THE ANNA KARENINA PRINCIPLE

Life isn't fair. To prove it, compare the amount of time it takes to build something with the time required to destroy it. Spend a few hours on a sand castle and someone can knock it down in about ten seconds.

Pick any kind of organization – a family, a corporation, a sports team, a social circle, a volunteer group – and the amount of time and effort required to make it functional and successful is vastly disproportional to the ease with which everything falls apart. One person or one bad decision is all that it takes in some cases to ruin something that was the product of thousands of people and an equal number of good decisions.

In Anna Karenina, Tolstoy states that "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." It emphasizes that in order to make something successful it's often necessary to avoid dozens of potential mistakes but any one of a large number of potential mistakes will result in failure. This is why, for better or worse, most organizations succeed or fail based on decisions made at the top. Leadership is important – overly so, in many cases – because it alone has the power to make the kinds of mistakes that can be fatal.

This is important to remember as we watch the painfully long roll-out of an impending Trump administration that all but promises to set the country back a few decades in a matter of months. Governing for people of these ideological stripes is easy in the same way that dynamiting a skyscraper is easier than building one. Liberals and centrists are at the constant disadvantage of trying to create things that require a dozen different things to be executed nearly flawlessly, while anti-government conservatives can dismantle it or render it useless in no time at all.

The really troubling part of this clown car of losers getting to sit at the controls is not that they will do damage to the economy, national security, civil rights, and the environment. What is alarming is the years it will take to undo. We could suck it up and live with a couple of bad years, but the consequences of those bad years will linger long after the people responsible for it have returned to obscurity where they belong.

Progress is incremental. Regression is precipitous. This is going to be bad.

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73 Responses to “THE ANNA KARENINA PRINCIPLE”

  1. Andrew Says:

    Trump's Supreme Court picks will fuck us for two generations.

  2. Trip Says:

    But hey, at least we were spared the absolute HORROR of Hillary's private email server, amirite?

  3. Emerson Dameron Says:

    I don't think the country ever really recovered from Reagan. This is going to be like getting knocked out by Ice Cube and then smacked in the face by Chris Tucker.

  4. John Danley Says:

    I'm so glad I never reproduced. I couldn't imagine explaining to my children how this asshole became president, or why citizens in year-ending 2016 even considered normalized a never-ending theatrical fiasco of breathtaking fraudulency conducted by a tawdry, spoiled, angry, petulant, nouveau riche, anti-intellectual asshole. What a dystopian freak show.

    S Rozhdestvom Ameriku!

  5. Emma Says:

    This makes it even more vital that Uncle Joe and Aunt Loretta know they’re dead to me.

    Having said that, though, I’m not sure I completely agree with you. The undeniable badness of Bush 43 brought us Obama, the ACA, and some real (if unspectacular, obvious to the point of pain, and long overdue) civilizational improvement. (At least domestically.) If Trump spends two years destroying, or proposing to destroy, the country — including all the social services his exceptionally stupid fans depend on — and if even a little of that change actually registers within what passes for their minds, then recent history suggests the Congress will go to the Democrats in 2018. Bigly. Trump is already historically unpopular, his populist campaign promises have begun to look like the infomerical puffing they really were, his "win" was shrouded in the bad kind of controversy and will be confined to air quotes forever, and he is populating the White House with villains from Muppet movies. He has been propped up by a Russian dictator-clown with saggy tits. There is evidence suggesting that he doesn’t know how to read. It’s not that I don’t think we’re in a bad place, as a country. It’s just that I don’t think Donald Trump will stop history from happening forever. Cheer up, man; it’s almost Christmas.

  6. J. Dryden Says:

    Unrelated: I've always hated the opening of ANNA KARENINA–it's always struck me as proof that Tolstoy was a second-rate writer. (Either that, or it just doesn't translate well into English.) It SOUNDS good–sounds observant and profound. But two minutes' reflection tells you that it is absolute bullshit.

    The assertion that "every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way" is just absolutely untrue. As an Irishman, I can offer multiple versions of the exact same miserable family, distinguishable only by surnames: alcohol, Catholicism, abusive silence punctuated by bursts of violence. As a longtime resident of Los Angeles, I can attest to many versions of another kind of miserable family: infidelity, entitlement, lack of imagination, compulsive materialism. And so on. A lot of fucking families achieve misery in the exact same way–it's why, for instance, when Tolstoy describes the Oblonsky family IMMEDIATELY afterwards, we all say, "Oh, yeah, I TOTALLY know a family like that one."

