GET LOW (EXPECTATIONS)

I wrote the following back in January:

(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.

It was on my mind all weekend after ex-President GW Bush released a fairly blunt anti-Trump statement to positive reviews late last week. We got to the point I was referencing in January – David Frum and Bill Kristol as voices of reason, W sounding like a master orator, gutter-dwelling GOP Senators elevated to the position of heroes – a lot more quickly than I expected. And it's probably going to keep getting worse.

Think about this for a second and consider how alarming it is. Bush, Frum, and Kristol – three of the primary architects of a strategy to fabricate and cherry-pick intelligence to justify a war that we're still involved in 15 years later – look at the way Trump treats the truth and are (or at least present themselves as) horrified. It's good that they're willing to be critical. I wonder, however, if they have any conception of what role they played in paving the way for Trump to happen. They were the ones that elevated Fox News to the gospel truth, treated all disagreement as unpatriotic slander, and gleefully took advantage of the basest parts of the GOP electorate. If they're learning a lesson from this at all, it's that next time they need a tighter grip on power within the GOP.

These are not good people. These are not people with pure motives or anything resembling ideological moderation. They are the same far-right neocons they were in 2002 and the only difference is that a plurality of the GOP base has lurched far enough to the right since then to make people like Rumsfeld, Bush, Ashcroft, and that whole cast of bloodless hacks look moderate in comparison. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party continues to think that the path to success points toward the right. They're beginning to wobble on immigration the same way they always accepted the consensus against gay marriage and deregulation – soon "getting tougher" on immigration will be yet another issue that Everybody agrees upon.

"It could be worse" has always been a key component of politics in a two-party system. Now that we've reached a point at which it can't get a whole lot worse, anything and anyone who looks better than our mental worst case scenario looks good. And that's as dangerous in the long term as the current administration. Imagine a future in which Ted Cruz and Bob Corker, because they criticized Trump a handful of times, portray themselves as moderates and the media plays along.

Some days I'm convinced that I won't live to see the damage being done right now undone.

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52 Responses to “GET LOW (EXPECTATIONS)”

  1. John Danley Says:

    And I assumed negative infinity was the lowest possible number.

  2. carrstone Says:

    Another whine without a solution in sight, at least, not one I can glean. It's like listening to Cassandra or the Delphic Oracle = without the charm.

  3. schmitt trigger Says:

    "….W sounding like a master orator…."

    Just thinking about the significance of this. will keep me awake at night.

  4. Ten Bears Says:

    I enjoy being a Cassandra. Nobody listens to me, but I'm right.

    George W Bush is a War Criminal that should be swinging from the gallows at The Hague to this day, a god-damned monster who actively condoned and encouraged the very bullying and prejudicial behavior he just decried, and made it socially acceptable to elect a pile of dog shit like Donald Trump.

    I don't need a tattoo to never forget.

  5. LibraryGuy Says:

    Why do you say the Democrats "They're beginning to wobble on immigration"? Who is? They're pushing for Dreamers, against the wall, against the expanded deportations… I just need a little help here on this declaration. It sounds a bit like "Dems are just like Repubs," and I don't buy that.

  6. Katydid Says:

    It was instructive to me to listen to Bush's speech, and then watch what happened as the current reich set out to destroy his reputation…and the brainwashed who previously would hear nothing bad said against Bush are now chanting for his head. It's like one of those horror movies you see on tv around this time of year, and you tell yourself, "Nobody could be THAT mentally weak"…but they CAN, and this is not fiction.

  7. Beleck Says:

    Bush belongs in Guantanamo Bay along with the "terrorists" he created with his War on Terror. lol. Bush started the whole GWOT and we have inherited "HIS" actions as far as our Wars in the Middle East. and never forget Bush let the Saudis fly home on 9-11.

