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America 2017 Is A Bad Marriage

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Note:  This piece is meant as an analogy regarding “normal” dysfunction in a marital relationship between two well-intentioned partners.  It’s not the author’s intent to include abusive or exploitative relationships within the scope of this analogy.  

Trigger alert – violent imagery in the context of a marital relationship.   The imagery is metaphorical and not intended to represent an abusive marriage.

Marriage is a strange endeavor.

Even under ideal circumstances, a significant part of marriage involves being stuck with someone who you like, academically, on paper, and who claims they like you, too, but for reasons that seem almost outside of your control, you can’t get along with. You deal with each other, you handle each other, you put up with each other, but you’re not really getting along. It’s not their fault, and it’s not your fault, but there’s this constant friction between you.

The unremarkable events of day to day life are imbued with a prickly significance. Even the happy times are negatively charged. It’s just there, this tension, all the time, ingrained behavior patterns and deeper meanings and a long and tangled mutual history that colors everything ugly. When things are good, you can mostly ignore it, but if the relationship starts to disintegrate, the embers flare into a conflagration and you find yourself shrieking at each other over an imagined slight that occurred in 1993.

America 2017 is a bad marriage.

It isn’t you, it isn’t me, it’s US. We’re in a rut and it feels too deep to climb out of. Everything feels weird and strained all the time. Everything is a THING. We can’t even talk to each other without finding some errant misspoken word to quibble over, some unforgivable implication that probably wasn’t even being made. We have to walk on eggshells. We can never just be together and have fun any more. We used to like mostly the same things and share mostly the same interests but now we feel like strangers. You like MMA, I like NPR. I’ve been going out after work with the Russians and you have a lot of pictures of some chick named Lena Dunham on your phone. We can’t even discuss finances or our children’s educations without it turning into this horrible fight where one of us dredges up things that happened during the Reagan administration and the other one spits the failures of Common Core back.

We’re grudge-holders, we have hair triggers. We’re constantly drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. We’re like the couple in the movie The War of the Roses who fights so hard that they end up destroying their beautiful home and accidentally killing each other because they just can’t get along.

There are no winners in a bad marriage. You fight and you fight and over time you realize no one ever wins this war. You both always lose. If you’re wise, you eventually conclude that sometimes, the only way to win, IS to lose. To give up, to give in, to compromise, to accept the imperfection, to settle. It feels like a defeat, but it’s the only way. Winning is not an option. The only victory available is Pyrrhic.

You can carry on as you were, refusing to compromise, playing only to win. You can keep blaming the other person for everything that’s gone wrong, refusing any and all responsibility, making each other miserable from now till forever. Or, you can decide to step up and own it. Not taking blame for crimes that you didn’t commit, not at all, but accepting that at least some of the disaster is a direct result of who you are and what you’ve done – even the things that weren’t deliberate, that you weren’t even fully aware of. Especially those, because they are equally toxic, and yet the hardest to control.

Doing this kind of self-evaluation not only helps you to be a better partner, it also helps you to realize that the stuff that your other half is doing, the stuff that drives you up a tree and around the bend, is also usually not intentional. Nobody wants a bad marriage. But it happens. It’s just life, it’s just exhaustion, it’s relationships being what they are, two imperfect entities coming together imperfectly. Sometimes we fall short. It isn’t you, it isn’t me, it’s US.

If both of you do this at the same time, you can meet in the middle and mutually acknowledge that there are patterns that the both of you tend to fall into. We don’t mean to hurt each other, we’re both acting in good faith here. We just have these shortcomings in the way we relate that we have to become more aware of. We have to decide that we are a team and that as a team, we will work harder to accept each other’s foibles and break those bad habits that we both have. We can learn to recognize the pitfalls and avoid them. We can forgive. We can rewrite the tired old scripts into a new love story.

We can do that as a country too.

I don’t think either America is bad. I don’t think either America is deliberately out to hurt each other. Both Americas have some amazing qualities and both Americas have a dark side. In some ways we fit like a glove, and in other ways we will probably never see eye to eye. But that is true of every couple. We have to stop seeing each other as enemies and start thinking as teammates, as partners. We have systemic problems, serious problems, that we must work together to fix. The first step is stopping the name calling and acknowledging that both Americas are acting in good faith. Neither side is evil or stupid. We are all well-intentioned people who love our country and want the best for it. We love each other and we want to be together, but we can’t do that until we stop tearing each other apart.

Divorce is not an option, America. We are stuck together, for better or for worse, til death do us part. Right now we’re behaving like conjoined twins in a battle to the death, punching and scratching and eyegouging and each of us trying to get an arm around the others’ throat. But if one of us dies, the other goes, too. By trying to destroy the other, we are destroying ourselves. If there’s a scale of self-destruction, America 2017 is set to overweight comedian – we are Chris Farley thinking, “hm, black tar heroin, sounds harmless enough, think I’ll give it a whirl.” That’s us. We are eating ourselves alive and no one can disengage from the conflict long enough to take a step back and see it.

So many of our problems are not my fault or your fault but OUR faults, both of us – we’re so caught up in this cultural war that we created together and we must dismantle together. To do so, we have to accept that we’re fighting a battle that no one can win. We’re walking down a road of mutually assured destruction unless we stand down and sheathe our swords.

Image by yeison_varon_velasquez

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Kristin is huge geek, a libertarian, and a mother of 4 sons and a daughter. She lives in a wildlife refuge in rural Washington state and works with women around the world as a fertility counselor.

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623 thoughts on “America 2017 Is A Bad Marriage

  1. I blame the fall of the Soviet Union as an existential threat. We could have our differences but we could all agree that we didn’t care to be vaporized by a Soviet ICBM. There was a tangible external threat and that’s gone now. I believe that’s why some folks are so obsessed with terrorism now, as a substitute for that threat.

    So we turn on each other. Sad.


      • It seems you find it painful that people like me, for instance, don’t share your level of concern over this. Unlike the unifying certainty we had over the threat of full-scale nuclear war with the Soviets.

        Is that right?


      • Oh, I remember 9/11 quite vividly. I happened to be home and watching CNN when it happened. I remember the — literal, physiological — shock that ensued. I was absolutely furious that my home had been violated. I wanted to fight, so much so that I actually looked into re-enlisting and was disappointed to discover I was too old, even with prior service. I wanted to fuckin nuke Mecca and Medina.

        But, you know… eventually I calmed down. It took a while but I did. And my rational side re-asserted control. And I learned more and I figured out that more dead bodies wasn’t the answer. It never is, it’s just more death.

        It just seems like some people are locked in a kind of PTSD. It’s not a healthy place.


    • There was a significant period where we all agreed that dying in a nuclear holocaust was bad, but during the same period didn’t agree that African American kids deserved to go to the same schools as white kids.


    • It actually started a bit before that. Basically you had 2.5 parties and 3 big issues, which didn’t align on partisan line. You had the New Deal lovers, this was basically the major dividing line between the parties. Then you had how aggressive to be on the USSR, where opinions differed within the parties. Then you had civil rights, which similarly had differences within parties, though this was the single issue for the half party. Now all the big issues are purely partisan issues. Despite the fact that there’s no reason why your thoughts on gay people, taxes or immigration are ideologically aligned, they are, so there’s no need to work across the aisle.


    • I’d also add that while folks knew that the soviets could nuke us, no one seriously believed that they would due to MAD. Unlike the current Islamic terrorists, that we all know both can and will kill us.


        • It is true that the Islamic terrorists can’t kill us on the scale the soviets could. However, the Islamic terrorists have killed more Americans than the soviets ever did and did so inside our own country.


          • You really think that if terrorists killed 15 million Americans we would just take out a cell and call it a day? Did you miss the entire decade following 2001? Also, it’s quite nearly impossible for a terrorist cell to kill 15 million Americans. Even if they set off a nuke, it would be at the ground level and would significantly reduce the destructive impact. You need delivery by missile to get a large, destructive hit.


            • Even a properly delivered nuke over the densest spots in America probably top out below 2 million.

              An amazingly and fantastically successful act of nuclear terrorism probably maxes out somewhere in the 5 figures range. Basically an order of magnititude bigger than 9/11, but not two orders of magnitude.


          • OBL couldn’t, in his wildest gooiest Allah addled wet dreams, even think about killing a round % number of Americans. Currently terrorists can’t even get up to slipping-and-falling-in-the-bathtub numbers of deaths. We don’t have a war on lightning strikes.


            • If we’re going to talk about OBL and what he dreamed of, well, he dreamed of a great unification of the Islamic world, polarized against the common enemy of the big, bad United States. He may or may not have envisioned himself as Caliph of this newly-reconstituted politically unified Islam, as he could not claim direct descent from the Prophet himself. But he certainly envisioned himself as the leader and founder of a new super-state. And he needed the United States to be the foil against which he could rally the faithful.

              Knowing this, President Bush refused to play the opposite number in the dance. He was careful to respond to 9/11 by announcing, again and again, that Islam was not the enemy and that he sought the counsel, alliance, and friendship of Muslims worldwide in our fight against terrorists, periodically making such announcements at mosques with prominent Muslim clerics at his side.

              (President Obama did these things too, but apparently that was somehow different because, well, you know.)

              Which is why I find President Trump’s rhetoric vis-a-vis Daesh, who has a leader that does credibly claim descent from the Prophet and has actually proclaimed himself Caliph, so reckless and ill-advised.


        • I would also add that terrorists have been researching weapons of mass destruction and trying to get their hands on them. Just b/c they have been limited to airliners in the past doesn’t mean they won’t find better means in the future.


          • Yeah and the Soviets were going to pollute our precious bodily essences through water fluoridation. Frankly the pants wetting hysteria of the right over the mass destructive capacity of a passel of Koran fondling goat herders from the Middle east never ceases to amuse me. So far since 9/11 the Islamics haven’t even been able to match our home grown nutcases numbers. Goes to show; Americans are better at everything, even terrorism.


            • So far since 9/11 the Islamics haven’t even been able to match our home grown nutcases numbers.

              On what basis do you make this statement? The gov’t doesn’t publicize every time they stop an attempted Islamic terrorist. Maybe if they did the left might get a clue.


              • The gov’t doesn’t publicize every time they stop an attempted Islamic terrorist. Maybe if they did the left might get a clue.

                Good point. Well, almost a good point. The government must publicize those numbers but only in media outlets the left doesn’t read or watch. Otherwise folks on the right wouldn’t have a clue either. But they clearly do.



              • Simple math? If the Islamic Terrorists make an attempt to kill people and get busted by the Feds or whomever that’s a failure. They haven’t killed anyone. So far Islamic Terrorists have killed enormously fewer people than home grown non-Islamic Terrorists have killed. Hell, even if I spot you a base and grant the home grown fruitcakes who posted credit to Islamic inspiration before going on their spasm the Islamics still fall short.


