On Not Meeting Nazis Half way
November 21, 2020 2:32 PM   Subscribe

"There are situations in which there is no common ground worth standing on, let alone hiking over to."

Make no mistake, the majority of Americans wants progress. The ones holding on the the past is "a minority position but by granting it deference we give it, over and over, the power of a majority position."

In fact the whole Republican Party, since long before Trump, has committed itself to the antidemocratic project of trying to create a narrower electorate rather than win a wider vote. They have invested in voter suppression as a key tactic to win, and the votes they try to suppress are those of Black voters and other voters of color."

The Republican Party HAS been on the way out. What we are seeing now are vile, but desperate attempts to cling on to power.

It's time for the Democratic Party to honor its many, many voters rather than placate racists on the other side.
posted by ichomp (155 comments total) 123 users marked this as a favorite
 
Thanks, ichomp! I'm reading her "Recollections of My Nonexistence" right now.

Rebecca Solnit, previously on MetaFilter.
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:41 PM on November 21 [8 favorites]


Also, it’s worth repeating, we won, and being gracious in victory is still being victorious
posted by scruss at 3:06 PM on November 21 [12 favorites]


I think I've said this elsewhere, but: The calls to "empathize" with the Trump supporters, to "see things from their perspective," sound very, VERY familiar to me. Because they remind me of all the things we used to say to the victims of bullying.

I was bullied pretty regularly from 3rd grade up through 7th grade. On the few occasions I told someone about it, I was either told to just ignore it, or on a couple of excruciatingly awful occasions I was dragged into some kind of mediation session with the bully where we were expected to "talk it out" - and the bully always knew what to say to make it sound like they were being wholly innocent in their intent. (And then come beat me up later when no one was looking.) Often, though, I was told that the bully only did what they did because they were jealous of me for some reason, or they had something bad going on with their own lives and they were trying to make themselves feel better.

At no time, though, did anyone ever acknowledge that what the bullies were doing to me was bad in and of itself, and no one ever acknowledged that what the bullies had done to me also sucked. I was asked to sympathize with the girls who cornered me in the hallway and beat me up after gym class every day - to think about how maybe they were from broken homes or were failing math classes. But no one ever asked them to sympathize with me for living in constant fear of getting physically assaulted for no other reason than my just happening to be there. Their problems were acknowledged as being worthy of sympathy - mine were not.

I can only assume that the "put yourself in your bullies' shoes" talk was meant to either teach me empathy, or to reassure me that it was nothing personal. Which is well and good - but because no one at any time validated what I was feeling about being bullied, this only taught me that "the bully's feelings matter more than yours". I felt bad about being bullied, but they had it worse than me so I should suck it up. And if it bothered me, well, I was just too sensitive.

It took me forty years to unlearn that nonsense.

Today I am being asked to empathize with Trump supporters - many of whom not only regularly cast dispersion on many of my values, but also cast dispersion on my home city, my chosen profession, my family, and my friends. Several also have also outright boasted that they WANT to make me feel bad.

Speaking not only as the 50-year-old I am, but as the 8-year-old former target of bullies that I once was -

FUCK

THAT

SHIT
.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:12 PM on November 21 [466 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos, I feel the same. This transition feels so personal and triggering to many of us for the reasons you said -- it mirrors spousal abuse, bullying, and the instances of toxic, FORCED relationships in our personal lives.

The burden to forgive and "get over it" is always placed on the victim.
posted by ichomp at 3:20 PM on November 21 [38 favorites]


I don’t think that seeing something from another’s perspective implies empathizing with them. If someone feels insecure and then blames their insecurity on “others” as being a threat, then knowing that helps you to see why they behave the way they do. It does not require you to feel that way, it does not require you to think that way, it does give you some insight though on why that person is screwed up. It’s one thing thing to say fascists are evil, it’s another to understand why they are evil. Knowing why can give you tools, it can also help prevent someone else falling into that black hole. Bullies and fascists are wrong, and do very wrong things, and this must be said. Knowing reasons why gives you more power to say it. Whether or not they will listen is a whole other problem. Trumpists are true believers. Being so, they are pretty much hopeless. Being armed, as many of them are, makes them dangerous.
posted by njohnson23 at 3:28 PM on November 21 [10 favorites]


I don’t think that seeing something from another’s perspective implies empathizing with them [....] It’s one thing thing to say fascists are evil, it’s another to understand why they are evil. Knowing why can give you tools, it can also help prevent someone else falling into that black hole.

Firstly, there have been several calls for "empathy" for the Trump supporters as well as trying to "understand" them.

Secondly, there already have been copious articles and profiles of the bullies and fascists. Conversely, however, there has been no such call for the bullies and fascists to attempt to understand people of color, people in the LGBTQ community, immigrants and refugees, people of non-Judeo-Christian faiths, etc. The closest I've seen anyone from the right attempt to get into the mindset of those on the left is when they're writing one of those hokey memes where there's a conversation between "a typical lib and a MAGA guy" where the "typical lib" speaks solely in easily-deconstructed overly-simplified pablum and the "MAGA guy" out-speaks them.

Thirdly - OF COURSE "try to see things from their perspective" is meant to encourage us to empathize with them. It's what people were trying to do when they said "I know those other kids stole that art project you worked two whole weekends on and ripped it up, but they only did it because they were jealous".

....In other news - midway through this clip from Amber Ruffin's show may be relevant.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:46 PM on November 21 [76 favorites]


I can’t believe how weak and uninspiring the messaging from Biden and his surrogates has been since the election. Maybe if Democrats give half their cookies to Republicans they’ll play nice!
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:50 PM on November 21 [16 favorites]


This is not the time for Biden to be brashly promoting left-wing policies and condemning the right-wing. Trump and his intermittently-reluctant accomplices The Republican Party are currently mounting a doomed coup. Napoleon said, “When the enemy is making a bad move, we must take care not to interrupt him”.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 3:58 PM on November 21 [73 favorites]


Let’s figure out what makes the other side tick— but not show deference. People attracted to conspiracy theories (the main thing the R’s can boast now) are usually damaged in some way, seeking imaginary redress through fantasies of power and revenge. We should get on with our business and make sure that crimes are prosecuted.
posted by homerica at 4:00 PM on November 21 [16 favorites]


This is the kind of Conversation this country needs to have, going forwards.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 4:02 PM on November 21 [2 favorites]


I don't need the Dems to inspire us, we are inspired and motivated by progress itself. But I NEED to know that they care about their supporters as much as the ones who did NOT vote for them.
posted by ichomp at 4:03 PM on November 21 [22 favorites]


That is a fantastic essay. Thanks for posting.
posted by wittgenstein at 4:04 PM on November 21 [5 favorites]


If someone feels insecure and then blames their insecurity on “others” as being a threat, then knowing that helps you to see why they behave the way they do.

We know why they behave as they do. There's a powerful misinformation/propaganda media empire and corporate interests that use various levers, some of which are things like racism, to manipulate them. Combined with an attraction to authoritarianism and that belonging to the group is more important than things like truth and a certain disconnection from reality that often manifests as certain religious beliefs.

We don't need to keep giving them platforms to repeat the propaganda to gain insight.
posted by Candleman at 4:08 PM on November 21 [44 favorites]


The fundamental problem is that the Democratic Party is (or has been, perhaps) just as racist, as an institution, as the rest of American society. Democratic strategy in every election:take mostly centre-right positions, try to win over white suburbanites. One sort of gets the feeling that Democrats at the national level feel they can more or less take the voters of colour who are their real base for granted, and one fine day Democrats will find the right magic formula of just the right amount of pandering and the right candidate and all those lost white lambs who've been off in the Republican wilderness will return to the fold (you can see this in all the angst among some Democrats about "the need to reach out to the working class", with the implicit understanding that this means "white people).
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 4:14 PM on November 21 [28 favorites]



I can’t believe how weak and uninspiring the messaging from Biden and his surrogates has been since the election.


Biden's overall strategy with regard to Trump seems pretty consistent to me. As much as he can, he refuses to get sucked into the guy's chaos. One of his (Biden's) aids said as much shortly after the election. "Trump wins if you try to engage him on his fantastical terms -- that's his game, his field of play." (or words to that effect).

Thus far, Biden has comfortably won an election, has received more votes than anyone ever before in American history. So yeah, my hope is that in standing back a ways from the cesspit, in not engaging with the chaos therein, Team Biden are allowing Trump's poisons to more or less consume themselves. Hell, even Tucker Carlson's in danger of getting swallowed up. We're already at a point where fifty percent of Republicans believe that Trump lost the election (ie: less than 25 percent of Americans are buying Trump's bullshit), so again, it seems Biden's opposite-of-Trump approach (bite your tongue, say as little as possible, focus on the work you can do) is getting results.
posted by philip-random at 4:17 PM on November 21 [28 favorites]


The Democratic base is a reflection of America and as such some parts of the base are racist. The difference with the Republicans is that they depend on racism. If the Republicans don't play to racists their party disappears.
posted by rdr at 4:19 PM on November 21 [13 favorites]


It's what people were trying to do when they said "I know those other kids stole that art project you worked two whole weekends on and ripped it up, but they only did it because they were jealous".

The kids at my school not only destroyed my art project, but filmed themselves doing it in stop motion as their art project. I wish I was joking.
posted by jabah at 4:22 PM on November 21 [62 favorites]


That was very good. The comparison to abusive marriages says so much about US politics in how well it fits.
posted by Lonnrot at 4:22 PM on November 21 [3 favorites]


This kinda feels like it was mostly written before the election actually happened and she just pushed send on it, anyway? Not that Biden doesn’t have a good solid win on his hands - I have no quarrel with the idea of pursuing a left-of-center agenda as boldly as possible within the constraints at hand, and I wish the president-elect were a guy more suited to do it. But who at this point thinks that “understanding the Trump vote” means understanding the Unite the Right crew, rather than, say, these folks? (n.b. - linked for the summary of voting trends, not the analysis which I also think is dubious) I mean, I guess the New York Times and co. might still think this. Even the idea that an expanded and engaged electorate always benefits Democrats showed some holes. A lot of far-right ideologues live in America. But the assumption that they are the only people casting votes for Trump doesn’t do much useful except make you feel better the next time you lose an election... or win one election but get stuck in legislative gridlock.

It’s always a problem that when Democrats hear they are doing something wrong they immediately think “we’ve gotta be more like Republicans.” Doesn’t mean they aren’t doing anything wrong, though, or that it doesn’t have anything to do with their inability to think about how voters all across the country think to deliver the message that they are the party that stands for a better life for 90 percent of people in the country - a message that should be the fucking truth.
posted by atoxyl at 4:36 PM on November 21 [4 favorites]


We've had roughly a million articles over the last umpteen years about the poor, misunderstood Trump voter, what makes them tick, their hopes, their dreams, their "economic uncertainty."

The cruelty and the racism are the point. The end. Right-wing militias are the spearhead of the entire movement and one of the leading threats to Americans today. There's no reaching out.

This is the thing. When Republicans win, the Democratic party has to reach out and understand their feeling. When Democrats win, and decisively, then they have to reach out and understand the poor, hurt feeling of the Republicans.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 4:40 PM on November 21 [74 favorites]


Such is the life of the non-sociopaths forced to live with sociopaths. To me, the salient question is how to (effectively) counter and eventually eliminate the large and scale propaganda that leads people to believe in extremist positions that are entirely divorced from reality.

Rwanda had a similar problem that led to mass, but incomplete, genocide. How did they keep it from happening all over again in the decades since? My poor recollection tells me it was nonpunitive truth and reconciliation commissions, which involved asking the participants to explain why they did what they did and their being forced to listen to how their actions impacted their (surviving) victims, but there is almost certainly more I'm missing given the state of my memory of late.
posted by wierdo at 4:59 PM on November 21 [8 favorites]




and liberals did cry ... cheers of joy
posted by philip-random at 5:14 PM on November 21 [4 favorites]


Personally I'm for meeting them more than halfway.

Thanks Chain Home Low!
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:20 PM on November 21 [3 favorites]


And laughter. Don’t forget the tears of laughter.
posted by la glaneuse at 5:21 PM on November 21 [7 favorites]


The cruelty and the racism are the point. The end.

Trump did (slightly) worse with white people in 2020 than in 2016 and (slightly) better with minorities. Which doesn’t by any means indicate that Trumpism isn’t racist, but it does suggest that a lot of left-of-center commentators have a reductive understanding of race as much as they might pay lip service to its fluidity.
posted by atoxyl at 5:27 PM on November 21 [18 favorites]


Remember, if you are such an awful person just by existing, and you are so awful you bring out the urge to bully in someone, it's YOUR fault the bullying is happening.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:51 PM on November 21 [10 favorites]


-- Hell, even Tucker Carlson's in danger of getting swallowed up.

‘I...I Am The Mainstream Media,’ Realizes Horrified Tucker Carlson Spiraling Live On Air (The Onion, Nov. 11, 2020) “We’ve discovered evidence of rampant voter fraud, and the president has every right to call for an investigation even if the mainstream media thinks...” said Carlson, who trailed off, stared down at his shaking hands, and felt a sudden ringing in his ears as he looked back up and zeroed in on the production crew surrounding him. “The media says…wait. Those liars on TV will try to tell you…oh God. We’re the number-one program on cable news, aren’t we? Fox News…Fox ‘News.’ It’s the media. It’s me. This can’t be. No, no, no, no. Jesus Christ, I make $6 million a year. Get that camera off me!”
--
Rebecca Solnit: Whose Story (and Country) Is This? (Lithub, April 18, 2018) The common denominator of so many of the strange and troubling cultural narratives coming our way is a set of assumptions about who matters, whose story it is, who deserves the pity and the treats and the presumptions of innocence, the kid gloves and the red carpet, and ultimately the kingdom, the power, and the glory. You already know who. It’s white people in general and white men in particular, and especially white Protestant men, some of whom are apparently dismayed to find out that there is going to be, as your mom might have put it, sharing. The history of this country has been written as their story, and the news sometimes still tells it this way—one of the battles of our time is about who the story is about, who matters and who decides.[...]

More Americans work in museums than work in coal, but coalminers are treated as sacred beings owed huge subsidies and the sacrifice of the climate, and museum workers—well, no one is talking about their jobs as a totem of our national identity.
posted by Iris Gambol at 6:03 PM on November 21 [66 favorites]


calls for "empathy" for the Trump supporters as well as trying to "understand" them

Something litigators learn to do, is "encompass your adversaries arguments", where you anticipate their arguments in advance, and kind of cut them off at the pass, which requires you understand them, but no need to empathize with them.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:08 PM on November 21 [35 favorites]


Fucking hell, that Onion Tucker Carlson thing was terrifyingly believable.
posted by Lonnrot at 6:52 PM on November 21 [6 favorites]


I want to give Trump supporters healthcare, isn’t that enough?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:03 PM on November 21 [38 favorites]


You've seen what happened when someone threatened to give them healthcare. It didn't go over well. Wait, was that an ironic threat?
posted by rdr at 7:09 PM on November 21 [2 favorites]


Healthcare, including mental health. Hell, lets throw in dental and vision and hearing.
posted by porpoise at 7:23 PM on November 21 [7 favorites]


Throw in nothing. They can save themselves first.
posted by Ahmad Khani at 7:35 PM on November 21


Democratic strategy in every election: take mostly centre-right positions, try to win over white suburbanites. One sort of gets the feeling that Democrats at the national level feel they can more or less take the voters of colour who are their real base for granted ...

But African American Democrats tend to be more moderate and more religious than non-Hispanic white Democrats. And both African American and non-white Hispanic Democrats are more moderate (on a "very conservative" to "very liberal" scale) than white Democrats -- at least, by self-description. From the second link:
By contrast [with white Democratic voters], more black Democratic voters continue to characterize their views as moderate rather than liberal. In 2019, 43% of black Democrats called themselves moderate, 29% called themselves liberal and 25% called themselves conservative.
Why not think that when the Democratic Party keeps to the center, they are paying attention to voters of color who vote for Democrats?
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 7:38 PM on November 21 [48 favorites]


> Why not think that when the Democratic Party keeps to the center, they are paying attention to voters of color who vote for Democrats?

Never let the facts get in the way of derailing every politics-adjacent thread into how awful Democrats are.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:43 PM on November 21 [39 favorites]


Healthcare, including mental health. Hell, lets throw in dental and vision and hearing.

It seems, very literally, they would rather die than receive those things.

But I also have a suspicion that if they were the ONLY ones who get to have those benefits, they'd have less problem with it. "Fear of socialism" to me reads like a code for racism.
posted by ichomp at 7:43 PM on November 21 [19 favorites]


It seems, very literally, they would rather die than receive those things.

What a shame.
posted by Ahmad Khani at 7:48 PM on November 21 [3 favorites]


The Trumpists are no longer a political party, they are a personality cult. The best ways to destroy a personality cult are:

1) Show that the Great Leader can be humbled by a greater outside force (e.g. stuck in jail)
2) Have a schism (leader dies, kids fight over spoils)

I hope that Trump will get #1 but expect we'll end up with #2. These people do not believe in facts, they believe in tribalism and following the silverback, even to the point of drinking poison (hydroxychloroquine) and dying of covid for the leader.
posted by benzenedream at 8:12 PM on November 21 [7 favorites]


Something litigators learn to do, is "encompass your adversaries arguments", where you anticipate their arguments in advance, and kind of cut them off at the pass, which requires you understand them, but no need to empathize with them.

The problem with this analogy is that there is no judge or jury to argue your case in front of. Mitch McConnell doesn't listen to reasoned arguments. The vast majority of Trump voters do not listen to reasoned arguments.

Swing voters are persuadable, but they're such a small part of the current highly polarised electorate that Trump almost won despite losing their vote by a large margin.
posted by zymil at 8:16 PM on November 21 [12 favorites]


I'll say this about meeting Nazis halfway: the Marshall Plan did exactly that. And it worked.
posted by ocschwar at 8:28 PM on November 21 [13 favorites]


Where are the stories about Biden voters, humanising them and portraying their issues in sympathetic tones so that Republicans can learn to understand them?

Their absence is very interesting.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:57 PM on November 21 [53 favorites]


Where were months of this kind of "We must reach out to our Trump-voting brethren and understand them and humble ourselves, fellow coastal city-dwelling folk" glurge in local Seattle media in 2016, and not once was there ever an article profiling the people who would be hurt by this band of bigoted grifters.

Comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable, my Aunt Fanny.
posted by RakDaddy at 9:32 PM on November 21 [12 favorites]


Why not think that when the Democratic Party keeps to the center, they are paying attention to voters of color who vote for Democrats?

Other than self-descriptors (i.e. moderate verus liberal), it appears the biggest divergence between black Democrats and white liberals is over social issues like same-sex marriage based on your link. That doesn't exactly map to how "moderate" democratic politicians present themselves, which is typically more of a "fiscally conservative but socially liberal" framing. There is definitely a grain of truth in what the links are describing, but it doesn't necessarily translate to how the Democratic party uses the terms. The Kentucky senate race and Amy McGrath would be perfect examples.
posted by eagles123 at 10:22 PM on November 21 [5 favorites]


Understanding a problem is important for solving it.
posted by amtho at 10:32 PM on November 21 [4 favorites]


I see no reason why I should feel that the Republican Party and their present supporters should not reap the whirlwind or as more than a few neo-liberal colleagues say, "reward bad behavior".

Really, you cannot seek to work with people who 1) do not negotiate in good faith and 2) want to break the damn board of the government and democratic society. And if we are going to be hella frank about it, tell me how they are NOT traitors to the nation?

Just because they are fucked up doesn't mean they have the right to fuck me up.
posted by jadepearl at 10:38 PM on November 21 [34 favorites]


Understanding a problem is important for solving it.

As a call for any kind of “give them time to explain themselves” so we can fully understand why they are like they are thing... give me a break. The right has been proclaiming, loudly, for years, what they believe, and why they do the things they do. And, underneath all the pablum they spew, there’s the hard evidence of actions. It’s not like it’s some great mystery why a wealthy family in the suburbs votes for a man who dogwhistles about making the suburbs “safe” for nice people like them. There isn’t some great depth to people who enact racist anti-migrant labor policies then weep about how there’s no one to harvest the crops. Acting like we once again need to let these assholes plead their cases is like telling us that, if we’d only give Glitter one more viewing, we’d understand just how magnificent an actress Mariah Carey really is (sorry, I was trying to think of the dumbest possible example). There is no hidden depths or as yet unvoiced motive, and what we’d hear when they’re granted yet another platform is the dogwhistly bullshit they’ve been spewing the whole time.

Telling people capable of empathy that we have to empathize with people who are so far removed from any capacity for it that they view the ability to understand others as a weakness is frankly tiresome.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:52 PM on November 21 [61 favorites]


I feel like the "you have to empathize" with the poor republicans is totally buying into their propaganda that they are being discriminated against. It perpetuates the equation of conservative with transgender (or Black or queer or ...) as a protected class. The problem is that this conflates how you believe others should be treated with how you yourself are treated. Don't discriminate against me because I want to hurt others vs don't discriminate against me. It's total gaslighting.

The democratic party platform includes some great things, like believing in science. Why not just ignore the fray and get some things done.

For example, Jared Polis, start acting like an actual Democratic governor and start listening to the public health experts, the doctors, the nurses, the scientists, and shut the state down already before we all die of COVID (or any other disease that requires hospitalization), please.
posted by lab.beetle at 12:06 AM on November 22 [39 favorites]


Understanding does not necessarily mean sympathizing.

However, if we want to prevent more people from shutting themselves off from optimism and science, we should probably try to understand what has historically caused people to be shut off from optimism and science, and then, once we've identified those factors, either reduce those factors or introduce compensatory factors.

Just because I understand that sugar causes tooth decay doesn't mean that I'm done with the problem.
posted by amtho at 12:21 AM on November 22 [8 favorites]


I'm not consciously clear on what all the connections were, exactly, but as I was reading EmpressCallipygos's incredible comment up above this is what went through my head:
  • y'know, the whole Christian “love thine enemies” thing doesn't mean that you let your enemies commit genocide, even though you love them
  • though actually in history a whole lot of allowing genocide happened anyways
  • you do what you have to, to stop the genocide, and say you loved them anyways
posted by XMLicious at 12:30 AM on November 22 [9 favorites]


We should treat their ideas on their merits: fringe ideas that don’t deserve to be taken seriously, hatred that has no place in society, ignorance and lies that should be shunned, not spread.
posted by snofoam at 2:29 AM on November 22 [7 favorites]


For the small number of Trump supporters I've talked to, there just isn't anything there to understand. It's weird, I've spoken to cult members who were more amenable to logic. The Trump supporters I spoke to (who to be fair, may not be representative) had a self-reinforcing system where you either went along with their Gish Gallop of talking points or you were deemed to be "prejudiced" and "just hate Trump". And once you're in that category they won't listen to you anyway.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:21 AM on November 22 [37 favorites]


I’ve spent much of my adult life watching politicians like Bill Clinton and, at times, Barack Obama sell out their own side to placate the other, with dismal results, and I pray that times have changed enough that Joe Biden will not do it all over again.
Maybe this time he won't jerk the ball away.
posted by flabdablet at 3:37 AM on November 22 [13 favorites]


The Trump supporters I spoke to (who to be fair, may not be representative) had a self-reinforcing system where you either went along with their Gish Gallop of talking points or you were deemed to be "prejudiced" and "just hate Trump".

This crowd has tentacles that reach all the way to rural Australia. There's a closed-down pub right by the river bridge in Bairnsdale that's recently been adorned with a large signboard that reads

COVID19 = AGENDA21
MASK = MUZZLE

with an exhortation to get informed and a link to some tinfoil-hat website.

I've been psychotic, so I understand these people just fine. The kind of certainty that feels as if it requires no reality checking is a hell of a high.
posted by flabdablet at 3:59 AM on November 22 [13 favorites]


There's a closed-down pub right by the river bridge in Bairnsdale
Of course it's Gippsland. Fuck that coalpit of meth-addled shitfuckery right in the ear. Bunch of tree-smashing, eagle-murdering, planet-looting wankers.

Gippsland continues to reward the low opinion I formed of it growing up in fucken Moe. The only good thing about Moe? Leaving Moe.
posted by prismatic7 at 5:38 AM on November 22 [2 favorites]


I recently started participating in a post on LinkedIn that went through the adversity Joe Biden faced in his life. The post didn't say anything other than Biden was the president-elect and the following messed up things happened to him.

What I learned:
- Biden is a criminal and a fraud
- Biden is a moron and has dementia
- Biden is a pedophile
- Biden isn't the president-elect because Trump is still going to win
- There was massive fraud and it's Biden's fault
- Biden depression over the death of his wife and child means he's weak and isn't fit to be president
- Biden cheated on his first wife with Jill

These are adults posting these things using their real names and professional profiles, to whatever extent have "professions." I have no interest in reaching out to them or understanding them. We can eulogize them when they're gone.
posted by 1adam12 at 5:39 AM on November 22 [30 favorites]


My comment above totally blew up, so it embarrasses me to realize that I think I need to clarify what I WILL do.

...I have, I admit to my shame, indulged in the occasional "someone is wrong on the Internet" Twitter gloat against egregious Trump supporters. But I've decided to scale that back - because while I don't want to empathize with them, I don't want to do that either.

Instead, I'm just....not going to be first to make peace. I'm just going to stand back. Be civil and cordial - the absolute baseline you should extend to any stranger you encounter. Hold them at arms' length until you know if they can be trusted. Let them be the one to make the first move, let them make the overture to settling things. They were the ones who damaged my trust - they need to mend that. Some never will - but some may have enough eventual self-awareness to admit that "you know, um...I was a shit before." Then we may be able to start talking.

Some may still cause problems of one kind or another, and those problems would need to be dealt with. But that's true of anyone who acts up. I'm talking more about the run-of-the-mill daily encounters with people - having awareness of where my own boundaries are, and what it would take for them to earn my trust, and not betraying my own boundaries.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:58 AM on November 22 [37 favorites]


"We can eulogize them when they are gone"
Since 2000, we have been reading that the Republiclican Party is doomed because their coalition is getting older and they must appeal to new groups, chiefly Hispanics. They refused to do it even after repeated suggestions by different election post mortems.

This weakness never seems to materialize, though. I don't think they will be gone. We can't wait for them to go away because it's not happening. Democrats need a better strategy.
posted by wittgenstein at 6:12 AM on November 22 [17 favorites]


However, if we want to prevent more people from shutting themselves off from optimism and science, we should probably try to understand what has historically caused people to be shut off from optimism and science, and then, once we've identified those factors, either reduce those factors or introduce compensatory factors.

I understand this, but I think then we should be listening to experts on cults, etc. Not the same nonsense conspiracies and lies that have been featured for 4 horrible years. The LA Times wasn't digging into why some people resist reality, they were giving the cult space to spread its propaganda. Not commendable, not useful, not moving us toward progress or healing or unity.
posted by Emmy Rae at 6:32 AM on November 22 [27 favorites]


If I look at Facebook right now, I bet that in ten minutes I can find ten people declaring that media outlets do not call elections.

That was last week. This week it’s ‘The courts are the place to find justice, let the system work.’

The transparent absurdity of their talking points is a defense against any attempt at understanding. Some might privately crave empathy, but they can’t publicly accept it.
posted by jon1270 at 6:39 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]


At this point, however, all the adults realize that the only way for Trump to get to 270 is to lose fifty pounds.
Can we not do this? I get the joke but, really, Trump isn’t deplorable because of his weight. His ideas would be just as dangerous if they were said by someone skinnier, younger, articulate, etc. — and we should be prepared to see that in the next few years because the quarter of the country who are refusing to accept reality will find someone to tell them they’re right, and we have no guarantee that they’ll be as incompetent and self-sabotaging as Trump has thankfully been.
posted by adamsc at 6:44 AM on November 22 [46 favorites]


I wouldn't count on the tweets going away till that dude dies (or Twitter does), and a big chunk of the media landscape will keep reporting on them.

In re the conversation wondering why there were so many articles attempting to understand the Trump voters, but not the people harmed by them, I'm curious about that impression. There did seem to be an alarming number of shell-shocked "how the hell could people vote for this guy" postmortems right after the 2016 election, but as the shitty executive orders started rolling out I definitely saw plenty of articles in the major newspapers that were highlighting how people were being harmed by Trump's administration and soliciting empathy for them.

It would be interesting to dig back through that record, and for instance see if the perception of more articles about understanding Trump supporters had to do with an actual greater number of articles, a greater social media share on those articles, or what. I don't use Facebook or Twitter, so my bubble is probably less aware of how much certain articles are getting shared or read.

It's also possible I manage not to register the frequency of those articles, because I feel like in one form or another the same hackneyed "what does the common man think" pieces I've seen my whole life ad nauseam. (With "common" as a stand-in for rural/outer-suburban and white, and "man" being pretty explicit).
posted by aspersioncast at 6:47 AM on November 22 [5 favorites]


I definitely saw plenty of articles in the major newspapers that were highlighting how people were being harmed by Trump's administration and soliciting empathy for them.

I saw those too, but I think it is a different genre. "What is the government doing to these particular people" vs "why do they believe what they believe?"

Why do people love AOC? Why did the Sunrise movement show up to campaign for Ed Markey? Why do people vote for Katie Porter in a purple district even though she is unapologetically progressive? Haven't seen much of that, personally. One problem with not seeing those pieces is that I want to understand how we win!
posted by Emmy Rae at 6:55 AM on November 22 [26 favorites]


Republicans fall in line, Democrats fall in love
posted by Jacen at 7:06 AM on November 22 [2 favorites]


[One deleted. It's totally okay to be critical of not-great people, but let's please refrain from body-shaming/fatphobic comments and find alternative words and phrases to express ourselves.]
posted by travelingthyme (staff) at 7:15 AM on November 22 [5 favorites]


This weakness never seems to materialize, though. I don't think they will be gone.

Oh goodness, you can't just wait for things to happen. We have to get to work deprogramming them now. Our leaders have to lead. They have to model what evidence-based leadership looks like and relentlessly drill this into anyone who will listen.
posted by 1adam12 at 7:37 AM on November 22 [3 favorites]


I'll say this about meeting Nazis halfway: the Marshall Plan did exactly that. And it worked.

After fire bombing Dresden. And I say this as someone whose grandfather survived that only by dumb luck, being transfered to a hospital in another city the night before.

But that's how it worked, and there's no point in sugar-coating. Do a Marshall-Plan, by all means, but don't skip the Nürnberg trials.
posted by sohalt at 7:39 AM on November 22 [57 favorites]


Over at LATimes, the editorial page editor Sewell Chan (Asian, queer) has been engaging with his critics on Twitter of the wisdom of turning an entire page of letters over to Trump voters. He continually pleads for "understanding", while blatantly disregarding the actual words of the people who write in. He writes: I actually think white supremacy is a huge part of Trump support and always has been. What I don’t accept is dismissing half our population as white supremacists. I may abhor their decision to vote for him, but failing to listen to them won’t help matters.

In his conversations with others, he admits that he gets a lot of blatant hate mail from Trump that he considers unpublishable, but doesn't want to expose to his readers. The end result being that he ends up printing the most rational-seeming Trump voters over the majority of Trump voters who write in, who don't know better than to couch their racism or hate in other words, and over-extending grace to people who are NOT actually representative of the people he says he wants to understand.

It's just denial at this point. Denial at the reality that we live in, denial that bad actions and bad words have real consequences, and attributing good motives to people who have none because they can't live with the fact that people might actually have bad motives and bad intentions.

It was only 2 days ago that Steve Mnunchin said we are working on "mass distribution of the virus" and nobody followed up, but every single journalist that covered it just said, "oh he must mean the vaccine". Why would you take him at his good intentions instead of his actual words?
posted by toastyk at 7:42 AM on November 22 [29 favorites]


Do a Marshall-Plan, by all means, but don't skip the Nürnberg trials.

SECONDED.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:45 AM on November 22 [24 favorites]


We can eulogize them when they're gone

Setting aside the question of how to interpret a statement like this within the context of a Metafilter thread, where it's understood within a bed of expectations flowing from previous conversations and buttressed by a sense of community values & norms, glancing past all of that so to speak, and taking the statement at face value, I think it's not hard to imagine how they would interpret that, nor what their response would be.

I think politics is the building of coalitions around shared ideals, interests, or institutions. Within any coalition there will always be discontent. It is the job of the politician to keep the coalition together anyway. That's the job. Paradoxically, the better they are at their job, the broader the coalition becomes, but the more people join, the less they will have in common. Nevertheless it is the job of the politician to persuade them that they have something in common anyway.

Perhaps this is the central political question since Thatcher. What do we have in common? Indeed is there such a thing as a common? Or is a kind of tribalism the best we can hope for? It takes a really great politician — a really great politics — to bridge the gap. I don't think Biden is that politician, for what it's worth. But that's the job.
posted by dmh at 7:51 AM on November 22


Of course it's Gippsland. Fuck that coalpit of meth-addled shitfuckery right in the ear. Bunch of tree-smashing, eagle-murdering, planet-looting wankers.

The Valley is one thing but East Gippsland, where Bairnsdale is, is two whole Shires away from the Valley.

That said, I do feel a lot of sympathy for those members of the reality-based community forced by circumstances to live in Moe. Which is, as you'd expect in a town so heavily dependent on an extractive industry that got yoinked from Government hands into private hands in the 1990s, awful.

Here in the East we do still have more than our fair share of the Fertilize The Bush Doze In A Greenie contingent driving around in utes with Kenworth mudflaps and Confederate flags in the back window (and wtf is that all about, in Australia?) but we also have very strong support for the Lock The Gate anti-fracking movement. And although we're as unfortunately rusted onto the Wingnut Party as you'd expect from a rural electorate at State and Federal levels, we've just elected what looks like a pretty progressive Shire Council.

So I was actually quite surprised to see that the tinfoil hats had been out and about in the night around here. Most of the political graffiti around the district has been Climate Change Emergency flavoured for some while now.
posted by flabdablet at 8:08 AM on November 22 [2 favorites]


is there such a thing as a common?

