The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Category: 2024 American Elections

Is Lesser Evilism Failing In America

So, this tweet from Stancil, a particularly deranged Democratic partisan:

Hard to express my contempt for people who engage in the “I’m not voting for president” routine, a rejection of the basic civic reality that sometimes all the options aren’t going to be custom-built for you but democracy doesn’t work if you throw a sulk and refuse to participate

Refusal to choose between two genocidal maniacs is “anti-democratic”, rather than an acknowledgment that the Democratic system in the US is broken if it only offers Cheeto-Hitler and GenocideJoe.

Look, Trump has been very clear that he’d support the genocide too. He says he’ll federalize Red State militias and cops and send them into blue states to hunt down immigrants, presumably door to door, which makes the fugitive slave act that was one of the main causes of the civil war look reasonable and sane.. He’s a fool, deeply stupid, a rapist multiple times over, a man who cheats people who work for him and so on. He’s lower than pond scum. Any decent person wouldn’t spit on him to put out a fire.

Biden is actively assisting Israel in an active genocide. He deliberately caused a famine in Afghanistan after withdrawal, showing his one unique genius: the ability to kill more people without troops than with them.

Both of these men are profoundly evil. They’re also old and incompetent, though if you’re going to have evil as President, I suppose incompetent evil is better.

The American electoral system is broken in multiple ways, but one is that it doesn’t offer up even remotely acceptable Presidential candidates (or much in the way of acceptable candidates for lower offices.) This has been true for a long time, but it is getting worse and worse.

“I won’t vote for either genocidal maniac and refuse the system the legitimacy of my vote” isn’t an insane or stupid thing to do in this situation. If you can’t find anyone actually good on your ballot does voting make sense? There are arguments that it does, but it’s not obviously wrong.

Fundamentally the problem is that there is no significant resevoir of sanity among the American elites, and ballot access is very difficult for anyone else. In a country where most  people think of themselves as consumers rather than producers of politics, surmounting that barrier and offering up candidates that enough Americans will vote for seems essentially impossible.

Anyway, Stancil’s just a deranged democratic partisan “even genocide should not be a bar to electing Democrats.”

Lovely country. And not the only one.

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The Next US President

Back in 2010, looking at Obama’s actions in his first term, I predicted the next president after him would be a “right wing populist.” (Scare quotes in original.)

Biden appears to have given up on the $15 minimum wage. He’s cut the promised $2,000 check to 1,400 and said that he’s OK with means testing it. He opened a new “children’s detention center” (aka: kids in cages.) He doesn’t want to forgive student loans, something he could do entirely on his own authority.

Now Obama did make 8 years, since he was very smooth, but he lost seats, including c.1K state level seats, then the US got Trump in 2016. Electorally, the only wings Obama had after 08, were for himself.

In 2024, Republicans are likely to be able to say, and be telling the truth, that “Trump gave you more money than Biden.” Trump himself may run, and stand a good chance of winning. If it’s Hawley, he’ll have the Trump base and be able to accurately say he fought for $15 and larger Covid relief checks.

But Democrats, again, are refusing to make a positive case for electing them. They refuse to do big, obviously good things for the majority of Americans, so the argument will be “we’re better than /them/.”

Works, till it doesn’t. Running on fear generally loses to running on Hope. Obama ran on Hope in 2008, but Dems since then have run on “we aren’t Republicans.”

People prefer hope to fear when voting.

So my bet is that the next President of the US will be a Republican “right wing populist.”  The only possible antidote would be someone like AOC getting the nod. She has problems, but she can run a campaign of hope. However, it’s clear that the Democrats will do everything up to an including cheating to avoid a progressive as Presidential candidate, and I strongly suspect that Democratic apparatchniks, like their UK Labour compatriots, would actively work against a progressive presidential candidate, preferring a Republican win.

Hope everyone’s looking forward to Trump again, or Trump 2.0.

