Sunday, June 16, 2019


Weekend Roundup

Quite a bit below. After a very depressing/blasé week, I got an early start on Friday, and started feeling better -- not for the nation or the world, but pleased to be occupied with some straightforward, tangible work. One thing I can enjoy some optimism about is the Democratic presidential campaign. I expected it to be swallowed whole with the sort of vacant, pious clichés that Obama and the Clintons have been campaigning on for decades now, but what we're actually seeing is a lot of serious concern for policy. The clear leader in that regard is Elizabeth Warren, and of course Bernie Sanders has a complete matching set with if anything a little more courage and conviction, but I've run across distinct and refreshing ideas from another half-dozen candidates. I haven't noticed Biden rising to that challenge yet. He remains the main beneficiary of as fairly widespread faction that would be quite satisfied with their lives if only the Republican threat would subside in favor of the quiet competency Obama brought to government. Personally, I wouldn't mind that either, but I recognize that has a lot to do with my age. Young people inhabit a very different world, one with less opportunity and much graver risks, so platitudes from America's liberal past don't do them much good, or offer much hope. They face real and growing problems, and not just from Republicans (although those are perhaps the hoariest). Talking about policy actually offers them some prospect that faith alone can never fill. And sooner or later, even Biden's going to have to talk about policy, because that's where the campaign is heading.

This could hardly offer a starker contrast to the 2016 Republican presidential primary, where there was virtually no difference regarding policy -- just minor tweaks to each candidate's plan to steer more of the nation's wealth to the already rich, along with a slight range of hues on how hawkish one can be on the forever wars and how racist one can be when dealing with immigrants and the underclass. The real price of entry wasn't ideas or commitment. It was just the necessity to line up one or more billionaire sponsors -- turf that credibly favored Trump as his billionaire/candidate were one. The fact that Cruz and Kasich folded when they still had primaries they could plausibly have won is all the proof you need that the financiers pulled the strings, and as soon as they understood that Trump would win the nomination, they understood that he was as good for their purposes as anyone else, so they got on board.

Democrats may have a harder time finding unity in 2020, because their candidates are actually divided on issues that matter. On the other hand, they are learning to discuss those issues rationally, especially the candidates who are pushing the Overton Window left. Even if they wind up nominating some kind of centrist, that person is going to be more open to solutions from the left, and that's a good thing because that's where the real solutions are. Franklin Roosevelt wasn't any kind of leftist when he was elected in 1932, and his famous 100 days were all over the map, but he was open to trying things, and quickly found out that left solutions worked better than conservative ones. We're not quite as mired in crisis as America was in 1932, but it's pretty clear that catastrophe is coming if Trump and the Republicans stay in power. The option for 2020 is whether to face our problems calmly and rationally with deliberate policy choices or to continue to thrash reflexively and chaotically. There's no need to imagine how bad the latter may be, because Trump's illustrating it perfectly day by day.


Some scattered links this week: