Marianne Williamson Would Have Won

I am writing this before the end results of the 2020 election are known. You might think that, like last time I did an election post-mortem, I should wait for a conclusion. But what I have to say changes very little whether Trump or Biden is in the driver’s seat. What matters right now is that once again the U.S. media predicted a blowout, and once again they have a close election that will be decided by razor thin margins with a game show host. Once again, the democrats sought to challenge a supposedly unconventional candidate with the most conventional establishment group of people imaginable, and once again this led to a shocking under-performance. The simple fact that elections are popularity contests seems to have gone unnoticed by these extremely well paid givers of poisoned advice. The kind of people who, like the recycled Bush neocons of the Lincoln Project, spent tens of millions of dollars to sway republicans in race where the republican share of Trumps votes went up by 3%. Sadly, it is these people a Biden administration will likely pivot towards rather than anyone to the left of their mainline. The present election is a contest to determine which faction of the republican party has the most say in governing the country. The other obvious point that people are tired of candidates who promise nothing but to ‘go back to normal’ and willing to take big risks to shake things up is one the consultant class is paid not to notice by their masters. If Biden wins it will be by a squeaker when it should have been a big margin. He will have no mandate and will play defensive against McConnel for four years while getting cleaned out in the mid-terms and probably flubbing re-election. If Trump wins the Democrats have a better shot next time but at the cost of who knows what damage to their prospects and the mental health of liberals in the meanwhile. No matter who wins here is a prediction: the winner of this cycle loses the next.

It didn’t have to be this way. This election could have been a referendum of Trump’s many failures with an actual positive alternative shown for comparison. But unlike 2016, where I think a strong case that ‘Bernie would have won’ was an argument with a lot of merit considering the economic history of the states that turned out to be most critical, Bernie clearly was a dud this time around. One gets the impression, when seeing his lackluster performance in the primary, that he was pressured into running by his new fan base. But his former independent-leaning fans were increasingly turned off by his movement being colonized by the downwardly mobile rump managerial class who brought with them all their normal-human-alienating woke language policing and hyper-fixation on culture war. Bernie was a class candidate and could only run well with a class-first campaign. That didn’t happen in 2020. Despite class being more important than at any point in American history since the Great Depression, low information partisan news cycles have instituted a kind of postmodern dark age where people focus on identarian issues as their very standard of living and their country at large physically rots around them. This is not an accident, as powerful actors have sought to shift the attitudes of critical thought in directions beneficial to the status quo. That we swim in dark tides is undeniable. But as anyone who has spent time at the beach knows, you escape being ensnared in a rip tide by swimming with the current parallel to the shore until it weakens its hold on you to the point where you can break free. Go with the flow until the flow weakens.

Marianne Williamson was the person who could have won a general election. And she shows a potential path forward while we find ourselves in this trap. She was not my first, second, or even third choice of preference in the democratic primary, but despite my solidly realist and materialist bona fides, I found her more and more likeable as the process went on. By the time it was over for her campaign she had booted out Warren to become my third overall. In retrospect, she should have been my second choice. But to understand why I have come around to the Marianne Way, we first need to go back in time a bit for context of the dark age we find ourselves in.

When I look back at the dominant themes of my writing on here for the past two years, there is one thing that keeps re-occurring: That we live in a dark age. Contrary to so many of the commentariat, I do not believe that this dark age began in 2016 with Trump and BrExit. The seeds of it were sown in the 1980s with the rise of the neoliberal austerity state, confirmed as more than just an era specific fluke in the 90s when many of these market fundamentalist reforms were locked in by Clinton outflanking Reagan from the right making the demolition of civil society a thoroughly bipartisan affair, and then full germination occurred when the disastrous Bush Junior presidency showed how incapable such a society was at responding to crisis or adapting to challenges. It was right after 9/11 when Bush, being looked to by the entire public for leadership, encouraged the American people to keep the economy strong by going shopping. Surely, there has never been such a quintessentially neoliberal response to any crisis as that.

As I have mentioned previously, I personally became aware that I was living in an era of terminal American decline in 2005, when the dismal response to Katrina piggybacked on the collapse of the Iraq occupation after the re-election of the clearly already failed presidency of W. Bush. The thing that pushed him just over the threshold of re-election? Weaponized electoral homophobia. It seemed that there was no going back, and there wasn’t. Bush would leave office with around 20% approval ratings and Obama would be elected in the closest thing the 21rst Century has yet to provide us with that could be described as a landslide. He was elected specifically to undo the failure of the Bush years. He ended up expanding the very out of control surveillance and endless war state he had been elected to curtail. The welcome receding of the Christian culture war of the previous government ended up being the only positive as Obama proceeded to move on to his own Iraqs in Honduras, Libya and Syria, went on to clamp down on internal critics and whistleblowers of a growing surveillance regime that would have impressed East Germany, and deport more immigrants than any president before…or since.

Rhetorically, this acceptance of the failed Reagan-Clinton-Bush consensus by the Democratic Party was papered over by another Bush Era import: that of weaponized identitarian culture war. Except that this time the values were inverted. Now, it was people outside the evangelical tent rather than in it who were the saintly elect. A theology of nerd culture, kale, and getting one’s views on politics from West Wing re-runs rather than actual history. The professional managerial class were going to set things right after the recession. They did so by bailing out the banks who had caused the crisis and promising a Heritage Foundation approved healthcare plan that was a gift to private insurance companies. What is interesting here is that it is now clear that culture war does not in fact work very well, at least not for the side most aggressive about using it offensively. The American people rejected Bush evangelism and liberal wokeness alike, because while the professional ideologues of our society might be obsessed with re-enacting various interpretations of the protestant reformation, most people want to be left alone by such struggles. Even just looking at the currently available trends, it is now undeniable that there were many Obama-to-Trump voters. This may not be a rational ideological path to take, but in both eras it represents a clear rebellion against contemporary moralizing trends by establishment actors. The states that have become the most competitive today are the states who were most hollowed out by offshoring, NAFTA, and neoliberal policies in general for the past four decades. Its not a partisan thing so much as an establishment/anti-establishment thing.

Many deluded liberals seemed to have worked themselves up into a frenzy in the past four years that Trump was some kind of unprecedented phenomenon. His rhetoric and unpredictability are outliers, but what really matters-his policies-are not. Unfortunately, he governs less like he said he would on campaign in 2016, ignoring infrastructure and criminal justice reform for standard Romney/Ryan tax cut-and-spend policies. While those who fell for his rhetoric as independents are fools, those republicans who dutifully lined up behind him are not. They got exactly what they wanted. The goofy antics of the administration are just that. The policies are standard U.S.-republican-right wing. Trump is no fascist nor even of the alt right, even if he has fans from such groups. He is simply a Cholesterol Caligula. Berlusconi, not Mussolini. His only meaningful heterodoxy seems to be in trade policy and making NATO allies pay more, and this could simply be a desperate rear-guard action by the smarter right-neoliberals in order to cover up the extent of their multi-decades failure. In this way he is a continuation of the inevitable process of American decline that began arguably with Carter and definitely with Reagan.

Trump would have won this election handily and easily without Covid simply because of what Biden has represented for decades in the senate, and he would have blown out a major victory had he broken with his own Mnuchin-creatures and instituted universal basic income for at least the duration of the pandemic. Likewise, had Biden promised an expansion of downward cash transfers, I believe his victory would have been assured and extremely telling on the electoral map too. But such bipartisan commitment to austerity colors both of these candidates, much to the misfortune of the country at large. Maybe Andrew Yang was much more important for our future than anyone thought. Certainly more than media-loved supposed brain geniuses like Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg ever could have been. The two candidates that extremely highly educated but not deeply political people and literally no one else loved.

It has already become apparent that Trump’s racist rhetoric has not hurt him with minority voters. Though most minorities skew heavily democratic still, Trump is the first republican to make consistent gains with non-whites in my lifetime. It is also obvious that the tokenistic and foolish decision by Biden to pick Kamala Harris as his running mate has had no positive effect for his campaign and perhaps even had a negative one when all things are said and done. What a shocker, a mass incarcerating creature who surrounds herself with establishment lanyards to help her figure out her policy views turns out to once again be a dud of a VP choice. The DNC really seems to struggle with VP choices that boost a ticket. Gore, Lieberman, Edwards, Biden, Kaine, Harris? Its like a retinue of the worst choices possible. And considering Biden’s age and obvious past-prime nature, it mattered more this time than at any time before. That they chose Harris of all possible options is another damning indictment for how out of step these people are. So out of step they tell an immigration activist to ‘vote for Trump’ if they didn’t like Obama-Biden’s demonstrably awful record of detention and deportation policies. Meanwhile, the identity politics that are increasingly the tent revival religion of the democratic establishment are clearly failing as the only demographic group Biden seems to be expanding his appeal to are the great satan of contemporary liberalism itself, white men. Exit polling indicates more than just an ideological re-alignment is current going on. A Biden victory is a stop-gap measure in this process, not a reversal of it. Him winning a victory means little considering the unpopularity of the present incumbent, and his loss would be simply damning.

Even if Biden wins, this race will be close. Far closer than the media predicted (but about as close as I thought it would be). It shouldn’t be. Trump’s awful response to Covid alone means he deserves to lose and lose big, to say nothing of his other failures. But the Democratic Party spent the past four years sabotaging any candidate who could have been a viable alternative for both their own past failures as well as Trump’s. They have shown, time and time again, that they will fight to the death with an admirable ferocity against any challenger to their left, but barely squeak by when faced with the blackpilled horror of McConnel and company. The reason for this is simple, American parties are controlled by their large donor classes. Large donor classes are always fiscally right wing. The bottom line demands that while they may prefer the less obnoxious rule of the democrats, liberal elites as a group will still throw anyone under the bus who is going to tamper with their private family hoards. But despite this clear materialist cause of our problems, the mood of the public-no matter what their political allegiance, has long since left the quest to pursue material objectives, and has moved firmly into the camp of faith, belief, and cultural signifier. The press, that supposed cadre of defenders of freedom of expression, have allowed themselves to be suckered into becoming the biggest defenders of the national security establishment imaginable. Many of them openly champion the firing and imprisonment of leakers and other journalists for either minor social infractions that cross presently trendy causes or under a kind of neo-McCarthyite delusion that they are guarding the body politic from some phantom foreign threat that spreads through memes. By making such asses of themselves they have collectively abrogated their vital mission right when they were needed the most, providing solipsistic spy thrillers for ageing boomers while ignoring the very real and bipartisan domestic problems that are entirely self-inflicted by the decay of American civic responsibility, the anti-intellectualism of the public, and above all their own failure as journalists and critical thinkers. When our legacy media uses its global reporting as a trite morality play to be framed in how a liberal sees domestic politics, you know your professional class has jumped the shark.

 There needs to be a hard left waiting in the wings in case the necessary push for materialism in our age of ecological catastrophe returns, but we also must prepare for the possibility that it will not do so anytime soon. In order to truly practice harm reduction in the present dark age, we need dark age candidates who actually do understand the problems we face and offer a superior alternative. People who aren’t obscurantist leftist puritans, woke liberals, or market fundamentalists. Someone who can speak to people’s emotional needs while also stating bluntly why the bipartisan establishment has failed everyone. Someone like Marianne Williamson.

At the first debate which she appeared in Marianne Williamson was someone I cheered ironically. I remember shouting ‘orbs orbs orbs!’ (a reference to a then current ironic meme about her having crystal orb powers) with a friend at the tv in the hopes we would be subjected to some pablum about using the power of positive energy to banish Trump from this dimensional plane. But my support for her right to speak only increased as she did so. She was the first candidate to bring up how Obama administration policies towards Central America had created the migrant crisis in the Americas and thus the debate around caravans and the wall. She went on to speak about how the United States had become a sociopathic nation abroad, and that this blundering bully persona had come back home to roost, infecting our domestic politics and giving rise to Trump. Sure, I am hardly a person to resonate positively towards rhetoric about ‘dark psychic forces’, but part of living in our new dark age where feelings do in fact seem to beat facts for most people, is understanding the power of rhetoric and symbolism. No one understands this better than Marianne. Not only does she get this necessary aesthetic packaging (made all the more powerful with the right Twin Peaks musical remix), she also clearly understood the structural bipartisan forces that have made our present American hellscape so intractable. In interviews too numerous to list since she was running and also after she dropped out, she has spoken of the necessity of breaking out of liberal-democratic shibboleths in order to effect meaningful structure change.

It is hard to think of anyone else with a speaking style and public persona who could have so strongly given Trump a what-for in his debates. Who could have generated headlines, positive and negative alike, at an equal level to Trump. Who is skilled at the one thing Trump is genius at and that all democrats seem to struggle with terminally…self-promotion. The kind of candidate who could be both forceful and patiently persuasive to skeptical audiences. The kind of person who, despite their background as a spiritualist with a lot of extremely questionable former views, could make this stone cold atheist and materialist take notice and come to take her very seriously. What matters, and what is overlooked by so much of the wonk class, is policy and deliverables. To get those things you need charisma and branding. Williamson is a rare person who could play both these roles simultaneously. She is hardly a perfect candidate for someone like me, but she is someone I could have supported openly to move things in a favorable direction.

The primary is, of course, over now. To the immense misfortune of the country at large and opposition to Trump in particular Biden was the clear victor. I doubt Marianne Williamson will run again. But she has shown us who seek to take the edge off of this dark age how it could be done. Should a candidate with a similar affect and set of policies tied to a shrewd understanding of the fully bipartisan nature of our present terminal decline, perhaps running in conjunction with an Andrew Yang type making the case that the covid emergency stimulus checks are proof that downwards redistribution really does work, ever again be a possibility, that candidate should be supported. The weirder a rhetorical outlier the better. She may not have won the democratic primary of the general election in this timeline, but Marianne Williamson showed us all a direction where the potential for immense political growth is most likely to lie so long as present cultural and socio-economy conditions continue. You can’t abolish the priests in a dark age, but you can start your own heresy. The alternative church might not be more rational than the main one, but it could be a much better community to live in. Its certainly a better path than tossing more money down the pit to nowhere also known as Amy McGrath.

Which is why it is so important to say it loudly and with certainty despite being such a counter-factual that could never technically be validated: Marianne Williamson could have…perhaps would have…definitely should have, won the 2020 General Election.

Not Evil, Just Stupid

11-hillary-clinton-shocked.w700.h700

And in an age of near universal literacy and information access in the developed world, stupid is an evil all its own. Perhaps the greatest of all evils. This is now abundantly clear with the poorly disguised attempt to smear a veteran and sitting congresswoman as a traitorous Manchurian candidate and its hilarious response.

Despite the feverish conspiracy theories of the right, it has long been my position that Hillary Clinton, and the people who religiously tend to identify with her, are not in fact these brilliant puppet masters. As fun as it is to joke about these people being reptillian baby eaters, the truth of the matter is that while indeed the Clintons (just like the Bushes and Trumps) are monstrously corrupt, they are also remarkably stupid. Hillary in particular, who lacks the charisma and trend-reading ability to her husband, is a living embodiment not of evil but of incompetence. The network she can call out to speak on her behalf is more a patronage network of fellow incompetents than it is anything else, though that network surely does exist as we can see clearly this week,

My evidence is Mrs. Clinton’s entire record in policy. Let’s break it down.

-As First Lady she was given the opportunity to reform America’s healthcare system. Her attempts went down in history for being so undiplomatic that they failed before they even began. She also faked a southern accent during this time despite not actually being a southerner.

