Tag Archives: Elizabeth Warren

Walking back through political interpretation

I make and take a lot of notes. Even before the more or less daily news chronicle which I began in 2017, I have collected and organized political, economic and other notes throughout my adult life.

Lately I’m doing some spring cleaning, and in the process, this weekend I revisited two or three small, ad hoc collections of notes. They are interesting, especially cumulatively as a walk back through 10 years of struggling to make sense of political dysfunction.

A virtual folder on my Mac, which began as a catchall for interesting texts which I wanted to save and meant to file eventually, has turned into a cross section of 2011-20 political perspectives. Some just seems quaint. Remember when the “war on terror” or “free trade debates” were national preoccupations? One is a rant from February 2017, responding specifically to local affairs and posted on a local message board, but which rails against complicit unwillingness to say that a lie is a lie; a general relevance existed at a time but has grown since, I think.

Three or four excerpts from Vox articles published after the 2014 election seem, now, like the beginning of the conclusions I eventually arrived at in my recent book Nemesis.

  • …the Democrats hadn’t actually discovered dark arts of GOTV that allowed them to survive a GOP year. The polls were wrong — but they were wrong because they undercounted Republican support. As often happens, Democrats fooled themselves after the 2012 election into believing they had unlocked some enduring political advantage. They learned otherwise. (source)
  • If the economy drives whether people vote to re-elect the president, and presidential approval drives midterm voting, then surely the economy should should drive midterm voting through the mechanism of presidential approval, right? (source)
  • The last five elections, taken together, wreck almost every clean story you might try to wrap around them. They show an electorate that veers hard and quickly between left and right and back again — shredding any efforts one might make to draw deep ideological conclusions from a single campaign. They show that Democrats can, in the right circumstances, win midterm elections. They show that incumbents can win presidential campaigns. They show an electorate that seems to be searching for something it cannot find. (source)

One sentence, from the same period, is so exact: “American politics is descending into a meaningless, demographically driven seesaw.”

It’s humbling that it took me seven more years to process this even into what I hope is some kind of useful model for making sense of things.

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2020 Year in Review

So many potential themes for writing about the year that was, even for my personal experience in 2020, seem to restate unnecessarily. I think most people are sick of this year to a degree that even the weariness is a cliché.

The best I can do may be that “I was oddly well prepared for this year’s disruptions and have managed relatively well, personally.”

Materially, my professional work expanded at least a bit compared to 2019 (at the same time as various expenses fell way off). I have already worked from home for years, as a freelancer, primarily interacting with clients via telecommunications.

More generally, I seem to have been well suited by disposition and habit to deal with distancing. I have lived alone for 19 years. I empathize with people this has been harder on; it’s mostly chance that it has been relatively easy for me.

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2020 Primary: Plus ça change…

I tried watching one of the Democratic Primary Debates, some months ago. It was basically unwatchable.

It’s just deeply awkward and unpleasant, for one thing; not only does it seem much like the collision of noises in a typical ESPN yelling-heads show, it’s worse because in theory the presidential debate is consequential and it certainly imposes this debasement on some genuinely intelligent people.

In a bigger sense, it’s hard to keep watching when it’s fairly obvious, before the debate even begins, that it’s basically a ritualized, desperate waving around of American culture’s absurd decay. The set design would have seemed like a grotesque parody if you showed it to someone a few decades ago. As visual metaphor for a culture trapped in rituals which no longer function, yet so hollow it can manage no response except to tart them up with ever more neon and mirrors, it would be rather hamfisted. Except this is what passes for reality. This reduction of national dialogue to a ridiculous game show, in both function and form, is not critical art but a miserable cynic’s disgusted counsel of despair.

lol, says the debate format, nothing anyone does matters just give up.

The debate content and the larger primary provided a lot of support for that counsel, and some interesting but very limited exceptions to it.

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Medicare for All vs Solidarity for Some

Just over four years ago I was writing about the contortions which many Democrats were twisting themselves into, over policies including Medicare for All, seemingly in order to pretend that their feelings toward individual candidates were policy-driven.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Short version, Bernie Sanders is back running for president again; in the intervening four years his advocacy of Medicare for All has been joined by a small number of top-ranked Democrats, including even one of the other leading candidates for president, Senator Elizabeth Warren; Sanders’s campaign has vigorously framed Medicare for All as a wedge issue to justify disdain for and distrust of Warren, anyway, without any remotely credible basis in policy disagreement.

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