Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Commentariat Central: Premature Horse Race Edition

A couple of essays I've been working on are taking longer than expected, so in the meantime I'll repost a few of my recent New York Times comments on All Presidential Horse Race, All the Time. (And tonight's xenophobic "Nuremberg in the Oval" primetime special is Donald Trump's own opening gambit in Campaign 2020 in case you had any doubts. If you watch, try to imagine the allegedly fired Steve Bannon hissing through Trump's earpiece.) 

First, there's David Leonhardt's decibel-rise of a weekend column about the clear and present Trumpian danger, which makes it very clear that the love-hate relationship is here to stay until the experts decide it's safe and economically feasible for the oligarchy to kick him out:

 Achieving this outcome won’t be easy. It will require honorable people who have served in the Trump administration to share, publicly, what they have seen and what they believe. (At this point, anonymous leaks are not sufficient.) It will require congressional Republicans to acknowledge that they let a con man take over their party and then defended that con man. It will require Democrats and progressive activists to understand that a rushed impeachment may actually help Trump remain in office.
My response:
Via the government shutdown, Trump has effectively ordered the destruction of our democratic institutions. This is the definition of a fascist leader.
True, Trump commands the loyalty of only a third of the country. But the longer that Congress doesn't act on its "checks and balances" mandate, the more powerful he will become.
The new House majority will haul in various sycophants for a scolding as they wait for Robert Mueller to wrap things up. Meanwhile, the wannabe dictator is entrenched in the White House.
 It's a further sign of democratic collapse that even liberal pundits are dismayed that the military overseers of his regime are biting the dust. When a guy named "Mad Dog" Mattis, who before being relieved of command by Obama for his hawkishness and who once opined that "sometimes, killing people is fun", is now being mourned and celebrated as one of the last Adults in the Room, I think we have a lot more to worry about than just Trump.
So the onus is on Mueller, another unelected overseer of our putative democracy. My hope is that he will soon indict the Trump offspring and order their arrests complete with a handcuffed perp walk. That should rattle Trump enough to either quit or do something so reckless that even his GOP enablers can't ignore it. I look forward to the day when Mitch McConnell leads a contingent to the White House and makes him an offer even he can't refuse - like his own subsidized cable TV network.
Oh, wait. He already owns the lot of them.
(And  wouldn't you just know it, after much fake hand-wringing all the anti-Trump networks have "reluctantly" acceded to his demand for prime air time tonight, and will carry the "Nuremberg in the Oval" special in all its spittle-inflected insanity. The TV honchos were still mulling whether to give Nancy Pelosi or another designated performer have given equal time to the sensational ballroom duo fondly known as "Chuck and Nancy," who will perform a concern-trolling sedate box step in a non-twerking rebuttal to Trump. Sorry, Rashida Tlaib fans. She has been deemed not quite ready for prime time by the party elders.


Meanwhile, while the pundits and media moguls are debating whether to dump Trump or to keep him around for the fantastic ratings, the Times's gender editor Susan Chira and her colleague Lisa Lerer took the time to wonder whether A Woman would be able to beat him amidst all this alleged emotional upheaval.

“There’s a real tension,” said Neera Tanden, the president of the Center for American Progress and a former policy adviser to Mrs. Clinton. “On one hand, women are leading the resistance and deserve representation. But on the other side, there’s a fear that if misogyny beat Clinton, it can beat other women.”
....“It is very hard, when you only have that one woman who’s tread that ground,” said Ilyse Hogue, the president of the abortion-rights organization Naral. “Everything about that individual becomes conflated with being a woman.”
The rawness of the topic was evident in the furor that broke out this week over Ms. Warren’s relatively low likability ratings. Research has found that it is much harder for female candidates to be rated as “likable” than men — and that they are disproportionately punished for traits voters accept in male politicians, including ambition and aggression. “Likability is totally framed by gender,” said Celinda Lake, a longtime Democratic pollster and expert on women’s votes.
The subtext of this concern-trolling article is that centrist neoliberal Democrats do not want Warren to win the nomination, because too many deplorable people are sexist and therefore the corporate Dems will keep repeating the deplorable sexist tropes about her - purely out of altruistic concern for party interests, of course. Hillary lost only because she is a woman and not because she was one of the most unpopular candidates, based upon her policies and platform, in recent history. In other words, they want hunky Beto O'Rourke, who votes with Republicans a large percentage of the time.