-Her tenure as a senator from the State of New York consisted of trying and failing to censor video games in a second wind of the prior decade’s Tipper Gore war on music. This was concurrent with her attempt to ban flag burning, which the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional, and her support for Bush’s disastrous war in Iraq, the biggest foreign policy blunder quite possibly in all of American history.

-She then ran her first presidential campaign in 2008. Her record specifically on Iraq doomed both her and her Republican analog, John McCain, both of whom lost to a previously unknown upstart senator who ran against that war and the people who made it. During this campaign, Hillary Clinton engaged in endless race-baiting attacks on her opponent implying something nebulously foreign about him in a precursor to Trump’s birtherism and insisting that ‘the real America’ of the midwest and south would never vote for him….for *some* reason. She then refused to concede her clear loss in the primary and hung around for a strangely long period of time. Far longer than, say, Bernie Sanders did against her in 2016. She did this, most likely, as a negotiating tactic to be Obama’s declared successor and Secretary of State.

-Upon becoming Secretary of State she quickly went on to show what a mistake the first of Obama’s corrupt bargains would end up being for any hopes of reversing Bush’s ruinous administration. She was the decisive force for convincing an undecided Obama to intervene in Libya. Now, Libya is a failed state fought over warlords that incubates terrorism, Islamic extremism, and has a burgeoning chattel slavery industry. Despite this enormous failure, Hillary pushed again for greater levels of intervention in Syria, this time on the side of outright and undisguised jihadists. Her very own emails, which her fans often deride as ‘but her emails’ to deflect from their actual contents, show that she was aware of this and still supported ‘Operation Timber Sycamore’ (which you can look up yourself as the documentation is truly enormous) anyway.

-In the 2016 campaign, Hillary Clinton then went on to run the most well-funded campaign in history into the ground. Everyone save Matt Taibbi preemptively called the election for Clinton. Her staff’s one original idea aside from riding celebrity accolades was to signal boost Trump over his republican challengers using their media contacts in something called ‘The Pied Piper Strategy‘, thinking he would be the easiest candidate to beat. Most likely, Hillary would have beaten nonentities like Rubio and Jeb!, but someone like Trump was always going to be more of a challenge to the ultimate insiders of the Clintons. Then, in the general election, Hillary Clinton ran what could only be described as a Romney-style campaign based on insulting voters who weren’t already in her camp, failing to campaign in the right locations, and generally ignoring the strong ground game. Plus, she had a close run with a previously little known self-described socialist from Vermont. A challenger that, despite all the post-election rhetoric from all sides, went on to deliver a greater percentage of his base to Hillary than Hillary ever did for Obama after losing to him 8 years before. Hillary then went on to promise her priorities after her inevitable coronation as ‘the removal of Assad from power’ (mentioned in literally every 2016 presidential debate in the general) and even more of the same policies of offshoring and deindustrialization that everyone outside of finance hates. Oh but don’t worry, she had some great one-liners.

-In the post-election hellscape of her failure, Hillary Clinton and her fans who treat her like she is their mother, have greatly exaggerated Russian cyber interference in American discourse in order to absolve themselves and their entire overpaid consultant class from the blame they deserve for blowing the most winnable election in history. This has unleashed a McCarthyite hysteria that has hijacked the Democratic Party, public discourse, and the media and created an opposition to Trump that looks like the republican loyalists to Bush from 2001-2008, where accusations of disloyalty and secret sympathies dog the discourse as a cover for avoiding substantive debate. This is a big reason why the Democrats of this decade became like the Republicans of last decade. Reflexively in support of military intervention, in love with intelligence agencies, and using the same model of going all out religious revival in social issues to distract their supporters from the fact that very few policies they support actually help their base in any real material way.

Into this post-Clintonian apocalypse, only Tulsi Gabbard has had the courage to stand up directly and challenge the odious legacy of this accurately stated ‘Queen of Warmongers’ and symbol of corruption. This is why her candidacy, even more than Bernie’s, is the true anti-bipartisan consensus run. You can see just by the hysterical reactions of the Beltway class to her factually accurate statements about the results of U.S. interventions in the Middle East. Yes, we did support AL Qaeda aligned groups in Syria and Libya. Hillary herself admitted to it in her emails…which is why those emails were always a scandal. Not because of how she handled them, but because of the lack of judgment on matters of policy she showed in them.

Finally, someone stands up against the insanity of our endless war state and against the neoMcCarthyite rhetoric used to defend it from both parties. The same candidate with the spine to call Trump ‘Saudi Arabia’s Bitch’ is the one who can accurately identify Hillary’s miasmic influence on American politics. it is time to throw all of these bums and their acolytes into the trash where they belong.

The fact of the matter is, Hillary Clinton is nothing but an attention-seeking and uncharismatic sociopath with no self-reflection or ability to learn. Everything she has ever touched has turned to ashes and manure. Her ability to create spectacular backfires is a welcome addition to the message-driven Gabbard campaign, as few in this country are loathed as much as Hillary Clinton is-especially by independent and anti-establishment voters. By giving her un-endorsement she has already served an unintentionally useful purpose for those who wish to bring about change. By inspiring all her servile op-ed ghouls to come out in her defense she shows who is willing to make the death rattles on behalf of a dying order and who isn’t. She is not showing her power, but her weakness. A head of a cabal she may be, but rather than pulling the levers of power this cabal spends its time sitting and sulking at a world waking up to their many failures and rank incompetence.

I would say ‘Go away Hillary,’ but I know after crawling back into her spider hole of bitter resentment and abject failure that she will only give us a few months more at most before reappearing yet again with more rot and decay than ever before.

Politics is Not a Safe Space: Neoliberalism and the Electoral Race to the Bottom

 

Poverty Rates in Appalachia, 2007–2011

Outside of self-imposed social media bubbles, history is not progressive like technology. While the march of technology changes how societies evolve in ways that no two eras are ever really the same, the cycle of the rise and fall of governments, regions, and classes continues with a somewhat random yet patterned process not dissimilar to biological evolution-itself not a progressive process in any demonstrable way. When I first reached adulthood and began to study history at the college level this was a harsh lesson to learn. In America and other countries like it we are fed a steady diet of individualism and liberal idealism from an early age. We want to believe, as the Puritans once did before they consumed themselves and burned out as a culture, that  we are at the forefront of a new era. We want to think history can be guided in such a way as to be manageable for everyone. This ignores that politics would not exist if convergent interests greatly outnumbered divergent interests. Most importantly, it ignores Ibn Khaldun‘s most prescient observation: that complacency breeds decline, that the losers of history often deserve to lose, and that the winners of today are the losers of tomorrow. It is the very act of winning that can be the most dangerous thing of all.

The Democratic Party at the national level became this complacent ruling elite, even while they kept losing house seats and state governorships. They had a bland faith in demographics and this restricted their campaigning only to certain swing state’s suburban enclaves. This strategy cost them an election they probably should have won. Women were assumed to be a safe bet, but white women ended up favoring Trump. Minorities were expected to just show up out of a sense of obligation and duty to a party that does not overtly hate them, Bill’s mass incarceration and drug wars and Hill’s ‘superpredators’ aside. The threat of Trump was supposed to keep the Obama coalition together. But the Obama coalition was first forged in a democratic primary against the Clintonian status quo. Even eight years later, it could not so easily flip to supporting that. Clinton did worse with all minority groups than Obama did, Trump did better than Romney with them. This is a massive failure on behalf of the Democratic Party.

The seeds of this failure were sown by Clinton. Not Hillary, but Bill. When Ronald Reagan became the first partially neoliberal president and Thatcher rose to power in the UK the mantra to their deregulation and free trade deals was ‘There Is No Alternative’ (TINA). The defeated left of center parties took heed and decided two could play this game. This led to Tony Blair and Bill Clinton. Clinton would soon outstrip Reagan in his zeal to adopt the newest faddish ideas of governance of the post-Cold War era. The new Democratic Party was a party of globalized cities, and while big coastal regions thrived due to a complex combination of factors not necessarily related to these policies (Chinese growth, the arrival of the internet, etc) the rural areas of the country were written off as irrelevant to the future. Abandoned, left to rot, and with the government slashing domestic budgets for infrastructure and welfare, places like Appalachia withered on the vine. They were sacrificed on the altar of neoliberalism by a two party system in thrall to it. And nowhere was the betrayal bigger than Bill Clinton’s policy record. If you need proof, look at electoral maps from 92 and 96 then compare to 2000. So many states that backed Clinton against the Reagan-Bush consensus went to Bush Junior once Bill’s terms were up. Meanwhile, people took ‘thinkers’ such as Francis Fukuyama and Thomas Friedman seriously despite the blatantly historically ignorant Kantianism they peddled about the end of history. History, however, has a nasty habit of never ending. This ideology was remarkably self-congratulating to the ruling class and their middle class henchmen in large cities, most of whom were liberals. It told them that the values they had been raised with were fundamentally correct, and that by living those values they were making a positive difference in the world, and that by merely thinking the right thoughts and using the right language they could make the world a better place. It may only now be becoming apparent to most of those people that this was delusion, but I have to say, I always saw this as delusion. So did others, but those others were shouted down consistently as being ‘unreasonable’ or ‘not serious’ or ‘not with the times.’

Had Dubya not had the good fortune to be president during the most massive terrorist attack in American history he likely would have been a single term president. He was able to use security issues to further ramp up the neoliberal drive which was now securitized. When asked during the surge of patriotism after 9/11 what the average American should do, the Bush administration responded with ‘go shopping.’ Civic responsibility was sought by the people only to be met with more market fundamentalism. The vagaries of a supposedly logical global market was not only now in charge of domestic policy-it ran foreign policy as well. Here the strains and cracks in the edifice really began to show. The blithe predictions for Iraq bore bitter and contradictory fruit. The war itself became so toxic it cost Hillary Clinton the democratic nomination, rightfully, and the Republicans the general election, also rightfully.

Obama ended the most odious influence of the evangelicals on domestic policy and reigned in (though did not significantly reduce) the neoliberal/neoconservative drive on foreign affairs, but while he did not accelerate the objectives of neoliberalism at home, he did absolutely nothing to stop them. He failed to undo enough of the odious Bush legacy but ironically was able to scale back many worst excesses of Clinton era policies such as Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, The Defense of Marriage Act, the fever pitch of the War on Drugs, and the massive deregulation of speculating financiers. Even the affordable care act, which I admit I have directly benefited from, was really a gift to insurance companies and further entrenched the for profit civics model this country has adopted since the 80s.

Appalachia, non-farming rural enclaves of the midwest and south, and significant chunks of remote regions continued to suffer and be neglected. Rather than appeal to these people who obviously have nothing to gain from Republican theories of governance, the Democrats wrote them off as irrelevant and cast blame on them for supporting many of the policies the democratic party itself once espoused. Obama won by getting people in Florida and Ohio to recognize the horror of Bushism, but all the while the Democratic Party did nothing to substantively address many of those concerns. And yet it expected, if not demanded, people vote for them anyway. Worse still was their liberal minions outside of the party who assumed that what was good for New York City (where both campaigns and most mainline media were headquartered, it should be noted) was good for the country. They also assumed that the neoliberal consensus and the bland liberal language it used for legitimacy was not the problem-just who managed this consensus was. For a decade I have tried to convince people this was not so, and I and many people far more famous than I failed utterly in the face of this delusional alternate reality by the 21st Century bourgeoisie. We warned, correctly, that if a smart alternative to this hegemony was not presented than a dumb reactionary one would be. Trump is a new Obama, electorally speaking. He built a coalition of those dissatisfied and in so doing showed the fragility and unpopularity of the status quo.

Is this to discount the role racism and possibly sexism plays in these regions? No. And it is precisely those factors that made it important to control the backlash against the bipartisan financial interests in America. Having failed to take heed from the more observant people on the left and even the occasional clever paleocon, the liberals and centrists sowed the seeds of their own destruction. The best they could hope for was meliorist Clintonite ‘triangulation’, and this became increasingly unappealing to everyone. As it is, identity politics has clearly failed. The world is not a safe space, and a bunch of liberal theorists ignoring actual material and structural issues, writing off class or in fact actively being classist (especially towards people who do not live in cities) is an ideology for the complacent and lazy and nothing more. This is further shown by the fact that these people only get fired up about the presidency and never really bother with midterms. It is a testament to the intellectual bankruptcy and irrelevancy of 21st century liberalism that people sharing JK Rowling quotes and suggesting *all* opposition to them must be rooted in prejudice of some personal identity is assumed to be ‘woke’ and that the solution to this is some sort of vague ‘awareness’ and moralistic posturing. The fact is, liberals are not intellectually superior to conservatives and they never really were. I may find them personally somewhat more palatable largely due to social issues, but I see both of them as deeply complacent ideologies that avoid critical thinking in favor of sounding righteous and upholding some form of doctrinal status quo. People arguing for political discourse on college campuses to be made as safe as their parents suburban mcmansion are not people talking about real issues that impact people in real physical space. People who do not have the privilege of being perpetually outraged by the casting of movies or a dumb joke because they struggle to survive are not won over by this middle class fatuousness. Navel-gazing is for those who prioritize their personal feelings and the liberal concept of individualism and virtue signaling becomes a form of self-branding regarded as superior to civic responsibility. Worst of all, and as I once warned, this tip to identity politics was inevitably going to picked up by the other side, the side who deals in overt race baiting. This has been my fear ever since I first learned of politics via identity back in college. Liberals cannot castigate rural whites for being identity voters when they so clearly opened that door of political acceptability for them. Like imitates like, and under neoliberalism they both spiral down together in a race for the basest form to turn out the largest amount of famously ignorant undecided voters. It is, after all, the logic of free market capitalism that one’s civic duty exists for purposes of self-fulfillment. This is an ideological point no other successful society has ever engaged in, probably because it is blatantly untrue.

What is most insufferable is the liberal pretense to great wisdom merely by *not* being conservative. It is a low standard, and when you set such low standards it drags both sides down. Much in the same way that Clintonism made the Democratic Party abandon the working class and its union core for faddish ideology and therefore lost much of its traditional support. The SensibleSerious consensus creates a large swath of disaffected voters with nothing to lose. Both parties, working together, made this happen. Both parties, in their own way, will suffer for it. So will the country at-large, who had much less say the implementation of these policies.

And that brings us to the centrists, a group of people who I have previously made my feelings of intense disdain quite clear. Since Bill Clinton, the liberals have basically meshed with the center with the partial exception of immediately after 9/11. But the center is a place of laziness which always represents the current status quo-and these days that status quo is an ecological and regional destroying neoliberalism. Now, back in Bill’s day this was a new thing worth giving a shot, but no longer. It is dead. Even if you support it, you must acknowledge that. Brexit and Greece were merely the precursors. Want electoral proof? In all the post-Bill presidential elections the candidate who was a less doctrinaire neoliberal won over the one who was more. Or to be more specific, centrists always lose in the 21st Century. Gore, Kerry, McCain, Romney, Clinton (II): all the more traditionally centrist candidates. Centrism isn’t just intellectually sloppy, its a recipe for losing as well. No one likes centrists, and given their record in this century, no one should. In primaries this was especially obvious. Hillary Clinton’s perpetual running on the presidency and career as a milquetoast senator striking unsustainable bargains with a loathed two party system smacks of Henry Clay, a historical figure no one admires any more nor wishes to emulate. The democratic party itself reminds me of the Whigs-an unstable coalition that devours opposition movements with actual ideas in order to present a bland front against the party that holds the initiative.

