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

Open Thread (Primaries)

Feel free to use this thread as an open one. In particular, any discussion of the US primaries should go here.


Single Payer Healthcare: Bernie Sanders vs. The Wonks


Most Russians Would Like the USSR Back


  1. Hugh

    The question was raised in the last thread whether a Democratic candidate could criticize Obama and win the nomination. I would say that running against Obama is insufficient in and of itself. A candidate would have to provide a positive alternative to Obama’s policies as well. Still not enough? Then maybe it’s not worth it to run as a Democrat.

    The Democratic party is endlessly corrupt and much less democratic in its Presidential selection process than the Republicans. Why the Democratic base doesn’t rebel against this says a lot about the crapped out state of the party.

    That a candidate can’t criticize Obama is ridiculous. Obama just might be the worst President in American history. It’s pretty much a toss-up between him and George Bush. Bush initiated a bunch of dreadful, failed policies and Obama continued and expanded them. But they were only bad when Bush did them. It seems that the Democratic party is so dominated by identity politics that Obama’s awful Presidency like the emperor’s new clothes can only be praised, and we should all disbelieve our lying eyes accordingly. This is the very definition of pandering. I think African Americans deserve better. They have been betrayed by Obama, the Clintons, and what the Black Agenda Report in Chicago calls the “black misleadership” class for more than 20 years now. We are told that this clique can not be challenged. It would be inconvenient. It would cost votes. But change can only come if you challenge the status quo. You do not change the status quo by perpetuating it.

    Maybe the Democratic party is different. I would note though that Trump has run a successful campaign while being politically incorrect (and sometimes offensively so, to women and Latinos, for example) and in particular, questioning Republican shibboleths, like support for the Iraq war, and by extension Bush. He also was able to mount an effective campaign largely without the usual pandering, at least so far, to evangelicals. So I have to wonder why Democratic candidates can not be as open as Republican ones and why they cling so tightly to failed policies and failed leaders. I mean other than the usual reasons of corruption and cronyism.

  2. Greg T

    This primary season has been an eye-opener, to say the least. Clearly the Republican base is just as outraged as the Democratic base. The difference is that there is at least a reasonable chance that GOP voters will get their preferred candidate. The Democrat Party has constructed a bevy of safeguards to prevent an insurgent candidate from winning its presidential nomination. The Dem party elites have always been more fearful of a leftist uprising, so they have been quite attentive to bottlenecking these movements.
    Bernie Sanders will never win the Democratic Party nomination, under any circumstances. The money interests who control the party apparatus would never allow it. They would rather lose to a Republican than win with a class warrior like Sen. Sanders.
    Sanders is doing a great service by staying in. The longer he runs, the more of the rot he will expose in the Democratic Party; unaccountable super delegates who exist to overturn the will of the voters, a massive voter suppression system on full display in New York and Arizona, a cadre of ” professional voters” whose sole purpose for voting is self-interest, with no regard for principles or broader public concerns.
    The Sanders campaign is the next phase in a growing public repudiation of the existing system. It’s a continuation of the Occupy movements of 2011. This discontent will not just vanish. As long as the grievances of the public are ignored, we can expect subsequent resistance to be larger in scale and effect.

  3. Shh

    no takers?

    I’ll bite. The Repugnantkins are in disarray to the advantage of their corruption, the Demobrats are lining up behind Schillary to theirs. Fraud is rampant, disenfranchisement the rule, gerrymandering De rigueur, it’s quite a mess. Uhmurhca ™ is at its finest moment and all is well, what with Monsanto promising yet another miracle corn, though no predictable rain to plant its magnificence in. Never mind the weather, it’s just what the planet does, like slaughtering sand niggers ™ by the millions to make sure every last drop of oil magically turns into gold through the tender ministrations of Jaime Dimon and his myriad legions of acolytes. Nevermind the poisoned water, collapsing bridges, endless miles of abandoned tracts of the “ownership society” turned “underwater” and pleasingly named toxic assets. That masks no suffering we’ll suffer to discuss. The silent absence of even a single furnace to smelt iron ore. Meanwhile, Russia, the one country with a sane President and legendary Foreign Minister, is getting blamed for everything from the US backed coup in Ukraine to medieval plagues while Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is openly supporting Da’esh in cohort with Saudi Arabia, the great American Ally that helped push the Patriot Act through congress by bankrolling the ONLY act of foreign terrorism ever successfully perpetrated on US soil ever. No way the govt was in on that, Cui Bono is the name of a chimp family, or is it chump?

    What have I missed? Plenty, but really, it’s time for the big rectal-craniotomy folks. The simple facts are unpleasant. The complex ones intractable. We have always had corrupt governments. It’s the predicate assumption behind the whole notion of “property” and “ownership.” Plenty of sure minded folks like to pontificate about things they simply do not understand. Like Supply side economics. If you believe that works, you are the problem. If you profess that austerity leads to prosperity, you are deceived or deceiving. I’m afraid the disease is too far progressed for treatment to be of value. We can however, make the end a little less unpleasant.