My published response:

This presidential horse race speculation presupposes that Trump will even still be president a year from now. The prospect of any of the Democratic women mentioned facing Mike Pence in a nationally televised debate - or, even more effectively, in a marathon Twitter back and forth - is probably a major factor in the current GOP leadership's continuing to stand by Trump, regardless of the awful things he does, regardless of the damage he does to their own party and their own individual reputations and prospects. They're in it for the power and the bucks, period. And everybody knows it.
 Then there's the corporate media standing in the way of justice and democracy for all. A Warren vs. Pence race would not bring in the clicks and ad revenue for the corporate sponsors that Trump continues to engender. All the more reason for him to hang on by his fingernails through another election cycle, and all the more reason for the oligarchs to let him. He is a showman, and America does love its spectacular show. And the greedy ruling class racketeers love their money.
The other slim possibility is that both Trump and Pence will be impeached/indicted and convicted, and Nancy Pelosi will become our first woman president, temporary though her reign will be.
In effect, Trump himself will have inadvertently smashed open the proverbial glass ceiling. Talk about karma!
(I'll say it again. Heads they win, tails we lose.)


Last but least, Paul Krugman, fresh from his weekend pat on the head of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for proposing a 70% tax on the uber-wealthy, now pivots to patting Elizabeth Warren on the head. Not because he necessarily wants her to be president, mind you, but to distance himself from his fellow liberal pundits who keep harping on her looks, age, personality and genetics-testing gaffe. The main thing is that she is a serious policy wonk with impeccable academic cred. Unlike, he implies, the non-Ivy Leagued and therefore insufficiently serious or intellectual Bernie Sanders. This column appears to be Krugman's subtle concern-trolling way of diminishing Warren in the minds of much-stereotyped anti-elitist, anti-intellectual Heartlanders and Rust-Belters. He stresses her intellectual heft over her populist cred. It's like the kiss of death in distressed cities and towns which lost their jobs and livelihoods to "free trade" deals and those totally unplanned and uncontrollable pesky global headwinds and surging tides of change. 

At the same time, he makes the specious case that since Warren is a Democrat, it naturally follows that the party itself is suddenly progressive and full of wonderful, populist ideas. They'll bathe themselves with Warren bubbles while the water's warm.

Meanwhile, Democrats have experienced an intellectual renaissance. They have emerged from their 1990s cringe; they’re no longer afraid to challenge conservative pieties; and there’s a lot of serious, well-informed intraparty debate about issues from health care to climate change.
You don’t have to agree with any of the various Medicare for All plans, or proposals for a Green New Deal, to recognize that these are important ideas receiving serious discussion.
(All talk and no action - Generic Corporate Democrats in the service of the oligarchy will posture as Elizabeth Warren clones, even as they inwardly cringe at her anti-Wall Street rhetoric. They'll ride her populist coattails and share the hefty funds she raises all the way to the convention, where (after a second superdelegate-hefty ballot) they'll thank her, and probably Bernie too, for the loyal service and loyal support for Beto, Uncle Joe, Cory or Kamala.  Or so I cynically suspect and honestly fear.)

My published comment:

Elizabeth Warren has withstood marathon gaslighting attacks from both sides of the Uniparty ever since her entry into both public policy and politics.
It was Barack Obama, in one of a whole series of misguided austerian efforts to placate the Gruesome Old Patriarchy, who bypassed Warren to lead the very consumer agency she had birthed.
Later, as the corporate Dems colluded with the GOP to pass the secretive and anti-democratic Trans-Pacific Partnership, Warren was one of the few senators calling Obama out on it. She brought some much-needed public attention to the "investor state dispute tribunals" in the pact. These tribunals, in which multinational corporations act as judge, jury and executioner, have the effect of overriding sovereign laws if they dig into the profits of said corporations.
Obama, in turn, accused Warren of spreading "misinformation" to rile up the progressive base, as well as falsely denying the TPP was even a secret. To which Warren challenged him to make the whole thing public. Upon which he got very, very quiet. With the upshot being that the TPP didn't pass before he left office.
With Warren and AOC in the vanguard, radical neoliberal centrism might finally be on the way out. Of course, pundits also predicted its demise after the financial crash in 2008. Oligarchs do not give up, even with proof that hyper-capitalism is both causing and worsening our climate catastrophe.
Re Warren, no need to chant "I'm With Her."
Because "She's With Us."
And a follow-up comment to responding readers who were royally miffed about my nameless sexist Bernie-Bro-ish diss of Hillary and their false insistence that Obama's TPP was fully transparent:

Draft copies of the TPP first came to the public via Wikileaks, whose founder Julian Assange is currently under US indictment and whose plight is being all but ignored by the corporate media, the so-called champions of the First Amendment.
The TPP goes far beyond even the odious corporate tribunals superseding the laws of sovereign governments. It would force signatories to extend copyright to life plus 70 years and impose draconian penalties for what is now known as protected "Fair use" of such copyrighted materials. It also imposes top-down control of the Internet and limits the rights of individuals to shield their personal information from bad actors. (Read: Facebook.) Hollywood and Silicon Valley, big donors to the DNC, had a lot of input in the crafting of the TPP, whose full text was not even to be made public until five years after ratification. Before she was allegedly against it, Sec. of State Hillary Clinton described the TPP as "the gold standard of trade agreements." Ka-ching.


