Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Democrats’ Category

Sen. Al Franken: “Why I am a Democrat”

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Full disclosure: My own father was killed in a preventable oilfield accident (one reason I support OSHA) and I was raised with the help of Social Security survivor benefits.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2017 at 4:00 pm

It’s getting more serious: Democrats Want to Know If Trump Quashed a Russian Money Laundering Case In Return for Dirt on Hillary Clinton

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That would explain a lot. Read Kevin Drum’s explication, very useful.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 July 2017 at 5:11 pm

The Book That Predicted Trump’s Rise Offers the Left a Roadmap for Defeating Him

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Conor Friedersdorf writes in the Atlantic:

Twenty years ago, in a series of lectures on the history of American civilization, the philosopher Richard Rorty offered a prediction. His words languished in relative obscurity until the unexpected rise of Donald Trump made them seem prescient.Labor unions and unskilled workers will sooner or later realize that “their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported,” he posited. And they will further realize that “suburban white-collar workers, themselves desperately afraid of being downsized, are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.” At that point, “something will crack,”  he warned. “The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking for a strongman to vote for––someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots.”

That passage, considered from the vantage of November 9, 2016, caused a spike of interest in Achieving Our Country, the compilation of Rorty’s lectures. The full book contains criticism for the political left as earnestly constructive and thoughtfully formulated as any I have encountered in my recent roundups––and I say that despite disagreeing with Rorty’s  uncharitable assessments of the American right, among other things.

His book is worth revisiting as the Democratic Party smarts from losses in recent special elections and considers how it might win back the House in the 2018 midterms.

What is wrong with its current incarnation?

Rorty argued that an ascendant strain of postmodern Leftism with its roots in the academy has tended “to give cultural politics preference over real politics, and to mock the very idea that democratic institutions might once again be made to serve social justice.”

This Left is more likely to participate in a public shaming than to lobby for a new law; it is more likely to mobilize to occupy a park or shut down a freeway than to register voters. It “exaggerates the importance of philosophy for politics, and wastes its energy on sophisticated theoretical analyses of the significance of current events.” Its adherents “have permitted cultural politics to supplant real politics, and have collaborated with the Right in making cultural issues central to the public debate.”

Yet framing the public debate in that manner plays to the strengths of the political Right.

Rorty sympathizes with the reasons that an ascendant Leftist faction lost faith in American institutions. He is as horrified as they are by the historic treatment of indigenous people and African Americans, and by America’s behavior in the Vietnam War.

But like John Dewey, he rejects self-loathing as “a luxury which agents––either individuals or nations––cannot afford,” and finds other aspects of American history and national character to celebrate. Today’s Left would more effectively advance social justice if its adherents possessed a historical memory that extended farther back than the 1960s, he argued, to a movement more than a century old “that has served human liberty well.” It would help, for example, “if students became as familiar with the Pullman Strike, the Great Coalfield War, and the passage of the Wagner Act as with the march from Selma, Berkeley free-speech demonstrations, and Stonewall.”

If more Leftists saw themselves as part of that history, with all its achievements, they might continue to lament that “America is not a morally pure country,” but might better understand that “no country ever has been or ever will be,” and that no country will ever have “a morally pure, homogeneous Left” to bring about social justice.

He urges the Left to be more realist at length:

In democratic countries you get things done by compromising your principles in order to form alliances with groups about whom you have grave doubts. The Left in America has made a lot of progress by doing just that. The closest the Left ever came to taking over the government was in 1912, when a Whitman enthusiast, Eugene Debs, ran for president and got almost a million votes. These votes were cast by, as Daniel Bell puts it, “as unstable a compound as was ever mixed in the modern history of political chemistry.” This compound mingled rage at low wages and miserable working conditions with, as Bell says, “the puritan conscience of millionaire socialists, the boyish romanticism of a Jack London, the pale Christian piety of a George Herron … the reckless braggadocio of a ‘Wild Bill’ Haywood … the tepid social-work impulse of do-gooders, inarticulate and amorphous desire to ‘belong’ of the immigrant workers, the iconoclastic idol-breaking of the literary radicals … and more.”

Those dispossessed farmers were often racist, nativist, and sadistic. The millionaire socialists, ruthless robber barons though they were, nevertheless set up the foundations which sponsored the research which helped get leftist legislation passed. We need to get rid of the Marxist idea that only bottom-up initiatives, conducted by workers and peasants who have somehow been so freed from resentment as to show no trace of prejudice, can achieve our country. The history of leftist politics in America is a story of how top-down initiatives and bottom-up initiatives have interlocked.

Rorty wasn’t dismissing bigotry as unimportant. He was quick to praise the post-’60s Left for being attentive to racial injustice and recognizing that sadism against minority groups would have persisted even apart from economic inequality. Still, he criticizes the identity politics of the left for developing a politics “more about stigma than about money, more about deep and hidden psychosexual motivations than about shallow and evident greed,” because many of the dispossessed are thereby ignored.

Surveying academia, for example, he observes that “nobody is setting up a program in unemployed studies, homeless studies, or trailer-park studies, because the unemployed, the homeless, and residents of trailer parks are not the ‘other’ in the relative sense. To be other in this sense you must bear an ineradicable stigma, one which makes you a victim of socially accepted sadism rather than merely of economic selfishness.”

For Rorty, a Left that neglects victims of economic selfishness will not only fail; its neglect of class will trigger a terrible backlash that ultimately ill-serve the very groups that Leftist identity politics are intended to help.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 July 2017 at 4:44 pm

Twitter Is a Cesspool, But It’s Our Cesspool

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Kevin Drum writes at Mother Jones:

Poor Bret Stephens. He’s the latest punching bag for the left among New York Timescolumnists, and apparently he’s getting sick of it. “Twitter is about the naked, grunting brain,” he says. “It’s whatever pops out. And what pops out is altogether too revealing.” So he’s quitting Twitter.

There’s not much question that Twitter is a cesspool, but I think he’s making a mistake nonetheless. A lot of people blame social media for making our politics cruder, but that misses the reality. Our politics has always been this crude. We just didn’t know it. All Twitter has done is expose our collective id in a way that’s hard to brush off.

This is difficult to accept. Is this really what America is like in the privacy of our own thoughts? Yes it is. There’s no point in denying it. The question is, are we better off knowing it, or were we better off when we all pretended to be better people than this?

I’m not sure. There are surely advantages to norms of civility in public life. A Burkean conservative would probably say that those norms have been developed over a long time and we should respect the fact that we’ve historically found them useful. However, one thing Twitter (and Donald Trump) have demonstrated is that there are damn few Burkean conservatives in the United States. Conversely, a liberal would presumably believe that it’s important to know the raw truth. On the other hand, it’s liberals who are the biggest complainers about the rampant sexism, racism, xenophobia, and so forth that are so common on Twitter.

As for myself, I have an unusual attitude toward this stuff: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 June 2017 at 6:36 pm

“Whom do you believe, Comey or Trump?”

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Kevin Drum has an interesting post on this, with this chart:

I have to admit that using “who” as in the chart title grates on my nerves. It is not rocket science: “who” is for the subject of a sentence, “whom” is used as an object of verb or preposition.

Also read Drum’s post “Liberals and Immigration.”

Written by LeisureGuy

23 June 2017 at 4:36 pm

Criminal convictions per administration: Republicans 89, Democrats 1

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And that 1 was just collateral damage in Kenneth Starr’s crusade against all things Clinton.

Kevin Drum has more.

Average per administration figures:

Republicans: 17.8
Democrats: 0.25

So per administration the GOP has racked up more than 71 times as many convictions as the Democrats.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2017 at 7:31 pm

Liberals Haven’t “Lost Their Way” On Immigration

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Kevin Drum has an excellent post (with graph) on immigration. From the post:

. . . there have been two big attempts in the past decade to pass a moderate, compromise immigration bill. The first time was in 2006, when both the House and Senate passed bills by large margins. But thanks to a backlash from talk radio and social conservatives, the bills never went to conference and the effort died.

The second time was in 2013. A bill passed the Senate by a large, bipartisan majority, but once again it hit a backlash from the tea-party wing of the Republican Party. John Boehner never allowed the bill to come up for a vote in the House, and the effort died again.

These two episodes have made it clear that compromise on immigration is pointless. That being the case, why bother playing Hamlet about the effect of illegal immigration on the wages of low-skilled natives? Especially since it’s a red herring anyway: the effect of undocumented immigrants on the wages of low-skilled native workers is vanishingly small. Beinart repeatedly mentions the findings of a National Academies of Sciences report on immigration and the economy, but never mentions the precise number it comes up with: for low-skilled native workers, an average of all studies suggests that an influx of a million immigrants would lower wages about 0.4 percent. That’s $8 per month.1 . . .

But read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2017 at 3:40 pm

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