There is a final key to Trump’s victory people might talk about later but haven’t so far that I have seen: endorsements hurt and castigation helps, *especially* from the media. The late night comedians which were so entertaining and good at poking holes in the paranoid post-9/11 consensus did not keep their credit as those who speak truth to power, but rather became establishment cheerleaders. They sacrificed their vital role as the opposition for one of a deeply partisan cheerleader. As these various talk show hosts and actors lined up to condescendingly urge people to vote for the democrats they unintentionally aided the narrative that the media was all for Clinton, that the ruling classes controlled everything to get the result they wanted. It is B.S. of course, plenty of the ruling class supports Trump and he has no trouble attracting upper income voters. But the comedian/actor axis made it an obnoxious reality that people in affluent cities wanted something, and considering their previous track record on what they want and how those policies effect other parts of the country. If one wanted to, say, ‘Make Comedy Great Again’ it should go after the entire system, not just one half of its Janus-face.

America does not deserve Trump as a whole, but liberals and conservatives do, and neoliberals especially. They made him by creating the conditions for his rise. If history is a guide however I do not expect them to learn this lesson as they never have before. Instead, they will lash out at everyone they can to avoid taking personal responsibility. They will fail to recognize that it was their candidate’s record, not her gender (though it likely played a subsidiary role), that was the primary reason for her loss. They will probably blame minorities for not showing up to vote, rather than themselves for not giving much of a reason for said minorities to vote as they had before. The smug condescension of Manhattan and Los Angeles returns to its traditional role as reflexive defense mechanism. People like me who saw the dangers lurking in this neoliberal system will be the ones they will blame for their own failures. I cannot count the amount of times that I personally got talked down to on issues involving minorities by people who are entirely white, affluent,  and straight. I am none of those things. I fear what might happen in a Trump presidency as much if not more than these people-but this did not happen in a vacuum and it was the liberals who were at least half of the enablers.

But this potential for at least intellectual and grassroots organizational upheaval will be surrendered and sacrificed to the right alone if major changes are not made to the dark and desperate future of having Henry Clay liberals be the primary opposition. Ironically it is the America-First candidate who has destroyed the myths of American Exceptionalism once and for all by making our right wing so blatantly European. That honesty could at least free up all sides to be more intellectually rigorous, not just one. But that requires looking beyond the consensus of the SensibleSerious™.

FOREIGN POLICY:

American elections are important to everyone, so it was worth talking about on this blog. But this is a primarily foreign policy blog and so we should now deal specifically with foreign policy issues. This is no mean task given the many contradictory statements Trump has made.

The most important and concerning thing is the cavalier attitude Trump has regarding Asia-Pacific relations. The most important countries in the world for U.S. interests are in that region and the second and third largest economies also dwell there. Hyper-nationalism and territorial disputes are legion. And no matter what the British say, the U.S.-Japan Security Agreement is the world’s most important and stable alliance. It comes closer to the bedrock of global stability than any other bilateral relationship. It is also unique in modern history for bringing together two countries which are so globally powerful for so long. Trump has been openly dismissive of this alliance, asking why the Japanese do not pay for themselves, when in fact they have been quite good at doing so. In fact, Japan payed most of the expenses of the first Persian Gulf War.

The status of this alliance is the most concerning foreign policy issue of a Trump presidency. Coupled with a trade-tariff war with China it could be a recipe for disaster. One fear I can at least tone down, however, is that of Japan acquiring a stronger and more autonomous defense. This has been in the workings for almost a decade. A great power can only be governed like a banana republic for so long. For obvious historical reasons Japan may prove more reticent to acquire a nuclear deterrent, but I do not believe it would be inherently destabilizing if it did so. Still, the alliance should be maintained.

In China, Xi Jinping is a far more intelligent leader than either Clinton or Trump, but especially Trump. It remains to be seen what opportunities this might open up to to the PRC, if any.

Europe represents opportunity in equal parts to danger. A vast over-estimation of Russia’s conventional capabilities due to a few flashy brushfire victories over smaller armies in remote theaters often guides American grand strategy, but Russia probably could be contained so long as Germany, France, and Poland stick together. Especially so if the UK stays with them, but that is less certain as we see how Brexit shapes up. The most likely reason Putin wants Trump is not some childish liberal conspiracy theory of Manchurian candidacy but rather because he expects he can run circles around him at the negotiating table. It is ever so slightly possible that some kind of mutual bargain could be struck between the two Bros-in-Chief.

The one decided potential benefit here is that Trump will probably be better than Clinton in the Middle East and possibly Africa as well. Gone will be the tone of the preaching humanitarian racist that has bungled US policy towards Africa for decades and driven important countries into the arms of the Chinese. The expansion of AFRICOM might get a more critical eye-though that remains a big maybe. Most importantly, the odds we will attack the government of Syria have gone from somewhere around say 70% under Clinton to about nil now. This is the only true demonstrable gain I can see from this election in either foreign or domestic policy for the average person-but it is (potentially) a gain. One of the few issues that Trump was consistently right on was the need to go after ISIS alone and not fight 3 sided conflicts where our intervention is not needed. Considering how utterly disastrous, deadly, and expensive 21st Century regime change policies from Iraq to Libya have been, with unintended consequences of causing surges in terrorist attacks (which in turn fuel the far right) this could be a truly concrete benefit not only for foreign policy people like me of the realist persuasion but in breaking up the neocon establishment in DC proper.