    • This seems like a very ahistorical take on Cold War domestic politics. During the Cold War, you had Americans that thought that building a welfare state and pushing for civil rights for minorities was a big important part in battling communists and Americans who thought that we needed to totally get rid of the New Deal because it was Communist and that the entire Civil Rights movement was also an attempt of the Communists to take over the United States. Americans might have been generally united against the Soviet Union and Communism but we were really divided on what that entailed when it comes to domestic and foreign politics.


      • I’m not saying that there weren’t serious political differences. I’m talking about the current hyper-polarization in Congress and, perhaps, the country as a whole. It wasn’t that long ago that there was considerable ideological overlap between the parties that simply doesn’t exist now. Just going back to the seventies or so, based on voting patterns, there was as much as a 200 seat overlap between the most liberal Republican and the most conservative Democratic House member.


  2. Even though I knew where this post was going, I’m going to have to take issue with the whole metaphor. Why? Because I can’t be the only person in America who was married and had a completely different experience that what you described. Let’s break it down:

    “Even under ideal circumstances, a significant part of marriage involves being stuck with someone who you like, academically, on paper, and who claims they like you, too, but for reasons that seem almost outside of your control, you can’t get along with.” Bullshit. My ex and I got along for almost 25 years as a couple (10 dating, 15 married). We got along famously. Hell, that’s one reason I married her.

    “The unremarkable events of day to day life are imbued with a prickly significance. Even the happy times are negatively charged. It’s just there, this tension, all the time, ingrained behavior patterns and deeper meanings and a long and tangled mutual history that colors everything ugly. When things are good, you can mostly ignore it, but if the relationship starts to disintegrate, the embers flare into a conflagration and you find yourself shrieking at each other over an imagined slight that occurred in 1993.” Err, no. Our “unremarkable days” were filled with inside jokes and television show references to express ourselves to each other in a way that others wouldn’t understand. We were a team, against the world. Each of us made the other a better person.

    Now we can move on to the rest…

    “We have to stop seeing each other as enemies and start thinking as teammates, as partners. We have systemic problems, serious problems, that we must work together to fix. The first step is stopping the name calling and acknowledging that both Americas are acting in good faith.” I didn’t start the name calling and bad faith actions. You want my help, the other side has to acknowledge their errors and sincerely apologize, because frankly, I’ve lost all trust in that side. Do you think I’ll just agree to this little truce when I cannot trust? I’ve been lied to my face for years.

    “Neither side is evil or stupid. We are all well-intentioned people who love our country and want the best for it. We love each other and we want to be together, but we can’t do that until we stop tearing each other apart.” Oh, I’ll agree that the other side is well intentioned, but that’s irrelevant. Well intentioned actions damage me. The other side made it harder and harder for me to live my life. The other side constantly interferes where it is not wanted. The other side inserts their views and opinions where they are not needed nor wanted, all for “the greater good”, which is achieved, not by bringing everyone up, but by eroding me down. And where there is push back, they claim to be the victim, call people names, and insult them.

    “By trying to destroy the other, we are destroying ourselves.” Oh yes, quite true. But why do I have the suspicion that the “forward plan” will be where I’m expected to compromise again, but the other side won’t want to do the same?

    “We are eating ourselves alive and no one can disengage from the conflict long enough to take a step back and see it.” Some of us did and we saw it. Some decided to take action, some decided to keep our heads down, some decided “whatever”.

    “So many of our problems are not my fault or your fault but OUR faults, both of us”. Err no. I accept ZERO fault. How can I accept blame when I’ve done NOTHING to create it and NOTHING to continue it?
    Sorry, that fault lies with the likes of the other side.

    To do so, we have to accept that we’re fighting a battle that no one can win. We’re walking down a road of mutually assured destruction unless we stand down and sheathe our swords.” The first act of a cease fire is that the side attacking sheathes it sword first. I’m watching and waiting for you to do that. But I’m sure as hell not holding my breath.


    • A metaphor is only good as far as it goes. You can always find plenty of examples that don’t fit, but there’s a larger point here. To try and stretch a metaphor to include every possible variation of human behavior under the sun would yield a terrible article. I hope any shortcomings can be chalked up to editorial decisions on my part to produce something readable and thought provoking even if it’s not applicable in every case.

      I don’t know your politics, don’t have a clue, but what I do know is that what we’re doing isn’t working. It’s not working! If the only solution on the table is contingent upon “You guys must unconditionally apologize and admit you were totally wrong or else I’m going to hold my breath till I turn blue and pass out from lack of oxygen” then you end up the one on the floor. Both sides seem pretty darn convinced that the other side is the one who started it, they’re the one attacking. Somebody has to blink first or we’re just going to rush right at each other. You don’t have to trust them, and in fact you can’t really, because trust is built over time and is not the result of one probably-insincere apology.

      The one thing I’ve ever heard Dr. Phil say that I thought was kind of smart, was “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?” It doesn’t MATTER if you are right or they are right or some other guy is right, if an insistence upon being right is destroying your relationship or your country. If you want to save it, that has to change. It’s at least in part allowing other people the grace to be wrong. We cannot force anyone to agree with us, that’s not how marriage works or how politics work. So we can choose to live chaotic, angry lives trying to force agreement when it’s simply impossible or bullying people into offering up insincere apologies but what does that accomplish, really? Does it get anyone what they really want – a happy marriage or a peaceful country?

      Doesn’t it just make the other siders stick to their positions even more strongly? Because that’s what I think. The more one party insists “we are totally correct and this is all your fault and I am utterly without blame” the other party digs in and starts saying “nu-uh” to everything. We have to find the things we DO agree on and build from there even though sometimes it feels like a knife to the gut and you’d really rather be pointing out all that sh– they did that caused the problem in the first place.


      • Yeah, I realize it was a metaphor, but I don’t think it’s a good one. That being said, my politics generally disagree with both left and right, so frankly, I’m the aggrieved party regardless. So, yes, “the other side” started it…regardless of whether we’re talking left or right. Any apology must be perceived as sincere.

        I’d rather be right and happy. I AM right and I AM happy. Because in the grand scheme, politics, of any kind, doesn’t define my life, unlike so many who can’t possibly associate with someone who thinks differently than themselves. As someone who thinks differently than the vast majority of people on either side, I’ve become used to it. Both sides policies come from fundamentally the same place, so the “sides” are really more like clone varients than two separate people.

        I’m the “brother in law” in your metaphor. Occasionally taking the side of one party or the other, in the on going argument. And I’ve opted for a “third way”. At some point, the marital couple will come to blows and one party will be defeated. The victor will be wounded and weak. That’s the time to finish them off. And if the warring parties somehow end up burning the house down around them, with or without me inside it, well, that’s a gamble worth taking.


        • I’m with you in the 3rd way, but I do want to express concern with the idea that we can just let em all duke it out and see what happens at the end of the day. Human history has been one long chain of terrible things happening to good people, innocents getting constantly crushed under the wheels of political machines that they had no control over.

          This brief shining moment in modern times where a lot of us have pretty awesome and free lives (even if freedom is not always perfectly enacted in the way we would personally prefer it to be) is not the rule, it’s the exception. It’s much, much more likely that any real shakeup will end up with many of us little people crushed under wheels of theocracy or progressivism or some other -acracy or -ism as the course of human events returns to its natural, pretty sh– channel that it normally flows in.

          So, I want to make peace before that happens. Peace means we can maintain what part of the republic we have now and work through peaceful, political channels to gradually get more of what we want. Peace means we can still affect change, only maybe more slowly than we would like, and it may mean having to compromise and eat some dirt sometimes. That’s a gamble too, no doubt about it. May not pay off, but I do think that it may be a safer bet than having a civil war and seeing what shakes out when the dust settles.


          • That ain’t gonna happen. The experiment that is “democracy” is on it’s way to failure and I don’t think there’s a fix. Sure, we can slow the speed of the car racing to the cliff, but it will go over the cliff, baring something extraordinary. I simply will not be a part of it. And as for all those innocents? Well, they aren’t all that innocent.


            • The experiment that is “democracy” is on it’s way to failure and I don’t think there’s a fix.

              Too much democracy creates problems. But so does too little (hence, democracies!).


            • No political entity can last forever. Democracy is an unstable equilibrium, like one of those old plate-spinning acts. But it’s so much better than the alternative that any effort to keep the plates spinning is worthwhile.


            • The innocents are you and me, Damon. We’re the innocents. Unless you’re independently wealthy and live on your own private island that has an invisibility cloak, the odds are very good that any conflagration will sweep us right up into it in one way or the other. Just like how a serf working the land and minding his/her beeswax could be conscripted into the tsar’s army or starve to death because war destroyed farmland or used up so many resources that there is nothing left to feed people.


              • Yes we are. My solace is that I’ll hopefully see the quislings burn along side me. I hope to see the realization on their faces that their betrayal comes with no reward and that they are expendable. It’s a small hope. But I’ll enjoy the trip to hell a bit more if I get to see it.

                I’m going to live my life and do my thing…we’ll see what happens. “Give me that and let the galaxy burn. I do not care anymore.”


  3. I think James Francis has a point even though the ACA is not quite the Heritage Foundation plan. I also think Road Scholar is not right either. There was plenty of violence and hate aganist civil rights protestors in the 1960s, look at photos of sit in demonstrations, people had the entire restaurant dumped on them.

    I get that culture war is tiring. It tires me too. But these are real issues for a lot of people and you have one side that is fighting for a life of equality, decency, and dignity and another side that thinks granting such would invite the wrath of God or they are just shits.

    Federalism will never be a good fit for the left. I don’t see why minorities in California or Massachusetts should have more rights than minorities in Alabama or Mississippi. The right has never been sincerely federalist either.

    Partisanship runs high and always has.


      • Why not?
        One is a factual claim (global warming is happening) the other is a normative requirement (we should open borders) that seems to have nothing to do with the factual claim.


        • Murali,
          In 20 years, America won’t be able to feed its current population. Right now, with open borders, we’d have 1 billion people immigrating to America (this was not the case 20 years ago. Things are getting bad pretty much worldwide).

          That’s four times our current population.

          We can do a lot more to save people if we keep them in third world countries.


  4. It doesn’t help that we have a political\talking head class that gains immediate benefit from keeping things tense. It’s like a friend or family member who enjoys creating strife.


    • This is it for me. Incentives matter and right now the incentives for the political class is to maximize conflict for the benefit of their respective audiences. It’s worse in the media.

      In a marriage, there is some incentive to be seen by the outside world in a certain way, but at the end of the day it’s just the two of you getting in that bed at night.


        • I’m not surprised at all. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that electoral politics is, by its very nature, bad behavior. The difference is that we used to expect politicians to be quick about it, stick withing the agreed upon limits, and have the common decency to feel bad about it when it was all over.


    • They gain benefit from increasing tensions because we grant it to them. The blame falls on us. If you’ve clicked on anyone “destroying” anyone, you’ve contributed to the problem. On a related note (I probably should have saved this for a different minithread, but it really does tie in), I don’t think that both sides are acting in such good faith. In the spirit of the article, I won’t allocate blame, but at this point, there’s plenty to go around. It takes a generation to go from “I don’t trust them because they’re out to get me” to “I’m out to get them”. I think a sizable percentage of both sides is now out to get the other side.


      • Pinky, I am inclined to agree (neither side is acting in good faith) but I do feel that there is a big psychic benefit in treating everyone involved in a conflict as if their motives are pure, and then hopefully they rise to the occasion. But yeah there is plenty of blame to go around.


          • I completely agree. Introspection is a lot less “sexy” than shooting first and asking questions later but it’s the only way to really get through a personality conflict (and I’d say most political conflicts are at least somewhat personality-driven). “am I really being fair here? are my positions right? do they have a valid point? do we have any common ground at all?”

            Any argument where one person is a snowflake and the other is a racist and unconditional surrender of one party is the only acceptable outcome…no one would ever bend in that situation. Even if one side lost, it would be a resentful defeat and the problem would just keep simmering to flare up again later.


  5. I think the fact that politicians are mostly incentivized to activate their bases is a factor. I think that media gets more views and clicks from controversy is a factor. And I think that we communicate more in text is also a factor, because we no longer hear people’s voices. I just read this piece about this effect.


    • I am not sure I fully agree but see what you are saying. There is a lot of unnecessary anger and getting really upset at people you will never meet in real life.

      On the other hand, why not take someone’s hyperbole at face value. What is to gain from listening to someone who calls transgender rights a form of totalitarianism?

      I get the desire to think all political debate can be handed like a very polite tea party but I think it is wrong. Not everyone (including myself) is malleable and some people really do have noxious views and ideas and are authoritarian bullies.


  6. Good writing Kristin.

    The worthy part of the fight should be to the death. Left anti-authoritarians should not be ruled by right authoritarians. Right anti-authoritarians should not be ruled by anyone. That is a fight of freedom, of which surrender should never come. Despotism is in constant need of a fatal wound, yet a throne is cultivated repeatedly.

    I have for a time tried to figure out where the tension exists, I look to where we perceive freedom comes from. Some of us see freedom as primary, and order flows from that, others see order as primary and freedom flows from order. That conflict can only be resolved by subtracting power, but people who demand the order, by default, demand the power. There is no solution to that aggression. Since we are born this way all that remains is endless conflict.


    • Thanks, Joe. I have wondered many times if this may be just part and parcel of the human condition. Maybe we were just so lucky to live at a point in time where things were a little better and now the pendulum will swing back. I hope not, but I don’t feel very optimistic right now.


      • Kristin,
        In 23 years, every single worry you’ve got right now will be something you will laugh about.
        I believe in Global Warming, and therefore, I believe we’ve got a monumental crisis on the way that we’re not even trying to prevent.

        Everyone who does public policy knows better, they just don’t have the will to make Joe Shmuck Believe.


          • Kristin,
            Well, we managed to not lose the earth the LAST Presidency, so I guess there is hope that 8 more troubles will head off into the ditch (Okay, 7 if you count Hillary).

            Even so, if we don’t manage to head off Global Warming, it ain’t gonna matter all that much if we haven’t broken the entire world — it’ll be almost as bad.


              • Joe,
                The Powers that Be just want to kill some people (and some of those idiots have some GRAND ideas about eugenics which will lead to preferential treatment for psychopaths… Not a good situation, no).

                The Smart People? They’ve given up on “making sure there’s no problems”, and are trying to see if they can save Civilization in General.

                Because the way we’re going? We’ll have over a billion refugees, with nuclear weapons backing them. We will lose Bangladesh (and that wall’s already built, so fuck all the Bangladeshi good and hard, eh?), we will lose Miami, and we’re going to lose Israel (oh, yeah, MORE nuclear weapons in the hands of people backed against a wall. Never fight a cornered rat applies here).

                The Smart People are letting Donald Trump play the villain (with Hillary and Obama’s invaluable assistance), and maybe if we can keep most people out of America, maybe just maybe we’ll be able to feed the people already here.


  7. Damon: But why do I have the suspicion that the “forward plan” will be where I’m expected to compromise again, but the other side won’t want to do the same?

    The problem with compromise, when it comes to freedoms, is that is never truly a compromise. Some people believe that all speech should be free, with no exceptions. The other side believes speech should have restrictions A, B, C, and D. The people that support free speech say “No!” The people that support restrictions say “Fine, we will settle for restrictions A and B.” On the surface, it looks like a compromise, but it is not. Speech is no longer free, and the base line is now removed. Later, those who support restrictions say “We want restrictions C and D,” and the compromise is to settle for C. One side gained almost everything they want, and the other side only lost.


    • Some things, of course, are worth fighting for. No compromise.

      What I do not like, is this trend where “they” (the powers that be) seem perfectly willing to compromise on freedom, but go to the mat for things that are horrible or pointless. I wish they’d show 1/1000 of the determination they have for acquiring pork projects for their districts, fighting for free speech.


    • The problem with compromise, when it comes to freedoms, is that is never truly a compromise.

      Once you describe everything as a matter of “freedom” or “right”, and nothing is ever a “duty as a citizen”, then every compromise is indeed surrender.

      For example, is SSM the freedom of gays to marry their loved ones, or is it the withdrawal from “orthodox” people of the freedom to fully embrace a life of morality?

      Every other person is an impingement on one or other of my freedoms, as Asimov taught us in The Naked Sun. Unless we want to end in a planet with only 20,000 fully “free” humans, we need to incorporate the “Others” in our mental maps, and allocate space for their freedoms and rights, too. Any discussion that goes only Me, Mine, and never says You, Yours (*) is not worth having because it won’t produce anything.

      (*) Including “You are a finishing moron and Your proposals are fishing bovine digestive byproducts” regretfully does not count


      • When your citizens are individually sovereign, there is no duty. Of course you can try to make the case that individual consent isn’t a real thing, but subjective value will eventually eat that lunch.


        • When your citizens are individually sovereign, there is no duty

          There is the duty to respect the individual sovereignty of others. (Without going on the tangent of “government should not be involved in marriage”) should Kim Davies have the freedom to deny marriage licenses to people that, in her individual sovereign opinion, should not get married at all? Does this impinge on the individual sovereignty of the couples to marry whom they chose?

          If your answer is that “marriage is a social construct” (which it is) and we should abandon all social constructs, you are already in the path towards The Naked Sun’s Solaria (*). The only way to have unlimited individual freedom is to remove any contact with others, and to have a private army (of robots in this case) to enforce that no one is able to use force to make YOU do anything.

          Because we are not 20,000 humans splitting up a planet, its impossible to live without continuos social interaction, and mechanisms to enforce the agreed upon interaction mechanisms. That means rights and duties, and restrictions on my sovereign freedom.

          (*) Why so many places in fiction are called Solaria? There are other names for the Sun


          • “There is the duty to respect the individual sovereignty of others.”

            What does that look like, a individual sovereign respecting the individual sovereignty of another? Doesn’t that involve negotiating what rule of law should look like between those two sovereigns?

            This is where self-governing lives, people negotiating disparities in individual constructs. You can try to form a government and try it top down, you want to know what that looks like? Man, if you want Hobbes you get Hobbes, good and hard.


            • This is where self-governing lives, people negotiating disparities in individual constructs.

              Two things:

              I would have to individually negotiate every single aspect of my life with a myriad of sovereigns. Stepping out of my house requires me to identify the person who owns the street in front of it and negotiate a toll with her, and then repeat with the owner of the next street, and so on, until I get to my work. And if I want to go visit new a friend, I need to set up negotiations with the owners of the streets between me and him. It’s a great improvement over paying taxes and having the city build and maintain the streets.

              Enforcement. After several weeks my use and toll agreement with the owner of the street in front of my house is signed, but now he is not cleaning the street up to the terms of our contract. Who should I call to enforce him fulfilling his duties? A band of mercenaries? After all, is not as if there is a top down sociatal enforcement of contracts mechanism, that would be Hobbesian and dystopic.

              , in your dreams for a world of freely negotiated individual constructs you are ignoring that most interactions you are having with other humans are interactions that happen in the background (like building and repairing all the streets between your home and your work place). To remove the non-negotiated background interactions, you have to remove yourself physically from everybody else. That was the point of Solaria: a planet cannot have more than 20,000 people before I impinge the sovereignty of my closest neighbour (for instance, by polluting the air donwind with the smoke from the campfire I built to cook the rabbit I captured; do I have my neighbour’s consent to add smoke to HIS air?)

              Show me how you plan to specifically address driving from home to work without relying on social constructs and Hobbesian schemes, and we can discuss.


              • “I would have to individually negotiate every single aspect of my life with a myriad of sovereigns.”

                In ways, you do this anyway, where you bump into other people. Now some social norms have probably been produced to make this easy, but if those social norms disappeared overnight, you would find yourself re-negotiating.

                Same thing if you travel to a different country or culture, you find yourself negotiating the terrain of other peoples constructs. This is just the way it is and has been since before the noelithic age.

                I can’t figure out why this sounds so new and novel, or even a foreign concept. It’s like step#1 in getting along, and step#1 in self governing. Have people got to a point of dissolution they can’t grasp the concept?

                “To remove the non-negotiated background interactions, you have to remove yourself physically from everybody else.”

                I don’t understand this at all. In capitalist economies where capital formation occurs at the individual means of production, people are connected directly through interaction. Now this gets slowly pushed into social constructs when people don’t want or know how to produce infrastructure through individual means, but this isn’t unworkable through individual constructs.

                It just shows how disconnected the average person is from the infrastructure they rely on. Cascade failure of social constructs often forces people to directly participate to even survive.

                Negative externalities? Again, is it a problem? Is it a solveable problem? What are the available solutions?

                If your not speaking with people about the externality in relation to their individual constructs, then what are you doing?


                • I notice you remain in high level generalities about societies, and foreign cultures, and haven’t yet explained to me how are you going to manage the practical aspect of walking into a street that you have to pay the owner to walk on.

                  I want to know how your world works on the nitty gritty practical level of getting groceries home before we settle the grand metaphysical questions


                  • Fine lets go nitty gritty.
                    Either the road is built by a private individual, and a fee is charged for usage of the road until the road is payed for, or the owner trades value of people adding value to the road by investing materials or labor to compensate for fees. when the cost of the road is payed for, the fees are no longer charged, until maintenance is required, then the fees start again until the maintenance is complete.

                    There are plenty of miles of roads in private gated communities that no government had a hand in building, except maybe creating codes.


                    • Either the road is built by a private individual, and a fee is charged for usage of the road until the road is payed for

                      And how do we pay for it? Do we sign a contract with him and direct debit a credit card? What about the next block? And the next? How many private streets between your house and your work place? Can you only drive or walk on those streets you have already signed use agreements with? How does it get controlled, is there a barrier that needs to open every time you turn a corner? Otherwise Enpleada would drive my street without paying me. It gets complicated when I drive through hundreds of different blocks on a given week.

                      …when the cost of the road is payed for, the fees are no longer charged, …

                      Why not? It’s my bloody street. I charge for it for ever, I’m a sovereign, you see. And if I don’t like you, find yourself another way to walk out of your house, pal.

