THE SUBTLE ART OF LOWERING EXPECTATIONS

I have a lot of Canadian friends and readers (hi!) who have contributed to an increase in the amount of attention I pay to politics up in America's northern ally. Among Americans I am no doubt in the top 0.01% in knowledge of Canadian affairs, which sounds impressive until you realize it means that I can 1) Name the PM, 2) Locate Canada on a map, which some Americans seriously cannot do, and 3) Offer a basic description of the party system and type of governing institutions they use. And I've even been there – several times! American Knowledge of Outside World Level: Expert.

Post-Harper (a man whose sole purpose seemed to make Brian Mulroney look dashing in comparison) the Canadians elected Justin Trudeau. Here's what people know about Trudeau in the U.S. One, he's hot. Two, he and Obama are friendly (which is a heuristic device that probably leads people who know this to assume, correctly as it happens, that they have some ideological similarities). Three, he's some kind of progressive liberal messiah.

Were any American able to explain Justin Trudeau or any foreign leader in this much detail it would be a small miracle and a victory for the forces of cosmopolitanism. However, there is one problem with this summary of Mr. Trudeau, a problem that I suspect exists both in Canada and in the U.S. He's not really much of a progressive. Sure, in the American political spectrum he'd count as a flaming leftist, but…he's really pretty center-left. From what I read, I conceive of him as a sort of Canadian Clinton. Which Clinton? Eh, take your pick. Trudeau is likely to the left of either, yet his actions in office leave little doubt that he is cut from the same "We are all neoliberals now" cloth. His positions on cultural issues are pretty solidly left, but in many of the more practical areas of governing he lines up with, as the commies used to say, the moneyed interests of…Canadian Wall Street. Is Canada's Wall Street just Wall Street? Wait, it's Bay Street. Well isn't that the cutest!

Part of the mistaken impression that Trudeau is a Left Wing Dreamboat comes from the broad erosion of what liberalism is since 1990, the "New Labour / New Democrat" movement's long term effects on the rightward drift of the center point on the ideological spectrum. There are adults – adults with voting rights – who literally believe that people like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair are hardcore Communists, or whatever language they would use to describe the most extreme left-wing political positions imaginable. This is frightening and amusing in equal measures, and it is solely the fault of the mainstream liberal parties in the affected countries. The Democratic Party didn't just wake up one morning and find itself Republican Lite. They chose to throw in the towel and wrap their arms around NAFTA and "Welfare reform" and everything else that makes Bill Clinton literally the most effective Republican president of the 20th Century.

That said, one of the most worrying aspects of this new Age of Nationalism, with far right movements and their leaders flourishing in Europe, India, Asia, Russia, and now the United States, we will shift the ideological spectrum even further to the right. Far enough that basically anyone who isn't a fascist is going to look like a progressive. While it is fair and accurate for observers to claim that just about anyone would be better than Trump, when Paul Ryan starts to look like a reasonable statesman or Rick Perry stands out among the Cabinet as a voice of reason and professionalism, you've seriously lowered your standards. And just as the public got used to centrist Rockefeller Republican types like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair as the most extreme conceivable political left, give this five or ten years and we may be living in a world where Paul Ryan is a liberal firebrand. No, I don't mean that Ryan will be moving to the left. I mean that if you stare at the Le Pens and Trumps and Putins and Dudas and Modis of the world for long enough, just about anyone is going to look like Eugene Debs in comparison.

What this means, in essence, is that a further erosion of what "the left" and "liberal" mean is as likely to be the result of this as any kind of left wing rebirth and resurgence. I can attest that it is indeed possible to walk around comfortably in a t-shirt in 50 degree weather once the body has acclimated to several months of Chicago winter.

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76 Responses to “THE SUBTLE ART OF LOWERING EXPECTATIONS”

  1. MS Says:

    Trudeau is personally socially liberal.

    And he is young.

    Both of these are real and notably good points about him.

    As to whether his policies on the whole are progressive, well. It's a mixed bag. He's been supportive of foreign wars and oil pipelines. But it's NOT a total shit-sandwich like the typical Democrat in the United States. Significant tax increase on the rich, carbon tax, possibly marijuana legalization, possibly electoral reform… there's a reasonable chance of some good things here.

  2. mago Says:

    Trudeau aside, it's the erosion, the horrific slide off the cliff onto the rocky shore.
    Yeah, pretty much screwed. Bizarro world. Gotham City on meth. Expecting it to last for my life's duration.

  3. jcdenton Says:

    I think for some American liberals the assumption was that both parties would move to the centre, retaining some level of difference along economic/social lines. Then the Republicans pulled a bait and switch and swung further to the right on both fiscal and social issues.

    Most of us are aware that Trudeau is the centre-left (the Liberal party in Canada is centre-left by definition), but that's why we have the NDP, a hard left party that's supposed to keep the Liberals honest but is currently incapable of coming up with rational policy statements on toll roads.

    I guess that's also part of the overall problem of progressives. I support lots of significant leftist policies, but can rarely bring myself to vote for the NDP. They seem like the most out of touch bunch of loons. I think many of the major former leftist ideals are sort of discredited and there aren't a ton of new ideas coming out of the hard(er) left to replace them. Let's look at them one by one: Command Economy? The complexity of the modern economy cannot be rationally administered by a small group of people, no matter how well-meaning. Labour Theory of Value? Supply and demand more accurately reflect at least part of actual social wants and needs. Unionism? Great, except for all the times when it isn't. Even as a supporter of unions as a system of wealth redistributions, I've always been frustrated at the geriatric, slow, ungainly approach that many unions have towards actual work (see TTC). I work in tech and would probably flip my lid if I had to deal with standard union practices transposed to my industry. Supporting actual Communism? No thanks. Been there, done that. USSR passport in the trash.

