You have heard it for four years: ‘Trump is a fascist. Trump is a dictator. Everything is different now. This is not normal.’ Meanwhile, while this rhetoric reached fever pitch literally all of those points were provably incorrect. Trump is a right winger, but far too lazy and non-ideological to be a fascist. Trump is a bully, but was too weak and scatterbrained to be a dictator. Everything is different now, but in the same way that things are always changing and history in America is getting over its long postwar boom and, thus, returning to normal.
Despite the incredible obnoxiousness of Trump’s fan base and their cult like loyalty to his person over any kind of political platform, they are not the ones who surprised me these last few years. Anyone capable of paying even a modicum of attention to American conservatism since Gingrich could have seen this coming. If anything, the ideology being somewhat loosened from its evangelical and libertarian pieties into atavistic nationalism makes it more bearable than its formerly sanctimonious moral-majority and market-fundamentalist basis.
No, what surprised me was just how rapidly the opposition to Trump degenerated. Certainly, being a liberal in the Twenty-First Century is very much akin to staying behind to run the Heaven’s Gate website after the rest of the cult got whisked up to the comet above. The prophecy of the End of History failed to come true which means the followers do not do the rational thing and realize they believed in a lie, but rather double down and blamed everyone but themselves for the failure. If only every one else had supported them then this would all be fine. And so the liberals have become more obsessed with American Exceptionalism and culture war, becoming the new woke version of what the republican party was in the aughts. They now expresses valorization to intelligence agencies and giant corporations and prioritize pet causes based in their stifling moralism rather than in measurable material gains.
This happened because they let themselves be driven mad by a clownish president. But that president was as weak if not weaker a political leader than Jimmy Carter. Despite having two years of one party unified government his only accomplishment was a standard Bush-style tax cut for the wealthy. The kind of thing that would have happened under a Rubio, a Romney, or a Cruz. Likewise, the only lasting institutional effect of this supposedly-norm-breaking presidency will be to fill the ranks of the judiciary once again with the strange Opus Dei-like cultists that can always be found in the Federalist Society. Also something that would have happened under any other republican president. The only meaningful difference between Trump and these others is that he is less warlike. He is also, it is worth noting, less warlike than many democrats these days too. Not to give him too much credit here. His Iran policy is utterly unhinged and did immense damage to U.S. interests, and he managed to make his prior presidents look positively independent of Saudi influence. But compared to his GOP rivals in 2016 or Hillary Clinton, we almost certainly dodged a bullet in Syria and Venezuela. After all, the best news story of the now famously dismal year of 2020 had to have been that whole Silvercorp USA thing.
That’s right. With hindsight I am now saying that Trump was the lesser evil to Hillary in 2016. Sure, her Covid response would have been better, but not too much better as the USA was always going to take a pandemic the hardest of any developed country given its poor health systems infrastructure and employment based benefits that fail under economic downturns exacerbated by lockdowns. Meanwhile, a reinvigorated refugee crisis brought about by more regime change operations across the world would not only have facilitated the spread of the disease, but also of reactionary politics at home and abroad. In this alternative world something far worse than Trump would now have just won the presidency in the 2020 election, possibly Tom Cotton. We would have the Iran Deal at least, but far worse relations with North Korea. Besides, what is the point of an Iran Deal if we still stumbled into a conflict with Tehran through the Syrian backdoor? Three separate times in the 2016 election, H-Bomb stated that her first priority in office was regime change in Syria, what was by then obviously a recipe for the black flag of jihadism to fly over Damascus. I remember because I was watching, determining if I could pull the lever for her as a lesser evil. I couldn’t. Still glad that I didn’t today.
Of course, two bombing runs later Trump invoked The Curse himself, ending up a one termer. If ever you are thinking about uttering the fateful words, don’t.
Meanwhile, Trump’s terrible relationships with most governmental institutions actually weakened the process of centralizing power behind the imperial presidency, something that had been growing nonstop for decades. Trump’s transactional understanding of politics was brute and often misplaced, but it was a real unmasking moment for a country used to believing itself and its system to be exceptional and widely admired around the world. Trump unintentionally undermined even domestic faith in American Exceptionalism, and I will take it. So too did his horrific immigration policies finally force a discussion on Obama’s immigration policies as well, showing this to be a bipartisan issue. Trump will leave office having deported less people than Obama did.
It may seem dour that the era of Trump paradoxically removed any remaining vestigial feelings I once had about there being any lesser evils in the two party system, but it is actually quite liberating. I know, going forward, that if I support someone in public service that it will only be because they offer a platform that provides real alternatives. And if there are no such people to support, that is fine too. Change does not, in fact, come first from voting but by what you write for, organize for, and take part in directly. Giving up on any sense of being able to rely on a political party is giving yourself a greater level of independence and agency, and thus potential critical thinking. Something definitely needed in our moralistic dark age.
For all the problems Trump exacerbated, none of them were new to him. He is an accelerant rather than the spark. Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George Bush Junior all had a much greater role in building the world that we presently live in. Obama too, though he at least took the foot off the gas even if he resolutely refused to apply it to the brakes on this car hurtling towards a cliff. And it is his surveillance apparatus we live in now more than anyone else’s.
In the end, Trump will be remembered by historians as a grotesquely fascinating era that symbolized our societal decline, but was too late in the game to be its cause. He might also be the first person since Grover Cleveland to pull off two non-consecutive terms. A wet sack of potatoes could defeat Kamala Harris in a debate after all. She better hope someone far less charismatic than Trump runs against her in the future so she stands a chance. But whether he will be back or not he leaves us with an attitude and an aesthetic and little else.
A truly ineffective presidency. Which I suppose at this state of the game could almost be considered damning with faint praise as much as an insult. The spectacle was certainly something. Whelp, enjoy some Clown Core.
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.
I admit it. I held off writing this for a bit when she dropped out of the race and endorsed Joe Biden. But, contrary to the conspiracy theorists on the liberal side of things, she did always say she would endorse the nominee…and considering that her endorsement came after the Illinois primary that basically sealed the deal-even if Sanders stayed in for a few more weeks-its something I can now firmly get over.
This is why I am an independent voter, though. Not being affiliated with any party means there is little pressure for me to pledge allegiance to anyone with a platform I am unsympathetic to. I understand that Congresswoman Gabbard is part of such a party-and let us be real, it was a pretty funny troll to her many DNC critics who were left baffled when this supposedly Russian-backed homewrecker lined up behind the presumptive nominee.
Personally, I however will not be pulling for Biden. Or Trump. This should surprise no one who follows my blog one bit. Trump is monstrously incompetent and the basest of brutes on immigration, the courts, and taxation for public institutions. Biden has a long record of supporting every policy that led us here in the first place from the dark Reagan-Clinton era of American politics, from mass incarceration and the drug war, through endless war and institutionalized familial corruption. A senile Hillary, in other words.
But with all the recent retrospectives on failed primary campaigns, mostly targeted towards Bernie Sanders, I want to explore an alternative narrative. Bernie is extremely transformative in pushing certain issues in the public consciousness and being one of the few politicians to reflect many of the grievances of younger generations. He deserves massive credit for this. He also failed to fight back when people wanted a fighter. He could and should have attacked the media relentlessly. They were constantly against him and he did not even call it out. He treaded lightly on anything related to foreign policy and spoke of little but Obama-plus-some on anything that was not economic policy. He, and his followers, thought they could reason with a system while running against it and make converts, not realizing the lesson of Trump’s improbable rise was that waging full on warfare against the media is the way to punch above your weight and make popular gains from those who feel the same. For more of a detailed breakdown on the failure of leadership that was the Bernie 2020 campaign, this will serve you well.