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Josh Hawley Moves to Become Trump’s Heir Presumptive

It’s traditional on New Year to either do a retrospective or a look forward. Let’s look forward to 2024.

Since the election, it has become conventional wisdom that Trump is defeated, and the “next” Trump will be more dangerous. I have been pointing this out from 2016 on, repeatedly: Even if Trump wanted to do all the things his critics feared, he was too incompetent to pull them off.

The person who isn’t Trump who is the most likely heir presumptive and the “actually dangerous” one is Josh Hawley.

First there is the fact that, along with Bernie Sanders, he was the primary person other than Trump pushing for a $2,000 check. His name was on that, all through the news. Trump’s final attempt to help the American people, and he was the champion.

Second, there is his move to force debate on whether to certify the election results.

You can think that this is bullshit, and still recognize that it is smart politics. About three-quarters of Republicans think that there was significant voter fraud

Hawley has now positioned himself as the champion of ordinary Americans and the only Senator willing to fight Trump’s doomed last stand.

He is the heir presumptive, and, at least at this point, it seems likely the only person who could beat in him the 2024 Republican primaries would be Trump himself.

As for the general, it seems most likely right now that Biden will fumble the economy, leaving a huge opening for another right-wing populist run.

Remember, until Covid, the economy was doing well. Trumponomics, as I noted in 2017, more-or-less worked. The UI payment increases and extensions were — and are — incredibly popular, and credited to Trump. If Biden’s economy isn’t as good as Trump’s before Covid, he (or Harris) is in for a world of hurt.

And in the tweet above, Hawley is running against Walmart. This is sheerest hypocrisy given he opposed a minimum wage increase in Missouri (which passed anyway), but it doesn’t matter; that won’t be remembered and this tweet will, especially if he says “I was wrong”, which he will.

AOC is Bernie’s heir, and Hawley seems to be moving into the position of Trump’s.

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Plus c’est la même chose


Jeremiads notwithstanding, it appears that Biden’s strategy of appealing to Trump-disgusted suburban voters worked. At the US presidential level, at least, left-populists and Sanders supporters proved to be essentially irrelevant, politically. The Democratic consultant class has had its biases confirmed. What is, haha, left to the left-wing populist is to double down on the jeremiads: to predict that in the future, the inevitable failure of now-successful beige neoliberal centrism to reinstate its heavenly mandate in the USA will result, down the road, in the election of a smart fascist/right-populist Man On Horseback, if we’re luckymerely a Viktor Orbán figure or suchlike for the American context — or worse, possibly much worse.

This reasoning seems very plausible to me. Because it is true that unless the neoliberal establishment has a change of heart, Bidenist/Obamaist US leadership will not be able to turn the ship around from an on-going trajectory of national and global decline. And insofar as that decline is felt in shrinking living standards, and insofar as “beige centrism” manages to suppress left-wing alternatives, the population will likely turn to forceful/violent right-wing populism, and all the inherent divide-and-conquer grifts that right-wing populism brings with it alongside the nationalist emotional highs and the “sugar rush.” As I said, it seems very plausible.

One of the bad habits of neoliberal intellectualism is an excessive reliance on “counter-intuitive” explanations as exemplified by the once-popular book Freakonomics.   We should be rightly suspicious of narratives that tell us that things we view in common-sense terms as bad are actually good. Sometimes counter-intuitive explanations like that are valid, but only sometimes. But we should not fall into the reverse trap and always uncritically accept simpler explanations that happen to match our moral intuitions. A common left-wing moral intuition is what I explained above: A people increasingly deprived of access to the good life and unable to access progressive responses to that deprivation will eventually provide reactionary forces a breakthrough. It has, after all, happened before.

It is the implied determinism that we should view with at least a little bit of suspicion. First of all, although we should heed history’s warning signs, history actually does not truly repeat reliably, and context matters. Trump’s senility and incompetence was, in point of fact, part of the Trump political brand. It was the riposte to a failing elite in a time when elite “competence-signalling” was part of the elite self-image. The specific trajectory to the “competent Trump” is much harder to fathom, when the incompetence was specifically a part of what he was and still is lionized for by his most ardent followers.