                      You cannot refer to laws of general applicability -like “after the road is paid and until maintenance is required”- about how the system is supposed to work because systems are collective constructs. Unless every single individual agrees to the “system”, there is no system. Every sovereign freely does what he wants to. That’s what freedom means.

                      There are plenty of miles of roads in gated communities that no government had a hand in building, except maybe creating codes.

                      And then those streets are transferred to the city/county (unless it’s a coop gated community). My family built an industrial park in land we owned, and that’s how the rule works. We had to transfer tittle of the streets to the city, who then took care of the upkeep.


                      • Look, I don’t have time to unpack the complete workability of base capital systems, and the fact your pushing me in a corner to try and explain how it works is precious.

                        What do you want, you want to hear me say base capital systems are unworkable? The only damn solution is ever increasing public property. Man whatever makes you happy, and sleep good at night.

                        I know how private roads are made into public roads, that’s crossed my desk more than a dozen times last year. Guess what, sometimes the public entities don’t want those damn roads because it means more maintenance costs.

                        Maybe you can explain to me how the socialist system is more workable, i need a really good chuckle about now.


                        • Who said I’m a socialist? (Besides you). I’m just a person that has had to work the details of large organizations, and I know that it rarely can be done with great general declarations of principle.

                          If the details are too much work, and not important to think about, then the enterprise is doomed from the start


                          • Technically I didn’t say you were a socialist, I just wanted the socialist system that people usually point to when they are all anti-capitalist. If that’s not you then I apologize.

                            I avoid getting to far into the nitty gritty because I would completely loose most people. I mean if social constructs were collapsed, we wouldn’t have a official military or the federal government. I mean that right there is enough to distort most peoples train of thought beyond comprehension.

                            If you took all the automation technology that has advanced around industrial automation, and instead would have focused that automation to individual means of production, things would look very different.

                            Even in the complex organization you are involved in, if that hierarchy was flattened horizontally to individual production, the effectiveness of a general declaration of principles is just as ineffective horizontally as it was vertically, no? So maybe this is more semantics, than disparity.

                            But even beyond that if the organization is built of individuals that negotiate their individual preferences to get along versus those that don’t care to get along and expect every rule to be made to fit their comfort, these two different types will produce two very different organizations.

                            One of these organizations will likely not even be sustainable.


                            • Another reason to avoid getting into the nitty gritty is because the simple fact is, who could ever truly predict what would evolve to fill the niche? We can’t predict the type of system that human ingenuity and cooperation and increasing technology would come up with in a less-centrally planned world any more than Henry Ford could tell anyone what the design of a 2017 Ford Taurus would look like. It’s just mental masturbation to do it and a huge waste of time. But just because it’s pointless, does not then mean that nothing would fill the void. Something invariably would.


      • Damn, database ate my comment, let’s try this again…


        But that doesn’t really address the idea of compromise, does it?

        Sure, the total freedom to do X is a fiction. There will always be constraints around the freedom to do X because there are 300+ M people in the US, and enough of them are asholes* that we need some limits.

        So the real issue isn’t that there are constraints. The constraints that exist are a reflection of society and are thus quite fluid. They can, and very often do change. The problem is that some parties are only ever interested in adding more constraints, and are unwilling to discuss examining existing constraints before adding more (a twisted version of Chestertons Gate – do not question the gate!). You can’t find a compromise if one side is unwilling to offer any concession. That’s demanding total surrender.

        *For varying values of asshole


        • So the real issue isn’t that there are constraints. The constraints that exist are a reflection of society and are thus quite fluid. They can, and very often do change. The problem is that some parties are only ever interested in adding more constraints, and are unwilling to discuss examining existing constraints before adding more (a twisted version of Chestertons Gate – do not question the gate!). You can’t find a compromise if one side is unwilling to offer any concession. That’s demanding total surrender.

          But that looks like “some people are assholes, and until you prove to my satisfaction you are not an asshole, my prior is that you are indeed one, and I will refuse to consider the validity of your arguments until I believe you are not an asshole, by agreeing with my arguments to begin with”, all of which sounds very assholy to me.

          What I’m saying is that your mental map needs to start with “compromise is not necessarily surrender, and I need to consider that other people’s rights matter if I expect them to do the same courtesy to me”. Your prior should be “You are not a per se asshole, until you demonstrate that you are one”.

          And then deal with assholes as the exception, not the baseline


          • You are not a per se asshole, until you demonstrate that you are one

            Sadly, there are an awful lot of people, pundits, and politicians who eagerly demonstrate that they are, and seem to take some twisted pride in it. Makes it hard to treat them as the exception.


    • Your example is too misleading to be usable. Neither of the two dominant “sides” believe in free speech without conditions or restrictions. Very few people believe in it that way. There are always libel laws, security concerns, copyrights, and a dozen other things that reasonable people can think about and see a place for reasonable restrictions. I’d need to see a better example, or I can’t buy into your overall position.


      • Well he did say ‘people’ instead of sides, which takes it out of the context you are using. It puts it in the political spectrum, of which when you take the number of people who do believe there should be no restrictions becomes quite large in number.


      • Pinky: There are always libel laws, security concerns, copyrights, and a dozen other things that reasonable people can think about and see a place for reasonable restrictions.

        Which are perfectly good examples of how the baseline has already been moved over the years from Freedom of Speech to Freedom of Speech with examples.

        When I talk about sides, I am not talking about right or left, progressive or conservative, or whatever. I am talking about those who support a right and those who want to restrict the same right. It can be any right: right to vote, right to bear arms, right to due process, or any other right. I kept it vague, because I was not trying to get sidetracked in a discussion about freedom of speech, only making the point that compromises tend to move in the direction of restricted rights and reduced freedoms.


        • compromises tend to move in the direction of restricted rights and reduced freedoms.

          Is that really true though? I can think of a number of ways in which freedom or rights have been significantly enhanced in the last 40-50 years. I think this is true if we are talking either constitutional rights or more general colloquial freedoms or right to pursue your own path as you see fit.

          As an example, the rights of criminal defendant’s have been greatly expanded in recent years. So, right to counsel, expansion of due process, and 4th amendment protections are areas in which individual rights have grown significantly from their original understanding. And this is true even if the right to counsel requires a small imposition on other’s freedom or rights in order to provide that counsel. Even our free speech rights are as robust as they have ever been (though their may be people who advocate for poorly thought out policies, or legislatures who try and pass questionable legislation).


            • Not a well-formed question. “Rights” arise only in the context of a society. Otherwise, you have force.

              The neat trick that we’ve pulled in this country is that we’ve taken broad statements of rights, like Due Process and Equal Protection, and through a combination of public action, legislative action and judicial action applied those concepts to groups who were certainly not the original intended beneficiaries.

              This is one part of constitutional interpretation which is simply impossible to resolve. What matters, the intent of the drafters with regard to the then-existing society, or with regard to the concept? Sure, gay marriage was not even a concept in the 1860s. Does that mean that the EQ clause doesn’t apply?


                • Where is the monopoly of force located again?

                  With whoever can kill with impunity.

                  I find it interesting that you (and others! a long list of others…) think that a societal structure in which the monopoly on “legitimate use of force” is constrained by rights is no better than a society in which it isn’t.


                  • Just because I mentioned ‘rights’ above doesn’t mean I believe in them, or that society or anyone outside of those who hold them will defend them.

                    That’s part of the problem, I was trying to unpack. It doesn’t really mean anything if society says something is a right, because it can just as easily say something isn’t a right.

                    That government thingy quickly becomes a nacho government, which quickly becomes no longer legitimate.


                    • Just because I mentioned ‘rights’ above doesn’t mean I believe in them

                      Aren’t you the person who argues the merits of individual constructs as they oppose social constructs? What are individual constructs based on such that they have more merit than a social construct? You may not want to call that a “right”, but at that point I think the game is over since your preference needs to reduce to something which holds (by your view) objectively.

                      It doesn’t really mean anything if society says something is a right, because it can just as easily say something isn’t a right.

                      We’re not talking about what society says, but what you and I say. So, what say you?


                      • The way I see it individual freedom is the primary of which order is derived. That frames rule of law as a individual construct.

                        Now we can dance around whether individual constructs are equal to or the same as individual rights, but it won’t matter, because the pivot point turns in individual construction.


                        • ” rule of law as a individual construct”

                          This simply makes no sense. The rule of law is based on the community’s decision (a) to establish law, and (b) to demand that the members of the community obey it or suffer the consequences.

                          “This is my rule of law” is no law at all; it’s just a threat. “Your money or your life” is the language of the highwayman.

                          Sure, there are such things as taxes. But taxes are the price of civilization. A society that functioned on the basis of voluntary taxation — each citizen deciding what taxes he will pay — will soon collapse into anarchy.

                          Put it another way — the rule of law means that the members of a community have an agreed-upon way to resolve disputes. In our system of government, disputes affecting everyone, like tax burdens, get resolved in a legislature. Disputes between individuals are resolved in a court system. (Historically, there were no such thing as public prosecutors. If a person committed a crime against person or property, the victim or her family prosecuted the perpetrator.) People who refuse to accept the agreed-upon system of dispute resolution either leave or don’t do well.

                          For example, plenty of people in criminal court defy the authority of the court to punish them. It doesn’t go well. But there are no walls keeping you here. If you cannot and will not accept the constraints imposed on you by your fellow citizens, then I encourage you to find a country more amenable to your philosophy.

                          Or live in one of the many wide-open spaces that this country has to offer. From Alaska to West Texas, there are plenty of communities with very low population density and very little intersection with mainstream America. Those communities mostly do just fine until they do something that really annoys law enforcement.

                          One final note: I know very little about the constitutions of foreign countries. But what little I remember (which is quite possibly wrong) is that the idea of “rights”, especially as seen through our system of constitutional rights, is quite rare.


                          • The country of the policy angels has swooped into many a other country and tried to lay down ‘rule of law’ as seen through the ‘proper’ modern liberal lens.

                            They do this without bending to locals individual constructs on many axis. Guess what, after decades of playing this little song and dance yall still haven’t figured out it doesn’t work worth a damn. Either in other peoples nations or in this nation.

                            News flash. You don’t own the world. You don’t even own social objectivity. Universal/Ultimate truths died in the era of Premodernism, yet here we are, with the people who can’t put it down.

                            Keep imposing, keep aggressing, really keep doing it. Classical liberalism at least had some harmonics to individual sovereignty. This new modern liberalism, no, that’s alright. You can keep it.


          • That’s what I was thinking too, Gaelen – just because some unfortunate compromises of late have yielded less freedom it doesn’t mean that they always have or always will. We’ve won some real victories in the liberty department since the country was born, certainly, within the last century definitely, and even within our lifetimes. It isn’t ALWAYS an inexorable march to loss of liberty. I think we sometimes forget about those victories because they are “as it should be” and we focus more on things that aren’t the way we want them to be. Something being the way it ought to be feels like less of a victory, but it is one, really.