Tulsi is different. Her campaign was tiny. Possibly the smallest staff of anyone in the race. She was attacked by the media and establishment to levels beyond anything even Bernie was subjected to, but unlike him did not refrain from striking back. Despite being ignored, left off of mainstream media charts of who was running, or slandered as a foreign agent, she outlasted all campaigns except Bernie or Biden. She had no billionaire donors unlike much of the rest of the pack, and despite being the most ‘intersectional’ candidate by any sane definition was never given credit for it and ran a strictly hard policy campaign. The pro-Bernie left was often her most vicious critics, proving once again that anglo-leftists lack all understanding of the cold realities of diplomacy and have been subsumed into the liberal rhetoric of ‘good diplomacy’ vs ‘bad diplomacy’ and the desire to find something ‘values based’ in foreign affairs. There is, of course, no such thing.
While fighting against these odds she managed to humiliate multiple other candidates on the debate stage and downright immolate the loathsome Kamala Harris in a way that will stick with her forever even if she is chosen to be Biden’s VP. That was the most memorable moment of the entire primary. Perhaps most importantly, the odious US-Saudi relationship was a centerpoint of her criticisms and spoken about in such a direct way that the silence from all other candidates on the issue was deafening.
As a good democrat, Gabbard now goes to an uncertain fate as she will not be running for congressional re-election. Perhaps our shared interests part now, and perhaps not. Only the future will tell. But as my first and only presidential endorsement in my life, I have no regrets. Issues that would have otherwise been ignored during this past primary were confronted solely because she was there, doggedly bringing them up. Her impact on an exceptionally crowded race was outsized in every way by her performance…and in doing so there is a lesson to the future. You too can punch above your weight in advocacy if your willing to take on the establishment directly and with no reservations.
I also think that, in a liberal nightmare alternative history world where Tulsi had run as a third party candidate in the general election-especially *this* general election-she would have performed stronger than any third party candidate since Ross Perot. She would have brought greens, disaffected liberals and non-sjw leftists together with paleocons and libertarians. Her calm yet strong presentation would have reassured in a crisis like the one we presently face. This is what I wish had happened, honestly.
Here we are. After years of the professional managerial class moaning about violated norms and decorum, those very same people are now turning towards a figure as personally odious as Trump and on policy arguably much worse in order to save them. Save them from what? The systemic breakdown of a dying neoliberal order is the correct answer but these aggressive presentists only see one incredibly dumb man in the White House as the source of all the woes. Get rid of him and it all goes back to normal, they think. Never mind that Trump is a product of all those normal policies that got us here in the first place. Orange Man Bad.
But these are not people who read books of history and political philosophy to inform their world view, but rather react to cable news and fictionalized portrayals of politics as seen in the pablum of Aaron Sorkin style programs. They overestimate their popularity and appeal because they all consume the same media, attend the same cocktail parties, and yes, share the same class interests. Consider the track record of the neoliberal centrist in the 21rst Century. Gore, Kerry, Romney, (H) Clinton all lost the presidency. Obama ran as a reforming outsider but once that was shown to be a false claim he oversaw the greatest loss of Democratic seats in the legislature in generations and only won re-election because his opponent was such a cartoonish parody of the plutocrat class. Hawkish centrists perform terribly not just on policy but in national elections. Meanwhile, the policies of Reagan and Clinton that the center defends makes the poorer more poor, the rich more rich, and environment more degraded, and the living standards and sustainability of developed countries more and more precarious and less and less developed. Feudalism returns through tech and finance with a shiny new woke veneer. These are processes enabled and abetted by the bipartisan establishment, its most fanatical elements are the lingering miasma of Paul Ryan’s disastrous tenure in governance.
And who best represents these bipartisan liches now that Ryan has slunk off into obscurity, perhaps hoping to be forgotten about as the tides of both parties turn against him? Michael Bloomberg.
Bloomberg’s tenure as mayor was like the Bush-Obama years in exaggerated microcosm. An already existing mass surveillance state was greatly expanded into something that would have made East Germany’s Stasi shudder in unease. Stop and Frisk policies and his eugenics-level disdain for local minorities under his governance are quite famous criticisms of him already so I feel little need to elaborate on them further here. Perhaps more shocking to those not in the know is his depths of sexist ranting which borders on sexual harassment. I thought a major part of the liberal critique of Trump was his misogyny, but his own terrible record on the issue pales in comparison to Bloomberg’s in sheer frequency and vindictiveness.