P.S. If you can't or won't watch the Nuremberg in the Oval special tonight, Boing-Boing has thoughtfully provided us with a combination preview-synopsis, at 50 percent speed so that we can't or won't miss even one precious single spittle-inflected word of it. (Sound editing credit, Rob Beschizza).


Meredith NYC said...

I sent this comment to krugman’s Warren column:
New YorkJan. 7
Just out of curiosity--can Krugman now inform us of the differences in policy between Sen Warren, and Bernie Sanders, for instance?
As many readers pointed out, PK conspicuously ignored and then denigrated him for 2016, even tho Sanders only basically wanted to restore the New Deal for the 21st Century. That was deemed too radical in our distorted politics. Then Sanders polled as the most popular politician of 2017.

We saw blatant bias that many called out in 2016. So how seriously should we take all this talk for the next election?

Even if he wasn't the best candidate, or if disagreed with some of his ideas, the NYT and Krugman didn't even give Sanders' proposals the time of day. No clarification or evidence.

And his ideas are actually centrist policy in most other democracies-- like health care for all. Still too radical, PK?

And proposals that were once centrist in America:
Low cost/ free state college tuition.
Higher tax rates on the rich.
Sensible regulations on big banks and on campaign finance--etc etc.
These were once norms within our lifetimes, now deemed politically left wing.

Now PK gives positive feedback on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Elizabeth Warren? Good. So now please clarify policy differences, just for the record. Seems Warren and Sanders agree more than they diverge. What happened?

So a few replies then bashed Sanders as unelectable, with negative baggage and pie in sky ideas, etc etc.

Then came this intelligent, well written reply to them.

Berkeley CAJan. 7
@Darsan54, you've missed the point of @Meredith's comment. Krugman was denigrating toward Sanders throughout the 2016 campaign, to a degree that was distressing to Bernie supports (myself included), but now is behind OAC and Warren, who directly benefit from the political space opened up by Sanders' candidacy. The comment by @Meredith wasn't about Sanders being a candidate, but about the inconsistency in Krugman's opinions of him, Warren, and OAC, and the lack of distinction in their wpolicy positions.

I think it boils down to Krugman being a fan of HRC and his inability to see then what Bernie was offering. So as he scolds the media for its inability to consider serious policy positions, some of us would like to see him recognize -- publicly -- that he was unduly harsh to Bernie and the "unrealistic" policies he supported, which, largely as a result of his candidacy, are no longer so unrealistic.

I replied:

New YorkJan. 7
@Rich....thanks, you sure summed it up well, better than I did.
Yes, PK was a fan of HRC, and many readers said she would've picked him as Treasury Secy. She cited his name in debates.

Sanders wasn't the best candidate---current ones are better. But Sanders was soundly dissed, as were his ideas.

Recently, at a NY book store event, I criticized Sanders campaign to his manager, Jeff Weaver. I asked why didn't Sanders spotlight that he once escorted a bus full of Vermonters to Canada to buy cancer drugs they couldn't afford here?

And why didn't he put forth his 2014 senate hearings on positive role models of health care financing abroad, with witness from Canada, France, Denmark and Taiwan? Nothing on it in the campaign---should have been big in our media. I'd run across that unusual event on cspan. That was it.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Great stuff, Karen. I lose count of your knockouts.

Some day in the great new tomorrow, when we're all younger and fit to take on more work, I hope you'll launch another blog that explains exactly how you remember all the points of darkness attached to corrupt figures in politics, finance and journalism. Do you have a magic filing system, or do you simply not forget coupled with the gift of instant recall? However you do it, Bravo!

Erik Roth said...

“The more you can escape from how horrible things really are, the less it's going to bother you … and then, the worse things get.”
~ Frank Zappa

So, I watched Trump bleat his bullshit last night, and then saw Pelosi and Schumer give their blessedly brief but typically toothless retort.
Their response merely posited that the issues of border security and government shutdown be considered separately.

The true counterpoint came from Bernie Sanders, but that didn’t get coverage in the corporate media.
Why? Because it sharply challenged the bipartisan status quo and put the real crises we face in proper perspective.
It’s worth hearing, then heeding.

Bernie Sanders Responds to Trump’s Oval Office Address — January 8, 2019 —

Jay–Ottawa said...

@ Erik

Thanks for that link. Too hot for the MSM to touch, I suppose. What a pity the Dems didn't choose him to respond to Trump

In his speech he called Trump a liar three or four times. If only he would look Pelosi and Schumer in the eye and say the same thing. we are blessed with enemies on two fronts: The GOP and the Dems.

I'm all for voting for Bernie into the White House, but only IF IF IF he campaigns next time under the banner of a Third Party.