    I can see UBI/Basic Income being a major new idea as automation comes in to sweep all of us away… but guess what, the hard left isn't even championing it! It's mostly a collection of centre-left, left-libertarian and some conservatives.

    The hard left is partially responsible for the drift away from the hard left. 19th century ideas about the economy aren't really an answer to other 19th century ideas about the economy (see Capitalism). At the same time, quantitative easing and similar Keynesian projects can really only do so much and aren't that inspiring on a popular level.

  4. Emerson Dameron Says:

    Trump has fucked up a lot of wet dreams in the past. The hip new fascism could collapse under its own weight at any time.

    I'm curious to see how Trump, Brexit, and the nebulous movement they represent look two years after the honeymoon.

  5. democommie Says:

    "Yeah, pretty much screwed. Bizarro world. Gotham City on meth. Expecting it to last for my life's duration."

    Sounds about right. The silver lining for me is that I'm 67 and prolly won't live long enough to eat–or be–soylent green.

  6. democommie Says:

    Speaking of which…

    You'll know the end is near when they overdub Cousin Eddie's dialog at the family luncheon in "National Lampoon's Vacation", so that it becomes:

    "I don't know why they call this stuff soylent-green helper. It does just fine by itself, huh? I like it better than "long pig" helper myself, don't you, Clark?"

  7. jcdenton Says:

    Also, obligatory reference for No. 2 (couldn't find a video).

    Marge: "It took the children 40 minutes to locate Canada on the map."
    Homer: "Marge, anyone could miss Canada. All tucked away down there."

  8. Big R Says:

    Ed, you're turning into a comparativist. Stop it, I might start to like you.

  9. ConcernedCitizen Says:

    I can attest that it is indeed possible to walk around comfortably in a t-shirt in 50 degree weather once the body has acclimated to several months of Chicago winter.

    To take your metaphor a little too literally: as long as people are comfortable, there's no real impetus for left wing activism on economic issues. It's all cultural. Of course, the irony is that the people who could most benefit from economic left wing activism–the unskilled working class–abhor it for cultural reasons. They'd rather outlaw abortions and stockpile guns than unionize with Yankees.

    So I guess all we can do is welcome our new neoliberal overlords.

  10. Gabriel508 Says:

    Trudeau is also a proud advocate of the fur industry. Which really needs to stop existing, preferably yesterday. So f*ck him.

  11. HoosierPoli Says:

    This is what happens when leftists forget the rules of class warfare. Number one: money is not, and never will be, your friend.

  12. wetcasements Says:

    I dunno. It's clear that non-wealthy white Americans will literally vote against their own economic and medical self-interests if it means they get to go to a rally and yell "Jew" or "n*gger" as many times as it makes them happy to do so.

    And wealthy Americans are, of course, happy to elect a literal pussy-grabbing fascist if it means Paris Hilton gets yet another tax cut.

    To me this is pretty much a crystal-clear example of the contradictions of late capitalism.

    To paraphrase what you said in another post Ed re: impeachment, we don't really get rapid political realignments or even actual revolutions until they actually happen.

    Personally, I'm still a registered Dem but also now happy to tell people I'm a socialist. Why? Because it's becoming obvious, day by day, that capitalism is failing America and the rest of the world in a big way. And white racial resentment is only going to pay your heating bill for so long.

    And if Trump voters are too dumb to see that, as I've said before, there's no arguing with stupid.

    Let's see where we are in two years when 20 million Americans, many of them so-called "real" Americans (i.e., whites) are dying from treatable illnesses and the economy goes down the toilet the exact same way it did in 2007.

    Good times, comrades.

    And believe me, I voted for HRC and actually kind of hate Jill Stein / BernieBro types, but it seems to me that "heightening the contradictions" is all we have left. I'd rather have, ya know, eight more years of Obama-lite and a strengthened ACA and a very small chance of a literal World War III, but here we are.

    Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

  13. Major Kong Says:

    I'm already looking back with fondness on "reasonable moderate" George W. Bush.

  14. Katydid Says:

    @jcdenton regarding Simpsons reference; awwww, I was going to say that! Anecdote time; one of my sister's best friends in high school honestly did not believe that Alabama was a state in the United States and not a country all on its own. This is a southern ejamacashun for ya, and it explains so much about the south.

  15. Interrobang Says:

    How much do I love you for this, Ed? A lot, from the icy depths of my Canadian heart.

    I like Trudeau; I genuinely do. Yes, there are things he's done that I disagree with. I don't like his stance on pipelines and the resource economy, and various other things. In return, though, I've gotten a cabinet that features unparalleled expertise in their relevant areas (I think this is unique in Canadian history), with sex parity; a tax increase on the rich, carbon tax (yes, I do support the carbon tax, because we've gotta pay for the natural capital we're using somehow), probable marijuana legalization, a finalised right-to-die law, a restored long-form census, and a good deal of repairs to shit the Harperoids broke (on purpose), although some of that breakage can't be undone.

    Yes, they're centre-left, but that's relatively okay. Even the NDP isn't hard left anymore. The NDP also isn't going to attract votes from people over about the age of 22 unless they can come up with some sort of economic policy that isn't flanking the Liberals to the right, which is the current situation.

    On the other hand, we have the Conservative Party leadership race going on, which features as its frontrunners a woman who is running on an "anti-elites" platform, while she herself is a millionaire with more letters behind her name than the average bowl of alphabet soup (Hon. Dr. K. Kellie Leitch, P.C., O.Ont., M.D., M.B.A., F.R.C.S.(C) ); and Kevin O'Malley, who basically is Canada's version of Donald Trump, even down to the "role as the guy who acts like an asshole on a cheesy business-related 'reality' show" (The Dragon's Den). So we might be looking at the CanCon version of Trump as soon as after the next federal election, G-d forbid and other hits from the same album.

