More Tribes

RealClearPolitics has its own analysis of the “tribes” of America:

“Every difference of opinion,” Thomas Jefferson warned in his first inaugural address, “is not a difference of principle.” Speaking to his countrymen after an election every bit as bitter as the one that put Donald J. Trump in the White House, Jefferson was trying to soothe the reigning animosity between the nation’s two dominant political parties. “We are all Republicans,” he added. “We are all Federalists.”

Not anymore. In 21st century America, any notion that election results end the argument, however temporarily, is an anachronism. So, too, is the conceit that a nation this large and diverse is divided neatly along “50-50” lines, with half of America’s 253 million adults supporting Democrats, and the other half backing Republicans.

The “tribes” into which RCP divides Americans are:

  • The Resistance (28%)
  • MAGA (the Trump base) (12%)
  • Traditional Republicans (14%)
  • The Detached (24%)
  • Independent Blues (24%)

I’m probably reasonably considered to be in the last group. I also think they’re overestimating the size of The Resistance somewhat. They’re more loud than numerous.

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October Surprise

J. B. Pritzker, the billionaire heir of the Pritzker fortune who is likely to be anointed Illinois’s next governor, received an unhappy surprise yesterday. He’s being sued for racial discrimination. From the ABC 7 Chicago:

CHICAGO (WLS) — In the race for governor, J.B. Pritzker’s campaign is being sued by 10 staff members for racial discrimination and harassment.

They claim they were hired to fill a race quota and to do specific race-related duties. They also say white staff members were treated better.

Pritzker denied the allegations at a campaign event in Joliet.

“I know that the African-American community knows who I am, knows that I will fight for them when I’m governor,” he said.

I have no idea what the merits of this are if any. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a hustle but I can’t really tell.

Sadly, I suspect this is just a speedbump in Pritzker’s road to the governor’s mansion. It may reduce turnout among black voters a bit but I doubt it will have enough effect to change the outcome.

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Rahm’s Last Budget

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel submitted his last budget yesterday. In it he kicked just about every can he could find down the road, lobbing a softball to City Council members running for re-election. It’s bad for the dwindling number of Chicagoans who will be forced to shoulder the increasing burdens his foolishness has imposed on us. It’s the perfect ending for a mayor who thought solely about electoral gain and not a bit about what politics is about which is people.

He should have limited his remarks on the budget to a single sentence: “Lots of luck, suckers.”

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On KSA

  1. Jamal Khashoggi was not a good guy.
  2. Even bad guys have a right not to be murdered for their views.
  3. The Washington Post deserves some criticism for cozying up to a bad guy and their present indignation about his murder is unbecoming. Where was the indignation when the Saudis murdered a busload of children?
  4. Mohammed bin Salman is a very bad guy (and probably not particularly bright).
  5. We don’t need Saudi Arabia as much as we used to.
  6. The Saudis have been persistent supporters of radical Islamism and radical Islamist terrorist groups around the world.
  7. We shouldn’t be supporting their war against Yemen and we shouldn’t support Saudi Arabia at all.

Detachment is probably the best policy we could follow. I’d prefer more punitive measures against the whole Saud family. They’re monsters and the world would be better off without them.

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Why KSA Is a Poor Ally

I wish more Americans would take these remarks by Pat Lang to heart:

Lastly, the chimera of a great Arab alliance (a la NATO) is delusory. The Saudis lack both the organizational ability for such a thing and significant military power. They possess one of the world’s largest static displays of military equipment. They have neither the manpower nor the aptitude to use such equipment effectively. As I have written previously, the Gulf Arabs have long had such an alliance. It is the GCC and it has never amounted to anything except a venue for the Arab delight in meetings and blather.

The basis for the desire for such an alliance is the Israeli strategic objective of isolating Iran and its allies; Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas with an eventual hope of destroying the Iranian theocracy. Israel is frightened of a possible salvo of many thousands of missiles and rockets into Israel from Lebanon as well as an eventual successful creation of a missile deliverable nuclear weapon by the Iranians. These are real and credible threats for Israel, but not for FUKUS. Israel has only two really valuable counter-value targets; Haifa and Tel Aviv. A hit on one or both with a nuclear weapon would be the end of Israel. The Israelis know that.

There’s a lot more at the link about how awful the Saudis are but the part above is the most important. Even stripped of the anti-Israeli content it’s significant.

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A Michelson-Morley Experiment for History

As you may recall from high school physics, the Michelson-Morley experiment was an experiment to measure the properties of the aether, the substance that was supposed to fill space. It is probably the most famous failed experiment in history. The experiment failed to prove the existence of aether.

We are in desperate need of a Michelson-Morley experiment for history. Either there is no “arc of the moral universe” or it doesn’t “bend toward justice”. Andrew Michta’s article at The American Interest is about the resurgence of hard power politics in the world and here is its kernel:

It is time to admit that at the base of the current Western predicament lies a series of fundamentally misguided assumptions about what matters most in the international system. The so-called liberal international order was never the result of some inevitable process leading to enlightened statecraft; rather, the liberal democratic ascendency was a byproduct of the emergence of the United States as the most powerful nation on earth after the Second World War. America’s status as the world’s greatest democracy for the past 70 years enabled it to imbue the global rulebook with its values and institutions. Notwithstanding talk of “soft power” and rules-based systems, national security and hard power are no less vital today than they were at the moment of that system’s creation.

Sadly, the world as we find it is about power and control. It might have helped if so many countries, notably Germany, Japan, South Korea, and China, had not promoted their own interests at our expense. Now everyone is horrified at the prospect of the U. S. looking after its own interests rather than theirs.

If there were only more consensus about what our interests actually are we’d be in good shape.

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Flight to Safety

There is an extremely interesting column at MarketWatch from Philip Van Doorn. I’ll bet you weren’t aware of this:

Here are some interesting numbers about the S&P 500, according to data provided by FactSet.

• Among the S&P 500, 250 stocks were down 20% or more from their all-time closing highs (adjusted for splits and spin-offs) as of the close on Oct. 15.

• 162 were down at least 30% from their all-time highs.

• 113 were down at least 40% from their all-time highs.

• 69 were down at least 50% from their all-time highs.

Another interesting little factoid. Of the 26 S&P stocks that have reached all-time highs in the last five years, all have declined by 50% or more since then.

As I have been pointing out for some time, when you say “the stock market is at an all-time high”, what you’re really saying is that a handful of stocks are more important than ever. Too big to fail, anyone?

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Shouting Your Lines From the Wings

I don’t think that Megan McArdle quite understands what’s actually going on in American politics these days. From her latest Washington Post column:

If the Blue Wave collapses before it hits shore, Democrats may need to ask whether #MeToo and other forms of identity politics are really the wave of the Democratic future.

Democrats have been waiting for that wave to crest for a long time, at least since the 2002 publication of “The Emerging Democratic Majority” by John Judis and Ruy Teixeira. That book’s modest thesis suggested that demographic trends would increase traditional Democratic constituencies while slowly shrinking the GOP’s base, as long as Democrats could find a way to hold their then-current coalition together.

By 2016, many saw that as prophecy: All they needed to do was wait for the GOP’s atavistic denizens to die off, leaving the country to those on the right side of history.

Yet salvation keeps failing to arrive. We now have the most diverse electorate in American history. If the strong version of the EDM thesis were correct, not even gerrymandering, voter suppression and untimely FBI announcements would have handed Republicans enough power to tip the electoral college in their favor. The prophecy failed. And still, a whole lot of folks seem to be waiting for history to vindicate them.

A quick glance at actual history shows that it doesn’t have a “right side” where Democrats can dwell; it doesn’t mechanically hand out power to the morally superior, or to the smartest, or to those with the best manners. Elections are won by those who assemble the biggest coalition of citizens to deliver votes where they’re needed.

But the reality was quite apparent in the report I posted on yesterday. Progressive Activists only comprise 8% of the country. They’re not going to achieve persistent electoral victory without attracting more Americans to their banner any more than the 6% of Devoted Conservatives are but the views of the Progressive Activists are much more divergent from those of other Americans than those of the Devoted Conservatives are. If the Democratic Party becomes a permanently progressive activist party, not only will there not be an emerging Democratic majority, they’ll struggle to remain relevant.

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No Barrier

You know, I think there’s a point that Republicans who are chortling over Elizabeth Warren’s apparent own goal on American Indian ancestry. It’s exemplified in this post by Katie Pavlich at The Hill:

Democrat obsession with skin color and gender as a strategy is starting to fall apart and recent cultural events show us how. Nov. 6 is just around the corner and the battle lines for presidential votes are already being drawn. For Democrats, those lines are being crossed as women and minorities vote on interest, not on identity politics.

Incoherence has never been a barrier to electoral success. If you repeat a nonsensical claim often enough and angrily enough, people will come to accept it. For goodness sake, I seem to recall a successful presidential candidate who did just that.

Democrats are unlikely to abandon identify politics in the foreseeable future. Identity-based grievance is what’s holding their diverse coalition together. As long as they can cling bitterly to it, the various segments of their coalition may not notice that their varied interests are actually in competition with one another.

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The Elephant In the Room

After a lengthy lament about the Democrats’ lack of a unifying message in his piece in The New Republic, Alex Shephard accidentally lurches into a very interesting observation:

Israel argued that “Democrats have it wrong that they need a national-message template in the first place. Past elections have shown that the most effective messaging is local and specific to each district.” This year’s election seems to be proving this true, or at least Democratic candidates are campaigning as if it is. By and large, they are running on a single issue. It’s not impeachment or collusion or corruption or #MeToo; it’s not even specific to Trump. The election, for many Democrats, is all about health care.

That’s certainly true here in Illinois. Just about every Democratic candidate for statewide office is running on health care, either emphasizing his or her support for the Affordable Care Act or criticizing his or her opponent’s position on treatment of pre-existing conditions.

I can’t help but wonder if Republicans, in their obsession with “repealing ObamaCare”, a goal that remains beyond their grasp, have unwittingly done Democrats’ political advertising for them.

Sadly, none of these political pitches come to terms with the genuinely hard questions that lurk behind making health care a right. If you can save one kid’s life by spending a million dollars and a thousand kids’ lives by spending $1,000 each, which do you do? If your answer is “both”, where do you get the money? And how do you handle the reality that there is no maximum level of spending? To the best of my knowledge no OECD country has an actual right to health care; all limit access in some way to control costs.

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