Thursday, August 13, 2020


Joe Biden just announced his running mate choice: Sen. Kamala Harris of California. That means Harris, if she can govern well, could be the leader of both the Democratic Party and the country through 2030. If she can't, she might well be the last democratically-elected vice president in American history.

Biden is the heavy favorite against Trump this year. Given his age and his track record of working closely with President Obama when he was vice president, Harris will presumably play a significant role in major governing decisions. It's unpopular for the media to talk about, but there's a decent chance she would need to step in before Biden's term is up. What's more, there is a reasonable chance that Biden would choose not to run for re-election in 2024. If so, Harris would be the overwhelming favorite to run in his place.

The stakes could hardly be higher. Donald Trump is blatantly trying to steal the 2020 election, and the next Republican candidate will very likely try the same trick. A Biden administration would have four years, and perhaps another four or eight under a Harris administration, to address the pandemic, rebuild the shattered economy and federal government, root out Trump's gangrenous corruption, and fortify America's democratic institutions. If Biden and Harris instead muddle through letting everything fester, as happened under the Obama administration, the next would-be authoritarian probably won't be as incompetent as Trump. Let's hope they seize the moment.


Biden has made his pick. Like Biden, she is "pragmatic," i.e, she will tilt whichever way the wind is blowing. Unlike Biden, she is a better and more reliably coherent speaker. A Black woman on the ticket should guarantee a huge Black turnout, which is crucial for Democrats. At the same time, like Obama, she won't scare off those white voters whose latent racial prejudices and anxieties might be activated by a more progressive Black politician. I have no enthusiasm for either on substance, but the main issue is to defeat the monster-child decisively, and hopefully they can do it. I do think they will end up being a highly progressive administration if the Democrats can capture both houses of Congress as well.

ADDENDUM: A few readers (and some Twitterati) didn't quite get the joke in the post title, above. Senator Harris will be the next President because, on the assumption that the monster-child will be defeated (all bets are off for humanity if that's wrong!), (1) Biden doesn't seem equipped to carry out a full 4-year term, and (2) even if he does, Harris will be his heir apparent (given the huge role name recognition--think "Clinton," "Kennedy," "Bush"--plays in democracy). The best thing about Senator Harris (apart from her ability to pull in votes from crucial demographics) is that her father is a Marxist. That means there is hope for America yet. (Readers who have not should look at Achen & Bartels, Democracy for Realists, which makes a strong case, especially in the American context, that democratic elections are all about group identities, not about policies.)
Harris' father was upset his daughter made a joke about Jamaicans and pot. Buttigieg's father was a translator of Gramsci; he didn't disown his son for working for McKinsey. Leiter, Achen and Bartels are realists after Posner and Kissinger; they idealize themselves.

Harris as DA protected the Catholic Church and jailed mothers of children who skipped school. As California Attorney General she ignored court orders to free non-violent prisoners. The Democratic leadership is protecting its right flank with another black conservative. Wall Street is happy.

Change comes from below. The Squad won easily. Omar won out over AIPAC and Bari Weiss.
The Republican base is embracing QAnon.

Leiter defends the rule of his own reason and enlightenment and then links happily, without comment, to arguments he's full of shit. Of course the arguments are polite and "collegial" and this one's full of a hedging, but nothing matters more to Leiter than the "group identity" of academia.

Cooper's an ass but not worse. He moralizes; he's not pro-looter, but he's willfully blind. He's not a full-on geek but when he finds something he can't face he becomes what he would otherwise call "anti-science".

Bouie is taking the fight to Williams, but I don't think he's read Darryl Pinckney.  Williams hasn't responded to the review. He's a coward, but Pinckney is in many ways is his model, a fantasy of what Williams wants to be. And Pinckney is much crueler that Bouie, who only exposes Williams' ignorance rather than saying that passing is what he's trying to do, to escape blackness.

I always read Pinckney as the token black man at the NYRB, who'd passed,  intellectually, into the world of the literary elite, choosing art over explicit politics. I think Harold Bloom was a fan. But I always read his as a smart critic. He's the long-term companion (and vice-versa) of James Fenton. And that brings us back to Hitchens.

Nwanevu left twitter, but like Williams, and Bouie, and Coates, and Jilani,  (and Cooper and the other white suburbanites) he imagines himself an "intellectual". None of it works.

Definitions of an intellectual: someone who's worth reading when their arguments are absurd; someone who enjoys reading absurd arguments; someone who ducks when someone else describes them as an intellectual, and shrugs when someone says that they're a member of "the intellectual class" that includes Williams, Bouie, Cooper et al. Calling yourself an intellectual is like putting PhD after your name every time you write it. But no one in America calls themselves bourgeois. "In the US, where it’s impossible to acknowledge yourself as a member of a group you didn’t choose to join."

Leiter links to Le Monde Diplo, "a useful and interesting corrective", ignoring that the author quotes the "charlatan" Zizek.
Mass democratic mobilisations have, in fact, existed at the heart of these regimes: workers’ riots in June 1953 in Berlin, workers’ councils in Poland and Hungary in 1956, the Prague Spring of 1968 (prolonged by the birth of the Czech workers’ councils), the revolutionary trade unionism of Solidarność (Solidarity) in Gdansk, Poland, in 1980. It is this history that the liberal interpretation of 1989 obliterates or falsifies — and tries to appropriate by presenting it as anti-communist. These popular movements fought, not to re-establish capitalism, but on the contrary in the name of socialist ideals. 
If the end of the single party was popular; the philosopher Slavoj Žižek recalled that ‘Behind the Wall the peoples did not dream of capitalism’ (Le Monde, 7 November 2009). Capitalism’s triumph did not arise from a mass desire, but a choice made by the communist nomenklatura: to transform its privileges of function into privileges of ownership. Although the elites’ ‘grand conversion’ has been analysed, there are few studies on the social base of the old single party, which, though it became restive, did not demand privatisations.
What epistocracy has wrought
The United States Postal Service is removing mail sorting machines from facilities around the country without any official explanation or reason given, Motherboard has learned through interviews with postal workers and union officials. In many cases, these are the same machines that would be tasked with sorting ballots, calling into question promises made by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy that the USPS has “ample capacity” to handle the predicted surge in mail-in ballots.
They need that money in order to make the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump said on Fox Business Thursday morning of the states that are implementing universal mail-in voting ahead of the November election. “But if they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting, because they’re not equipped to have it.”
The rise of American fascism. I blame the 60s, the yuppies, academic theory and John Rawls. Liberals blame everyone else but themselves.

Historian Patrick Iber on historian Rick Perlstein.
"How the GOP Became the Party of Resentment
Have historians of the conservative movement focused too much on its intellectuals?"
One of the values of Perlstein’s heavily narrative and loosely argued approach is that it restores a sense of randomness to outcomes. In retrospect, Reagan looks like the inevitable product of capital’s alliance with social and religious conservatism. But even in the 1980 primary, the “boardroom Jacobins” favored John Connally. They had to accept Reagan, and they certainly made their peace. But none of this was fated. Conservative activists remade the country with intensity, opportunism, and persistence through defeat. Those hoping to push back against their influence today might take some strange comfort in the story of their success. Studying the past does not tell you what will be possible in the future, nor promise that hard work will be rewarded. But it seems fair to conclude that the work is necessary, if not sufficient, and that many will not feel the tremors as the ground shifts under their feet.
And Cooper approves of this shit.

Liberals are responsible for nothing. That hippy anarchism became Silicon Valley authoritarianism means nothing. Neoliberalism does not exist. It's always someone else's fault.

Perlstein's friend Aaaron Swartz has a tag. Now so does Perlstein. Enabler of narcissists, defender of the CIA,  the New Jack mashup of Arthur Schlesinger and Richard Hofstadter.

"I Thought I Understood the American Right. Trump Proved Me Wrong." No shit.

Fits with Jilani's reactionary definition of what he calls *progressives*

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