unwashed masses

Paul Waldman, Joe Biden is still ahead. But Elizabeth Warren is closing in.

Jennifer Rubin, Who is being naïve here?

Park MacDougald, Is Tucker Carlson the Most Important Pundit in America?

First, a Gut Check, to Provide Context

I am among the 91 percent—I believe that’s the correct number—of Democratic primary voters who have not yet made up their minds. Right now, my instinct is that the safest, and therefore the wisest, course would be to nominate someone from the moderate center-left wing, get him or her elected, return the country back to something resembling normality, fix Obamacare, and then try to have something like a rational conversation on where we go from there.

But, in and of itself, knowledge about my gut is of no use to you. I mention it only to give some context to what I’ll say next.

Three Key Points about Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren may or may not be The One. See paragraphs immediately above. But let us, nevertheless, bite the bullet, grasp the nettle, and pay due attention to the various elephants in the room.

Yesterday, I saw some talking heads on the teevee bloviating about how Senator Warren is a “disrupter,” just like Donald Trump is a “disrupter,” and how the country needs someone who can let us all relax a little. The discussion made me angry, because “disrupter” is, IMHO, an extremely misleadingly incomplete description of Elizabeth Warren.

First of all, economic inequality is growing dramatically. And, when Elizabeth Warren says the system is rigged in favor of the plutocracy, she is saying no more and no less than the God’s honest truth.

And, before I move to my second point, please let me add this parenthetical observation. If you are an advocate you can definitely fool some of the people some of the time. That said, it is a marvel how much it helps if you are telling the truth–about a subject that’s important to your audience–while your adversary is trying to spin a fairy tale.

Second, growing inequality not only prejudices those of us who are not plutocrats, but it also poses, in the long run, a grave threat to the plutocrats themselves. Some of them, blinded by greed, don’t recognize their long-term risk. Some do recognize it.

Elizabeth Warren does not emphasize that she is, in fact, the plutocrats’ true friend—the one who offers them an opportunity to protect themselves from their own worst impulses. But though she chooses not to emphasize the point, it’s true, nonetheless.

Third, there are lots and lots of Trump voters who also understand that the plutocrats are not their friends, and are rigging the system against them. (See the piece by Park MacDougald, cited above.) These folks have an inherent predisposition to heed a key part of Warren’s message. And she has the personality and the potential to break through with some of the Trump base.

And, may I add, she is just the person to tell the unwashed masses what a con man Donald Trump is.

Electability: the Bottom Line

My bottom line: Keep on watching those polls matching Trump against various Democratic possibilities. If my “three key points” are borne out, it will show up in the polling.

And be guided by evidence and reason, not by gut instincts about how electable Elizabeth Warren will seem to a bunch of people who think very differently from you.

There You Go Again, Joe

money bags

Paul Waldman, Biden’s comments about segregationists and the rich are deeply problematic

Jonathan Chait, Joe Biden’s Segregationist Nostalgia Is Even More Ignorant Than It Sounds

This afternoon, the talking heads are talking about Joe Biden’s eyebrow-raising comments to a bunch of rich supporters in New York. There are many things that might be said—see, for example, the two sources cited above—but let me just make two quick points.

How to Pitch the Rich

Waldman remarks,

Biden knows his audience. His pitch to them is not that we must reduce inequality because it’s a fundamental wrong, but because if we don’t, the masses will rise up in anger and you never know what might happen then.

My observation: it’s true that inequality has gotten way out of hand, and if it isn’t reduced, the poor are likely to rise up at some point and make things very uncomfortable for the rich. In other words, narrow, amoral economic self-interest on the part of the plutocracy would dictate that the plutocracy do something to let the pressure cooker vent, before it’s too late.

Biden was advocating that some rich people should give him some money. When you’re advocating, you don’t make the argument that is the best and most noble. You make the (true) argument that is most likely to appeal to your audience.

Biden is not to be faulted for telling his audience something that is true and is likely to appeal to them, rather than telling them something else that is also true, but will have less appeal. At least that’s my opinion.

But Biden’s viewpoint suffers, in my view, from quite a different, and very fundamental, defect.

Failing the Sunzi Test

Know yourself, know your enemy, hundred battles, hundred victories. Hillary Clinton lost for many reasons, but among the most important was her failure to understand what political currents she was dealing with. I very much fear that Joe Biden suffers from the same mental defect: you can make nice all you want with Mitch McConnell and his ilk, but they are not going to make nice with you.

If you do not understand whether the battlefield is hilly or level, you are likely to make big mistakes. I am very much afraid Biden does not understand where he is. And, lacking an understanding of the most fundamental facts about the current political environment, any success he may have will largely come as a matter of accident.

I do not like to depend just on dumb luck. An appropriate strategy, along with well-chosen and skillfully implemented tactics, are much to be preferred.

A Lunchtime Discussion

Today, I had the privilege of eating lunch with a person whom I greatly admire—one who has walked with princes and presidents, whose wisdom has been sought by foreign heads of state, but who has remained grounded through it all.

As we finished our lunch, my friend allowed as how Elizabeth Warren is looking better and better. I agree.

I’m still concerned that she told the Texas Bar Association that she was an Indian. I’m tempted to say that we have all done some squirrely things in our time, but, to tell the truth, I really can’t think of anything comparable that I might have done.

Still, nobody’s perfect.

Will They Think They Have to Destroy the Constitution in Order to Save It?


The Return of the Aardvarks

Dr. Aardvark and I have returned from vacation. It was a nice vacation, but we have reached a certain age, and now we need to rest up from our vacation.

The Samson-in-the-Temple Routine

A fairly lengthy thumb-sucker in the Washington Post—Trump defies close advisers in deciding to threaten Mexico with disruptive tariffs—elaborates on how a (seemingly) mad emperor Trump is (seemingly) about to wreck the economy, despite strong pushback from his closest advisors. He may back down, or he may not. But, as a talking head remarked yesterday, the market is beginning to think he may be crazy after all. The Dow was down 355 points (1.4 percent) yesterday.

A week or two more of this bullshit, and President Pence will be looking better and better.

Rocket Dockets

Meanwhile, you might recall that I told the garment-renders, concerned that the courts might slow walk refereeing presidential stonewalling versus congressional oversight, the courts have wide discretion over their own schedules, and can act with dispatch when they see the need.

In the case of Donald Trump et al. v. Deutche Bank and the House of Representatives et al., the Second Circuit—that’s the federal court of appeals in New York—has just ordered briefs to be filed on June 18, July 11, and July 18. It’s likely we’ll know the result by the end of July.

Meanwhile,  down in the federal courts in Washington, D.C., where Trump sued his accounts to try to keep them from responding to a congressional subpoena, the court of appeals will hear that case on an expedited basis, also.

Told you so.

Will They Think They Have to Destroy the Constitution in Order to Save It?

It’s likely—didn’t say it’s a lead pipe cinch, but it’s likely—that Trump will lose in the courts of appeals. That will tee up the case for Supreme Court action, or inaction, as the case may be.

At this point, five of the nine justices bear the Federalist Society seal of approval. That would be the Federalist Society, not the Divine Right of Kings Society.

Likewise, it bears noting that the Federalist Society is funded by plutocrats like the Koch brothers, and plutocratic interest groups such as the United States Chamber of Commerce. I think it may be assumed, with considerable confidence, that these folks will not be happy to see Trump do the Samson-in-the-Temple routine and bring the economy crashing down around their heads.

Soo … will the Supreme Court majority vote to do away with congressional oversight, thus destroying the Constitution in order to save it (by keeping the presidency in Federalist Society-friendly hands)? I don’t think so.

And here’s the icing on the cake. Guess who was the keynote speaker at the May, 2019, convention.

Why, that would none other than Mike Pence.

If Pence were to replace Trump, the presidency would still be in very, very Federalist Society-friendly hands.

Needed: A Better and Wiser Set of Plutocrats


In The Billionaires Waited Too Long to Panic Martin Longman nails it. He develops an important theme that is often glossed over: the anomaly of elite support for the likes of Trump, in alliance with the likes of Roy Moore. I have emphasized the point in this blog, but have—perhaps foolishly—looked for a time when the billionaires would come to their senses and act out of enlightened, long term self-interest.

As the title of his piece indicates, Longman thinks they have waited too long.

He may well be right.

Longman writes,

The billionaires have been looking around for someone with the credentials of a Douglas MacArthur or a Dwight Eisenhower because, just as the Republican Party of 1952 was about as useful as teets on a bull, the contemporary version is a psychiatric wreck totally unsuited and unprepared to responsibly represent anyone’s interests. Alas, no war heroes of sufficient stature are available, and the Starbucks guy seems to be auditioning less for president than for most punchable face.

There were #NeverTrumper people who were kind of getting accustomed to having one foot outside of the Party of Lincoln until they got a load of Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax and puddles began to form around their ankles. They’re beginning to fear that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposed 70 percent top marginal income tax rate is more popular than the idea of a President Michael Bloomberg.

Suddenly, Trump doesn’t look so bad. After all, he did build the Autobahn deliver on tax reform, regulatory rollbacks, and undermining Obamacare. He did withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. He is cracking down on the crazy socialists in Venezuela and Cuba. And look at all those Heritage Foundation judges!

I’ve long wondered why the billionaires have not gotten serious about building a replacement for the Republican Party. They could begin by denying the Republicans any funding. …

But the billionaires waited too long. California set sail and Texas is probably next. The people want someone to pay for the Great Recession. They want someone to pay for our hollowed out small towns and failing farms. They want someone to pay for the fact that we have a Russian agent in the White House and the Republicans won’t do a damn thing about it. They’re losing interest in the old arguments about why they can’t have nice things. …

So, now, at this late date the billionaires need to build a new party, but they can’t do it with intellectuals. They can’t do it with professionals. They can’t do it with the underclass or with the know-nothing Republican base.

At least Bloomberg understands the problem well enough to understand that to win back the suburbs the billionaires have to care about shootings in schools. But they also have to care about climate change and the environment. They have to care about people’s retirement security. They need to spend on roads and railways.

Aardvark’s Animadversion

The problem with lots of people who made lots of money is that they have spent their entire loves making money and, in consequence, have taken leave of their common sense.

Their common sense would dictate that only by halting the spiraling economic inequality can they survive, in the long run, to enjoy their economic good fortune.

The Plutocrats’ Dreams Come True


Though many others have done the job, Aardvark has been pressed to make some remark on the soon-to-be-enacted tax bill.

When I was young, a long time ago, there was a strange political alliance between Southern racists and Northern economic progressives. Then, Kennedy and Johnson betrayed the racists by enacting civil rights legislation. That gave the plutocrats a golden opportunity to ally with the racists to advance plutocratic ends. Goldwater seized the opportunity. Reagan seized the opportunity. As did many others. But they tried to be gentlemanly about it.

Now when I was but knee high to a grasshopper, we used to have a saying: if you put on your white shoes and walk through a cow pasture, no matter how careful you are, there’s going to be a little brown on those shoes when you get to the other side.

For about forty years, many of the plutocrats could tolerate a little racist shit on their shoes, as long as there wasn’t too much of it, and the room remained well ventilated.

Then, in 2016, the plutocrats and their politician sock puppets made a discovery: the way truly to win the hearts and minds of the racists is to provide loud and full throated validation of their racism.

Adam Serwer dissects the issue admirably in The Nationalist’s Delusion. Please read it all. Key passage:

Trump’s great political insight was that Obama’s time in office inflicted a profound psychological wound upon many white Americans, one that he could remedy by adopting the false narrative that placed the first black president outside the bounds of American citizenship. He intuited that Obama’s presence in the White House decreased the value of what W. E. B. Du Bois described as the “psychological wage” of whiteness across all classes of white Americans, and that the path to their hearts lay in invoking a bygone past when this affront had not taken place, and could not take place.

That the legacy of the first black president could be erased by a birther, that the woman who could have been the first female president was foiled by a man who confessed to sexual assault on tape—these were not drawbacks to Trump’s candidacy, but central to understanding how he would wield power, and on whose behalf.

Americans act with the understanding that Trump’s nationalism promises to restore traditional boundaries of race, gender, and sexuality. The nature of that same nationalism is to deny its essence, the better to salve the conscience and spare the soul.

Some have criticized Serwer’s analysis as “defeatist,” meaning that to acknowledge the racist basis for Trump’s electoral college victory is to give up on persuading white people to vote for the economic interests instead of their prejudices. But that point of view is wrongheaded. I’m all for encouraging poor white racists to vote with their pocketbooks in mind. But you can still try to do that and yet recognize reality.

So listen to Fareed Zakaria:

[W]hat if people are not being fooled at all? What if people are actually motivated far more deeply by issues surrounding religion, race and culture than they are by economics? There is increasing evidence that Trump’s base supports him because they feel a deep emotional, cultural and class affinity for him. And while the tax bill is analyzed by economists, Trump picks fights with black athletes, retweets misleading anti-Muslim videos and promises not to yield on immigration. Perhaps he knows his base better than we do.

Oh, yes, he knows his base. And now the plutocrats and their sock puppets know, too. And that knowledge has led to a great leap forward in their attempt to turn America into Guatemala, with a few very rich people and a lot of very poor people.