    Be nice. Act honorably. Make fools your role models and spurn a reasonable voice. Those who seek to convince you with silky tones and golden promises seek only to rob you. The only thing you are in the final equation is the quality of your word, your basic decency, or lack thereof.

  4. Some Guy

    The current moment reminds me a little of the early 90’s in terms of discontent driven by economic problems.

    That wave of anger faded in the strong economy of the 90’s / tech bubble and housing bubble of the next decade but I’m not sure we will follow the same course this time around.

    Some differences:

    1) Economy is weaker, more inequality, more debt
    2) Demographics are becoming a drag
    3) Internet world is quite different from TV world in a ‘the medium is the message’ sense
    4) Process of corruption / decay / social atomization has advanced steadily over the last 2 decades
    5) Collapse of MSM and credibility of what is left of MSM
    6) Loss of legitimacy for other institutions as well
    7) Environmental problems /resource constraints continuing to escalate, along with burden of mitigations required

    The only positive I can think of is that the next generation coming along will have less lead poisoning in its blood, so may be saner than what we are dealing with now.

    That was a bit abstract, not really primary related directly. For the primary itself, I think Sanders ran about as good a campaign as anyone could have expected. Successors may not be as principled or as competent, but with the tide in their favor, they won’t need to be.

    Above was the comment: “Clearly the Republican base is just as outraged as the Democratic base.”

    Actually the Republican base is far more outraged than the Democratic one. Everyone here has probably already seen the one page guide to picking a candidate, where Clinton and Kasich are the options if you answer the first question: Are you happy with status quo? in the affirmative.

    But Clinton is winning Democrats and Kasich is an also ran on the Republican side.

  5. Mallam

    Hugh, whether you or anyone else likes it or not, politics is first and foremost an exercise in tribalism. Whether that’s desirable, inherent in human nature, changeable, or not, is essentially irrelevant simply because it’s a fact of life in our daily politic in the present and foreseeable future. Knowing this, you should understand that you can’t even begin to talk about policy until you have a community’s trust. It ain’t happening with a figure who has 85-90% approval rating.

    What you’re arguing for (with the Democratic Party being useless in your eyes) is a multi-decade organizing effort, which I’m not against, per se. But the burden of proof for its veracity is on you — third parties have never worked at winning elections in the US in sufficient numbers to be worth the time and money required to organize them. Their success is limited to regional politics, and only when those regions are dominated by one-party states (which essentially then boils it down to “two parties” anyway!).

    You don’t believe the Democratic Party is the best vehicle to enact change you want — perhaps that’s true. I personally believe electoral politics to be a waste of time beyond “vote in the primary, vote in the GE”. Leftist energy is better spent outside of elections altogether. Sanders was an exception because Clintonism is so poisonous, and it needed to be stopped. We failed. The next step is to continue helping Sanders amass enough delegates that he’s a problem for Clinton at the convention in order to extract concessions from her. Remember, if the Democrats win the Senate in 2016, Sanders will be the Budget Committee Chairman. He has too much clout for them to just take it away from him at this point, so he has leverage here, too.

    Beyond this primary it should be back to what’s being done on the ground with movements like BLM and Fight for $15, but for other issues. Elections serve one purpose, and that’s to get people put in power who can be successfully pressured to do the right thing. Vote in the primary, vote in the GE, then back to the streets.

  6. CH

    Hugh, whether you or anyone else likes it or not, politics is first and foremost an exercise in tribalism. Whether that’s desirable, inherent in human nature, changeable, or not, is essentially irrelevant simply because it’s a fact of life in our daily politic in the present and foreseeable future.

    So do you have an answer for Hugh’s concluding remark–“So I have to wonder why Democratic candidates can not be as open as Republican ones and why they cling so tightly to failed policies and failed leaders. I mean other than the usual reasons of corruption and cronyism.”

    Is it your contention that Republican voters are less tribal than Democratic ones?

  7. markfromireland

    Hugh the Democrat party isn’t different it has two wings the collusionist wing and the collaborationist wing. Just read the comments here for a while (or at whatever “liberal” site you like Firedoglake was good for straw in the wind reading before it went belly up) other than in picayune matters of degree and emphasis there’s very little difference between American “liberals” and American “conservatives”. The differences such as they are are the sort of tribalism that exist between followers of different sports teams. Useful for keeping the peasantry divided and a handy channel for their frustrations and anger but nothing more than that.

  8. Hugh

    Thank you for explaining it’s not corruption. It’s human nature. And then the contradictory segue into Clintonian incrementalism, decades long process, etc., etc. Yours is a classic example of the premise being too strong for the argument. You have shown not just that radical change is impossible but that any change is.

    Your error begins when you say that politics is tribalism. The word politics derives from the Greek πολιτική and describes our relations to and activities in the πόλις or community. We are as Aristotle noted more than 2300 years ago, άνθρωπος φύσει πολιτικόν ζώον (man is by nature a political animal), not a tribal animal, but a political one, with the πόλις taken not as a substitute for or extension of a tribe but as a concept in opposition to it.

