the meaning of the meaningless campaign

If the 2012 Republican campaign is intrinsically meaningless (or also meaningless), if it connives at nullity by design; and if it furthermore depends on non-cognizance on the part of the electorate regarding a sitting president’s dependence on at minimum non-obstruction from the legislative and judicial branches, then the election of Willard Mitt Romney with a Republican congress in 2012 would amount to a negative mandate/mandate for negation.  It would suggest the completion of a collective auto-lobotomy of the popular sovereign: As far as national government goes, it would say, let the mad pseudo-libertarian billionaires have their way, as the rest of us are too little interested. Whether or not this active anti-campaign is successful, however, it must end with the exact opposite of the result that the most ardent proponents of the underlying theory – lowest common denominator constitutional conservatism – claim to be pursuing:  Not with a restrained and tamed federal government and the spontaneous wonders of unleashed exceptional Americanism, but with a more or less stringent and coercive attempted re-assertion of central authority, whether in the moderate form of re-elected Obamism, or under some other leadership down the line. Whether the eventual measures taken come from the nominal left or nominal right may be less important than the order in which the major externalities of financialized neo-liberalism de-externalize. The first decade of the 21st Century can probably be taken as a first draft for augmentation under identified emergency conditions of central power, outside of elections, but with broad popular and bi-partisan support.

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18 comments on “the meaning of the meaningless campaign

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  1. Well there is a touch of the ’14th Brumaire’ to Obama, making Carter seem competent and humble, no mean feat, the surrender of Egypt to the Ikwan is geometrically worse, than the similar Iranian case, and sadly the Iranian bomb, will make the Saudi and
    Egyptian bomb, inevitable down the road, as Piereson suggests, the Time of Troubles, may be even worse than we can imagine,

    • Piece isn’t remotely about foreign policy or even really about Obama for or against, but about a theory of the Romney candidacy I’ve written about before, but in this case taking a post of Daniel Larison’s on its own terms. Campaign-ready, but irrelevant polemics on the “surrender of Egypt” (as if we owned it) and the (non-existent) “Iranian bomb” don’t really have much to do with the question, unless you’re under the bizarre impression that either issue figures significantly in the presidential election. Even if I lost my mind and decided your positions on Egypt and Iran were the correct ones, and somehow meaningful in the sense that you had workable and viable policy alternatives to go with your complaints – which you don’t, and never have – their absence from the campaign would reinforce my thesis. Now, if Romney was out there insisting on an invasion of Egypt or putting the near-comatose Mubarak or his hated son in power, or insisting on war with Iran, then his campaign wouldn’t be meaningless. It would just be down 30 points in the polls, at least, and even Karl Rove and his mad billionaires would find some other diversion,

        • The people who are bankrolling Mitt, especially Adelson, have always been standing indictments of the entire social, political, and economic system that creates and empowers them. Hard to say just how much deeper the indictment goes under current circumstances – whether it’s attained a brand new level or is just a mere reiteration and minor permutation, whether it’s more absurd salami from the same silly slicer, or a civilization-level tragedy.

            • You have a very binary view of things. You ever notice? Why does viewing Adelson et al as somewhat contemptible necessarily imply a love of Obama’s supporters? That, by all accounts, spending by the mad and secretive billionaires this time around will dwarf past spending remains troubling. B-psycho and I were just talking about it over on Elias Isquith’s blog. Wherever you are politically, whether you feel contempt for Obama or not, the further de-legitimization of the electoral system as a whole in the eyes of a substantial portion of the electorate is problematic. Yes, I know the rightwing has its own theories on that score. That’s not a plus.

                • Sure, I wonder – doesn’t mean I have presumed anything about the actual prosecutability of the potential cases. Since you can’t possibly believe that the victorious Romnoids will be producing indictments, or that any significant force in the Republican coalition will be looking for or pushing for them, or for that matter has ever pushed for them, what is the point of your argument? That the entire system is a corrupt charade and has been for a very long time? If so, why do you blame one set of billionaires more than another for getting while the getting was good? On what basis?

  2. Yes I digressed, you know how I and many of our confreres, regard Romney, possibly the weakest defender of the liberal free market, yes the choices were meager, the parallels are closer to Cameron across the seas, who limped into office, and has been hobbled by the choices the coalition he was forced into, made as a consequence, Rajoy and the detritus he deals with
    from the Zapatero era, and Samaras is looking for a cup of hemlock, right about now,

  3. When Mitt’s campaign chose……..

    …………………………….. Romney Great for 68

    as the campaign slogan, i was pretty sure that they were slightly off

  4. Kinda strange for an election win by one candidate & party over another to broadcast a rejection of politics itself, isn’t it?

    I suspect the attempted idea by Romney’s campaign is to let people fill in the blanks with what they really want. Whether it’s mere “this isn’t working” on one end or bare culture war & “get that ni– outta there!” at the other end, they don’t care. If it results in a vote for Romney, whatever. Yet actually trying to attract one end turns off the other, so you get the struggle to say as close to nothing as possible he’s engaging in.

    • Yes, but the reason for that strategy is that they are mainly convinced that the electorate is imbecilic. If “the economy” or other conditions beyond their control work sufficiently to their advantage, they win. If not, they don’t have a chance. They don’t believe they can sell a positive message, assuming they even have one, to a broad electorate. It’s just sit tight and be, not really express, a bare alternative.

    • Also, the candidate and party aren’t rejecting politics itself. They’re (so far) rejecting basic assumptions regarding democratic debate and decision-making. They’re all in favor of politics as acquisition and exploitation of power, though how workable their theory is in regard to this election or would turn out to be if they won is another question.

      • I was referring to the voters that’d vote for them as you describe. To vote despite that view of politics is to still assign value to the concept, however shallow the agenda pursued within it. It’s still to say a choice is there to be made, and making that choice for A over B, rather than questioning the point.

        • You’re right that it’s an interesting paradox or self-contradiction on the part of the voter who votes under such circumstances. It has the character of a vote against voting. You know the word “vote” goes back to the same root as “voice”? It’s speaking up against speech. As the last word or the final vote it still has a kind of suicidal logic. Of course, it’s not how any (outside of maybe a few psychos, present company excluded) likely see it.

  5. They voted for ‘hope and change’ last time, a part time Senator, notable for voting present, who took his Iraq advice from Joe Biden, an advocate of Iraq partition, who ultimately opposed the Abbotabad raid. one can’ t be cynical enough.

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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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