification, rather than membership).

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      • shazbot3, in most democratic systems there seems to be a certain amount of corruption necessary to get things done except in cases of dire emergency like war. The ideal percentage of corruption is somewhere between 0 and 100, the goal is finding the right form and the right amount for your system. In our system, pork and earmarks was the form of necessary corruption. Politics is the art of the horsetrade and you need to give politicians horses to trade in order to get things going.

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      • James,
        no, and for good reason. corruption is money/influence that floats outside of the system. (incidentally, it’s not so much that bribery hurts, as that not knowing the exact cost of the bribe impedes commerce.)

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      • “Not to put too fine a point on it, Jesse, but I know in advance that I’m not going to be able to convince you no matter what I say, because you kind of are the problem — you’re already where I worry the left is headed.”

        In favor of slightly higher marginal tax rates, expanding abortion access, making it easier to join a union, and an expanded welfare state? Yeah, it’d be horrible if America went my way, Tod.

        “And apologies in advance if I am misremembering, but was it not you that has argued here that all someone needs to be given the keys to power is on the left and the enemy of the right? That whatever they do in office — how corrupt they are, whether or not they can actually govern or accomplish anything, whether or not they bother to actually do the work we elect them for — comes in second to just being on the right team?”

        I’ll take this immediately to the most ‘heighten the contradictions’ election ever. LBJ was a corrupt, probably slightly racist, misogynistic, asshole. Goldwater, by all lights, was a clean, not personally racist (by the standards of a male politician in the 60’s), decent human being.

        Guess what? I’d vote for LBJ every damn time. So yes, I put the ability to enact political change over how decent a human being a politician is, especially when the opposition party wants to fundamentally destroy large portions of the welfare state and make it harder for minorities and women to advance. Oh, and actually put troops on the ground in various countries instead of using drones.

        “I know I’m never going to convince you.”

        And I’m never going to convince you a Democratic Party with some balls might be a good thing for the nation, in the long term.

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    • That the Republican Party manages to hold as much power as it does in its current state doesn’t mean that they’re not a joke, it just means that the joke isn’t very funny.

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    • As for the rest, I’m not sure how anyone is really disagreeing. This is probably the oldest plot in the history of the world. An underdog comes up, makes it to the top, then gets usurped by the next rising underdog. Rinse. Repeat. In a presidential election system that plot will play it with the two dominant parties over and over again, with one party dying periodically and being replaced by a new one. Do people really believe that we’ve reached the end of history this time?

      I have a lot of sympathy for that way of looking at it. Part–maybe the major part–of what we’re looking at is the hubris that comes from holding power. I don’t think, however, that obviates Tod’s project. He’s not only predicting that what you describe will happen. He’s also trying to suss out *how* it will happen and perhaps venturing a prediction on the timeline.

      For the record, I’d disagree with something that seems implied in the last “given” point of his OP:

      Standing for something solid and concentrating on competence and anti-corruption could easily be the ticket to the left having power and influence for a generation, and they could use that power and influence as a springboard to make the kind of huge progressive advancements that this county has not seen since the days of FDR.

      One way to read that quoted piece is that it suggests the “New Deal coalition” that governed America roughly from FDR to, say, Nixon (or later….people debate) was something predicated on competence as well as widespread agreement about the role of government. (I was going to say “ideological consensus,” but on second thought I don’t think we can talk about a “consensus.”)

      Perhaps I’m putting a reading on Tod’s words that he didn’t intend. But if that was the implication, I’ll challenge it. The “New Deal coalition” was based as much on an alliance with Jim Crow politicians and on a set of policies that initially functioned to keep women and minorities out of reach of some of the major New Deal reforms. It’s true that as the 1950s and 1960s carried on, more and more people were brought in under the minimum wage laws, for example. But SSA was and remains a regressive tax from which most benefit, but to which the poor pay a comparatively larger share of their income and from which they reap less benefit than the more affluent. Also the union gains and the post-New Deal Taft-Hartley limitations on those gains made it much more difficult for service workers and those not already unionized to enjoy the benefits thereof (“living” wages, employer-paid health care). And speaking of a “coalition,” it’s significant that Taft-Hartley passed over Truman’s veto.

      That’s a tangent. And it’s possible I’m twisting Tod’s phrasing into something he didn’t intend. My point in bringing all this up is that the left/the Democratic party does not have much of a precedent to look back to. Their fall into wingnuttery might come sooner than later, and perhaps there are some things the Dem leaders can do to make it later, but most parties’ winning programs are based on rickety foundations.

