Will There Be an Anti-Incumbent Wave?

I see that Ron Fournier is echoing a point I made in the wake of Eric Cantor’s primary defeat:

Americans see a grim future for themselves, their children, and their country. They believe their political leaders are selfish, greedy, and short-sighted—unable and/or unwilling to shield most people from wrenching economic and social change. For many, the Republican Party is becoming too extreme, while the Democratic Party—specifically, President Obama—raised and dashed their hopes for true reform.

Worse of all, the typical American doesn’t know how to channel his or her anger. Heaven help Washington if they do.


Which side of the barricade are you on? Populists from the right and the left—from the tea party and libertarian-leaning Rand Paul to economic populist Elizabeth Warren—are positioning themselves among the insurgents. Sosnik pointed to six areas of consensus that eventually may unite the divergent populist forces:

  • A pullback from the rest of the world, with more of an inward focus.
  • A desire to go after big banks and other large financial institutions.
  • Elimination of corporate welfare.
  • Reducing special deals for the rich.
  • Pushing back on the violation of the public’s privacy by the government and big business.
  • Reducing the size of government.

I could point out right populist websites without difficulty; I’m not sure I could point out a left populist website if you held a gun to my head. Naked Capitalism? Are left populists really interested in reducing the size of government? Or are they interest in expanding benefits in ways that would require a substantially larger federal government? That’s not a rhetorical question. I’d like to know the answer.

I’m not particularly interested in Eric Cantor any more than I’m interested in the Congressional caucus of any state other than my own. I figure that the other states can elect any tomfool representatives that suit them. Cantor’s position as House Majority Leader gives his defeat a more national character.

Cantor’s defeat might be just a defeat of Cantor and nothing more. It could be a repudiation of amnesty of illegal immigrants by the voters of his district. It might mean all sorts of things, few of them particularly interesting.

But if his defeat portends an anti-incumbent wave in November that could be very interesting, indeed.

21 comments… add one
  • ... Link

    You seem to be doing stuff in the middle of the day. Work slowing down, or are you time stamping the post for publication?

    As for the topic at hand: I laugh at the idea that Elizabeth Warren or Rand Paul would do shit about the big financial institutions in any meaningful way. That’s just a hoot!

  • You seem to be doing stuff in the middle of the day.

    Just taking a break. I’ve been very busy the last couple of days and I’ve got a little time on my hands now.

  • michael reynolds Link

    The “size of government” is meaningless. USG as a percentage of GDP has been dropping for a couple of years now, and we are on the low side of developed nations. No one cares that it’s going down, because that’s not a real issue, it’s a stand-in for generalized rage, feelings of impotence, worry about the future, paranoia, white panic, a whole complex of emotional crap. Ask Americans what they want to cut: foreign aid. It’s absurd.

    The panic is almost all on the Right, and it has a lot to do with a feeling that their “values,” their faiths, and especially their tribe, the patriarchy, are no longer dominant. They’re correct, by the way. Modernity threatens the American Right the same as it threatens Russian nationalists, the Taliban, etc…

    Rigid peoples and groups are threatened by change and there has been a hell of a lot of change in the last few decades. The threat is quite real, these neo-tribalists really are threatened. The patriarchy is threatened. White dominance is threatened. Christian control is being challenged.

  • jan Link

    I disagree with Michael.

    It’s ironic too, because in a previous comment I used the word “rigid” in describing his POV.

    IMO, if there is any message to Cantor’s pretty large and unprecedented defeat, it’s 1) citizens like to be heard, no matter the size of their wallet or stature 2) that no person is too big or too much of a VIP to be rejected 3) people are interested in issue-oriented content, and want the truth, rather than some prefabricated BS, covering a politician’s behind.

    Unlike Michael’s narrowed perspective, there is nothing racial, religious, nor culturally weird about this upset. Cantor simply misread and took his congressional district for granted, relied on impersonal campaigning to get him over the win line, as well as strong armed some politicos ways of doing elections in VA, who then pushed back at him, doing a GOTV for his opponent.

    In this instance, Dave, I do think the election results was all a matter of “local” circumstances, rather than denoting a bigger picture, tea leaf reading of what is to come.

  • michael reynolds Link

    Rigidity is not the same as respecting reality, Jan. Making things up – your stock in trade – is not flexibility, it’s intellectual corruption, dishonesty, a willing surrender to brainwashing.

  • ... Link

    Reynolds, I’m interested in what you are for. You have expressed hatred of religion, federalism, republicanism (little ‘r’), any checks on executive authority, and generally seem to wish all white people were exterminated. (At least I’ve never read anything you’ve written that didn’t express complete hatred for whitey.)

    Really, why the fuck are you in America if you hate federalism, republicanism, religion and white people?

  • Michael Reynolds Link

    I’m for anyone who chooses me as their bête noire actually paying attention to what I write or say. It’s boring responding to dishonest drivel.

  • Guarneri Link

    I see Michael is throwing his usual juvenile temper tantrum as Obama and his administration are again in trouble. See the retail sales numbers? New jobless claims? This thing called Iraq – once claimed as a triumph – going up in flames? ISIS from Syria running rampant. BTW – what’s the story of the day on Bergdahl? Nobel Prize candidate? His platoon mates scoundrels all? (Hint: what exculpates Obama always and everywhere; the absent executive)

    Expect lot’s of hand waiving, claims of Bush, idiot Republicans, racism……….and self indulgent importance like bête noire.

    Like Clemenza said – “we have to go through these from time to time.”

  • michael reynolds Link

    But, since you ask, Ice, and since I now have my own laptop back from the Genius Bar and I’m only a little bit tipsy. . .

    1) Empiricism. 1 + 1 = 2. Evolution is real. The earth is not 6,000 years old. Astrology is b.s., religion is b.s., gluten sensitivity is b.s., vaccines causing autism is b.s.. Double blind studies and peer-reviewed research and what we see through telescopes and microscopes and what physicists can discover using the tools of mathematics and running particles around in giant ovals.

    2) Civilization. It took us a long time to build, and I’d like to keep it going. That means doing things which promote the continued flourishing of civilization. Mixed economy, government as a balance to the market, a safety net, public education, support for culture.

    3) Liberty. Freedom of speech, religion, assembly, association. Freedom to be different. Freedom to be left alone absent a really compelling reason. Freedom to eat, drink, smoke and ingest what you want. Freedom to come or go as you please.

    4) Justice. Punish the bad guys, don’t punish the good guys. Don’t torture. Treat even the bad guys as humanely as possible. Treat all citizens equally under the law.

    5) Survival. When possible make friends of our enemies. Where that’s not possible neuter our enemies. Where that’s not possible, kill our enemies. Keep an eye open to unexpected threats. Be strong and be ready.

    6) Virtue. I believe we should strive to be better. Yes, I realize that sounds naive or irrelevant, but it’s part of keeping civilization going, part of survival, part of justice and liberty. We should be honest, fair, compassionate, kind and reliable.

    That’s what I believe in, Ice. Also good Scotch, red wine, red meat, truffles, stinky cheese, real whipped cream, chocolate, cantaloupe, crisp apples, ice cream, coffee, weed, smart bitchy women, punk rock, blues, sunshine, low humidity, honest debate, travel, room service and my Mercedes E350 cabriolet with the top down going 75 with Rancid blasting from the stereo, a big fat Joya de Nicaragua in my mouth and a cup of strong black coffee in the cup holder. That’s my 95 theses.

  • michael reynolds Link


    Show me anyone who ever called Iraq a triumph.

    Try reading a newspaper. I mean, that’s a minimum if you want to talk politics without sounding clueless.

  • steve Link

    Agreed. Show me where anyone other than a Bush supporting neocon declared Iraq a victory. There are plenty of those.

    “BTW – what’s the story of the day on Bergdahl? ”

    He was in the Coast Guard and got kicked out after 26 days, reportedly for psychological issues. They have now published parts of his computer/diary writings. Sounds like a messed up guy. He got into the Army on a waiver. Sounds like the military is trying to cover up the fact that they let a messed up guy into a combat unit. That they had to have 20% of our troops on waivers to fulfill our recruitment needs.


  • jan Link


    Biden saying that Iraq would be one of Obama’s greatest accomplishments, in a 2010 clip.

    As for your philosophical stream of thought:

    1) Empiricism. Scientific studies come and go. What’s in vogue today, may be passe tomorrow. For instance, butter once was bad, now it’s ok, in moderation. Basically, reality is subject to one’s personal beliefs. Sometimes, I even think life itself is just a big head game!

    2) Civilization is vulnerable to man’s whims and foolishness. The way to keep it going is to listen to others, be patient, and not be too adamant in your POVs, because you may just be wrong!

    3) Freedom: I love it. But, according to tasty, it’s secondary. However, everything you said in this paragraph I can only ‘second.’

    4) Justice: I find you contradict yourself, as government punishes whoever doesn’t believe in their particular ideological “rule of law.” Under social progressive governance, self reliance, individuality, and conservative/religious beliefs are impugned and punished. Under conservative rule, social and moral differences and transgressions are frowned upon and punished. Consequently, “justice” can be very subjective, especially when robotic, mind-numbing bureaucrats are the ones administrating it. Also, the definition of “humanely” oftentimes depends upon cultural norms and interpretation. Jihadists probably believe cutting off peoples’ heads is a good way to put their enemies out of their contrary misery. The same goes for suicide bombers who look at such an act as a gallant, sacrificial act to honor Allah.

    5) We’re pretty copasetic on Survival, except I think self reliance fits well into this category — being responsible for learning skills to stay on top of things (if at all possible), instead of using other people as convenient crutches.

    6) Virtue is a good one. I would add in accountability, owning both the good and bad stuff about yourself , resulting in honest relationships, government etc. Real self growth is attained, IMO, by real and ongoing self awareness/mindfulness. Compassion, though, is a double edged sword, as too little of it is harsh and unkind, and too much of it can be enabling and may actually weaken the opportunity of another to grow. People do learn important life lessons by experiencing the consequences of their behavior, instead of being too sheltered or protected by failures or foibles.

  • jan Link


    Bergdahl, seems like a sensitive, idealistic guy who didn’t know what he was getting himself into, when going into the military service. Apparently he also tried out for the French Foreign Legion, but was rejected. His platoon leader, though, said he felt Bergdahl was smart, a “good” soldier, always on time for his duty, and was not mentally off.

    “Leaving” or deserting — however you want to classify his sudden departure — seemed to be a planned event to get “out,” due to personal disillusionment, as he mailed personal items, like his computer, home first. I don’t know how you could screen for immaturity and an airy-fairy personality in a 23 year old, which is what I think was this guys main problem.

  • Guarneri Link
  • Ben Wolf Link

    Dave, y

    Your question about the popukist left is difficult to answer without a consensual definition of “reducing government”.

  • michael reynolds Link


    Yep, that’s Biden all right, and I won’t even attempt to defend it.

    But Jan, you believe reality is subject to belief. Certainly that’s always been the Fox News approach where reality is irrelevant.

    Subjectivity is inescapable and the world we see will always be influenced by our presuppositions. But that’s not an excuse for simply throwing up your hands and declaring that reality is whatever you want it to be. The rational person subjects himself to questions and doubts. The rational person who hopes to glimpse truth works to eliminate presuppositions and prejudices and insofar as possible see the world as it is.

    Science does not “come and go.” The science of heliocentrism has been around quite some time now and is not questioned except by crazy people. You’ll find actually that science builds on earlier science so that we know quite a bit more than we did back in Moses’ day. It is settled science that the earth is not flat, that the stars are not holes poked in a black screen, that disease is not caused by spirits or even the falling damps.

    So, I assume what you mean is that you want to deny evolution and climate change, but really, you’ve got nothing there. You can’t drive your car or go to the doctor or use your phone without accepting implicitly a thousand different scientific doctrines that are not in question. Like it or not, you live in the world of science. And like it or not both evolution and climate change are pretty well-established scientific fact.

  • Ben:

    I’m open to suggestions on this but I think that measuring the size of the federal government based on the number of federal employees, as has been suggested by some, doesn’t really get to the heart of the matter. I would suggest measuring that by reach rather than body count. Think of it in a Fabian socialist sort of way. What proportion of GDP is disbursed or otherwise controlled by government at all levels? That’s how I’d measure it.

  • jan Link


    There has long been a distinction made between concrete and abstract thinking. The former is far more conventional, grounding, and cited as ways to end discussions on what is probable, possible or impossible, because of what is accepted matter-of-factually, without further contest to be true reality. Scientific data’s dependency on empirical conclusions, though, closes the book on unproven possibilities, and, IMO, becomes self-limiting. It is the abstract thinker, the dreamer, if you will, who defies the reality superimposed on them by others, and experiments with concepts and devices outside of normal everyday experience. The airplane, for instance, was a ludicrous vehicle that only crazy people thought could “fly!” However, my husband’s grandfather was one of those dreamers, who engineered the Wright Brother’s Flying Machine’s motor, along with other inventions.

    Basically, I have a wide open imagination and belief system (without the assistance of Fox News). I’ve seen miracles in nursing, synchronicity in events that science has no explanation for. I’m also not tied down to any religious or Darwinian orthodoxy in permanently stapling a nexus to creation, meaning of life or powers of the mind. The same goes for the phenomena known as global warming, which continues to have an influx of data variances — hence I’m a skeptic.

    Life, IMO, is an unfolding mystery, with tantalizing potential far beyond a human being’s present comprehension. I’m also not overly impressed with IQ measurements or those deemed highly intellectual, in being better than someone else’s expression of ‘wisdom,’ gathered from something as common as another’s common sense and personal experience.

    “Like it or not, you live in the world of science.”

    That’s true. However, I’m not caged by it, in disallowing anything outside the realm of science to then be unacceptable or untrue.

  • michael reynolds Link


    Yeah, I do actually know something about imagination, what with having written 150 sci-fi, fantasy and horror books for kids. But we label those “fiction.”

    One of the essentials of speculative fiction is establishing a system of rules. In other words, it doesn’t just consist of believing whatever the hell fits your pre-established prejudices.

    There’s imagination and then there’s just intellectual laziness. Imagination is not an excuse to dismiss rigor.

  • michael reynolds Link


    By the way, this pretty much kills the idea that liberals are rigid. https://sullydish.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/image001.jpg

    The more liberal you are, the more you want politicians who will compromise. The more conservative you are, the more you reject compromise.

    That’s kind of self-evident to honest folk who pay attention to politics, but it’s nice to have some data.

  • Andy Link

    There a few sites on the internet that are, for me, canaries-in-a-coal-mine. As long as arguments to most issues remain primarily partisan then I expect the status quo to continue. Right now I don’t see change coming – if anything the strength of partisanship is growing. Judging from the recent Pew poll (even considering its limitations), it seems that most people still see their political choices as limited to a choice between the two parties even if that choice is a “lesser of evils” decision.

Leave a Comment