    America likes its' wars. The MIC runs things now. too late to stop the Republicans and the Vichy Democrats in their Contract on America.

    it is fascinating to watch people defend Bush and his coterie of Evil. Ignorance is by an American hallmark.

    as Gordon Gecko said, "Greed is Good." and no one better personifies that than Republicans. Each President doing their best to "outdo" the previous one. Obama aka the latest Vichy Democrat, with the Crash of '08, belongs in that line up.

    Isn 't America Great or what?????

  8. Noskilz Says:

    It's certainly possible none of us will live to see the damage undone, and that wxwnoarchaeology will most likely be a rather depressing field for whatever civilization ultimately finds our remains.

  9. Noskilz Says:

    Sorry that should have been "xenoarchaeology" but there's no way to fix typos

  10. mago Says:

    They're all fucking politicians who'd use their mothers for cut-out dolls if it suited their ambitions and ideologies.
    Are we screwed yet?

  11. mago Says:

    Another thing: you can't arrange furniture while the house is on fire, so shut up Carr.

  12. Major Kong Says:

    You go out to dinner with several of your friends.

    Half vote to get pizza and the other half vote to kill you and eat you.

    Even if "pizza" wins, you've still got big problems.

  13. quixote Says:

    Major Kong. That's it exactly.

    /*endless screaming starting quietly in the background*/

  14. PhoenixRising Says:

    "Meanwhile, the Democratic Party continues to think that the path to success points toward the right."

    Say what?

  15. drouse Says:

    We'll really know that we've hit the Twilight Zone when Cheney makes his speech. Christ, personally I'm more center than left and this shit makes me want to join the anti-fa.

  16. Mistergizmo Says:

    I've been watching Joe and Mika congratulate themselves on what great pundits they are. Couldn't watch the MSNBC special on their show — made me barf. I'm old enough to remember the year or so that it was Morning Trump, with guests Mika and Joe. They'd just put the phone on speaker and let Trump tout how great he was, with no pushback. They are as responsible as anyone for his election, yet now that the consequences have become clear, they act as if they had nothing to do with it. They're shocked! shocked! at how bad he is. Hypocrites.

  17. Tim H. Says:

    Some influential Democrats feel all that must be done is to be less right wingnut than the GOP, they're truly not as awful, but it's not the same as good. FDR's economic bill of rights wood be a nice start on good.

  18. Monte Davis Says:

    This recalibration has had a special twist with the "adult supervision" group: Kelly, Mattis, McMaster, Tillerson. Many were so eager to believe there's someone — anyone — in a position to check Trump's most infantile impulses that they haven't registered that all of these would have been, e.g., at the rightward end of Bush 43's circle.

    "Less floridly awful than Flynn, Bannon, or Scaramucci " is a low bar.

  19. Timurid Says:

    But pizza didn't win.

  20. Jestbill Says:

    Obama didn't vote for AUMF: Obama good.
    HRC did: HRC bad.

    Obama was in the news when the economy was down: Obama bad.
    Trump was on TV and rich: Trump good.

    USA! USA! USA! USA! USA!

    What exactly would have happened to France without a Vichy government? Had they stood up to the last man, would the Nazis have seen the error of their ways and gone home? Dipshit analogies.

    Two parties. FPTP voting system. Deal with reality; the 60's are over, it is now 1930.

  21. Francis Says:

    I encourage everyone to go read Crooked Timber, Maria's post of 10/23.

  22. Mo Says:

    Ten Bears and Major Kong: Yep.

    Their hatred for everyone who's not on their side is so great that it's all but impossible to share a political system with them anymore. That's the story that needs reporting.

  23. mothra Says:

    I thought I remembered reading Cheney deploring Trump either right before or right after the election. I thought we'd gone through the looking glass at that point. But yes, anyone who now nods and agrees that GWB is a statesman was apparently not conscious from 2000 through 2008.

    And, no, things will get much, much, much worse before they get better. IF they get better. Nuclear oblivion is hovering just over the horizon…

  24. Ten Bears Says:

    Be quicker than suffocating in our own flatulence.

  25. Gerald McGrew Says:

    For those who think Ed's post raises good points (and it does), you should drop by Driftglass' blog a few times a week.