      None of this is to say that Tod is wrong about how it will happen. And as I said before, I’m looking forward to reading his future posts on the matter.

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    • But they lost a presidential election and seats in the house to incumbents who we’re presiding over an anemic economy and who had just passed sweeping and unpopular healthcare reform.

      Eh, I’m gonna quibble on “unpopular”. Because while polls showed the majority disapproving, that part that was “disapproving” was split between “too far” and “not far enough” which kinda puts a different spin on it.

      If 50% of the country hates the bill, 40% because it’s ‘too far’ and 10% because it’s “not far enough” then you’re not going to see all 50% vote for the other party — you’ll see 10% voting to push the current party further out, because the bill was a step but they want more. (And the numbers 40/10 were just made up, and not actually the split found in ACA polls).

      Someone needs to do a post on “How pollsters lie and how people spin polls” discussing everything from loaded questions and biased samples to the fun math used to ‘simplify’ the answer for reporting.

      It’s really amazing how big a swing in a result you can get by simply re-ordering questions, by changing the tone and verbiage of the introduction, or just slightly altering a question or adding a further option.

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  16. I have some questions:

    1. Have you considered that perhaps the left/Democratic is developing their spines?

    It was a standard complaint from roughly 1994 (the original Republican Revolution) up to and including now, there have been lots of liberals complaining about how the Democratic Party tried to run as GOP-lite and many liberals complained that the standard Democratic position to a GOP attack was to get into the fetal position and beg “please don’t kick me.” This is partially what gave rise to the Gore is no better than Bush II position in the 2000 election. This heightened during the early post 9/11 and Iraq II years.

    It didn’t change until around the 2006 election when the Democratic Party decided to run as the Democratic Party or to borrow from Harry Truman:

    “I’ve seen it happen time after time. When the Democratic candidate allows himself to be put on the defensive and starts apologizing for the New Deal and the fair Deal, and says he really doesn’t believe in them, he is sure to lose. The people don’t want a phony Democrat. If it’s a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time; that is, they will take a Republican before they will a phony Democrat, and I don’t want any phony Democratic candidates in this campaign.”

    Others have pointed out that for many years the rising stars of the Democratic Party were young wonky types who were very interested in empirical research and white papers but not very interested in the gruelling work of convincing and electionerring. Ezra Klein and Matt Y are prime examples of this. A lot of young liberals would just seem to announce “Read my white paper!” and then be awe-struck when people disagreed or were not convinced.

    So perhaps what you see as the Democratic Party going down the path of the right is just the Democratic Party learning to fight back firmly and do the hard work of campaigning. Mario Cuomo’s idea was to campaign in poetry but govern in prose.

    2. Have you considered that populism is a natural product of anxiousness and we live in a rather strong age of anxiety?

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    • Of course, what happened the last time liberals got a spine? That’s the rub with these sorts of things. I do pretty genuinely believe that a lurch leftward will have adverse effects at the ballot box. (I don’t believe in a Silent Progressive Majority any more than I do the other Silent Majority.) On the other hand, such shifts occur anyway and if I were a lefty I would be worried about the shift occurring with considerably fewer accomplishments than were actually possible. So in that sense, I can understand a “Take back our party!” movement within the left.

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      • I dunno, they elected Webb?
        Please don’t forget — kos and company are still focused, pretty damn hard, on winning elections.
        Asking Democrats to be Democrats is more “defend your damn positions, cowards!” rather than asking folks to be lefties where lefties don’t fit.

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      • Will, I don’t have much to go on, but I don’t see a leftward lurch that entails increasing the deficit along the old tax-and-spend/stimulus models. In other words, I think the Dems on the Hill are pretty well bought into the concept of deficit reduction (even if not as much as critics would prefer). Contemporary trend lines are that deficit spending is lower under Democratic Presidencies than Republican ones, and even if we dispute the causes and accounts of why that might be, I think there’s a track record there that “fiscal responsibility” is something the Dems take seriously as an outcome. For example, I think the broad outlines of the so-called Grand Bargain are something that most/enough Dems on the Hill are pretty comfortable with. As another data point, Obama continues to signal that SS cuts are still on the table. So, if there is a lefty-lurch, it wouldn’t be along the lines of what liberals (ala Rush) are typically accuses of lurching towards when they have power. Just my 2 cents on the current state of play.

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      • I somewhat agree with you.

