our nightmare | Fredrik deBoer

The future that I envision amounts, depending on your perspective, to either a betrayal of the liberal dream or its completion. In this future, the traditional foundations of liberalism in economic justice and redistribution are amputated from the push for diversity in terms of race, gender, sexual identity, and related issues. Our elite institutions such as exclusive universities, large corporations, and political bodies come to recognize that the dearth of diversity within their halls makes the lie of meritocracy too obvious. It’s not difficult, after all, to look at the Fortune 500 companies and note the great paucity of women and people of color in the executive ranks. This lack of diversity is clear on its face. This is an embarrassment to these institutions, and helps to demonstrate that the great American story of equal opportunity and the self-made man is a myth. This obvious injustice prompts scrutiny, criticism, complaint, even while these institutions have demonstrated their ability to resist reform.

In the future I imagine, these elites essentially “get smart” about their lack of diversity. They endeavor to make their institutions more diverse, not out of any principled attachment to the moral case for diversity, but out of a self-protective need, an understanding that they have to get more diverse in order to preserve the status quo. They thus set about to achieve superficial diversity within their ranks. They probably won’t ever achieve true proportional representation, but will improve sufficiently to quell much of the criticism they’ve engendered. Note that this doesn’t require conspiracy or coordination; it could simply happen over time through the increasing prevalence of diversity discussions in our national conversation, as the savvier among our elite classes realize that they can’t ignore these criticisms forever.

From: our nightmare | Fredrik deBoer

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140 thoughts on “our nightmare | Fredrik deBoer

  1. If you gave this essay an enema, you could fit it into 140 characters. Stating over and over that something is “catastrophic, suicidal” is not actually an argument. One thing that could help is if Freddie actually thought about the millions of black voters and activists that rejected the Sanders agenda as rational actors who are interested in improving the country, and not some blinkered herd that’s been duped by Broad City.

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  2. Hmm. Where to start.

    Elite insitutions with varying degrees of sincerity and success have always touted their diversity statuses. My undergrad institution had people mainly come from public schools but a good plurality came from private K-12 educations. The wealthier and whiter private school students defended the number of poor students that their private schools admitted on scholarship. I also know a few people who were scholarship students for their entire educations from Kindergarten to their graduate/professional degrees.

    But this is just a maintenance of the status quo in many ways. You keep the system alive by letting a few people in.

    Yet the Democratic Party is not quite a Wall Street Party. The Democratic Party embraced ACA which helps all and still has a large chunk advocating for true single-payer health insurance. There is also the Sanders wing.

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    • ACA is wall street grabbing money, dude! That’s also why it’s never going away.

      The Democrats are royally butt-fucking the rural districts (possibly even unintentionally), and that’s by ramming through laws that aid Wall Street in their schemes. (Seriously, it’s in the Washington Post)

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    • Elite insitutions with varying degrees of sincerity and success have always touted their diversity statuses.

      Always? No. That particular silly shtick was pretty low-grade 35 years ago. I don’t think it has much of a history antedating 1966.

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        • The point of an educational institution is to educate. You want clientele who can perform at the pace your instructors set and you want a revenue stream which allows you to meet expenses and particularly your fixed costs (so you are cautious about aspirants who will tax your domestic resources for financial aid). You also want a measure of order on your campus and you want to debar and excise those who would repel others. The clientele who want the degree and certificate programs you offer will self-select. What should not interest you beyond the concerns so named would be the characteristics of individual students or such characteristics considered in aggregate. You’re not a better institution because you have more blacks or better because you have fewer blacks. The whole mess of turning schools into patronage mills is a status game that works to the detriment of just about everyone except the krill who get jobs as diversicrats.

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          • Ideally the point of an educational institution is to educate but most of the elite universities in the Anglophone world acted just as much as glorified finishing goals for what one Harvard President called the “idiot sons of the wealthy” for decades. They did produce some legitimate research but that wasn’t that was kind of a sideline. Oxford and Cambridge acted as glorified finishing schools for centuries.

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            • Really? What’s a ‘glorified finishing school’? (And, while we’re at it, what do you have against finishing schools?).

              And when you’re done with those questions, maybe you could tell us why your complaint is at all relevant.

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              • Its to refute your point about educational institutes always being about education. That has never really been the case for the entire history of educational institutions, especially at the higher levels. There was always some social aspect.

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                • Granted there’s a social aspect. Which means to me that both you and Art have a point here since whether the purpose of education’s social role is to exclude the “socially inappropriate” from attaining jobs or to ensure that job attainers are trained in “social appropriateness” amounts to a distinction without a difference wrt employment. (Certain) degree holders are appropriately trained either way.

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                  • By finishing school, I meant something a bit more exact than that. During the Gilded Age and really up until the mid-20th century in some ways, the elite universities really did exist for what amounted to a aristocracy in the United States. They were places to send your sons and daughters to acquire a bit more polish between high school and work or marriage. Hence, the idea of Gentleman C’s. You aren’t supposed to exceed academically but to gain something harder to define. Jews were not popular because we took the school side seriously. We were what they called grinds or in English swots.

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  3. The great promise of shared abundance, expressed most powerful and achieved most significantly in the great American labor and socialist movements of the early 20th century, will be dead.

    If there’s a stat in the record books that needs a huge honking asterisk, it’s this one.

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    • Exactly. It needs a couple-few of asterisks. One noting that it was largely enabled by the fact that following WW2 the United States had about half the world’s productive capacity. That was always going to be an aberration, globalization and trade policies aside. Another noting that that all of the New Deal and Great Society programs that supposedly helped create and spread this abundance had a dark side that reinforced the trend of some animals being more equal than others. And add a third asterisk explaining that much of the growth was enabled by expansionary fiscal policies that ultimately rely on an unsustainable debt path. In other words, our collective wealth was always due for an NPV write-down and we’re likely to face further write-downs in the future.

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      • Poverty went way down under the Great Society programs and i’d say, ymmv, that the New Deal was vital to pulling this country through the Depression. Yeah those programs were infected by racism. Which is of course the fault of the racists in both parties not the overall programs which worked.

        Other than that WW2 was the biggee of course to the US becoming so powerful. I’m not really sure what he is referring to but i can’t see how it makes much sense.

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        • I’m not really sure what he is referring to but i can’t see how it makes much sense.

          Don’t know who the “he” is, but if it’s Kolohe’s comment and my cosign, then all we have said is that whatever success those programs had comes with an asterisk. Not sure why that is at all controversial.

          If you want to start talking about efficacy, then you need to be more precise. The New Deal gave us Social Security and the FDIC, but it also brought the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) and the NRA, which sought to force economic growth by burning crops to restrict supply and severely curtailing competition within a number of industries. Great Society gave us Medicare, but also the housing project.

          Was the AAA “vital” to getting through the Depression? Do you want to defend razing existing neighborhoods to build superblock public housing structures? And, as I said, even the programs that are supposedly successful, like Social Security and Medicare, are fiscally unsustainable in their present form and in many cases benefited past and present recipients by imposing arrears on future generations (hence the NPV write-down).

          And yes, we haven’t even touched on the institutional racism inherent in things like the New Deal’s support for restrictive labor unions or the Federal Housing Administration.

          I get why some people don’t want to recognize that much of the prosperity and security that certain middle-class Americans enjoyed in the post-war period came by virtue of a price imposed on others. It gets in the way of the preferred progressive narrative of “we’ve always been on the right side of history.” Nonetheless, facts are facts, regardless of your preferred narrative.

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          • I was unclear, by “he” i meant Freddie. I’m not sure what he is referring to since that bit doesn’t make much sense.

            Of course the post war success was based on most of the world being rubble. I said that. I’m a fan of the New Deal and Great Society even with their flaws and the racist attitudes that hampered them. Of course some of it didnt’ work. Yup. And that proves??? Try anything out and some won’t work. If you ever got all you wanted some of it wouldn’t work.

            I get that you dont’ like liberals. But if you want to see someone who is apparently sure they are always on the right side of history i think you can check the mirror. Or to put it differently, every sporking movement thinks they are right. You do, conservatives do, liberals do, etc. That doesn’t make liberals eviiiiiilllll anymore than any other groups. Not only that but everybody can point to facts that back up their side. I’d certainly say i have more than others, but than again everybody says that.

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            • greg,
              fer christ’s sake, he’s just trying to say that the Great Society/New Deal programs were a mixed bag. He’s not trying to run a blade through Social Security.

              I FAR prefer honest critiques of “liberals did stupid shit” (because, um, we did!), than the more-than-borderline-dishonest “liberals are the real racists!”

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          • If you want to start talking about efficacy, then you need to be more precise. The New Deal gave us Social Security and the FDIC, but it also brought the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) and the NRA, which sought to force economic growth by burning crops to restrict supply and severely curtailing competition within a number of industries. Great Society gave us Medicare, but also the housing project.

            The National Industrial Recovery Act was annulled by the Supreme Court in 1935. By contrast, production controls in agriculture were the mode from 1933 to 1981 and still maintained for some years thereafter. Public housing was not an innovation of the Great Society, just promoted during the Great Society.

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            • It’s a little more (but perhaps I’m being pedantic) complicated than that. The first AAA was also invalidated by the Supreme Court, but the 2d continued more or less the same price setting schemes. (I think, the AAA isn’t my specialty.)

              The NRA was invalidated, too, as you said. But it almost definitely would not have been renewed in 1935 (it had a sunset of two years) anyway. Congress did pass NRA-like schemes after the fact, like the Guffey Act, which of course was also invalidated.

              /pedantry

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          • And yes, we haven’t even touched on the institutional racism inherent in things like the New Deal’s support for restrictive labor unions or the Federal Housing Administration.

            Syndicalisation of the Gompers or Lewis variety may be a poor idea. It is not ‘institutionally racist’ unless caste distinctions are incorporated into union contracts and union rules. Syndicalisation does tend to injure the more impecunious class of worker, but that is not racist per se. The FHA attempted to provide mortgage insurance for slum properties ca. 1967. A chapter devoted to the ensuing mess may be found in Francis Rourke’s Bureaucratic Power in National Politics.

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            • It is institutionally racist if the law enshrines unions with a monopoly on collective bargaining powers and those unions exclude blacks and other minorities, especially with regard to skilled positions.

              Again, this is just historical fact, verifiable. I’m not offering opinions and analysis.

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              • jr, there is no such thing as ‘collective bargaining’ without a localized monopoly.

                I’m sure you can find examples of disagreeable union rules and the longshoremen at least had separate locals for black and white workers on the Gulf coast. Again, these features are local to particular agreements and sites. They’re not a feature of unions per se.

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                • there is no such thing as ‘collective bargaining’ without a localized monopoly.

                  That’s certainly not logically true: collective bargaining is a process whereby a group of people’s interests are represented by an individual at a bargaining table (rather than each person “bargaining” individually, obvs), which is distinct from that collective’s monopoly power, accorded by law or otherwise. In practice, tho, I tend to agree with you: CB rights are usually conjoined with monopoly power, or desires for such power, regarding management’s access to a certain type of labor force.

                  Also, I’m not sure I understand your response to j r’s claim that It is institutionally racist if the law enshrines unions with a monopoly on collective bargaining powers and those unions exclude blacks and other minorities, especially with regard to skilled positions.

                  That seems to me a perfect example of institutional racism. In your response are you agreeing or disagreeing?

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                    • There is nothing inherently racist about promotion of trade unionism. The unions may have racist policies.

                      I agree on both points. But as j r said, when codified by gummint doesn’t the combination of those two things result in institutional racism?

                      I mean, we’re talking about outcomes here, not priors, yes?

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                  • You can have multiple unions representing different bargaining units of a company, but each is the sole representative of his unit. The AFL was strict about jurisdiction and the CIO, aiming for workers not yet organized, had industry-wide committees at the outset. It was in the 1970s you began to find one union raiding the bargaining units of another to the detriment of the whole.

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                    • You can have multiple unions representing different bargaining units of a company

                      You could also have multiple unions vying for agreements with the same unit of a company, tho, yes?

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        • Among the asterisks is the fact that the period commonly recognize as the ‘height’* of American prosperity, 1965 or so, isn’t in the “early 20th century”

          *insofar as people think the peak of prosperity wasn’t 1999 or 2006.

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        • Poverty went way down under the Great Society programs and i’d say,

          It didn’t. Great Society programs were not responsible for improving living standards and some of them tended to induce beneficiaries to lay off working and skill development or to introduce sclerosis salient for those working the low end of the labor market. The big beneficiaries of those programs were the elderly. Medicaid in particular promoted a redistribution of the addled and infirm population to functionally specific institutions and institutions run by philanthropic and commercial concerns in lieu of state institutions.

          ymmv, that the New Deal was vital to pulling this country through the Depression.

          The bank holiday, the devaluation of the currency, Glass-Steagall, the FDIC, HOLC, the WPA, the CCC, the PWA, yes. The rest, irrelevant or in some ways harmful (especially the NRA and the minimum wage laws).

          Which is of course the fault of the racists in both parties not the overall programs which worked.

          The Republican Party does not bear any responsibility for the pathologies of Democratic programs or for the attitudes within the Party of Segregation generally.

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      • And add a third asterisk explaining that much of the growth was enabled by expansionary fiscal policies that ultimately rely on an unsustainable debt path.

        Nope. During the period running from 1929 to 1961, you saw deficits when you’re supposed to see them:

        1. During financial crises.

        2. During times of production below capacity.

        3. During general mobilizations

        4. During ordinary business recessions.

        Keep in mind that the Roosevelt Administration during the period running from 1933 to 1941 turned in one balanced budget and one very near balance in spite of the economic slack, and did not run deficits exceeding in size 4% of gross domestic product. In spite of the general mobilization (1917-20), the serial banking crises (1930-33), tremendous economic slack (1929-41), and the beginnings of a second mobilization in 1940, the ratio of federal debt to domestic product on the eve of the 2d World War was around 0.52. That can be serviced with interest payments < 3% of domestic product. There was an enormous run up of debt during the war, but that really could not be helped. It stood at 119% of gdp in 1946. The Truman administration and Congress successfully cut military spending from 1/3 of domestic product to 6.5% over two years and turned in balanced budgets in 1947 and 1948. It was only after 1960 that Congress lost the capacity to balance the books. However, the deficits were modest prior to 1970. The real loss of capacity was manifest during the succeeding 30 years.

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        • Expansionary fiscal began in earnest with tax cuts in 1964, followed by increased spending to fund Great Society and the Vietnam War.

          Debt didn’t start to rise until the Reagan administration, but a good portion of our long term fiscal sustainability issues relate to Social Securitynand Medicare.

          So, yup.

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        • Yeah, I was trying to keep it simple, but there was a whole international economic/monetary framework established at Bretton Woods that gave the dollar a special place in the global economy. By the 1960s, Europe has developed to a level that makes parts of this arrangement untenable and the economic orthodoxy of the preceding twenty or so years starts to break down. Much of the pendulum swing that culminates with Reagan’s election in 1980 stems directly from this break down.

          I’ve got a draft of a post on this started and any day now, I’ll do enough work on it to submit.

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    • Kolohe: If there’s a stat in the record books that needs a huge honking asterisk, it’s this one.

      There’s a more appropriate symbol for indicating a qualifying footnote on the success of socialist movements: †

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  4. I read the full essay yesterday. He really could have boiled it down a bit as Triz noted. It’s better to judge the success of system by how the median person succeeded or even those in the lower quintile then well a few different kind of people slip into the highest echelons.

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  5. Freddie doesn’t want to admit that what we call the left does not necessarily share a single systematic view. In a two part system like yours, it is a mirror image of the right which practically everyone agrees if not united by any systematic worldview.

    He especially doesn’t want to admit that the part that cares most about nationalising banks and neoliberalism tend to be very white while the part that cares most about diversity and GLBT issues is more diverse and often more accepting of capitalism. The second group want access to the fruits of capitalism, not to abolish it. And while be thinks some grand vision of equality columns unite the two concerns, the second group didn’t really understand equality in quite the same way.

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    • I partially agree. Though for the second group, I would say there is still a capitalist skeptic bloc or a bloc whose critiques of the free market/capitalism are a secondary concern.

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    • I wouldn’t necessarily say that the part of the American left that cares about diversity or LGBT issues is necessarily that supporting of capitalism. Both groups have been historically very radical in their economics and saw capitalism as part of White domination or heterosexual domination until recently.

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      • I’m nearly certain that if you sample a group of LGBT activists, and then a group of diesel mechanics from Oklahoma, than you will find more anti-capitalist attitudes among the LGBT activists than the diesel mechanics. But so what? I’m pro-regulated-market, pro-mixed-economy, pro-basically-capitalism-but-let’s-not-be-stupid-about-it. I certainly don’t want to “tear down the system rah!” — cuz I don’t want to go up against the wall. Plus, to be honest, I do very well in the current economy. I just want to make it more fair to those who didn’t get my luck.

        So yeah.

        #####

        Freddie is an irritating ninny on this topic. He always has been.

        Revolution ain’t coming, and it would be awful if it did. Instead of the glorious future of the rising proles, we’re gonna muddle through with what we got, shifting things on the edges, fixing what we can when we can, seeking justice when it is clear. It’s about reducing harm, mitigating injustice.

        Things ain’t perfectible. But all the same, getting more minorities and LGBT folks (and so on) into positions of influence and authority is on the whole good — since a world with no authority is a fever dream.

        What Freddie is advocating here is (a version of) accelerationism. It’s the notion that, if “the system” can be just good enough to stave off revolution, then we won’t get revolution. In his view, a committed leftist should thus oppose small measures.

        Fuck that guy. He ain’t paying the price.

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        • What caused that revolution in Syria?
          Whaddaya wanna bet that we could have the same thing happen here?

          Sometimes revolutions steal in silently, inch by bloody hard-won inch.
          And sometimes they explode.

          [I like that Carnegie and company read Marx and made sure it wouldn’t happen here. They might have been bastards, but they were smart bastards who knew when to compromise]

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          • @veronica-d

            Revolution in the general understanding? Nah. Fall of the empire, yes indeed. It’s only a matter of time. The interesting thing will be how the transition happens. Will it be like Britain after WW2 or more like the French revolution?

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          • Regardless of whether a Syria-style revolution could happen here, I think it’s a gimme that a Syria-style revolution actually happening here would be pretty much the exact opposite of “good”.

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        • Yeah, this. Identity politics and class politics are tightly wound together in the United States in ways that they aren’t in the rest of the world. The belief in free market capitalism in one form or another has always been part of the American ideology. This has placed anti-capitalist beliefs on people on the margins of American life for most of American history. It could be immigrants, people of color, LGBT people, and white people that can not and will not conform to mainstream American life.

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          • LeeEsq: The belief in free market capitalism in one form or another has always been part of the American ideology.

            Again, something that requires an asterisk. American governments, federal and state, have always been pretty strong on property rights (again, with provisos, caveats, exceptions), but for more of the time than not, they’ve had a pretty large quite visible hand in *markets* – particularly at the state level, and particularly in the South.

            While this may seem like a pedantic nitpick rabbit hole, I do think it addresses the heart of what seems to vex Freddie. Putting aside my opinion that the utopian ideal he seeks isn’t a good idea at all, with the shifting tides of populism, ideology, and cultural affinity within and across the political parties in the US, the lost Eden he thinks we can get back on the track towards never really had the trains going in that direction to begin with.

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            • I said it was part of the American ideology. That is different from being part of actual policy. Being for free market capitalism used to be something that all good Americans were supposed to be for. The Know-Nothings attacked German immigrants for trying to introduce such dangerous and Un-American ideas like labor unions and socialism into the United States during the 1840s and 1850s. Anarchists and other radical leftist groups got most of their support from immigrants for similar reasons. Anglo-Protestant Americans had a long anti-Socialist streak.

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  6. I don’t want to overstate this, because I think the rest of the commentary in this thread raises some extremely good objections to Freddy’s essay, but he has a germ of a point that the non-socialist left needs to grapple with. I think there’s definitely a strain within the left-of-center that’s far more comfortable dealing with issues of racism, sexism, ableism, etc. within the elite than with broad class-based advocacy. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but it would be an enormous moral failing for Liberals to abandon the latter and settle for the former.

    Even if we reach a world where a ::insert historically marginalized group:: that goes to Harvard and then gets hired by Google can go through life without ever being troubled by the stubborn issues of race and gender and so forth that we struggle with today, there will always be a lot of people that can’t succeed in a pure meritocracy. But their dignity and well-being is just as important as those that can succeed once the barriers of race and gender and such are knocked down. The left needs to remember that. It’s just that remembering that doesn’t necessarily mean voting for Bernie Sanders.

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    • I’d phrase the issue a little differently than you would. It is true that there are centrists and moderates who are more willing to deal with what could be called identity issues more than economic or class issues. The actual debate in the left is a bit more complicated. Many liberals and leftists argue that in the United States, economic and class issues are tightly wounded with issue about identity, particularly race and the two need to be dealt with together. Others argue for a more broad based approach like De Boer.

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  7. As others, I read the essay yesterday and, as others, I thought that it is best considered minus some of the overwrought prose. Freddie has a habit, not necessarily bad, of equating his personal feelings on things with an objective ethical stance. There’s nothing wrong with very personal writing on economics and social science, but that sort of thing needs to be read through a filter.

    That said and my comment above aside, Freddie is mostly correct. Much of the work of the Democratic Party concerns doing just enough progressive cultural status signalling to keep the ghost alive while mostly serving to preserve the political and economic status quo. And more importantly, despite all the talk of diversity, there is likely to be a continued socioeconomic bifurcation that splits the population into an elite of high-skilled, mobile information workers and a low-skilled underclass, increasingly reliant on poorly-designed government programs. The ACA isn’t going to change this. Mandatory paid family leave isn’t going to change this. Hikes to the minimum wage aren’t going to change this. This trend is largely a function of technological, demographic and historical shifts that are mostly outside of the realm that politics can meaningfully affect.

    That’s not to say that politics cannot affect the way that we adapt to these changes. But at the present trajectory, we will likely continue doing all the wrong things. Even though I likely disagree with many of Freddie’s preferred solutions, I share his general pessimism.

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    • >>Much of the work of the Democratic Party concerns doing just enough progressive cultural status signalling to keep the ghost alive while mostly serving to preserve the political and economic status quo.

      Well, the party is now going through an internal struggle over whether to focus on economic justice or racial justice. Ideally, folks like Freddie would take this as an opportunity to re-evaluate whether their promise that “in Marxist America, racism would not exist” is a compelling one; and whether the pursuit of that promise has lead to measurable benefits for the needy. Instead, Freddie’s reaction is to label his critics revanchists, stooges for the bourgeoisie, who are failing the Revolution.

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      • Well, the party is now going through an internal struggle over whether to focus on economic justice or racial justice.

        I’m not sure how the choice between being the party of Goldman Sachs or the party of Occupy Wall Street has much to do with economic or racial justice. But hey, you’re welcome to buy into the branding if you like.

        The point remains, as much as Freddie’s dynamic is flawed by his personal feelings, what he is describing is generally accurate. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a real person.

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        • You mean the Debbie Wasserman Schultz that supports a higher minimum wage, voted for a more liberal version of the ACA, voted for card check, and a variety of other economically left policy proposals, right?

          I mean, DWS isn’t perfect by any means and you can question the efficacy of those proposals to meet their stated goals, but this idea that there’s a bunch of Wall Street shills on one side of the DNC and ‘real liberals’ is sort of silly. There aren’t really man Joe Lieberman or Ben Nelson’s left in the DNC. The question isn’t the long term goals of the party, it’s the policy to get there.

