The obsolescence of the obsolescence

Fouad Ajami writes the history of the present moment better than anyone else I know of, but, as with all such writing, the content tends to be obsolete before it’s published.   His current essay on “The Obsolescence of Barack Obama” mainly confirms his own prophecies of last year, something not that much different from merely recycling previously announced themes.  It’s no longer controversial at all to suggest that Barack Obama’s presidency has been the disappointment that the out-sized yet vexingly un-specific hopes placed in it always destined it to be.

It becomes possible to negate the negation of Barack Obama, especially when, in large ways and small, that first negation is based on things that don’t really make much sense on their own.  For example, here is how Ajami describes an apparent contradiction in Obama’s program:

It was clear as daylight that there was a built-in contradiction between opening the citizenship rolls to a vast flood of new petitioners and a political economy of redistribution favored by the Obama administration. The choice was stark: You could either “spread the wealth around” or open the gates for legalizing millions of immigrants of lower skills. You could not do both.

The opening cliché strikes me as rather un-Ajamian – below his usual standards – but so is the thinking:  Of course, we could “do both.”  There is no conceptual contradiction between “opening the citizenship rolls” and “a political economy of redistribution.”  There might, or might not, be much to say against combining the two policies on pragmatic or political grounds, and in particular configurations, but it’s “clear as daylight” that there is a perfect moral and philosophical consistency between the two positions.  Bring in a few million more citizens, spread the wealth around a little wider – in all likelihood rather marginally, actually, considering that most of that “vast flood” is already settled into the landscape, using social services, working, sending kids to school, and so on.  Within a progressive vision, the two ideas make perfect sense together.  Simply to presume that they cannot both be accomplished, and to an overall positive effect within the context of a comprehensive political program, is to presume the result of an investigation before it’s been attempted – just as “The Obsolescence of Barack Obama” concludes the historical investigation before the presidency, or merely the first term, of Barack Obama is even half over…

I write as someone who was never “spellbound” by Obama, as someone who fervently hoped someone else would win the Democratic nomination, and then the presidency, and who once took pleasure in news, whenever, as today, that his “Presidential Approval Index” had hit an all-time low:  Now that he’s over, perhaps he can begin.  Now that the shadow of destiny has passed from him, perhaps he can realize his destiny.

As for myself, I’ve grown accustomed to him.  He could fairly easily win my vote in 2012.  It may help a lot that he’s not any of the people who seem to be preparing to run against him, saying what they think they need to say, representing what they think they need to represent.

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39 comments on “The obsolescence of the obsolescence

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  1. CK,I don’t think it’s a stretch to believe that BHO will either win a 2nd term,or having lost in 2012,could win in 2016. That being said,I have many bones to pick with him about his economic policies,anyone that has Blogged with me for a while knows my complaints with Obamonomics. In a nutshell,here are two articles that detail the Factual problems with American fiscal/monetary policy. Every point in these has been detailed by yours truly over the last decade in various forums. I’d love to discuss any aspects of these Opinion Pieces with our Zombies.

  2. @ Rex Caruthers:
    Hmmmmm… well I agree that, as things currently stand, Obama is still a favorite for re-election, but things never stand still. It’s interesting to consider that he’s young enough to try again in 2016 or even later, but that’s a true rarity in American presidential politics, and anyone trying that would have other disadvantages as well.

    You, Stockman, Farrell, and Kotlikoff may all be right, but these days I’m looking for evidence, so far without much luck, that we’re not locked into the two different strategies – 1/ managed relative decline (liberalism) and 2/ less-managed relative decline (conservatism). I’m not convinced it will get as exciting as Farrel and Kotlikoff each predict, but more and more these days I see the potential.. Failing a near-term crack-up, I do think that option 2 will be tried, but that the underlying tendencies favor option 1 over the long term, with the black swan/class war scenarios tending to accelerate option 1.

    But who knows? And – even if we did – it probably wouldn’t do us any good. This one made me laugh out loud from my Hegel reading:

    “Rulers, statesmen, and nations are often advised to learn the lesson of historical experience. But what experience and history teach is this – that nations and governments have never learned anything from history…”

    Many of the apparent contradictions of this principle consist of people mistakenly thinking they were learning from historical experience, or claiming that they were doing so, when they were really just acting under the exigencies of the moment, or soon (in the historical sense) to be overwhelmed by them anyway.

  3. Well if people did learn from history, Santayana wouldn’t have had to remind them, did he borrow that line from Hegel. With the onset of monetization of the debt, that’s the snake eating it’s own tale, that sounds a touch like the prelude to Stuart Archer Cohen’s dystopiananarchist tale, ‘Army of the Republic’ from Juneau’s resident anarchist

    Of course that little tome was stocked full of Kossian conspiracy riffs, about rigging of elections, American death squads, all that fun delusion, of course in the end the arriviste revolutionary leader and
    the noble, if confused magnate, face off, and well there can be only one

  4. @ miguel cervantes:
    Wasn’t familiar with Cohen’s book. It reminds me of Van Creveld’s dissolving sovereignty scenario outlined in THE TRANSFORMATION OF WAR, but may have been a generation or so ahead of its time. It kind of relates to the discussion about standing armies and the question of the real “power in the land.” For now the real power in the land remains general popular ethical consensus – symbolized as one theorist put it a long time ago by the decision to stop at a red light even in the middle of nowhere. Presumably, once people start plowing on through whatever red lights, then it’s all (revealed as) a power struggle, but it’s presumably a very uneven process, marked by a gradual rise in low level warfare even with the borders of disintegrating nation-states, or, as Hegel at one point suggests might be a better term, culture-states. It becomes increasingly a question of viewing angle in attempting to determine how far along in the process of cultural-political disintegration anyone happens to be at any given time.

  5. Colin, my frem, I don’t discount what the media can do to annihilate some one’s ‘public consciencesnes’ you apparently do, considering the Journolist revelations, and the patent lies said about the tea parties. However, after everything you’ve seen, how each new initiative he puts forward doesn’t even come close to solving the problem, but creates some new problems, ‘blowing the transaxle” of American fiscal and administrative governance, I cannot see this coming to a good end. That’s not including the donnybrook over Iran, and some other major flashpoint maybe the very crisis on the Arabian peninsula, alluded to by the one who have turned on so aggressively, even she has been more right than you would care
    to admit


    !) RUBIN- the virtual cemetery of 3,000 Americans.

    !!) PRESS-TV–Israel bulldozes Muslim graveyard
    rampaged through graves in the ancient al-Quds (Jerusalem) Maaman Allah cemetery

  7. fuster wrote:
    @ miguel cervantes:
    what lies are laid on the tea party table?

    It’s not their lies,it’s the “FACTS” that they “BELIEVE” are “FACTS”.

  8. That ‘post hoc prompto ergo hoc,’ the mosque was built 30 years before the WTC attack, right around the time the towers went up.

  9. I know that Paul Craig Roberts is an outcast,and I understand that some believe he is an anti-semite,a “Truther” etc etc. But,he does give us a window into the Reagan White House, where he served as Asst. Secy of the Treasury,and to the RIGHT,the Reagan White House is hallowed Ground,so,in that narrow sense,Conservatives should be allowed to read his opinions.

    (1)”Secretary Regan reminded me of my memo to him detailing that Treasury was going to have a hard time getting President Reagan’s economic program, directed at curing the stagflation that had wrecked President Carter’s presidency, out of the Reagan administration. The budget director, David Stockman, and his chief economist, Larry Kudlow, had lined up against it following the wishes of Wall Street, and the White House Chief of Staff James Baker and his deputy Richard Darman were representatives of VP George H.W. Bush and did not want substantial Reagan success that would again threaten the Republican Establishment’s hold over the party. Baker and Darman wanted to be sure that George H. W. Bush, and not Jack Kemp, succeeded Ronald Reagan, and that required a muted Reagan success that they could claim as theirs for moderating an “extremist” program.”
    (2)”Curing stagflation gave America twenty more years. Ironically, the good times started to erode when Reagan’s other goal was accomplished and the Soviet Union dissolved in 1990. “The end of history” resulted in India and China opening their labor markets to American capitalists, who began producing offshore with foreign labor the products that they sold to Americans. The labor costs savings pushed up corporate profits, shareholders’ returns, and managerial bonuses. But it deprived Americans of middle class incomes and wrecked the balance of trade. The US income distribution and the trade deficit worsened.
    Many progressives blame the worsening income distribution on the Reagan tax rate reductions, but the real cause is the offshoring of manufacturing, industrial, and professional service jobs, such as software engineering.
    None of us in the Reagan administration foresaw jobs offshoring as the consequence of Soviet collapse. We had no idea that by bringing down the Soviet Union we would be bringing down America. During the Reagan years India was socialist and would not allow foreign corporations, had they been interested, to touch their labor force. China was communist and no foreign capital could enter the country.
    However, once the Soviet Union was gone from the earth, the remaining socialist and communist regimes decided to go with the winners. They opened to Western corporations and sucked jobs out of the developed West.”

    If the above isn’t of Interest to those that call themselves Conservatives,something has changed.

    Yours Truly,50% of me is a WFB Conservative,the other 50%,a mutt mix of all kinds of thinking.

  10. That’s so blinkered I don’t know where to start, Stockman, I’ve gathered what a back stabbing weasel he was and is. There’s a degree of truth in the view of the establishment objections, the ones who wanted seemingly a return to the Nixon/Ford era of stagnation it seems. That seems to the glorious world that Frum wants to return to as well.

    Soviet Russia, like it’s predecessor, 70 years before, was a terribly brittle system, but it took the twin shocks of the Japanese War
    (re; Bely’s Petersburg) and the First World War (any part of the
    Red Wheel) China had already embarked on the Kuomingtang redux
    path in 1985, under Deng, India was the lone hold out, but a small
    nuclear exchange with Pakistan will solve that problem. Talk about
    ‘thinking of foolish things’

  11. “We had no idea that by bringing down the Soviet Union we would be bringing down America.”

    In order to “Win” the Cold War,we defaulted on our obligations in 1971,and created a parallel financial system that Bankrupted America. Anyone remotely aware of our current Economic situation(Reality in #s such as GDP,actual Debt,the “REAL”unemployment rate etc etc) knows that we COULD collapse as fast as the USSR did,Niall Ferguson is one of the despised that has discussed the “Instant Collapse” scenario. I’ll give you a hint,our “True” GDP is now under 10 Trillion $s,factor that # in the mix,and see what you come up with.
    BTW, I have read the two volumes of THE RED WHEEL avaliable in English as well as Bely’s novels.

  12. miguel cervantes wrote:
    That’s so blinkered I don’t know where to start

    If it’s me that’s “BLINKERED”,that’s fine,if its PCR,I need to remind you that he was “there”* you weren’t,you are just one of the”Little” people,just like me.

    *Resumes matter

  13. You have to as they say Rex, ‘read the whole thing’ I took issue with some of PCR’s later contentions are dubious and counterproductive, The Soviets were overextended certainly in Eastern Europe and in the perennial quagmire that is Afghanistan, then again they have a skill at creating ‘quagmires’ read Tolstoy’s “Cossacks’ and then Nathan Thornburg’s take on Chechnya a hundred and fifty years later in Time, then again he was confused by a simple beat like Alaska, so scotch that suggestion.

  14. The parallel is really closer to Britain if you want to hazard it, although
    the bell didn’t “toll for thee’ till Suez, when they exited India that meant the NorthWest Frontier and Afghanistan where they had been for the better part of a century, Egypt for three quarters of one, Kenya
    for roughly that same time

  15. “The parallel is really closer to Britain if you want to hazard it”

    Look MC,let me help you here. You’re all over the place and it’s a waste of your time/energy. You don’t have to revisit England,Russia,Weimar,you don’t have to regurg Spenglar,Toynbee,and Gibbon. I have ofttimes mentioned that Economics is too stupid for the kind of intellectuals who are concerned with the Issues at Contentions/Zombie Contentions etc. It is a dismal science,and I have a primitive,dismal brain. So listen up:
    (1)America can’t survive as “AMERICA” without Middle class jobs EARNING MIDDLE CLASS PAY
    (2)The “REAL” unemployment rate is now 22% and rising,but more important than the unemployment rate is the “How much are Americans earning rate” which is plummeting faSTER than the unemployment rate is rising. I can explain why this is happening,but I don’t have to now,because I can prove it,just check out the drop in Federal,State,and all government revenues(The true #s,not the Official #s=s 10% annual drop average&greater in some locations)
    (3)Now all this could be used to Derail the Administration,but It won’t,because as CK pointed out,if the Repubs inherit power,they need the same economic fantasies to survive as do the Obamaites. “EVERYBODY KNOWS”/Leonard Cohen

  16. Yes, ‘they thought me mad at the university,’ is that the logic, maybe
    PCR can take the Delorean back to 1980, and I don’t even know what
    alternate economic strategy he would follow,

  17. PCR/Economic Strategy

    He’s irrelevant except as a participant in the Reagan economic miracle. Who are relevant are a handful of Contrarian Economists who will never be involved in Government Policy. Peter Morici&Mike Hudson are examples.
    And there is only one Economic strategy that will work,and that is to “Stabilize” the Currency so that its purchasing power is the same a century from now as it was in 1970. How many people would buy real estate if the measurement of a Square foot is based on a Floating measurement system “corrected” daily,so I lease a 100000
    square foot facility,and take possession of 50000 sq feet,and am told that there was a devaluation of the Japaneese sq foot,and that’s the adjustment. And don’t bother arguing that currency is different,it’s not,and we’re reeling from our errors.

  18. But to demonstrate how stupid,out of touch,I was,I believed the Crisis (THat began in Summer 2007)would scare the Hybris out of the Treasury,the Fed,and Wall Street,but as smarter people like CK,JEM,and JED tried to explain to me,back then,Nothing is going to change,the Status Quo will intensify. The reason, I’m looking smarter today is that I stuck to my guns in asserting that unstable,Fiat,Floating Currency is the CORE problem,because if it wasn’t,we be out of the WOODS.

  19. The Crisis was certainly looming at that time, but it took the collapse of first Bear Stearns and then Lehman Brothers, six months apart, under a wave of phony contracts, and one has to wonder how did this
    end up happening with 60 days of an election, all economic crisis I can recall, notably 1837, 1873, 1893, happened after an election

    Now it can be argued that the solution posited from the last crisis, the tech and derivative bubble, Sarbanes/Oxley really facilitated this last crisis

  20. Now it can be argued that the solution posited from the last crisis, the tech and derivative bubble, Sarbanes/Oxley really facilitated this last crisis

    My advise,stick to political,historical comments,you’re too smart to understand Macro Economics. In other words,you cannot believe that policy from 1971 had an effect in 2007,but what happened in 1837,73,93 is timely and relevant.LOL Think about simple explanation,you’ll do better.

  21. What happened in 1993, with the CRA revisions most directly had an impact with 2008, so did the first lawsuit Obama won against Citibank,
    for ‘redlining. How 1971, which was due to the overspending on both
    guns and butter, relate to today is a little more murky.

    Now business cycles run 8-10 years, so it begs to reason that sometime around 2009-10, would have run out of steam, but that did
    not turn out that way.

  22. “tech and derivative bubble, Sarbanes/Oxley really facilitated this last crisis/miguel cervantes wrote:
    What happened in 1993, with the CRA revisions most directly had an impact with 2008, so did the first lawsuit Obama won against Citibank,
    for ‘redlining. How 1971, which was due to the overspending on both
    guns and butter, relate to today is a little more murky.
    Now business cycles run 8-10 years, so it begs to reason that sometime around 2009-10, would have run out of steam, but that did
    not turn out that way”

    It’s like trying to raise the dead. You are confusing Apples and Orange/Causes and Effects in a hilarious stew of disfunctional concepts. I’ll just quote something on 1971 to help out.