    I think those who killed off the liberal arts education have a lot to answer for. It has left us intellectually adrift and rudderless. We may have smartphones but we have no coherent idea about how the big concepts that structure our reality and make us human fit together. It is sad that the Greeks, and Aristotle in particular, for all their faults had a more sophisticated idea of the relationship between the individual, politics, and economics than we do.

    Πολιτική does not mean corrupt dealings behind closed doors, an excuse for why things never change, or why the many can never have anything good. Nor is it crumbs and incrementalism. It is the air we breathe and the sea in which we swim. Take it away and we are just animals, period. The πόλις, the community, the society. It is the milieu in which we exist and which allows us to exist, as humans. It isn’t divisible. Tribalism, in the political context, is a defect, an example of a dysfunctional, dangerously fragmented society, a society which has lost its way.

    Those who are defeated or are invested in the status quo will always come up with reasons why meaningful change is impossible or dangerous, why we must be satisfied with crumbs, why a few futile protests are all that can be hoped for. They can show us with mathematical certainty why revolutions, real change, can never happen, that is until they do.

    As the Greeks understood, it is all about the πόλις, and as we would translate, it is all about the society. We are not isolated individuals who just happen to live in a society we are defined by that society, but crucially we can and indeed have a duty to define that society we wish to live in. And when we do so, we can not define it only for those most like ourselves, that’s tribalism, but for everyone, that is politically in the Greek sense. Only when we have some idea of where we are going do we have a chance of getting there. Compared to the act of building a society, social and political animals that we are, the Democratic and Republican parties with their corrupt, clownish leaders and their self-serving, tribal agendas are ridiculously insignificant, not to mention irrelevant. They become important and powerful only because we are duped into giving them importance and power. Our whole thinking becomes inverted. We must kowtow to them, instead of them kowtowing to us. We must vote for them although they do not and will not represent us. We must accept crumbs from them even though we baked the pie. This is madness. The first step is to stop playing their game. The second, and much more important one, is to take back up our role and duties in our πόλις, our community, our nation.

  9. different clue


    Data, data Everywhere! And all the brains did shrink.
    Data, data Everywhere! Nor any thought to think.

  10. Ivory Bill Woodpecker

    Take it away and we are just animals, period.

    Aristotle lived too early to know Darwin.

    At the end of the day, we are just animals, period.

    Smarter apes, to be more precise, and apes are basically tribal.

    Now, will we prove sufficiently smarter than the other apes to evolve beyond our tribal nature?


  11. CH

    At the end of the day, we are just animals, period.

    You don’t say…

  12. CH

    I’ve always been very annoyed with the American tendency to shut down social criticism with “it’s human nature” or “it’s the price we must inevitably pay for liberty/democracy/puppies”.

    For a while I tried to respond to such claims with concrete counterexamples, but I mostly gave up when it became apparent that people who make them seldom really believe them.

  13. Mallam

    CH: not at all is radical change impossible. If that’s what you got from my comment, then I’m not sure if there’s an issue of communication or a fundamental disconnect, but that’s not what I’m saying. If anything, the opposite. Just a year ago I read countless columns from liberals a it how $15 an hour was out of reach…yet here we are when Clinton has conceded she’s sign a $15 an hour piece of legislation if it crossed her desk. That didn’t happen because of third parties, but outside of electoral politics altogether.

    I’m not sure how you think Republicans are less tribal because they favored Trump. Trump and candidates like him are their fucking lifeblood; the beating heart of conservatism in the US is Trump’s MO: hatred of the other. That’s what unites them. Do you think he’d be here unless he bursted onto the scene with “Mexicans being rapists”? Before this all started, when there were 17 candidates I had Cruz winning the Republican nomination. because I thought he’d embody what Tump now embodies: fuck those people of color and liberals, and I’ll fight them to the end of time.

  14. CH

    Oof. I was replying to Ivory Bill Woodpecker, in agreement with you. I somehow didn’t notice until now just how confusing my choice of quoted text was.

  15. CH

    And somehow I thought the post I just responded to was from Hugh and not Mallam despite it clearly saying “Mallam” and not “Hugh” in the author field. Maybe I should go lie down for a while.

    Perhaps Ian could delete both this post and the one immediately preceding it. (Even better if we could edit, though I understand why that’s not feasible.)

  16. CH

    I’m not sure how you think Republicans are less tribal because they favored Trump. Trump and candidates like him are their fucking lifeblood; the beating heart of conservatism in the US is Trump’s MO: hatred of the other.

    But the implication of “tribalism” was that people won’t brook criticism of “one of their own” even if it is warranted. The Republican base tolerates Trump’s attacks on Bush II, and even, hypocritically, embraces them. This despite Bush II’s “good ‘ol boy” posturing.

    It has never been my experience that “identification” of that sort is always decisive in politics–the very concept of someone “selling out” in the pursuit of power would be basically incomprehensible if it were.

    American political history would have unfolded very differently if white Southerners had unconditionally supported LBJ simply because he was a white Southerner. Canadian political history would have unfolded very differently if French Canadians had unconditionally supported PET simply because he was a French Canadian. So it seems utterly facile to claim that politics will inevitably conform to such a simplistic paradigm.

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