FASCIST.

The redoubtable Geoff Nunberg has investigated the word fascist in his latest “Fresh Air” commentary and has interesting things to say about the reasons it gets used very differently in American and Europe. (Via Uncle Jazzbeau’s Gallimaufrey.)

Comments

  1. “That lower-case use of the word began with the sixties radicals, who borrowed it from the international left,” writes Nunberg.
    How, and why, then, did the “international left” come to use it as an emblematic derogatory word for their political enemies? Why indeed, if fascism was soft and nazism tough – why not use “nazis” instead?
    I’m speculating here a bit, but I think the Soviet propaganda might have something to do with it. The Soviets used “fascist” a lot – but “nazi” much more seldom. The nazi armies, for example, are usually instead referred to as “gitlerovskie vojska” – hitlerite armies.
    Since nazism was short for “national socialim”, it might be that Soviet propaganda machinery actively choose not to use a word which contained “socialism” (or at least had a connection to it) as their number one derogatory.
    Fascism – from Italien fasces – did not desecrate socialism in the same way.

  2. Makes sense. Also, “nazism” was more specific to Germany, whereas “fascism” was appropriated by right-wingers in other countries besides Italy.

  3. Do we not consider Franco the template for fascism? The only reason I can think of for not doing so is embarrassment that he basically got away with it.
    And this side of the Atlantic the Ashcroft/Cheney regime is referred to as “fascist” by persons who mean it in precisely the Yoorpean sense, which Mr Nunberg doesn’t really discuss. (Curious readers might like to try Umberto Eco’s checklist).
    It probably isn’t needless to say that I consider such accusations premature at the very least, although I wouldn’t like to choose between them and Mr Nunberg’s blithe assurance that it really couldn’t happen “here” for foolishness.

  4. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Now here.

    And an archived version of the Eco article. I don’t see much in the events of the last 25 years to contradict his insights.

  5. Googled Ashcroft. No useful results on the first page.

    Googled “fascist Ashcroft” – the fourth result (in New York Times) appeared to be correct.

    Apparently John Ashcroft was Attorney General during first George W. Bush administration.

    I must admit I have completely forgotten about this fascist.

    Sic transit…

  6. David Marjanović says:

    Ah yes, Ayatollah Ashcroft.

    (Read the first few comments, too.)

    Do we not consider Franco the template for fascism?

    …no…? The phenomenon and the word started with Mussolini.

  7. The phenomenon yes, the word… it’s complicated. Radical workers’ organizations called fasci dei lavoratori were common in Sicily in the 1880s, joining together in the early 1890s as a political group called Fasci siciliani before being suppressed by the government. In 1914 Benito Mussolini created the militaristic Fasci d’azione rivoluzionaria, called the “Milan fascio,” whose members were called fascisti, and in 1919 he reconstituted it as the Fasci italiani di combattimento, transformed in 1921 into a political party, the Partito Nazionale Fascista. So yes, “fascism” was probably first used in reference to Mussolini’s group, but that group was not originally “fascist” in the modern sense, and the fasci to which the term refers went back well before him. Compare the history of “soviet.”

  8. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Well, by the time I was growing up, Mussolini was long dead and the most successful fascist was indeed Franco. Maybe the word fascist wasn’t invented during the Civil War, but the shoe certainly fit.

    Then there were the juntas in Greece, Portugal, Chile, Argentina, and so on. That it was originally an Italian thing was just a historical detail, and the general impression was that Mussolini had just been a Hitler wannabe. (While stories about (resistance) volunteers in Spain did circulate).

  9. Mussolini probably believed that ancient Rome was the first fascist state.

  10. Well, by the time I was growing up, Mussolini was long dead and the most successful fascist was indeed Franco.

    He was certainly called a fascist (as has been pretty much every extremely conservative leader since Mussolini), but that doesn’t mean he was one. To quote Wikipedia: “Franco himself certainly detested communism, but had no commitment to any ideology: his stand was motivated not by foreign fascism but by Spanish tradition and patriotism. […] The Nazis were disappointed with Franco’s resistance to installing fascism.” It’s fun to insult people, but I prefer to keep my historical descriptors grounded in reality.

  11. Lars Mathiesen says:

    I haven’t actually researched for myself how Spanish politics worked under Franco, but his regime was described as fascist in the non-ideological sense (close cooperation between state, business, military and church, no real representation for anybody else) — I think this was a bit before fascist became an all-round insult — and that was how I meant it. I’m not sure the Nazis were properly fascist in this sense so I don’t know what to think about WP’s claim, and whether Franco himself liked the word doesn’t decide the question.

    I’m not sure if the technical term fits the various juntas I mentioned, though, maybe they were just right-wing military oppressors.

  12. David Marjanović says:

    That it was originally an Italian thing was just a historical detail, and the general impression was that Mussolini had just been a Hitler wannabe.

    Wow.

    pretty much every extremely conservative leader since Mussolini

    Have there actually been any extremely conservative leaders since Mussolini other than Franco and maybe Salazar (…and most popes)? And even Franco’s policy of making Spain a monoglot Spanish country was not conservative at all.

  13. In case you haven’t noticed, the current occupant of the White House is regularly called a fascist by those who oppose him, and my radical cohort in the ’60s applied the epithet regularly to anyone right of SDS. But I think you’re misunderstanding the word “conservative”; it’s long since ceased having anything to do with conserving anything.

  14. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    Hang on, hat, so who would you apply the word ‘fascist’ to, then? Just the Mussolini regime?

  15. Even the self-titled pre-war British Fascisti/Fascists couldn’t all quite agree on what they were and what they wanted, hence strife and factionalism.

    On the other hand, I wouldn’t go quite so far as Orwell’s “The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’.”

  16. Hang on, hat, so who would you apply the word ‘fascist’ to, then? Just the Mussolini regime?

    Basically. I used to be more willing to extend it, but it’s lent itself to so much sloppy arguing that I consider it skunked. I think I basically agree with Orwell about usage in the last half-century or so.

  17. I mean, descriptions like “corporatist state” are available if one wants to talk seriously about such regimes (as opposed to showing how much you hate and despise them).

  18. One can be a right-wing authoritarian nationalist without being fascist.* Fascism was a totalitarian ideology (or rather, a group of totalitarian ideologies, for different nations). How successful the totalitarian aspects were varied significantly from country to country. Obviously, Nazi Germany was the most fully converted, Italy much less so, Arrow Cross Hungary not really at all, since by the time the Arrow Cross came to power, the war was lost and Hungary was under full German occupation.

    However, the Arrow Cross do provide a clear example of the difference between merely rightist authoritarian government and full fascism. For most of the Second World War, Hungary was governed by Miklos Horthy’s repressive, but not fascist, regime. It was an ultra-conservative government, but it tried to maintain a continuity with the pre-First-World-War past, with the dictator Horthy styling himself as regent of the Kingdom of Hungary.

    Hitler, as a true fascist ideologue, wanted to create a totally new kind if regime, a radical departure from both the Weimar Republic and the previous Kaiserreich. (He was incensed to learn that, after the conquest of the Netherlands, the army had posted an honor guard at the home of the exiled Kaiser Wilhelm.) That Franco wanted Spain to return to royal rule after his death is one of the clear indications that he was not really committed to a revolutionary fascist regime. Moreover, in Italy, the fact the Mussolini had to keep the king around, rather than completely replacing the constitution, was actually a sign of his relative weakness, and the intervention of the king did indeed end up being a key part of Mussolini’s downfall, after the Americans landings in Italy.

    The Arrow Cross, who Hitler put in charge of the civilian government of Hungary after his 1944 invasion of the country, were, unlike Horthy’s regime, which had at least made a pretense of supporting some kind of Hungarian multiculturalism, were pure Magyar ethnic fascists. Like the Nazis, or the Ustase in Croatia, the Arrow Cross ideology was based around building a new kind of society, demanding absolute loyalty. Thst loyalty would be first to the party or movement,** as the sole legitimate manifestation of the will of the ethnically pure society, and only secondarily to the state. Under the circumstances, the Arrow Cross never got to implement this principle, except on the smallest scales, but the ideological contrast with Horthy’s royalism was still stark.

    * Of course, the practice of referring to all the right-wing European dictatorships that originated in the inter-war period as “fascist” is essentially as old as Mussolini’s march on Rome. At the time, the differences in ideology (and, relatedly, murderousness) were, especially from overseas, probably harder to recognize, and they certainly did not seem particularly salient (although some of this was willful blindness, with people not wanting to take the mist radical right-wing politicians seriously, even when they set out many of their goals quite explicitly, as Hitler did in Mein Kampf).

    ** That under totalitarianism, whether fascist or communist, the movement, not the government, was the most important thing was one of Hannah Arendt’s observations. The Soviets obviously had a different conception of how the Communist Party came to be the preeminent manifestation of the people’s will, but the horseshoe theory is definitely in effect there.

  19. i find eco’s approach to refusing to define fascism (using the word as an umbrella term anchored in its core classical referents: italian fascism, german naziism, and spanish falangism) interesting, and at times useful. but it’s remarkably unhelpful for thinking about how to fight fascism, since it provides no analysis of how fascist movements develop, operate, or are structured. and that’s key, since they have no ideological coherence (internally or between variants) and so cannot be fought on the level of political persuasion.

    i tend to find the italian communists’ political-economic analysis from the 1930s on the one hand, and klaus theweleit’s socio-psychological analysis from the 1970s on the other, more helpful. the latter is a bit elaborate, and i won’t get into it (aside from recommending Male Fantasies). the former is fairly simple* – fascism is the political action of the most conservative elements of the owning class (in the 1930s, large landowners and heavy industry; these days, the extractive industries, agribusiness, and military contractors; consistently, the high-tech sector), mobilizing a popular base of support from the precarious middle class. even at the super-schematic level, it’s an approach that starts to point out how these movements can be combatted and defeated.

    and, of course, sinclair lewis uses (implicitly) more or less this analysis in It Can’t Happen Here, which is still the best novel (and play) yet written about the past five years of u.s. history…

    * footnote: palmiro togilatti’s Lectures on Fascism

  20. J.W. Brewer says:

    The pre-WW2 functional definition to which Brett adverts works out to more or less “any self-conscious modern alternative to bourgeois parliamentary democracy not supported by Communists.” Since outside of Iberia (and to a lesser extent maybe Latin America and various non-Western locales) such alternatives failed to survive WW2, the Communists, Communist sympathizers, fellow travelers, etc. of hat’s generation had to recast bourgeois parliamentary democracy as itself fascist or at least tending in that direction. One problem, both before and after WW2, is that you had not-particularly-democratic leaders like Franco who needed to hold together internally diverse political coalitions (same was true for Horthy in his day). There’s another thing floating around, both before and after WW2, which can definitely overlap with the “self-conscious modern alternative” thing yet is not the same, viz “any available alternative to bourgeois parliamentary democracy that attracts support for pragmatic/tactical reasons from those who really want to keep the Communists out of power in their country but do not think BPD is capable of doing so in the particular time and place.”

  21. David Eddyshaw says:

    Eco’s list is surprisingly thought-provoking (not surprising because Eco, but because I thought the subject had been done to death.)

    Particularly the very first: The first feature of Ur-Fascism is the cult of tradition. To say that this has an uncomfortable resonance at the present time is an understatement: uncomfortable in particular for those of us who (rightly) value tradition. I think/hope that the operative word here is cult. Eco’s notion has considerable explanatory power; and it’s a salutary warning.

  22. One can be a right-wing authoritarian nationalist without being fascist.

    The details of your argument show clearly how useless the term is; you can only discuss such things with people who share your definition of fascism, which is not that many people. Since we’re no longer having to deal with Mussolini, Hitler, Franco, or any of that wretched lot, it’s of purely academic interest to parse the differences and similarities. We can deal with the current bunch of would-be Maximum Leaders without having to agree on a definition of “fascism.”

  23. David Marjanović says:

    Ah, yes, Horthy is a good example. Also, some of the most spectacular (though not effective) resistance to Hitler came from conservatives like Stauffenberg. In Europe’s democracies today, conservatives and ever-so-slightly fascistoid xenophobes can enter coalitions on occasion (or almost every occasion like in Austria), but usually they’re quite hostile to each other, and their parties definitely don’t merge.

    But I think you’re misunderstanding the word “conservative”; it’s long since ceased having anything to do with conserving anything.

    Ah, I was definitely not using “conservative” in any of its more common American senses, yes. (For instance, what Americans of all sorts seem to call “conservative economic policy” would be called liberal extremist economic policy over here.) That said, lots of self-designated conservatives in the US have been complaining for years that Trump isn’t conservative (and I agree, useless as that is). Nothing but the two-party system, which is an inevitable outcome of the Constitution, forces them to be in the same party as him and by association to share ideological labels.

    Trump isn’t personally a fascist, or committed to any ideology at all; he doesn’t have the attention span and is a narcissist to boot. However, he constantly tries to use fascism for his goal to stay in power. As part of that he keeps genuine fascists around: Miller, formerly Bannon, and the Proud Boys who loudly glorify violence, action and carefully cherry-picked traditions. As another part, he has himself portrayed as the incarnation of the Will of the People – a representation more accurate than any election result. Then there’s the angle of literal national socialism, where Trump has himself portrayed as the grand protector of American jobs against the rest of the world and has been turning the Republicans into the new workers’ party. These effects would be the same if he were a fascist himself. The reason not that much has actually happened in that direction is instead that he’s so deeply incompetent – his narcissism prevents him from learning as well as from hiring anyone who might outshine him.

    Again and again as a tragedy, finally as a farce.

    “corporatist state”

    Ah, but the corporazioni he was talking about were the trade unions. Mussolini wanted to merge the power of the trade unions with the power of the state.

    Likewise, one of the first things Hitler did when he came to power was to merge the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of the Economy: the eternal conflict between the workers and the employers was “solved” by dictating the “solutions” from above and expecting everyone downwards of the minister to just shut up forever.

  24. Sure, that’s what a corporatist state is. I’m not disputing your analysis, just saying that the word “fascist” has become pretty useless for serious discussion.

  25. David Marjanović says:

    From Eco’s article:

    Thus, by a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak.

    Ah, so that’s how the Demonrat Party was at the same time strong enough to steal the presidential election and weak enough to not steal the senatorial elections! I was wondering. 🙂

  26. Yes, and the mistake rational people always make is to oppose such ideas with facts and logic. They don’t work, and using force turns you into what you oppose. Further research is needed.

  27. David Eddyshaw says:

    While (needless to say) I disagree strongly with the sentiment (and am none too fond of the poet, come to that) I do like this poem:

    https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Magna_Est_Veritas_(Patmore)

  28. Fascism is also a brand. Back when Mussolini was popular, that brand attracted various offshoots, some more, some less like the Italian model (Ba‘athism is another brand of authoritarianism.) The study of what the brand meant to various people is worthwhile in itself; nowadays it is also useful to rile up people against paricular regimes. But using it as a well-defined category by which to analyze various political systems leads to endless unfocused arguments.

  29. Exactly.

  30. I generally don’t refer to any modern politicians as “fascist,” and I agree with languagehat that it is not useful terminology for today’s politics. The key difference, I think, is the much stronger rule of law, even in states that are backsliding towards authoritarianism, like Hungary or Poland. Harassment and imprisonment of journalists may be coming back, but the 1920s and 1930s phenomena of armed paramilitaries routinely murdering masses of regime opponents are not, at least not yet.

  31. David Marjanović says:

    On the one hand, yes. The Overton Window is not where it was before WWII.

    On the other hand, “the Second Amendment people” sometimes just seem to lack coordination with each other and with Barr’s semi-secret stormtroopers…

  32. David Eddyshaw says:

    While “fascism” is certainly too narrow a term for it, there is a common thread among these fundamentally anti-human movements: they cannot even function without a sustained assault on the very concepts of objective truth and disinterested enquiry (as Eco says, Disagreement is treason.)

    The degree to which these submoral leaders throughout the world have already succeeded in separating their supporters from reality is the most frightening thing about them. So far.

  33. J.W. Brewer says:

    Re what Eco says about the “cult of tradition,” it is worth noting that he’s using “tradition” to mean something rather different and more esoteric than what David E. probably means when he says he values tradition. Traditionally-minded Brits of the “God save little shops, china cups, and virginity” sort (or the “old maids bicycling to Holy Communion through the morning mist” sort) are not particularly congruent with the soi-disant https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traditionalist_School, which is more what Eco is inveighing against. Of course, in much of continental Europe where nothing resembling a modern nation-state existed before a bunch of opportunists and cafe intelligentsia began willing them into existence a bare 150 or so years ago, a lot of “tradition” needed to be manufactured (or rediscovered and retrieved from unjust obscurity, if you prefer) in rather a hurry.

  34. @J.W. Brewer: Just as only being romantic about certain things is Romanticism,* only being traditional in certain ways is Traditionalism.

    @David Marjanović: In America, actual fascism is a very long way off. I am certainly not of the, “It can’t happen here,” school, but neither do I think it is productive to call our prospective right-wing authoritarians “fascists.” There are increasingly worrying trends, like the current administration’s failure to endorse and participate in the orderly transfer power. That is a definite and dangerous step toward authoritarianism, although if the presidential election were actually stolen, the resulting regime would still represent a very soft form of authoritarianism—at least initially.

    When it comes to physical political violence, affairs will still have to get a lot worse to be comparable to even the least violent inter-war European dictatorships, like Vaterländische Front Austria. In America, white supremacist revanchists have had a growth in visible public gatherings since Trump took office (although the white supremacist events have almost always been outnumbered by counter-protestors). There have also been sporadic incidents of right-wing violence, which have often been attributed to an increasingly emboldened ethno-nationalist right-wing fringe—although the last part might or might be a real effect, since there has been a trickling undercurrent of right-wing violence in American society for decades. Still, these are issues that need to monitored carefully, because the rule of law can deteriorate surprisingly quickly. I think it is important to understand how authoritarian movements can arise in times of (real or perceived) chaos, and understanding the different strains of authoritarian ideology is a key part of that.

    * As in, nostalgia for a rural society with a chivalric aristocracy is Romanticism, but waxing on about an egalitarian socialist utopia is Realism.

  35. In America, actual fascism is a very long way off.

    ? In the country and its so-called democracy in which McCarthyism held sway?

    [from the Eco] ” the cult of action for action’s sake” [his italics] Which takes us to Nietzsche. Which takes us to Ayn Rand. Which takes us to the numbers of American Libertarians who hold or have held positions of influence, particularly in Public Finance.

    [Eco again] The official Fascist intellectuals were mainly engaged in attacking modern culture and the liberal intelligentsia ‘libtards’.

    I see in American public discourse just no thread of Socialist critique that would point to the history of the rise of anti-democratic authoritarianism. Republicans criticise Putin, Xi not because they’re authoritarian, not because of what they’re doing to their own populations, but because they’re acting against U.S. interests.

  36. Traditionally-minded Brits of the “God save little shops, china cups, and virginity” sort

    Context, if anyone’s unfamiliar.

    I like this rendition.