Then of course comes the terrifying idea of one billionaire president being exchanged for another. Worse, Trump at least ran a pretty bare bones campaign reliant on donations. Clinton outspent him on the campaign trail nearly two to one. Being the grifter he is, he actually spent very little of his own money on running for office. Bloomberg, on the other hand, is purchasing media left and right directly with very little campaigning or small donor support. He is buying his presence in this election in a way beyond anything seen before. The Norms Nerds who tend to be sympathetic to his run should consider that this is more norm-busting than anything yet seen in American politics. If allowed to triumph it may well end any remaining checks we have on the ruling classes and usher in a new era of techno-feudalism, where all major political parties are beholden to different oligarchic patrons based on the social issues/values they espouse and literally nothing else. A never ending culture war to keep the proles divided and prevent any unification against their Lords and Ladies.
Considering Trump’s rampant racism and the horror he has inflicted (particularly on the southern border), one could still make the argument that Bloomberg and Trump are tied. But we haven’t even gotten to the meat of my argument. This is an internationally focused blog foremost, and in Bloomberg’s foreign policy views we find the true horror of his candidacy.
To say Bloomberg is an arch-Zionist even by American standards is nothing new. One suspects that everyone skeptical of just how close the U.S.-Israeli alliance is knows this. But his rampant neoconservatism remains largely unchecked by a media class who remain one of the few constituencies left in contemporary America where sympathy for that ideology runs rampant. Bloomberg was an ardent supporter of the Iraq War and still is, despite everything that has happened since from the expansion of Iranian influence in the region to the rise of ISIS-neither of which could not have happened without the American invasion of Iraq. He has come out for the other disastrous American regime change operations, whether they ‘succeeded’ like in Libya where slave markets are now commonplace or clearly failed (at great cost to everyone but Al Qaeda and defense contractors) in Syria. He would most likely deploy military forces to Venezuela under the guise of helping our generation’s Pu Yi in Juan Guaido and probably not have even Trump’s ability to step back from the brink when shooting incidents happen between the U.S. and Iran. Regime change wars in the 21rst Century have been a universal failure for America and they must be stopped for our sake and the rest of the world’s. As we have seen time and time again, they also exacerbate the refugee crisis which in turn increases the appeal of the far right and racist politics in developed countries. Bloomberg would be at least as hawkish as Hillary Clinton on these issues. Hillary Clinton, who many independent voters (myself included) did not find a ‘lesser evil’ to Trump specifically because of foreign policy issues-the most important issues handled by the president it must be remembered- also tended to lose swing districts where war casualties were highest.
Do I think Bloomberg is likely to win the democratic nomination? Not particularly. But I do think he has a better chance at it than some others. Democrats seem not to understand that independent voters are not necessarily centrists. I am not, and I find most of the disdain for the democrats to come from precisely that they are the centrist party. I know for a fact that I am not alone here. But the party is convinced a hyper-centrist is always the best option. No, getting voter turnout with independents is…something Obama did as a relative outsider but not Hillary as the penultimate insider. Bloomberg would do the opposite of this.
I think Bloomberg has an even smaller chance of winning the general election than in the democratic primary. He is probably the exact kind of candidate that Trump wants to run against in a general election-out of touch, no organic support, a clear representative of the failed policies both parties support and thus a perfect foil for anti-establishment times. I remember an Ann Coulter (of all people) quote from the 2012 election. ‘If we don’t run Chris Christie, Romney will be the nominee and we will lose.’ It is looking like you can take that quote into today, switch its party and replace Christie with Bernie (or even anyone not Bloomberg at this point) and Romney with Bloomberg.
But lets say Bloomberg (Boomerberg?) pulls it off and buys not only the primary but the general election. What could we expect? Here is just a little list off the top of my head:
All of the same economic policies Trump supports sans the trade war aspect.
Silicon Valley/Manhattanite/Beltway social liberalism used to disguise a further harrowing of workers rights, union power, and the like. The ruling class would keep getting more diverse in a purely racial way but not at all in an ideological way. Class mobility would de facto cease for most.
More wars, especially in the Middle East. Possibly escalating to showdowns over smaller countries vs Russia. The worst actors like the Saudi royal family and Erdogan indulged to make this more feasible.
A return to the 90s-era expansion of the mass incarceration state and possibly a re-vamping of the calamitous drug war.
A greater ability to ‘get things done’ than Trump by bringing together the two party establishment, which means more of the above policies actually getting enacted than should be possible.
On the bright side maybe it will prove accelerationism to be true and we will get a true political revolution down the line? But most likely people will be so beaten down and disaffected that politics will just divorce itself from the daily struggle to survive for most people. Full banana republic mode.
Keeping these factors in mind, it is extremely likely that a Bloomberg presidency would in fact be worse than a Trump second term. He would be able to ‘bring together’ the worst people of each party and marginalize the few remaining best. He would empower the far right as a seemingly ‘credible’ opposition while discrediting most others by virtue of now being a democrat. This leads me to believe that a second Trump term (preferably handicapped by democratic control of the house and senate of course) would be a significantly less terrifying prospect than a Bloomberg presidency.
Trump is the weakest and least effective American president since Jimmy Carter. If Bloomberg is the alternative and promising that ‘Mike can get it done’ should we be in such a hurry to replace him?
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has been on my radar since 2013. She was the first non-Rand Paul voice criticizing the Obama Administration’s foreign policy towards the Middle East which was clearly starting to go off the rails around the time of the 2012 election. She has been a consistent advocate against the Bipartisan Perpetual War Party that has driven America and much of the world it claims to ‘police’ into the gutter so far in the 21rst Century. And she did this without being the opposite extreme of being an isolationist or far right crank.
Tulsi Gabbard has demonstrated, time and time again, that not only is American foreign policy off the rails and hijacked by special interests awash in their own self-congratulatory ideology, but that restraint is not only the less costly policy in terms of lives and money but also the superior way to combat extremism and avoid the alienation of allies. Having myself worked for the State Department in countering violent extremism in the past, I can assure you that this position of hers is correct. Regime change wars fuel Islamic extremism and sectarian division, diplomatic engagement can help diffuse them and build partnerships abroad. And with far less danger of direct blowback. While Trump alienates allies and the mainstream Democrats stoke hawkishness in a blind knee jerk reaction to his few better instincts, some few people, with Tulsi in the lead, represent a proper realist alternative that understands the need for cost/benefit analysis over ideological devotion. Besides, being Saudi Arabia’s bitch is no good for us.
But despite the foreign policy focus on this blog, this is not the only reason I want to express my happiness at the declaration of Tulsi Gabbard. Congresswoman Gabbard is among that rare clique of Democrats who are reform minded away from the destructive, self-consuming, and ultimately right wing-neoliberal policies of the Clinton Consensus that has dominated the party since 1992. She does this without being a starry-eyed idealist or beholden to some teleological world view about the end of history. And considering her strong endorsement of indigenous rights and environmental action, she can be taken seriously on the most pressing issue of our time: climate change. It is for many of these reasons that she has Democratic, Republican, and Independent admirers alike. If there is anything the 2016 election shows, it is that having appeal outside the closed world of partisan hacks is necessary for national elections. Both casual voters and nuanced non-partisan voters are desperately seeking a candidate that represents an alternative to the ossified nature of center-left and far-right.
It is important to acknowledge that Tulsi Gabbard, especially as a relatively anti-establishment candidate running within a party notorious for self-selecting right-to-centrist-wing candidates for the sake of the donor money and ‘expert’ strategist hires it is so fond of, is going to come into a large amount of criticism in the time ahead. The Democratic establishment as much if not more will attack her than the Republicans do. We will be subjected to the intense irony of people who support the mass bombing of the Middle East calling her Islamophobic for preferring diplomacy to endless war. We will see her former record on gay rights be called into question. She will be called an isolationist. Many of these critiques will not just be from rote liberals but also proper leftists.
My response to them is as follows. I know I am not alone in finding the level of leeway Islamic ideologies are given by people who are supposedly so secular at home. This represents the dangerous infiltration of postmodernism into the issue and ignores that many secularist individuals and movements also exist in Muslim majority societies. Weaponized Islamism is a danger in some parts of the world much like far-right evangelism is in North America. It is wise, not foolish, to remain devoted to security issues around this topic. It is, however, a problem for police and culture, not for militarized intervention. Gabbard recognizes that Islamist ideology is dangerous and requires a firm hand, but that war is usually not the answer. One can-and should-hold both of these positions.
Gabbard is also not an isolationist. She has endorsed a smart, rather than bullying, position for overall US policy. Such a powerful country cannot realistically retreat from the planet without leaving a dangerous vacuum-and few actual people endorse isolationism anymore. The problem is that the neoconservative-dominated foreign policy establishment will use the phrase ‘isolationism’ against anyone who is not ready to constantly and reflexively support their dangerous and wasteful militarism. But it is America behaving like a rogue state since 2003 that has left it more isolated than at any point after the 1930s. Just look at how America is viewed abroad.
As for gay rights, a lot of people, including the entire country itself, has changed its mind on these issues with relative rapidity in recent times. A change in position could be opportunistic, as it was with Obama and especially Hillary Clinton, whose virulent homophobia in the 90s seems to have been utterly excised by much of her more recent wokescold fan base. But Gabbard’s story on social issue evolution came before the country at large, which disavows it being beholden to polls. Furthermore, this evolution was the result of changing views based off life experience, i.e. seeing the disadvantages of social conservatism while being deployed in Iraq. This cannot imply an opportunistic John Kerry style flip-flopping at the drop of a hat or poll numbers, but the genuine changes of belief that happen. Her constant advocacy for minority rights since assuming national level office is proof of this. And in an era of rank racism and climate change denial from one party and complacency from most of the rest of the other she represents a true viable alternative who could connect with significant alienated parts of the present electorate.
After all, I used to be a libertarian and no one could accuse me of holding those views now. I learned through experience and am better for the process.
Her biggest negative is some casual sympathies to Modi’s government in India. While I myself am not a fan of this on the personal level, good relations with India are inevitable for a future America one way or the other. And while I have my strong reservations about the BJP, they are the government of India in the present time and diplomatic use could be made of such connections. India is not Nicaragua or El Salvador. The opinions of US politicians will matter little for its domestic policies. It is large, powerful, and established. Compare this dynamic to the bipartisan establishments many connections to Saudi Arabia and Israel which are not only beyond casual, but positively financial influence peddling many in DC as well.
First the Democratic Party and then hopefully the nation at large will have a choice in the near future: continue the failed Manicheism of two mutually hostile and increasingly aged political parties, or field a barrier breaking candidate running on actual issues rather than media signifiers, the status quo that has failed so many, and fear of criticism. Having learned the lesson of Obama, that charisma without a specifically attached set of policies will ultimately produce little, it is time to support the first candidate for high office who has an issue-driven career and platform and the sense and thoughtfulness to use it pragmatically.
I have seen myself how people across the board tire of endless deregulation and warfare. And I have seen that one of the few people elected in congress today that is well looked on by all of these people, who are largely unrepresented by officer holders,
It is time for Tulsi Gabbard. She is the best candidate I have ever seen to announce a run for the presidency in my entire life so far.
It is important to remember, in the media hysteria relating to the (correct) position to withdrawal from Syria and the resignation of General Mattis, largely due to his own disapproval of any policy that reigns in an over-extended American empire, that Tulsi Gabbard was one of the few public figures who had a record of grilling his pas ‘sage advice.’
And lets not forget the time she endorsed Bernie publicly at Hillary’s coronation: