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08/30/2016

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I'm not sure who you think is going to the movie.

I wonder if you can get the election on Netflix.

I mean, I could almost vote for Frank Underwood on the lesser evil principal.

AMDG

The Underwoods have made me think of the Clintons all along, which I'm sure is not an uncommon thought.

Not a great analogy. You can ignore what you care to about campaign blather (most people do), but the consequences (such as they are) will hit you later.

When my friends and I are out at the pub and this subject comes up, I tend to zone out, despite that little voice whispering in my ear, tempting me to interrupt loudly with "Who *&*%$@!! cares?!!!"

"the consequences (such as they are) will hit you later"

A) I have no control over that, and B) the consequences portend to be equally bad, at least potentially, no matter who wins. Why waste time and energy paying undue attention?

Exactly. I have been meaning to say something about this paragraph from Grumpy's post on Augustine that she wrote for my blog this week.

Bishop Augustine now sat down to write The City of God. In The City of God Augustine argues that the real abiding city, which will last forever, is the City of God. Not the Roman Empire, but the City of God is the truest form of human community. Augustine argues that the Roman Empire was just a lot of power grabbers. In the Roman Empire, Augustine argues, under a decent guise of civility, the heart of the matter was the advantage of the stronger. This is the City of man, the human city, and it is founded on love of self, egotism. On the other hand, there is the city of God. It is based on love of God. It is built on the Love of God and the love of neighbour at the expense of love of self-ego. These two loves have built the two cities which dominate world history, love of God and neighbour, which constructs the City of God, and love of self-ego, which lies at the basis of all the politics of the city of man.

So many people are totally focused and concerned with the City of Man at the moment that they don't realized that it's possible to just turn your back on that live in the City of God. It's our only hope--not just at the moment, but always. I'm not saying that the City of God will be very comfortable at the moment, but it wasn't much fun for Augustine there at the end either.

AMDG

My comparison was to the sensation, not to the significance of the events. But regarding the event, as Rob says, it looks like we are in trouble no matter who wins.

It's funny, I'm encountering your sentiment, Janet, about turning our backs to the City of Man, or variations of it, but also, in response to the exact same situation, people saying that the most urgent thing is to work toward the temporal kingship of Christ. One thing for sure is that the first is achievable in the fairly short run, but the second is not.

Maybe I'm just pessimistic but baring a miracle I don't think the second is possible until our civilization totally collapses.

That said, part of living in the City of God is to pray for that miracle.

AMDG

I tend to agree about the collapse. Some of the people who talk about the temporal kingship make me uneasy because they sound like they would like to try to impose it on a mostly unwilling population, and I think that would be a disaster. You first have to have a culture in which the faith is widely accepted.

Maybe I'm just pessimistic but baring a miracle I don't think the second is possible until our civilization totally collapses.

You might have called what happened in western Europe and the Maghreb between 250 AD and 650 AD a 'total collapse'. You might have used to term to describe what happened in much of the Near East from 650 AD to 1070 AD, and in the remainder of the Near Wast from 1070 AD to 1453. Unless there's some sort of unanticipated demographic catastrophe, I would not wager on a replication of the 1st and the thing most likely to resemble the latter two would be a Chinese hegemony.

What's been depressing (in comparison with the period running from 1933 to about 1958) has been the incapacity of political elites to craft constructive responses to the various challenges they do face. What Conrad Black said about the American political class applies: since the end of the Cold War, they've flubbed ever notable issue bar welfare reform (and, in select loci, crime control). What would the current administration like to do? Reverse welfare reform and the partial restoration of order in inner cities.

I am praying for all sorts of miracles lately, none involving the election!

Well, I certainly wasn't talking about the election. Believe me, I have a much more important miracle to pray for--at least to me.

AMDG

Re: civilizational collapse, I read this from Whittaker Chambers recently:

"I no longer believe that political solutions are possible for us. I am baffled by the way people still speak of the West as if it were at least a cultural unity against Communism though it is divided not only by a political, but by an invisible cleavage. On one side are the voiceless masses with their own subdivisions and fractures. On the other side is the enlightened, articulate elite which, to one degree or another, has rejected the religious roots of the civilization--the roots without which it is no longer Western civilization, but a new order of beliefs, attitudes and mandates...That is the real confrontation of forces. The enemy--he is ourselves. That is why it is idle to talk about preventing the wreck of Western civilization. It is already a wreck from within."

The more that we in the West cut our roots to Christendom, the more we move towards collapse. We will have something, but it won't be "the West" as traditionally understood.

It used to astound me that people were seeing the problems described in that quote when I was just a kid or earlier. That's a good quote.

That last couple of sentences reminds me of what I think when people say that if Trump wins, it will be the end of Republican party. I think they must have missed the end of the Republican party somehow.

AMDG

Do you mean you think it ended when Trump got the nomination? Or at some point in the past?

When I talk about the end of the Republican party, I mean it fairly literally, as in there is no such thing anymore, or there is such a thing but its presence is reduced to something like that of the Libertarian party. I thought a few months ago that that might really happen, but it seems a lot less likely now. If for no other reason, the inertia of the two-party system will probably keep it going for a long time.

I mean before he got the nomination. I don't think he would have been able to get it if the Republican party could have offered a decent candidate.

Well, it's like what Chambers is saying about Western Civ. It's a wreck from within.

AMDG

There were a number of 20th c writers who saw collapse in the sense Chambers describes as a more or less fait accompli. Christendom is pretty clearly gone and has been for a while. As with the end of the Republican party, what I meant when I referred to collapse earlier was something more--a pretty thorough disintegration and transformation of the existing political and social order, something like what happened when the Roman Empire slowly decayed into nothingness. I would not be at all surprised if by the end of this century the USA had split apart.

Other options, of course, are big cataclysms like widespread nuclear war that would lead to a really thorough collapse of the kind featured in post-apocalyptic novels and movies, in which most of our advanced technology is lost, etc.

Oh yes, well so was I. I just mentioned the R. party thing because those particular sentences were a parallel to what I think about the party. It wasn't a part of the collapse conversation.

AMDG

I don't think he would have been able to get it if the Republican party could have offered a decent candidate.

There was a raft of decent candidates. Republican voters didn't want them (in some measure because they equivocated on a non-negotiable issue).

If for no other reason, the inertia of the two-party system will probably keep it going for a long time.

The Republican Party is an omnibus of people dissatisfied with the regnant liberal order in various establishments. It's likely not going anywhere as long as that order generates opposition, unless there's some alternative omnibus. It's hard to see what form such an alternative might take. None is on the horizon.

Yes, but even more fundamentally than that, the whole way things work is geared toward having two large parties. That could change but it would be a slow process.

I agree about the decent candidates. I'm not sure who's to blame for the fact that there were so many and it took so long for some of them to give up that the anti-Trump vote was divided until it was too late.

But a lot of people are getting off the bus and staying home.

I'm not saying that there won't be something there calling itself the Republican Party. I'm saying that what is there is not what one would have thought of as the Republican Party even 10 years ago, and that even though it's still there, it's like a person walking around eaten up with cancer.

AMDG

I would have agreed completely with that until very recently. Now I'm not so sure. Marco Rubio just won his primary overwhelmingly. Maybe Trump is more of a fluke than we think. I'm not at all sure whether the party is going to be dominated by Trumpism now. Not that I ever though very highly of it.

This is one of those times when I feel like I'm completely unable to communicate what I mean because y'all keep answering what I didn't say, or what I didn't mean or something, so I give up.

AMDG

Sorry!

No need to apologize. I'm sure it's just that I'm unable to say what I'm trying to say. Happens sometimes.

AMDG

I agree about the decent candidates. I'm not sure who's to blame for the fact that there were so many and it took so long for some of them to give up that the anti-Trump vote was divided until it was too late.

Five of the 17 Republican candidates left the race before a single ballot was cast. Three more left after the Iowa caucuses, three after the New Hampshire primary, and two after a couple more contests. About 94% of the popular ballots cast were cast for the four leading candidates. After each departure from the race, there was a resorting among the remainder. Had Messrs. Kasich and Rubio departed earlier, their support would have been divided between Trump and Cruz. Trump won more than twice as many popular votes as Ted Cruz and ultimately won a share of popular ballots equal to that won by John McCain in 2008. John Kasich was the candidate of business-as-usual, and John Boehner speaking for the Capitol Hill / K Street nexus made clear they all loathe Ted Cruz.

I do not see an alternate scenario which gives someone else the nomination.

I'm not saying that there won't be something there calling itself the Republican Party. I'm saying that what is there is not what one would have thought of as the Republican Party even 10 years ago, and that even though it's still there, it's like a person walking around eaten up with cancer.

And your idea of a non-malignant Republican Party is what? Addison Mitchell McConnell's Capitol Hill crookery?

y'all keep answering what I didn't say, or what I didn't mean or something, so I give up.

I answered what you said Janet.

I think I understand what you're getting at, Janet. The party may still exist as a party, but its constituent elements have changed such that it may longer resemble what it used to look like. I'd agree, but would hasten to add that I think that its fundamental pro-business, pro-corporate core hasn't really changed all that much. It's just being manifested differently.

Sorry: "may NO longer resemble..."

Now I'm not so sure. Marco Rubio just won his primary overwhelmingly. Maybe Trump is more of a fluke than we think.

His principal opponent was a Sarasota businessman who is interesting but obscure. Regrettably, name recognition matters more than anything else. Rubio's big talents are for electioneering and building relationships in legislative bodies. He has little integrity, but that doesn't seem to bother the people who vote for him.

As for John McCain, his principal opponent was a state legislator, and he was still held to 52% of the vote.

It is true that Presidents and presidential candidates come and go without leaving much of an impression on an abiding organization with its signature internal dynamics. Jimmy Carter would be an example. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have left an impression: there's no mistaking that Democratic members of Congress will tolerate just about any level of corruption and abuse of power. See Ron Nessen's memoir of his time in the Ford Administration to see a precis of what counted as a scandal in 1976. It's so quaint today. (The 'scandal' was Ford's friendship with steel industry lobbyist William Whyte, which included golf outings Whyte paid for (as well as ones Ford paid for).

I think Trump was a fluke.

I'm leaning that way, too. None of the stuff Art lays out is incompatible with the idea that the Republican party may come out of this not much different from when it went in. Maybe weaker. Probably weaker.

A substantial, not-the-same-party change to me would be one that had abandoned even its shaky support for socially conservative ideas. And maybe its already weak resistance to the expansion of the federal government.

one that had abandoned even its shaky support for socially conservative ideas. And maybe its already weak resistance to the expansion of the federal government.

An interest in dismantling dysfunctional and/or abusive federal agencies ceased for the Republican caucus leadership when Dr. Newton LeRoy Gingrich resigned from Congress. Defenders of the House Republican caucus as they were during the period running from 1999 to 2007 contended that the usual dance was that the House would pass some piece of reform legislation that the Senate would proceed to ignore.

As for 'social conservatism', see the worthless Mr. McConnell's response to the whole 'gay' 'marriage' fan dance. The adulterous and exhibitionistic Mr. Trump is better for you than the cretins currently leading the Republican caucus in Congress because he's willing to tell the media and the grievance industry to get stuffed, something the craven Mr. Ryan will not do.

Recall the most recent blowup between Sen. Cruz and the Senate Republican 'leadership': Cruz' public protest against McConnell's scamming around to revive a shizzy corporate welfare outfit called the 'Export-Import Bank'. Allowing it to expire was a no-brainer.

So why are we worried about all of these political shenanigans? It seems that the Republicans and Democrats are equally offensive to me.

Yeah. As a lot of people keep saying, no matter who wins, we lose.

I'm not sure what your point is, Art. That the Republicans have changed, or that they have not?

There's a difference between the usual "political shenanigans" and outright cynicism, isn’t there? I put Bill Clinton and Trump in the latter category, but not people like Ryan and Rubio.

I'm not sure what your point is, Art. That the Republicans have changed, or that they have not?

I'm not referring to what's up in state capitals or among local authorities.

My point is not whether the Republicans have 'changed' or not. The Washington establishment of all stripes isn't making any secret of their distress, so I get that things may change for them. I am suggesting that we've been living in a sty, Donald Trump enters the room, and the Trump-detractors complain it stinks in here.

My suspicion is that about 1/3 of the Congressional Republican caucus are who they claim to be and believe what they claim to believe, and that the rest are careerists responsive to characters like Donohue of the Chamber of Commerce (and, in any case, indifferent to the concerns and welfare of their working-class constituents). Fully 70% of the ballots in the concluded primary and caucus contests went to candidates to which the Capitol Hill nexus is hostile; another increment (about 3%) went to candidates like Ben Carson and Rand Paul, who certainly have a set of concerns divergent from business-as-usual. So, how does Paul Ryan or AM McConnell react to such a rebuke? My guess is that their learning curve is flat. As long as they're their and their buds like Eric Cantor land 6-figure lobbying gigs when they're voted out of office, the world's OK for them.

I suspect Ryan has decayed into another ineffectual Capitol Hill fixture.

As for Rubio, his word is anything but his bond and he lies shamelessly. Stick a fork in him.

What Marianne said. Well, more: I have my doubts as to whether Trump is even altogether sane.

He's done satisfactorily running a business with over 20,000 employees. He's had some disagreeable disputes with some shirt-tail relatives over an estate and been through two divorce proceedings. Otherwise, not intramural family problems anyone knows about.

He's quite erratic, of course, in his public statements.

I'm not much interested in discussing him.

The GOP is moving towards becoming a neo-liberal party just like the Dems are, while attempting to maintain a veneer of social conservatism. The Republicans may not be quite so vocal (yet) about their commitment to social liberalism, but it's there, hiding in the trees.

I'm sure that the GOP elites wish we religious conservatives would just go away, but they can't really say it because they need us for voting machine fodder.

Yes, but that's always been true--I mean there's always been a significant chunk of the party that was not interested (or worse) in social/religious conservatism. The big change would be for the party to more or less officially turn its back.

I'm never quite sure what people mean by neo-liberalism. As I understand the term, it seems to describe one aspect of what the Republican party has always been. Seems to me that it's more the Democratic party that's changing in that direction. Or has changed.

I'm never quite sure what people mean by neo-liberalism.

It's an epithet, not a descriptive term. It's usually favored by red-haze types antagonistic to the U.S. Government or the International Monetary Fund or anyone who might promote the idea that 3d world governments should not borrow money with abandon, or maintain architectures of mercantilist legislation, or state-owned industry, or state-owned housing, or state-owned banks.

Rob G is using it in an entirely idiosyncratic way (so it communicates nothing).

As I understand the term, it seems to describe one aspect of what the Republican party has always been. Seems to me that it's more the Democratic party that's changing in that direction. Or has changed.

What we call 'social conservatism' was prior to 1965 pretty much a consensus in public life for anyone this side of Hugh Hefner and fragments of the legal profession and mental-health trade.

Consider the evolution of divorce law after 1966. Period public opinion polling indicated that people favoring more lax standards therein were balanced by people favoring more stringent standards, with most of the public roughly satisfied with what counted as grounds in divorce suits. What happens? Universal no-fault divorce. Public policy tends to reflect the prejudices of professional-managerial types, lawyers in particular.

Another example would be the research James Q. Wilson was doing (with a colleague whose name I've forgotten) in Boston in 1966. Wilson was taking door to door surveys to gauge public sentiment while also interviewing officialdom. What he and his colleagues discovered was that there was a total disconnect between the city hall agenda and the street agenda. Officials of the Collins administration were yammering about 'poverty' while the priority for the public was something the Mayor's staff didn't care about: street crime. If you look at period social statistics, you can see that measures of material deprivation were declining and measures of public disorder rapidly increasing, but the apparat of the local Democratic Party and the welfare agencies just didn't notice or care.

You can see that today with the "Black Lives Matter" discourse. Most rank and file blacks are skeptical when polled, only about 2% of all blacks dying by homicide are killed by police officers, and the number of dubious cases so few that the grievance industry keeps offering up examples which fall apart on inspection. The whole business is an idiot set of social fictions promoted with George Soros' money.

I'm not much interested in discussing him.

You are until you're not.

Enjoy your movie.

Again, bad metaphor.

"As I understand the term, it seems to describe one aspect of what the Republican party has always been. Seems to me that it's more the Democratic party that's changing in that direction. Or has changed."

Right, but it should be fairly clear that the GOP is moving in that direction as well. They've been lackluster on the social issues over the past 35 years, but at least the talk was there. Now even the talk is veering away towards a more "progressive" take on social issues.

"Rob G is using it in an entirely idiosyncratic way (so it communicates nothing)."

Au contraire, I'm using it in the way that it's been used by self-identified neo-liberals that I've had discussions with on other sites.

The term broadly describes an outlook which holds both economic classical liberalism (capitalism) and modern "progressive" social liberalism to be basically correct. Globalism is thus generally seen as a good, in that both economic and social "progress" tend to result from it.

In a nutshell, it's Christopher Lasch in reverse.


"The term broadly describes an outlook which holds both economic classical liberalism (capitalism) and modern "progressive" social liberalism to be basically correct."

Ah, thank you, that's what I was looking for--what distinguishes it from classical liberalism? Or at least from the conception of classical liberalism that's ok with modern manifestations of big business, which I'm not sure J.S. Mill would have been. It's the addition of social liberalism.

I was puzzled, for instance, by the Wikipedia article, which I only skimmed, but which seems to focus exclusively on free-market-ism. Basically I've just been puzzled by the need for the term.

Amusingly, neoconservatism seems to mean more or less the same thing in a lot of people's minds.

While we're defining terms, somebody explain to me what alt-right means, please.

AMDG

I started to give you my half-baked impression, but Wikipedia is probably better. The first couple of paragprahs fit with said impression, for what that's worth.

Re: 'Alt-right.' As someone who opposes mass immigration (ironic, I know) and multiculturalism, I loathe the idea of being lumped in with white supremacists etc.

I'm not sure Maclin's analogy is all that bad really.

The US election campaigns are insanely long. I assume they need to be, but a 4-6 week election campaign back home has me in tears of boredom very quickly. Once I decide who I'm going to vote for (and *if* I'm going to vote) - which I do as quickly as possible, with the aid of conservative Christian groups who collect information about candidates' policies - I tune out until election day. This certainly has the feeling of staying home while others are at the movie.

The US election campaigns are insanely long.

Presidential elections are insanely long. That does not apply to lower-rung contests. Prior to around June (sometimes later), the campaigning in lower-rung contests consists of lining up donors and campaign labor and carrying petitions. It's very low profile activity and even back in the day when you had much more vigorous newspaper coverage, you might see one article 'ere September about a campaign which didn't feature a disagreeable contested primary. (My frame of reference is New York. Things are not done quite the same way other places)

We do not have anything analogous to a shadow cabinet here or to a standing party champion. Also, there are many more discretionary appointments in the federal administration (and, I'd wager) lower down than is the case in Britain, where you replace the minister and the parliamentary undersecretary (and usually have a candidate lined up for both offices), and that's it. Also, procedures for designating parliamentary candidates are more cumbersome here, for reasons good and bad. Each stage of the process requires more time than the corresponding stage in Britain or Canada.

There are some easy fixes you could imagine, but nobody with the wherewithall to make it happen ever does. You could say that as well about the dysfunctions of Congress.

At the core of it all, too much consequence and discretion are lodged with the central government and the president is excessively important within the central government. The president acquires his consequence in large measure because Congress is incompetent. Various elected bodies are frustrated also because the judiciary is so meddlesome.

Ah, thank you, that's what I was looking for--what distinguishes it from classical liberalism?

Except the term is not used that way, except by Rob G.

Au contraire, I'm using it in the way that it's been used by self-identified neo-liberals that I've had discussions with on other sites.

Who, Rob? The term in a domestic political context was coined by Charles Peters about 35 years ago to refer to a subtype of mainline Democrat. It was a terminological flash in the pan which has hardly been used in opinion journalism for more than 20 years. "Neoliberal" meant Paul Tsongas or Gary Hart. As a term of distinction, it made sense only with regard to certain evanescent policy disputes of that era.

In a nutshell, it's Christopher Lasch in reverse.

Lasch was a critic of regnant notions and phenomena. He had no very well-developed conceptions of what alternatives to those phenomena might look like.

You should read the Wikipedia article on neoliberalism, Art.

About the alt-right, Janet & Louise: one thing I do know about it is that the left is really happy to find some people on the right who are more or less openly racist, in that at least some of them apparently support a form of white nationalism, and to use that to further the standard smear against all conservatives. This maddens conservatives who don't see anything much "conservative" in the alt-right.

It's sort of my old distinction between "right-wing" and "conservative" in full bloom.

"Who, Rob?"

There are several that post frequently on TAC, and who often refer to current articles and publications. Other than that I don't keep track.

"The term in a domestic political context was coined by Charles Peters about 35 years ago..."

Terms change meaning over time. "Neo-conservative" certainly has. Why not neo-liberalism?

"Lasch was a critic of regnant notions and phenomena. He had no very well-developed conceptions of what alternatives to those phenomena might look like."

He wrote in criticism of both types of liberalism, so a person who writes in favor of both types of liberalism would be his opposite, generally speaking.

Moreover he was not primarily in the business of providing well-developed conceptions of alternatives. The diagnosis of a problem doesn't necessarily bring with it knowledge of the best treatment.

Terms change meaning over time. "Neo-conservative" certainly has. Why not neo-liberalism?

"Neo-conservatism" is an epithet that oscillates between silly and grotesque in its usage. It is properly retired.

In the domestic setting, people have been using 'libertarian' for decades, as well as 'liberaltarian' in the last 8 years. No need to borrow a corrupted term from red-haze discourse about economic development or from Charles Peters old editorials.

Of course, the problem with faculty libertarians you run into is that they're perfectly at home with the diversity regime at their institutions and the use of state power to impose that on private enterprise to boot. They're perfectly uninterested in the liberty of people who do not resemble them socially or culturally (when such people are not members of liberal mascot groups). Gary Johnson's the same type.

There are several that post frequently on TAC, and who often refer to current articles and publications.

You're referring to Wick Allison's publication? I've never seen the term used there, but it's been a while because they banned me (the alt-right subculture has a vigorous sense of its own worth and does not appreciate peons like yours truly throwing darts at them).

The diagnosis of a problem doesn't necessarily bring with it knowledge of the best treatment.

I don't want to be too critical of Lasch, who was a good person in addition to being an engaging critic (and an honest man). Some of his writing did give one the impression that he was chronically and omniverously dissatisfied, at least when contemplating public affairs. That may have kept him from being conscripted into party politics. (He was, at the end of his life, a rather astringent critic of Hillary Clinton).

Lasch's father-in-law was a history professor (of a very different bent than was he). Three of his four children are college teachers. Two have interests very unlike their father and the writings of the third certainly have a different texture.

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