        Research and polling does seem to indicate the political affiliation starts young and is solid more than shifting. People who start off liberal usually stay liberal and people who start off conservative usually stay conservative.

        People born 1980 or after are tending to the left just like people in the Ryan-Walker generation are conservative because their formative years were during the Reagan presidency, ours were during the Clinton Presidency and seeing Bush II screw up. Part of the reason all the Religious Liberty bills have failed so far is that saner heads realized that passing such bills would make the GOP a poison pill with almost everyone under 40.

        I also think that the Big Sort is making blue states more blue and red states more red. Right now it seems like Republicans have more in common with other Republicans and Democrats have more in common with other Democrats. This was not always the case. It used to be that Californians had more in common with other Californians and New Yorkers had more in common with other New Yorkers, etc regardless of political party.

        The reason for the religious liberty bills is because red states are freaking out at the victories for SSM and LGBT rights in the courts. Meanwhile Democratic types are freaking out about the victories of Stand Your Ground laws and other 2nd Amendment issues or further restrictions on abortion in red states and the potential of Hobby Lobby going to conservatives (this could unleash a 50 state culture war.)

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      • And let’s not forget that conservative have a lot of representation at the state level and on the Hill as well as that both McCain and Romney – who ran a couple of the worst campaigns imaginable, really – garnered very impressive support from the electorate. All this talk about the decline of the GOP/conservatism seems overblown to me. And I say that despite being in complete agreement that the GOP has become a joke. If they could get their act together on a few things – abandon the single issue voter model, refrain from defining themselves as whatever liberals are not, get the immigration thing rectified, actually advance their economic agenda by making compromises with Dems (none of which strike me as all that difficult to do if they had some leadership), they’d be determining their own electoral futures, rather than merely reacting to liberals.

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      • , I can’t speak as much about dKos as you, but I do know that there is some frustration with the Democrats that aren’t sufficiently liberal. Not in an equivalent way, but they are out there. I very much could see a point at which they feel like they’re not getting their money’s worth in actual legislation and pushing really hard for something much more comprehensive than PPACA. Which I mean not in a condemnatory way, but in a way that I would find completely understandable.

        I’m looking beyond the current state of play. Most specifically, I’m thinking “What happens if the GOP doesn’t get its act together and Clinton gets elected in 2016?” I think there is a good chance the expectations among the rank-and-file will be quite different for her than they have been for Obama. They’re going to want more policy victories. This could include sacrificing the deficit, or could include much higher taxes or defense cuts. (Or may not happen at all.) Obama’s support for SS cuts are among the things that I could see becoming more problematic over time. BTW, I’m still working on those paragraphs you requested before. Organizing my thoughts, etc. They’ll appear somewhere (probably tucked away in that thread, but I’ll you on it).

        I don’t disagree with all you say, but I am not quite sure what you’re responding to. I will say that I think the liberalism of the younger generation is more fluid than a lot of people think. The liberals will stay liberal, but I think a fair number of young and young-ish people vote liberal but wouldn’t identify that way and can be won over.

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      • Will,

        I’m thinking “What happens if the GOP doesn’t get its act together and Clinton gets elected in 2016?”

        I don’t think a Clinton victory, should it happen, will necessarily indicate anything, myself. That assumes a whole bunch of things that I don’t think can be reliably assumed. For example, that liberals elected into Congress will have become more liberal than they currently are. I cannot see that happening. I think the watershed for liberal representation on the Hill was Obama’s first two years comprised of a very liberal Pelosi House and a 60-vote Dem caucus in the Senate. I don’t see that happening again, either in numbers or liberality (although the absence of Lieberman alone means the Senate Dem caucus swings radically to the left, no doubt).

        Plus, Hillary is a pragmatic about most policy, very business-friendly, centrist on most things (except, it seems to me, women’s issues), etc etc. Sure, there will be high liberal expectations from her core supporters for Hillary to swap their bootstraps for ponies – which I’m not inclined to believe she’ll do – but that’s just politics no?

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      • I agree that it’s all hypothetical. Some days I think you’re right that the current decline of GOP/conservatism, some days I think otherwise. But politicians who are elected can and are pressured in one direction or the other. Right now there is comparatively little pressure to pull said politicians to the left. Instead, in PPACA for instance, the bill was moved to meet them. A lot of that is dependent, in my view, on the spectre of the Bush administration and the threat of the Republican Party. As that threat increasingly becomes a memory, so too might (arguably should) the desire to compromise. To move the bill to meet the politician, rather than the politician to meet the bill.

        As far as HRC herself is concerned, while she is business-friendly it will be interesting to see whether or not she takes a more populist posture. Not a wholesale Romney-style makeover, but she seems to have a more liberal side and a more cautious side (as to most politicians, swapping liberal for something else for some) and she has some flexibility on where to lean. She’s less likely to get the feet-to-the-fire experience than O’Malley, Cuomo, or somebody else, though, should she decline to run or falter somehow. That’s my sense of things, anyway.

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      • I will say that I think the liberalism of the younger generation is more fluid than a lot of people think.

        This is important. The thing that allows SS to be put on the bargaining table is that lots of people simply don’t believe that there will be much there for them when it is their turn to collect.

        The old model of get a diploma/degree and find a job appropriate to your education level and work it for a long time and retire to some combination of a defined benefit pension and social security is dying, if not dead. And that has ramifications as to just how progressive the median American voter is going to be outside of social issues.

        People may not fully get the underlying economics, but most people seem to realize that tax and spend worked at a specific moment in time, because the increases in economic growth and productivity allowed that model to work. And now people see how many of our entitlements, both public and private, are unsustainable even if you start taxing everyone (not to mention people started to realize that taxing everyone has endogenous effects to the economy).

        Bottom line, young people today are realizing that they are going to have to be flexible in how they live their lives, so they’re not likely to have strong support for inflexible government programs.

        By the way, it’s worth pointing out that people know these things, in part, because of the conservative movement.

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      • People may not fully get the underlying economics, but most people seem to realize that tax and spend worked at a specific moment in time, because the increases in economic growth and productivity allowed that model to work. And now people see how many of our entitlements, both public and private, are unsustainable even if you start taxing everyone (not to mention people started to realize that taxing everyone has endogenous effects to the economy).

        Yes.

        By the way, it’s worth pointing out that people know these things, in part, because of the conservative movement.

        Yes.

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      • Re: SS, young people may believe there won’t be much left for them and that is definitely due to the conservative movement. Unfortunately, the actual data from SS doesn’t back up that assertion. SS needs some tweaks, which the SS commission keep pointing out, but none of them are huge or catastrophic. The reports of SS being doomed are somewhere between unreliable and crap.

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      • One other thought about that j r:

        It’s a shame that conservative’s insistence on defining themselves as the-opposite-of-whatever-liberals-support-updated-daily prevents them taking credit for the changes in thought and policy you mention. It’s a huge political loss for them, it seems to me, since as a matter of fact liberals are adopting conservative’s preferred policies on these issues while they’re functional ideology prevent them from viewing it that way.

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      • Yeah, that’s an issue that bugs me. Personally, my favorite tweaks would be subsidizing dangerous vacation-adventure activities for baby boomers while encouraging even more immigration. That ought to solve the problem. ;)

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      • Tweaks. Sure. Of course, even to get to that level of delusion you have to ignore the fact that the social security trust fund is full of government IOUs with no market value.

        Here is something from the SSA’s Annual Report:

        Neither Medicare nor Social Security can sustain projected long-run programs in full under currently scheduled financing, and legislative changes are necessary to avoid disruptive consequences for beneficiaries and taxpayers. If lawmakers take action sooner rather than later, more options and more time will be available to phase in changes so that the public has adequate time to prepare. Earlier action will also help elected officials minimize adverse impacts on vulnerable populations, including
        lower-income workers and people already dependent on program benefits.

        Anyone familiar with the understated and hedged language that organizations like the SSA use to communicate ought to be able to suss ought the rather urgent tone.

        More to the point, if catastrophic is your bar, then sure, Social Security will be fine. Although, one wonders what individuals’ various definitions of catastrophic are. If someone is planning his retirement with the understanding that his savings will be taxed at 35% and then suddenly that jumps up to 40 or 45, it has an effect. Likewise, if someone is expecting to get $1000 a month in SS and then discovers that he is only going to get $800, it has an effect.

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      • Mixing medicare and SS togehter is right up with never get involved in a land war in Asia as a classic error. They are two different programs with different forecasts. The forecasts for SS from the SS commission are that it needs some changes to get over the hump of baby boomers then its fine for decades.

        Full faith and credit and all that. If you are falling back on the US won’t pay its debts then you are having a different argument, one that is more about the sky is falling.

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      • We need to legalize more drugs, faster. Baby Boomers are talking about doing stuff like “Going to Europe for a vacation” or “Going to Asia for a vacation”. They need to be staying *HERE*. A couple of ounces will last just as long for a fraction of the price.

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      • greg, I agree with you about the distinction between SS and Medicare (of course!). Part of the reason I’m agreeing with j r’s earlier comment is that the ACA was justified to a great degree as an effort to sustain Medicare over the long haul. Unfunded liabilities and all that.

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      • Come on. That excerpt was taken straight from the SSA’s 2013 Annual Report (http://www.ssa.gov/oact/trsum/). Maybe you should get in touch with the SS Commissioner and tell him that he is making a “classic error” about SS.

        As for other point, it has nothing to do with the US defaulting. For one thing, you can’t really default on a debt to yourself other than in some metaphorical way, like you promised yourself that you wouldn’t finish that carton of Ben and Jerry’s but you did anyway. And metaphorical is exactly what the government IOUs in the trust fund are. They’re not real. If any other organization did something like this, it’s officers would be on trial.

        All that aside, the issue is that the IOUs in the trust fund represent a future claim on government revenue along with the future claim on revenue that annual SS deficits represent. The government doesn’t have to “default” on anything. It just has to lower benefits and raise taxes to make the math balance and that’s what it will do. The question is by how much. If you think it will be a trivial amount, I ask again: what’s a trivial amount?

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      • Yeah so it was from the SSA report. Shame on them but so what. MC and SS are actually different programs with different funding and issues. That is 101 level info. MC is struggling due to the high rate of health care costs. SS has to deal with paying its promised level to baby boomers. Note the difference. MC is dealing with something costing more, SS is just having to deal with a demographic lump. Different things.

        IOU’s like treasury bonds? We take debt and we pay it back. That is the way it works. There is no reason why we won’t pay our debts. None at all.

        Here is the list the SSA provided of ways to solve the SS funding issues.
        http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/solvency/provisions/index.html

        Here is a tool from the American Academy of Actuaries that lets you pick and choose which reforms to make and see how they deal with the SS funding problem.
        http://www.actuary.org/content/try-your-hand-social-security-reform

        Its like a game….fun for the entire family!!! But really there are a host of ways to pick and choose from the menu of fixes that solve the problem.

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      • From the report j r linked to:

        Program cost equaled 4.2 percent of GDP in 2007, the last pre-recession year, and the Trustees project that cost will increase to 6.2 percent of GDP for 2036, then decline to about 6.0 percent of GDP by 2050, and thereafter rise slowly reaching 6.2 percent by 2087.

        Whether you think an increase in Social Security costs of two percent of GDP is cause for panic is of course an individual matter. We have all known for a long time the retirement of the baby boomers was going to have some consequences. An additional cost of two percent of GDP seems pretty reasonable.

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      • 2% GDP is the difference between a recovery and a recession.

        It’s over 300 billion dollars in 2012 dollars, or almost 50% more than what the old age and survivors fund is paying out now. The ‘tweak’ then, would be to increase the FICA-SS tax from 12.4% (split between employee and employer, where applicable) to somewhere over 18% (probably knocking off some percentage of that by lifting the cap.) In any case the average household pays about a 1000 bucks more (in 2012 dollars) per year, and amount equal to (but opposite) what was considered stimulus in the last two recessions.

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      • In the case of Social Security, the 2% isn’t lost; it’s redistributed. It’s not like a recession. Of course the redistribution has some consequences, but the analogy to lost GDP during a recession is false.

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      • It ain’t going to be redistributed toward avant-garde art or space elevators.

        In any case, the point is that it’s not chump change, either in absolute or relative terms. A 50% increase in the single biggest item in the unified budget cannot be.

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      • Clawback,

        Possible tweaks to get over the baby-boomer-bump could also include shifting already collected revenues away from current allocations and towards SS. Part of the problem with that type of solution is it’s politically impossible. The the GOP seems more focused on dismantling it (as part of their Tax Cut!/Cleek’s Law fixation) than making it economically sustainable and liberals in the electorate seem intent on trying to weather the storm without any significant changes to the program (tho I think Dem politicians are pretty amenable to cuts – temporary or otherwise – to weather the storm and keep the program intact). So that option isn’t on the political table, as far as I know.

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      • In any case, the point is that it’s not chump change, either in absolute or relative terms. A 50% increase in the single biggest item in the unified budget cannot be.

        It’s spent. Everyone — including the GOP — has accepted that. You don’t see any ads, or politicians, talking about cutting Medicare for the boomers. It’s always “55 and younger”.

        SS doesn’t have a problem after the Boomers are gone. So literally, everyone and their moms accepts that the big giant increase in Social Security payouts is going to happen.

        So why on earth would we cut payouts after the demographic lump has been digested and over with? To somehow “make back” money that’s already been spent?

        That sounds like a great idea. Let’s screw everyone under 55 twice. First, we’ll raise their taxes AND cut their benefits for the sake of the Boomers. I don’t see that being a lasting political proposition.

        (Not to mention this was all PLANNED for in 1983. Every single bit of it. Including, yes, the fact that excess SS money was supposed to go into the general fund and be spent. They cut taxes in 1983 to ensure it. Because what else were the supposed to do? Invest trillion in stocks with a known sell-by date? Suck it out of the money supply then shove it back in? Really, investing in your own debt is pretty much the only option for the US. And now, of course, that the whole thing is supposed to reverse — tax rates rise on those that saw it cut and the excess income used to pay the debt and redeem the Trust funds, well — suddenly it’s an unforeseen crisis. No it’s not. It’s people welching on a debt, and trying to stick it to their kids — twice).

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      • Florida. Full of old people, loose gun laws, and general wackiness. Maybe that’ll solve the problem as they all stand their ground against each other.

        Hopefully they’re good shots, or else poor Medicare will be stuck with the hospital bills.

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      • I really didn’t mean to threadjack and the steer this into a conversation about entitlement reform. My original point was only that median voter today, and likely into the future, has less trust in SS than he or she did in the past.

        That fact affects the political viability of any future new large, top-down entitlement programs. Part of what helped sell the ACA was the assurance that individuals would get to keep programs that they like and the idea that it was using market mechanisms to fix the current problems.

        On economic issues, America is still a slightly center-right country. And that means that as soon as the Republican Party gets it act together or implodes and allows a new party to emerge we will be back to having two parties fighting over that median voter.

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      • American’s are center-right nation (kind of) when it comes to benefits going to other people. When it comes to benefits they’re recieving, American’s make Swedish people look like Rothbard.

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      • I’ve been wondering about the neo-con and Christian Fundamentalist alliance on Israel for a long, long time.

        Keep in mind that I do consider myself a Zionist (now this will draw out the crazies). Also keep in mind that as far as I can tell it drives the GOP bonkers every two to four years that most Jewish Americans still vote Democratic. Sheldon Adelson and Jennifer Rubin and William Kristol being among the exceptions.

        You are right that large parts of the Christian fundamentalist/evangelical community support Israel because of their interpretations of the New Testament and End Times. You also note correctly that in this vision the Jews will convert or burn (Christianity never quite worked out the awkward fact that Jews are the chosen people according to their old Testament.)

        So I have to wonder what the neocons are playing and as far as I can tell the only logical explanation is that they either think the enemy of my enemy is my friend and/or they are playing the evangelicals for dopes. On the other hand, the evangelicals might think they are playing the Jews for dopes.

        I’m surprised no enterprising soul as started asking Jewish neocons about Christian evangelist prophecy on Israel and getting the Commentary crew on record saying that they think Michelle Bachmann and others are wrong when it comes to that stuff.

        This is just me though.

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      • It’s not that complicated, in either direction. Christians have the theology about the old covenant between God and the Jews having ended with Christ all worked out. And until the End Times come, the neocons can partner with Christian fundamentalists with no difficulties.

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      • Christians have the theology about the old covenant between God and the Jews having ended with Christ all worked out.

        Covenant Originalism is for the birds.

        Living Covenantalism FTW.

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    • “Meanwhile, the left still has far to go in crazy”

      Really?
      “In the last couple of weeks, in which we have been, on both sides of the aisle, standing up for the rights of the oppressed, trying to make sure that in Venezuela, that dictators there aren’t shutting down the opposition, the same thing in the Ukraine, at the same time, you have a chairman of the government oversight committee literally electronically cutting off the mic of the opposition to prevent him from having any say or participation in the hearing,” Wasserman Schultz said on MSNBC’s “Now With Alex Wagner.”
      DNC chief: Darrell Issa silences opposition

      There is a false equivalence here. One person is a backbencher headed out the door.
      The other? One of the leaders of the Democratic party.

      By the way, I am a registered Democrat.
      To be honest though, it is more out necessity than admiration or commitment.

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