There won't be until broadcasting lies on an industrial scale gets made illegal. Propaganda works.
posted by flabdablet at 8:11 AM on November 22 [22 favorites]


I think politics is the building of coalitions around shared ideals, interests, or institutions. Within any coalition there will always be discontent. It is the job of the politician to keep the coalition together anyway. That's the job. Paradoxically, the better they are at their job, the broader the coalition becomes, but the more people join, the less they will have in common. Nevertheless it is the job of the politician to persuade them that they have something in common anyway.

In principle, I agree. But in practice this is not an option in our age.
Generally I am not a fan of comparisons with Weimar Germany, since I am a scholar of Weimar Germany. You know, the more you know... But the thing is, some things are just wrong. You can't both-sides them. The Trump administration is wrong on so many levels I can't even. And as sohalt wrote above, the foundation of the Marshall Plan was the Nürnberg trials. The US and the international community needs to reinstate the values of the declaration of human rights and the fundamental principals of democracy.

Because the US is still the most powerfull nation in the world, there is also the issue that the lack of consequences in the US will be mirrored across the globe. We have a case of abuse of power here that is right now only in the commission phase. But the involved party is mimicking Trumpian social media strategies. I don't think our system will be corrupted. But I do worry.
posted by mumimor at 8:54 AM on November 22 [12 favorites]


politics is the building of coalitions around shared ideals


Recently on the BBC, I heard someone say that politics was “finding the enemy,” in other words identifying who is the threat, who is the other, who is the opposition, because answering these questions identifies who you are. Much of the argument here is finding the enemy. This isn’t to say that there aren’t groups of people who have wrong ideas, perform wrong actions, etc. But politics is a very flawed system, and these past five years have shown that the political system in this country is broken. For me, I can’t deal with politics and it’s empty rhetoric, all of the this group of people are right and good, and that group of people are wrong and bad. There is no reason or rationality presented. Just slogans. And for all the years of arguing about what is right and what is wrong, we are still marching in a very unorganized way into our own self-imposed collapse. Politics may not be the answer.
posted by njohnson23 at 9:00 AM on November 22 [3 favorites]


There won't be until broadcasting lies on an industrial scale gets made illegal. Propaganda works.

What do Australia, the US and UK have in common that New Zealand does not?

Rupert Murdoch.
posted by JackFlash at 9:06 AM on November 22 [33 favorites]


Marcy Wheeler: We Need a New Common American Story
We need a new story about America.

Back in 2016 and 2017, I repeatedly argued that the fracture of the myth of American Exceptionalism made Trump possible. For example, in May 2016, I argued that both Dick Cheney’s anti-racist imperialism and Pat Buchanan’s nativism bespoke a crisis in the myth of American Exceptionalism that made Trump possible. [...]

For years, American Exceptionalism got many but not all Americans to buy into a common story, and that common story served to keep the country running. That story has, for better and worse, largely failed, at least in its original incarnation.

We’ve been overdue for this reckoning for a very very long time. [...]

Trump has done one more thing to create this opportunity, if we take it. By embracing other pariahs on the world stage, Trump has irrevocably ended our claim to be exceptional. President Joe Biden, if and when he takes power, will be forced to adopt a humble new face for America. Remarkably, that may present a useful opportunity for us to rethink America’s role in the world, one where we’ll have to earn any claim to lead, much less to lead from some vision of exceptionalism.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:45 AM on November 22 [12 favorites]


the majority of Americans wants progress

Maybe so, in a 51% kind of way. Is there a good accounting of what % of Americans are maga-wannabe-nazis and what residual of Trump's voter base are just garden variety 'fiscal conservatives'?
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 9:50 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]


Other than self-descriptors (i.e. moderate verus liberal), it appears the biggest divergence between black Democrats and white liberals is over social issues like same-sex marriage based on your link.

But Black Democrats are more fiscally conservative as well. For example, on average Black Democrats were more likely to prefer the public option over Medicare-for-All compared to Democrats overall. I would argue there wasn't much daylight between the Democratic primary candidates on social issues--the type of economic policies they favored were the biggest differences. And there Black primary voters favored Biden, the "moderate" candidate. Black voters are more ideologically diverse than white liberals and leftists give them credit for and it is folly to assume that their role in forming the Democratic base means they universally support the most far-left policies.

Anyway I don't know how you can get around trying to find ways to talk to GOP voters before it's too late and they all go full QAnon. It's psychologically draining, it's unfair, but they are not dying out and short of dissolving the Electoral College they are going to continue to be a political force in this country. Yes, even if DC becomes a state. Yes, even if PR also becomes a state (and even if it is a Democratic stronghold--which is a bad assumption). They're not going away.
posted by schroedinger at 9:51 AM on November 22 [7 favorites]


> Maybe so, in a 51% kind of way. Is there a good accounting of what % of Americans are maga-wannabe-nazis and what residual of Trump's voter base are just garden variety 'fiscal conservatives'?

If there's a Nazi at the table and ten fiscal conservatives talking to them, you've got a table with 11 Nazis.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:52 AM on November 22 [16 favorites]


If there's a Nazi at the table and ten fiscal conservatives talking to them, you've got a table with 11 Nazis.

I know this is meant to be clever, but I already know that. And the point is that they're not all at a table together. If I want to talk to self proclaimed centrists that i know and make ground, it helps to have a defensible cite on this.

...The other reason this helps is because the smaller the % of nazis, the more useful my type of arguing becomes. I wish the progressive slice was larger, but it isn't. We need to win people over.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 9:54 AM on November 22 [3 favorites]


The US and the international community needs to reinstate the values of the declaration of human rights and the fundamental principals of democracy.

But we never signed these non-binding guidelines, the Universal declaration of human rights, etc. We refused to sign these non-binding, merely guidelines for human rights way back when, because we refuse to work within an ideology of human rights, of care, concern, and empathy. Our culture doesn't care about human rights; we are a wealthy country precisely because we utilized free labor vis a vis slavery and have modified that system so the resources are concentrated at the top. We simply don't and really never have cared about the rights of people. There are individuals here and collectives that DO care, but the founding fabric, nah.
posted by erattacorrige at 10:15 AM on November 22 [26 favorites]


Is there a good accounting of what % of Americans are maga-wannabe-nazis and what residual of Trump's voter base are just garden variety 'fiscal conservatives'?

There are no fiscal conservatives in the Republican Party. That is a complete myth which has been disproved many, many times. What Republicans want is tax cuts for the rich, no matter the deficits created. That's not fiscal conservatism. It is quite the opposite.
posted by JackFlash at 10:20 AM on November 22 [46 favorites]


> ...The other reason this helps is because the smaller the % of nazis, the more useful my type of arguing becomes. I wish the progressive slice was larger, but it isn't. We need to win people over.

We don't necessarily need to win those people over, though. Which slices of the electorate Democrats should target has been the subject of much discussion in the past few weeks, and it's not nearly as simple as Democrats being doomed unless they find ways to peel off the non-cross-burning faction of Trump voters.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:26 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]


But Black Democrats are more fiscally conservative as well. For example, on average Black Democrats were more likely to prefer the public option over Medicare-for-All compared to Democrats overall. I would argue there wasn't much daylight between the Democratic primary candidates on social issues--the type of economic policies they favored were the biggest differences.

You have it exactly backwards. Opposing Medicare-for-All isn't fiscal conservatism. It is anti-social liberalism. It is social conservatism. People confuse this all the time because conservatives want you to be confused. Fiscal conservatism doesn't really exist. It is just used as an excuse for social conservatism. Conservatives are fine with fiscal irresponsibility as long as it means tax cuts for the rich but nothing else.
posted by JackFlash at 10:30 AM on November 22 [29 favorites]


The conclusion I’ve come to in the decades since my own childhood bullying experiences is, America adores a bully. We have a sincere, deeply-rooted belief in the virtue of superior cruelty. In my experience it’s a strategy even those who identify on the left will rush to anytime they can convince themselves they aren’t “punching down” (hint: all bullying is punching down by definition). We have a “bully culture” in precisely the same way as we have a “rape culture.” We say the right things in public, rational moments, but in practice we show empathy for the bullies and shift blame to their victims, so that the abused get no relief let alone justice, and the bullies learn that being a bully works and has no real consequences.
posted by gelfin at 10:33 AM on November 22 [18 favorites]


[Few comments removed. It's pretty important that we talk to one another without using dismissive language. "triggered" has a real meaning and using it to insult or demean people is not ok here. ]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:35 AM on November 22 [10 favorites]


When people say they are socially liberal but fiscally conservative they are speaking an oxymoron. What they really mean is that they oppose social welfare but approve tax cuts for the rich. Which means they are just the opposite of what they claim. They are socially conservative and fiscally irresponsible.
posted by JackFlash at 10:36 AM on November 22 [14 favorites]


Is there a good accounting of what % of Americans are maga-wannabe-nazis and

As I noted a while back, there was a stat floating around a few days ago that 50 percent of Republicans thought that Trump had lost the election. This tells me that when you're talking "maga-wannabe-nazis", you're talking at best (worst?) less than twenty-five percent of the nation. It's still millions of people but it's also a considerable minority.

Are they all Nazis?

No, in terms of being clear on what they actually believe being some variant of Hitler's Final Solution.

Yes, in terms of believing whatever Trump and his crowd say that makes them feel good about themselves and hateful about everybody who doesn't agree with them. In other words, they're collectively ignorant and/or hateful enough to be primed toward some kind of civil war. Absolutely.

Which can't happen by the way. America can't have another civil war and still exist when it's done. Not of the open combat variety. The last one almost destroyed the nation forever. The next one will most assuredly finish the job given the increased magnitude of guns-bombs-weapons-of-mass-destruction currently lying around. Arguing anything else tells me you've been reading/watching too much romanticized post-apocalyptic fiction.

Which is why, yes, we need to figure out a way to ... ... I don't know how to finish this sentence. I do know we can't just kill or imprison ALL the people that everyone here on the so-called progressive left wants to dismiss as Nazis. Yes, we need Nuremberg trials. Yes, we need a Marshall Plan. But if we find ourselves leaning toward thinking, yes, we need a few Dresdens, too, well that puts us on the slippery path toward advocating war crimes.
posted by philip-random at 10:40 AM on November 22 [6 favorites]


>>Is there a good accounting of what % of Americans are maga-wannabe-nazis and what residual of Trump's voter base are just garden variety 'fiscal conservatives'?

>If there's a Nazi at the table and ten fiscal conservatives talking to them, you've got a table with 11 Nazis.

I know this is meant to be clever, but I already know that. And the point is that they're not all at a table together. If I want to talk to self proclaimed centrists that i know and make ground, it helps to have a defensible cite on this.

Uh, how about... Donald Trump, in 2016, said that Saddam Hussein was great because He killed terrorists. Which meant that Hussein—ruler of Iraq, on the State Department's list of State Sponsors of Terrorism under him until we decided we wanted Iraq to start a war with Iran—killed our allies the Kurds, whom we called “freedom fighters” at the point in history when Trump would've seen him doing this, specifically by genocidally using nerve gas and mustard gas against civilian targets in his own population, killing thousands of men, women, and children in horrifying ways, crippling more, and causing generations of cancer and birth defects.

So let's dispense with the single true-Scotsman Nazi fig leaf and just say that if you have eleven people around a table who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and supported him through talking about how much he admired Kim Jong-Un for being born at the apex of North Korean society and then murdering his family to solidify control of the country, all the praise of other dictators with death squads, et cetera, then you just have eleven Nazis. Yes, even the people who proclaimed themselves centrists while doing this.