    He's done an amazing job of shouting this very message (and documenting it all) for well over a decade now.

  26. democommie Says:

    "W sounding like a master orator.

    Yeah, no. Mastur–something, not orator.

  27. Big Tim Says:

    What Ten Bears said !

  28. FDChief Says:

    Carrstone KNOWS what the solution is. He just can't accept that it's the same sort of thing that Cato the Elder ended all his speeches with:

    "Also, the GOP must be destroyed."

    When you look at the problem, the solution is obvious.

  29. Major Kong Says:

    The GOP at this point most closely resembles a religious cult.

  30. Pat Says:

    "Now that we've reached a point at which it can't get a whole lot worse…."

    Famous last words.

  31. Pat Says:

    @LibraryGuy, if you're looking for a Democrat who's absolutely awful on immigration, um, Barack Obama.

  32. carrstone Says:

    @FDChief

    Not so much Cato in Ed, more Private Fraser.

  33. geoff Says:

    "Some days I'm convinced that I won't live to see the damage being done right now undone."

    Been there since about 2003 or so. President Obama pretty much sealed the deal, so I've leveled up to EVERY day.

    Honestly, except for dismantling the EPA and trying to sell off US public lands to oil/gas/mining interests (see Bush 2), the GEB is at this point mainly guilty of being an asshole who won't/ can't shut up.

    Bush was an asshole who invaded other countries for bullshit reasons, expanded the surveillance state to truly Orwellian levels, and ran a worldwide program of kidnaping, torture, and murder, complete with its own gulags. Obama gave his predecessor a pass on all the above domestic and international crimes, invaded a couple MORE countries, and really ramped up the drone assassination program, even murdering US citizens with no real legal oversight. Worst constitutional law professor EVER.

  34. geoff Says:

    Otoh,
    "It's time to realize he's not just some "loose cannon" who will soon be swept away by "the grown-ups in the room." The so-called grown-ups in the room are the ones who are empowering him. He is working hard to give them everything they've ever dreamed of: unregulated corporate rapine; unlimited military spending; control of the media; control of education; unrestricted police powers to protect their wealth and power from any protest or resistance; restricting or eliminating the right to vote to all sorts of the "wrong" kind of people who might vote to advance the common good instead of elite interests; using ALEC and other far-right "legal" groups to pass laws restricting the rights of states and communities to make their own decisions and cut off the avenues of legal redress for ordinary people; constructing a new kind of society based on fearful obedience, draconian authority, elite control and the subjugation of individual citizens."

    http://www.chris-floyd.com/home/articles/no-exit-a-grim-vision-of-the-post-trump-future-12102017.html

  35. Mo Says:

    Remind me again how Republicans aren't Chinese Communist Party Lite?

    The differences seem to be on a diminishing curve…

  36. jcdenton Says:

    @Mo

    The Chinese Communist Party has tried to nurture some forms of local business, is big on growth spending and is at least starting to give a shit about air quality and renewable energy. So you know, better in some ways than the Republicans.

  37. jcdenton Says:

    Imperialist, klepto-capitalist sack of shit carrstone complains about how no one is solving the problems he and his friends actively worked to create. Oh man, this is some grade-A trolling.

  38. democommie Says:

    @ jcdenton:

    "The Chinese Communist Party has tried to nurture some forms of local business, is big on growth spending and is at least starting to give a shit about air quality and renewable energy."

    It might be time for a re-design to something like, um, maybe,

    "Sweatshops-R-Us–The New and IMPROVED Middle Kingdom." less turmoil and bloodshed, still the same great slave laboring conditions."

  39. Ryan Ogilvie Says:

    Not sure what the argument is, here. Is it a slippery slope argument? Applaud Frum, Bush, and Kristol for their remarks about Trump (which I tend to agree with) and the next thing you know you'll be saying "fuck the immigrants"? I see no reason why one would be rationally compelled to move from the former claim to the latter. I have no difficulty, for example, agreeing with Kristol's comments about Trump, but bristling at the way he characterizes "the left".

    Perhaps it's a kind of sociological slippery-slope claim: when the media endorses these characters for their comments, they endorse their entire political philosophies, somehow making their view centrist/mainstream. I'm not sure why I should think that this is true.

    I'm as worried about spectrum shifting as the next person on this comment section. But when GWB manages to say something coherent and relatively thoughtful, I don't see much harm in the media recognizing it as such.

  40. Bitter Scribe Says:

    Another manifestation of these low expectations is the way terrible presidents keep looking better as time goes by. Reagan made Nixon look good, Bush made Reagan look good, and now Trump is making Bush look good. I shudder to think who will make Trump look good.

  41. Bitter Scribe Says:

    Answer to above: Well, here's the answer, maybe:

    http://thehill.com/opinion/white-house/356849-bannon-may-run-for-president

  42. Lit3Bolt Says:

    I'm ambivalent about this as well. Praising W for sounding sane is a very low bar, but then again, the abyss of American conservatism truly has no bottom. If the logical progression of Trump voters is Fox News –> Brietbart —> Stormfront —> DuPont Safe Handling Guide for Zyklon-B, then praising Bush II for wearing clothes and making complete thoughts and sentences without sounding like a SS Sturmtruppen might represent a step back in the right direction.

  43. Dean Says:

    It's not a slippery slope argument. Ed wrote, "It's good that they're willing to be critical. I wonder, however, if they have any conception of what role they played in paving the way for Trump to happen. They were the ones that elevated Fox News to the gospel truth, treated all disagreement as unpatriotic slander, and gleefully took advantage of the basest parts of the GOP electorate. If they're learning a lesson from this at all, it's that next time they need a tighter grip on power within the GOP." He in fact praises Kristol et al. ("It's good…"), but he finds their motives dubious.

  44. democommie Says:

    Love their speeches, hate the speakers? I'm good with that.

  45. democommie Says:

    I was playing trivia last evening, with three people whose ages, put together, were a year or six shy of mine.

    One of the questions on the "This week in history" round was, "On October 25*, 1983 this Carribean island was invaded by the U.S.".

    These kids were fucking clueless, no idea what the question was, never mind the answer.

    * A date shared by me, with Pablo Picasso and Klaus Barbie as a birthday. I'll give you an address for cakes and money.

  46. sluggo Says:

    @decommie
    Happy Birthday, the cake and check are in the mail.
    The thing is that you and I just needed to listen to the news and remember, and those kids needed to learn the fact. I picked that up by playing trivia with an old man about the time that Grenada was fresh news, anytime a depression era question came up he killed it.

  47. Ten Bears Says:

    Doonesbury had a hey-day with that.

  48. Katydid Says:

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Demo! Many happy returns! No cake, but I've got baked dog biscuits I can send!

  49. democommie Says:

    @ sluggo:

    They also don't know some chemistry and physics, as well, too, also!

    I am not old enough (by at least 20 years) to remember The Depression. But I do know where WWI & WWII started and ended (Articles of Surrender, etc.,.) and I usually do better with the stuff prior to 1980 than most of the students/student age people in the room.

  50. democommie Says:

    @ Katydid:

    Thanks but Buddy would be totally pissed if somebody sent me a treat that smelled like something of his!

    I'm recovering from a big night out–almost 10:00 PM when I got home last night!

  51. seniorscrub Says:

    democommie,
    10PM???? You maniac.
    Happy Belated Birthday

  52. democommie Says:

    @ seniorscrub:

    I know, hedonism has a new definition, right?

    Thanks!

    But best of all, Cannedstench gave me a birthday present in the form of this:

    "I need to make a correction. I have never pretended that I intend to do anything but comment on the absurdity of the progressive delusion. Hence, I don’t think I have ever attempted or proffered solutions."

    on the "Bixby Letter" thread.

    It's not that I suspected that he WASN'T a troll but it's so nice to have someone just come right out and admit it, don't you think?