    Maybe he just meant that everyone FEELS as if their miseries are unique–that would be true–but again, that's not what's on the page.

    This has nothing to do with what's coming up in the next four years, but then, I'm trying to do all I can to ignore it. (In between donating to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood and so on whenever I get twitchy.)

  7. Dan Says:

    J Dryden: So brilliant. Just read your critical analysis to my family.

  8. Sarah Says:

    We'll be lucky if it ends as us well for us as it did for Anna…

  9. Isaac Says:

    @Emma,
    I have low expectations. Somehow we (Americans in general) will still all be mouthing the liturgy that Social Security is bankrupt (a self-fulfilling prophecy once the Republicans finish stealing from it), Socialized Medicine is poor quality (ibid), The Loving Hand of the Market will protect us, and we Have Always Been At War with Eastasia.

    Within the Democratic party (I just joined this year what with Bernie and all) we're pushing up for a lot of reform. We may get a few new faces in positions of leadership at the county and state levels, but even that is a long shot. There's a point where we're going to be arguing over whether we are allying with the People's Front of Judea or the Judean People's Front, meanwhile the Romans will be crucifying people.

  10. wetcasements Says:

    Granted they were "internet friends," but I was more than happy to cut ties with good number of Jill Stein supporters and #BernieorBust folks (plenty of overlap). My general impression of them is that they thought a Trump presidency was some kind of sublime joke that would never actually happen. I constantly reminded them not to bet against the ignorance of most Americans, and here we are.

    It won't help us from the coming, direct, literal assault on our liberal democratic institutions but yeah, fuck them forever. Let them send Susan Sarandon hand-written letters begging for money to cover their retirement / health care / unemployment benefits.

    Not entirely sure what they way forward is (would love to see Elizabeth Warren run in 2020 though, but it's going to take a lot more than that) but the left getting its shit together and voting strategically for once would be nice. Why so many of my fellow libs seem to think of voting as a precious snowflake purity ritual instead of the practical decision it is is beyond me.

    Oh, and I do take some comfort it the fact that the CIA _must have_ some seriously twisted shit on Trump or one of his sons. Right? Right?

    That's all I got.

  11. Alex SL Says:

    That being said, it depends a bit on one's political system. There are countries where a sufficiently large political backlash or crisis has historically precipitated very rapid progress towards, for example, a decent health care system or suchlike.

    The political system of the USA is, of course, particularly good at blocking people from achieving something, what with all the vetos and filibusters and the built-in gerrymandering of the senate…

  12. DWhite Says:

    @J Dryden:I don't disagree with your argument that unhappy families tend to have recognizable patterns, but I think Tolstoy meant that each unhappy family thinks their own situation is unique, and thus seems hopeless.

  13. Talisker Says:

    @Ed:

    dynamiting a skyscraper is easier than building one

    An apt metaphor indeed. Bringing down a skyscraper is easy, given a sufficient quantity of dynamite. Bringing one down safely is much harder. Trump and his cronies prefer the easy way, and are indifferent to the collateral damage.

    @John Danley:

    conducted by a tawdry, spoiled, angry, petulant, nouveau riche, anti-intellectual asshole

    Trump, arguably, is not noveau riche since he inherited a fortune. He presents the worst of all worlds: The insecurity and vulgarity of the parvenu, with the entitled arrogance of the aristocrat.

    @Emma:

    recent history suggests the Congress will go to the Democrats in 2018. Bigly.

    What recent history is that? Bush 43 won reelection and the Republicans didn't lose Congress until 2006, after Hurricane Katrina. The House is heavily gerrymandered in favour of the GOP; IIRC, the Democrats need about a 6% lead in the vote to draw even in number of seats. In the 2018 Senate map, 8 seats are held by Republicans, 23 by Democrats. The Dems might gain seats in Nevada, Arizona or Maine, but they also have to play defence in places like Florida and West Virginia.

    Realistically, we're looking at 2020 at the earliest for a Democrat revival. What they really need to do is win state governments by then, so they can influence the next round of redistricting after the 2020 census.

  14. Nate Says:

    I have a faint hope of Trump riding the red wave of the hacking scandal out of office. Maybe that's just crazy talk though.

  15. Pat Says:

    Life isn't fair. To prove it, compare the amount of time it takes to build something with the time required to destroy it. Spend a few hours on a sand castle and someone can knock it down in about ten seconds.

    I prefer Schopenhauer's original: "A quick test of the assertion that enjoyment outweighs pain in this world, or that they are at any rate balanced, would be to compare the feelings of an animal engaged in eating another with those of the animal being eaten.”

    As to the catastrophe about to emerge in public policy now that the Democrats no longer control the executive branch, remember this: These assholes did this intentionally. The Republicans can do a lot, but they can't destroy, say, Social Security and Medicare. That's because recipients feel entitled to these entitlement programs (sorry). Beneficiaries get a check every month and they know that the government sent it. Compare that to Obamacare, which has benefits so diffuse and confusing that an awful lot of people who benefit from it have no idea that they do so and will happily go along with its abolition. Add insult to injury: The system is as got-damn complicated as a Swiss watch, so opponents can merely repeal one part (say, the individual mandate) and watch the rest of it unwind and collapse.

    Compare this to a hypothetical system wherein the uninsured were automatically insured through Medicare and their FICA taxes went up (nice thing about taxes, the poor pay less and the rich pay more, without the need for means-testing). Of course it was politically impossible (so the Democrats said!), but that system would have been secure—beneficiaries would not have stood by while their insurance was taken away. As it is, all too many people benefiting from the minimalist, unobtrusive neo-lib system will cheerlead its demise.

    Let's talk about the lousy economy that led to Dems losing Congress. They certainly knew—or had no excuse not to—that the stimulus they passed was too small (by two-thirds; a $3tn. shortfall needed a $2.1tn. spending package with even optimistic multiplier estimates; instead they passed $700bn.). Bang, the depression goes on; bang, the House is lost and then the Senate. And then the White House. But they knew or should have known they weren't doing enough.

    This goes on across Democratic policy "accomplishments." Executive action on gun control and climate change was accomplished "with the stroke of a pen." That's how easily it can be undone. Any means-tested program can be easily phased out by lowering the income cap, and they're pretty easy to straight-up abolish because "poor people's programs" always have less public support than universal benefits.

    Every step of the way was intentional. If they'd wanted to design durable policy institutions, they certainly knew how to do it.

    Instead, the strategy evidently was to preserve all of it by winning every presidential election forever.

    As Atrios is in the habit of saying, the assholes had one job….

  16. NickT Says:

    Tolstoy strikes me as a strange, often unhappy marriage between a brilliant writer and a gibbering crank. The latter comes out especially strongly when he attempts to play the sociologist. Similarly, Anna Karenina is a blend between a brilliant novel about love and its consequences and a phenomenally tedious pamphlet about the state of Russian society, with particular reference to fantasies of agrarian virtue.

    I think it's possible that Trump will unleash a disaster of appalling proportions and that the Democrats might well win back power sooner than they think. What I don't know is whether they have anyone who can play the role of FDR and get the country back on track. The low quality of their candidates for the last presidential tilt does not inspire much faith in the idea.

  17. anotherbozo Says:

    I was just visiting a website with a list of Electors that showcases a form letter to be written to ask them to vote against Trump. It is a historically-based, eloquent letter that references Hamilton and warns against certifying someone who lacks the "requisite qualifications."

    http://directelection.org/

    Ed's post may make a stronger case still.

  18. Dave Dell Says:

    It's my own belief that our slide started with Vietnam. Sure, that's the thing that impinges on me personally but here's something from what I consider the best book about Vietnam ever written – David Harris's 1996 book "Our War. What We Did in Vietnam and What It Did To Us". Writing of the body politic…:

    "And so it may be for all of us: our body politic clogged with undigested experience, strung up on the very same dilemmas we never dealt with twenty-five years ago, when the killing was still going on. Our disorder is plain to see: having made lying an accepted government function, our government is now overrun with liars; having made our public posture heartless as a matter of policy, we are now unable to bring our heart to public affairs; having made killing a measure of our national efforts,we watch helplessly as killing has become one of our principal cultural currencies; having failed to look our transgressions straight in the face, we have not been straight with one another since; having refused to live up to our values, we are now increasingly without values; having made language into hype, we now have nothing believable to say."

    My second book about Vietnam, "Voices From the Plain of Jars – Life Under An Air War – With Essays and Drawings by Laotian Villagers". I have yet to read more than a page or two at a time. I can barely write the title. I cringe every time someone thanks me for my service.

    Enough of that. I've said it here before and I'll be saying it again: We will never recover from the damage that is about to be inflicted during the trump presidency. Never. Recover. Never. We will never recover.

    Yeats, "The Second Coming" comes to mind:

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

  19. doug Says:

    As an exercise, try to imagine one thing going right with the new president. You can do it. I know you can…

    Instead of imagining all the shit that could go wrong. Stop that. It is not healthy. Plenty bad will happen no matter the president. Why try to guess what it will be? What good does that do?

  20. sluggo Says:

    I think talk of winning back the presidency or congress in two or four years naive. Rs have already stolen elections, and now that they control all three branches of government, they will systematically increase their stranglehold on elections. They may continue using subversive methods as they already are, but I wouldn't be surprised if they go full jack boot. Free elections are a thing of the past.
    This is going to be really bad.

  21. sluggo Says:

    should have read 'is really naive'

  22. NickT Says:

    "try to imagine one thing going right with the new president"

    He might fall down a hitherto undiscovered mine-shaft on his way to the inauguration.

  23. RosiesDad Says:

    In 2004, I said that it would take 50 years to undo the damage that the Bush 43 presidency would do to the nation. Trump will add another 75-100 years.

    Good luck, Murkins.

  24. Mike Furlan Says:

    "It's my own belief that our slide started with Vietnam."

    Agreed.

    Daddy Bush served and almost died in WW2.

    Shrub, hid in the Texas National Guard.

    Trump, the self proclaimed "Healthiest Man to ever become President" got a medical deferment.

    That is when the 1% turned from service at least some of the time to full time looting.

  25. Miles Bjornstam Says:

    I understand this isn't really the point you are making, but The Anna Karenina quote is exactly wrong when talking about happy countries. The happiest countries are happy for the same reason: high functioning social democracy. Denmark, Sweden, Canada, NZ, Australia, Switzerland, Norway, Finland, etc.

    The unhappy countries are unhappy for their own unique reasons. Russia: alcoholism and gangster autocracy, Japan: soul crushing conformism, China: totalitarian capitalist-communism, Syria: war, Burundi: poverty… and so on.

  26. jcdenton Says:

    This is like the Boltzmann equation of human endeavour. The number of ways something can go wrong is sort of like the number of microstates in an ideal gas. Entropy is far more likely to increase than decrease. All of our successes are just a temporary, localized decrease in entropy.

    But don't let me dissuade you from trying for change. Fighting entropy is the highest calling of the human condition.

  27. Skepticalist Says:

    A throwaway line in an article on the election said that Trump Tower had too many oxygen starved floors. Evidently it's true.

    If my family history runs true to course Alfalfa will be the last president I'll know. Maybe not as Trump is easily bored. I doubt even the presidency will be immune to this. Scary shit with what may follow.

  28. cekman Says:

    Pat wrote:
    "This goes on across Democratic policy "accomplishments." Executive action on gun control and climate change was accomplished "with the stroke of a pen." That's how easily it can be undone."

    Not just undone – it can be prevented from ever happening again. Take climate change. All the action Obama has tried to take is based on a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that the EPA can regulate carbon as a pollutant. Republicans have been challenging the ruling ever since. But now, they don’t have to bother with the courts; they can just rewrite the EPA’s charter. The next Democratic president won’t be able to take action with the stroke of a pen; it will take unified Democratic control of government to undo what unified Republican control of government will do.

    “Instead, the strategy evidently was to preserve all of it by winning every presidential election forever.”

    I agree with you, but I don’t know how the more far-reaching and durable measures you talk about could have gotten passed, except by winning every halfway-competitive congressional election forever – despite widespread gerrymandering, aggressive voter suppression tactics, and torrents of unlimited campaign spending by activist right-wing billionaires. The presidential thing had more of a shot.

    The example that has stuck with me is climate change. Most of the action Obama has tried to take

    as its premise that the EPA has the power to regulate carbon as a pollutant, as the Supreme Court ruled in 2007, which allo but Republicans have been challenging ever since. With Republicans in complete control of government, though, they don't have to fight in the courts any more; they can just rewrite the charter of the EPA. It won't be enough to elect another Democratic president, because they won't have the tools that even Obama had; action on climate change will only be possible if the Democrats also retake complete control of government.