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        • Unless there’s good reason not to, I tend to describe people’s goals in the way they themselves would describe them. I guess you could see that as “buying into the branding” but I see it as not reflexively thinking that *I* know better what *you* want. Anyway, what specifically is accurate about Freddie’s dynamic? By what metric are elite institutions more diverse than the low-skilled underclass? Seems to me like the opposite is true (See Fig. 5 + 6 here).

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        • and

          Let me say this another way. There is a bit of battle for the center of the Democratic Party happening right now. Let’s use Elizabeth Warren as a hypothetical median. Team Hillary, or what I’ve facetiously called the party of GS, sits to the right. They make a lot of noise about economic reform, but are mostly happy with the status quo, choosing to focus most of their efforts on making marginal reforms to the existing financial system, taxing the wealthy slightly more, and augmenting the existing welfare state through things like raising the minimum wage and giving unions more power. The ACA is a pretty good example of this sort of reform. To the left is Team Bernie/Occupy Wall St, which wants to drastically alter the status quo by making significant changes to the financial sector, ratcheting up the highest marginal tax rates, and moving towards an explicitly social democratic welfare state model.

          In earlier times, Team Hillary would have been the moderate branch of the Republican party. Politics being politics, Team Hillary can’t admit this, so they bolster their progressive bona fides with lots of progressive cultural status signalling. There is a reason for #imwithher.

          By the way, none of this is meant to taint either camp. Wanting to make marginally reforms to the status quo is a perfectly acceptable point of view, as is wanting to make America more explicitly social democratic. They are just a different set of preferences.

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          • I agree with this whole comment. Especially this:

            In earlier times, Team Hillary would have been the moderate branch of the Republican party. Politics being politics, Team Hillary can’t admit this

            Whether she’s right or wrong to do so, she’s doing a liberal/progressive song and dance hoping the base buys it.

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  8. I think his essay would be a lot more persuasive if it were shorter, but for all its excess length, he’s barely able to name actual policy failures. It’s, perhaps not so ironically, all about cultural and tribal posing, with the actual objections boiling down to things like not specifically supporting single payer healthcare, as if that’s the only way to actually get good universal care.

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  9. Obviously, decades, even a century more of a lack of diversity has already put lie to the idea that we live in a meritocratic society, and that’s why we never hear anyone say such things anymore. It’s only reasonable to assume that the future will be exactly the same.

    ADDED: It’s weird when “socialists” repeat the arguments of libertarians.

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  10. and political bodies come to recognize that the dearth of diversity within their halls makes the lie of meritocracy too obvious.

    This is just silly.

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  11. I think this essay is a pretty good example of how most people who are into politics and I differ. What Freddy sees evyone as actors in a world that will either be a utopia or the end of times, I see people being people.

    I’ll have to think on this, because I really am just talking out loud right now, but I wonder if there isn’t something about political ideologies that makes it so that the more dogmatic you are, the more you dislike other people and humanity in general over time.

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    • Pretty much, this. I agree on the policies w/ Freddie probably 90% of the time and it’s not like I’m some sort of wishy washy moderate who lets people off for compromising. But, his whole “I’m the only real leftist and anybody who dares disagree with me is some kind of sellout or less true believer in the leftist project” shtick is so annoying that he regularly gets slammed by Matthew Yglesias and Erik Loomis, two people who are usually arguing whether one of them hates 3rd world workers because they either want them all to die in versions of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire or want them to stay subsistence farmers due to protectionism.

      Sometimes, it really is you, not other people.

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      • This isn’t my favorite post Freddie has written but I don’t think his point here is so absurd. I think it is pretty consistent with his usual argument that improving material well being for all people is more important than the optics of racial/gender/sexuality/whatever else inclusivity in elite institutions and pop culture. Generally I agree with him on this issue.

        I think where he loses a lot of people is in the assumption that everyone’s social/demographic circle looks like his. I’m pretty sure, at the very least, my Facebook feed is pretty similar to what he sees on social networks in that it includes a lot of college educated upper or soon to be upper middle class people telling (often hypothetical) others to check their privilege and chastising failures to adhere to the vocabulary of intersectionality. They will also scoff at anything other than supporting mainline Democrats who, while a bit gentler than Republicans, in large part still support policies that perpetuate inequality, imperialistic warfare, mass incarceration, etc. Its an argument against putting cultural preferences over policy to a center left that trends to see itself as non-ideological/technocratic.

        At least that’s the context in which I see much of his political writing.

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        • The thing is, every SJW or gender queer theorist or BLM supporter I know, and I live in Seattle, so I know a lot, also believes in single payer health care, a higher minimum wage, increase in unionization, and so on, and so forth. Yes, there’s some neoliberals around like Jonathan Chait around whose continually scared the PC Stormtroopers are coming to rule the world, but the vast majority of liberals I know care about abortion rights and the right to form a union.

          Which is why I think Freddie is kind of in a bubble of his own making. I think the real issue is that a lot of people who agree with him on policy have a much different strategical plan than he does, so anybody who accepts compromise isn’t a true Lefty. Like, does anybody actually believe how the ACA that was signed was anybody in the DNC leadership’s preferred plan, even if you think they’ve all been bought off by the healthcare industry?

          Now, I admit I’ve had personal reasons to not like Freddie in the past few days, but he always rubbed me the wrong way way before that, all the way to the days where he came to the LGM comments to argue.

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          • Great Points. Freddie strikes me as the kind of person who uses politics to prove how wise and good and pure he is. Anyone who disagrees is sullying his purity.

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            • Meh. Freddie has always been a passionate, sometimes shrill, voice. He takes this stuff seriously. He can be a bit of an ideologue but so can lots of people here. Freddie , when he was here, was never that good at even trying to sway people to his views. Although most people aren’t and don’t even try. He has gotten a lot better if you read all his posts. More introspective and clear headed, the post in question is an exception.

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          • I obviously can’t speak for him and I think you may have something when you talk about him living in somewhat of a bubble, though I’d venture that we all to varying degrees do.

            I guess I don’t read Freddie as saying ‘compromise is bad’ so much as saying being a self righteous scold about vocabulary and cultural signals makes it harder to build a coalition capable of implementing the types of policies you listed above (or at least something better than what we have). Obviously I can’t speak for everyone everywhere but from my post collegiate, urban bubble it does look like the mainstream center left is at the very least prioritizing the optics of inclusivity above economic issues in its rhetoric. I suspect, to at least some degree, that comes from living in a wealthy east coast state among a demographic of people (myself included) that has mostly never really experienced economic hardship and has the money to dodge the nastier elements of public policy. I think Freddie’s point is that this can gets lost in heated online discussions about whether or not there is some sort of racism or sexism involved in who won a Grammy.

            As a side note it isn’t clear to me that the DNC was committed to something better than the ACA in its current form. I’m agnostic on the subject but there are plenty of people out there who think the votes could have been there for a public option (again probably not worth litigating that particular issue it’s just an example). The more compelling one would be the substantial centrist Democrat support for the Iraq invasion and Obama’s drone warfare.

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            • I read freddie regularly and you have got it right InMD. He has talked at length about the problems he sees with college level SJW types. The language policing and internecine squabbling about signaling behaviors gets in the way of trying to make progress on economic/justice matters that could help a lot of people. He certainly see race/ethnicity/ etc as big issues but the loudest voices aren’t often getting anything done and hampering movement towards progress in other areas.

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            • Well with regards to vocabulary and cultural signals you should take into account that for the center left those things are easy. Those are institutional changes that are responsive to your left flank and cost very very little (so far at least, they have’t- note, bought into the more wackadoodle versions). Finally legally there aren’t any real blocks or brakes preventing them from implementing these changes.

              Economics? That’s hard as hell. There’s horrible tradeoffs, the electorate neither knows nor cares to know about those tradeoffs and there’s basically not an easy answer anywhere. Also the other side has and will readily use every legal block and brake to prevent any big changes (and most of our gov system is designed to make it easy to block major changes and economics are major). So of course you see movement on language and culture and no movement on economics. The former is relatively simple and possible, the latter is complicated and hard. What the heck would anyone expect?

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              • I agree with you in the sense that changes in economic policy are harder to implement and evaluate, and take a much longer time (and when Freddie gets into public ownership of the means of production in his post I suspect he is setting goals that aren’t possible or even desirable given what it would take to make that happen). I also think you’re right that the path of least effort in all endeavors is unfortunately the one most of us take.

                What I would question is whether or not the changes in language and culture really mean anything substantive at this point or if we’ve gotten as far as we can until older generations die off. Don’t get me wrong. I think it is better to banish overt racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. from polite conversation to the extent possible but I don’t think it’s value right now is anywhere close to, for example, reducing the number of people in prison. To use Freddie’s own terms (and this is only from my anecdotal observation) there seems to be more of a focus on being good than doing good. My view is that there is a qualitative difference between the two.

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                • But how do you measure these things, in such a way that you can be certain your own biases do not dominate? Which is to say, if minorities themselves are agitating for these social changes, then should we not at least consider that this fight still needs to happen?

                  I say, it’s a privilege thing, which of course it is. It is about perspective. Freddie can see what a white academic is prone to see. In other words, he doesn’t taste the barb of hurtful language, nor the dearth of good media. This is an old story. We’ve said it many times. So it goes. It’s all a tumult of politics. Just as “price signals” can only emerge from a marketplace, I’d say political insight must come from those who live in the thick of it.

                  Men don’t know what it is like to be a woman in the world. Whites don’t know what it is like to be black. We can read the social science studies (and we should), but the material interacts with the social and psychological is so many ways.

                  I’m a reductionist and a physicalist, but I’m not a naive instance of either. Language matters. Culture matters. Media matters.

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                  • I think you’re right that these issues matter and that’s why I’ve tried to be careful on this thread to hedge my comments in terms of my own perspective. I think that privilege discussion is useful insofar as it gets people to try, to the extent they can, to put themselves in someone else’s shoes before they cast judgment or get behind some policy or another. I think it’s also useful as a tool of self-criticism and reflection on whether our own views are as logical to everyone else as they seem to us.

                    However, despite those insights, it can also be a very limiting tool if it isn’t tempered because it causes people to focus only on the who, and the identity of the person arguing rather than the logic, rationality, or morality of the argument itself. This creates intellectual weakness, incoherent political stances, and, again, speaking from my perspective, results in energy spent on circular and overly serious arguments between (relatively) privileged people about cultural minutae. To me whether or not a black person gets an Oscar this year is so infinitely much less important than what we might do to stop black people from being disproportionately imprisoned or shot by the police that it’s hard for me to comprehend the Academy awards debates as more than a weird expression of narcissism.

                    The goal of thinking about privilege, in my opinion, should be to humanize people who are different from ourselves, so that we can support better policies for everyone, not ridicule political opponents or show how holy we are.

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                  • Goyim don’t know what it means to be a Jew but trying to make this point gets you know where in social justice circles. We just get assigned to the group the person wants us to belong to regardless of our actual desires.

                    One bug of democracy is that your going to have members of a particular group get legislated on by people outside that group. The best you can do is to provide legal protections so this isn’t in the form of persecution. By taking social justice to its logical extreme, you should see the wealthy as minority group use rights deserve protection.

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            • I always took Freddie’s protest against Social Justice as being more tactical than ideological like you described above. He is in agreement with their substantive goals but things that they are going about in the most ham-fisted way possible that will turn people off. He also thinks that the intensive focus on social goals is to the detriment of economics goals.

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            • >>I think Freddie’s point is that this can gets lost in heated online discussions about whether or not there is some sort of racism or sexism involved in who won a Grammy.

              This is a reasonable point to make in and of itself, but Freddie cast this essay within the Sanders/Clinton divide. Sanders is agitating for economic justice – free college, ACA-repeal – that lifts all boats. Clinton is riding a wave of identity politics and signaling. Those are the two sides he sees. Except we don’t have to take his word for it. In the real world, Clinton didn’t draw her most ardent support from intersectionalist meme-sters, she drew it from the black community and the civil rights old guard. And she did so resoundingly. To such an extent that Sanders essentially gave up campaigning for this vote and actively spun his losses in states with high black turnout as contests that don’t really count. There is absolutely no excuse for writing an essay about race, Clinton, and Sanders and not mentioning Sanders’ massive losses with black voters. None. It’s a reflection of how easily someone in a bubble disregards uncomfortable facts.

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              • I do think his post would have been stronger if he grappled with that issue, though I think Sanders success among younger black people outside of the South complicates your narrative a bit. I think the black vote would be a lot less monolithic than it often appears if the GOP hadn’t essentially conceded it over the last several decades.

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                • I think the black vote would be a lot less monolithic than it often appears if the GOP hadn’t essentially conceded it over the last several decades.

                  Fine. Come up with a promotional campaign they were supposed to make use of.

                  Catholics don’t vote Unionist in Ulster and anglophones don’t vote for the PQ in Quebec. The political culture among voting blacks was not like that in 1955, but it is today. Not much fruit in that tree to shake out.

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                  • Come up with a promotional campaign they were supposed to make use of.

                    A modest suggestion.
                    Maybe the GOP should actually seek out and speak to black people, and listen to their concerns and formulate a promotional campaign around that?

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                  • Come up with a promotional campaign they were supposed to make use of.

                    Do some outreach, ya know? Explain to black folk how deregulation, lower taxes on the wealthy, dismantling the ACA, and reducing federal support for the safety net benefits them. Should be an easy sell since most conservatives are so certain that THOSE POLICIES would actually lift black communities outa poverty and all.

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                  • Oh I think there would be plenty of ways to do it but they’d have to stop treating discussions about the social safety net as a racially charged dog whistle and supporting efforts to make voting harder for low income people. I am not a black person or voter but in my experince there are substantial segments of the black population that are very socially conservative and support ‘by the bootstraps’ type of narratives that the right kind of Republican could appeal to.

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                • I think the black vote would be a lot less monolithic than it often appears if the GOP hadn’t essentially conceded it over the last several decades.

                  “Monolithic” for Dems, or for Clinton in the primary? And if the latter, how do you account for Hillary’s monolithicness of the vote? I’ve been puzzling over that since day one of the primary, actually.

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                  • Regarding Clinton I think its hard to know. Why does anyone vote any particular way (policy preferences are certainly part of it but there are all kinds of other personal and psychological issues in play)?

                    My suspicion is that if you’ve been born with an economic disadvantage your highest priority is keeping those institutions in place that protect you. You don’t gamble on someone you don’t know very well who talks about a major reshuffling of the system. What you fear most is uncertainty. In those circumstances Clinton seems like a good bet. There’s also almost certainly a regional element to it as well.

                    Regarding the Dems generally… that’d probably be a much longer post.

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                    • That’s as good an answer as I’ve heard, InMD. Admittedly, tho, even that doesn’t satisfy the analytical part of my white-guy brain…

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                      • I mentioned in a conversation with Jay that the vague style of soaring rhetoric Sanders used is one the AA community has suffered and may have a natural resistance to it. Consider that the AA community was very Luke warm to Obama in2008 until Obama won Iowa and Bill stepped in it In South Carolina.

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                        • North,

                          I hear ya on that. And that claim’s context sensitivity is beyond me. I just go back to a) that Bernie advocated radical criminal justice reform focused primarily on black and minority incarceration rates and b) reminders that Hillary had referred to certain types of black criminals as “super predators” during Bill’s preznitcy (in addition to his enacted policies at the time). Stated that baldly (supposing I’m stating it correctly :), I just can’t quite square the circle resulting in 85%+/- Hillary support during the primary.

                          Course, I’m a white guy living in the suburbs nice part of town.

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                          • This article on white and black poverty from Ta-Nehisi Coates was pretty illuminating for me. Sanders could never quite shake the perception that he was for fixing economic inequality first, and racial inequality much later (if ever). For a black voter, that’s equivalent to not fixing economic inequality at all.

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                          • I’m not AA myself so I can’t speak for them but I get the vibe that it was the whole first impressions thing. When BLM first started agitating Bernie was very much in the “Yes but lets change the subject to economics.” and that’s what stuck. Then he got his ass kicked in the south, an ass kicking in which one of the kicking feet was most definitely the AA demographic and so he amped up his focus on that area and reminded everyone about HRC’s own problems*. So I would imagine that for AA’s outside of his natural constituency (the young) that wasn’t very persuasive.

                            *That thing everyone accuses her of doing, ya know, of pandering, tacking in response to the political winds and responding to expediency.

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                        • The African-American community certainly isn’t a stranger to soaring rhetoric. It might be different than Sanders’ soaring rhetoric but does exist. Younger African-Americans outside the South seem to prefer Sanders to Clinton along with the more outwardly radical older African-Americans.

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                          • Of course younger African-Americans outside the south prefer Sanders to Clinton. Younger everyone prefers Sanders to Clinton, along with Dean to Kerry, Nader to Gore etc ad nauseum.

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              • In the real world, Clinton didn’t draw her most ardent support from intersectionalist meme-sters, she drew it from the black community and the civil rights old guard. And she did so resoundingly.

                Maybe I am reading this comment incorrectly, but I’m not seeing the conflict. As others have pointed out, there is nothing particularly progressive or hard left about “the black community” or “the civil rights old guard.” My guess is that if you find disaggregated polling data, you’ll find that support for Bernie goes up with younger blacks, the same as with whites. The one SJW-ish demographic where Hillary outperforms Bernie is upper-middle class feminist women, who are really more SWPL than SJW, which fits right in with what Freddie has been saying about elites and a superficial commitment to diversity.

                Explain to black folk how deregulation, lower taxes on the wealthy, dismantling the ACA, and reducing federal support for the safety net benefits them.

                Not particularly difficult. Go to any black community and see how much economic activity is taking place in the black and gray markets. You don’t think that those folks would be in a better position if so many of our business regulations were not explicitly structured to favor incumbent interests? And it’s not about support for the safety net, it’s about how poorly designed and poorly administered much of the safety net has been. Lots of black people are ready to hear that message from a party that isn’t so openly hostile to their identities.

                If anyone wants to better understand the complicated history of America’s social services and how they were explicitly administered in a way wholly compatible with institutional racism and white supremacy, I recommend Sudhir Venkatesh’s “American Project.” It’s a really great work of ethnography. And the discussions of the policy negotiations happening around where these housing projects should be located is enlightening to say the least.

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              • I don’t think Clinton drawing her strongest support from the Black community, especially the old-guard and those in the political establishment in their areas, says anything conclusive one way or the other about the notion that Clinton has primarily ridden a wave of identity politics to her present position. If you listen to black media on this point, I think you will find it divided.

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            • I guess I don’t read Freddie as saying ‘compromise is bad’ so much as saying being a self righteous scold about vocabulary and cultural signals makes it harder to build a coalition capable of implementing the types of policies you listed above (or at least something better than what we have).

              I think I’d find his stance a lot more compelling if he didn’t spend so much of that piece (and other pieces of his that I’ve read) being a self-righteous scold about vocabulary and cultural signals.

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              • Honestly, I get the sense that Freddie doesn’t actually like we weirdos much. It’s like, his politics demand certain displays, and certainly he supports abstract versions of minorities, which exist in his mind, or on his TV (if he watches TV), or on the pages of the books he reads. But we in the world, flesh and bone, loud, angry — how can he shine if instead we get to shine?

                Which whatever. Here’s clever enough, but he’s the sort of “ally” who sucks energy.

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            • He’s wrong about that one. We’ll wind up seeing what’s the most important protest movement soon enough, I suspect. But probably not that one.

              Maybe it needs more bongo drums…

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            • Worth noting that Freddie has repeatedly stated that he sees BLM as the most important protest movement of his lifetime.

              Freddie sees all movements of the last 35 years as crooked humbug extravaganzas?

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          • “every SJW or gender queer theorist or BLM supporter I know…believes in single payer health care, a higher minimum wage, increase in unionization, and so on, and so forth.”

            And yet they are 100% on lock for Hillary Clinton, who is overtly not planning to do any of those things. Because Everyone Knows that Sanders can’t possibly win.

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            • Some are, some aren’t, but almost all of them realize that a Supreme Court full of conservative appointees would short circuit any progressive gains made by whatever insanely awesome progressive nominee we got in 2020.

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              • I’m fascinated to know what ‘progressive gains’ have been disallowed by appellate courts since 1937. As far as I can recall, you’ve faced some comparatively recent resistance to gun control measures and some resistance to campaign finance regulations. A great long time ago, an appellate court restrained a trial court from ordering cross-district busing of students in pursuit of the trial judge’s social projects. I suppose if you begin with the assumption that you should get what you want (imposed by courts if legislatures balk), these setbacks seem outrageous. To normal adults they do not.

                It does call to mind what Lloyd Cutler told Robert Bork 30 years ago about the public interest bar mobilizing against him: “these people have an agenda. Constitutional rights to welfare payments, that type of thing. They know you won’t give it to them…”

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                • Also affirmative action, gun control and voting rights act pre-clearance, off the top of my head. Plus, abortion rights have been steadily ratcheted back ever since Roe.

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                  • Off the top of my head, I would add limits on punitive damages against corporate entities, 11th Amendment jurisprudence and a great deal of case regarding class actions and mandatory arbitration. And standing, too.

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                  • Come again? The appellate court decisions inhibit diversicrats from implimenting explicit quotas. That’s all. The ‘voting rights’ decision merely allowed some jurisdictions to get out of the penalty box after five decades.

                    No ‘abortion rights’ have been ‘ratcheted back’ outside your imagination. The courts simply refuse to annul some inconsequential impediments. That annoys our repulsive public interest bar and the gruesome characters at Planned Parenthood, who want the courts to curb stomp their opposition with injunctions and RICO suits. It is true, of course, that the court majority did not buy William Brennan’s thesis that you have a constitutional right to Medicaid funding for your abortion.

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                    • So progressives instituted more aggressive AA policies than currently exist. That would be a “progressive gain,” no? And those policies have been invalidated by the courts, yes? Progressives passed the voting rights act that included pre-clearance. That was a progressive gain, yes? And it was struck down by the court, yes? Roe allowed fewer regulations of the provision of abortion than Casey and subsequent cases do, and Roe was a major progressive gain, no? If these aren’t examples of “progressive gains” being rolled back by thege courts, what definition did you have in mind when you used those words?

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                      • I dunno, but I’m kinda digging the idea that asking a potential gun buyer to drive 300 miles, walk past a gauntlet of screaming people to then get a wand stuck up inside his cavity, listen to a lecture on gun deaths, present written permission from his wife, all as being described as “inconsequential impediments”.

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                        • I dunno, but I’m kinda digging the idea …

                          This is exactly how the system is meant to work. The two sides of the culture war yell at each other a bunch and the end result is the government asserts more authority across the spectrum.

                          Neither side should be happy about this, but we’ve become so conditioned to gain satisfaction from seeing the other side lose that we become inured to our own loss of freedom and privacy, so long as we can be convinced that the other guy is getting it a little worse.

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    • but I wonder if there isn’t something about political ideologies that makes it so that the more dogmatic you are, the more you dislike other people and humanity in general over time.

      I’ve been saying that for years… :)

      (Roughly: For any Ideologue P and political ideology I, degree of self-identification as P(I) is directly correlated with rejection of P(~I).

      {{heh}}

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  12. Economic justice is hard, because it means I have to explain why I’m not giving away all my money.

    Social justice is much easier, because I’m not racist, I’m not homophobic, I’m totally woke, and so I don’t have to do a damn thing.

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