    “Stage 1. Nixon irresponsible, dumps gold, U.S starts spending binge,
    Richard Nixon’s gold policies get Stockman’s first assault, for defaulting “on American obligations under the 1944 Bretton Woods agreement to balance our accounts with the world.” So for the past 40 years, America’s been living “beyond our means as a nation” on “borrowed prosperity on an epic scale … an outcome that Milton Friedman said could never happen when, in 1971, he persuaded President Nixon to unleash on the world paper dollars no longer redeemable in gold or other fixed monetary reserves.”
    Remember Friedman: “Just let the free market set currency exchange rates, he said, and trade deficits will self-correct.” Friedman was wrong by trillions. And unfortunately “once relieved of the discipline of defending a fixed value for their currencies, politicians the world over were free to cheapen their money and disregard their neighbors.”
    And without discipline America was also encouraging “global monetary chaos as foreign central banks run their own printing presses at ever faster speeds to sop up the tidal wave of dollars coming from the Federal Reserve.” Yes, the road to the coming apocalypse began with a Republican president listening to a misguided Nobel economist’s advice”

    Try concentrating on these few lines Think about LBJ and the Unfunded Vietnam War&War on Poverty,think about Nixon,Milton Friedman,Gold,Fiat money,Derivatives invented to Balance the distortions created by the “FLOATING” Currencies,The Bankruptcy Of Orange County California,Enron,Japanese Carry Trade,development of a 600 Trillion $ market in a variety of Derivatives etc etc etc,none of this was possible without the conversion to Fiat Currency. Now you need to hit the books,try Human Action by Von Mises,read the sections on Inflation and Currency Manipulation. Mises was the founder of the Austrian School/Hayek,Schumpeter. Please slow down,stop opining, stop spewing out your fragmented fiscal ideas, and start studying,and opine after you have read a lot. And you could read every article in REAL CLEAR MARKETS everyday,I have been doing that for years. If you’re thinking what got up his ass,I’m the Kraken of ZC. I would enjoy discussing Economics with you,but your misinformation makes it a law of diminishing returns issue. Everytime,I point out something,rather than deal with that,you come back at me with a new bizarre grouping of “Explanations” I feel like Mickey Mouse in the Sorceer’s Apprentice.

  23. (1)The Crisis was certainly looming at that time, but it took the collapse of first Bear Stearns and then Lehman Brothers, six months apart, under a wave of phony(They were Real) contracts.

    #1 shows a Confusion of cause and effect,the disruption of the Jap Carry Trade put the users of the CT in neck high dodo.

    (2)and one has to wonder how did this
    end up happening with 60 days of an election, all economic crisis I can recall, notably 1837, 1873, 1893, happened after an election

    #2 assumes that The Laws of Economics are Controlled by the vagaries of politics/vice-versa on that one

    (3)Now it can be argued that the solution posited from the last crisis, the tech and derivative bubble, Sarbanes/Oxley really facilitated this last crisis

    #3/SO is a minor footnote,SO did almost nothing to force anyone to Disclose their Shadow Accounting,the Derivative Bubble has never stopped growing,the Tech Bubble was an Asset Bubble,not a Debt Bubble that Burst Summer 2007

    (4)What happened in 1993, with the CRA revisions most directly had an impact with 2008, so did the first lawsuit Obama won against Citibank,for ‘redlining.
    #4,very minor footnotes

    (5)How 1971, which was due to the overspending on both
    guns and butter, relate to today is a little more murky.

    #5,Please look at the growth of the money Supply(M3)/Inflation since 1971.

    (6)Now business cycles run 8-10 years, so it begs to reason that sometime around 2009-10, would have run out of steam, but that did
    not turn out that way

    #6 Prey tell, WHY? Also do Business cycles run in predictable 8-10 year cycles, how about 7 years fat/seven years lean?

  24. Well take that point up with Matt Taibbi, the historical reference is a cycle has in never collapsed in this way before. It’s like we’re living in
    a Michael Thomas novel, who gave up fiction sometime in the early 00s

  25. miguel cervantes wrote:
    (1)Well take that point up with Matt Taibbi,

    #1 I hope Matt reads Human Action one of these days,or at least the Earthly Philosophers. Your choice for Economic Guru tells us a lot

    (2)the historical reference is a cycle has in never collapsed in this way before.

    #2 Burst Credit Bubbles like this have occured throughout recorded Economic History

    (3)It’s like we’re living in
    a Michael Thomas novel, who gave up fiction sometime in the early 00s

    I read his novels back when,they’re a lot more fun than reading about Macro-Economics
    Had you taken my advice,and started reading Real Clear Markets daily,you would have found this insight today which is a Comment on the Referenced article below.

    “Struggling economies progressively left the Gold Standard to prevent a costly loss of international competitiveness,”

    “That’s not how the gold standard worked. If you had a trade deficit with another country gold would leave your country for the trade surplus country. With less gold, the money supply would shrink, causing prices to fall and your good would become cheaper. Eventually cheaper products would beat out more expensive ones in international trade and your trade deficit would turn into a surplus.”
    “But that’s not how the gold standard worked in practice. Gold only limits the volume of paper dollars that the central bank can print. It doesn’t limit credit expansion at all; never did and never will. Massive credit expansion is just as easy with a gold standard as it is with fiat money. The booms and busts of the past were caused by such credit expansion. So gold never limited the ability of central banks to expand the money supply via credit expansion. Countries left the gold standard because they didn’t want gold leaving their country. It made them feel poorer.
    “..but while it wasn’t possible for every country to benefit from the devaluation associated with departure from gold, the end of the Gold Standard meant a freeing of monetary policy, which allowed economies to reflate and recover.”
    “Strange, but for centuries before the Great D nations had no problems recovering from CREDIT INDUCED DEPRESSIONS while on a gold standard. Central bankers must have suddenly become very stupid during the Great D because they couldn’t do the same”

  26. Well you have read Ahmed’s “Lords of Finance” right, about Strong, Norman, Havenstein et al, You miss that the decision on the gold standard in ’33 and ’71 was driven by deficit spending issues, not the other way around. I’m fully on board with you on the Fed, after the Greenspan experience

  27. You miss that the decision on the gold standard in ’33 and ’71 was driven by deficit spending issues, not the other way around.

    JHC, TRUISM,The reason we abanded the Gold Standard in 1971 was a default on our Gold Obligations BECAUSE OF DEBT ie THE UNFUNDED COSTS OF VIETNAM AND THE WAR ON POVERTY. Gold was set at 35$ OZ,but the “MARKET” valued the Gold at $115 OZ. IOUs all over the financial world were flying in because IOU holders could turn their received Gold over to the Market and profit was 80$ OZ. So we defaulted,and set up the Fiat,Floating,Derivative weighted system that we so love,and will do anything to continue. To understand the implications,you only have to know two facts:
    (1)What happened to our money supply from 1971-2010 in terms of growth
    (2)What happened to our currency since 1971 in terms of its purchasing power.
    Hint:In 1965 Gold Traded at 35$ OZ
    In 2010 Gold Trades at 1200$ Oz
    That’s it,but that’s too easy for most intellectuals to grasp.

    PS:Law of Unintended Consequences:Directly because of our default on Gold,in 1973 Oil quadrupled 4x per barrel,our doing,and we’ve never figured that out,never having looked back,never being able to incorporate the simplest facts from the past into our current opinions.

  28. yes, and the latter had to with the realization that Yamani had, that Perez Alfonso’s OPEC, could corner the market on petroleum. So you’re
    saying there’s been 3500% percent inflation since that time

  29. saying there’s been 3500% percent inflation since that time

    NO NO NO In terms of the COST of Gold,the PRICE increased from 115$ OZ to 1200$ OZ/PRICE INCREASE. INFLATION is more like 10% year average, I earned 35K in 1973,to equal that buying power today,I would need to earn 140K in 2010,I didn’t make that much. Remember Inflation isn’t about increased prices which could be due to a # of factors,but it is about the devaluation of the currency due to Government/Central Bank policies. Deflation is about the increase in buying power of Currency due to Government/Central Bank Policies.

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TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

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Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

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[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

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