A few of the articles I read this morning over coffee with short comments on each.
Protests against lockdowns and stay-at-home orders begin. Are these starting organically or driven by right-wing organizations?
Back in January when SARS-COVID-2 began to spread from China, a good friend of mine told me government would eventually have to shut down businesses and limit large gatherings of people in order to limit the contagion and protect the health care system. I responded that even if necessary, lockdowns like this would generate protest and backlash in the US if they lasted more than a week or two. Those protests have started.
This week a few dozen people gathered at Capitol Square in Richmond to demand an end to stay-at-home orders in Virginia by 1 May.
Both Capitol and Virginia State Police were on hand and had to remind the protesters to maintain social distancing guidelines since they said the groups encouraged participants to hug and share food during the event.
“The reason why I’m not wearing a mask is that I’m not going to have someone tell me I have to,” said protester Benjamin Wright, who lives in Richmond.
This kind of right-wing virtue signaling will spread across the US and could seriously limit the ability of US institutions to deal with this crisis. And make no mistake: it’s driven by right-wing organizations like the Proud Boys and part of Trump’s reelection campaign.
It can also lead to this kind of tragic outcome when people believe what they hear on propaganda networks instead of members of their own family.
In Pursuit of PPE
This story about an executive for a Massachusetts hospital system buying personal protective equipment for his staff demonstrates both the failure of markets to allocate resources to filling an urgent need and the failure of government to protect public health. Shortages will generate higher prices, but government should work to improve the situation by taking action to increase production, not throw up road blocks and threaten to redirect shipments on a whim.
Awarding high-dollar contracts for the purchase of masks from bankrupt firms with no staff that have never made a mask does not seem like the best way out of the PPE shortage mess.
The New England Journal of Medicine is a good general resource on SARS-COVID-2, by the way.
Just so this isn’t All Coronavirus All the Time…
As the Bernie Sanders campaign ended and the Democratic Party continued coalescing support around Biden’s candidacy, I got into it a bit with some Our Revolution folks on Twitter. I tried to make the point that for now policy has to take a back seat to ending the Trump disaster (not to mention what looks like nascent fascism) with little success. But I also pointed out that politicians like Sanders and Warren, supported by activist groups like the Indivisibles and Resistance organizations, have moved American politics to the left. So the reason Sanders’ Our Revolution movement failed to achieve electoral success has more to do with the failure of their “unite the working class” strategy than with refusal by Democratic Party elites to back progressive policies. More to come on this in the coming days.
Yves Smith (aka Susan Webber), a management consultant and principal at Aurora Advisors, writes at Politico that the “highly educated, high-income, finance-literate readers of my website, Naked Capitalism, don’t just overwhelmingly favor Bernie Sanders. They also say “Hell no!” to Hillary Clinton to the degree that many say they would even vote for Donald Trump over her.”
They (9 out of 10 Smith friends polled) developed their “conclusions” from “careful study of her record and her policy proposals,” and believe the Clintons represent a policy status quo of “crushing inequality, and an economy that is literally killing off the less fortunate.” And they think “the most powerful move they can take to foster change is to withhold their support.” Continue reading
This argument by Kevin Zeese and Patrick Walker at Salon goes in the category of wishful thinking if you ask me. The core point they make is that by running for President on the Green Party ticket (Jill Stein has apparently agreed to this) Bernie Sanders would keep Donald Trump from expanding his coalition of voters at Hillary Clinton’s expense. This is because voters see both Trump and Sanders as outsiders, with Sanders the “real” one. They also worry that Trump could move to Clinton’s left on Wall Street and trade, “corporate trade agreements,” and militarism. Finally, Zeese and Walker argue that independents will be the key to this race, and that third party campaign risks to Democratic candidates are overblown. Well, let’s see. Continue reading
Writing at Salon, Anis Shivani predicted last week that Donald Trump’s campaign “will surely be victorious in the end,” because he appeals “to an elemental fear in the country, torn apart by the abstraction of the market, to which Clinton has not the faintest hope of responding.” Trump, you see, “’builds’ things, literal buildings.” People can actually visualize these buildings and the cities they were built in. This contrasts with Clinton, according to Shivani, since her work with the Clinton Foundation and the State Department “represents…disembodiedness.” “In this election,” claims Shivani, “abstraction will clearly lose and corporeality…will undoubtedly win.”
Another Salon writer, Musa al-Gharbi, doesn’t actually predict a Trump win, but he does seem to think the Donald has a path to victory. He lays out three key reasons to think this: because Trump has more “opportunity to radically change public perception for the better” since voters don’t yet know Trump “as a politician,” because this election will turn on what voters think about both Obama and Bill Clinton, and because of something he calls “negative intersectionality.” Al-Gharbi doesn’t define this very clearly, but he seems to be saying something about political correctness: that Trump’s bigotry and misogyny, “heard in the context of a fundamentally anti-white, anti-Christian culture war,” could actually make some voters see him more sympathetically.
These aren’t the only two writers working to outline a Trump path to the Oval Office. These arguments mostly focus on three claims: both candidates have poor favorability ratings, Hillary Clinton is a bad candidate, and minority voters could shift to Trump. I challenge them below the fold. Continue reading
Alex Castellanos couldn’t say it enough this morning on Meet the Press: 70% of Americans think the US is going in the wrong direction and want change. To him this means Donald Trump has a chance to win the Presidency, since Hillary Clinton represents more of the same.
Americans have many reasons for answering “wrong track” on these kinds of surveys. Castellanos conflates these reasons into a general annoyance with American government and its political leadership. Let me suggest that much of the “wrong track” sentiment comes from disapproval of conservative social and economic policies and their obstructionist efforts to stop progressive changes people want. This is true of both conservatives and liberals, but only on the conservative side does this translate to support for Trump.
Conservatives think the country is on the “wrong track” because they disapprove of tolerance for less traditional social, religious, and sexual norms, and wonder what the world is coming to when fewer people attend church, the coach cannot pray with the high school football team, homosexuals can marry and young women can have recreational sex without consequences. They blame immigrants and minorities for their apparent loss of economic prosperity and political power and believe government does too much to help them. They don’t like changes they see in their cities and neighborhoods as immigrants and people of color move in or cities encroach upon rural areas. In fact, many people who say the US is going in the wrong direction actually want less change, and seek leaders that will finally put a stop to the madness. These people reject the establishment GOP because they believe conservatives fecklessly promised to do so while knowing they would not or could not.
The only change they really do want is a shift from the “free markets can make everything work” that lead to wealth inequality and corporations moving their jobs overseas. So they also reject the conservative governing establishment for failing to deliver the economic prosperity promised by Reagan and Americans for Tax Reform, and want US workers protected even if it means government action. The core of Trump’s support comes from disaffected conservatives annoyed with change in American society, and seek restoration of traditional values and and a capitalism based on a balance between profits for shareholders and the needs of the nation and its workers. Continue reading
I don’t think Bernie has his best talking points with respect to the Democratic Party super delegates. I would respond to questions with this:
It’s important to understand what a super delegate is. Democratic Party activists who have put in the time and effort to elect Democrats, and the men and women who have won elective office as Democrats, should have plenary votes at their national convention along with delegates selected by voters in primaries and caucuses. It makes all the sense in the world for party officials, whether selected at the county level or by winning elections, should have a voice in nominating the Party’s candidate for President. But I see a disconnect when I win a primary in West Virginia by 60% but the Democratic Party officials who serve the state support my opponent, and I wonder why they don’t support the choice their own constituents prefer. It seems to me that they open themselves to challenges from inside the Party. I’m not threatening to support primary challengers, but challenges would not surprise me if voters want to move in a new direction.
I am active in the Democratic Party at the county level in Virginia, and I work to elect candidates from within my Party. Bernie Sanders has caucused with Democrats but is not an activist Party member, and this makes me wonder why I should support nominating him for President on our ticket. The answer of course has to do with policy. I agree with his rejection of neoliberal economic policy – free trade, lower taxes on the wealthy, personhood for corporations, among other things. I also agree with his rejection of foreign policy as usual, where many Democrats look all too much like GOP neocons. This resolves my concerns, and I would personally prefer to see Sanders win the Democratic Party nomination. If he does not, I want to see his candidacy move my Party toward support for his policy proposals.
In the end, however, it’s no surprise that core legacy Democrats – long time activists and elected officials – want to stick with someone who has supported Democrats her entire life. If Bernie wants to influence the Party he needs to join it officially, and direct his supporters to likewise join its activist ranks. They can then compete in Party politics, including local level primaries and elections for grassroots Party positions like the one I hold: district chair.
I voted to send a Bernie Sanders delegate to the Democratic National Convention last weekend. I welcome his supporters to the Party and their efforts to remake it according to their policy preferences. If they do well, the super delegates will follow.
I’m glad I ran across this Salon article challenging the notion that Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders appeal to similar populist constituencies. Don’t both Trump and Sanders “confront ‘establishment’ hegemony and voice small-fry ‘populism,’ plus condemn bad trade agreements, job losses, and Washington insiders?” No, Becker says:
Sanders is not like Trump or vice versa: despite surface parallels, they are at heart more like polar opposites. In the end this measure emerges: the unassuming Sanders presents people-oriented messages that widen debate and insight. Trump’s proto-fascist, wealth-driven demagoguery kills debate with deceptive, irresponsible war cries that deter thinking and enlightenment.
I guess I agree as far as it goes: the contrast between Sanders’ intellectual and Trump’s demagogic arguments are…wait for it…yuuuuge. But I see a much more important difference: Donald Trump sells himself as the best player of the Capitalism game. Bernie Sanders makes a case that the game itself is rigged, and the rules need to change. Continue reading
A few things I read over coffee this morning…while watching the talking heads discuss Iowa:
Morton Guyton, writing at Patheos blog Mercy Not Sacrifice, discusses an ideological perspective he calls ” White Evangelical Nihilism:”
There’s a genuine ideological foundation for the ethos that makes Trump and Cruz so popular. I call it white evangelical nihilism.
When you’re told by your pastor that all the people outside of your ideological tribe are utterly wicked and deserving of eternal torture, that’s how it becomes a sin to compromise with your opponents politically and work together for the common good.
Everything about secular liberalism must be utterly antithetical to the Christian gospel and profoundly offensive to God. It has to be, or else secular liberals wouldn’t be worthy of damnation. So everything about liberalism is put into binary opposition with “God’s truth.” To believe in climate change is to believe that God is not in control of the environment. To believe that the government should provide for the poor is an emulation of atheist communism and a usurpation of God’s sovereignty. To promote “political correctness” is to silence the courageous proclamation of “Biblical truth.”
This tracks with a point I make when discussing today’s polarized American political climate. Conservatives run on a set of existential issues on which there can be no compromise: abortion, homosexuality, taxes, and guns. Two of these have their basis in religion and two in racism, but all four depend on the fundamental premise that only wicked, lazy or authoritarian people disagree with the right wing on these issues. This is the fundamental American political problem we need to resolve.
Guyton goes on to reframe salvation. Rather than a search for God’s help in saving individual sinners from themselves, he argues we should seek His help in saving other people from our sin:
Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.” Imagine if Christians, and especially Christian politicians, were known as the people who regard everyone else as “better than [them]selves.”
Read the whole thing. Excellent essay. Continue reading