It's not saying they're Nazis which is clever. That's the plain truth at this point. How to interact with them, while not simply screaming in terror and rage all the time, is the “being clever” part. But never forget the sorts of things they're willing to, with a genteel self-effacing proclamation of moderation, look the other way on.

I was almost ready to go full-triggering-gruesome-details here, but re-reading the Wikipedia it's really just too awful. Take a look if you think you can stomach it. Also, I would swear that some time in the aughts I saw what purported to be a scanned U.S. customs or arms control document authorizing the sale of dual-use nerve gas precursors to Iraq in the early 80s, back before I knew what the Internet Archive was for saving stuff like that, and I've never been able to find it again since despite searching again every few years.
posted by XMLicious at 10:40 AM on November 22 [20 favorites]


> But if we find ourselves leaning toward thinking, yes, we need a few Dresdens, too, well that puts us on the slippery path toward advocating war crimes.

Truly a master work of bothsidesism here invoking the hypothetical idea of the left murdering Trumpists against the backdrop of many very real and threatened attacks by Trumpists on anyone a centimeter to their left.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:46 AM on November 22 [15 favorites]


both sides committed war crimes in WW2. That's my point.
posted by philip-random at 10:48 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]


Addendum to my above comment: to forestall semantic hairsplitting and quibbling, I will point out that the Nazi Party did include members who “just loved Germany and wanted to defend the German way of life” or whatever. So it is even technically true that someone can be a salt-of-the-Earth, loyal-to-the-Fatherland type, and simply be willing to overlook the genocidal and totalitarian enthusaisms of party leadership, and still literally be a Nazi. No sympathy.

Edit: Sides in WWII included people in the Allies and people in the Axis, like citizens of Germany. But we are specifically talking about Nazis, not all WWII-era Germans.
posted by XMLicious at 10:49 AM on November 22 [2 favorites]



both sides committed war crimes in WW2. That's my point.

To which I should add, I have zero doubt which side I would've aligned myself with (and do from a historic perspective). But war is war. It brings out the absolute worst in us regardless of how we may lean socially, politically, ethically, morally.
posted by philip-random at 10:51 AM on November 22


> To which I should add, I have zero doubt which side I would've aligned myself with (and do from a historic perspective). But war is war. It brings out the absolute worst in us regardless of how we may lean socially, politically, ethically, morally.

Who is declaring war here? Solnit's piece argues for not meeting Nazis half way. If they choose to respond to not having their whims catered to by Democrats the way they're used to by plotting to shoot up vote counting operations in Philadelphia, then that's just terrorism, not war, and the other side of terrorism is the rule of law, not dropping bombs.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:59 AM on November 22 [24 favorites]


Maybe so, in a 51% kind of way. Is there a good accounting of what % of Americans are maga-wannabe-nazis and what residual of Trump's voter base are just garden variety 'fiscal conservatives'?

Apologies for also piling in on this line, and perhaps reading too much into it, but taken at face value it also illustrates my core issue with the state of “we don’t owe them anything” discourse, which is that in the uneasy modern Republican coalition between (oversimplified) blue collar white guys and “fiscally conservative, socially don’t care” types, it’s the latter who are treated by liberals as the more respectable Republicans, still. Which makes little sense in terms of the actual policies Democrats are supposed to stand for!
posted by atoxyl at 11:09 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]


As a sort of counterpoint to my own comment about the demographic shifts of Trump 2020, it’s worth noting that the high-water mark of non-white support for Republicans since Goldwater was G.W. Bush. Trump’s is still a very white (and very male) coalition (which is to say not that much of a coalition at all). But I still think some of the results of this election puncture a simplistic understanding of demographics as destiny... and also some of the lazier explanations that are already becoming widespread for the unexpected results. For example, my earlier Politico article is correct that Sanders went over poorly in Florida in the primary, but he did well in those Rio Grande Valley counties.
posted by atoxyl at 11:24 AM on November 22 [3 favorites]


I feel a bit responsible for this derail, because I was the one who brought up Dresden, so please let me clarify that I didn't mean to suggest you should firebomb anyone. I just wanted to complicate the notion that "the Marshall plan worked" - there were certain circumstances that made the Marshall plan work that are not necessarily repeated right now; but that's not me saying that they should be. It's a different point in history and there's a limited usefulness to these analogies.

But I will stand by this: You can't be gracious in your victory as long as the other side won't acknowledge that you've won. If they need you to rub it in before they can do this, that's what needs to happen first.
posted by sohalt at 11:25 AM on November 22 [22 favorites]


I think we're getting bogged down in "Nazi - yes or no?" right now, and would like to propose an alternate example in the "how should the rest of us relate to them" conversation.

After the fall of apartheid in South Africa, Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu launched what they call the Truth And Reconciliation Commission, which was a full-disclosure coming-clean on the part of people in the former administration about all the things they'd done. Families of the anti-apartheid activists who'd disappeared into the system could seek a full account of what had happened to their loved ones, and in the cases of high-profile people like Steven Biko, the government also came clean about what happened to him. People were not charged with crimes after these confessions - but they had to confess to them in order to have this protection.

A lot of people point to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a path forward - but they point to the "and everyone was forgiven" end of things. They overlook the "the perpetrators had to come clean about everything they'd done FIRST" part. And honestly, that is the bit that MOST people overlook when it comes to that dance of confession and forgiveness.

And honestly, getting an honest apology FROM any of my old bullies would be a HUGE step forward in terms of mending fences. A sincere admission that "you know what, that stuff I did was really not cool and I get that now, I'm really sorry" would be very welcome.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:28 AM on November 22 [49 favorites]


And - I think expecting me to forgive ANYONE before I get that apology is expecting a lot of me. Just like asking Steven Biko's family to forgive people for killing him before they confessed to what they'd done.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:30 AM on November 22 [16 favorites]


I feel a bit responsible for this derail, because I was the one who brought up Dresden,

I didn't read what you said as encouraging firebombing. Unfortunately, I extrapolated anyway, based more on things I've read offsite than on. So yeah, my apologies. To everyone.

I do think we're already in the next war -- Marshall McLuhan's World War Three, which he described over fifty years ago as a guerilla information war with no distinction anymore between military and civilian targets. In the light of this, I suppose I could see the argument for a guerilla firebomb strike on the enemy's information infrastructure.
posted by philip-random at 11:40 AM on November 22 [3 favorites]


I second McLuhan and your perspective, philip-random. I already feel that we are/need to be the underground/resistance.

"To the extent that fundamentalism impedes change, there is good reason to oppose it. To the extent that revisionists are bound by the same authoritarian worldview and moral order, they legitimize the fundamentalists' agenda of going back to moral purity......the problem with tolerating viewpoints that are themselves intolerant is their aim is to do away with tolerance altogether" - Alstad/Kramer "The Guru Papers"

"A sailing ship is no democracy; you don't caucus a crew as to where you'll go anymore than you inquire when they'd like to shorten sail." Sterling Hayden.

This fact is accepted by the crew before they board as the line between life/death even on a safe sail is razor thin. If you have a rep as a sh*t for brains captain then at best you'll have a sh*t for brains crew. No one worth their salt will sail on this boat.

In times of immediate threat, decision making needs to be black or white. If not, immediate threats remain ongoing. For me, now it's time to call the situation as it is without taboo. The more adjectives attached to its definition, the more distanced we are from it and the existential threat that, we too, are predisposed to become a part of this threat or overwhelmed by it. "Cult of Personality", to me, means, "It's them. It's not us." "Cult" to me means "It's us. Our work is to extricate ourselves out of this predisposition."

Trump is a cult leader. An attempted coup is taking place. Authoritarian structures have been internalized over time by methods deigned to provide tribal survival and safety. In the face of climate change and bio-collapse, these structures have proven themselves to be obsolete.

My experience has made clear the impossibility of meeting people in this cult halfway. My experience has also made clear the value of not doing this. At some point, their children and grandchildren will realize the hypocricy to life and human rights innate within authoritarian systems. The history of resisting, fighting and meeting this B.S. head-on will give them the courage to leave it.

I can then focus my anger to where and when it is necessary.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

- Bill Stafford

posted by goalyeehah at 1:53 PM on November 22 [6 favorites]


But African American Democrats tend to be more moderate and more religious than non-Hispanic white Democrats. And both African American and non-white Hispanic Democrats are more moderate (on a "very conservative" to "very liberal" scale) than white Democrats -- at least, by self-description.

Perhaps because America has a bit of history of out-right murdering the more progressive black leaders?
posted by srboisvert at 2:37 PM on November 22 [17 favorites]


The conclusion I’ve come to in the decades since my own childhood bullying experiences is, America adores a bully. We have a sincere, deeply-rooted belief in the virtue of superior cruelty. In my experience it’s a strategy even those who identify on the left will rush to anytime they can convince themselves they aren’t “punching down” (hint: all bullying is punching down by definition). We have a “bully culture” in precisely the same way as we have a “rape culture.” We say the right things in public, rational moments, but in practice we show empathy for the bullies and shift blame to their victims, so that the abused get no relief let alone justice, and the bullies learn that being a bully works and has no real consequences.

Not being American I was appalled when I moved here and watched local TV news. People in Chicago love WGN's news crew and their banter but I just can't stomach it. It is non-stop relentless bullying and passive aggression. So yeah I can see it is a bully culture where it is so ingrained they often can't even see it.
posted by srboisvert at 2:49 PM on November 22 [9 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos, I want to start off by saying I think that almost everything I've seen you say is quite insightful, including the above most recent comments.

But, from what I know about Nazi Germany and Apartheid South Africa—which is by no means what, say, an academic expert would know, and is probably still less than just what the average person growing up in one of those places and going to school might know, though I still feel that I've read a fair amount—there are substantial, material differences that have bearing on our present situation.

In South Africa, the dominant group in power by the mid-twentieth-century was in control over a reasonably stable, white supremacist colonial state that had been formed from established colonial entities, themselves with fairly stable borders and societies, for centuries, despite changing hands from the Dutch Empire. This was stability “eased into”, as it were, since the early years of European conquests spreading out over the globe, with colonial overlords always able to tap into the sewer main of wealth, goods, and military matériel and troops flowing around Africa from European expropriatory, colonial, and merchantile endeavors further east to quell any local unrest. So by the 1950s–60s–70s–80s there was a balance of forces in society and unlike “no rules” Trumpism there were a large number of firmly established rules and institutions, albeit utterly racist, white supremacist ones.

In contrast, Nazism came to ascendancy over complete tumult in the Weimar Republic, rapid erosion of norms and institutions, and the vaporization, from an ethnic German perspective, of more than half of Prussia, which had been a post-Napoleonic European Great Power, always near the top of the leaderboard, mere decades before and well within living memory. (And what d'ya know—then Preußenschlag, Gleichschaltung, etc.)

Significantly, note that the point when Prussia was at its apex was also the final years when formal Jewish emancipation was happening in ethnically-German-ruled European polities. So to exaggeratedly belabor my thesis here, a bit more than half a century before the 1930s, the political and intellectual climate in Europe finally resulted in legal Jewish emancipation in Baden, Holstein, the Free City of Frankfurt, Austria-Hungary, the North German Confederation / Prussia, and the German Empire / Prussia.

What was happening slightly more than half a century before today with the U.S. and our far-flung empire and guano islands? The apex of global “superpower” status, unchallenged geopolitical dominance in the “free world” and even more of an upper hand in global economic dominance, relative to competitors, than we've had during this century, military leadership for example of NATO as the government of the “Supreme Allied Commander(s)”—a title carried over from WWII, split into two positions, one naval and one more general, with neither position ever held by a non-American until 2009, well into the twenty-first century.

At the same point in history in the U.S., domestically: the Civil Rights Era was in full swing and several Civil Rights Acts were passed at the federal level, 1964 being the most major achievement despite the carve-out that communists don't have civil rights. A sort-of end to the de facto federal “Indian termination” policy of Native American assimilation. The Hart–Celler Act abolishing the “National Origins Formula” which had favored white, European immigrants. And the UN and the international community finally cajoled us into saying to our “insular possession” Puerto Rico “Oh all right already, ferchrissakes, you guys can elect your own governor instead of just having white Anglo guys who are generals or bureaucrats from the mainland appointed directly by the President, I guess.”

(Note that the aforementioned societal and legal changes are, partly, the result of propagandistic and “soft power” competitive pressure from the Soviet Union, as the Marshall Plan was. I am tbh a bit confused by the characterization of the Marshall Plan as “meeting Nazis halfway”, but probably because most of my reading about it has been in the context of post-Cold-War reading about historical U.S./Soviet relations rather than what Western sources said to Western audiences about it. When I think of the U.S. and post-WWII Nazis I think of meeting Nazis all the way by hiring them for weapons programs, along with Japanese Imperial chemical/biological weapons experts for example, and telling the Jews in the U.S. military and civil service to just shut up about it. Offensive reprehensible
McCarthyist Senator Styles Bridges of New Hampshire—one of our traditional former-schoolteacher (shudder) elected officials—on the floor of the U.S. Senate in 1950, complaining about Jewish civil servants in the State Department opposing the hiring of Nazi scientists, among other things:
The State Department needs a real house cleaning. This is not a job of sweeping the dust under the rug with a whisk broom, or airing out the house by opening the front door and sweeping the front steps. This job calls for yellow soap, a scrubbing brush, and plenty of elbow grease, from the basement to the attic. It should be finished off with a first-class cyanide fumigating job.
)

So IMO, the rise of Nazism is much, much more relevant as an analogy to what we're seeing today versus South African apartheid or even nineteenth-century and twentieth-century white supremacy in the United States. (Though a point I make is that anyone claiming to be politically centrist, here and now in American history, is like someone in 1857 saying, “I think I'll split the difference on abolition of slavery—what if we enslave half the Black people?” As Solnit puts it in the OP piece, If half of us believe the earth is flat, we do not make peace by settling on it being halfway between round and flat.)

It certainly does no good to ruminate on the Nazi-ness of our fellow citizens every hour of the day, and as I say in comments above it's not particularly useful to bring up in most interactions with people on the other side, but the difference does become material to strategic and tactical choices at some points. At the big picture level, it's important to keep an eye on the fact that the answer to the “Nazi - yes or no?” question isn't really debatable at this point, or “maybe”, but is a clear and thoroughly-supportable “yes.” Like, no question, many many entire, sober books are going to be written about the equivalence, I think.
posted by XMLicious at 3:36 PM on November 22 [13 favorites]


It's kind of weird to read an essay about "not appeasing the right" that isn't about struggling for political power.

Solnit isn't complaining that Biden isn't giving Elizabeth Warren a place in his administration; her issue is with how The Hill's headline about it was phrased. She goes on for paragraphs about the LA Times and the Washington Post, but she only mentions the actual president-elect once, as an afterthought, crossing her fingers that he won't be as disappointing as the previous compromise-happy Democrats.

Meanwhile, the compromise is happening right in front of us – the Warrens of the party are indeed being shut out, and the ghouls are being welcomed in. Yet instead of a publishing an impassioned essay imploring Joe Biden not to sell out to the right (as others are doing – Erin Brokovich, for example), Solnit's advocacy remains within the second-order realm of our emotional responses. Right now that seems less important.
posted by Beardman at 4:18 PM on November 22 [3 favorites]


We say the right things in public, rational moments, but in practice we show empathy for the bullies and shift blame to their victims, so that the abused get no relief let alone justice, and the bullies learn that being a bully works and has no real consequences.

When I see pictures of people posing with automatic weapons, or older pictures of people grinning next to lynching victims, the message I get is "I enjoy killing people". Many people on the right-wing still have yet to even acknowledge that.

And I agree, there needs to be both messages: clearly calling out evil when we see it, and at the same time, reaching out to the humanity in people who might be stuck in a right-wing echo chamber. It's hard to parse a message along the lines of "you don't have to be evil" without turning someone off.

I suppose it's a matter of how widespread a message is, having the ground shift underneath everyone's feet. For example, gay marriage was unthinkable in the US not too long ago. Granted, it's still problematic for extremists, but how did the country as a whole come around?
posted by ishmael at 4:18 PM on November 22 [1 favorite]


Same-sex marriage certainly is something to count as progress, and the hard-won gains made through devoted work, sacrifice, and suffering by Americans, in solidarity internationally with others, will be enduring and important here and all around the world even if some outcome of the SCOTUS clusterfuck or political developments roll things back partially.

But I think it's very important not to see positive developments like that as part of a teleological, monotone process: the good guys do not necessarily have to win, and even if they do in the end, things can get worse again before they get better.

As I point out above, in the nineteenth century, after well more than a thousand years of hardcore anti-Semitism and pogroms and ghettos and shtetls and the rest,* Jewish emancipation happened across Europe. But that did not stop the Holocaust from also happening, in most places within a century thereafter.

See also this absolutely incredible, concise comment on several facets of long-run European anti-Semitism from Eyebrows McGee a few years ago, in a 549-comment MetaTalk thread a few years ago about anti-Semitism on MetaFilter which also contained copious other insightful commentary, discussion, and disagreement; sadly prompting the departure of some long-term MeFites from the community.
posted by XMLicious at 5:07 PM on November 22 [6 favorites]


But I think it's very important not to see positive developments like that as part of a teleological, monotone process: the good guys do not necessarily have to win, and even if they do in the end, things can get worse again before they get better.

Totally agree, it's not automatic, it definitely requires a concerted effort on multiple fronts. I feel hope tho, that there is new pressure, with movements like BLM and MeToo, that the right-wing has not had to deal with before.
posted by ishmael at 5:56 PM on November 22 [4 favorites]


Meanwhile, the compromise is happening right in front of us – the Warrens of the party are indeed being shut out, and the ghouls are being welcomed in.

The fuck? The election was two weeks ago. Biden won't even be President for two months.
posted by Justinian at 8:37 PM on November 22 [8 favorites]


The fuck? The election was two weeks ago. Biden won't even be President for two months.

I mean, we're getting cabinet picks this week, it's not like we're gonna have to wait all that long to settle this bet.
posted by atoxyl at 12:06 AM on November 23 [3 favorites]


Well, sure, maybe we'll get more info very soon but we don't have it yet. There's no good reason to pre-catastrophize.
posted by Justinian at 12:20 AM on November 23 [3 favorites]


At the big picture level, it's important to keep an eye on the fact that the answer to the “Nazi - yes or no?” question isn't really debatable at this point, or “maybe”, but is a clear and thoroughly-supportable “yes.”

Also important to keep an eye on the fact that in every place that has ever been touched by colonialism, about half the populace has always been and still remains more willing to go along with having the Other literally killed than to change their opinion about whether or not a genuine Other actually exists.

The vast majority of people are essentially good until you stress us severely. Once you do that, about half of us rapidly turn murderous. It's just how we work. Any social order that fails to take account of this aspect of being human, or denies that this kind of thing is a fundamentally human trait, is not going to last very long. And any ideology that glorifies this aspect of being human is fairly described as purely evil.

We can quibble endlessly about whether or not it's appropriate to use the term Nazi to label all such ideologies, or whether that word ought to be reserved to label the party of Hitler and such of its modern descendants as choose to apply it to themselves, but I think it's important not to lose sight of the fact that any ideology that treats killing as glorious is purely evil and must be wholly rejected and abhorred by anybody interested in cultivating a reputation for being honourable or decent.
posted by flabdablet at 1:34 AM on November 23 [9 favorites]


I think this earlier in the thread captures what Solnit is suggesting:

"Instead, I'm just....not going to be first to make peace. I'm just going to stand back. Be civil and cordial - the absolute baseline you should extend to any stranger you encounter. Hold them at arms' length until you know if they can be trusted. Let them be the one to make the first move, let them make the overture to settling things."

If voter suppression can be fixed in as many ways and places as possible, then it doesn't matter if someone is actually a fiscal conservative or a Never Trumper or a useful idiot. Because most people in the US want things like healthcare and environmental protections and so on, but you're being held hostage by a minority of far-right terrorists.

The Democrats don't need to reach out to what passes as the centre in the US. That's for individuals to do with their loved ones, if they can. The Democrats need to act like the popular winners they are, get rid of the electoral college and fucked-up gerrymandering, and codify all the norms for sensible politics into actual rules with consequences for breaking them. Voter suppression is an enormous problem and needs bold, courageous moves - stuff being nice to arseholes, let them decide if they want to join rational society or keep hanging out with the Nazis on their own time.
posted by harriet vane at 3:36 AM on November 23 [11 favorites]


US politics is probably one of the most boring topics I can imagine. When was the last time a politician did something for you? Friends and family have done a hell of a lot more for me. Now the politicians and their legions have put us ALL in a very precarious postion. It's not a fun place to be. There was a time when one could call bullshit. Now we have been swamped by mealy mouthed politicos as innocent people die daily from an invisible virus.
posted by DJZouke at 5:47 AM on November 23


When was the last time a politician did something for you?

Uh I have health insurance I would not otherwise have bc of politicians, those architects of, you know, policy.
posted by erattacorrige at 6:19 AM on November 23 [30 favorites]


from an invisible virus.

Also, it's in fact not invisible. Calling it invisible is like saying it's a ghost, a figment of the imagination. But it's literally a very real, physical thing, which people seem to not get. It's microscopically visible, sure, so it's invisible to like, the naked eye. But it's absolutely a real, physical item, and talking about it like it's not does not help.
posted by erattacorrige at 6:22 AM on November 23 [5 favorites]


yes it is not like we can watch the other viruses as they move about, but this one is somehow so sinister that it is too small for that
posted by thelonius at 7:06 AM on November 23


US politics is probably one of the most boring topics I can imagine. When was the last time a politician did something for you?

"All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?"

...."Politicians" are not a monolithic group, and it makes sense to pay a good deal of attention to the different things that different ones want to do.

And considering all of the myriad sex scandals throughout ALL of US history, there is no way you could call it "boring".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:14 AM on November 23 [23 favorites]


When was the last time a politician did something for you? Friends and family have done a hell of a lot more for me.

When people say this, it's either because they're not paying much attention and/or they've led relatively trouble-free, charmed lives. They've always been in a position where the aid that government and its politicians are providing is invisible (like roads or K-12 education) and never faced any of the various problems or tragedies that mean you have to have more meaningful and direct interactions with the government.

This has never been true for me; my father was killed in an RF-4 crash out of Mountain Home a couple of months before I was born. People like me who lost a parent to military service could at the very least fill a large football stadium. I can point to the blood money, both my mother's and mine, that kept food on our table and sometimes got saved for college. I can point to the specific college money I got and even tell you that it's mostly thanks to Dan Quayle of all people. I can point at the health insurance or direct care that I received up until I was 20-something.

So if you've never had a politician do something for you, congratulations. I'd be happy to trade lives.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 7:42 AM on November 23 [27 favorites]


Meanwhile, the compromise is happening right in front of us – the Warrens of the party are indeed being shut out

Elizabeth Warren is, right now, Senator from Massachusetts, which has a Republican governor. At best, the new Senate will be a 50-50 split, with Vice President Harris the tiebreaking vote in favor of the Democrats.

If Biden nominates her for a Cabinet position, Governor Baker gets to appoint a replacement, which means he could well tip the balance of the Senate in favor of the Republicans, which would hamstring anything Biden and Warren tried to get thru Congress. And Republican Scott Brown got one of the state's two Senate seats in 2010 after Ted Kennedy's death, so elevating her -- or any Democratic senator from a state with a Republican governor -- risks control of the entire chamber.

And Warren knows it. I'd love to see her as Treasury Secretary myself, but not at the cost of a Republican Senate.
posted by Gelatin at 7:44 AM on November 23 [19 favorites]


"Politicians" are not a monolithic group

and the idea that they are such a group, and can therefore all be instantly dismissed as indistinguishably untrustworthy, is a standard trope in right-wing propaganda. Its purpose is to induce people to (a) stop paying attention to politics altogether and (b) not exercise their right to vote.

The Right knows full well that the only way it can gain and hold power is by suppressing democracy to the greatest extent it can possibly get away with. I'm always saddened when I see people of good will helping it do exactly that by buying uncritically into its bullshit talking points.
posted by flabdablet at 7:45 AM on November 23 [19 favorites]


Obama tried to help transgender people, because somehow we're a right wing terror flashpoint, instead of just people. And any expansion of health care likely helps my handicapped girlfriend.

And the supreme Court gay marriage ruling is fantastic. As likely is the title 9 stuff.

One party runs horrific attack ads against my wanting to calmly use a bathroom while in a dress and the other thinks I'm ok and that I shouldn't be persecuted. One banned me from the military, and one offers support more often than not.
posted by Jacen at 7:53 AM on November 23 [14 favorites]


Elizabeth Warren is, right now, Senator from Massachusetts, which has a Republican governor. At best, the new Senate will be a 50-50 split, with Vice President Harris the tiebreaking vote in favor of the Democrats.

If Biden nominates her for a Cabinet position, Governor Baker gets to appoint a replacement


Point of clarification: it's a temporary replacement, the governor of Mass. must call a special election within 145-160 days. That's a lot of days, but it's not the full term.

NBC article on this from the primary
posted by Emmy Rae at 8:06 AM on November 23 [2 favorites]


When people say this, it's either because they're not paying much attention and/or they've led relatively trouble-free, charmed lives.

Well now this isn't exactly true. At the other end of the spectrum are people who have led such nightmarish lives of institutional failure and abuse that you wouldn't trade them for any amount of time. People in the United States live in circumstances where those "invisible" K-12 schools and smooth roads benefits haven't existed as a meaningful benefit for decades. This country is FULL of people whose sole experience of "government" is judgment, punishment, denial of rights and sometimes deprivation of life itself.

So, you know.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:08 AM on November 23 [7 favorites]


Again, principled refusal to do anything whatsoever for the little people is the defining attribute of right-wing politics. And one of the things certainly worth paying attention to in US politics is just how far to the right both of the mainstream choices in political party really are, compared to most other places in the world.

Which is of course not to say that they are indistinguishable! The centre of the Republican bell curve is far to the right of the centre of the Democratic one. The point is that both of those bell curves peak well to the right of what the rest of the world thinks of as the political centre. There are very few places outside the US where "socialist" is routinely thrown as a political insult.

Shifting the Democratic bell curve leftward will certainly involve less work and probably yield better outcomes than making any attempt to redeem the Republicans.
posted by flabdablet at 8:16 AM on November 23 [6 favorites]


What Republicans want is tax cuts for the rich, no matter the deficits created.

And massive handouts to large corporations. Tax cuts for the rich and lucrative publicly funded contracts for the weaponry and extractive industries, that's the ticket.
posted by flabdablet at 8:31 AM on November 23 [8 favorites]


My comment was not very well thought out. I admit this. However, I see the foundational trust and communal civility in this country being eroded by politicians and the voting public alike. Yes, there are laws that they have passed that I have benefitted from during my time on the planet. I have also lost minor benefits due to the politicians' decisions. I still find American politics boring despite all the salacious sex scandals. BTW it was the Greeks who brought wine making to Italy (Enotria) not the Romans. The Romans were boors compared to the Greeks. Please look up some of Mark Twain's opinions on politicians. He is much more articulate and on target than I. I lost one of my best friends to the Vietnam War. He was 56. He made it back after being severely shot up. He died in 2002 but it was the war that ultimately killed him. He told me once that we did not belong there. Who sent him there?
posted by DJZouke at 8:37 AM on November 23


Right-wing politicians.
posted by flabdablet at 8:58 AM on November 23 [5 favorites]


List of Congressional opponents of the Vietnam War
25 Democrats, 7 Republicans.

List of Congressional opponents of the Iraq War
66 Democrats, 7 Republicans, two independents and a Green.
posted by flabdablet at 9:11 AM on November 23 [8 favorites]


The fuck? The election was two weeks ago. Biden won't even be President for two months... There's no good reason to pre-catastrophize.

As per the link in my comment, Joe Biden's EPA transition team includes one of the guys who helped cover up DuPont Chemical's poisoning of 100k people in West Virginia. Remind me whether the Democrats have ever criticized Trump for staffing agencies like the EPA with people manifestly hostile to what those agencies stand for? Would people have been enraged if it was Trump floating a frontrunner for Transportation who helped cover up the police shooting of a Black man?

And yet when it's Biden, we think, well, there must be a good reason, let's not pre-catastrophize, let's wait and see and hope for the best.

That was my broader point about the Solnit article – it's ultimately passive and misdirected. Rather than arguing that Democratic politicians shouldn't keep moving to the right, she focuses on managing readers' emotional reactions to the abstract notion of compromising with the right, or the general idea of empathizing with right-wing voters.

Couldn't progressives with public platforms take the case directly to the Democratic politicians who are presently reaching out to the right? The political realm is actually where the consequential appeasements occur.
posted by Beardman at 9:16 AM on November 23 [4 favorites]


>If Biden nominates her for a Cabinet position, Governor Baker gets to appoint a replacement

>Point of clarification: it's a temporary replacement, the governor of Mass. must call a special election within 145-160 days. That's a lot of days, but it's not the full term.


And how did that work out last time? When Ted Kennedy died in 2009 there was a special election in Massachusetts to fill his seat -- and the Republican won! This gave Republicans a 41 vote filibuster that was effectively the Obama era of hope and change. It was followed by eight years of total Republican filibuster obstruction. It was a major contributor to the weak Obamacare legislation that everyone complains about.

Just be clear about the risk of replacing Warren in the Senate.
posted by JackFlash at 9:21 AM on November 23 [14 favorites]


It is Biden's administration to run how he would like. If he picks Warren or any other Democratic Senator for a Cabinet position, that's who he picks and we will just have to do our best in a special election. If not, then great.
posted by all about eevee at 9:24 AM on November 23


That was my broader point about the Solnit article – it's ultimately passive and misdirected.

Couldn't progressives with public platforms take the case directly to the Democratic politicians who are presently reaching out to the right?


I don't think it's an either/or proposition. Yes, put direct pressure on politicians to stop the rightward shift. Also, address the cultural tropes that disregard progressive grievances and papers over right-wing problems.
posted by ishmael at 9:32 AM on November 23 [9 favorites]


This little sidebar makes a good case for not disengaging from politics but rather less so for trusting politicians. In fact, that’s one reason not to disengage from politics - so you can keep an eye on the politicians who are supposed to be representing you!
posted by atoxyl at 9:58 AM on November 23 [5 favorites]


Agreed, Ishmael.
posted by Beardman at 10:29 AM on November 23


I lost one of my best friends to the Vietnam War. He was 56. He made it back after being severely shot up. He died in 2002 but it was the war that ultimately killed him. He told me once that we did not belong there. Who sent him there?

DJZouke, I do not understand how you can write something like this yet maintain that you find American politics “boring”.

Yes, jingoism is bad, whoever does it. That's why it would be nice to have options other than a choice between jingoists, and a party that has no problem with declaring that Saddam Hussein was great for attempting genocide against U.S. allies. You aren't talking to people who are all thrilled with Democrats of the pro-Vietnam-war, “White Supremacy” on party logos, 1960s recently-had-Ronald-Reagan-as-a-member persuasion.

With all due respect, if you have customarily dismissed stuff like the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and the unanimous House approval and 88–2 Senate vote for a Gulf of Tonkin Resolution enabling a Constitutional-declaration-of-war-free escalation of involvement in Vietnam, as “boring”, perhaps you should take a little more interest.

I found those events fascinating, yet frightening, along with many others from American political history, even as a little kid learning about them in school. Not boring.
posted by XMLicious at 10:59 AM on November 23 [2 favorites]


It is Biden's administration to run how he would like.

While technically true, this is a terrible way of thinking about presidential political power, boiling it down to personal prerogative. It also means that progressives and socialists that were against Biden's nomination but joined in pragmatic alliance under the assumption that they were a major force to of the Democratic Party should just suck eggs because Biden can do whatever he wants. It means that we should have never trusted anything said by any of the centrists, and really, it's our own fault for believing them in the first place. I guess we can try again in 2024?

Alternatively, we can believe that Biden the man is really a single man that represents the entire policy agenda under whose the party whose nomination he ran, and that members of that coalition can expect to have good faith power in his success, and that hell may be raised if that turns out not to be true.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 11:52 AM on November 23 [7 favorites]


Point of clarification: it's a temporary replacement, the governor of Mass. must call a special election within 145-160 days. That's a lot of days, but it's not the full term.

Which is why I mentioned that Scott Brown won the special election to replace Ted Kennedy, but yes, I stand clarified. But even so, a temporary replacement for Warren could still shift the balance of power in the Senate. It'd be great if Biden had kind of Senate margin where it didn't matter, but such is not the case.

Anyone who claims failure to nominate Warren demonstrates bad faith on Biden's part must also demonstrate that it wouldn't matter if Warren is replaced in the Senate by a Republican, because otherwise, whether Biden wants to nominate Warren or never would is moot -- he can't afford to.
posted by Gelatin at 12:03 PM on November 23 [4 favorites]


I've realized that I ought to probably explicitly say, even to someone who knows that it was Democratic presidential administrations who carried out the most dramatic escalations of U.S. involvement in “French Indochina”, that the Gulf of Tonkin / USS Maddox incident was a partially-fabricated and sensationalized-after-the-fact pretext to start the Vietnam War, much like the Soviet Union's Red Army shelling of its own border town Mainila a couple of decades before as a false casus belli to start the Winter War with Finland. From Wikipedia:
In the 2003 documentary The Fog of War, the former United States Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara admitted that the August 2 USS Maddox attack happened with no Defense Department response, but the August 4 Gulf of Tonkin attack never happened.
When I was a kid in school, my textbook explained the details of what happened and the Resolution, but didn't even hint that anything was falsified; but my teacher explained how previously, formal congressional declarations of war had been necessary for anything remotely like the Vietnam War, and that the Tonkin incident had been seen as suspicious even at the time.

So yeah. Sorry to derail here a bit, but... boring.
posted by XMLicious at 12:47 PM on November 23


BORING because I contradict myself everyday of my life. BORING because America's foreign and domestic policy is so full of contradictions and unknowns. It's a word. That's all it is. I am outraged, bored, apathetic and on and on. I am all these things and none of these things. We are all ambivalent creatures to some extent. Some Americans believe that politicians are going to solve the problems that confront us. Racism, healthcare for all, poverty, the pandemic et al. I find the interminable machinations of politicians boring because this country is in such a sad and dangerous condition. So the endless filibuster goes on and on. I am for unity but that's not going to happen in this country. The divide has cut too deeply. We have a dark history and have not learned much from it.
posted by DJZouke at 12:57 PM on November 23 [2 favorites]


Allow me to humbly submit that many Americans treating participation in democracy as boring, and with ambivalence, despite those being words, rather than as a sacred and serious civic and moral duty—despite often treating things like a willingness to pick up a gun and go shoot someone in the course of military service as superlative civic and patriotic virtue—is a rather major cause both of us having a dark history and not learning from that history.
posted by XMLicious at 1:02 PM on November 23 [13 favorites]


Remind me whether the Democrats have ever criticized Trump for staffing agencies like the EPA with people manifestly hostile to what those agencies stand for?

Except I reject your framing of Michael McCabe and think it's a mischaracterization of his long career in the EPA and crafting environmental policy. He's been pushing for and involved in energy efficiency, shifting to renewables, and cleanup of toxic sites for almost 50 years but, sure, let's only and solely consider that for a few years in the early oughts he ran a communications consulting firm which had DuPont as a client.

The people Biden is going to nominate for positions in his admin (which explicitly excludes McCabe, to be clear, since he is not going to be one of them) are certainly going to be people with a long history of working in D.C. A return to experience was one of the selling points of the Biden campaign and it's what people voted for. When people have been working in DC for decades there are always going to one or two things you can point to and take issue with. But those singular instances aren't the sum total of a person, and comparing people like McCabe to folks in the Trump admin who were devoted to dismantling the very agencies they ran in service of industry is absurd.
posted by Justinian at 2:46 PM on November 23 [12 favorites]


Democrats pre-election: wait, then push Biden to the left

Democrats post-election: be not so swift to judge, lobbyists contains multitudes
posted by Beardman at 5:11 PM on November 23 [3 favorites]


... or maybe at least wait until the other guy has conceded defeat.
posted by philip-random at 5:18 PM on November 23 [1 favorite]


be not so swift to judge, lobbyists contains multitudes

Uncharitable. Maybe just wait until Biden has taken office?
posted by jessamyn at 5:32 PM on November 23 [4 favorites]


be not so swift to judge, lobbyists contains multitudes

Yeah, nah.

wait until the other guy has conceded defeat

Not going to happen.

Biden will take office in January whatever the orange fool does, so the time to begin pushing his incoming Administration to the left is right now. There is absolutely no downside to doing so, not even if the toddler's ludicrous coup attempt were actually to succeed.
posted by flabdablet at 5:42 PM on November 23 [5 favorites]


We're not hurting Biden or liberal causes by being demanding and pronounced now, especially as he has already announced officials (thus opening his choices up to criticism). So, yeah, what harm are we doing by saying anything?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 5:51 PM on November 23 [2 favorites]


"Politicians are like diapers, they need to be changed often, and for the same reasons.” Mark Twain
I admit that 'boring' and 'ambivalent' were a poor choice of words on my part. This country is only 244 years. We are still an experiment. Participating in democracy and performing civic duties are surely something to be treasured and respected. This is distinct from politicians on both sides of the aisle not doing what they were elected to do. When the true polis is generated from the human values that constitute a viable democracy, then politicians will represent the hopes of the people who built and fought for this country. My father flew B-17 bombing runs during WWII, his brother survived Anzio. I am afraid the dark history of this country lies elsewhere. One doesn't need to look far or twist words to discover it.
posted by DJZouke at 5:52 PM on November 23


"A man's character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation." - Mark Twain
posted by flabdablet at 6:00 PM on November 23 [2 favorites]


> We're not hurting Biden or liberal causes by being demanding and pronounced now, especially as he has already announced officials (thus opening his choices up to criticism). So, yeah, what harm are we doing by saying anything?

Nothing that happens in the comments of a MetaFilter politics thread is helping or harming the march toward Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism. We're just having a conversation. That conversation is not helped by snarky quips that assume that anyone who may want to take a wait-and-see approach with the appointees is waving a foam finger with #1 Corporate Lobbyist written on it.
posted by tonycpsu at 6:02 PM on November 23 [16 favorites]


"We can eulogize them when they are gone"
Since 2000, we have been reading that the Republiclican Party is doomed because their coalition is getting older and they must appeal to new groups, chiefly Hispanics. They refused to do it even after repeated suggestions by different election post mortems.

This weakness never seems to materialize, though. I don't think they will be gone. We can't wait for them to go away because it's not happening. Democrats need a better strategy.


I'm fairly certain people have been penning "Death of the Republican Party" editorials since the literal 1960's, before Nixon got in. One would think the ones written during the Obama administration were at least recent enough to serve as a cautionary tale.
posted by Wandering Idiot at 6:38 PM on November 23 [2 favorites]


I certainly appreciate Twain's “politicians are like diapers” sort of lines; but since I'm still not clear on what you're saying here, nor am I certain what the “twist words” remark is referring to (like you capslocked “boring” twice, then in your next comment said it was a poor choice of words, so I'm assuming it wasn't that), I feel the need to point out that Twain was definitely not advocating for non-involvement in politics, or trivialness or irrelevance of politics as a subject, by saying these sorts of things. Gilded-Age steampunk American Anti-Imperialist League all the way, baby!

In a democracy, politics is not merely of politicians; it is of the people.

As for WWII, though it does not directly reflect on any individual warfighter's sacrifice (or the sacrifices of many, many non-warfighters), and although Nazi Germany and its satellites and the Empire of Japan / Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere needed to be opposed, as a nation we were not exactly covering ourselves in glory to for example, as an intentional plan, depend on Stalin sending twenty to thirty million people to their deaths as cannon fodder to hold Nazi military attention on the European Eastern Front while we fed the Soviets our lowest-tech and spare matériel at the minimal rate necessary to keep them in the game, or to talk about Hitler's “buck-toothed pals” in our propaganda while rounding up U.S. citizens who were Japanese immigrants, descended from Japanese immigrants, or might possibly look Japanese, by the thousands, into what the president who signed the executive orders and subsequent presidents called “concentration camps” and many of those citizens' relatives were also warfighters dying, being injured, and risking those possibilities for our national military objectives. Or for that matter, if you're familiar with the rather nasty American/Anglo habit of defiling corpses (and on some occasions maiming living people) for the purpose of human trophy collecting, (←content warning: photo of the de-fleshed skull of a Japanese person used as a “mascot” on a U.S. Navy vessel) first practiced on indigenous people the world over, then Blacks as they were lynched in the Jim Crow South, and then extensively practiced against our opponents in the WWII Pacific Theater and Vietnam...

As I said further on in the 2012 thread at the first link above, about Hollywood director Frank Capra's seven-part Why We Fight propaganda film series and others, speaking to the thread's OP: Even if participation in World War II was justified, which I would tend to agree with you on, we should not try to portray it as an unalloyed and noble good.

On the more general topic of Americans at war, perhaps you are familiar with another of Twain's works: The War Prayer.
posted by XMLicious at 7:47 PM on November 23 [3 favorites]


All well put and more astute historically than I am. It is the "of the people" part that should be stressed and realized. The people who have died in this pandemic and in wars some just, some not. The people who built the White House, our railways and highways. I am not trying to denigrate anyone here except those in power supposedly representing us. Many of them are not of the people. They are of the corporate lobbyists and of themselves. I should have used words much more emphatic and exact than "boring" and "ambivalent" to try to describe my feelings of outrage at what this country purports to be. But alas that's the way it is.

Yes, war is horrific period. I have seen too many photos and didn't need to click on the link to see another thank you. One of my uncles was at a concentration camp at the end of WWII and brought home photos. I was but a lad then and they are seared into my memory.

I will leave this thread with 'of the people' as my mantra. The polis is the best form of government that leads to the common good. Thank you for the conversation.
P.S.My mind is somewhat muddled since I lost my sense of smell and taste almost a year ago. I am usually not this inarticulate.
posted by DJZouke at 5:04 AM on November 24 [1 favorite]


I would like to slightly amend my mantra to 'of, by and for the people'
posted by DJZouke at 5:20 AM on November 24


But Black Democrats are more fiscally conservative as well. For example, on average Black Democrats were more likely to prefer the public option over Medicare-for-All compared to Democrats overall. I would argue there wasn't much daylight between the Democratic primary candidates on social issues--the type of economic policies they favored were the biggest differences. And there Black primary voters favored Biden, the "moderate" candidate. Black voters are more ideologically diverse than white liberals and leftists give them credit for and it is folly to assume that their role in forming the Democratic base means they universally support the most far-left policies.

Linked CNN article

It's funny, I went to that CNN article, and I had a look at the polls the author cited. Neither of them contained a bin for "black voters" in their crosstabs. It just broke voters into "white" and "non-white". I think that says something about how media pollsters view anybody who isn't a member of the white upper middle class. It's pretty offensive, not to mention sloppy. In my opinion it doesn't say anything good about their methodology or worldview. If there is a part of the sample that breaks out black voters the author has access to that isn't reported by the pollster, it most likely isn't large enough to draw a statistical conclusion because its far too small. I see the cell he's referencing, but it's just "white" and "non-white".

Marist Poll

Marist Poll tables

CNN SRR poll

Anyway those polls are from July 2019, as is the CNN article. They also focus only one issue, healthcare, which happens to be connected to a signature piece of legislation from the Obama administration. Leaving aside questions regarding whether or not "Medicare for All" is really an example of "fiscal liberalism" or actually "fiscal conservatism" or whether terms like "fiscal conservatism" even exist and aren't ultimately part of a right wing framing, healthcare is only one dimension of fiscal policy. Education spending, infrastructure spending, and prioritizing new spending or deficit reduction are only just a few other fiscal issues that impact people's everyday lives.

Interestingly, the 538 article the CNN author links to the support their thesis only has this to say about Black voters:

Secondly, these groups may define “moderate” differently. Black people, for example, vote overwhelmingly Democratic but are less supportive of abortion rights than are Democrats overall.

So, we are back to "social issues". Really, this just makes me have even less confidence in any "analysis" I read on CNN. I think Nate Silver basically called the author an idiot on Twitter during the coverage over the recent presidential election.

And, that just brings me back to my overall point that terms like "liberal" and "moderate" are slippery. It's true that at one point Democratic politicians may have moderated their positions on social issues like gay marriage due to the views of socially conservative democrats of all races and ethnic backgrounds, but that pretty much stopped after 2012 from what I can tell. As you point out, and I agree, there wasn't much difference between the primary candidate's positions on "social issues", and they weren't even really a focus during the debate. Yet, the polling people link in this thread tends to cite religiosity and social views as a continuing, though diminishing, divide between demographics of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. If Democratic politicians were really trying to reflect the views of their constituents, they'd continue to adopt more socially conservative positions.

Moreover, the primary exit polling overwhelming indicated that voters of all backgrounds favored M4A. They also favored expanding the ACA with a public option. Looking at the polling, it doesn't appear people distinguish between the policies at a population level to extent most assume. That isn't surprising considering the primary debates were more glorified shouting sessions than nuanced policy discussions. In any case, the polls also showed that voters were primarily concerned with who thought most likely to beat Trump, which helped Biden.
posted by eagles123 at 8:59 AM on November 24 [4 favorites]


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