THIS (more thoughts at the bottom):
“...a large faction of the country has descended into paranoia and conspiracy theories, fighting intensely against the basic rules, norms, and post-war assumptions of American life. And because that faction has successfully rendered all political fights — even fights over basic facts — as vicious, zero-sum partisan struggles, another large faction of the country has simply tuned out, coming to regard politics and public life generally as corrupt and fruitless. Americans’ trust in their institutions and in one another is at record lows.
This serves the right’s purposes. If all common identity is dissolved, all transpartisan facts and norms, then there is no longer any ability to communicate across factional lines. What remains is raw power struggle. That is the milieu in which an identitarian like Donald Trump feels at home; witness his purging of public servants he deems insufficiently loyal.
But it works against the left’s purposes. The left needs for voters to believe that effective, responsive governance is possible — that we can, in fact, have nice things. The left needs social and political trust. Without them, collective action for collective benefit, the left’s stock in trade, becomes impossible.
This is the left’s challenge in the US: how to break out of the doom loop and get on a trajectory of better governance and rising trust.
Every Democratic candidate senses on some level that trust is low and is addressing the problem with some chicken and some egg — some building of the social trust necessary to pass good policy, some passing of policies necessary to build social trust.
In the “moderate” lane — where Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Bloomberg are battling it out — the effort to address trust is largely affective. The moderate promises a return to normalcy, when everything didn’t feel so tense and volatile. The moderate promises not to be rigid or ideological, to compromise and be constructive, but above all to provide a steady, familiar, predictable hand on the tiller. There might not be any big revolution, but there will be slow, steady progress, not this vertiginous lurching about.
The problem with the moderate approach is that the system really is rigged. It is rigged against Democratic reformers through the electoral college, the overrepresentation of rural areas in the Senate, gerrymandering from 2010, unlimited money in politics, and the filibuster, among other things. And it is rigged in favor of the wealthy and powerful, with white-collar criminal enforcement declining, agencies like the IRS being defunded and defanged, and now Trump pardoning random criminals who get to him through Fox.
None of that will change with “bipartisan outreach” or a sensible Midwestern temperament. Republicans have become steadily more intractable and unhinged since 2010 and there’s no reason to think that will change any time soon. Just as Obama was confined to executive action for the last six years of his presidency, so too will any new Democratic president be barred from legislation if Republicans hold either house of Congress in 2020. There is no normalcy to return to. Four more years of fruitless partisan squabbling will do nothing to restore trust.
The other, “left” lane is occupied by Warren and Sanders, who both promise, in Warren’s familiar phrase, “big structural change.” They are the only two candidates proposing changes equal to the moment.
There is not a huge tangible difference to be found in their legislative goals, certainly relative to what either is likely to be able to accomplish. Warren’s regulated capitalism and Sanders’s democratic socialism often blur together in policy terms: They both seek universal health care, higher wages, stronger unions, canceled student debt plus free college, and higher taxes on the wealthy. They both want something more like Denmark’s system, whatever label is put on it.
But there are interesting differences in their rhetoric, focus, and theories of change.
Sanders’s theory of change is not centered on any set of procedural arguments. (To the extent he makes any, they are dubious, like his ludicrous promise to pass both Medicare-for-all and the Green New Deal through budget reconciliation, which is absolutely not going to happen.) It is instead a story of revolution, a movement of people in the streets, sweeping aside institutional impediments and rebuilding systems from the bottom up.
As Wilkinson says, in this one way, Sanders’s appeal is similar to Trump’s. Trump didn’t make any complicated procedural arguments either. He just said that the system is corrupt and he would blow the whole thing up. “Donald Trump never sounds like he might be a guy from HR about to lead you through a folder of ‘onboarding’ paperwork. And neither does Bernie Sanders,” Wilkinson writes. “Bernie’s simply on your side against the entitled rich pricks who make your life a pain, and he’s going to make it easier.”
It is precisely this populist appeal that leads many Sanders fans to believe that he will be able to peel off some of the working-class voters who drifted to Trump.
I have little confidence in this theory of change. Sanders is winning, but there is no sign yet of a massive, institution-crushing working-class movement. And if it doesn’t show up — if, instead, recent trends hold and the nation remains narrowly divided along partisan lines — a Sanders presidency would face the same thicket of structural hurdles that any Democratic presidency would.
It may be that he has a plan to navigate those impediments from the inside, that he has some vision of the personnel he would put in place, the rules he would change, and the levers available to him to maneuver within a tight space. But that kind of bureaucratic savvy hasn’t been his reputation or his role in his long career, it hasn’t played much of a part in his campaign, and the personnel and policy choices he has made so far speak more to ideological fealty than a pragmatic dedication to reform. (See Matt Yglesias for the contrary case that Sanders would in fact be a pragmatic and flexible leader.)...
Warren shares many elements of Sanders’s populist rhetoric. She, too, is focused on how the rich and powerful have rigged the system against ordinary people. But she does not propose to blow the system up or sweep it aside. She proposes to fix it. She (legendarily) has a plan for that, a clear sense of which institutions are broken, what new institutions need to be created, and what kind of people she wants running them. As Ezra Klein documents, her entire career in politics has been focused on battling for better institutions and better personnel...
This is why, unlike Sanders, she explicitly cites her anti-corruption reform agenda as her first and top priority if she becomes president. It’s why she, unlike Sanders, supports getting rid of the filibuster. For her, procedural reforms are not an afterthought, but a vital part of the agenda in and of themselves, because they are the only reliable way to generate the trust needed to support the rest of the agenda and progress beyond it...
It is notoriously difficult to make procedural issues catch fire, to get votes with them. And now, with populist sentiment so prevalent, it is more difficult than ever. As Wilkinson notes, the language of rules and procedures is the language of the managerial class — and it is the managerial class, more than the distant wealthy ownership class, that makes workers’ lives miserable on a day-to-day basis.
Workers already find their lives strangled by the byzantine complexity of health care insurance and 401(k)s. It is easy for Warren’s bullet-pointed agenda to sound like another visiting technocratic consultant arrived with more plans and paperwork.
The populist impulse is to burn all that down, to sweep it away. That is what Sanders and Trump both promise, albeit with diametrically opposed intentions.
Warren has tried to please both progressives and pragmatists, but the overlap may not be as large as she hoped...
Warren’s appeal to a certain sort of politically engaged Democrat is that she combines bold progressive goals with extensive experience navigating US institutions and detailed plans for bureaucratic reform. It’s the best of both worlds, ambitious and pragmatic.
But there may not be all that many Democratic primary voters who want those two things together. It may be that the Democrats who want ambition don’t want pragmatism and the ones who claim to want pragmatism don’t want ambition.
That dilemma was illustrated perfectly by the episode that is said to have knocked Warren out of her early frontrunner status. Pressured to explain how she would pass Medicare-for-all, her campaign developed a phased plan that would create a public option through budget reconciliation, reform the filibuster, and bring a more comprehensive, fully paid-for bill to Congress later in her first term.
For her efforts, she took fire from both sides. It turns out most of the primary voters who want Medicare-for-all want it immediately and view any concessions to political reality as ideological betrayal. And it turns out most of the Very Serious People in DC who claim to want pragmatism (for Warren to “show her work”) really just want austerity, to be told that we can’t have nice things, a message that US elites have come to see as synonymous with realism.
It’s difficult to see the path forward for Warren. She will never out-ambition Sanders. Wilkinson thinks that she ought to marry her procedural reformism to a more putatively moderate substantive agenda to try to capture the role as the safe alternative to Sanders. But one class of voters that does see the potential of Warren’s agenda is the financial and tech elite who are its target. In many ways, they see Warren as a greater threat than Sanders, as she is laser-focused on the systems that undergird their privilege. It is doubtful that the money brokers of the party would embrace her even if she crafted a more moderate message.
And let’s not forget, unlike bright young white men like Pete, women don’t get second chances. They are not forgiven if they change their minds or adjust their messages. They are cast as “inauthentic,” deceitful schemers. It remains an easy stereotype to attach to women, as the ludicrous “Pocahontas” episode illustrated. (There is, unsurprisingly, misogyny infused throughout the media’s treatment of Warren.)
It is probably too late for Warren to substantially change a message that she has been consistently delivering for well over a decade now. She is a reformer, a fighter, someone who wants to make the systems of US finance, politics, and commerce work for ordinary people. She’s been grappling with those systems her whole adult life and knows how and where to apply pressure to get results. She wants to create systems in which voters can trust and reward their trust with better health care, better wages, and better lives. All she can do now is make her case, organize, and hope for the best.
If Sanders does win the primary, as looks increasingly likely, Democrats will work to get him elected. To do otherwise would be demented.
But over my life following politics, I have seen wave after wave of revolutionary zeal crash on the shores of DC and recede defeated. If Sanders is elected and runs into the same insurmountable wall of institutional resistance that choked Obama’s presidency, if his promises of revolution come to nothing and his term is consumed by fruitless partisan warfare, I fear the effect on the impassioned young people at the core of his coalition.
It will be one more thread cut, and I’m not sure how many more cuts America’s frayed social fabric can take before it begins unraveling entirely.”
This article says so much so well. No matter who you’re voting for, please read it, share yr thoughts & pass it on. Like our climate crisis (the otherexistential threat we’re facing), the ‘social trust doom loop’ is a crisis of communication. We can’t live on a polluted planet, and a peaceful, fair civilization can’t exist in corrupted language / ideas. Anyway, here are some chunks of the article, and please check the whole thing out (link at bottom), cos there’s more there, and lotsa links to still more. Again, no matter what side of the political spectrum you identify with (aside from corporatist fascists, who are having their way these days at our expense), for any of it to be possible, we need to sort this out.
#Democrats #Progressives #Independents #Republicans