  29. cekman Says:

    Dammit. Strike those last two redundant paragraphs.

  30. Tim H. Says:

    Doug, one good thing? "He I name when I overindulge in burritos" figures out that his early picks are focussed on yesterday and will stifle long term growth and fires them. The new team forges an equitable solution that defuses class war for generations. I have better chances of winning the lottery than this scenario, but it's not impossible…

  31. SeaTea Says:

    Sluggo, I have to agree. We already are fine as a nation with someone losing an election by 2 million votes and still "winning". We are already fine as a nation with a rancher from Wyoming having 67 times the voting power as a person living in California when it comes to the Senate. We are already fine as a nation with a party elected by a minority of the population rewriting the laws to make it impossible for them to lose elections. We are fine as a nation with accusations that foreign governments tipped the election in favor of the winner of the election.

    When there is insufficient outrage now to question the results of this election, what's to prevent wholesale fraud at every level written into law for subsequent elections?

  32. Thomas Says:

    As someone much smarter than me once pointed out: "It requires at least an order of magnitude more effort to refute bullshit than it takes to make bullshit."

  33. Skipper Says:

    Well, you're more hopeful than I am. In my view, the war is already over. I don't think it began in Vietnam. Vietnam was a milestone, along with a lot of other signal events, but it wasn't the beginning. It began with the Santa Clara case in 1886 that left us with the principle that corporations are people with all the rights and privileges of real humans. That's what lit the match.

    It continued with WW1, but not in Europe; in the Ottoman campaign. We weren't involved there, but that's where western interests — including the US — fucked up the Middle East, something we're still dealing with today.

    The corporations began their assault on the working class in the years leading up to WW2 and had to put it on hold until after the war. Then, there were several signal events — Taft Hartley, the Red Scare (which were connected), which undermined the labor movement. Then, we had the execrable Dulles Brothers who began their campaign of murder and mayhem, destroying democracies and people who got in the way of their right-wing agenda. This led to Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh liked the US, admired our constitution, had lived and worked in the US and spoke English. He even reached out to the US, but he was a lefty and so he and in the Dulles brothers book that put a price on his head.

    Along came Reagan — and that was the beginning of the end. It was an all-out assault on the working class. Things went steadily downhill from there, up to and including the Clintonists' doing away with Glass-Steagal, the destruction of welfare, Nafta, Cafta. They had Social Security in their sights, but three days before Bill was to announce the assault on SS, the Lewinsky story broke. So, that was put on hold.

    The end of the slow-motion coup came with the Citizens United, where the Supreme Court Ruled that the government was for sale to the highest bidder. That was it. The democratic experiment was over. The war had been fought. We lost.

    All that's left for Trump and his gang of thieves is to ride out on the battlefield and shoot the wounded.

  34. Isaac Says:

    And when three quarters of the population daily practices “magical thinking,” and it's tolerated at all levels of society as fine and normal, this is what you get. When something good happens, “Oh how I am blessed!” When something bad happens. “Oh dang, Satan must hate me because I am blessed!”

  35. Gerald McGrew Says:

    So last night on the Daily Show, Obama claimed that not only was Russia deliberately working to get Trump elected, but the Trump campaign was in on it as well. Specifically he said, "You had what was very clear relationships between members of the president-elect’s campaign team and Russians".

    If this is true and the intelligence agencies have clear evidence of it, isn't that treason?

  36. Gerald McGrew Says:

    At this point, I'm steering away from predictions and prognostications. I'm not sure anyone can really say what's coming next.

    After all, if you'd told people just a couple of decades ago that within their lifetimes a Republican President would tell the American public to believe Russian state propaganda over the conclusions of our own intelligence agencies, no one would have believed you.

    Yet here we are….

  37. mothra Says:

    Gerald McGrew:
    I'm with you on the predictions. I am in "hide and watch" mode. Just hoping I can eke out survival with a roof over my head for the rest of my years and be able to afford enough electricity to be able to listen to music and have light to read.

    As for the Trump campaign working with the Russians to make sure he won the election, yes, it would be treason….if anyone but Trump/the Republicans were doing it.

  38. Robert Walker-Smith Says:

    Jcdenton – very good point. When I worked at the main campus library during my college years, I described my job as 'minimizing local entropy'. Patrons disarranged books in the process of using them, we student workers put them back in order.

    You need a functioning bird (or reptile) to turn organic material into an egg, but almost any significant force will turn the egg back into organic material. Reminds me of the alleged Russian proverb, it is easier to turn the aquarium into fish soup than the reverse.

    Our battered, imperfect but functioning polity is a wonderful aquarium, and all the Flaming Dumpster Garbage People can think about is how much money they'll make selling the soup.

  39. Skepticalist Says:

    For 130 years the world heeded the idea that staying out of Russia is a good thing. It took only 70 years this time for "I love uneducated people" Trump and Co. to forget this.

  40. verbal Says:

    At least I don't have children.

  41. E* Says:

    @Dave Dell and Skipper: I see Vietnam and Santa Clara and raise you slavery. Our slide started squarely there. If non-White votes had ever in our history counted as much as White votes, I’m certain we would be in a much different and better place. (But surely the slide was hastened by the events you named).

    @NickT: You nailed it! But some of us do enjoy the pamphlet every bit as much as the poignant love story.

  42. Smek Says:

    The thing about all the speculation what to do and how to get power back in two, or four years presupposes that everything that can go wrong for this administration will go wrong.

    Why did they win an election, then?

    All it'll take is one act of terror, a scary international situation or a similar crisis and Americans will repeat Iraq and the Patriot Act all over again, this time on steroids.

    Even if that doesn't take place, Trump will rule by division. Like a bad spouse, he'll get rewarded for occasional moments when he's not shitty and he'll throw scraps to his base. All he needs to do to win another term is make sure America stays divided. Not THAT tall an order.

  43. Aurora S Says:

    @Nick–

    HA! Noice.

    @doug–

    Fuck the tyranny of positivity. America is obsessed with turning a blind eye to the horrors of reality while wishfully blowing sunshine up its own ass as a matter of cultural identity. Don't normalize what's going on around us by swallowing the "Let's make the best of it!" happy smiley bullshit.

    The despots fucking *know* this tendency of Americans to just Put On A Happy Face and keep on truckin', and they exploit the living fuck out of it. Why did we buy into the fantasy of Reaganomics? It defies all reason, and it has fucked us long and hard. But we so desperately wanted to believe that we'd be initiated into the class of our overlords if we just Defeated All Odds, worked hard, and pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps. It's a romantic and heroic story, but ultimately total bullshit. "The wealthy have money because life is fair, Everything Happens For A Reason, and they were rewarded for being Good People! I'm a Good Person, I'll be rewarded, too!"

    No. They (and you know who They are) have taken this ritualized tithing to the church of Optimism and are laughing all the way to the bank. We like the idea of Making The Best Of It and Seeing The Good In All Things because it allows us to think that we are better people than we are and that we'll eventually be rewarded for it. The only "reward" we'll be getting for ignoring the signs and blatantly denying the assfucking we're about to receive is the civil and economic equivalent of a pineapple right up the keister (pointy end first, and no lube).

    If I order a ham sandwich, and I am served a shitburger sandwich with cheese, I don't give a dusty fuck what kind of cheese it is despite the fact that I love cheese. The fact of the matter is that it's a fucking turd on a roll, not to mention that there's now a perfectly good slice of cheese pasted in shit. Cheeto Benito and his herd of rabid weasels can go shit in their hats, we should not be distracted by searching for shiny little sprinkles of hope to which we can cling.

  44. fastEddie Says:

    "Every step of the way was intentional. If they'd wanted to design durable policy institutions, they certainly knew how to do it."

    When you need 60 votes for your universal healthcare bill – you need to get vote from the 41st least conservative Senator. In the case of the ACA – you had to get Senators from Nebraska, West Virginia, and Insurance heavy Connecticut. Lots of folks in Congress get elected by promising to be "independent'. ( Like Manchin from deep red WV ). It's not like all states or districts are created equal.

    Dems moved hard to the Center under Bill Clinton – They were getting killed with raising money – pre-internet direct mail was very expensive – so they decided to play nice with Wall Street. Hillary could not disavow that without throwing a lot of allies under the bus.

    Dems now have an opportunity to become a real populist party – truly for the regular folks and against the rich. However – Steinbeck said "Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires." So while this may be doable – it might not work. The rightwing is clearly happy to punish everyone as long as it punishes brown people the most – Both Bush Presidencies showed that.

  45. skwerlhugger Says:

    Some good stuff came out of the great depression, and Germany turned into a decent society after 1945 (even the DDR in some ways, I talked to lots of ossies in 1993 pissed at what they were losing). So all we need to do is hit an unimaginable bottom, and maybe we get a decent health care system in 5 years. Those of us still alive.

  46. fastEddie Says:

    Now we wait for the inevitable Reichstag Fire / 9-11 / ISIS attack on Trump Tower.

  47. Katydid Says:

    @Aurora S; don't forget the extreme pressure put on the average American worker by their employers to Be Positive. If you're being treated abysmally (and quite likely illegally) by your company, you must not speak of it or you're not a team player! You must Be Positive! Put on a happy face! The pressure is relentless. There's even a country song about how the female singer once showed actual emotions, but her life sucked so now she smiles and the world loves her because the whole world loves a happy girl!

  48. Mo Says:

    Katydid – Omerta. "Nice job you got there. Be a shame if you hadta be downsized."

    In high school, when we got to the Middle Ages in wold history class, I always wondered why the serfs didn't just run away.

  49. April Says:

    The Dems need to grow a spine and play the game the way the repugs have been playing it for decades. Just think how many things that are, or are not issues would be treated differently if the other side did it? Can you imagine the furor if Hilz had won by electoral college only? Or if Putin had helped her get elected? Wimpy dems who look after their own pockets have brought this into being. We need to clone Saint Elizabeth and Uncle Bernie.

    Oh, also – I wouldn't say China is an unhappy country. By and large most people are much better off than they were 20-30 years ago. It's a functioning society in its way. Just don't try and flush toilet paper down the toilet.

  50. John Danley Says:

    @Aurora S Says: "Why did we buy into the fantasy of Reaganomics? It defies all reason, and it has fucked us long and hard. But we so desperately wanted to believe that we'd be initiated into the class of our overlords if we just Defeated All Odds, worked hard, and pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps. It's a romantic and heroic story, but ultimately total bullshit. "

    Thank you. This is profoundly mellifluous. Fuck 'em.

  51. Ed Says:

    Honestly, the fundamental mistake isn't Santa Clara or Red Scare, it's people who know better repeatedly saying "Well, we've surely hit bottom after _______ (Goldwater, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush I, Bush II, Sarah Palin) and it can't get any worse."

    The universe always stands ready to prove that assertion wrong.

  52. mago Says:

    Occasionally throughout this execrable election cycle I would contribute such profound insights as "we're all screwed", or "people are stupid". I got it wrong as usual because it's far worse than my fatuous words could say.

    So, no Doug, not gonna adopt a smiley face even while recognizing the futility of scowling and hair pulling, or speculating, because one doesn't know what causes and conditions will come into play. OTOH it's wise to recognize when you're on the ropes.

    @April. Costa Rica has a rep as "pura vida" ville, but there's shit loads of desperation and scrambling happening in Ticolandia. Still, a certain mellow pervades, which you won't find in the whitey tighty world.

    Can't flush toilet paper in Costa Rica either. There's a metaphor here somewhere but it eludes me.

  53. April Says:

    @Mago – I think most cultures in tropical climbs have a mellow attitude, simply because it's just too fucking hot to give much of a shit, most of the time. The amazing thing about China's plumbing is that, even in their brand new, super-duper, "state-of-the-art" award-winning buildings, they can't seem to figure out plumbing that will take toilet paper. What's more amazing (to me, anyway) is that the Chinese people don't care.

  54. April Says:

    "climes". Need an edit function.

  55. Skepticalist Says:

    James Watt. This was Reagan's choice for Secretary Of The Department Of The Interior. Nice try Trump but even Scott Pruitt doesn't come close.

  56. mago Says:

    @ April: Yeah, what the tropics breed: lust and apathy.

  57. April Says:

    @mago – and spicy food. Yum!

  58. Dean C. Rowan Says:

    Beg to differ with the second paragraph. It's often the case that the time and effort devoted to making "a family, a corporation, a sports team, a social circle, a volunteer group" function is negligible. They function just 'cause they do. Inertia. Nobody's paying attention. Luck. That's why they're so easy to obliterate instantaneously. But even then it takes more than one person or one bad decision. It takes at least a few people, a few bad decisions, and a rare moment of focused attack or egregious neglect. Dynamiting a skyscraper is not easy.

    Don't you think regression is also incremental? Hasn't it been so for so long? We keep fucking up.

  59. Dean C. Rowan Says:

    *are negligible

    Jesus, the grammar.

  60. NickT Says:

    @mago

    "Can't flush toilet paper in Costa Rica either. There's a metaphor here somewhere but it eludes me."
    …..

    And that, my friend, is why Tommy Friedman's job is safe from you. He can can whip up three mixed metaphors and a passing cabbie and suddenly he's got a thousand words and it's time to head for home and a weekend that starts on Tuesday. And it all starts with the realization that you can't flush toilet paper in [insert name of city/country/cultural institution].

  61. Miles Bjornstam Says:

    Expounding on Dean's comment, I'm not sure the 2nd paragraph works at all. Bad corporations often limp along forever, so do dysfunctional families and poor sports teams.

  62. Mo Says:

    April, just out of curiosity, how do you get past The Great Firewall?

  63. MS Says:

    Yep, USA is screwed for a good long time. The wreckage will take decades to undo, IF a powerful liberal government come into place, which won't happen. So realistically, it will never be undone. Once all the climate labs are disbanded and shut down, the weather satellites deorbited, those aren't coming back.

    None of you will ever live without a heavily conservative judiciary. None of you will ever live without a heavily conservative legislature.

    You're one Supreme Court ruling away from never having even vaguely competitive elections again. There will be elections, they just won't mean much. Russia has elections too. You've already got a system that requires liberals to win big just to get some political power at all. As someone already said, it's about 6-7% vote differential needed. Democrats need to win 54% of the vote to gain control of the legislature, that's how poor the democracy is now. And it will be worse, much worse, by 2020. Detroit will be lucky if it has polling stations at all.

    And don't believe that Republican overreach is going to result in a backlash. Watch this: Republicans repeal Medicare, and then announce that Democrats repealed Medicare. Republicans repeal Social Security, and then announce that Democrats repealed Social Security. See how easy that was? CNN can discuss the controversy. Facebook groups can go after Pelosi for taking away your Social Security check.

    Sure, liberals would sputter and moan. "but! but! it's not true!" you'd say. That's okay, we know the truth. Breitbart keeps us informed with the REAL scoop about what's going on.

  64. seniorscrub Says:

    …and remember, when slitting your wrists, always cut vertically — up your forearms — and not horizontally across your wrists…

  65. sluggo Says:

    @MS

    Amen Brother.

  66. Frank Forchins Says:

    Daily Reminder:

    Hillary Clinton will never be President.

  67. Bitter Scribe Says:

    When the Republicans destroy the social safety net, the morons who voted for Trump will be persuaded that it's all Obama's fault.

  68. Sharkbabe Says:

    John Danley – here’s what I’d tell my kid: We’re just a badly designed, deeply stupid, shortsighted species, and the whole setup of life is that the assholes always wreck everything.

    Aurora S – absolutely. Fuck optimism with a rusty Trump Tower and a barrel bomb. Btw I like “Cheato Benito” better :)

  69. April Says:

    @mo – VPN. All we expats have them. I've gone through several since I've been here with various degrees of success. I had one that was pretty reliable but they wouldn't allow downloading of..um…stuff, and without that I'd be even crazier than I already am. I now have Astrill which is about as good as they get over here. It goes out often, but they usually come back online pretty quickly. And in between I can watch tv and movies, because they don't care about downloading. (I have amassed a BIGLY library of stuff….if everything I had was in an actual physical mode I'd need a second house to store it.)

  70. April Says:

    @ bitter scribe – Just as 9/11 was.

  71. Redleg Says:

    Jeezus. Now I am truly depressed.

  72. Brian M Says:

    Frank Forchin: (Shitting across multiple threads)

    Daily Reminder: A gloating asshole is the epitome of a Deplorable.

  73. Arjun Jobil Says:

    My house here in Indiana is 120 years old and i don't flush the TP either.

    Most city dwellers in China seem pretty happy, but things are less rosy in the countryside, where incomes and income increases lag far behind the cities. (l lived in Beijing for almost 30 years.)
    I worry about the US becoming a third world country, with rich people living behind high walls, while the rest scrape by on mimimum wage and government welfare. The collapse of Sears, Kmart, Best Buy, etc. are symptoms of this collapse.