            If we’re forced into a compromise to preserve the republic, we can retake that lost ground at a later point in time. If we won’t compromise and instead contribute to an air of division and cultural hate so deep that the republic can’t function or is even destroyed, then we may lose our ability to retake lost ground forever because whatever comes next may not be up to us and it may not be a republic at all.

            I do agree that there’s a concerning undertone of late where an awful lot of people seem to care very little for protecting liberties but I’m not sure upping the ante on them and making neighbors into enemies is going to get us any portion of what we desire here.


    • The issue seems to me that as Lee points out, we have highly partisan parties and no one understands what a reasonable compromise is.

      There was a brief time in the 1950s and 60s when there was a true post-war consensus and the Republican Party seemed to make peace with the idea of a regulatory state and some forms of social welfare. Rick Perlstein and others pointed out that this quickly unraveled. A lot of people still really hated the New Deal and any idea that there was a role for government to provide social welfare. This faction decided to take over the Republican Party. The GOP of the Obama years is the logical conclusion of this effort. Total No.

      So you have a party that believes that government has a role in providing a safety net and this party contains everything from full on calls for single payer to people who would use income tax credits and other wonky things and you have a party who believes that welfare is Communism Light and this is unacceptable.

      What is the compromise here?


      • If we could even get the politicians to understand that there are problems ahead, then maybe we’d be in better shape.
        as it is, I don’t give a flying fuck whether they compromise or not. They’re still the Titanic heading straight toward the iceberg and not trying to turn.

        Both parties, all sides.


      • Obviously, your side is not simply guided by the idea that there should be a safety net +/- specific programs. If it was, you wouldn’t have to mischaracterize the other side as being against all social programs.

        Is it not possible that the compromise could be keeping some programs but getting rid of others?


        • Which social programs (other than social security/medicare for the currently-elderly but dramatically scaled back for others) are republicans for? In answering, I’d be interested to know whether the programs you identify exist in any of Ryan’s various Obama-era budgets.


      • My first comment was to the partisan character of your comment. I wanted to make a second point to the idea of compromise in general, and I figured it’d be better to post is separately.

        A compromise doesn’t have to be on a particular issue. It could be a social program for border enforcement, or education reform for gun control. Those aren’t compromises where one side wants 3 and the other side wants 5 so they settle for 4. I think there’s been a change in our politics in recent years – politics defined as the art of the possible – in that those kind of compromises are no longer so possible. People want the social program for border enforcement, except no border enforcement; education reform for gun control, but a filibuster against education reform. Make a flat-out trade and you’ll get primaried.

        The most prominent examples of compromise in recent years have been during budget crises.


        • I don’t think that this was ever true. During the Cold War, you had Ronald Reagan rallying against Medicare and Medicaid and none of the opponents of Civil Rights said that in exchange for tough anti-Communism and support for South Vietnam, we will accept civil rights for African-Americans.


        • I agree that politics has changed. My working theory is that it comes from two places: (1) absence of earmarking making it difficult to persuade maybe-voters by funding some project in their district (which is often wasteful but a definite lubricant in deal-making); and (2) the increased ideological alignment within parties (for much of our history, each party was an alliance of multiple ideologies — e.g. the liberal democrats and southern we-won’t-forgive-Lincoln Democrats)


  8. You know that thing where we kept having The Most Important Election Of Our Lifetimes for a while there?

    That ain’t sustainable.
    It feels like we’ve switched from “this is an iterated prisoner’s dilemma” to “this prisoner’s dilemma now has an end point at some point in the future”.

    Which changes the optimal strategies… and hastens “some point in the future”.


    • I agree but who gets to say what is and what is not an important election and why. You are right in a big picture kind of way but the big issue is that the parties are becoming ideologically parliamentarian but we don’t have a parliamentarian system. So we need up with one party constantly stating repeal the entire welfare state and another party that wants to expand the welfare state.

      How do you lower the stakes without federalism for reals this time?


      • I didn’t say “an important election”.

        How do you lower the stakes without federalism for reals this time?

        My read of the situation is that we have two choices before us:
        1) Make an offer of what we’d be willing to give up in order to get some kind of compromise
        2) Wait for the pendulum to swing back and then, when it does, get revenge against Trump and Trumpists and make them rue the day they ever thought about raising the stakes to the point where it will never again occur to them without them shuddering at the memory of the last time


  9. Divorce is not an option, America. We are stuck together, for better or for worse, til death do us part. Right now we’re behaving like conjoined twins in a battle to the death,

    It’s more like a couple who hate each other but, because they feel trapped, accept that their marriage is defined by physical abuse and domestic violence.

    Maybe divorce is an option. Michael Cain thinks it is. :)

    Personally, I don’t think it’s that bad. We’re going thru a period of transition, where the fundamental terms of the marriage (as well as what constitutes acceptable behavior!) are being renegotiated.


    • I’ve yet to see a convincing mechanism for divorce or scenario that does not result in a really bloody civil war.

      Everyone talks about CalExit but it is not going to happen. The United States is not going to let one of the biggest players in the economy go because it would be a huge resource drain. We are also the access to the Pacific and the US has a lot of military equipment here.

      Now maybe there is a faction that would like Deep Blue California to be gone but the practicality of the lost would not stand up.


      • Everyone talks about CalExit but it is not going to happen…. We are also the access to the Pacific and the US has a lot of military equipment here.

        But push out a little farther in time. Assume California looks at where its electricity and natural gas come from — there’s some evidence that they’re already doing that, and want to keep their hands on the entire Western Interconnect. California can afford to offer deals, and other states may want to stick with them anyway, so it’s not just California, it’s somewhere between three and 13 other states. Now a partition of the military looks much more straightforward, assuming a peaceful divorce proceeding.

        Oh, I’m sorry, this isn’t the conspiracy theory thread, is it?


        • I can see other states joining with California but mainly other blue states. I can see Washington doing it, Oregon holding their nose and doing it, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada would join a Western Alliance. But would Idaho and Utah risk losing their power? Wyoming? Those states would just be lost in terms of all their political and social wants.

          I still don’t see the US letting California or any other part of the nation go peacefully. I don’t see Canada or Mexico getting involved. I do see Steve Bannon relishing at the prospect of bombing the Bay Area back to the Stone Age.


          • I still don’t see the US letting California or any other part of the nation go peacefully.

            I think this is due to a failure of imagination, to be honest, both yours and mine. (I can’t see it either). But an easily imagined precondition would be that the cohesiveness of the Union will be challenged if a significant number of states determined they have more power alone (unlikely) or in non-aligned blocks than they do being governed by the Fedrul Gummint. Political isolationism could move the needle in the secession direction. Economic independence could as well. See, for example, Brexit.


          • Follow assorted trends out 20 years and imagine (emphasis on that last word)… California is eager to go and willing to cut deals. Polling in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington indicate those states would prefer to go peacefully with California than stay. From a political power perspective, the South, Great Plains, and portions of the Midwest would be as happy as not to see the West go*. So your holdouts are Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Utah. The sales pitch includes water, fire, who’s your economy tied to, and funding for maintenance of public lands**. As a public opinion thing, the California group could win in those four.

            Today, lunatic fringe. 20 years from now, maybe not so much. Please note the use of the word “peaceful” throughout. No violent secessions (outside of political thrillers) unless a significant share of the military decides to violate their oaths.

            * The US Census Bureau divides the country into four basic regions: Northeast, South, Midwest, and West. This past November, the West went 98-30 for Clinton in EC votes (ignoring defections). Flip Arizona and it would be 109-19. 2020 reapportionment is likely to add two or three to that blue total. Four legislative chambers went from red to blue. A number of progressive state ballot initiatives (minimum wage, marijuana, etc) passed.

            ** Colorado College does regular polls of the interior western states on matters of conservation and public lands. In the latest, I believe for the first time, a majority in every single one of those states favored (a) don’t open additional public lands for drilling and mining; (b) don’t relax current environmental restrictions on drilling and mining in areas already open; and (c) increase funding for maintenance (eg, fire mitigation and recovery efforts). Overall, support for those was about 2:1. Rumors are that Chaffetz withdrew his “sell three million acres of public lands” bill because he got an early look at the Utah poll results.


            • I still think that the only way CalExit comes about is through the calling of a constitutional convention by hard-core conservative states ready to go to the mat over putting an end to the current version of the constitution (gay marriage, etc.) and the current version of the regulatory / welfare state (EPA, ACA).

              The red state appointees may feel so strongly about getting their way that they’re willing to kick California and New York loose. So I could see the result of the convention being a constitution that imposes much stricter limits on the powers of the federal government, with the States then being required to re-ratify to join the new Union. If California and New York each quickly voted to reject and open discussions about forming their new Union, then things get very interesting very quickly.

              The rest of New England, Washington and Oregon vote the same way. So does Colorado. Now what does Nevada do? Or Pennsylvania?


              • Almost absolutely. And you don’t get a convention unless there are 38 (or almost 38) who have become convinced that they see a net gain out of a partition. One of the often unstated difficulties will be difficulties within states: the Philadelphia end of Pennsylvania may want to go with New York, New Jersey, and Delaware; the Pittsburgh end may think it’s better aligned with Ohio and West Virginia; El Paso’s electrical and transportation infrastructure are more closely tied to New Mexico and the West than to East Texas.

                The next two/four/eight years will be interesting, since the levers of power are in the hands of the party that wants to have much stricter limits (in some ways) on the federal government. I am fascinated (in a detached, intellectual sort of way) to see if the national Republicans will really take subsidized health insurance away from ten million people, or roll back auto emission standards. And if they do roll back the emission standards, if they take away California’s privilege to set their own tougher standards.


                    • Considering state’s have been happy to stop cities from raising the minimum wage or passing other liberal laws, I have no reason not to believe that there wouldn’t be amendments saying ‘individual States may not impose more regulations than the Federal Government’ or just pass laws saying the same.


                      • If you’re a True Believer in States’ Rights, you say that true sovereignty resides in the states. They delegate power to both the central government and the localities, so it’s perfectly legal for a state to restrict anything about what local government can do, but unconstitutional for the central government to limit the states expect with respect to powers it’s been explicitly granted.

                        Then you vote to have the central government tell the states they can’t have their own pollution laws, and the game is up.


  10. I’m finding myself more and more taking comfort in history books, reminding myself how terrible our elected officials have treated each other for 200+ years. Then I remind myself how terribly Americans have treated each other for 200+ years. And it seems like there is nothing new under the sun, except some idealized notion that we can ever improve our discourse, especially when social media exasperates it daily.

    Public policy is also a lot harder when the world provides us much, much more information to consider than it did 30 years ago.

    What makes me feel better about everything though? Settling into a point in my life where this stuff just doesn’t bother me like it used to and rather than spending hours reading political articles, I now spend hours watching woodworking videos and trying to figure out if I have room for a table saw in my garage.

    To circle back to the OP’s analogy, I thought I was madly in love with my wife when we got married all those years ago because I was passionate. Now there’s maybe a little less passion but I care for her in a way that goes right down to my bones. That feels like the kind of love I saw between my grandparents and it’s pretty awesome. I care for my country, my fellow citizens, my pet issues and the future in much the same way. I’m maybe less passionate now, but it’s the kind of love that I know will stay constant.


  11. Watching Trump presser:

    Is it possible to say that he’s a blithering idiot who cannot string two coherent, consistent sentences together without that being taken as a partisan judgment?

    Man, I hope so or we’re all truly f***ed.


      • Folks of that predisposition might conclude as much, but I don’t think he is. What he’s doing is appealing – or trying to appeal – to a specific part of the American character which thinks that someone is getting something for nothing, that the reason your life isn’t better is because inexorable political forces keep you down, that those forces are imposed by a propaganda system and institutional structure designed to keep you ignorant of the basic facts of politics and power, that your particular grievances are legitimate and justified and not only emotionally real but objectively correct.

        He’s not creating a dialectic. He’s exploiting one that already exists.


            • Well, let’s go back to this question:

              Is it possible to say that he’s a blithering idiot who cannot string two coherent, consistent sentences together without that being taken as a partisan judgment?

              “Without that being taken”

              Being taken by whom?
              I’m sure you’ll find no shortage of people who don’t find it partisan at all. Hell, try to diagram his sentences! Put the diagrams of his sentences on twitter and point out that they’re 2nd or 3rd grade level sentences. Not even the best 2nd or 3rd grade sentences. Indeed, they are sad sentences.

              They’ll tell you how right you are and how you’re not partisan and any disinterested intellectual person would not be able to come to any conclusion about this man but that he is, indeed, an idiot.


              • Being taken by whom?

                Conservative partisans or “above the fray, BSDI” reductionist partisans or post-modern “every word is a text” partisans. You know, people who understand that the term “inconsistent” has a meaning which isn’t a text or an ideological judgment.


                    • C’mon Chip. Pinky is more like us here at the OT (probably!) than any of us are like the freaks and weirdos we all like to make fun of from our own frames reference.

                      Wait, that didn’t come out right.

                      He’s straight up. Hell, he admitted he’s a partisan and that he also thinks Trumps an idiot. That’s got to count for something.


                      • There is this argument that started floating around after the election that the shocking outcome was due to liberals being in a bubble, and that Trump had tapped into some hitherto unmapped vein of sentiment.
                        This has morphed into Trump as being a master strategist, playing a long game of ropadope.

                        I’m not buying it.
                        The argument relies on taking one leaden insight- that Trump did better than expected among the white working class in the Rust Belt- and spins it into the golden fiber of a new and shining coalition.

                        Yet when we hear from people in that coalition, they actually voted for a very different Trump-
                        They voted for one who was going to protect Medicare and entitlements, who was liberal on abortion, who would respect unions and mostly, bring back the damn jobs.

                        Did they vote for an unhinged paranoid brittle manchild whose primary directive is the soothing of his ego?
                        Those people didn’t.
                        Oh, Jim Hoft and his crowd did, sure, but they are the 27%.

                        But I don’t think his mad King Joffrey impersonation last night is playing nearly as well with the outer layer of support as he thinks it did.


                        • I hear ya about the narrative, and I hear about Trump’s demeanor. But I have to say that every time he does something EO-wise (which is apparently the root paradigm of his presidency – to EO his way to Making America Great Again) he indicates that it fulfills a campaign promise. So, even tho you and I might think that easing the regulations on coal won’t bring back the coal jobs, it IS something he said he’d do if elected.

                          I don’t know, to be honest. It’s a very mixed bag of mind-blowingly deranged sociopathy and doing exactly what he said he’d do.

                          I’m not sure those two things can be distinguished, unfortunately.


                        • The master strategist argument, as well as the silent majority argument have been around for more than a year now. The fact that you think they just showed up indicates that maybe there is a liberal bubble.


                • Oh, conservative partisans will definitely see it as a partisan statement.

                  As for the latter, they’ll probably just want it hammered out that even if it is not, in itself, a partisan statement, it presents identically to an exceptionally partisan statement.

                  Remember your liberal friend?

                  “I thought they were confused about the issue and that if I could just explain myself clearly enough they’d agree with me.”

                  This is a religious argument at this point, Stillwater.


        • The most interesting part is that all of those things are actually true, and the genius part is that people have been convinced that it was the other guys who did it. And any evidence to the contrary not only never makes it to the point of being considered, it raises the defenses even further.
          So in thinking that they’re freeing themselves they end up perpetuating the system.


  12. I don’t think either America is bad. I don’t think either America is deliberately out to hurt each other.

    I do.
    I do believe that a major motivating factor of the Trump voters is exactly to hurt someone.

    Everything he ever said or says about policy is gibberish, and even his fans admit this, what with the “seriously-but-not-literally” crap, and the “I never expected him to follow through on his promises to gut MY union/ strip MY benefits” complaints.

    Trump spent his entire campaign decrying the villains who are harming his fans, and promising to hurt them and make them pay for the wrongs they have inflicted.
    Immigrants, “Urban” people, NATO, educated elites, secular non-Christians, the Clintons and most of all, liberals…he clearly and specifically wants them to suffer.

    Study after study, poll after poll of Trump voters demonstrated this, the seething rage and resentment that drove his supporters. They adore and share his spastic rage, his dark vision of their fellow Americans. They are the ones whose sole motivation is to “make libruls’ heads assplode”

    He does, very badly, want to hurt the other America.

    We are not in a “bad marriage”; we are in a marriage with an aging jock who refuses to let go of the past, and vents his inchoate rage on his wife and kids.


    • Well after the 30 years of wifee throwing the socialist hair dryer in the bathtub, all the sudden indoor plumbing doesn’t look very important. In fact, f**k indoor plumbing and nice things like hair dryers.


    • Yeah, but there’s lots of folks on the other side who think the same. I personally witnessed some deeply ugly trends from the left long before the election. Very nice people who were talking about others that they had known for years, friends and family members, even, with language that I found very troubling. That people’s children should be taken away, they shouldn’t be allowed to breed, they deserved to die without health insurance and jobs, mocking appearance and intellect ruthlessly, etc.

      I believe people do have essentially good instincts. It’s when groups dehumanize each other that these finer instincts are ignored. No one goes out on a pogrom in the middle of the night against their fellow human being whom they happen to disagree with on the finer points of tariffs. Humans commit violence against inhuman demons that they despise, who are utterly unlike them and must be destroyed. The way to prevent this is by not indulging in the demonization of fellow humans, by trying to understand them, by realizing that we want roughly the same things from life and just have different ideas about how to get those things.

      It is probably true that a not-small percentage of people on both the right and left would enjoy active harm coming to their political/cultural enemies. But I find that appealing to people’s better nature often causes them to rise to the occasion, whereas arguing “you’re all a bunch of assholes, you deserve each other” really doesn’t accomplish the end goal. Ideally I would hope that we can eventually bring the country together as much as is possible and then see what, if anything, we can work together on.


      • Do you really think the last and right are symmetrical?

        I mean, for all the angry words of the left, you can discern a very clear agenda that claims to benefit all Americans:
        National health care, infrastructure spending, equality among races and genders,taxes to pay for the spending…

        Right? It’s true, isnt it, that liberals actually have an optimistic vision, even if one can argue against it?

        Can anyone here offer a coherent Trump vision? Stress on “coherent”;
        “I’ll make better deals” and “underpants gnomes” don’t count.

        Does anyone dare to argue the point that Trumpism is rooted in revanchism and resentment?

        P.S. for bonus points, can anyone define what a “compromise” to Trumpism would consist of?
        Where is halfway to incoherence?


        • “you can discern a very clear agenda that claims to benefit all Americans:”

          Operative word: CLAIMS

          Frankly, all I see is hands reaching into my pockets for something that isn’t theirs and “moral crusaders” saying I should live my life according to someone else’s views.


          • But saying “national healthcare will make everyone’s life better, including Damon” is a bit different than “Damon and his kind are rapists, have betrayed America, and need to be locked up”, don’t you think?


        • I’m sure that Glorious Leader’s optimistic vision gives people a lot of peace on the way to the gulag.

          Conservative visions are also optimistic. Community, family, self-reliance, freedom, security, charity, pursuing happiness, working hard to get ahead in life. You may not like those things, but that doesn’t mean they’re not optimistic.

          The reason why I became “a conservative” (using term loosely) is BECAUSE I want those things that you list. I want to be able to get health care if I need it, I want decent roads to drive on, decent education for my kids, true equality for all people, and for the government to not spend money it doesn’t have. The idea that conservatives do not want those things is fake news. We just have different ideas about the best ways to get them.

          Personally I think it’s nuts to set up a system where people like Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are in charge of doling those things out to me but that’s what ya get when a strong government is put in charge of things. Giving them the power to do those lovely visionary things means they also have the power to do things you never imagined they would, and it also means that sometimes a guy or gal could get into power who is actually, like, BAD. And then what? We’re about to find out.

          Conservatives did not want Donald Trump as their representative. If you think DT is representative of conservatism or the majority of the Republican Party, he isn’t. You can’t conflate the two. Donald Trump was a vote of last resort for many people, and we can all debate the reasons why, but it was a confluence of reasons including the media destroying several other legit R candidates and a perceived threat of harm (and I think fully justified) coming from the SJW section of the left.

          The compromise needs to be with some conservative principles and not “Trumpism”. But I see no willingness to even consider that kind of compromise. Just demonization.


          • I like these “conservatives” you speak of.

            Fiscally sober, dedicated to the prudent management of public funds, faithful to pious principles of charity and community solidarity. Excellent!

            Where might I see some in power?

            Because from Kansas to Alabama, Texas to Arkansas, what I see are impious radicals, who consider women to be hosts for their fetuses, who are perfectly content to have government prey upon the poor rather than taxing the rich.

            What I see are deranged fanatics who work mightily to ensure that mentally ill people have ready access to guns. Who consider the slaughter of 26 children to be an acceptable price to pay for their access to guns.

            What I see are state governments that would rather shutter schools than levy a tax, that are so fiscally irresponsible it becomes necessary to block the issuance of state financial reports to hide the embarrassing truth. Who are so consumed with hatred of the poor that they will gladly spend millions to drug test recipients, even if it only saves a fraction of the cost.

            Really, I would love to see these people replaced with, what did you call them, “conservatives” ?

            Yeah, I would love that.


            • If I could pick one election for the Democrats to have lost in the last few years that might have kicked the whole cold civil war issue down the road a ways, it’d probably be the one that had Mittler Rommelney in it.

              That one might just prove to have been the most important election of our lifetimes.


                • The coming civil war can only be averted by finding areas upon which to compromise.

                  If you can’t find any areas where you’d be willing to compromise, of course, hey. That’s a perfectly defensible position. If you can hold out for an election (maybe two), I’m pretty sure that Donald Trump will do a good job of hollowing out the Republican party.

                  The Democrats could then swoop in and win the next couple of elections.

                  Heck, setting the groundwork for that just might make 2018 the most important election of our lifetimes.


                  • I mean, I’m replaying 2012-2016 in my head and I’m trying to figure out areas in which Romney would have been so much worse than Obama that it would make a Romney presidency not worth offering up as a compromise to have been worth making.

                    Counter-factuals can’t be measured, of course, but I’m thinking that Romney is pretty much exactly the type of Republican that everybody is saying “Oh, I wish that we had more Republicans like this!”, right?

                    Of course, maybe it was more important that we have someone who was as ideally a Democrat (as Obama was the ideal Democrat) in office than have someone who was ideally a Republican in office making Romney’s problem one of timing more than anything else.


                • So this coming civil war can only be averted by having Democrats lose the correct elections?

                  Yes! Because the discontent we’re experiencing and discussing wouldn’t exist if liberals were more like conservatives. I mean, that’s obvious, right?


                    • Wait. You’re making a dark joke about that, right? But it’s actually what you think the (counterfactual) solution to our current problems woulda been. For the Democrats to surrender to the Romney Republicans.

                      Seems like your solution arrows regarding compromise consistently point only one direction.


                      • The answer, of course, is to go back to the Good Old Days when everybody shared the same vision and story of America. Because that, apparently, was a thing that people believed existed.


                        • For negotiation theory, there are theories for when you are
                          1) Negotiating from a position of strength
                          2) Negotiating from a position of weakness
                          3) Negotiating from a position of, more or less, parity

                          So it seems to me like the general attitude is that the left doesn’t have to negotiate a damn thing until they’re back in a position of strength. Hell, they *ARE* in a position of strength and the right just doesn’t recognize that. So now it’s a cold war until the left beats the right.

                          Does that describe it more or less accurately?


                          • No not particularly. Mostly because “the left” is a meaningless generalization for all sorts of peoples and groups with different aims and means. There is no “left” or “right” to negotiate so the framing is wrong.

                            I’m all for compromise. In fact i’m a trained mediator so i’m all for it. Democracy is a constant process of compromise, negation, refusal and obstinacy.


                      • 2012: “We don’t need to compromise.”
                        2016: “We don’t need to compromise.”

                        Are there ever any circumstances under which we might want to compromise?

                        If not, we’re in a weird situation where we’re demanding they do something that we’ve already hammered out that we don’t need to do.

                        Which is fine. Hey. We’re in the right.

                        Now we just have to figure out how to make them see that.


                        • Are there ever any circumstances under which we might want to compromise?

                          Who did you vote for in the 2012 election?

                          I don’t think it was Romney, right? You didn’t compromise. I don’t recall you ever even arguing anything like “a vote for Romney is a vote for Compromise!!”. So who’s the “we” you think should be doing all this compromising? Other people, maybe?

                          And what I’m saying here, btw, is exactly the point Brian was trying to convey to you earlier.


                          • At the end of the day, the question is “what do I have that you want, what do you have that could get me to give you what I have?”

                            And, of course, can we agree that we’d trade those things?

                            If the Democrats wanted my vote, they could have done a handful of things for it. None of which, I think we’ll all agree, are reasonable things for me to ask for.

                            Hell, same for the Republicans for that matter.

                            So we know that I’m one of the crazy people who is asking for crazy things… but what I have to offer is plentiful and of low value: a vote.

                            There are plenty of people out there willing to trade their votes for much less than what I’m willing to trade mine for.

                            At this point, who should be compromising? I guess the people who most want votes.

                            And, on one level, the democrats can argue that they don’t need to compromise because Clinton got the most votes.

                            And, on another level, the republicans can argue that they don’t need to compromise because Republican politicians got the most votes* and votes* are what they care about more than they care about votes.

                            So, I guess, both sides seem to think that they’re negotiating from a position of strength, with democrats merely acknowledging that their strength is merely deferred by an election or two. It’s right around the corner. So they just have to negotiate later, when they have power that their negotiating partners recognize.

                            So nobody needs to compromise at all.

                            So there’s no problem.

                            Why are we even complaining about this?


                                • Sortuv. The difference is that your “above the fray” commitment to your own principles and clear-eyed view of reality permit you (subjectively speaking) to view the problem as arising from other people and their ideological commitments. So the concession I’d have to make to you in this dynamic is one of obeisance: “you’re right Jaybird, I now see the error of my ways. I’ll change! But you, good man, keep soldiering on fighting the good fight!!”

                                  And to be honest, I just don’t think I can bring myself to do that. :)


                                  • We’re all mad here.

                                    I just see that the choice is stuck between compromise, divorce, or war and I would prefer divorce to war if compromise is not on the table.

                                    And people are telling me that compromise is impossible (what does compromise even mean, anyway?) and divorce is impossible and… sure, I guess, I can agree with them on that.

                                    So I’m stuck hoping that we can kick the can down the road long enough that either compromise or divorce gets on the table before a war starts.

                                    Hey, if we manage to hold out, maybe the baby boomers will all die and then we can finally get that government like the one we’ve wanted since college.


                            • For the record, I’m willing to trade my vote for 5,000 USD for each “punch of the chad”

                              Please wire transfer said money to an account offshore 24 hours before required said vote.


                        • You don’t compromise by losing elections, you compromise once you’re in office because we have a system with a separation of powers. You know, that thing that Obama tried to do, when he offered a grand bargain on spending and taxes only to have the GOP turn it down, or when he incorporated into his health care plan things that the GOP said they wanted in health care reform until 2010, or when he passed a large tax cut as part of the ARRA. None of that did anything at all to prevent Trump-esqe behavior by Republicans, so I fail to see how having Mitt Romney as President would have done so.


                          • I’m pretty sure that all a president Romney would have provided was a politician that qualifies as being, let me cut and paste this, “Fiscally sober, dedicated to the prudent management of public funds, faithful to pious principles of charity and community solidarity.”

                            Now, if Romney isn’t that, I’m stuck here like Abraham standing outside of Sodom. Ten Righteous conservatives?

                            I can’t even find one.


                            • So your argument is that Romney is a non-crazy person who would probably have made a decent enough President, so Liberals, despite hating everything he promised to do on policy and thinking quite highly of their own incumbent President, should have wanted Romney to win? And they should have wanted this because, if he didn’t, then in the future the GOP would inflict an incompetent madman on the country? This is the logic of domestic abuse. Oh, you’d better not go out with your friends or talk to other men, you wouldn’t want to make him angry. See how nice he can be if you just do everything the way he wants?


                              • Oh, you’d better not go out with your friends or talk to other men, you wouldn’t want to make him angry. See how nice he can be if you just do everything the way he wants?

                                To someone in this situation, I would suggest a divorce. There is no negotiating with such a person.

                                If a divorce is not on the table, murder.

                                If you don’t like those options, maybe we could try agreeing that we don’t have a problem?


                                • Neither divorce nor murder are options, but we certainly have a problem. The problem is that the conservative movement has been completely successful in their drive to make the GOP incapable of responsible government or the sharing of power. We also have a smaller, but still real problem of people on the other side of the aisle copying some of the behaviors that got the GOP there. I don’t know how you solve that problem any more than I know how to solve the problem of robots cutting the heart out of the labor market, but if we insist that there’s some kind of partisan symmetry here, then we’re definitely not going to solve it.


                                    • I continue to have no real idea what you mean when you say either “compromise” or “divorce.” Do you mean more federalism? Secession? Policy concessions? National telethons in which a rotating panel of liberals assures conservatives that we never meant to call them racists and that we’re sorry about the KKK?


                                        • Brexit, huh? So do you mean states leaving the Union? Which ones? How would you decide that?

                                          As to compromise, I brought up a few things on this very thread where Barack Obama attempted to reach compromises on policy with his adversaries, and was decisively rebuffed. What do you think about those? Did he not offer a sweet enough deal? If not, what should he have offered instead?


                          • I mean, consider the ACA.
                            The Republicans hold all the power, and yet are flailing desperately to even articulate what they themselves want.

                            After 8 effing years of screaming about it.

                            They can’t even decide what they want to do.

                            How to compromise with this?

                            There is no coherent conservative vision, on anything really.

                            Its all spite and Cleek’s Law,


                            • The Democrats screamed for federal expansion into healthcare since Truman, and they had “Hillarycare” written 15 years before Obama took office, yet it took them a year to come together on what they wanted.and turn it into the form of a bill – and then another bill to alter that bill, passed at the same time. We used to give the president an arbitrary 100 days to pass his agenda.


                              • But isn’t it pretty silly for the the commenters here to be demanding that the Democrats “compromise” when the other side can’t yet put even a wish list together of what they would like to do?


                                • My guess would be that the conservative commenters here would ask for status quo ante, plus de-regulation of the insurance market. Whether their congressional representatives have are willing to push for the same thing is an open question.


                                • Absolutely. People demanding things they have no right to ask for from people who have no power to give them to demonstrate willingness to compromise in theory is decidedly silly.

                                  But I generally find it illuminating to see if there are corners where people would be, technically, willing to give up something if it were within their power to give it up.

                                  Because, I suspect, if there is to be a thawing in this cold civil war, some of it will have to do with the attitude that compromise wouldn’t be possible even if it were possible.


                                  • Jaybird: But I generally find it illuminating to see if there are corners where people would be, technically, willing to give up something if it were within their power to give it up.

                                    How are we going to find these areas if you keep talking in generalities and metaphors?


                                  • I point out that the Republicans lack a coherent position on issues not because they are new to power or lacking political cohesion, but because what animates the base is cultural grievance and revanchist fantasy.

                                    This isn’t something that can be compromised, because the purpose isn’t to find common ground, but to destroy common ground.

                                    The world that is developing, a world where nonwhite, nonChristians hold the dominant power, where same sex marriage is commonly accepted, is a world that much of the Republican Party, the Trump base, views as fundamentally illegitimate.

                                    Not undesireable, but illegitimate, an abomination that must be resisted.


                                  • Jaybird, you’re arguing with interocutors who appear to deny the fundamental premise of your argument. So you haven’t yet convinced them that they need to compromise with the opposition for the good of the country (or whatever).

                                    Since that’s the case, maybe you could prime the well a bit and add substance to your view by identifying some policies you’d compromise on. As a gesture of sincerity to ending this cold civil war and all.


                                    • Kristen too! I haven’t read the whole thread but I think you and her are the only two advocating this “compromise” solution, yet neither of you have actually offered any. It appears to be something that other people are supposed to do.


                                      • Stillwater, re compromise:

                                        Sorry about the delay, my husband had 4 days off over President’s Day and I had to make a lot of sammiches.

                                        I actually think that Republicans have offered up a LOT of compromises over the course of time. They’ve compromised on tons of stuff both politically and culturally. I feel like (especially after reading some of the replies in this thread LOL) Democrats will settle for nothing less than complete surrender on every issue. I honestly don’t feel the Republicans CAN cave in on anything else and remain Republicans. I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling and I believe it to be at least partially why Trump won, he was perceived as someone who was enough of a loose cannon to stand up to both the progressives and the milquetoasts.

                                        I don’t think that liberal Democrats (at least, not the voters, I think the Dem leadership is more savvy then they let on) can see these Republican compromises any more because they believe that their political successes are simply the natural course of events and the inexorable march of progress. Every time the R’s give in on something it is not viewed as Republicans trying to get along and compromise for the good of the nation, but as an obvious foregone conclusion, the way things “should” be. They get no political credit for it, they get no generosity of spirit, understanding, or time to catch up and get used to the idea, it’s simply onto the next item on the progressive item on the checklist in which Republicans will yet again be portrayed as horrible people who are standing in the way of peace, love, and understanding and want to drown kittens, probably.


                                        • Thanks for getting back to me. Coupla things,

                                          First, when I asked what you had offered in compromise I was trying to make a meta-point about folks who offer disinterested advice about the types of compromises other folks need to make without making any of their own. Granted, you view yourself as a non-participant in the battle being waged, just an innocent bystander, so it’s easy to see the faults in others actions. :) Again, just a meta-point.

                                          Substantively, your comment still didn’t identify any compromises you would be willing to make to end the cold civil war.

                                          Finally, I noticed that you didn’t give any specific examples of conservatives actually compromising with Democrats over the years (just the suggestion that you think they have) all leading to a state of affairs in which conservatives are pinned down like rats in a corner fighting for their lives.

                                          Which is strange: the GOP is putting a beat down on liberals/Dems across the country. Doesn’t seem like they’re fighting for their political lives to me. Alternatively, the underlying idea in your comment is that it’s an obvious fact (or perhaps a logical truth?) that liberals demand surrender rather than compromise, yet there aren’t any examples of those actions either. I could offer some: that liberals are opposed to states determining whether marriage is between a man and a woman? Or defending the right of women to choose to terminate a pregnancy? Or that sick people shouldn’t be excluded from insurance because they have a pre-existing condition? Liberals – quite rightly, in my opinion – view those as issues worthy of constant vigilance. But if the current trends continue those policies will be rolled back, and not because of liberal’s failure to compromise but because they didn’t have the political power to prevent it from happening. Which isn’t much of a cold-civil-war, is it?

                                          Now, that doesn’t mean liberals should be calling anyone who opposes SSM a bigoted homophobe. That won’t win over hearts and minds. I’m just not convinced that doing so is what’s engendered the GOP dominance OR that’s it’s the source of our current civil war.


                                      • That sounds like you saying other folks need to compromise, not you compromising.

                                        Fine. Your political religion is apparently to judge the efficacy of other people’s political religions even while they judge the efficacy of yours.

                                        Civil war!

                                        Add: You can chase the dragon up the ladder but all your ever gonna grab is the same ole tail everyone else is hanging on to.


                                        • Well, my thought was that #1 would involve very little compromise on the part of freakin’ anybody and #2 was something that caused a huge amount of damage to the Democratic Brand and so it’d be to the Democrats’ benefit to walk that back a little (I can give you the numbers for Brad Avakian again, if you’d care to read them).

                                          In giving up, effectively, very little but, symbolically, something, I thought that maybe some sort of bridges could be mended, in theory.

                                          I mean, not that I was offering anything in my power to offer to anyone who had the power to accept, but in kabuki terms within our little petri dish.

                                          And, well… it seems like my best shot wasn’t even close to being something worth compromising on.

                                          So we’re back to Trump as the take-home prize in our little home version of The Ultimatum Game.

                                          Well, just in the short term, of course. He’s bound to be impeached.


                                          • I mean, not that I was offering anything in my power to offer to anyone who had the power to accept, but in kabuki terms within our little petri dish.

                                            Nor do I. So, we’re sorta baying at the moon, then, yeah?


                                          • You’re writing as if you literally don’t understand why liberals find those things objectionable, and I know you’re too smart for that. The response you’re getting isn’t “no, never, NEVER!” It’s “well ok, what would we get in return?” You still haven’t answered that, unless the answer is that the GOP will stop being crazy and electing dangerously crazy people to office. If that’s the case, this isn’t a normal give and take, it’s a hostage negotiation in which the GOP is holding the country for ransom. If that’s not it, then tell me what the other side is going to give up in return if the Dems decide that we don’t mind business owners discriminating against their gay customers.


                                              • So yes, it’s the hostage negotiation. When the GOP chooses to empower someone manifestly unfit for the Presidency, it falls upon liberals to give up their interests in order to sooth the hearts of Conservatives, lest they get riled up again and screw us all. You know what, maybe I should return to the domestic violence analogy.


                                                • The sort of things that liberals are doing in terms of the crisis of legitimacy shouldn’t be their interests in the first place.

                                                  In terms of whether they really are or not, it’s something that libs should actually sit down and think about instead of polemic knee-jerking.


                                                • We can argue the other side of that. Rolling over in response to an act of bad faith encourages more bad faith in the future. Thus the only way back to peace is demonstration of sufficient strength to show that the Trump card is ineffective.

                                                  The hard part of that strategy is gauging what is the right display of strength that neutralizes the bad faith actor without being itself a provocation.

                                                  From outside this system, it looks like American national politics needs to find itself a truce and modus vivendi to avoid the three unacceptable options of divorce, murder or surrender. Forming a successful truce between decentralized camps is an incredibly difficult process though and needs a lot of good faith actors on both sides to make it work.


                                        • Well, in my thought experiment, those were the sorts of things why Trump won.

                                          But having won Trump, I’m not sure that they’d take the paltry things that I had to offer.

                                          Not that they were mine to offer, of course.
                                          Not that I found anyone else willing to see that as a compromise worth having made in the first place.


                                          • I suppose that that’s the point of the thought experiment.

                                            What victories did “the left” win over the last however many years that you would be willing to go back and lose, if it meant that Trump didn’t get elected in 2016?

                                            Can you name anything?
                                            Is, instead, your response “why in the hell do I have the compromise? *HE* is the guy who sucks!”?

                                            For what it’s worth, I can think of at least one big victory that, had it been a loss, would have kept Trump out of the White House.

                                            But what ones can *YOU* come up with?


                                            • To make the point stick, Jaybird, the question is this, since you’re the one asking it: what would YOU have done differently over the last howevermany to keep Trump from getting elected? Anything? Nothing? You OK with DeeJay? You apparently don’t like cold civil wars and what they entail.


                                              • Well, again, what I see happening in the next decade or so is, sing it with me, “Divorce Or War”.

                                                And I keep being told that divorce is not on the table.

                                                So I’m now idly wondering if it’s just a question of thousands dead or of millions dead. Or, God help us, Billions.

                                                Maybe it’ll start in Europe again. That might save us.

                                                Anyway, what do I think was the big thing? “Bake the Cake”.

                                                I’ll provide the numbers again:

                                                He was running for the position of Oregon’s Secretary of State. He lost to Dennis Richardson, a Republican.

                                                This is in a state that Clinton won by 10 points. The Democratic senator beat the Republican challenger by more than 20 points. The Democratic Governor won by 7 points. Out of the five Congressional elections, Democrats won four of them.

                                                Richardson will become the first Republican to win an Oregon statewide office in 14 years.

                                                Perhaps I’m wrong, of course. And Brad Avakian was, himself, a backlash to a backlash to a backlash to a backlash to a backlash.

                                                But that strikes me as a lynchpin event that we’re not allowed to notice without being pilloried for seeing it.


                                          • See this is why I made that snarky comment the other day about how I wish white Christians could know what it feels like to be a hated and feared minority.

                                            That “we can deny you service because you are gay” is the compromise..(the compromise!!), not even their ideal, but the grudging compromise is what is so telling, and galling.


                                        • Hopefully nothing.

                                          Compromise can be a very good thing, in allowing people who have somewhat competing interests to come together in a spirit of harmony wherein there’s a good likelihood that all parties can satisfy their most important wants, maybe at the expense of lesser wants.

                                          In that context, what we have now is not a failure of compromise. It could be, but it isn’t. What we do have, is libs’ repudiation of the idea of a shared political culture, with the intent of aggravating a crisis of legitimacy. Libs should simply give that up. Not because they traded it away for anything, but simply because it is the right thing to do.


                                            • You’re still missing the point. Compromise is a valuable means to mediate a transaction, or a series of transactions. Some things aren’t supposed to be transactions.

                                              I would hope that you would be too embarrassed to ask your boss for a raise for wiping your ass correctly. It doesn’t matter as much whether he’d give you one or not.

                                              Libs should appreciate that they can’t expected to trade for the basic rules of legitimacy and civic discourse that they should be following anyway.


                                              • Not missing the point. Rejecting that it actually is one. Obama invited GOPers into every major policy debate over the last 8 years. Seriously. All he got was obstruction on the premise that even participating in a Dem-signed Bill constituted unacceptable compromise. (What did McConnell say: “Our goal is to make him a one term president”. That doesn’t sound like a person willing to compromise, yeah?) It’s actually worse than that: the GOP acted as tho not blocking Dem leg. and appointments constituted compromise. No retreat, no surrender! {{CoughGarlandcough!}} It was unprecedented.


                                                • I can’t even begin to imagine a way to define Koz’s complaint about the left’s behavior towards Trump that doesn’t apply a thousand times over to the way the GOP received Obama.


                                                • No Stillwater this is not that complicated. The Republicans opposed President Obama for what he did, or attempted to do, not for who he was. Or more precisely where he was.

                                                  Donald Trump is being opposed, aggressively, for who he is. And he is the President because he was elected as such by the American people. There’s no way, at least there’s no obvious way that I can see, that libs can continue their attacks on the legitimacy of Trump without corroding the foundations of our shared political culture. And frankly, I don’t think libs are trying very hard either.

                                                  Do you disagree?


                                                  • I disagree. :)

                                                    Attacking Trump because of who he is (to the extent that is happening) does not “corrode the foundations of our shared political culture” precisely because those people also oppose him because of his stated policy agenda.

                                                    Now, I concede that the “pussy grabbing” and attacks on judges’ character and calling the media “the enemy of the American people” and the Russia imbroglio might incline some folks who aren’t carefully considering the virtues of political compromise, especially as it adheres to our shared political culture, to think he’s insufficient to the task at hand. But personally, I wouldn’t judge those folks too harshly. At least they’re not out on the lunatic fringe, making up stories about “long form birth certificates” and claiming global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.


                                                  • Neither of those things are true. if opposition to Obama was all about his policies, why was Birtherism, which propelled Donald Trump to prominence among Conservatives, a thing? If opposition to Trump isn’t about his policies, how do you explain the protests against his immigration EO or the people showing up at town halls to talk about how they are going to suffer if Obamacare is repealed? It’s obviously both personal and policy in both cases.


                                                    • Hmm, the birther thing seems to be important so let’s go back to that one.

                                                      First of all, birtherism was a part of the Trump campaign in 2012, which went nowhere. Trump’s winning campaign in 2016 had little or nothing to do with birtherism.

                                                      Furthermore, as a practical matter birtherism didn’t even go very far in right wing circles. There were some activists who cared about it, they tended to ghetto-ize themselves pretty quickly. They tried to put pressure on the GOP political Establishment but couldn’t.

                                                      And in fact, there wasn’t very much the GOP Establishment could have done even if they wanted to.