  37. David Eddyshaw says:

    Actually, I’m pretty resistant to Tradition in that sense (even when articulated by the altogether wonderful Kinks) and have no sympathy at all for the cod-religion of “eternal sophia.” I was thinking of cultural and (genuine, as opposed to recently concocted) religious traditions, and it seems to me probable that Eco was too. The temptation to idolise the Traditionalist School seems unlikely to lead to a dangerous mass movement; but to idolise a particular Christian tradition, very much so, as the recent election in the US most grievously confirms once again.

  38. Yes, what DE said. And I like that Kate Rusby rendition (though I prefer the Kinks), so thanks for that!

  39. J.W. Brewer says:

    Eco’s specific example, hypothetically found in the “New Age” section of bookstores (and he was writing back when mass-market bookstores were still a thing) was “But combining Saint Augustine and Stonehenge — that is a symptom of Ur-Fascism.” That seems a pretty “sophia perennis” vibe. I’m not saying that Eco’s view is necessarily accurate or useful as a way of understanding past history or potential future political trends, especially outside a specifically Italian context. I’m just trying to elucidate what Eco’s view appears to be.

  40. David Eddyshaw says:

    @JWB:

    You may very well be right; though if so, I think Eco was indeed missing a trick. The New-Agey stuff is just another manifestation of the assault on the very concept of objective truth, essential to the Fascist project; the precise form the disconnect from reality takes is unimportant, so long as the concept of truth as discoverable in principle by common human endeavour in good faith has been abandoned.

    Co-opting genuine specific traditions from the start seems much more alarming: I wish there weren’t so many examples to hand. Eco may, of course, not have recognised this as a meaningful distinction; but even if one agrees with him, it seems more ominous if a proto-fascism successfully taps into an existing highly influential worldview at the outset, rather than cobbling one together as it goes.

  41. David Marjanović says:

    In the country and its so-called democracy in which McCarthyism held sway?

    That was seventy years ago – when the US was closer to fascism than today in some ways, farther away in others.

    In America, actual fascism is a very long way off.

    I agree: the goals and the execution are far apart. Like… it’s kinda cute to watch how Bannon tries to be an evil genius.

    The degree to which these submoral leaders throughout the world have already succeeded in separating their supporters from reality is the most frightening thing about them. So far.

    In the US it’s not even them, it’s Fox News.

    (I think we’re very lucky Trump doesn’t personally own a bunch of TV channels the way Berlusconi does.)

  42. J.W. Brewer says:

    And now we’re back going in circles, because explicitly illiberal regimes which draw ideological legitimacy from pre-existing influential worldviews are quite common throughout human history,. What was thought striking about fascism in its interwar context was how it differed from the traditional mode of such regimes in Europe by being a self-consciously New Thing. That’s what e.g. makes Spain a difficult case to categorize because Franco presided over a broad coalition that clearly included “let’s have a shiny new modern ideology” Falangists but also clearly included plenty of old-school illiberal nationalists who disliked liberalism because of e.g. its anti-clericalism and other forms of hostility to traditional modes of life (although as noted above there had been some shifts, since during the 19th century civil wars in Spain the liberals were generally the centralizers and the Carlists the defenders of regional autonomy).

    But perhaps the proto-fascism David E. is concerned about is not that sort of old-school illberalism but a different sort of New Thing? What does he think of the long-running claims that Saunders Lewis’ style of Welsh nationalism was fascist and/or fascist-adjacent (or at a minimum involved more reading of and admiration for Charles Maurras than a True Welshman ought to have done)?

  43. Uh-oh! Now you’ve got his Welsh blood up!

    *stands back, well out of range*

  44. David Eddyshaw says:

    I’m no fan of Saunders Lewis at all. He was indeed fascist-adjacent in the Maurras style.

    I’m glad to say that modern Plaid Cymru (which I do not support) has a very different approach (exemplified by an excellent friend and colleague of mine who was their local candidate in the last Westminster election. Didn’t stop me campaigning against him …)

    Nationalist movements are naturally prone to this trap. I admire the Scottish Nationalists (whom I do not support either) for taking great pains to avoid it.

    To speak plainly: the proto-fascism that concerns me is the sort that battens on mainstream (may God have mercy) white “evangelical” Christianity. The depth of the disease has only really become fully apparent to me in the aftermath of the US election. As far as I can see the great majority of these people have no glimmering of the shit they’re in. They need to repent.

  45. David Marjanović says:

    They need to repent.

    How dare you call them “deplorable”.

    *exit stage right, pursued by a bald eagle*

  46. The classical fascism of the 20s and 30s had no problem reconciling anti-clericalism, esoteric thinking and neo-paganism with painting itself as a defender of traditional religion and “occidental values” against godless communism. With its emphasis on “action” and on loyalty to the movement / the leader as the most important criteria, it mostly didn’t even try to dissolve such contradictions or create unified dogmas. Attempts to do so, like Rosenberg’s “Ideology if the 20th century”, or creations like “German Christianity” (with an Aryan Christ who was killed by the Jews for being Aryan) never got much traction.
    The interesting thing is that we again see such cooptations; in Germany, Covid deniers with an “alternative” / New Agey background marching together with traditional right wingers and fascists.

  47. David Eddyshaw says:

    I suppose (leveraging from what JWB said) one could make a stab at narrowing the reference of “fascism” to something more practically useful by explicitly excluding the sort of system that draws ideological legitimacy from an existing widely influential system; but I think Hat is right, nevertheless, in saying that the term is not really useful outside its specific historical contexts.

    “Protofascist”, I think, is not quite so unusable; it helps to have a word for the sort of groundwork that prepares for authoritarian rule by systematic denial of the possibility of objective truth. It’s helped me to understand (for example) what Trump and his enablers have been about right from the beginning of his presidency, with the transparent lies about the inauguration crowd size. The transparency was the point: a test run.

  48. How dare you call them “deplorable”.

    How dare you call low-information voters “ignorant”.

  49. Seriously, there are two things about HRC’s “deplorable” comment: one, she didn’t say that all of whatsis’s voters were “deplorable”: she said that some of them were, and it was clear she was talking about the awful extreme: nazis, the klan, et al. The other thing was that she used a $10 euphemism to mean “awful people”, and that helped reinforce her image as a detached elitist. That, I believe, made the gaffe much more serious than its actual content did, even misinterpreted as it was.

  50. David Eddyshaw says:

    low-information voters

    I have actually made some effort to convince myself that the enthusiastic embrace of an evil man by so many of my coreligionists could be to a great extent be explained by ignorance, gullibility …

    Wishful thinking. It’s not lack of information that’s the problem. They know enough: the trouble is that they like what they see.

    This may, of course, be perfectly appropriate in a democracy: cf the old mining MP Bill Stone’s brief yet robust defence of democracy in

    https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2010/dec/11/simon-hoggarts-week

  51. J.W. Brewer says:

    What with the Catholics historically getting to experiment with a wide range of illiberal alternatives to bourgeois parliamentary democracy (maybe Salazar at one end of the spectrum in Europe and the Ustashe at the other?) I hardly think it’s fair for David E. to begrudge his fellow Protestants the chance to try their hand at it.

    His influence is no doubt wildly exaggerated by easily-frightened outsiders, but you could say that Calvinism did generate its own American Maurras in the person of the late Rev’d R.J. Rushdoony, although to his credit Rushdoonyism is not very nationalistic at least at the level of theory.

  52. David Eddyshaw says:

    True; Rushdoony was a different sort of loony. The antidote to that sort of crap* is the (perfectly Calvinist) doctrine of Common Grace. Also basic Common Sense …

    You may like this shooting-fish-in-a-barrel takedown of Rushdoony by Murray Rothbard (worth it for the PS alone):

    https://www.libertarianism.org/essays/Rothbard-against-the-Christian-Reconstructionists

    *Apologies for technical theological terminology.

  53. the trouble is that they like what they see.

    Indeed. Despite Trump making no attempt over 4 years to dissociate himself from the “awful extreme”; and despite his manifest incompetence — I would have thought competence a sine qua non of any ‘new order’, more voted for him this time than last.

    And whatever doubts about Clinton, hardly any more voted for Biden than for her — it can mostly be explained by the increased turnout anyway. (Must say I’m deeply unimpressed by Biden too — do the Democrats have no other idea than to be nice and inoffensive?)

    But democracy is not one thing any more than is Fascism, and not all forms of democracy deserve defending in a world so changed by the information age. The U.S.’s democracy has been conspicuously broken for a long time (as has Britain’s), in such a way that it is easily usurped by authoritarians/’strong men’ (or Margaret Thatcher) whose appeal is to override the bickering and inertia.

    Other countries have had such ghastly experiences under some forms of democracy they have changed the voting system. There seems to be only a few on the periphery talking about this in U.S. or Britain.

  54. Trond Engen says:

    AntC: The U.S.’s democracy has been conspicuously broken for a long time (as has Britain’s)

    Add France, and in another way Belgium, and, in one way following another, Italy.

    I’ll argue that the accumulated powers of the presidency in France and the US, much to compensate for already dysfunctional parliamentary systems, make them broken to a different degree than the others.

  55. J.W. Brewer says:

    I don’t feel obligated to pick a side to root for in a dispute between Rushdoony and Rothbard, but I note that Rothbard does not treat Rushdoony as the problem but Calvin as the problem, believing that Calvinism is inevitably hostile to the Thomist-Lockean synthesis he suggests is foundational to his own preferred political arrangements. Back in the day Thomists and Lockeans often seemed to be on opposite sides, but maybe this was strategic disinformation as when (if you ask folks in the right part of the Balkans) the Vatican and the Freemasons pretended to dislike each other.

  56. David Eddyshaw says:

    I don’t feel obligated to pick a side to root for in a dispute between Rushdoony and Rothbard

    No indeed. A curse on both their horses. (It is funny, though.)

    I think MR has a point about Calvin, to a limited extent. It is Calvinist doctrine that our actual rational judgment is compromised by sin. However, it by no means follows from this that it is impossible for non-Christians to arrive at true judgments. Rushdoony (like all such people) doesn’t follow through the logic of his position: if there were no congruence at all between Christian and non-Christian judgments of right and wrong (a plain falsehood, but let it pass), then we would have no particular reason to believe that we Christians were worshipping a good God as opposed to a sinful Demiurge; nor would non-Christians have any reason at all to believe us when we claim that God is good (already an implausible doctrine, on the basis of how creation actually is.) Rushdoony’s position ultimately is a denial of the very first verse of the Bible.

    [Further sermons on this topic are available on request.]

  57. David Marjanović says:

    They know enough: the trouble is that they like what they see.

    Well, they like what they see on Faux Noise and worse, which is generally all that they see. That simply does not include any of the manifest incompetence; instead, it’s a common belief among Trump voters that Trump has kept a tremendous list of campaign promises.

    Add to this “media siloing” the fact that the public schools are financed by micro-local property taxes, so that there is such a thing as a bad school, and it’s really no wonder that the average ability to recognize absurdity is a bit low.

    Only then do cultural values come in that have somehow become part of Christianity in the US. One is “personal responsibility”, which often enough means “everything that happens to you is your fault, and you deserve it good and hard” and easily clashes with “love thy neighbour”. A related one is that amazing numbers of Americans across the political spectrum believe “God helps those who help themselves” is somewhere in the Bible.

    (Asterix is why I know the original is Fortuna audaces adiuvat – “Good Luck, personified as a goddess, helps the brave ones”. Completely heathen.)

    whatever doubts about Clinton, hardly any more voted for Biden than for her

    Way more voted for Biden than for her, both in absolute numbers (the count isn’t finished, but Biden is approaching 80 million votes in total, while Clinton stayed well under 70 million) and in relative ones (Biden is one of very few presidential candidates in the US to have surpassed 50% of the vote – the “third parties” were exceptionally weak this year).

    — do the Democrats have no other idea than to be nice and inoffensive?

    They have lots of other ideas, but are afraid that not enough people would vote for any such thing. Biden won the primaries because a great majority of the Democrats came to think he would make the most electable candidate – he wasn’t, in many cases, the candidate they wanted, but the candidate they thought other people wanted.

    In hindsight, that’s probably about half right: he won, in particular in the suburbs as hoped – but I think there’s a good chance Sanders, say, would have won by a similar margin, just with a somewhat different list of states and demographics.

    Other countries have had such ghastly experiences under some forms of democracy they have changed the voting system. There seems to be only a few on the periphery talking about this in U.S. or Britain.

    The US is basically out of luck there: most aspects of the voting system are at least in part in the big-C Constitution, which can only be changed by a 2/3 majority in the House of Representatives plus a 2/3 majority in the Senate plus a 1/2 majority in 3/4 of the state legislatures. (No referendum, because that wasn’t practical in the 18th century… and probably not considered a good idea by the Founders anyway.) No wonder they count their amendments and refer to them by number. The rest is in federal laws, which require a 50% majority in the House and 60% majority in the Senate to change – that strange number is not in the Constitution or anything, it’s just an internal rule of the Senate; the Senate could change it (“abolish the filibuster”) with a 50% majority, but that seems impossible for the next 2 years because there doesn’t seem to be a way to convince Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) to vote for that.

    None of that applies to the UK, but the likelihood that a lot of MPs would vote their job security away is not high either.

    I’ll argue that the accumulated powers of the presidency in France and the US, much to compensate for already dysfunctional parliamentary systems, make them broken to a different degree than the others.

    Good point.

  58. David Marjanović says:

    For fun, I should mention what may be the other extreme: how to change Austria’s constitution.

    “Minor” changes require a 1/2 majority in a referendum. “Major” ones require a 2/3 majority in parliament.

    For decades, the governing Grand Coalition actually had a 2/3 majority in parliament. So it happened pretty often that it made an ordinary law and lifted it to constitution rank so that future governments couldn’t undo it as easily. This has happened so often that nobody knows where Austria’s constitution ends.

    (That’s why you can’t get it as a booklet. What you can get are booklets with titles like “The most important laws of the constitution”. It may also be why the Constitution Court, which does almost nothing but decide if a law is constitutional when someone sues, has 14 full and 6 replacement members.)

    At this point it will have occurred to the cynical reader* that “major” and “minor” are nowhere defined. Indeed, some experts think the sheer mass of minor changes constitutes at least one major one, on which a referendum should have been held but hasn’t, so that Austria has been living in unconstitutionality for decades.

    *gelernter Österreicher “Austrian by learned trade, not just by birth”

  59. J.W. Brewer says:

    Re “one of very few presidential candidates in the US to have surpassed 50% of the vote,” the winner of the US presidential election has gotten an absolute majority of the aggregated reported popular vote, as conventionally stated in the usual sources, nine out of fourteen times during my lifetime (giving Biden the benefit of the doubt here before the dust has all settled) and fourteen out of twenty-one times during my parents’ lifetimes. It’s more the rule than the exception. Obviously the conventionally-reported official numbers are not entirely free from doubt and should on a percentage basis be understood with some margin of error, so e.g. that Jimmy Carter won in ’76 with 50.08% rather than 49.99% is the conventional account but don’t stake too much on its accuracy to that many significant digits.

  60. John Cowan says:

    I think we’re very lucky Trump doesn’t personally own a bunch of TV channels the way Berlusconi does.

    I believe he hopes to do so, soon enough.

    I’m glad to say that modern Plaid Cymru (which I do not support) has a very different approach (exemplified by an excellent friend and colleague of mine who was their local candidate in the last Westminster election. Didn’t stop me campaigning against him …)

    Nationalist movements are naturally prone to this trap. I admire the Scottish Nationalists (whom I do not support either) for taking great pains to avoid it.

    Am I right to think that you agree that both parties are civic-nationalist, and what makes you not support them is not their civic nationalism but their desire for independence? I think it would be right to refer to the NI Conservatives as a civic unionist party, for example (not that I suppose you support them either).

    They need to repent.

    That is to say, to change their minds.

    Bill Stone’s brief yet robust defence of democracy

    Much like Roman Hruska‘s, except that he was talking about a non-elected judge.

    (perfectly Calvinist) doctrine of Common Grace

    Well, not all Calvinists agree. “According to Hoeksema (and any PRC writer) God’s undeserving gifts of sunshine, rain, etc. are ‘providence’ and while providence serves grace for believers, because it adds to their spiritual growth, it is not sent in love to unbelievers and only adds condemnation to those who never believe, in the same way rain is beneficial to a living tree but causes a dead one to rot.”

    (worth it for the PS alone)

    Which makes me wonder if they paid him for these reviews by the hour, and this was in the nature of a bill for services rendered.

    In the country and its so-called democracy in which McCarthyism held sway?

    For four years from his “enemies within” speech to his censure by Congress (something that happens very, very rarely). Not nearly as serious as Trump, not to mention the multi-year or multi-decade reigns of unquestionably fascist leaders.

    Must say I’m deeply unimpressed by Biden too — do the Democrats have no other idea than to be nice and inoffensive?

    Well, yes. The ideas were (a) to reject for the moment the political wisdom of Will Rogers, who was first an Indian and then a cowboy (“I do not belong to any organized political party: I am a Democrat”) and Howard Fast, who was first a Communist and then a constitutionalist (“I am Spartacus.” “I am Spartacus.” “I am Spartacus!”), and (b) that the best way to do so was to elect a political technocrat.

    But democracy is not one thing any more than is Fascism, and not all forms of democracy deserve defending in a world so changed by the information age. The U.S.’s democracy has been conspicuously broken for a long time (as has Britain’s), in such a way that it is easily usurped by authoritarians/’strong men’ (or Margaret Thatcher) whose appeal is to override the bickering and inertia.

    Surely if some democracies are more at risk, they are the ones that most need defending.

  61. David Eddyshaw says:

    amazing numbers of Americans across the political spectrum believe “God helps those who help themselves” is somewhere in the Bible

    A delusion not confined to Americans; but it’s sweet, I suppose, that so many Americans still attribute free-floating quotations that they happen to like the sound of to the Bible, rather than Albert Einstein, Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Charles Darwin …

    It is all unfortunately reminiscent of those excellent motivational posters that go

    It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.

    (Apropos of nothing, my absolute favourite of this genre is “Just because you’re necessary, it doesn’t mean you’re important.”)

  62. David Eddyshaw says:

    That is to say, to change their minds.

    You make it sound so easy …

    Well, not all Calvinists agree

    True. Even Calvinists can be wrong. I can only imagine that it must be dreadful for them.

    Am I right to think that you agree that both parties are civic-nationalist, and what makes you not support them is not their civic nationalism but their desire for independence?

    Yes. I understand the motive in both cases and sympathise with it greatly, but I think that independence would in fact substantially add to the sum of human unhappiness. I have suggested to my friend the Plaid candidate that his motive for leaving the UK (or leaving the benighted English, at least) is uncomfortably similar to the motives of non-xenophobic Brexiteers (and they exist) for leaving the EU. In both cases the institution to be left has grave defects; but leaving will only exacerbate them for both the leavers and the left. The way to help all parties is to remain and work for reform from within.

  63. And ultimately to eliminate national borders.

  64. David Eddyshaw says:

    Yes. I don’t really understand socialists who aren’t internationalists. (I don’t meet many. Perhaps they’re all in Plaid.)

    MInd you, eliminating national borders does not mean eliminating national differences; those, I’m all in favour of. I want a free world, not a homogenised world. Cymru am byth!

  65. Right on!

  66. You make it sound so easy …

    Good gravy, not at all. Changing one’s mind is extremely difficult.

    The way to help all parties is to remain and work for reform from within.

    While, I understand that, I remember how the some of the Social Democrats in Germany joined with the Non-International Socialists to reform them from within, with the result that they became outwardly more Nazi than the Nazis themselves. Quoth WP:

    On 19 May [1933], the few SPD deputies who had not been jailed or fled into exile voted in favour of Hitler’s foreign policy statement, in which he declared his willingness to renounce all offensive weapons if other countries followed suit. They also publicly distanced themselves from their brethren abroad who condemned Hitler’s tactics.

    It was to no avail. Over the course of the spring, the police confiscated the SPD’s buildings, newspapers and property. On 21 June 1933, Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick ordered the SPD closed down on the basis of the Reichstag Fire Decree, declaring the party “subversive and inimical to the State.” All SPD deputies at the state and federal level were stripped of their seats, and all SPD meetings and publications were banned. Party members were also blacklisted from public office and the civil service. Frick took the line that the SPD members in exile were committing treason from abroad, while those still in Germany were helping them.

  67. The same happened to the Left SRs who joined with the Bolsheviks after their coup.

  68. David Eddyshaw says:

    The principle is certainly not a universally applicable guide to correct political action; yet, as a contingent matter, I feel that the analogy between the UK and the Nazi party, on the one hand, and between the EU and the Bolsheviks, on the other, is incomplete.

  69. PlasticPaddy says:

    The questioning of objective reality and normal conventions of discourse and logic, allowing rulers to put pseudoscience and science on an equal footing, is for me more related to a general proto- totalitarianism, Specific precursors of fascism would be for me:
    1. Führerkult-the movement’s success in obtaining and holding power is dependent on the political skill and salvationist charisma of the leader, rather than on the “moral” force of a dogma or the “physical/legal” force of an Apparat.
    2. Hygiene-the movement is obsessed with an intrinsic purity, which is not necessarily reflected in any extrinsic property and which is consistent with both radical and traditionalist policies.
    3. Sacrifice-the movement prizes individual, not collective sacrifice and heroic failure over successful compromise.

  70. heroic failure over successful compromise.

    Unfortunately, this is also practically a defining feature of left/progressive politics in America.

  71. David Eddyshaw says:

    “Protototalitarian” might indeed be a better name than “protofascist”, both on grounds of accuracy and because “totalitarian”, unlike “fascist”, has not degenerated in common usage into little more than “thoroughly unpleasant mendacious right-winger.” Accordingly, it sounds (as it should) even more alarming …

  72. @Hans: There’s a quote, early in Raiders of the Lost Ark, from one of the government men, about Hitler being “obsessed with the occult.” The first time I watch the DVD with each of my kids, I always pause it to point out that this isn’t true. Hitler didn’t care about that stuff, although Himmler really was obsessed with the occult, neo-paganism, etc. Hitler, although he surely didn’t believe anything, was happy to remain an enrolled Catholic for his entire life. In fact, probably every single right-wing European dictator (it depends a little on how you count in certain puppet states) before and during the Second World War was at least nominally Catholic. (One waa even a monsignor.)

  73. J.W. Brewer says:

    I can’t immediately find confirmation on the internet, but I would wager at least a modest amount of money that this pre-WW2 European dictator was not even nominally Catholic (probably nominally Lutheran). Although the fact that he was AFAIK the only authoritarian strongman of the era to be an alumnus of the University of Nebraska already made him a bit of an outlier. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C4%81rlis_Ulmanis

  74. J.W. Brewer says:

    Re border-elimination, the Orwell piece mentioned upthread notes that “Nationalism is universally regarded as inherently Fascist, but this is held only to apply to such national movements as the speaker happens to disapprove of. Arab nationalism, Polish nationalism, Finnish nationalism, the Indian Congress Party, the Muslim League, Zionism, and the I.R.A. are all described as Fascist but not by the same people.” He wrote this only two or three years after pamphlet wars were specifically accusing Welsh nationalism (rightly or wrongly) of being Fascist, so it’s rather an insult to the Welsh to leave them off the list if you ask me.

  75. You forgot about Conducător Antonescu.

    He was Romanian Orthodox and right-wing dictator.

    I’d say he was a fascist too.

    I mean, if killing three hundred thousand Romanian Jews in the Holocaust doesn’t make him fascist, the word has no meaning.

  76. I always picture him going up and down the aisle collecting fares.

  77. David Eddyshaw says:

    so it’s rather an insult to the Welsh to leave them off the list if you ask me

    We are too warm and cuddly to be taken for Fascists.

  78. It’s true! And you don’t sing Die Wacht am Rhein or Giovinezza, you sing Cwm Rhondda.

  79. J.W. Brewer says:

    I always assumed the sense of the English word etymologically akin to “Conducator” you were supposed to think of was not “ticket-collector” but “guy at the front of the orchestra with a baton who will by the way have you shot if you’re out of tune or come in a beat too early or too late.” The nation as an orchestra of individuals with distinct roles to play who can unite in harmony if but only if they carefully follow the cues of the one authoritative man wielding the baton up front is not a bad image as images for authoritarian and illiberal regimes go. For an interestingly-similar metaphor in American (and Protestant) political discourse, see https://dcist.com/story/13/08/01/botched-drum-major-quote-being-remo/.

    But those un-Protestant foreigners always have silly-sounding foreign titles, like “caudillo” or “duce” or whatnot. The respectably Calvinist name for the job position is traditionally “Lord Protector.” Who (with any sense of self-preservation) would dare to laugh at that?

  80. I always assumed the sense of the English word etymologically akin to “Conducator” you were supposed to think of was not “ticket-collector” but “guy at the front of the orchestra with a baton who will by the way have you shot if you’re out of tune or come in a beat too early or too late.”

    Sure, but I’ve always had trouble thinking what I was supposed to think. It’s a failing.

  81. David Eddyshaw says:

    The only really acceptable foreign term for “Supreme Leader” is Tlatoani.

    (I was just looking up Simón Bolívar on Wikipedia, for Reasons, and discovered the splendidly 1066 And All That statement: Bolívar fought 100 battles, of which 79 were important.)

  82. @Y:

    she didn’t say that all of whatsis’s voters were “deplorable”: she said that some of them were, and it was clear she was talking about the awful extreme

    She said “to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables”. So it depends on how far “grossly generalistic” tones down “half”.

    @David Eddyshaw:

    “Protototalitarian” might indeed be a better name than “protofascist”

    Ripe for haplololology though.

    @David Marjanović:

    “Minor” changes require a 1/2 majority in a referendum. “Major” ones require a 2/3 majority in parliament.

    In case any one else was confused, transpose “major” and “minor”

  83. A locomotive, run by an engineer, who is busy with slide rules over a drafting table; behind it a train, in which a conductor walks up and down the aisles in a tailcoat and wild hair, waving a baton (which occasionally strikes a compartment door, startling the passengers inside.)

    Yes.

  84. A more uncompromising version would be a prototototalitarian.

  85. David Eddyshaw says:

    Protototototalitarianism is the worst. I am sure no Hatter would ever be proprotototototalitarian, or even show protoproprotototototalitarian tendencies.

  86. @J.W. Brewer, SFReader: I confess that I was repeating a fact(oid)—albeit one that I had seen numerous times. For whatever reason, Karlis Ulmanis never seems to be mentioned in (English-language) discussions of inter-war authoritarianism. In fact, none of the Baltic states’ authoritarian governments seem to be much discussed; I imagine this is a product of some kind of Cold War myopia. Of the other Baltic dictators, Konstantin Pats in Estonia was apparently also Orthodox, and Antanas Smetona in Lithuania was Catholic. Regarding Ion Antonescu, on the other hand, I had actually seen affirmative claims that he was Catholic, but this is evidently not correct.

  87. Lars Mathiesen says:

    warm and cuddly — that’s the sheep. Or goats, was it?

    The flip side of the situation with the US Constitution is that the Federal Government may not be able to prevent something like the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Research is needed, though. (The research would probably be done by the SCOTUS).

  88. J.W. Brewer says:

    Another authoritarian-and-maybe-technically-fascist strongman of the same era of whom the Orthodox could boast (were we prone to boasting) is Ioannis Metaxas, who generally got favorable press in the West for standing up to Mussolini (Όχι !) after several years of trying to construct a bargain-basement imitation of Mussolini’s regime. [EDITED TO ADD: yes, the linked piece is full of numerous comical errors on matters of factual detail – better information is available for the googling] https://metaxas-project.com/the-fascist-hero-who-changed-the-course-of-history/

  89. David Eddyshaw says:

    Obviously, in safeguarding our institutions, what we really need to know is the chance of a randomly selected* Catholic becoming a fascist leader.

    The safest thing may be to stick with Mennonites, where the accumulated evidence suggests that the risk is comparatively low.

    *Or “democratically elected”, to use the PPE jargon.

  90. J.W. Brewer says:

    @Lars: Hey, this is America. Do your own research rather than expecting someone else to do it for you. (More technically, unlike the system that to my understanding prevails in certain other countries, the U.S. federal courts have a norm of refraining from giving so-called advisory opinions. Not sure if what you’re thinking of doing is constitutional? Go ahead and do it and see if you get sued, and if you do maybe then you can get a federal court to rule.)

  91. David Eddyshaw says:

    that’s the sheep

    And your point is? Sheep are people too. I’ve had to call you out on this blatant ovinism before.

  92. The principle that the courts (specifically the Supreme Court in this case, but precedentially all Article III federal courts and in most cases state courts as well) do not provide advisory opinions was first set out in a return letter from the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Jay (writing on behalf of the Court itself) to George Washington’s administration. The key part is

    The lines of Separation drawn by the Constitution between the three Departments of Government, their being in certain Respects checks on each other, and our being judges of a court in the last Resort, are Considerations which afford strong arguments against the Propriety of our extrajudicially deciding the questions alluded to; especially as the Power given by the Constitution to the President of calling on the Heads of Departments for opinions, seems to have been purposely as well as expressly limited to executive Departments.

    Interestingly, the argument in Jay’s letter is completely different from the usual one given against the issuance of advisory opinions, which is that the courts’ jurisdictional purview is limited to “actual cases or controversies.” However, I am not sure where the particular phrasing “actual cases or controversies” originates;* it is not in the Constitution, in which Article III, Section 2 merely lists a number of types of cases and controversies over which court jurisdiction extends. The fact that advisory opinions are not listed is read as precluding them, since the federal government supposedly does not have any powers except those specifically enumerated to it. This principle was considered by most to be implied by the original Constitution, but it was in any case made explicit in the Tenth Ammendment:

    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

    * The Supreme Court’s opinion in the 1906 case Muskrat v. United States** mentions “cases and controversies” numerous times, but not “actual cases and controversies.”

    ** Sadly, not brought by an actual muskrat.

  93. Lars Mathiesen says:

    That’s what I meant, if the Compact aforementioned is ever passed by enough state legislatures, I’m sure that they will be sued around ten minutes later by somebody who thinks they stand to lose by it, and the matter will end up before the Supreme Court. There is not really any point in anybody else trying to figure out if it’s constitutional, just try it and see.

  94. J.W. Brewer says:

    I must regretfully caution David Eddyshaw that there are no sure bets in human affairs. I have myself had professional dealings with what you might call a Mennonite-adjacent religious community with allegedly-authoritarian leadership who at one point back in the mid-Nineties (before my colleagues and I got involved and helped them learn why it had perhaps been a bad idea) decided to follow the path of the Scientologists et al. in trying to use defamation lawsuits in Caesar’s courts to silence critics and dissident ex-members.

  95. David Eddyshaw says:

    Oh dear. It only takes one Mennonite Fascist to tip the balance conclusively in favour of Catholics. We may need to move on to Nestorians.

  96. Whatever you do, keep the Circumcellions out of it.

  97. Rogatists.

  98. J.W. Brewer says:

    Baathism in Iraq (as the illiberal/authoritarian alternative to a more explicitly Islam-based illiberal regime) understandably found some support among the Christian minorities and I expect the Nestorians were not absent from that support although I take the point that supporting a regime is a different thing from presiding over it. (Saddam Hussein’s high-profile Christian deputy Tariq Aziz was a Chaldean Catholic, and thus sort of post-Nestorian.)

    But I guess you can say that a sufficiently authoritarian Mennonite is No True Mennonite and thus doesn’t count, just as, w/o being “authoritarian” in the relevant sense, Dwight Eisenhower, while a child of Mennonite parents, proved himself No True Mennonite over the course of his military and political career.

  99. David Eddyshaw says:

    One of the principal founders (if not the principal founder) of Ba’athism was in fact a Christian:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Aflaq

    and another was Alawite: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zaki_al-Arsuzi

    Ba’athism is quite interesting, and in some respects even quite attractive, as a system; I think it’s been somewhat ill-served by those purporting to put it into practice (sound familiar?)

  100. The Ba‘th/Ba‘ath Party has a most interesting history; I recommend Patrick Seale’s The Struggle for Syria to all interested parties. A quote (from p. 154):

    In ‘Aflaq’s view, socialism is less a set of recipes for solving specific social and economic problems than an instrument for the moral improvement of the people at large. In western Europe, he argues, the state is in the service of the bourgeoisie; western socialism, reflecting the needs of dispossessed classes, is therefore bound to be both materialistic and anti-nationalistic. But Arab socialism is the very opposite: it is both spiritual and identified with nationalism, because it involves the genius of the entire people. ‘Socialism is the body, national unity is the spiriť. Political unity is hailed as a creative force which will, of itself, inspire a socialist society. This mystical marriage of nationalism and socialism is ‘Aflaq’s peculiar message.

  101. Seale’s biography Asad: The Struggle for the Middle East is also excellent (though of course out of date).

  102. What part of Latvia was Ulmanis from? The SE (Latgale) is Catholic, I think.

  103. He was born on a homestead near Dobele.

  104. Well, so much for that. Thanks.

  105. David Marjanović says:

    mystical marriage of nationalism and socialism

    *all music coming to a halt*

    …no, not attractive as a belief system at all. Trump is what it gives you in the best case.

  106. David Eddyshaw says:

    In what sense is Trump “socialist”? I feel his supporters deserve to know …

    The “nationalist” aspect of Ba’athism was supposed to be pan-Arabism, and a designedly non-sectarian pan-Arabism at that; I think you can make a very good argument that what it became in Syria and Iraq was a major betrayal of its origins. Even then, in Iraq, at least, it was a good deal better than what followed.

  107. I think you can make a very good argument that what it became in Syria and Iraq was a major betrayal of its origins.

    I don’t think anyone denies that, except presumably Ba’th party leaders.

  108. David Eddyshaw says:

    Even Iraqi Ba’athism under Saddam was by no means comparable to Nazism; not the least of the stupidities of the occupiers after the Iraq war was their treating it as if it was:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De-Ba%27athification

  109. The Ba’ath movement was, by design, a broad-tent, non-sectarian, inclusionary pan-Arab movement. This was, probably unfortunately, not a particularly viable political approach during the post-Second-World-War period. The two Ba’ath regimes that survived in the long term only became stable when they resorted to bloody authoritarian measures, which was certainly not what most of the Ba’ath movement founders, like Michel Aflaq, had envisioned. The whole history of the Ba’ath party is tangled up with post-war Arab internationalism. The Wikipedia article for the Arab Cold War describes the conflict as “between Soviet-backed Arab republics and US-backed Arab monarchies,” but that is a gross oversimplification.

    Egypt was the preeminent Arab state throughout most of the twentieth century, whether under the Khedival dynasty founded by (the Albanian!) Muhammed Ali until 1952, or under Nasser and his successors afterwards. Alignment with or against Egypt was, as perceived in the Arab world, the most important trans-national political allegiance. Nasser himself famously proclaimed Egypt’s “non-aligned” status, which meant that governments like Egypt’s or Congress Party India’s were willing to accept assistance from both the West (meaning overwhelmingly America and Britain, for both Egypt and India) and the Soviet Bloc. However, in America at least, those “non-aligned” countries were largely seen as pro-Soviet; some of that may have been unfair, but it was also a manifestation of the fact that for a long time, military assistance to countries like Egypt ended up coming primarily from the Soviet side.

    Nasser also supported the idea of pan-Arab nationalism, which he portrayed as consistent with Ba’athism. In fact, ideologically, Nasserism and Ba’athism may not have been incompatible. Ba’athists in Syria generally supported the Egyptian-led United Arab Republic,* although they were, like most Syrians, dissatisfied with Nasser’s attempts to consolidate control over Syrian territory in Egyptian hands. After the collapse of the UAR in 1961, there were coups and counter-coups (twice in 1963, then again in 1966) between Syrian Ba’ath factions that were pro-Egyptian and more anti-Egyptian, until Hafez al-Assad’s final seizure of power in 1970. However, with each coup, the country came more under the Soviet sway, as Soviet advisors to the Syrian Army manipulated the political situation to the Soviets’ advantage. (The Soviets had actually precipitated the 1967 Six Days War by feeding the Syrians fake reconnaissance data that indicated the Israelis were preparing to attack their Arab neighbors.)

    The situation in Iraq was rather similar. Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr seized power twice, in 1963 and 1968. After the first takeover, he seriously overplayed his hand, suggesting a union with Ba’athist Syria and alienating many Nasserites in the country (which had only overthrown the Hashemite monarchy in 1958—after which the Ba’ath faction had wanted to join the UAR). He was quickly forced from power, but after five years, he took over again and cemented the Ba’ath rule that lasted until 2003, even though he was forced out by his right-hand man Saddam Hussein in 1979, turning the country in a far more repressive and bellicose direction.

    * My father once asked me, thinking it would be a difficult trivia question, “What countries made up the United Arab Republic?”** My answer was: “Egypt, Syria, and whichever half of Yemen they controlled.” That last part, relating to the civil war in Yemen, has no clean answer, actually. At various times, Nasser claimed that Yemen was or was not part of the UAR.

    ** For some reason, the seventh-grade geography textbook that was in use at my middle school until some time in the 1990s, still listed Egypt as the “United Arab Republic,” even though Anwar Sadat had dropped that affectation back in 1971.

  110. (The Soviets had actually precipitated the 1967 Six Days War by feeding the Syrians fake reconnaissance data that indicated the Israelis were preparing to attack their Arab neighbors.)

    I’ll clarify, just in case*: USSR could hardly benefit from the war and provoking it would be against their policy at the time. Where the report originated is unclear (to public), but the known story of the report is clearly a chain of blunders. It is not unlikely that unknown story is also a chain of blunders.

    Golan, G. (2006). The Soviet Union and the Outbreak of the June 1967 Six-Day War (sci-hub)

    CIA report


    *I don’t know if the implication was that USSR could have wanted it, and anyway it is not that I like what they were doing. It was just in case.

  111. al-Bakr

    Al-Kuzdur Al-Galiki stoically bundled Al-Bakr and is using Kurds on Ibn Bakr…

  112. John Cowan says:

    For some reason, the seventh-grade geography textbook that was in use at my middle school until some time in the 1990s, still listed Egypt as the “United Arab Republic,” even though Anwar Sadat had dropped that affectation back in 1971.

    For the same reason that biology textbooks say Eohippus was the size of a small fox terrier: they copy each other. (I note that Eohippus, having become Hyracotherium for a while, has reverted to being Eohippus: Hyracotherium, though the senior synonym, was found to be paraphyletic.)

  113. @drasvi: Indeed, I don’t know what the Soviets were trying to accomplish with the faked photographs they passed to the Arabs, but the Six Days War, and the way it played out, was very clearly not it.

  114. From an article linked above:

    For the Soviet Union, this phrasing did not seem unusual because the Russian language does not use articles (“the” and “a”), but the Soviet position both then and afterward was that all the territories occupied in 1967 were to be evacuated.

    Verily so. But is “from territories occupied in the recent conflict” normal English at all?

    the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:
    (i) Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;

    Is not it something that an Enlgish-speaking mind would interpret as omitted article? “The” as such doesn’t indicate completeness: “partial withdrawal from the territories”.

  115. @drasvi: I think the parts of your comment are out of order.

    However, “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict,” sounds totally fine to me. It might be better with articles, but it’s already reasonable as is.

  116. Brett, the second quotation comes from Security Council Resolution 242, the first one is from Galia Golan’s article.

    ….the British UN representative, Lord Caradon, told the Egyptians that the purposely vague term of “territories occupied in the recent conflict” actually meant “all the territories.” This interpretation was subsequently rejected by Israel, but it enabled Egypt and Jordan (though not Syria) to agree to what became Security Council Resolution 242. For the Soviet Union, this phrasing did not seem unusual because the Russian language does not use articles(“the” and “a”), but the Soviet position both then and afterward was that all the territories occupied in 1967 were to be evacuated. Moreover, in addition to the ambiguity on the territorial issue, the absence of a timetable or clear se-quence of steps to be taken in accordance with Resolution 242 avoided another controversial matter.

    Galia Golan implies that omission of “the” allowed Israel to intepret the resolution differently.

  117. “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict,” sounds totally fine to me.

    Me too, and I’m confident in saying it’s perfectly good English; it’s just phrased so as to avoid specifying what territories are meant.

  118. It would not reflect well on the competence of the Soviet foreign ministry if they did not recognize the intentional ambiguity in the wording of that resolution. By November, when the resolution was passed, Eshkol and Eban had made it absolutely clear to the Americans and the British (and probably also the French) that there was no way Israel was going to return all the territory they had captured. In particular, while territory outside the Jerusalem’s Old City was negotiable, Israel was never going to cede the Temple Mount back to Jordan.

    (I am used to the Wikipedia articles for topics related to the Arab-Israeli conflict being controversial and thus bad. However, the article about Resolution 242 is remarkable for currently having the wrong map at the top; usually, both sides can at least agree on which territory Israel captured during the war.)

  119. John Cowan says:

    Two great examples of English-language articles packing a punch: by commission in Keynes’s monograph The Economic Consequences of the Peace (i.e. all of them), and by omission in Shippey’s book J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century (i.e. one of them).

  120. David Marjanović says:

    In what sense is Trump “socialist”? I feel his supporters deserve to know …

    Only in the sense of making noises in that general direction: treating what would have been called “the working class” as his base and showering them with claims he was going to bring lost jobs back.

    That fits together with xenophobia as the good old “they’re coming to steal your jobs”, a sentiment that didn’t have a political home before Trump’s hostile takeover of the Republican Party.

    It worked in that Trump increased his share of the vote among non-college Blacks and Latinos.

    Rhetorics-wise it’s also a drastic change from what the Republican Party had been doing, which was to talk about big business, mention everyone else only in the ever-recurrent attempt to believe in the trickle-down theory, and shout about the culture war as a distraction. Trump said “I’m a strong Christian” once, promised to nominate partisan judges, and left it at that.

    Back home, the FPÖ became the new workers’ party in the late 1990s. One of its current slogans is Die soziale Heimatpartei because soziale Nationalpartei would be too obvious. (Also, in Austria, the question of “so which nation is that, then” would get awkward.) Germany’s NPD (to the right of the AfD) has no such concerns and says things like sozial geht nur national ~ “having a social state is only possible at a national scale, we can’t be kind to anybody outside the nation”. They’re getting a much smaller share of the vote because they’re too obvious (well, among other things).

    and a designedly non-sectarian pan-Arabism at that

    The actual Nazis pointedly ignored the deep divide between Catholic and Protestant Germans, and their definition of “Jew” had nothing to do with religion either… except to the extent that their own ideology counts as a religion in the wider sense.

    Even Iraqi Ba’athism under Saddam was by no means comparable to Nazism; not the least of the stupidities of the occupiers after the Iraq war was their treating it as if it was:

    They were locked into carrying this stupidity out because of the “Axis of Evil” speech.

    “the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:
    (i) Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;”

    That’s perfectly cromulent. “The territories” would mean all of them; without the article it’s vague and implies “not all” – “some”, “certain”, even “any” (i.e. Israel could deny it had occupied any territories at all, presumably by redefining “occupy”). It works the same in German and French.

    The Economic Consequences of the Peace

    …where “the peace” can only be one particular peace treaty.

  121. @David Marjanović: Trump’s takeover of the Republican party was not really that hostile, and even his rhetoric is, apart from being more brash, not really that different from what mainstream Republicans had been trending towards for decades. Trump represents the apotheosis of the party’s increasing trend toward demagoguery, overt racism and misogyny, and authoritarian thinking that has been evident since at least 1994. Most other Republican politicians’ and commentators’ initial objections to Trump’s approach were based not so much on any disagreement with Trump on matters if policy, but on the perception that his overt crassness was not going to be a winning strategy. That meant that when he did win in 2016, they found it relatively easy to line up behind him.

  122. the party’s increasing trend toward demagoguery, overt racism and misogyny, and authoritarian thinking that has been evident since at least 1994.

    I would backdate that to 1980, and maybe 1968.

  123. Yes, I also personally think there is a clear line through Nixon and Reagan to Trump. However, that is something about which people seem to legitimately disagree, whereas I don’t think any honest observer can question that by the time of the Gingrich revolution, the Republican party was certainly on track toward its current position.

  124. David Marjanović says:

    the apotheosis of the party’s increasing trend toward demagoguery, overt racism and misogyny

    Yes, but the xenophobia is new, as are the pretense to care about blue-collar jobs and the reduced emphasis on conservativism, including religion (replacing “shun the unbeliever” by “own the libs”). The mere continuation of the existing trends was Cruz, not Trump. Trump is the victory of the Beer Party over the Tea Party.

    This is similar to the hostile takeover of Austria’s conservatives by Sebastian Kurz. He single-handedly introduced xenophobia (competing with the FPÖ), largely replaced conservativism by his personal charisma and changed the party’s color from black to turquoise – that’s like replacing the Republican elephant by a turtle.

  125. @David Marjanović: The xenophobia is not really that new. It has been a undercurrent, rising every closer to the surface, in Republican politics since at least the 1980s. And Reagan was renowned for his appeal to blue-collar white Americans—the famed “Reagan democrats.” Reagan’s appeal to that demographic was mostly esthetic, rather than based on any specific economic policies, but so is Trump’s, in the main; and when asked about why they supported Reagan or Trump, those kinds of voters tended to give qualitatively very similar answers—that Reagan or Trump spoke honestly to them and cared about their kind of regular folks.

    What was certainly surprising to me (although even in this instance, perhaps I should have expected it) was that so many conservative evangelicals were instantly willing to throw themselves absolutely behind Trump, even though he was obviously a greedy, lying, philandering atheist from New York. It turned out that, if an American politician supports the particular culture war positions that are important to the religious right, virtually nothing else about the politician’s behaviors and attitude matter. Evangelical Christian morality is apparently purely performative and restricted to a relatively small number of currently-hot-button issues. The most important victories that a president can provide to the religious right in the ongoing culture wars are anti-abortion Supreme Court justices. The death of Antonin Scalia had the effect of galvanizing a lot of evangelicals to get out and vote, because in their view, nothing could be more important than keeping Scalia’s seat out Democratic hands. Before the election, it seemed like there might have been some real conflict among the evangelicals about the hypocrisy of having to vote for the utterly godless and immoral Trump in order to secure the Supreme Court’s right-wing majority; but it turned out not to matter a whit. Maybe Bloix would say that it should have been evident all along that the evangelicals would tolerate—indeed prefer—Trump’s crudity, since for at least a generation, right-wing white Christians have been focused almost purely on airing their grievances against their declining centrality in American culture and railing against anyone who questions their innate Christian superiority. Since Trump’s 2016 victory, I have only seen that attitude borne out more and more—with evangelicals crowing about every little opportunity Trump has given them to attack or try to humiliate the liberals and Democrats.

  126. Yup, what Brett said.

  127. David Eddyshaw says:

    for at least a generation, right-wing white Christians have been focused almost purely on airing their grievances against their declining centrality in American culture

    Seems to me that leucochristianophobia is a perfectly rational attitude in the US.

    The “Evangelical Christian”* movement in the USA currently seems to consist very largely of people whose actions (though not words) reveal that they think Jesus made the wrong choice over the offer related in Matthew 4:8-9.

    There are exceptions; far too few. It’s a scandal (in the full theological sense.)

    *scare quotes intended. Oh, so much intended.

  128. Matthew 4:8-9

    Why did you make me look that up?

    Too much insider talk here.

  129. David Eddyshaw says:

    I believe it’s the case that most white voters voted for Trump. It’s not only Christians who need to get used to saying, very, very loudly, #notAll[INSERT YOUR OWN DEMOGRAPHIC HERE]. And doing something about it. (History suggests that Americans – eventually – do do something about it.)

    Too much insider talk here

    It’s the insiders that bother me. They think they know the passage already. I’m preaching to the converted. They need to repent.

    However, taking your point, I provide a helpful link to “scandal” which explains the theological sense:

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/scandal

    Esssentially, “bringing the game into disrepute.”

  130. Giacomo Ponzetto says:

    @David Eddyshaw:

    I believe it’s the case that most white voters voted for Trump.

    In every US presidential election that the Democratic candidate doesn’t win in a landslide, you can be assured the Republican has gotten a majority of the votes of the demographic majority. So it was in the latest election.

    By religion, slightly more than two thirds of voters identify as Christian, and most of them voted for Trump.

    By race, slightly more than two thirds of voters identify as white, and most of them voted for Trump.

    By race and religion, slightly less than half of voters identify as both white and Christian, and most of them voted for Trump. This latter slice of the electorate is a mere plurality, much to Trump’s chagrin. But each of the three remaining race-by-religion combinations had a Biden majority.

    Again, this is true of Trump v. Biden but it must have been true for all presidential elections for several decades. It seems obvious enough I’m not even motivated to check in order to avoid the potential embarrassment of being confidently wrong.

    It’s tempting to blame specifically “white born-again or evangelical Christians,” but that doesn’t seem to work in practice. Exit polls suggest that Trump also carried a majority of the votes of white Christians who don’t consider themselves “born-again or evangelical.” Again, I believe this has been the pattern for decades, though this is sufficiently thin slicing I’m not so confident about it.

  131. the other key statistical pieces of this:

    – trump’s share of the vote strongly correlates with income: the more a person makes, the more likely they were to vote for him.

    – and, crucially, a solid majority of eligible voters* in the u.s. do not vote and have never voted. this is not apathy – it is a generally quite deliberate and articulate response to there not being candidates whose policies support most people’s survival, let alone the possibility of flourishing. the most striking feature of u.s. political life in my lifetime (the first election i had strong opinions about was 1984) is the absolute continuity of policy across all the presidentiads, regardless of party.** this is hard to avoid seeing if you don’t have the insulation of money (and whiteness, and christianity), and is the*** driving factor of u.s. electoral politics: neither party is interested in policies that would give the majority a reason to vote, so they obsess about divvying up the minority who see themselves adequately served by the status quo, whose interests in turn drive them even further from policies that would serve the majority.

    * a category heavily engineered to exclude poor folks and people of color, through the stripping of the franchise from those convicted of certain crimes (mainly ones rarely enforced in white communities, and next-to-never in rich ones), through registration processes that require stable housing, and through the active suppression measures of the past few decades.

    ** julius nyerere said it best: “the united states is also a one-party state but, with typical american extravagance, they have two of them.”

    ***okay, one of two. the other one is that the Democrats do not want to win. all of their behavior indicates that they would like to be in the historical role of the british LibDems, as a permanent junior party in a series of coalition governments (with no discernable preference between center-right, center, and far-right as the senior partner). unfortunately for them, they’ve done a lot to prevent the emergence of the multiparty system that would make that possible.

  132. We have a reasonably diverse (by opinion) commentariat here at LH. SFReader can be counted on upholding Russia’s honor, many other nations and ethnicities have their champions, we have an occasional comment in support of Brexit, even (horrors!) prescreptivists drop by from time to time. What we lack is outspoken Republicans. Playing at one goal (as Russians say) is not fun!

  133. David Eddyshaw says:

    We need to recruit some Republican Chomskyans. Chompublicans. But are they even allowed?

  134. Russia aside, my views are embarrassingly archaic. Label me proto-paleo-conservative if you wish.

    For example, I think French Revolution was a mistake. And good chunk of the Enlightenment too.

    Basically, we need to go back to the 17th century and figure out how to move forward from there, avoiding paths which our history since has proven unworkable.

  135. David Eddyshaw says:

    Burning witches never gets old.
    And emancipating slaves just makes them unhappy. Fact.

  136. John Cowan says:

    I believe it’s the case that most white voters voted for Trump.

    Indeed. I’m beginning to feel, as a pretty uniformly pink-skinned American, that white is an exonym for me.

    scandal […] the theological sense

    That’s pretty fair, but it leaves Paul’s scandal of the Cross mysterious. Who is it a scandal to, or a stumbling-block for? I never could get that.

    On “Christianity” (scare quotes), Aslan says “all the service thou hast done to Tash, I accept as service done to me […] no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him.”

    In Harry Turtledove’s novel Alpha and Omega, which is about the end of (some) days, Jesus returns, puts his hands on the shoulders of the Messiah and the Mahdi (they are both teenagers) and says in turn (in Jewish Palestinian Aramaic, but they understand him anyway) “My older brother. […] My younger brother.”

    A bit later, he says: “Is it not written: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord?” (1 Thess 4:17). The two M’s both say “Not in my scripture”, but Jesus says, “Your scripture is true, in its way […] And so is yours. And so is that other one.”

    Which is pretty crafty of Jesus (and Turtledove): after the Threefold Ascension, it prevents an all-Abrahamic holy war against the goyim/pagans/kafirs, because each sect can plausibly claim to perhaps be The Other Religion, and who’s to tell them no? (This is my interpretation and not in the text.)

  137. emancipating slaves just makes them unhappy

    I think it was proven by British courts back in 18th century that practice of slavery was illegal under existing English laws from the very beginning.

    Emancipation of slaves thus was only a return to the state of affairs which existed in early 17th century before illegal slavery was allowed to flourish by criminal neglect of English authorities.

  138. Lars Mathiesen says:

    They say that Roman landowners starting emancipating slaves so they wouldn’t have to cover healthcare. I don’t know how accurate that is, though.

  139. Owlmirror says:

    That’s pretty fair, but it leaves Paul’s scandal of the Cross mysterious. Who is it a scandal to, or a stumbling-block for? I never could get that.

    Doesn’t Paul actually say “to Jews a stumbling-block” ?

    While I am a lot less confident nowadays ¹ that no Jews would have conceived of a Messiah who was sacrificed on a tree, I think that such a death was not a reasonable part of most mainstream Judaisms at the time.

    I offer the Lubavicher Rebbe as a rough analogy of Jesus: Most Jews would not consider Menachem Schneerson to be the Messiah (and his death would be a stumbling block), but there are Jews who do consider the Lubavicher Rebbe to be the Messiah, and reject his death as (presumably) having been an illusion.

    =____________________________________________________________________________
    1: Jacob Neusner, William Scott Green, Ernest S. Frerichs, eds. Judaisms and their Messiahs at the turn of the Christian Era. Cambridge University Press, 1988

  140. PlasticPaddy says:

    @sfr
    Creating a new 17th century man is for me like creating a new Soviet man. But good luck😊

  141. David Marjanović says:

    Would you believe I had never managed to connect Skandal to Schande. I even heard it pronounced with /ʃk/ once!

    I didn’t know that about Reagan (just before my time, I guess). But my grand theory of how all those fundie Christians came to worship an autotheist is here.

    Moreover, any distinction between xenophobia and racism is of little interest to the targets thereof; nor is xenophobia intrinsically morally superior to racism.

    I didn’t say it was either.

    the absolute continuity of policy across all the presidentiads, regardless of party.

    Regardless of party, yes, but not regardless of Trump.

    neither party is interested in policies that would give the majority a reason to vote

    The majority never has a reason to vote in the US because it lives in safe states and safe congressional districts where the primaries, to the extent that such exist, are the real elections. Overhaul the Constitution to nationalize the national elections, and watch turnout jump from around 50% to around 70% or 80% the same year.

    The big parties in Europe aren’t “interested in policies that would give the majority a reason to vote” either; and yet, turnout never drops to American levels.

    (Except in Russia. The videos of last time’s ballot-box stuffing, meant not to let Putin win but to avoid his having to admit humiliatingly low turnout, were hilarious.)

    ** julius nyerere said it best: “the united states is also a one-party state but, with typical american extravagance, they have two of them.”

    Those were the times, when the parties were in the middle of the process of switching places, and both of them had liberal and conservative wings.

    Since then, the Republicans have drifted farther and farther right. The Democrats tried to drift to the left, suffered a traumatizing defeat against Ronald Reagan, drifted to the right with Bill Clinton*, and has been drifting to the left ever since – but much more slowly than the Republicans have drifted to the right.

    * who took the Social Democratic parties of Europe with him in what I would consider a giant misunderstanding that did lasting damage to all these parties… oh, and it gave us b.liar.

    they’ve done a lot to prevent the emergence of the multiparty system that would make that possible

    Not even.

    The Founders hated the concept of parties and seem to have believed that if they never mentioned them, none would ever form. In hindsight, it’s obvious that that couldn’t work.

    (Germany’s constitution, for comparison, explicitly mentions parties as “important for the formation of the people’s political will” and regulates them. It dates from 1949.)

    Worse: they failed to separate the head of state from the head of government. That means the elections that result in a new government are always elections for a single person. Such elections tend to become duels. Both of the two candidates with a serious chance then accrue parties behind them for support, and then these two parties continue to exist through the election and put up the candidates for the next one.

    The two-party system is a direct consequence of the Constitution. In the UK, if a party manages to come out on top in a region or two, it can temporarily break the two-party system and even enter a coalition government, as the LibDems recently did; but in the US even that is practically impossible.

    Given that the Founders had no models to work with other than ancient Athens, ancient Rome, medieval Italy, a few glimpses of the Iroquois and perhaps a few of Switzerland, they did an amazing job. But they made one blunder that is so colossal there’s basically no hope of escape, and that’s how difficult they made it to amend the Constitution. It has been the one most difficult to amend in the world ever since Communist Yugoslavia ended in 1991.

    You really can’t have nice things. Things really do suck.

    …My hope has been, for the last 20 years, that the Republicans collapse entirely, leaving the whole power to the Democrats, who would promptly fall apart roughly along Hillary/Bernie lines into a party that is conservative by European measures and a Social Democratic party. Normalcy at last. Alas, Faux Noise has made that impossible throughout the foreseeable future.

    We need to recruit some Republican Chomskyans. Chompublicans. But are they even allowed?

    “We govern by the principles. You are bound by the parameters.”
    – a former rule of r/badlinguistics. Somehow they’ve abandoned that along with the ingenious background; but they still give all glory to 𝓒𝓗𝓞𝓜𝓢𝓚𝓨𝓓𝓞𝓩.

    Basically, we need to go back to the 17th century and figure out how to move forward from there, avoiding paths which our history since has proven unworkable.

    Are you a neoreactionary? 🙂

  142. David Marjanović says:

    Fact.

    Trufax!

    Jesus returns, puts his hands on the shoulders of the Messiah and the Mahdi

    So, where’s Elvis?

    (And Nero. Nero, as present company will know, has been hiding out in Parthia and shall return to make his fans happy. Boy, is he going to be surprised what happened to his reputation.)

  143. Overhaul the Constitution to nationalize the national elections, and watch turnout jump from around 50% to around 70% or 80% the same year.

    Seems unlikely. From what I can tell even the swingiest states in this year’s unusually high-turnout election are nowhere near 80%, or even 70% in some important cases (PA, FL, AZ). Most of the highest-turnout states seem to be ones that are pretty safe for one party or the other, and also pretty white.

  144. Giacomo Ponzetto says:

    @rozele:

    the other key statistical pieces of this: …

    I believe you’re in the US and probably a citizen, while I am neither. Yet I’m surprised enough by your statements that I find further discussion warranted.

    1. In the statistics I’m familiar with (e.g., American National Election Studies survey data) the correlation between income and voting Republican has been declining for decades. The univariate correlation is still positive because whites have higher income than non-whites. However, among whites alone, the correlation between income and Republicanism is complicated to say the least.

    According to CNN exit polls, Biden won a majority of the votes of white college graduates. This finding is likely to stand as further data come in over time. The same polls also show a hump-shaped pattern of Trump support by income among whites. Both findings can be simultaneously true for various reasons (age, details of the income distribution), but it’s also worth noting that self-reported education is typically pretty accurate while self-reported income tends to be very inaccurate. So it’s also possible that the correlation between income and Republicanism among whites has declined so much it has eventually switched sign. More data are needed to draw a conclusion.

    What’s pretty clearly established is that Republican voters are locally richer white people in poorer places (poorer states, poorer metropolitan areas, etc). They need not be nationally richer white people.

    2. On electoral participation, you’re right that the US does poorly relative to other advanced democracies. However, you need absolutely radical disbelief in available data to be convinced that in the US a majority of eligible voters don’t vote, let alone a solid one.

    158 million ballots were cast in the 2020 presidential election. There were an estimated 255 million US residents aged 18 and over as of July 1, 2019. Even if you take the fairly radical view that voting rights ought to result from residence rather than citizenship, you’d also need the outlandish belief either that at least 19% of ballots were fake, or that the US resident population is now at least 24% higher than we thought it was last year.

    Without such radical disbelief in the data we’ve got, you need to agree that over half the resident voting age population voted in every presidential election in our lifetimes (in fact since 1960: probably earlier too but it’d take effort to check earlier ones) with the single exception of 1996. Even in 1996, a comfortable majority (>58%) of the citizen voting age population voted.

  145. Giacomo Ponzetto says:

    @ David Marjanović:

    The two-party system is a direct consequence of the Constitution. In the UK, if a party manages to come out on top in a region or two, it can temporarily break the two-party system and even enter a coalition government, as the LibDems recently did; but in the US even that is practically impossible.

    You’re right that the U.S. combines a presidential system with first-past-the-post legislative elections, which is the extreme scenario for Duverger’s Law.

    However, the U.S. Constitution mandates only a presidential system, not also first-past-the-post legislative elections. Admittedly the U.S. Senate makes proportional representation impracticable. However, runoff elections would face no constitutional obstacle, and Maurice Duverger himself thought they were enough to favor a multi-party system (as one would expect since he was French).

    Last but far from least, the U.S. already has a kind of runoff elections, both at the legislative and at the presidential level: primaries. Undeniably, those cement some kind of a two-party system. Yet they also make U.S. parties very different from European ones, and in particular much weaker relative to individual elected legislators.

    As a result, U.S. parties are in some ways closer to Italian coalitions than Italian political parties. And Italy, as a parliamentary democracy with a fondness for proportional representation, has the huge proliferation of political parties Duverger’s law predicts; but nonetheless it has had a pretty stable two-coalition system — disrupted right now, but then in the U.S. too Perot got 19% of the vote in the 1992, and it remains to be seen if disruption will prove longer-lasting in Italy.

  146. @GP:

    i can’t turn up the quintile breakdown that i saw closer to the last election; here‘s a link to the NYT, which shows a very large jump at the $100K line, but an insignificant difference between their lower two categories. and yes, obviously when you look at both race and income you get a more complex result; i was adding the piece that i hadn’t seen mentioned yet, not combining the factors. your point about the locally-rich is, i think, key.

    i could quibble about the numbers of voters, since i wasn’t talking about presidential elections, but about u.s. electoral politics in general. but why bother? i’m entirely willing to rephrase, having sloppily not looked at 2020 turnout numbers:

    more eligible voters in the u.s. choose not to vote than vote for anyone running, by a massive margin. let’s be conservative and call it a mere few dozen million more than voted for the person who got more votes than any presidential candidate in history. when None Of The Above has that kind of landslide every single time, why quibble about whether it’s a majority…

    and residence-based voting is hardly radical, or unprecedented. in the u.s., twenty-two states had it in 1875, and it was only fully eliminated at the state level in 1928.* more immediately, the 2010 new york city council resolution to restore it for local elections (to give one recent example) had majority support (31 sponsors out of 51 members), and was only blocked by the “one man in a room” structure that allowed the council speaker to prevent it going to a vote. and elsewhere, new zealand, chile, belgium, greece, and every scandinavian country (among others) have it in one or another version at various levels.

    * the decline from 1875 to 1928 is a fascinating study in the balancing act of white supremacist politics in the u.s.: after formerly enslaved african americans were enfranchised, white non-citizen immigrants were seen as key to maintaining white rule, especially in the south (and much of the former confederacy enfranchised them right after the civil war). the practical re-disenfranchisment of freedmen in the late 19thC meant that northern white fears of not-white-enough southern & eastern european immigrants could tip the scales the other way, making citizenship voting necessary to preserve “100% Americanism” (and half the resident-voting states flipped by 1900). the xenophobic organizing of the 1910s & 20s (from the revived KKK to henry ford’s mass distribution of the Protocols to the palmer raids) put the final nail in, and the last state disenfranchised non-federal-citizen residents soon after the 1924 immigration restriction law.

  147. neoreactionary

    I think it’s better to describe what I believe was the way things were and ought to be again.

    The state has a duty to help poor and starving people. The state should ensure justice and prevent predation on the poor and weak by the rich and strong. All social groups have a right to fight for their rights and for improvement of their position in life (preferably peacefully and via legal means). If the government fails in these duties, the people have a right to revolt and overthrow tyranny.

    These ideas were pretty common in 17th century (and much earlier too), they allowed social progress and increase in human welfare, and they became a basis on which radical Enlightenment ideals developed in 18th century and beyond. And it’s these later developments which I consider a mistake.

  148. I think it’s better to describe what I believe was the way things were and ought to be again.

    The state has a duty to help poor and starving people. The state should ensure justice and prevent predation on the poor and weak by the rich and strong.
    I don’t know what your sources are if you think that this is how state and society worked in and before the 17th century. Some of these things were preached as pious ideals, but reality was very different from that picture.

  149. Poor relief was a state policy enacted in numerous laws. For example, in England:

    Whereas the necessity number and continual increase of the Poore not onely within the Cities of London and Westminster with the Liberties of each of them but alsoe through the whole Kingdome of England and Dominion of Wales is very great and exceeding burthensome being occasioned by reason of some defects in the Law concerning the setling of the Poor and for want of a due Provision of the regulations of releife and imployment in such Parishes or Places where they are legally setled which doth enforce many to turn incorrigible Rogues and others to perish for want togeather with the neglect of the faithfull execution of such Lawes & Statutes as have formerly beene made for the apprehending of Rogues and Vagabonds and for the good of the Poore

    For remedy whereof and for the preventing the perishing of any of the Poore whether young or old for want of such supplies as are necessary May it please your most Excellent Majestie that it may be enacted and be it enacted by the Kings most Excellent Majesty by and with the Advice and Consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and the Commons in this present Parliament assembled and by the Authority of the same…

    Nobody accused Stuart or Tudor kings of socialism or any leftist tendencies, but they certainly knew that it is their royal duty to prevent starvation and help poor people and provide them with employment.

    Similar policies existed elsewhere in Europe and Asia.

    Their realization in practice of course varied. In England, there was far too much reliance on forced labor – the state was determined to provide 100% employment and if the poor couldn’t find employment themselves, the state would send them to workhouses and force them to work. Now, this was very close to how “real socialism” was practiced in the 20th century which I certainly don’t approve.

    The point is – even before the French Revolution and creation of left-right politics, policies which are now considered socialist were regarded as common sense and executed by governments which otherwise were very traditional and certainly undemocratic.

  150. Giacomo Ponzetto says:

    @rozele:

    more eligible voters in the u.s. choose not to vote than vote for anyone running, by a massive margin.

    True, but be careful what you wish for. A plurality of voting-age U.S. citizens voted for President Reagan in 1984. The breakdown was Reagan 38% > not voting 35% > Mondale 26%. Yet I somehow doubt your strong opinions about that election are nostalgia for the Gipper as the only politician who truly represented and served a majority of Americans.

    More generally, you’re right that low voter turnout in the U.S. is indicative of some underlying problems: particularly of its active suppression by Republican politicians.

    On the other hand, there’s very little evidence it’s indicative of voter alienation in the sense that a plurality of non-voters believe, like you, that both parties are far too right-wing. On the contrary, survey data typically show a U-shaped pattern of turnout by ideology, with centrists being the least likely to vote.

    In fact, I wonder if such a theory of abstention from alienation even fits your own voting history. Given your opinion of the two parties, it predicts you have abstained in a wide majority of elections. The commonly observed pattern makes the opposite prediction that, as a radical left-winger, you have turned out to vote on most occasions you had a chance to.

    By the way, I don’t mean “radical” as a derogatory term. But if you disagree that a proposal to extend the right to vote to all U.S. residents regardless of citizenship would now be radical, I’m pretty sure you’re greatly mis-estimating the current Overton window. The U.S. also had pretty much open borders until 1875, and didn’t apply restrictive quotas to immigration from the Western Hemisphere until as late as 1965.

  151. John Cowan says:

    I think it was proven by British courts back in 18th century that practice of slavery was illegal under existing English laws from the very beginning.

    There was certainly property in slaves in Britain going back before the Norman Conquest, though no agricultural slaves as far as I know, only domestic servants (a few) and slaves held by traders (a lot). It’s true that English law favored freedom over either slavery or serfdom: in general, someone claiming to hold another in bondage had to prove it, as there was never any presumption of bondage. The legal position beyond that was a mass of complications until 1833, when all slavery was abolished definitively by Parliament.

  152. David Marjanović says:

    More on the US later.

    If the government fails in these duties, the people have a right to revolt and overthrow tyranny.

    That was the most shocking innovation of the Enlightenment, shocking enough that it still had to be spelled out in some detail in the US Declaration of Independence. Before that, Western Christianity held that all rulers and ruling dynasties are put there by God one way or another, and therefore revolt is blasphemy.

    (Even Switzerland never rebelled against the emperor as such until it was allowed to exit the empire in 1648.)

    I wonder, actually, if the Enlightenment got this idea from China, which was widely admired as a meritocracy around that time. In China, ruling dynasties had long been thought to have duties, and when (not so much if) they failed fulfill those any longer, they lost the Mandate of Heaven and were expected to go down in rather literal flames. Compare and contrast the Austrian emperor, who still felt in 1918 that he had no right to abdicate, much like John Paul II actually.

  153. @David Marjanović: The idea that there were reciprocal requirements between the government and governed could be found in many different societies. The Chinese version, with the Mandate of Heaven, was merely a particularly explicit version, and one phrased in manifestly religious terms. Locke talking about the Social Contract was more explicit than most prior European thinkers had been, but he was not covering fundamentally new ground. The real groundbreaking new Enlightenment idea about the Social Contract was Rousseau’s. Rousseau averred that the contract was not between the government and the governed; rather the Social Contract in a sense was the government. There was a contract among the governed themselves; whether tacitly or explicitly, government exists only by the consent of the governed.

    The second paragraph of the Declaration of the Independence is really a masterly composition, laying out a sequence of propositions, beginning with basic rights but building up to include the Right of Revolution. I think it is rather a pity that the list of self-evident truths is usually truncated—even, for example, in the inscription at the Jefferson Memorial.

    The full elaboration, for those unfamiliar:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

  154. Aragon oath:

    We, who are worth as much as you, take you as our king, provided that you preserve our laws and liberties, and if not, not.

    Catalan version:

    “Nós, que valem tant com vós per separat, i junts més que vós, us investim sobirà i us jurem lleialtat per tal que ens protegiu, i treballeu pel nostre progrés, i si no, no”.

  155. PlasticPaddy says:

    My issue with some sort of return to pre-Enlightenment thought and practice is that, in the “developed world”,
    (a) institutions as they now exist are highly interdependent, and deeply influenced (SFR might say “perverted”) by an Enlightenment Deist (but tolerant of atheism) outlook
    (b) ordinary people’s expectations (if not their thinking) of what their rights entitle them to by way of support and order in their daily life, and what responsibilities or constraints on their “freedom” are derived therefrom, are inconsistent with a pre-Enlightenment outlook and practice.

  156. @SFReader: one point one has to keep in mind is that with many pre-enlightenment set-ups where the king was answerable to the people, the “people” in question were actually limited to the aristocracy. As an example, when Widukind of Corvey in the Res gestae Saxonum talks about the populus proclaiming a ruler or assenting to some actions of the king, it’s clear from the description that he’s talking about assembled nobles or at most about the assembled army.
    Even where non-nobles were part of such assemblies, mostly as a result of increased urbanisation, they were a very limited group, mostly consisting of the ruling classes in the cities.
    In any case, those premodern times were maybe not as bad as in some caricatures, but they were still quite ghastly, except maybe if you were a king, noble, or wealthy burgher of a city, and if you look at life expectancy and health, I am not sure if I’d like to swap even with one of those. And as enlightenment values have a lot to do with our current improved standard of living, I don’t regret that they won out.
    @DM: revolts against kings were quite frequent even before the 18th century. Normally, they were based either on some perceived lack in legitimacy (i. e. the king was not the true king, so they involved another pretender to the throne) or on the king supposedly violating ancient rights, with which the king overstepped his rights, and the demand being that the rights should be restored – that is the original meaning of the word “revolution”, a return to the rightful situation. The interpretation of the divine right as an absolute freedom for the king to exercise his will (“L’état, c’est moi”) was, at least in Europe, also a development of modernity, which had a tendency to test ideas to their extremes.

  157. the “people” in question were actually limited to the aristocracy.

    What Engels termed “military democracy”. Supreme power belongs to the assembly of armed men which represented very large segment of population in ancient barbarian Germanic kingdoms, but came down to less than 1% in medieval era.

    I note, by the way, that the right to vote was extended to almost all men exactly when universal military conscription was introduced (and even women got it when they were drafted into defense industry during world wars).

    This historic correlation suggests that with the end of conscript army and mass mobilization, large franchise is no longer needed.

    Maybe we are already heading back to the 17th century….

  158. David Eddyshaw says:

    I think you must have been watching “Starship Troopers.”

    (A much-underrated movie. Also cherishable for the way it puts a much-needed boot into the politics of the book.)

  159. This historic correlation suggests that with the end of conscript army and mass mobilization, large franchise is no longer needed.
    I prefer to think on these matters in terms of economics. In agricultural societies, there is a small economic surplus that can sustain only a relatively small share of non-agricultural population (say, 20%); on the other hand, controlling that production and extracting that surplus is relatively easy with a few armed men. So traditional agricultural societies are basically glorified protection rackets, relying on a belief that your current protectors (with whom you share a culture and a religion) will treat you better than any other set, and that they have an interest in leaving you at least some food and seed corn to maintain the system long-term, as compared to marauders and plundering barbarians. Trade-based and industrial societies are more complicated, and demand cooperation and initiative from a much larger number of players, who also need a certain reassurance that the fruits of their cooperation and initiative aren’t arbitrarily taken away from them. That means that assent of the governed cannot be limited to a small elite, and the input of the masses has to go beyond “don’t exploit us so hard that we can’t stand it anymore, or you drive us to armed insurrection”, in order for the system to run optimally. That’s why it needs a large franchise, and the promise of a certain prosperity for a big part of the population. That is why I wouldn’t worry about the abolition of the draft; what I worry about is what may happen when robots and AI will have progressed so far that you don’t need lots of people anymore to keep the economy going.

  160. @David Eddyshaw: Paul Verhoeven is a master auteur of parodies that are easy for casual viewers to interpret as whole-hearted celebrations of the right-wing views he is nominally parodying. These include Robocop, Total Recall, Starship Troopers, and maybe even Flesh and Blood.

    I have always maintained that I would like to see a recut of Starship Troopers that edits out any scene with a human in it: bugs only!

  161. Heh. That might be fun!

  162. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    A friend of mine made a meme about Starship Troopers that basically went:

    Small brain: This is a stupid movie.

    Medium brain: Great action movie! The only good alien is a DEAD alien. Go humans!

    Large brain: Actually the film is a satire subverting militant fascism. Smart!

    Galaxy brain: Regardless of the author’s intention, the militant fascism ends up looking like a compelling and not unreasonable option. Where do I sign up?

  163. John Cowan says:

    Sadly, not brought by an actual muskrat.

    The same may be said of Squirrel v. Moose; it had nothing to do with Rocky and Bullwinkle either. But it did establish that the Portland (Oregon) cops can’t keep records on people who aren’t suspected of crimes. (Douglas Squirrel was a member of Portland Copwatch; Charles Moose was the chief of police.)

    Dwight Eisenhower, while a child of Mennonite parents, proved himself No True Mennonite over the course of his military and political career.

    There is a Mennonite tradition as old as Menno himself that distinguishes between the sword of oppression and the sword of justice, though most modern Mennonites do not. Eisenhower may well have believed himself to be wielding the latter in the World Wars and as President.

    The Economic Consequences of the Peace …where “the peace” can only be one particular peace treaty.

    I meant the first instance of “the”; sorry for the ambiguity. But “the peace” can, and surely does, mean the entire state of affairs resulting from the Treaties of Versailles, Saint-Germain, Neuilly, Trianon, and Sevres. These treaties were not yet in force when Keynes wrote, but their content was quite clear to anyone who attended the Paris Peace Conference, as Keynes did.

    I would backdate that to 1980, and maybe 1968.

    Reagan I grant you. But Nixon, whatever his personal feelings about Jews and blacks, governed as a liberal hawk of his day would have done.

    t’s not only Christians who need to get used to saying, very, very loudly, #notAll[INSERT YOUR OWN DEMOGRAPHIC HERE].

    While #notallX is perfectly true[*], the people who claim it in the public discourse generally mean “I am personally opposed to the current society from which I benefit, but I don’t want to hear about it from you.”

    [*] “I have heard it said that all foreigners will do anything for gold. I am glad to see it is not so.”

    “Any saying that claims all of some group will do a particular thing is not to be trusted,” Park observed.

    “Spoken like a judge.”

    –Harry Turtledove, The Pugnacious Peacemaker

  164. As we’re at funny quotations, one of my favourite quotations in the area of xenophobia is by Geriatrix, from the Asterix comics: “I don’t have anything against strangers. Some of my best friends are strangers. But these strangers (new arrivals in the village) are not from here”.

  165. @GP:
    very little evidence it’s indicative of voter alienation in the sense that a plurality of non-voters believe, like you, that both parties are far too right-wing.

    that *is* what i think, but not what i said (and yes, it’s not articulated that way). what i said, and what is constantly articulated by non-voters, is that neither party’s policies support the survival (or flourishing) of anyone but the rich (and white).

    that’s also borne out by the overwhelming majority support* for such ‘radical’ propositions – opposed by both parties – as universal single-payer healthcare (“medicare for all”), bodily autonomy for women (“the right to choose”), a mandated living wage (“fight for 15”), etc. all, of course, among the basic demands of the 19th/early20thC left, but now backed by many who would never describe themselves in that way.**

    * assuming that one trusts polls. the two arms of the single party do, which makes their shared refusal to support these kinds of wildly popular polices a very active and deliberate choice. and, with some*** attention to methodology, we all need to on some level, since it’s impossible for any one person to know a statistically significant number of people from a 300+M population.

    ** including the “centrists” and “independents” who have been visibly enthusiastic in presidential elections only for “radical” (i.e. center-left) candidates like sanders, dean, etc.

    *** a metric**** shit-ton.

    **** perhaps ironically, an imperial shit-ton is 1.312 metric shit-tons*****.

    ***** likely of naval origin; probably originally a misprint for “shit-tun”.

  166. Geriatrix

    She would fit very well in my old comics idea* about Asterix.

    * it’s based on idea that all Gallic names ending with -trix are actually feminine like in Latin.

  167. But Nixon, whatever his personal feelings about Jews and blacks, governed as a liberal hawk of his day would have done.

    But the issue is not the personal feelings or governance habits of particular presidents but about the history of the Republican Party as trending toward demagoguery, overt racism and misogyny, and Nixon is irrelevant to that except insofar as he encouraged it with his racist law-‘n’-order campaign. It was already clear then, if one had eyes to see, that the “liberal Republican” wing was doomed.

  168. Geriatrix

    She would fit very well in my old comics idea* about Asterix.
    Just to avoid misunderstandings, Geriatrix is an old man (the oldest inhabitant of Asterix’s village.)

  169. Owlmirror says:

    Galaxy brain: Regardless of the author’s intention, the militant fascism ends up looking like a compelling and not unreasonable option. Where do I sign up?

    Clearly, “Galaxy” here is an anagram for “lax yag”, where “yag” is Dutch for “hunt”. A lax hunt is, of course, one that relies on hooks dangled in the water with bait, which is to say, trolling.

  170. @Owlmirror: Seeing “lax yag” immediately made me think of the numerous anagram-adjacent plays on the name of E. Gary Gygax that appeared in first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: “Gaxx,” “Yagrax,” “Zagyg,” “xag-ya,” “xeg-yi,” and probably more.

  171. John Cowan says:

    The Founders hated the concept of parties

    History taught them that every republic is destroyed by faction, Weimar-style. They could not foresee that the end of the Civil War would find the Republic restored: who could? “With malice towards none, with charity to all” (from Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address of 1865, a month before the end of the war) is not commonly a winner’s creed.

    they failed to separate the head of state from the head of government

    At the time, responsible parliamentary government did not exist. The executive power of Great Britain was in the hands of the King not only de jure but de facto; the King appointed his own ministers, who did not need to be members of Parliament at all, much less of the House of Commons; and while there was a party of the “King’s friends” in Parliament, those who did not support the royal policies certainly did not want to be thought of as the “King’s enemies”. Indeed, the phrase “His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition” was not coined until 1826.

    The two-party system is a direct consequence of the Constitution.

    I have never understood why you say this. A two-party system is the consequence of FPTP voting, about which the Constitution is silent with the exception (a major one, to be sure) of the Presidency. The Fundamental Orders, which were the Constitution of Connecticut from 1639 to 1965 (right through the Revolution) do indeed prescribe FPTP, as does the 1780 Constitution of Massachusetts (still in effect). But the fact is that we have FPTP because our constitutions are older than any other voting method. Condorcet’s proposals came out contemporaneously with the Constitution, when we already had a century and a half of experience with local FPTP.

    In addition, during the Era of Good Feelings (1816-24) we had only one party, the ancestor of the Democratic Party (founded in 1792), and from 1854 (when the Republican Party was founded) to 1932 the Democratic Party was mostly confined to the South and was out of power almost the whole time.

    It was already clear then, if one had eyes to see, that the “liberal Republican” wing was doomed.

    I think that is 20-20 hindsight. You and I were still kids then, I believe, but Gale was 25 in 1968. More to the point, she was a member of the Young Republicans (something she finds deeply embarrassing today), and even shook Nixon’s hand once. She saw the party from the inside, and it was definitely still an ordinary conservative party and not at all a bunch of reactionaries as it is now. Nixon’s law’n’order was about electing Nixon, period.

    (Interestingly, Reagan ran against him in the 1968 primaries as a moderate Republican, hoping that neither Nixon nor Rockefeller, the Governor of N.Y. and the head of the liberal wing, would carry the day, making him a compromise candidate. In fact, he was a spoiler for Rockefeller.)

    It was the 1970 Kent State shootings that radicalized Gale. Ironically, the deployment of the National Guard had nothing to do with Nixon: the Guard was under the control of the Governor of Ohio, who had the day before described the protesters as worse than the Nazi Brownshirts, the Communists, the KKK, and vigilantes in general. He was at the time under the impression that Kent State students had burned down the building housing the ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, often found on college campuses in those days), something the as-yet-unpoliticized FBI was able to refute later. The Governor was no Trumplican: he was (over)reacting to civil unrest in general.

    all glory to the 𝓒𝓗𝓞𝓜𝓢𝓚𝓨𝓓𝓞𝓩

    I think you mean the 𝓒𝓗𝓞𝓜𝓢𝓚𝓨𝓑𝓞𝓣.

  172. FPTP is slowly crumbling. Louisiana, Georgia, Maine, and now Alaska switched to the good (or at least better) side.

  173. David Eddyshaw says:

    Chomskydoz is a happy (or terrifying) fusion of Chomskybot and Zardoz.

    (The screenplay practically writes itself. Sadly it’s too late now to have Sean Connery play Noam Chomsky. He’d have been epic.)

  174. “The merge is good. The penis is bad.”

  175. You and I were still kids then, I believe, but Gale was 25 in 1968. More to the point, she was a member of the Young Republicans (something she finds deeply embarrassing today), and even shook Nixon’s hand once. She saw the party from the inside, and it was definitely still an ordinary conservative party and not at all a bunch of reactionaries as it is now. Nixon’s law’n’order was about electing Nixon, period.

    I was a Republican too, until 1967 (the war radicalized me), and I well remember feeling the party going to the dark side as the ’60s drew to a close. Of course it wasn’t what it has since become, but the seeds were there for Reagan and Gingrich to water and manure.

  176. Giacomo Ponzetto says:

    @rozele:

    that *is* what i think, but not what i said (and yes, it’s not articulated that way). what i said, and what is constantly articulated by non-voters, is that neither party’s policies support the survival (or flourishing) of anyone but the rich (and white).

    Your more articulate statement itself implies your belief that both parties are far too right-wing. I’m pretty sure it also implies self-awareness of holding the latter belief.

    Perhaps what you’re after is that some people who don’t share your belief that both parties are far too right-wing still do share your belief that both parties serve the interests of a sinister elite. That may well be true of right-wing populists, such as drain-the-swamp Trump supporters. But they’d never share your definition of the sinister elite as “the rich (and white).” And that isn’t because they share your beliefs but articulate them differently.

    In any case, most Americans also don’t share your view that neither party represents them. The American National Election Studies (ANES) surveys ask that question explicitly: “Would you say that any of the parties in the United States represents your views reasonably well?” The fraction answering “Yes” declined from 66% in 2008 to 59% in 2016, but that’s still a solid majority.

    Even more forcefully, most Americans don’t share the view that Democrats and Republicans are “the two arms of the single party.” ANES has that covered too: “Do you think there are any important differences in what the
    Republicans and Democrats stand for?” The fraction answering “Yes” stood at 84% in 2016, up from 75% in 2008.

    You’re right that both figures decline when considering non-voters only. But you seem to overestimate the magnitude of that decline. The number of non-voters who found their own views reasonably represented by a party was 48% in 2008 and 40% in 2016. The number of non-voters who perceived important differences between the two parties was 58% in 2008 and 68% in 2016.

    Both for non-voters and for Americans as a whole, the perception that the parties don’t represent them well has risen, not fallen, along with their perception that the two parties are far apart. This correlation proves nothing, needless to say. However, it’s consistent with the traditional evidence-based understanding that disappointment and abstention are mostly from people who find both parties too radical in opposite directions, not insufficiently radical in one direction.

    that’s also borne out by the overwhelming majority support* for such ‘radical’ propositions ­ opposed by both parties ­ as universal single-payer healthcare (“medicare for all”), bodily autonomy for women (“the right to choose”), a mandated living wage (“fight for 15”), etc.

    Unlike voting rights for non-citizen residents, these left-wing policies are well within the Overton window. A version of each, albeit possibly one you find treasonably diluted, is in the 2020 Democratic Party Platform.

    p. 14: “Democrats will fight to raise wages for working people and improve job quality and security, including by raising the federal minimum wage so it reaches $15 an hour by 2026.”
    p. 28: “we will give all Americans the choice to select a high-quality, affordable public option [that] will be administered by CMS, not private companies; and will cover all primary care without any co-payments […] just like Medicare does”
    p. 32: “Democrats are committed to protecting and advancing reproductive health, rights, and justice. We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should be able to access high-quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion.”

    You can find prominent Democrats who support a more aggressively left-wing version of these proposals (e.g., Sanders’s Medicare-for-all instead of Biden’s public option); possibly even one to your own liking.

    Most important, however, either you’re looking at peculiar polls or you have a peculiar definition of “overwhelming majority support.” Once again ANES, has got us covered.

    “There is much concern about the rapid rise in medical and hospital costs. Some people feel there should be a government insurance plan which would cover all medical and hospital expenses for everyone. Others feel that medical expenses should be paid by individuals, and through private insurance like Blue Cross. Where would you place yourself on this scale, or haven’t you thought much about this?” On a scale of 1 to 7, 15% of Americans are with you at 1; 33% are with the Democratic Party Platform in the range from 1 to 3; but 38% are on the opposite side at 5 to 7, while the remaining 29% are either undecided or noncommital centrists.

    “Some people feel that the government in Washington should see to it that every person has a job and a good standard of living. Others think the government should just let each person get ahead on his/their own. Where would you place yourself on this scale, or haven’t you thought much about this?” On a scale of 1 to 7, 9% of Americans are at 1, and 28.25% in the range from 1 to 3; but 40% are on the opposite side at 5 to 7, while the remaining 31% are undecided or noncommittal.

    “There has been some discussion about abortion during recent years. Which [opinion] best agrees with your view?” Here, 46% of Americans agree with you that “By law, a woman should always be able to obtain an abortion as a matter of personal choice.” But even that remains a minority. To get to a majority you still need to yield some ground, just like the Democratic Party Platform does, in order to bring in some of the 15% who choose “The law should permit abortion for reasons other than rape, incest, or danger to the woman’s life, but only after the need for the abortion has been clearly established.” In other words, there’s majority support in the U.S. for modest but non-nil restrictions on women’s right to choose. By the way, there’s majority support for that among American women: their figures are 47% and 13%, probably a statistically insignificant difference from males.

  177. David Marjanović says:

    The two-party system is a direct consequence of the Constitution.

    I have never understood why you say this. A two-party system is the consequence of FPTP voting, about which the Constitution is silent with the exception (a major one, to be sure) of the Presidency.

    A system where the members of parliament are elected individually to represent geographic districts, and are elected by FPTP, indeed has a strong tendency to a two-party system, but it’s not automatically as inescapable as in the US. The UK has that, and within living memory it briefly had a governing coalition of two parties which both contributed to the cabinet.

    The difference seems to be that the unusually powerful POTUS is elected by FPTP, too; “third parties” that could establish a regional power base still have no chance of attaining the presidency. And so, they have no chance of gaining enough media attention or attracting enough members to establish a regional power base the way the Liberal Democrats occasionally do in the UK. I think this is the vicious circle that maintains two big-tent parties in the US.

    The members of the EU parliament, to pick the other extreme, are not elected individually at all. The voters vote for parties; the parties make ordered lists of people they want to give seats, and those lists are provided along with the ballot. When the votes have been counted, the first-ranked members on each list are seated up to the percentage of the votes. The party landscape is very diverse.

    The next most extreme example seems to be Austria, which always ends up with 4–6 parties in parliament (up from 3 up to the 1980s) and always ends up with a governing coalition (since the 1970s, but also for most of the time before that). The president is elected directly; the candidates mostly distance themselves from the parties they come from, and a runoff election usually happens.

  178. Where does the name “first past the post” come from, anyway? I can think of a number of metaphorical interpretations of the phrase, but none of them match what it means, which is that the plurality winner in each voting jurisdiction wins. I imagine the term is British in origin, since it seemed to be familiar to Brits when it only started appearing frequently in discussions of American politics this century.

  179. J.W. Brewer says:

    If you look at 19th-century British texts in the google books corpus, “first past the post” is primarily a horse-racing term, with some extensions to e.g. competitive rowing. The relevant “post” is what marks the finish line, and the basic idea is that (it may be relevant for the subsequent extended sense that these are typically competitions with lots more than two competitors) if you get there first, you win, and it doesn’t matter whether you were two inches or twenty yards ahead of whoever was next behind you. The metaphorical extension to “whoever gets the most votes compared to each other candidate individually wins the election even if they lack a majority and have only a modest plurality that’s a tiny bit greater than the second-place candidate” seems easy enough to understand, although I haven’t delved into exactly when that extension occurred.

    EDITED TO ADD: According to other sources it became and maybe still is a technical term for a specific sort of bet you can place on a horse race in England, which may or may not render it a bad metaphor for the political sense. Another complication is that horse races are typically once all the way around the track, so the “post” (as in “post time”) is both the starting line and the finish line, which again makes it suboptimal metaphor for extension.

  180. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Actually, for the parliamentary elections EU countries are allowed to use a system with personal votes transferrable in party list order, and proportional allocation between party lists. But that doesn’t change the point: you end up with the same number of representatives for each party, it’s just that the party list order may be “broken” by popular candidates.

    (Denmark does that, because that’s essentially how both municipal and parliamentary elections have worked for the last 100 years).

  181. Trond Engen says:

    I don’t find it easy to understand. “First past the post” would seem to mean that whoever first reaches a certain number of votes wins the election. The British system is more like a 1 hour/12h/24h run, where there’s no goalpost and the winner is whoever is in the lead when the race is called. In a strict two-party-system there’s no difference of outcome, but the metaphor breaks down at three.

  182. @Trond Engen: Yes, that’s exactly my thinking on why the metaphor doesn’t work.

  183. J.W. Brewer says:

    Here’s a brief internet discussion in which various people opine that the more carefully you think about the details of the horse-racing sense the less-apt a metaphor it is for what has become the standard electoral-structure meaning. Language can be like that sometimes.
    And I agree that the 24-Hours-of-LeMans type of race is a better metaphorical fit.

    https://politics.stackexchange.com/questions/9181/what-is-the-post-in-first-past-the-post-voting

  184. Lars Mathiesen says:

    FWIW, Danish doesn’t use an equivalent of FPTP but talks about “single man electoral districts.” (They are mentioned in the constitution so gender neutrality has not yet been applied — not doing so was more acceptable in 1952 when it was last updated).

    “With simple majority” can be added if you want to exclude things like the upcoming senatorial runoffs in Georgia, USA.

  185. Trond Engen says:

    For those who find multi-candidate constituencies confusing, I’ve found it useful to explain it as pooling of candidates. Anyway, the advantage of a multi-candidate system is not only that it allows more than two parties but that each party is forced to present a demographically diverse list of candidates.

  186. John Emerson says:

    The two parties are the same om support for overall military strategy and foreign policy and support for globalization, and subservience to Finance. They are sharply different on the social issues. By and large the two parties are highly dependent on the money of large donors, And they have to balance what the voters think against what the donors want.

    A high proportion of waters and especially of non-voters have a little or no part of some commitment and also little or no ideological left right commitment or even understanding. You can easily find people who are not aware that Trump and Sanders are at opposite ends of the spectrum. There were large number of Obama trump voters and also a large number of Obama Sanders voters.

    Before about 1980, abortion was not an issue and a large number of Christians didn’t care much one way or the other about it. It was made an issue over the course of a decade or more by hard work. So, while you cannot really say that there is a huge left-wing vote out there right now, With effort it could be created, but that is the very thing that the present Democratic Party will never do, because of its slavery to finance. And example is Medicare for all which counts as far left in the United States today. But the Democrats as a national party are not going to commit themselves to that and so those left-wing voters will never be found.

    PS A 50% voter turn out is not regarded as a large turn out.

  187. John Emerson says:

    Dear God, my iPhone transcribes voice, but not at all well. “Waters” = voters — and so on. I am learning!

  188. J.W. Brewer says:

    FPP versus a requirement for winning candidates to have an absolute majority (if need be by having a runoff or some sort of funky transferable voting system which simulates an “instant runoff”) is conceptually a different issue than single-member districts versus multi-member districts. You can have all four combinations. Multi-member districts with proportional representation where you have to vote for a single party’s list in toto rather than being able to pick and choose will obviously give you results that are more challenging to obtain in single-member districts although you can (and I believe some European countries do this) have a legislature that’s a mix of winners of single-member districts and others selected from party lists in some sort of PR regime that crosses district lines.

    The mistake of course is that thinking that any one of these systems is the One Right Way to do it, although sticking with the way your particular society has long done may have certain virtues regardless of which way that happens to be.

  189. John Emerson says:

    Hasn’t it been mathematically shown that any system will perform badly in one circumstance or another?

  190. @John Emerson: Arrow’s Theorem doesn’t show that any voting system will necessarily perform badly under some circumstances, but it shows that an awful lot of them do.

  191. John Cowan says:

    The difference seems to be that the unusually powerful POTUS is elected by FPTP, too; “third parties” that could establish a regional power base still have no chance of attaining the presidency.

    Well, it happened once, and thereby hangs a tale or two.

    In 1860 there were four parties in contention: the Northern Democrats ran Stephen A. Douglas, Lincoln’s old opponent for the Illinois Senate; the Southern Democrats ran John C. Breckinridge; the Republican Party (six years old at the time, and a mixture of various movements including nativism andFree Soil aka “no more slave states!”) ran Lincoln, and the Constitutional Union Party (less than a year old, Southern conservatives who couldn’t stomach the Democratic Party) ran John C. Bell. The Whig Party, which had been the Democrats’ main opponent from 1828 to about 1850, broke up and its members joined either the Republicans or the CUP.

    Douglas and Lincoln disputed the Northern states, Breckenridge and Bell the Southern. Lincoln crushed it with 108 EVs and 1.87 million votes (40%); Breckenridge got 72 EVs and 0.85 million votes (18%), Bell got 39 EVs and 0.39 million votes (13%), and Douglas a mere 13 EVs but 1.38 million votes (30%). In essence, Lincoln carried the North and Breckenridge the South, with Bell and Douglas dividing a few in the middle. Of course all the Breckenridge states plus Virginia (a Bell state) were gone within a few weeks after Lincoln’s inauguration; the other Bell and Douglas states were border states, Union but with slavery until after the end of the war.

    In the 1864 election, when the war was still a-fighting but the end for the South was inevitable, the War Democrats (the unconditional-surrender folks) formed an alliance with the Republicans to re-elect Lincoln (“don’t change horses in midstream”). Texas and Louisiana were under Union military control and picked Lincoln electors, but Congress rejected their 10 EVs; for whatever reason Mississippi’s 7 EVs, which were in the same position, were accepted, though they were far from decisive, as the Democrat General McClellan (the most incompetent of all the incompetent generals put on Earth to make Robert E. Lee look good) only carried his home state.

    Hannibal Hamlin, Lincoln’s first VP, was displaced from the CUP ticket (he was not close to Lincoln, and he didn’t seem to care much) by a Northern Democrat, Andrew Johnson. He took over after Lincoln’s death and spent most of his time pursuing Lincoln’s peace agenda, much to the disgust of the Radical Republicans (“BURNINATE THE SOUTH!”) in Congress, who impeached him (the first time ever); he escaped conviction by one vote.

  192. There is also the election of 1824, which had four major candidates. All of them were nominally Democratic-Republican, since that was the only national political party during the Era of Good Feelings, but the party splintered along largely regional lines in the 1824 election. The political reorientation would lead, by around 1828, to the establishment of the second party system, with the Democrats and the Whigs, which would last until the 1850s, when slavery became by far the most important political issue.

    In 1824, John Quincy Adams (from Massachusetts), dominated in the Northeast, while the South and West were more divided. William Crawford* (born in Virginia, lived in Georgia) won his two home states. Henry Clay (born Virginia, lived in Kentucky) carried three western states. The biggest vote getter, however, was Andrew Jackson (born in South** Carolina, lived in Tennessee), who carried twelve states across the South, Mid-Atlantic, and West. Jackson won the greatest number of votes, of states, and of electors (99), but because it was a four-way contest, he fell well short of a majority (131) in the Electoral College. The election went to the House of Representatives (with each state delegation getting one vote), to be decided among the top three electoral vote recipients. Crawford nosed out Clay for third place, 41 to 37, and the House of Representatives elected Adams president when Clay (who detested Jackson) threw his support behind Adams. The net result was that Jackson, the plurality winner by any measure in the popular*** election, did not get elected, and the win went instead to Adams, who was a much more explicitly regional candidate.

    Supporters of Jackson called the deal between Adams and Clay a “corrupt bargain.” In support of this view was the fact that Adams named Clay as Secretary of State—which was the position that each Democratic-Republican president up to that point had given to their successor. Clay countered that he would have done anything in his power to keep Jackson from winning the presidency, regardless. Fifteen years later, Clay would tell the Senate, “I had rather be right than president.” Opinions differ on whether he was being honest.

    * Crawford is largely forgotten today, apart from his role in this election, in contrast to the other three candidates, who were all major nineteenth-century political figures.

    ** He was probably born in South Carolina, although very close to the border with North Carolina. In any case, he carried both the Carolinas.

    *** Not all states actually had popular elections at this time. Some electors were chosen by state legislatures.

  193. Lars Mathiesen says:

    @JWB, of course a single candidate constituency does not entail FPTP or vice versa, but in Danish discussions of the subject (rare as they are) they are strongly connected. Or rather, SCC and PR are seen as opposites, and whether a simple or absolute majority is needed is not seen as important.

    I’m not sure that transferrable votes or runoffs help with the PR part, anyway.

    Danish parliamentary elections went from SCC/simple majority (back when only male landowners or rich people had the vote; lots of minor nobility got elected) over some combination with PR in a second chamber to the current (one-chamber) system, where you have geographical constituencies with on the order of ten seats, then regional supplemental seats and finally national supplemental seats, so that the parties end up with the number of seats the national vote entitle them to, but the supplemental seats are allocated to the regions and then constituencies where the party that gets them was closest to winning a extra seat more. Pretty complicated, especially since parties can make vote-sharing alliances, but we have computers now.

    (The whole PR thing only cuts in if a party gets 4% of the vote, but if an individual candidate gets more personal votes in a single constituency than the party candidate with the least combined votes that the PR system would select from that constituency, they get the seat. This has happened once in my lifetime, but it almost happened again in the 2019 European Parliament elections for the top candidate of the anti-EU movement [which failed to reach the threshold for PR]).

  194. Trond Engen says:

    The Norwegian system is similar, but without individual candidates. Each electorial district has a number of seats that are allocated to the parties proportionally* to the local vote. One seat per district is allocated after “unrepresented votes” nationally. Before the “equalization seats” were adopted a couple of decades ago, there were two large and about five small parties in parliament. Since then we’ve seen the parties become more equal in size, but also less stable, and the blocks often form coalitions with a commanding majority instead of minority governments by one party or with one dominant partner. There are advantages to both systems.

    *) d’Hondt with modifications

  195. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Ever since I knew what it was (around 1965) I’ve been strongly in favour of the single transferable vote as used in the Irish Free State, then Republic of Ireland, since the 1920s. It does not guarantee a proportional result, but it comes reasonably close to it.

    Ironically, Ireland used it in the 1920s because it was forced on them by the British Government as a condition of partition, as they thought there was a need to protect the rights of Protestants in the south. They felt no such need to protect the rights of Roman Catholics in the north, so Northern Ireland stuck with first past the post.

    Subsequently all efforts by politicians to do away with the single transferable vote in Ireland have been firmly rejected by the population. The worst the politicians have been able to do to give the party bosses more control has been to move towards smaller constituencies. At the beginning there were some 7-member seats and 5-member seats were common, but now they are mostly 3-member seats.

    (I should add that my knowledge of this may be completely out of date.)

  196. J.W. Brewer says:

    At least according to wikipedia, Portugal kept fiddling with the details of its electoral system (treating the entire nation as a single multi-member district? a bunch of multi-member districts with a single-seat district for the Azores? party lists but you can strike out particular names you don’t like from a given list?) throughout the Estado Novo period, even though the governing party inevitably ended up with 100% of the seats in the nominally-elected part of the legislature (there was another chamber selected indirectly, theoretically via mechanisms consistent with “corporatist” theories of institutional design).

    Some U.S. jurisdictions have adopted single-transferable-vote systems in recent years, although there has not yet been an outcome in an election significant enough to garner national headlines where the change of system has made a difference. It was thought that it might make a difference in the U.S. Senate race in Maine this year, but the supposedly embattled incumbent overperformed expectations and got an absolute majority in the first-place choices, making it unnecessary to examine the second choices of those who had voted for minor-party candidates.

  197. Lars Mathiesen says:

    The point of transferrable votes would be that it feels safer to vote for a small party because if their candidate doesn’t get elected, you still have your say about which of the big parties will win. That makes all sorts of sense — we get the same feeling here because even if our preferred list does not get a mandate in the local constituency, our vote counts towards a national supplementary seat at least. Unless they fall below the threshold, of course, there is a lot of rhetoric about wasted votes when a small party breaks out of a bigger one.

  198. Maine is indeed the state where ranked choice voting is most likely to make a difference, since there is a history of independent candidates successfully winning statewide office, as well as acting as spoilers. The state’s other senator, Angus King, is a independent, although he caucuses with the Senate democrats. Republican Paul LePage won two terms as governor under the old system with narrow pluralities in three-way races, but he probably would have lost under the current transferable vote system.

  199. John Cowan says:

    Indeed, NYC has more independents than enrolled Republicans: you must enroll with a political party to be able to vote in that party’s primary elections, which determine the candidate, but that does not bind your vote in the actual election. States differ on the first point, but all agree on the second.

  200. New York State is actually quite strict about closed party primaries. You have to set your party registration well in advance to vote in a primary. Some other states allow you to change your party registration day, or do not even track party registration for primaries. When I vote in a primary in South Carolina, they just ask me which party’s ballot I want.

  201. Trond Engen says:

    Me: modified d’Hondt

    Ouch. Modified Webster/Sainte-Laguë. I always forget which is which. Though arguably Webster/Sainte-Laguë is a modified d’Hondt.

    All these proportional systems have issues on the edges, but those are pretty minor, and when used in multi-seat constituencies they even out at the national level.

    The Single Transferable Vote is essentially a way to amend the FPP in a multi-party system so that the elected member at least won’t be elected against the will of a majority. It still leaves almost half the people unrepresented. STV in multi-seat constituencies with party lists can be done, but the effect is only on marginal seats, and it’s easier to achieve proportionality with supplementary seats.

  202. J.W. Brewer says:

    I don’t think anyone denies that the various “proportional representation” systems (which differ in various matters of detail) are generally better at achieving proportionality than systems that are not designed with the idea that achieving proportionality, as such, should be the desideratum. There is just substantial variation among times and places in views about what the desiderata of an electoral system ought to be. I tend to think “selecting legislators who are most of the time at least minimally competent and reasonably non-corrupt via some reasonably transparent process viewed as legitimate by most members of the relevant society” is a pretty good desideratum but that there’s no universal theory of the True Good and Just that gets you very far past that.

  203. Proportional representation is, of course, better at producing legislatures whose party makeup mirrors that of the voting public. Naturally, this tends to make smaller parties more viable than under other systems. However, whether either of these outcomes are desirable is an intensely debated topic.

    Having multiple parties tends to create the necessity of coalition governments—a state of affairs that can clearly be negative, but which many people also feel has also been a net positive in many places. There are some states, where consistently unstable coalition governments have been quite damaging to effective governance. Italy’s political system has had perennial problems, some of which can clearly be blamed on proportional representation, although there have historically been plenty of other deficiencies to the Italian system.* On the other hand, Germany seems to function quite well under a proportional system. Whether Israel benefits from its use of proportional representation and many parties is unclear. I tend to think it is a net negative, in part because of the powerful role that it gives to religious parties, who tend to join any ruling coalition. What definitely did not work in Israel was when they briefly tried to have direct election of the prime minister. A system with a directly elected executive is not likely to work well with a parliament with more than two major blocs.

    * Only in the early 1990s did Italy stop having secret ballots in the legislature,** making it possible to hold representatives accountable for their voting records.

    ** I recall a confusing discussion with my European History teacher (“Madame“) about the significance of the “secret ballot” and whether it was a positive or negative thing for representative democracy. We eventually realized that we were talking at cross purposes. However, it seems interesting that when many specialists in English, French, and American political history talk about the “secret ballot” in a more general historical context, they seem unaware that open voting by legislators was not a universal even in the twentieth century, much less the nineteenth or eighteenth.

  204. Trond Engen says:

    Oh, I agree that if the deciding issues were personal ability and public moral, the single-seat system is at least theorethically better, but (a) those may not always be different enough for the voters to have a clear preference, (b) they are not the only deciding issues in a system where voters actually have opinions on policy on a national level, and (c) there’s little evidence that the personal ability and public moral of parliamentarians from single-seat districts are any better than of those elected from party lists anyway. Rather, the single-seat system favours two types of districts: safe seats where the elected member is free from the constraints of competitive elections, and competitive districts where the voters are resigned to hold their nose and vote for the better crook.

  205. David Marjanović says:

    Sure, when one of the two parties in an American-style two-party system collapses, you can end up with a more complex situation, as happened in 1824 and 1860 – but not for long, because a new two-party system inevitably arises very quickly. Today, if the Republicans collapsed (as has again failed to happen in November, but might actually happen in January), the Democrats would immediately split in two. Even Ross Perot ended up as just a glorified Ralph Nader.

    you can (and I believe some European countries do this) have a legislature that’s a mix of winners of single-member districts and others selected from party lists in some sort of PR regime that crosses district lines.

    Germany does that. In the first round, half of the national chamber is elected on party lists, the other half in single-member districts. This creates various imbalances that are corrected by adding more members (Ausgleichs- und Überhangsmandate) in the second round. I wonder how much longer this hybrid system will survive, though, because it bloats that chamber farther and farther, beyond 700 members already – there was a legal mechanism to limit that, but it’s been found unconstitutional.

    theorethically

    I see what you did there.

    what the desiderata of an electoral system ought to be

    My problem with geographical representation (i.e. districts) is that it assumes that people’s political opinions depend on where they live. In these modern times, that is rarely the case – and when it is, it is a rural/urban divide. That means lots of people go unrepresented, as their member of parliament has quite different political views than they do.

    In cases where people’s political views do depend on geography, the decisions where these views are relevant simply shouldn’t be taken on the national level, but on the level of that region or less. The EU calls this the subsidiarity principle: “all decisions should be taken as close to the citizen as possible”.

    (Home rule for England.)

    competitive districts where the voters are resigned to hold their nose and vote for the better crook

    The better one of just two crooks, moreover – because it is rare that more than two candidates have a realistic chance in a single-member district.

    My favorite example is Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat for New Jersey. He had a corruption scandal that went to court. The jury somehow couldn’t agree on the exact verdict, so he has not been convicted, but nobody seems to doubt he’s corrupt. In 2018 he was reelected anyway, because his Republican opponent, as it happens, was even more corrupt. (Pure party loyalty is not a likely explanation; the governor was a Republican at the time.) I don’t even know if other parties bothered to put up a candidate.

  206. David Eddyshaw says:

    Proportional representation is, of course, better at producing legislatures whose party makeup mirrors that of the voting public. Naturally, this tends to make smaller parties more viable than under other systems. However, whether either of these outcomes are desirable is an intensely debated topic.

    I suspect that proportional representation is more of an effective block to meaningful challenges to rule by and for the rich and powerful, than it is an effective safeguard against Very Bad People getting into the position where they can break the system to cement their power. In the UK, instead of our current government by a Conservative Party dominated by a subset of foaming xenophobe Tories, we would have a Conservative Party (never much hampered by scruples when it comes to the pursuit of power) happily in coalition with an institutionally separate Foaming Xenophobe Party.

  207. David Marjanović says:

    That’s exactly what Austria had twice – and the second time was after the conservative party had undergone a hostile takeover by an idiosyncratic xenophobe (who even managed to change its color from black to turquoise).

    Both times, though, the foaming xenophobic party collapsed*, creating an additional foaming splinter party with the former boss in it**, and the formerly conservative party is now in a slightly uneasy coalition with the Greens. Austria’s natural state is a Grand Coalition of the conservatives and the Social Democrats.

    Proportional representation seems to make it much harder for Very Bad People to get the whole power. They can take over a party, but then there’s still a jealous coalition partner to deal with.

    * First as a farce, then as a tragedy.
    ** First as a tragedy that soon disappeared, then as a farce that is too small to tell if it has disappeared yet.

  208. @David Marjanović: The election of 1824 did not correspond to the collapse of one of the two major parties. That had actually happened long before. The Federalists had ceased to be completive as a national party by 1804 and essentially completely disappeared after the War of 1812. There had actually be at least ten (and more like twenty) years of uninterrupted single-party dominance; the Jeffersonian era covered at least 1801—1824. So there was a long delay between the end of one of the original two parties and the rise of the second party system. What’s more, even after the chaotic 1824 election, it took until around 1830 for the Whigs to coalesce out of the National Republicans and other anti-Jackson elements (“a hodgepodge of discontents,” as the historian Thomas Bailey called them).

  209. Germany does that. In the first round, half of the national chamber is elected on party lists, the other half in single-member districts. This creates various imbalances that are corrected by adding more members (Ausgleichs- und Überhangsmandate) in the second round. I wonder how much longer this hybrid system will survive, though, because it bloats that chamber farther and farther, beyond 700 members already – there was a legal mechanism to limit that, but it’s been found unconstitutional.
    There are no two rounds. It’s one round where every voter gets two votes, one for a candidate in a constituency, and one for a party list. The share of seats in parliament (AFAIK, similar systems are used for the parliaments on the federal and the state level) is determined by the votes for the party lists, but each candidate gathering the most votes in a constituency gets a seat in parliament. In theory, the number of constituencies is half of the total. But if a party gets more seats through constituencies than it would get by the vote on the party lists (these surplus seats are called Überhangmandate), the other parties get additional seats (Ausgleichsmandate) to restore the proportionality as based on party list votes. On the federal level this is made more complicated by the fact that the seats in the Bundestag are allocated to the states (there are no country-wide party lists for federal elections, but separate party lists for each state) and that the allocation of seats based on the party-list vote and on constituencies must be balanced for each state seat allotment.
    This all worked okay into the 90s, as long as there were two major parties / party blocs (who almost exclusively bagged the constituency seats) and 1-2 small parties with 5-10% of the votes. Nowadays, the big-tent so-called Volksparteien poll 20-35% in federal elections, but still get almost all the constituency seats (due to incumbency and habit – many voters still think that voting for a “small” party with the constituency vote means wasting it), leading to the current bloated Bundestag. The parties have been talking of reforming the system for years, but can’t agree on a solution, since some of them (especially the biggest one, the bloc consisting of the Christian Democrats and the Bavarian CSU) would lose substantially in the absolute number of seats.
    The solution that seems to be slowly forming on the horizon is a reduction of the number of constituency-based seats.

  210. John Cowan says:

    Minor error above: “the CUP ticket” should be “the NUP ticket”; the name of the pro-Lincoln coalition was the National Union Party. The Constitutional Union Party collapsed after the 1860 election. The Confederacy, despite having only the most minor differences from the U.S. in electoral machinery (the President had a six-year term with no re-election possible), never became stable enough to have political parties: as in Washington’s administration, there were pro- and anti- factions around the President (the latter including the Veep, who spent most of his time writing anti-Davis letters publicly and privately., but Congress was mostly a rubber stamp, there was no Supreme Court despite the constitutional requirement for one, and the turmoil stirred up by the war made it effectively impossible for the federal government to compel anything from the states.

  211. David Marjanović says:

    So there was a long delay between the end of one of the original two parties and the rise of the second party system.

    Point taken – you can have extended periods of one-party rule in what is otherwise a two-party system; but you can’t have extended periods with more than two parties.

    There are no two rounds.

    Two rounds of seat allocation, not two rounds of election. Sorry, I blanked on a way to express this.

  212. John Cowan says:

    I was just trying to explain to my Trumpist cab driver from Nigeria why it is that one-party rule in NYC is not a threat to democracy. It means, indeed, that the general election is pretty much just an exercise; however, Democratic nominations (Republican ones in Staten Island) for local offices are heavily contested in primaries, though the candidates do not identify themselves as representing separate factions. In the 2017 Democratic primary election, District 2 (mine), where the incumbent was ineligible to run again, had five candidates; in District 3 the incumbent ran unopposed, and in District 4 there were nine candidates including the incumbent, who won with only 40% of the vote.

  213. David Eddyshaw says:

    Trumpist cab driver from Nigeria

    I expect he’s hoping for the comforting rumble of tanks on the streets and uninterrupted martial music on the radio. Flynn has got that old-time Abacha mojo …

    (To be fair, all cab drivers are far-right. I think it’s a contractual thing. Or maybe it’s just that their experiences with the customers leave them bitter and twisted after a while.)

  214. J.W. Brewer says:

    Primary candidates in New York are not identified *on the ballot* as representing separate factions, but in some instances it is widely understood that they are doing exactly that, and also widely understood who is who. My present Congressional district (covering a bit of NYC and a bit of close-in suburbia) is these days a very safely Democratic seat – lines have shifted through multiple rounds of redistricting but I believe part of the current district was most recently represented by a Republican Congressman in 1988 and the remainder in 1968. But the incumbent’s decades-long tenure in office came to an abrupt halt this year when he was knocked off by a younger and more quote unquote progressive primary challenger, despite the attempts of the national Democratic establishment to save him. I tried to read the wikipedia article about how UK Labour MP’s can be “deselected” as the party’s candidate for reelection and it sounds a rather more complicated process over there.

    In general, the two-party system in the U.S. has long involved having certain areas within the nation that are overwhelmingly dominated by one of the two national parties, which generally does not mean complete political harmony, it simply means that intra-party factional competition takes the functional place of inter-party competition.

  215. Trond Engen says:

    I was going to say: How is that not a problem for democracy, but then it struck me that the party-internal processes might actually be more open, transparent and fair than the official electoral system. The local one-party system should then be welcomed as a workaround on a fossilized structure, and the major obstacle to a democratic renewal in the US is actually the continued existence of local oppositions that contest majority candidates after they are legally elected in the primary rather than joining the majority party and fight for their views the democratic way.

  216. one-party rule […] is not a threat to democracy

    It misses cross-party checks in the legislature itself (or city council for NYC). The persistent one-party rule makes party leaders less alert to corruption and dedwood accumulation among their ranks. Not to say that a significant part of electorate is shut out from thier views being taken seriously. Periodic or episodic bouts in opposition is good for soul-searching and figuring out most meaningful coalitions. But I am a pluralist, if NYC wants a one-party rule, let them have it.

    Part of the problem with the American party system is that becoming a Rep or a Dem is the only way for an ambitious public person to make a career. And it includes procecutors and judges. A bit of formal diversity might be welcome.

  217. John Cowan says:

    the party-internal processes might actually be more open, transparent and fair than the official electoral system

    They are the same system: the states (through their counties) run both the primary and the general elections with the same rules. How a candidate gets on the primary ballot depends on the state.

    In NY State, you (in most cases) get on a primary ballot by getting the signatures of at least 5% of the enrolled party members (note that enrollment is entirely up to the voter, as the party has no say in it) in the relevant district. In turn, you get onto the general ballot by winning a primary election or by getting a similar percentage of the number of voters in the previous election. Signatures or sufficient votes in the last election are also the way to get the state to run a primary for your party.

    NYS, along with just a few other states, also allows electoral fusion: different parties can run the same candidate. Thus I am an enrolled Democrat, but vote in the general election for the candidate of the Working Families Party, which helps keep the party on the ballot but is almost always the same as the Democratic candidate.

    Not to say that a significant part of electorate is shut out from thier views being taken seriously.

    That’s true in any FPTP system, whether officially one-party or not, as long as there is there is more than one candidate.

    And it includes prosecutors and judges

    Not all judges are elected. Federal judges at all level are appointed by the President for life by and with the consent of the Senate and (until recent decades) this process has not been politicized. Eisenhower chose as a Supreme Court justice the former Republican governor of California, who ended up leading the most liberal court up till that time.

    In NYS, judges of the Court of Appeals (our highest court) are appointed by the governor (by and with the consent of the State Senate) for life, and judges in NYC courts are appointed by the mayor. All other judges are elected. In Maine, on the other hand, all judges are appointed by the governor (etc.) The most common approach is for the governor to appoint someone from a list of qualified judges prepared by a non-partisan commission. Others have appointed judges who must be re-elected at a certain point (usually a few years later, most often a rubber stamp) for life. In two states the legislature chooses the judges.

  218. That’s true in any FPTP system, whether officially one-party or not, as long as there is there is more than one candidate.

    But if there is a meaningful chance of party change either in one district or in the majority of the legislature, most people would have some of their views taken to account some of the time.

    Not all judges are elected.

    True. But in most cases the appointments are party based. The bad (from my point of view) thing here is that aspiring jurists must identify with one party or the other to have any chance of advancement. Maybe it’s a good thing if judging is primarily an expression of a political will. Then judges should reflect the mood of the people. But it is a suboptimal system if judging is primarily a technical skill.

  219. Lars Mathiesen says:

    In the US states that run party primary elections as well, does a candidate need to be the winner of a primary to end up on the general ballot? Or in the hypothetical case of a third party existing and selecting a candidate, would they just be listed as independent?

    (Using public money to run party-internal elections seems exceedingly weird from here. Though compared to a system of 40000 over-60 members of the Tory party voting on the potential next prime minister of a 60 million nation, it may make sense. Danish parties generally choose their chairmen by indirect voting, by delegates at a party congress ~ general assembly who have been instructed by local party branches — though contested races can go to a general vote among party members, still not a lot of people — but there are so many parties that you don’t have to vote for a potential prime minister that you don’t like just because you like the other side less).

  220. J.W. Brewer says:

    Lars, it varies quite a bit but minor parties in the U.S. are more likely not to use primaries. But there’s a lot of state-by-state variation in the details, including whether a given minor party is sufficiently recognized to have automatic ballot access for whoever it nominates via whatever process versus having to get each candidate on the ballot through a candidate-specific process of gathering the signatures of at least X registered voters. For non-presidential offices it is usually the case that the major parties can and sometimes do nominate their candidates without primaries if there is a sufficient consensus among the party insiders unless some insurgent candidate manages to gather the signatures of at least X (maybe I should say Y, because it’s probably a different number) registered voters from the relevant pool (e.g. residents of the relevant district and perhaps registered members of the relevant party). This can be true even if there’s no incumbent seeking reelection if there’s enough consensus who the candidate should be (and ambitious rivals can be prevailed upon to find other outlets for their ambition).

    In New York, there are lots of hypertechnical rules about the signature-gathering process, so insurgent candidates are usually well-advised to gather a lot more than Y signatures, because the lawyers for the establishment will be trying to disqualify as many signatures as possible on technical grounds in hopes of getting the number of valid signatures below Y and thus avoiding exposing the establishment-preferred candidate to the burden and risk of the primary.

    One dynamic with minor parties may be that the number Y necessary to force a primary against the will of the party leaders may be too high to be readily achieved given the small number of voters likely to care about who the party nominates. But as I said, the details of the law (and how practice responds to those details) vary widely throughout the country.

  221. @Lars Mathiesen: One thing that does not vary, however, is that all states (as well as non-state jurisdictions, such as the District of Columbia and overseas territories) have the election apparatus to run an party nominating election. This is not always a primary, where people simply vote, however. Some states have caucuses, where party members gather and speak on behalf of various candidates, before a final poll is taken at each caucus site at the end of the evening. This kind of caucus is perceived by many (especially by the majority of Democrats) as undesirable and less democratic than a simple primary, and the number of caucuses has been in decline for a long time.

    As J.W. Brewer mentioned, there are elections when there is no party primary or caucus, with the candidates selected by other, party-internal methods. In 2020, that happened even at the presidential level, with some states opting to skip the Republican primary and simply send a set of pro-Trump delegates to the Republican convention. However, primary voting is the most common procedure for choosing party candidates for state and national office, even if many candidates (especially for minor offices) may be running unopposed in their party’s primary.

    There is a famous case (Smith v. Allwright), in which the Supreme Court ruled that, since the state operated the primaries on behalf of the political parties, the parties were not allowed to discriminate in who could join the party. In the specific case at issue, the Texas Democratic Party asserted that, as a private organization, it was within their Freedom of Association rights to bar non-whites from joining the party. Since at the time (1944), state politics were completely dominated by the Democratic Party—as they were in much of the South—this effectively disenfranchised blacks and Hispanics.

  222. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Are the various state-run primary elections actually binding on the eventual party conventions? I assume that the states accept the outcomes of those more or less automatically, but do the national committees have standing to put forward the presidential candidate in each state or is it formally the state-level parties that do that? Could a state-level party chairman ignore the national convention and put someone else on the ballot, in principle at least?

    (I’m asking because I just realized that all this is sort of vague to outsiders, and certainly not covered here unless some technical detail happens to derail the usual progress. Just the fact that mail-in voting deadlines vary by state was a surprise).

  223. @Lars Mathiesen: What precisely the rules say probably vary a bit from state to state and between the Democratic and Republican parties. (Smaller parties do not select their presidential candidates the same way, with state-by-state contests leading to a convention.) However, the details have never really become an issue since the modern system of selecting candidates has existed. Normally, the winning candidate commands an outright majority of delegates by the time of the convention. For the Democrats (and probably for the Republicans as well, but I am not certain), if nobody had won an absolute majority of convention delegates (“gone over the top”), then each delegate who was selected in support of a given candidate would be required to vote for that candidate, as long as the candidate was still being considered, for some fixed number of ballots. After that number of ballots, the pledged delegates would be free to vote as they pleased. But as I said, this has never actually come up under the current system. In practice nowadays, since the winner is known in advance and all the other primary candidates have conceded, all the convention delegates are free to vote for the winner on the first ballot. Sometimes a primary loser may have their name entered into official consideration at the convention, as a purely symbolic gesture; this was done with Hillary Clinton in 2008, I recall. Moreover, rather than ask her pledged delegates to vote either for against her (as either might be seen by some as disloyal), the vote to nominate Barrack Obama was done by done by acclamation (that is, unanimous consent).

  224. J.W. Brewer says:

    @Lars: There have been occasional instances where a given party’s national presidential candidate did not appear on the ballot in a particular state as that party’s nominee. The Alabama Democratic Party kept the national Democratic nominee off the ballot there in 1948 and 1964 and sort of half-on, half-off (the details would be too complex a digression for present purposes) in 1960. The local Republican parties in California and South Dakota kept the national nominee off their states’ ballots in 1912. In 1892 the Democratic nominee did not appear at all on the ballot in five Western states, because the local Democrats believed that throwing their support behind a third-party candidate would be the best way to prevent a Republican victory in those states. I don’t know whether or not they had the formal blessing of the national party for that strategy, but it worked out well in most of those states and on a national basis the Democratic candidate won the presidency. There are probably other instances earlier than that. Whether that is currently impossible in all 50 states as a matter of law or just as a matter of practice with strong practical incentives against norm-breaking is unknown to me.

  225. David Marjanović says:

    Eisenhower chose as a Supreme Court justice the former Republican governor of California, who ended up leading the most liberal court up till that time.

    Didn’t both parties have a liberal and a conservative wing back then?

    But it is a suboptimal system if judging is primarily a technical skill.

    I will never get over the shock I got when I saw, on TV in 2000, a US campaign banner with a candidate’s name followed by REPUBLICAN FOR JUDGE.

    In other words, “vote for me to make me a judge of all things because I will not be impartial”.

  226. @J.W. Brewer: There was ballot weirdness in 1968, also.* George Wallace, who had previously run for the Democratic nomination, instead ran as a third-party candidate and won five states. However, in his home state of Alabama, he actually got the Democratic Party line on the ballot. I’m not sure if the real Democratic nominee, Hubert Humphrey, was also on the ballot at the same time.

    @David Marjanović: The parties were more heterogeneous then, politically as well as in other ways, although on economic issues, the Democrats definitely tended to be more liberal.*** However, Earl Warren tenor on the Supreme Court was definitely not what Eisenhower had expected. Eisenhower once quipped that in his opinion, there were only two major mistakes he had made a president—and they were both sitting on the Supreme Court. (The other one was William Brennan, who was a Catholic Democrat, nominated in an attempt to gain crossover support for the president in his 1956 reelection bid. At the time of his nomination viewed as a fairly conservative jurist, he actually became one of the most influential liberals in the court’s history.)

    * For those not familiar with American politics, all the major spoiler candidacies and unpledged elector slates from 1948 to 1976 arose out of Southern Democrats’ dissatisfaction with the national party’s more progressive positions on civil rights.**

    ** That’s not all that was idiosyncratic about Wallace’s 1968 candidacy. The other outstanding issue of the day was the Vietnam War, and Wallace’s stated position there was quite different from the other candidates’. He said that, if elected, he would being an accelerated, in-detail, three-month analysis of the strategic situation, and if our position was not viable, he would pull the troops out as quickly as possible. However, he may have undercut himself on this issue by selecting Curtis LeMay (America’s answer to Arthur Harris) as his running mate.

    *** Over approximately the last hundred years, the Democratic and Republican parties bases of support seem to have, in many respects, swapped places. There are many demographic traits that are correlated with support of one party or the other. However, the voting populations that tended to support one party a century ago have moved to mostly supporting the other party today—with one very important exception. Rural voters, Southern Whites, and Catholics, among others, used to vote more Democratic, but now they vote more Republican. African-Americans, Northeasterners, and (most recently) the college educated have moved the other direction. The one demographic that has maintained its consistent association with voting preferences is income. All else being equal, the richer one is, the more likely they are to be a Republican. (In fact, the only reason that college-educated voters are still close to evenly split is that educational attainment is strongly correlated with income. If you control for income, a college education is a reasonable predictor that somebody will vote Democratic. Advanced degrees, which are less correlated to income levels than bachelors degrees, are also better correlated with voting Democratic.)

  227. The great majority of all cases are not politically sensitive, after all. Even when they are, life appointments at the federal level can produce unexpected results. Trump filled the federal courts with his appointees, who he assumed would cushion his way to a 2024 election. But they didn’t.

  228. Lars Mathiesen says:

    @JWB, people here are not even aware that the national conventions have delegations from each state and so on, because as you say the vote counting happens in the campaign staffs and everybody concedes if they can’t win. I may have heard once a comparison of states in terms of number of delegates, and thus which were more important, also something about super-delegates, but only among those holding primaries on the same date and it quickly vanished in the noise.

    Didn’t Sanders actually win some early primaries this time around? If by the time of the convention those delegates were free to vote for who they wanted, because he had conceded, there is suddenly a situation where a few individuals might have a swing vote that affects the whole nation. (But it doesn’t happen, usually. What a relief).

  229. J.W. Brewer says:

    @Lars. I don’t think it particularly necessary for foreigners to follow all of the fine details of this or other aspects of U.S. political process and practice other than to understand the big-picture point that these days (it was often otherwise until about 50 years ago) the major party’s presidential nominees don’t get picked by the party’s elite leadership unless and until millions of grass-roots voters are persuaded to buy into the establishment’s choice, which does not always happen.

    The most recent years in which there was genuine uncertainty as of the beginning of the convention about who would be nominated were 1976 (Republicans) and 1968 or arguably 1972 (Democrats). Apparently in 1984 on the Democratic side it was not mathematically certain in advance but it was pragmatically certain because the eventual nominee had locked up in advance 48 or 49% of the votes needed and it was obvious that no other candidate was going to block him by uniting the remaining 51-52%. When the outcome is mathematically certain, attention often then shifts to whether the doomed-to-be-outvoted supporters of the loser(s) will be publicly contentious or whether they will rally around the winning candidate in a show of party unity, and what sort of accommodations or concessions they can extract from the winner in return for doing the latter.

    Political journalists keep hoping an “open” convention will happen again because it would make the convention an exciting real-time news story to cover as opposed to a pageant with a prescripted outcome.

    One of the complicating factors in 1968, FWIW, was that a substantial number of convention delegates pledged to support the candidacy of Robert Kennedy had already been chosen when he was murdered, leaving them up for grabs and with uncertainty about whether they would try to unite as a bloc behind some other candidate or scatter in different directions.

  230. David Marjanović says:

    The great majority of all cases are not politically sensitive, after all.

    The conservative, liberal and other understandings of such things as justice, punishment, rehabilitation and the like are different enough that knowing the judge’s political orientation makes a lot of cases a lot more predictable.

    Didn’t Sanders actually win some early primaries this time around?

    Yes, and also in 2016.

    And it remains unclear who won the caucus of Iowa, because the app used to tabulate the votes was such a clusterfuck.

  231. J.W. Brewer says:

    To abruptly shift the topic back to FASCIS[M], I just came across some intriguing menu suggestions for anyone planning an authoritarian-yet-avant-garde feast during this holiday season:

    “By this point, the pineapple and sardines had tickled our tummy sufficiently to be very hungry, so we decided to move on to the ‘Black Shirt Snack,’ an apple cut in two with a battered cutlet of cod in between. The original recipe required the dish to be soaked in rum and served in flames, but we wanted to avoid setting the house on fire. So we opted to do it flambé—we put the dish in the sink and set fire to it in a controlled environment.”

    https://www.vice.com/en/article/bnpqwv/cooking-futurist-recipes-invented-by-marinetti-876

  232. Lars Mathiesen says:

    @JWB, it may not be pragmatically useful for me to know the details, but knowledge is knowledge. You won’t find me sitting through a UEFA final (unless Denmark is in it), but give me a group standing where the winner depends on who scored the most goals against the Faeroes in the qualifiers last year, and I’ll be happy for hours.

  233. it may not be pragmatically useful for me to know the details, but knowledge is knowledge

    This could perfectly well be the motto of LH.

  234. David Marjanović says:

    Happy Constitution Day!

    (in Taiwan)

  235. per incuriam says:

    Ireland used it in the 1920s because it was forced on them by the British Government as a condition of partition, as they thought there was a need to protect the rights of Protestants in the south

    This is a bit mixed up – the PR system was in fact an Irish initiative and the legislation was introduced in Westminster by a Nationalist MP. It was opposed only by the British Unionists in Ulster who could indeed be said to have had it “forced on them by the British Government”.

    But that was only temporary and after the British gave them their own bespoke statelet they got rid of PR at the earliest opportunity. The Irish meanwhile enshrined it in their constitution.

    Despite PR-STV Ireland has had several single-party governments over the years.

    Where does the name “first past the post” come from

    The betting sense is still around. Up until recently (perhaps still) the phrase was typically juxtaposed with “rules of racing” and it is this connotation – no frills, no ifs and buts – rather than the literal meaning that carried over into the electoral sphere (originally AU/NZ according to the OED).

    Another complication is that horse races are typically once all the way around the track, so the “post” (as in “post time”) is both the starting line and the finish line, which again makes it suboptimal metaphor for extension

    Not so. And hard to see how that could even work given race distances can be anything from 5 furlongs to several miles. Some of the biggest and oldest races are run on the straight.

  236. PlasticPaddy says:

    @per inc
    My understanding is that Southern Protestant (mostly C of I) leadership was against partition and lobbied for PR in an all-Ireland context. The Northern Protestants (mostly Presbyterian) decided to go their own way.

Speak Your Mind

*