  16. Dave Dell Says:

    Why do they vote against their economic and medical (also economic) self interest? Or not vote at all? Is there no peer pressure left to do anything else? But mostly, in my opinion, they tried to vote in their best interest and nothing changed for them. Having been raised on half hour problem solved tv shows, they just gave up. Sure, I know it's more complicated than that. It always is.

    One question I have for the commenters here. Who are these Bernie Bros? I thought they were fiction invented by the Clinton staffers to deride Sen. Sanders supporters as sexist. Do they actually exist? I know I personally voted for both Bernie and Hillary as did my wife.

  17. NickT Says:

    @Dave Dell

    There are a rather small number of BernieBros online, but mostly they serve a rhetorical function by taking the blame for the many follies and failings of the wretched Democratic party and the zombie candidate from the nineties it offered America this time around.

  18. sluggo Says:

    @katydid

    I grew up in Illinois, and you needed have it together enough to get into U of I , flagship university of the state. You know, smart. At least you needed to be able to read without moving your lips and count without fingers.

    When I was in high school, I met a distant relative, a second or third cousin who was an undergrad at University of Alabama. She was dumber than a box of hammers. At that time I figured Alabama and Illinois were comps, and could not understand how she could have gotten into a school like that.

    Thirty five years later, I now realize she was the best and brightest in Alabama.

  19. Totoro Says:

    "Bill Clinton literally the most effective Republican president of the 20th Century."
    Two names for you: Ginsburg and Breyer. Let's compare them to Bush senior's choice: Clarence Thomas. Democratic Presidents matter.

  20. Major Kong Says:

    @sluggo

    I'm a U of I grad as well (1984).

  21. Heisenberg Says:

    @Gabriel508: The fur industry? Just stop. This is a great example of an argument I've heard recently: Clinging to a laundry list of (relatively) inconsequential causes is a large reason why the Democrats are irrelevant today. We need to coalesce around a single, major issue that a large swath of Americans cares about – not dwell on pet liberal causes that don't matter in the bigger picture and (oh by the way) happen to alienate a large portion of non-liberal America for cultural reasons.

    So stop with the fur, and the transgender bathrooms, and let's focus on a bigger message that resonates with MANY more Americans: jobs, economic inequality, and money in politics.

    https://medium.com/sandpapersuit/what-liberals-can-learn-from-the-nra-75b3cbae57e3#.cqzgrvdg1

  22. jcdenton Says:

    @Katydid
    I couldn't help myself. I've spent far too many formative years watching the Simpsons not to deploy those quotes. Glad someone got it!

    @Interrobang
    Kellie Leitch is a bloody disgrace. You can, however, help prevent her election by joining the Tories (for a mere $15 CDN) and voting for someone else (at least until her campaign manager kicks you off the voter rolls). Also, not sure why the NDP has swung right. I know the Greens were effectively infiltrated and neutered, but the NDP seems to be willfully chasing elections over policy.

    @wetcasements
    It's still going to be easier for them to blame some other group (immigrants, minorities, lgbt, basically the classic trinity of otherness) for their declining misfortunes than actually accept the notion that Capitalism may not actually be working for them.

  23. canuckistani Says:

    I am an American living in Canada for the last 12 years and I do not like Trudeau, or the Liberals. They have their good points, much like the centrist Democrats, but they have, as Ed points out, followed the same historical trajectory as the Dems into the neoliberal third way politics pioneered by the Clintons, Blair, Schroeder, etc. Liberal social progressivism (with limits – this ain't Amsterdam) alongside an embrace of free trade, limited action on environmental issues and economic inequality, and concerns with optics over substance. Recent stories about 'pay for access' to the PM's office and backtracking on some campaign promises (re pipelines, voting reform) have upset a lot of people. The NDP, as someone above said, used to be the left, union/farmer party, but has lost its way in recent years too, looking to out-Liberal the Liberals. The Bloc Quebecois is at its weakest point, but factions in Quebec are looking to import French-style policies on religious symbols and a 'code of values' that targets Muslims and Sikhs. It's a situation in which a Conservative Party embracing a softer, gentler intolerance light and even more austerity could sweep back into power, if they had the right person at the helm to give it all a face and a tv-friendly smile or at least a malicious grin.

    Some of my Canadian friends and colleagues are smug as shit about all this though – they see Trump and say, well, we're learn our lesson from watching the Americans and we won't allow the same kind of right wing populist demogoguery in our system. But recent polls by CBC and the Toronto Star show that roughly a third of Canadians think the hijab, niqab, and burqa should be banned in public, that the government has the right to tell women what they can wear, and that too many immigrants are being let in. And 2/3 agree that some form of screening for "anti-Canadian values" should be in place to prevent unwanted immigrants from coming in – this is Kellie Leitch's idiotic idea, but 'values' of course are vaguely defined. Kevin O'Leary, star of some bullshit business talk show and moronic conservative firebrand, is working the Conservatives as well, desperate to be the Canadian Trump. And it could happen. Nothing up here prevents Canada from electing a government and a PM who would send refugees back home, slam the immigration door shut for all but the richest Hong Kong investors, and impose savage cuts on welfare, health care, and education. Alberta, interior BC, the Prairies, and suburban Toronto are not that different from their American analogues – the MP from some backwoods part of southern Saskatchewan or the northern Toronto suburbs is going to get along a lot better with his counterpart in Congress from rural Missouri or suburban Cincinnati than he will with the urbane, NDP and Liberal voting hipsters I see every day where I live in a big city.

    If you want a preview of what the next federal election in Canada might be like, and how it might track the kind of things we've seen in the US and European states the last few years, watch the Ontario provincial elections next year (I know, provincial politics are SO HOT right now). The Conservatives are going to bash the Liberals while the NDP wrings its hands and wonders why nobody loves them, and install a vicious kind of austerity and push back against all kinds of social freedoms. Liberal Dems in the US, please stop pretending Canada is a socialist wonderland – it's not. It's got decent public healthcare and a lot of people are fairly progressive, but it's also the land of Rob Ford and Stephen Harper and residential schools and leaky pipelines.

  24. sluggo Says:

    @kong,
    I went to UIC for grad school, undergrad was a small liberal arts school in Chicago in the 1980's.

    You and I have a connection thru Schaumburg, we discussed it a few years ago. It's a fair chance we were on the same playground at the same time. I lived all over Chicago, now I am an exiled Chicagoan in Appalachia.

    Ed,

    Please forward my email to Major Kong, if he wants to contact me.

  25. Paul Says:

    So all the Jill Stein voters were deluded in thinking that a vote for Jill Stein would pull the Democratic party to the left? Who knews?

    Oh, besides literally fucking everybody.

  26. Michael P Says:

    "There are adults – adults with voting rights – who literally believe that people like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair are hardcore Communists, or whatever language they would use to describe the most extreme left-wing political positions imaginable. This is frightening and amusing in equal measures, and it is solely the fault of the mainstream liberal parties in the affected countries."

    I would disagree with this. It certainly doesn't follow from the centrist policies you cite after this passage. You have to take into account the massive, and massively successful, right-wind propaganda effort to portray *anyone* left of center as a hardcore Communist, regardless of their actual policies. The math in these adults' heads is "not Republican/Tory/whatever the traditional right-wing party is = Communist."

  27. Skepticalist Says:

    The US doesn't have health care because there are still so many boomers that think they are cowboy Libertarians and are still glued to western movies and reruns of that Texas Ranger TV thing that will probably run forever.

    Of course Canadian drugs are inferior to good old American drugs produced in Ireland.

  28. Michael Says:

    "Communist" has always been a conservative code word for "Does not hate people of color".

  29. Skipper Says:

    It's a world-wide experience of the "ratchet and pawl" effect. Like a ratchet, the "conservatives" move to the right. Then, the "leftists," like a pawl, click into place and prevent things from moving in the reverse direction. Then, the conservatives move the ratchet once more to the right, and obligingly, the leftists click the pawl into place, preventing any move in the reverse direction. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

    Here's a good explanation of how it works.

    http://stopmebeforeivoteagain.org/stopme/chapter02.html

  30. rgcalgary Says:

    Long time reader- first time responder

    As a 52 year old Canadian these are my thoughts:

    Canadian Governance, federal and provincial:
    Scandinavian levels of taxation, mediocre and eroding provision of services.A unionized, bloated, civil service completely isolated and insulated from the realities of the Canadians that strive to stay afloat in the actual economy.

    Trudeau:
    His form of address reminds me of public school teachers who spoke very slowly in little words so the thickest kids could understand. This is either condescension on his part or he is actually one of the thicker kids.

    Oil:
    We'll be using the stuff for the foreseeable future. Pipelines are a safer delivery system. Filthy dirty Alberta crude stacks up pretty well against the Nigerian,Venezuelan or Californian forms of the product environmentally. Compares well with all middle eastern forms geopolitically.

    Aboriginal affairs:
    Various government agencies spend over 10 billion dollars/year seeking and failing to improve the lives of 1.5 million aboriginal people. Provision of even clean water and adequate housing has proven an insurmountable problem. Since "we" can't get the basics right why are we shocked at the poor educational outcomes and incarceration rates of aboriginal people?

    Immigration:
    We pat ourselves on the back for welcoming many immigrants and refugees, provide them with one year of language instruction and other aide then fling them into the maw of the post-industrial Canadian economy. That many people end up on standard welfare or otherwise fail to thrive should be no surprise. That this exacerbates tensions within our society should come as no surprise either. Elements on the Right exploit these (real) tensions for political gain. For the Left this ongoing national experiment is untouchably perfect and may not be commented on by anyone.

    Left/Right /Centre
    Makes no real difference. Canadians, I think rightly, are content with and proud of the mixed economy we have created. It was hard won but it will be easily lost.

  31. Brian M Says:

    rgcalgary: Funny. That is my thought when listening to the AMZING11!!!!11 Orator Obama speak.

    "Assistant Vice Principal for Discipline and Compliance".

  32. Isaac Says:

    @Brian, so I'm not the only one? I have never been able to stand Obama's speaking style, especially when he tries to get all “folksy.”

  33. Brian M Says:

    The paeans to his awesomeness are tiresome. Obama is everything outlined here. Sure, he is better than the Mango Mussolini and the latter's crew of rapacious swamp critters, but…

  34. Optimus Primate Says:

    You referenced my homeskillet Eugene Debs.

    We might just have to kiss now.

  35. Gerald McGrew Says:

    @wetcastements,

    I know it's become a common theme among many on the left now, but this notion that "non-wealthy white Americans will literally vote against their own economic and medical self-interests if it means they get to go to a rally and yell "Jew" or "n*gger"", is not only offensive, it's also wrong.

    I'm the "token liberal" within my circle of white conservative friends and family, and not one of them fits what you describe. Now, I'm sure there is a percentage among the larger group that are like that, but it's nothing more than lazy stereotyping to characterize the entire group that way.

    This stereotype of an explanation for the election results misses a couple of things. First, in the eyes of the conservative voters, they were NOT voting against their own economic interest. Trump ran on a very clear message that he was going to bring back working-class jobs, and that the lower and middle classes were getting screwed over by the system. Bernie ran on essentially the same message, but where he (correctly IMO) identified the culprit as the wealthy and Wall St., Trump scapegoated "the Washington elite" and their trade deals.

    Now try and drop identity politics for a moment and think about that for a second. The left was largely against the TPP, even to the point of forcing Hillary to switch to being against it, right? So you had candidates from both parties identifying trade deals as being bad for the American working class. But by the time it got down to the real election season, only one of the two candidates made that a core theme and maintained it throughout…..Trump. Hillary barely gave it a passing mention most of the time, and her jobs/economic message was mostly "raise taxes on the rich, invest in infrastructure", which is at least 3 degrees removed from directly telling the working class that they will get good jobs. That's not good messaging.

    So from the perspective of many in the working class, they were voting IN their economic self-interest, not AGAINST it.

    Finally (trying not to make this too long), the one theme that has been maintained throughout among just about every conservative I know is the Supreme Court and abortion. Many of these white working class folks are quite religious and are viscerally opposed to abortion, especially "abortions of convenience" (those that aren't about health, rape, or things like that).

    We cannot underestimate the importance Scalia's death had in all this. Trump's campaign knew this and exploited it quite well. I saw several of his rallies where he directly told the crowd "This is it. This is the last chance you'll ever have" when talking about the Supreme Court and abortion. And given the demographic trends, he was right and his audience knew it. That motivated the religious right to get behind Trump to a degree that even I underestimated. (I thought the pussy-grabbing tape was the end of their support for him, but I greatly underestimated just how desperately they want to end abortion)

    So no, this isn't as simplistic and race-oriented as you make it out to be.

  36. gaderson Says:

    @Gerald McGrew Says

    So from the perspective of many in the working class, they were voting IN their economic self-interest, not AGAINST it.

    Except we as 'thinking' people recognize that Trump is lying and he would never be able to help the worker, that's what's so exasperating. But, along with abortion, it seems much was about race (check out the history of abortion too — only came about when desegregation was starting to be enacted), as talk of real economic issues seemed to be cover for the Republicans.
    This is also one of the quandaries of the 'Populist' movement here in the US; is that you can't give government handouts to just the White people — with the more homogenized European countries awarding your 'voters' is easier. No 'Welfare Queens' to rail on.

    @ed

    My family was talking recently how now that we're living in California we feel like wimps when we remember the weather in the Midwest. I distinctly also remember (from four years at college on the North Side) it finally getting above freezing and being able to go outside in just a sweatshirt.

  37. NickT Says:

    FWIW, I think the "conservative"who yell various racially offensive things are a distraction from the fundamental reality of conservatism. Conservatives are the party of short-term thinking and self-chosen ignorance. They'll fight anyone who challenges their right to self-destructive greed and militant corruption. They are the people who have squandered America's legacies of science, infrastructure, an economy that actually worked for a majority of the population. What have they got in return? Obesity, rage and fact-free self-pity.

  38. April Says:

    @Gabriel – I have a rabbit fur coat. It is the warmest, and most comfortable coat I have ever worn. Unless you are a vegan who eschews all medical treatment (the research having been done on animals) you have no right to rally against ranched fur products. If we can kill an animal for meat, or research, we can kill that same animal for its fur or skin. Dead is dead. Besides, fur rots, unlike all the plastic/polyester coats that will remain in the landfills until the sun explodes. Sure, clubbed baby endangered white rhino horn fur is terrible and should be banned, but non-endangered ranched animal fur is no different than a hamburger.

    @Sluggo and MK – OO OO OO (hand in air jumping in seat) Can I join? Went to Western, graduated from Southern, lived in Chicago for several years, grew up outside of Kankakee. Re. the weather…when I was a kid it would snow sometime in October (maybe even Sept) and there would be snow on the ground until March, at least. When I was living in Chicago in the early two thousandses there were a couple of brief snowfalls which quickly melted. That the earth is getting hotter is obvious.

  39. Gabriel508 Says:

    @Heisenberg. "We" don't need to do anything.

    I'm an animal rights activist, so I'll do what I do. And you can go around lecturing people who vote the same way you do because of a throwaway comment they made on a blog. Which is apparently what you do.

  40. Brian M Says:

    Nick T: I think you misread what conservatism has traditionally been: Maintenance of existing privilege.

    What is interesting is that modern BIZNESS KONSERVATIVES also worship at the temple of chaos. Creative destruction is their mantra. Which on the one hand threatens privilege and elites but on the other hand destroys barriers (community pressure, the State, religion even) to said elites doing whatever the hell they want.

  41. mothra Says:

    Glad Canuckistani said it: before we get too smug about Canada being the great liberal north, just remember Rob Ford. Who got elected TWICE.

  42. NickT Says:

    @Brian M

    "Nick T: I think you misread what conservatism has traditionally been: Maintenance of existing privilege."

    That's the (unconvincing) Corey Robin line, which arguably applies to some strands of European conservatism, but has little to do with the modern American variety. Modern conservatism is nothing more than a radicalized nationalist/oligarchic vehicle for class warfare and theft of public money assets by party donors. Follow the money and you'll see what really matters to them.

    Creative destruction isn't really a Republican mantra as much as it is a libertarian/Silicon valley mantra espoused by people who use it as a shield for their various screw-ups and inability to run a business competently and honestly.

  43. Gateau Says:

    I am also an American living in Canada and I hunk @canuckistani just nails it.

  44. Gateau Says:

    Uh, think, not hunk. But you knew that.

  45. ConcernedCitizen Says:

    We cannot underestimate the importance Scalia's death had in all this. Trump's campaign knew this and exploited it quite well. I saw several of his rallies where he directly told the crowd "This is it. This is the last chance you'll ever have" when talking about the Supreme Court and abortion. And given the demographic trends, he was right and his audience knew it. That motivated the religious right to get behind Trump to a degree that even I underestimated. (I thought the pussy-grabbing tape was the end of their support for him, but I greatly underestimated just how desperately they want to end abortion)

    So did I and, I think, virtually all political commentators. It's quite surreal, actually–that concern over the souls of first-trimester fetuses could determine who became the Commander in Chief of the most powerful military on the planet. But this is America, after all.

    Also, I agree with you and Victor Davis Hanson about Trump supporters voting in their economic self-interest. I just doubt that they actually did; I think they were suckered. Although the next four years might prove me wrong.

  46. jcdenton Says:

    @April
    I'm not sure how your argument started, but there clearly are gradations of justifiable reasons to kill animals based on the usefulness to humans and distance from higher brain functions. Scientific research? Yes (with an ethics department overseeing and preventing cruelty to animals. Also computer models are able to reduced animal mortality significantly). Cosmetics? No. Go smear yourself with berry juice. Meat? Sure, although I'm waiting for better alternatives like insects (and certain forms of ranching are contributing to AGW). Clothing? There are lots of great alternatives to fur (goose down, for one) and knowing that rabbit probably died only for the fur makes any argument about "using all the parts of the animal" null and void. And yeah, it's possible to hold more complex ethical positions on the issue than just "kill all/none of the animals".

    @NickT
    I guess I would make a distinction between American grassroots and political conservatism. In the political sphere, you are certainly correct to point out the naked greed and corruption. However, modern grassroots conservative thought seems to be bending towards National Socialism (the general idea, not the specific version of 1932) and Autarky, if ever so slowly. The fact that many white welfare recipients are expressing welfare chauvinism (i.e. welfare for me, but not for those lazy n***ers) kind of indicates that it is about preservation/regaining of privileged even in the context of a welfare state. Grassroots conservative rejection of Neo-Liberalism and Free Trade isn't without tensions but does alse indicate a shift towards viewing the nation state as being under assault by more competitive external forces and a broad desire to close off those avenues of vulnerability.

    If I were a more clever thinker, I would even artfully point out that the Right's new insult of the day ("cuck") is an expression of vulnerability toward and simultaneous attempt to denigrate minorities that seem to be doing better than whites. In porn, cucks are invariably male and white, invariably dominated by well-endowed black men ("bulls") who have their way with the wife of the cuck. The cuck is both stimulated and denigrated by the taboo shift in the power balance. Calling everyone else a cuck or beta speaks to a desire to pre-empt any accusation of having lost social status. I'm not a more clever thinker though, so this point largely meanders.

    @canuckistani
    Between Rob and Doug Ford (his even shittier brother), Kelly Leitch, Kevin O'Leary and that 19-year old loon in Ontario, we really have nothing to be smug about. We're one bad election away from electing some Trump clones. If only the Liberals in Ontario were a smidgen less incompetent right now.

  47. wetcasements Says:

    "Now try and drop identity politics for a moment and think about that for a second."

    "Make America Great Again" was the embodiment of identity politics.

  48. tomwhoathere Says:

    I went to school at McGill. Trudeau spent some time there. His reputation as a notoriously lousy student is very well known.

  49. slybrarian Says:

    @Heisenberg
    "So stop with the fur, and the transgender bathrooms, and let's focus on a bigger message that resonates with MANY more Americans: jobs, economic inequality, and money in politics."

    Wonderful, it's "fuck you, I got mine," from the liberal side. Pro tip: it's not the Democrats who were obsessed with bathrooms, that was entirely the Republicans. Why should LGBT people sit down and shut up when they are being attacked? The only reason same-sex marriage, or for that matter same-sex sex, is legal is because we refused be quiet when people like you told us to.

    Not only is your statement insulting, it's also blatantly counterfactual. In North Carolina, epicenter of the bathroom battle, the Democratic candidate won the governor's race, and the party got more votes for the legislature.

  50. democommie Says:

    They call people like me anything along a spectrum from "fuzzy thinkin' liebral" to "commie stooge".

    I call them what they are, "Reactionaries". They ARE NOT Conservatives.

    The vast majority of Trumpligulistas that I speak to ARE racist (yes, I can hear the dogwhistles); chauvinistic–or outright misogynists; xenophobic; culturall, economic, geographic and geopolitical illiterates (and they don't read anything that doesn't support their prejudicial thinking).

    Their current hero is an YUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE asshole who has made self-promotion a business and hatred a virtue.

    IF George Orwell and JESUS are anywhere at all, they're prolly sharing a blunt with Bob Marley or shootin' up with Lenny Bruce and William Burroughs, LTAO at us and the rest of the idiots.

  51. Brian M Says:

    democommie: I think the bigger factor is their sheer religious wackaloonery. It was suburban fundamentalists, not all "working class" or "poor" or uneducated* that put Trump over the edge.

    *I would argue that believing the particularly nasty Calvinist threads which dominate the American religious right shows that even if one has a degree, one has long strangled one's education. Not to worry, the new DeVos regime will make sure that only proper Church Larnin' is supported in the new Handmaidenly world.

  52. Townsend Harris Says:

    Donald Trump is a confidence artist. "Make America Great Again" was his slogan for gaming his marks: working class voters.
    When Trump's policies fail to restore good-paying jobs for the (white) working class, Trump will blame the usual immigrants and minorities.
    The American right has made Vietnam our version of the German right's post-WWI stab-in-the-back myth. Is 9/11 our version of the Reichstag fire? Or do we need one more catastrophe?

  53. democommie Says:

    @Townsend Harris:

    Do you Trumpligula's victory or that+1?

  54. democommie Says:

    "Do yo mean"

    I hate this fucking tablet's "quirks"!

  55. Tim Says:

    Excellent post and I pretty much have to agree with all of it. In addition to the gradual and constant rightward shift of the Democrats, I think there is also something else going on since the election of Trump. Many people have become so unhinged by it (not saying I really blame them) that they are willing to say and believe ANYTHING if there is the slightest chance it will discredit the Orange Menace. We are truly living in Bizarro World when "liberals" valorize the CIA, NSA, etc. and take their word as gospel and also barely stop short of calling for war with Russia.

    Meanwhile, here is a short video showing what an actual 21st-century leftist leader can do for his country with talent, brains and determination. Unfortunately, some of the same liberals I mention above will have bought into the MSM/Deep State/rightwing propaganda that Rafael Correa is a "tyrant" (he is not):

  56. Brian M Says:

    Townsend Harris:

    I am skeptical that ANY politician would be able to "bring jobs back" to the white working class. Hard core trade wars will not ultimately work (slowing, or crashing the overall economy is hardly a way to bring back 1957).

    Automation is here. Full AI is coming. Autonomous trucking is coming.

    I am fearful where the left behind working class will turn next when the glory days for white ethnics do not return.

  57. Brian M Says:

    Tim:

    Maybe Correa is a good thing. Heck, Chavez was at one point. But look at how Morales' Bolivia is devolving into one party statism and deep level corruption. (Not that the right wing oligarchs were much better).

  58. Aurora S Says:

    I disagree about "conservative poor whites aren't voting against their interests because racism". After coming from The City, moving to Appalachia, and being exposed to the unrepentant tribalism, its true that they're not voting against all of their interests. They're voting against a good number of them, such as healthcare, education, and the air they breathe and water they drink, but the most important interest they have is maintaining white supremacy, and Trump pandered to this very successfully.

    Cheeto Benito is clearly full of shit. He can't keep his lies straight. He's completely unqualified, and one of those Godless Big City Yankees that they're taught to loathe. But ALL you have to do to hook them is give the Muslims, Mexicans, and guns. Have they ever actually met a Muslim? Of course not. But they're terrified of the idea of Muslims and have been groomed to believe that they're a threat to their whole way of life. They've probably seen a Latino before (who are all "Mexican"), and they're convinced that they're totally responsible for the lack of jobs. Because it's easier to scapegoat brown people than it is to think. Truly, deep down, they thoroughly believe with all their hearts that white people are the naturally superior race. Trump very deftly exploited this.

    The Christianity thing is a bullshit justification for why it's okay to hate and oppress others. Religion has been racialized by conservatives. Some of these people are very cultish in their Christianity (snake-handling and all of that bullshit), but many are just sort of vaguely Christian. Republicans hook them just the same, for the same reasons. Ask someone who doesn't go to church and engages in all of the bullshit that they preach against in Christianity why gay people are "bad", and they're likely to give you the same answer as the Bible-beaters: God is against it and they're going to hell.

    Oh and the misogyny…oh the misogyny. It's a deeply ingrained tradition here in Appalachia. But that's not really the point right now. The point is that they absolutely LOVE to hate people. Their churches are just weekly hate rallies. It gives them a purpose: "things may be bad, but at least we're not Them".

  59. Katydid Says:

    @Aurora S; Amen! I'm not living in Appalachia but it's not that far away either. I see those attitudes, too.

    @NickT: also an Amen to what you wrote: Conservatives are the party of short-term thinking and self-chosen ignorance. They'll fight anyone who challenges their right to self-destructive greed and militant corruption. They are the people who have squandered America's legacies of science, infrastructure, an economy that actually worked for a majority of the population. What have they got in return? Obesity, rage and fact-free self-pity.

  60. Major Kong Says:

    The worst thing that ever happened to Christianity in this country was when it became a political party.

  61. Brian M Says:

    A friend wrote an interesting response to slybrian/Heisenberg (agreeing with the former):

    I just watched President Obama's last press conference, where he had a particularly thoughtful discussion on his work on LGBT rights, and heard some of the CSPAN callers after he was finished. One older woman described how Trump won not because of the Russians but instead because "Christians stood up for themselves" after being "put down" (despite simultaneously being "in the minority"…presumably on subjects like LGBT rights).

    I honestly think one of the most illustrating case studies for progressive reform came with Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Obama used a majority in Congress to overcome procedural partisanship, but also patiently worked with the Defense department to review the changes, assuage any concerns with rational argument and careful planning, then patiently executed on a comprehensive and permanent reform of a large and complicated institution. It was philosopher king politics, and it never sacrificed the moral argument on equal rights. Now, it took success in a big elections, which included in this case a president campaigning against gay marriage, but when I hear this discussion that "centrist" positions are going to succeed where minorities are concerned, I think of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. It was a stupid and harmful policy, passed because of this kind of thinking, and Obama righted the ship with a little "identity politics" regolith atop his bedrock of progressive reform.

    …I think you'll find that a whole hell of a lot of problems for leftist reform coalitions stem from the tendency of privilege to interfere with cohesion. For instance, among historians asking "why did America never develop a socialist/labor party?", the general consensus as I understand it boils down to racial divisions among the working-class–which were both skillfully exploited by enemies of reform, and which eroded the organizational effectiveness within groups. Thus, when I hear this motif (often from white, male critics), I usually perceive it as counter-effective.

    For example, on the subject of law enforcement reform, activists of color might employ more invective in their critique than white libertarians concerned more abstractly with the militarization of the police, but both groups are working on the same issue. Someone like an Obama was able to invite one party after another to the table, and though his was not a perfect model on many subjects (for example, his selections for the panel reviewing the NSA's unconstitutional surveillance program were largely seen as friendly to the agency), I think it was a step in the right direction.

  62. Brian M Says:

    Aurora S:

    Have you heard of or read Albion's Seed?

    Interesting review of the book from a few years ago here:

    http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/search?q=Albion

    The author posits that modern American politics is still divided by the culture of the original English settlers in the United States. Appalachia was settled by a rather…violent, honor-based society, the Borderers. Religiosity, tribal thinking, the Code of Honor.

    The rest of the South was settled by the lesser sons of Aristocrats, and the "Cavalier" culture took very well to being a slave owning society disdainful of cities and also very "honor code" based.

  63. Brian M Says:

    They are really nuts. And they are in charge. Senator Sessions has some lovely friends.

    http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/

  64. April Says:

    @JCDenton – fur animal carcasses are used in pet food. And goose down is a better alternative? Do you know how they get those feathers? Either by killing the goose or plucking feathers off live geese which is as painful as it sounds. Doesn't seem like a more ethical alternative to me. (Not to mention that the down is stuffed into a never-dissolving plastic case.)

  65. democommie Says:

    "Automation is here. Full AI is coming. Autonomous trucking is coming.

    I am fearful where the left behind working class will turn next when the glory days for white ethnics do not return."

    Will the tumbrils and guillotines be autonomous, as well?

  66. Katydid Says:

    @BrianM; "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was a first step. It was enacted back in, what? 92? 93? I was still active duty then. Some of my comrades I was sure were gay, but before that time we didn't ask, didn't tell anyway–because the consequences of outing a gay person in the military was getting them dishonorably discharged. DADT was an attempt to protect LGBT servicemembers. Like the ACA, it was the best solution a Democratic president could get through Republican obstructionists. TBH, I had more issues with sexual harassment straight male comrades than any LGBT one. But then–as now–sexual harassment and assault is often overlooked by the military.

  67. Katydid Says:

    @April; cats are obligate carnivores (unfortunately) and while my dog would happily live off pizza crusts and whatever he's currently snarfling out of the carpet, that's not a healthy diet for dogs. I'm lucky enough to buy my meat (beef/pork/chicken/lamb) from a farmer who pasture-raises her animals and I make a lot of my own pet food, but not everyone has that ability. HOWEVER, I completely agree with you that down is absolutely horrific in its procurement.

  68. April Says:

    @Katydid – my whole point is, if it's ethical to raise animals you then kill, it doesn't matter what you are killing them for, as long as they are raised in good conditions and killed humanly. Oh, and one more thing about fur – it's a renewable resource, unlike the petroleum that plastics are made from.

  69. Pat Says:

    @Gerald McGrew:

    "working class" voters didn't vote for Trump, at least not in greater numbers than they had voted for Republicans in the past. Trump's base was what used to get called the petit bourgeousie—owners of small businesses, family businesses, middle class professionals etc.

    The reason Trump succeeded (such as he did) was that working class voters stayed home, rather than vote for the Democrat, at a higher rate than in the past.

  70. Brian M Says:

    Katydid: I think my friend would acknowledge your arguments as also true and part of a long term change. Even as imperfect as DADT was.

  71. Brian M Says:

    Pat: I think the evangelical movement, which includes quite a few of this petit bourgeoisie, was a big part of his success. Because Toxic Masculinity. And the success (deliberately created) of tying the pro-life Catholic Church to right wing evangelicals.

    Gawd, I hate the kind of sexual essentialism that is such a big part of the American right wing. Especially (not to engage in the same kind of gender essentialism I am decrying) given how…DWEEBY…these nasty little neo-Nazis are.

  72. Brian M Says:

    democommie:

    Given that many elements of the working class will be HAPPY to accept well paying positions as private security (or in our militarized police and security services), I am not sure the 1% have much to worry about.

    "I can hire one half of the working class to protect me from the other half" (badly mangled paraphrase, but it applies even more today.

  73. democommie Says:

    @Brian M:

    They will not be wellpaid jobs.

  74. jim Says:

    Yeah, our Liberals don't necessarily act liberal.

    Justin's very Liberal Dad got his fame in no small part when asked if he'd enact the War Measures Act & put us under de facto martial law, replying "Just watch me."

    Cutesy overpolite meme notwithstanding, Canadian culture has a pretty dark ugly historical closet. We've had Liberal rule for most of post-1967 history – & our Native Reservations were what South Africa studied & then modelled Apartheid's Bantustans on. There's evidence of what can only be called retail mass murder in the BC interior waaaaaaaaaay back circa 1950. A nice polite Tory lady who wants to be our next PM made fans aplenty by floating mandatory loyalty oaths for new citizens waaaaaaaaay back circa late 2016.

    Being both affluent & pliable, we're also the corporate world's go-to lab for social engineering research – the 1970s TV-computer hybrid TeleCon (sp?) in Ontario was an Interwebz-Beta dry run, the first online commerce was in Vancouver & we tend to have been sold brand new things like ATMs, supermarket self-checkouts & cellphones with hipsterish velocity.

    Pretty fucked up, eh?

  75. democommie Says:

    "we tend to have been sold brand new things like ATMs, supermarket self-checkouts & cellphones with hipsterish velocity."

    Oh, yeah, politenessboy? Well, we beat the shit outta you guys when it comes to killing 3rdworldmofos we disagree with!

  76. Brian M Says:

    3rdworldmofos? Plus, we are enthusiastic about stomping the boot on our own poorer people.