If we leave aside the typical and easy materialist determinism that thrives particularly on the more left end of the spectrum and accept a little bit of “counter-intuitive” reasoning, a different picture emerges. One in which the success and failure of Trump was highly dependent on circumstances over and above material discontent, circumstances that are difficult to line up again.  Circumstances in which the very competence of the future feared competent fascistoid is one of the features that prevents his (or her) rise, just to give a possibility. One in which the bad memory of Trump is sufficiently mobilizing for a long enough period of time that the mainstream neoliberal centre is protected from attempts at overcoming it.

In that world, between every election, things just keep getting worse and worse. And yet, the process of coalition building in a complex society given the American political system simply throws up Biden after Biden, Democrat or Republican. Decline centrism, unending. Like Tyler Durden’s vision in Fight Club, with people drying meat on the asphalt of a ruined highway, except they’re still arguing over whether they should choose the chieftain with the red trim or the blue trim as head chieftain, out of fear that one of them might reduce the incentives created by the fear of winter freezing by their proposed “peltfare” program.

Imagine this future: the soft, dirty sole of a comfortable white Reebok runner gently stroking a human cheek — forever.

The Good Scenario For America’s Future

So, the default scenario is that Biden rules for 4 to 8 years, maybe Harris for another 4, then we get a more disciplined right wing “populist.” In the meantime, nothing that will actually change the trend-lines has been done about climate change or the continued concentration of wealth and power. America continues to be divided into two tribes who hate each other, while the West as a whole stagnates under neoliberalism and a second block, led by China, with Russia and many developing nations, especially in Africa and South America, forming, with its own payments, legal and trade system. The world descends into Cold War 2.0 as climate change continues its advance.

What’s the good scenario for the United States?

AOC, basically. In 2022 she takes out Schumer and becomes a Senator. In 2024 she primaries Biden or Harris and wins.

Likely? No.

Impossible? Also, no.

AOC is popular, Schumer is a lame duck. If she goes for him, I give her the nod to win. Having taken out the Senate leader, she looks unstoppable.

The primary will be extremely difficult to win. Obama, Clinton, Clyburn and all the usual suspects will do everything they can to cheat her of a win, just as they did with Sanders twice. But AOC is clearly Bernie’s heir, having saved his bacon when he had a heart-attack, and never having betrayed him as Warren did. Unlike Sanders, she is genuinely charismatic, and like him she will pack massive arenas and have huge support from the grassroots and activists.

Assuming Biden has been weak-tea, there’s an opening for her. Odd are slightly against her, but it’s not impossible.

Then we come to the general election. Contrary to what centrists claim, progressives running on Medicare-4-All did very well in this election, as did policies like a $15/hour wage. An aggressively progressive platform, with concrete job promises so people know where they go when fracking goes away, can win. A real Green New Deal offers tens of millions of good jobs.

AOC’s national numbers aren’t the greatest, but I suspect this can be turned around. The people who hate AOC don’t vote Democratic anyway (no, Republicans do not vote Democratic) and she activates constituencies which are only loosely attached to the electorate.

In fact, I see the primary as a bigger problem than the General: if AOC gets the nomination, she’s likely to win, because she can run both against unpopular Democratic politics and Republican ones. Running on an actual popular program, she stands a good chance of controlling both the House and Senate.

At that point, an FDR style Presidency which overturns everything is possible, and if the Supremes try to stop it, threaten them with court-packing. They either fold (as FDR’s court did) or they don’t, either way, it’s done.

Now this scenario isn’t the most likely (and yeah, she’s not perfect, but she’s the best on offer and way better than anyone else who could run), but it is the only possible scenario I can see right now that leaves the US in a good place.

May this, or something similar, be so.

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