So us geostrategists have to be even more wary than usual in the near future. Uncertainty is high. But there is hope for some new ideas and a re-orientation of a neoliberal hegemony quite long in the tooth to keep representing U.S. (and others) strategic interests. That vague hope does not, however, allay my fears for various minority communities in this new era. But as there was a big backlash to Bushism on social issues that ended up winning the argument far more effectively than Democratic meliorism would have, so too that fight should never be given up. Let this be the shock to renew it with vigor rather than simply wait for the mythical liberal fairy tale of ‘inevitable progress’ to happen. Those of us against the rising global tide of reactionary identity politics can have a bright future indeed if they reject neoliberalism, complacent cosmopolitanism, ‘woke’ classisism, and the other faith based homilies that got them in this mess in the first place.

Foreign Policy in the Present Election Cycle

Domestic Politics? In *this* blog? It’s more likely than you think.

Of course, I really mean to discuss how American domestic politics impacts foreign policy. So it still fits the theme.

You would think that in a highly competitive primary season with both parties selecting from pools of candidates that there would be more interesting discussions on foreign policy in the United States. While it was true that Rand Paul was the torch bearer of sanity in foreign policy (if little else) earlier on, he has already become history. Donald Trump, who is grotesque and hilarious in equal measures, has at least forced a reckoning on Dubya’s legacy long delayed by the GOP-even if he has no coherent ideas of his own.

The candidates both party establishments clearly want to win are, unsurprisingly, the two most hawkish of hawks. Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio are basically indistinguishable from each other on big picture foreign affairs. American Exceptionalism, delusions of grandeur, and a blind faith in military solutions when regarding small weaker nations ruled in ways contrary to American values. They both have track records of opinions which would meet the approval of Cheney and Kristol alike.

The Democratic primary is just as much wild card vs reckoning. No one actually knows what Bernie Sanders holds as views on foreign policy, if any are coherent at all. But then a very interesting thing happened…Tulsi Gabbard resigned her post as DNC Vice Chair to endorse him.

I am definitely not yet sold on the Sanders bandwagon, nor do I think endorsements matter as much as people think they do, but I cannot contain my joy at the following two things:
1. I remain convinced that Gabbard is going places. I have mentioned her previously on this blog as one of the rare realists left in congress. We have had decades of endless and naively conducted war with little grand strategic perspective. With a Sanders nomination unlikely she took a long term calculation to back him specifically because of foreign policy issues and to build her future reputation as the foreign policy realist (who is not Rand Paul). Its her career trajectory that most fascinates me rather than his. And if he does win, she will no doubt get an interesting cabinet post.
2. I am so thankful after decades of evidence that the Clintons are basically Dick Cheney Lite that someone is making a major point of finally calling them out for it. The media never had the spine to do this. It still doesn’t. They look at the quantity of titles on her resume without looking to see the quality and results of what they describe.
There is something beautifully Roveian (in the best ways) about destroying a foe’s strength. Going after Clinton on foreign policy is like a factual and justifiable version of swift boating, you sink the opposition’s main selling point-and this time you actually do it by telling the verifiable truth. Obviously Gabbard can do this, and Sanders cannot as he has no actually articulated foreign policy views or coherent record.
Maybe, just maybe, we can have a real discussion about foreign policy in this election season…for once. After all, this is hardly an issue that primarily affects Americans. One could say in fact it primarily affects people who are not Americans. That is why non-Americans tend to know more about American foreign policy than Americans do, by and large.
Plus, while you might think a trickster themed blog does revel in the chaos-or shadenfreude- caused by Trumps’ run, I would counter that Trump is just a shuckster insider who knows how to play the system created by decades of toxic (primarily conservative) social divide and rule politics. A quite typical figure actually in the mold of William Jennings Bryan, Vladimir Putin, or Marine le Pen. Whereas the first Hindu in congress (potentially, hopefully?) running with in some capacity a Jewish candidate against a bombardment of media hostility and entrenched interests is a much more interesting upset to the system. Trump after all hardly threatens any media oligarch tax brackets and thus no doubt they could come to accommodate him.
Even if the Sanders ticket goes down in defeat, as is probable, its run will have shaken things up-specifically in the realm least expected of it, that of foreign policy.
Keep your eyes on Gabbard. She is going places.

 

So Sometimes I Make Pictures…

..and so when I heard that this was a thing, and then after a bit of searching myself was able to confirm it, well, I just knew I had to illustrate a campaign ad for such a hypothetical run for the presidency. Sure, you can tell by looking at the ‘About’ section of this blog that it is anti-neocon, but you know what? In a time where both parties seem to be running neoconservative candidates while disavowing that they are in fact doing so…well, even I can appreciate the blunt honesty of John Bolton-diametrical opposed though we may be. After all, if he can shift the debate towards national security issues (for once) it means the opposition might get more say as well on those very issues rather than just being shunted aside as usual.

 

BoltonKaelin2016

 

P.S. I put Kato Kaelin on the ticket in a craven attempt to appeal to all those people my age who are currently flooding social media with clickbait 90s nostalgia, but I am sure you could run basically anyone famous for that specific era to do the same.

 

Or right, and every good campaign needs a song of course. I figure either ‘Eye of the Tiger or this: