Sunday, May 24, 2020


Weekend Roundup

Robert Christgau wrote an impassioned piece last week on why it matters for people to vote for Biden and the Democrats against Trump and the Republicans in November. You can find it here and here -- scroll down to the last question and answer. I agree substantively, but have a few quibbles.

First, I gagged on the phrase "criminally stupid." Stupid, maybe, but that isn't (and shouldn't be) a crime. Gauging the importance of any election requires both a lot of information and a good sense of political dynamics over time. How difficult it is should be clear from our different estimates and prognoses of what a Trump victory would mean. (Which, just to be clear, don't diminish our agreement that this election is "crucial" and that if it goes the wrong way a lot of very bad things will happen.)

For instance: "Abortion will end, feminism atrophy, gay rights shrivel." If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, states will be free to outlaw abortion (and for that matter birth control), but only a few states will. Same with LGBTQ rights. The effect will be to undermine rights that currently all Americans share, but unless this can be followed up with new federal legislation the effect will be to make red and blue states diverge further. Granted, if Republicans win by landslides (augmented or enabled by gerrymandering and voter suppression, which is the only way that seems possible) they might be able to rewrite federal law to force their views on blue states. They might even amend the constitution to get rid of parts they don't like (although most likely they'll be happy enough to have their packed courts read the constitution their way).

None of this woud cause feminism to "atrophy": if anything, it will make it sharper and more necessary. Indeed, while we prefer not to speak of it, one thing that invariably happens is that when power tilts one direction, resistance grows. A lot of bad things have happened since 2016, but resistance has grown, both in numbers and in clarity and resolve. The lines about what Hillary would have done differently aren't very convincing -- especially the one about billionaires, because while she was chummy with different ones than Trump was, she was always very deferential to them (as were Democrats like Obama and Biden). At least with Trump as president, we don't have to go through this election defending her. I'm not a person who believes that things have to get worse before they can get better, but I do recognize that people often learn things only the hard way. I voted for Hillary even though I thought she was fucking awful, because I understood how much worse Trump was, but also because I thought we'd be better off starting from her as a baseline than we'd be with Trump.

Obviously, I think that with Biden vs. Trump, as well. I voted for Bernie Sanders, and Biden was one of my least favorite candidates, so I'm not happy he's the nominee, but I'm also not very unhappy with the way the race has shaped up. Aside from the necessity of beating Trump and the Republican ticket -- which in terms of policy (if not personality) if anything worse than Trump -- the second most important thing for me is to advance the ideas of the left. While Sanders and others have made remarkable progress, it was clear that they have not swayed the powers in the party, and that the latter would stop at nothing (including self-defeat) to keep control of the Democratic Party. With Biden we have a seat at the table to argue for policies on their merits, and we shouldn't have to spend much of our energy fighting off internecine attacks from the right. Nothing is certain, but as I keep insisting, the answers to our major problems are on the left. Biden needs answers as much as we do.


The Democratic Primary in Hawaii went for Joe Biden (63.23%), over Bernie Sanders (36.77%). You can draw either conclusion from this. On the one hand, Biden has drawn consistent majorities everywhere since shortly after Super Tuesday, and there's no real chance he's going to weaken. On the other hand, there's still a sizable bloc of Democrats who think we can do better, and that too -- despite the campaign blackout and Bernie's own endorsement of Biden -- shows no sign of weakening.


Some scattered links this week: