Which came first, politics or stupidity?

Archived version of Storify post.


Which Came First, Politics or Stupidity?

Annoted twitter argument made to Andrew Sprung following his comments on Jonathan Chait’s and Ezra Klein’s implicitly anti-democratic thinking

  1. Instructive to read Chait tonight after reading Ezra Klein tonight.
  2. …referring to Ezra Klein’s “How Politics Makes Us Stupid” and Jonathan Chait’s “The Color Of His Presidency.” Sprung’s post on the relationship between the two is “‘How politics makes us stupid’: Ezra Klein’s hypothesis, Chait’s case study.”


  • @xpostfactoid1 Which came first, politics or stupidity? (Classical critique of democracy re-stated for liberals.) @ezraklein @jonathanchait
  • .@jonathanchait comes close to saying the unsayable about the sacred premises of American political discourse  http://ln.is/nymag.com/news/featu/jQ41k 
  • #pt 2nd par from bottom, p 3 “greatest triumph”: limits of discussion exclude the bases of an authentic discussion  http://ln.is/nymag.com/news/featu/DbDWc 
  • Chait’s paragraph reads as follows:
    One of the greatest triumphs of liberal politics over the past 50 years has been to completely stigmatize open racial discrimination in public life, a lesson that has been driven home over decades by everybody from Jimmy the Greek to Paula Deen. This achievement has run headlong into an increasing liberal tendency to define conservatism as a form of covert racial discrimination. If conservatism is inextricably entangled with racism, and racism must be extinguished, then the scope for legitimate opposition to Obama shrinks to an uncomfortably small space.

    What Chait comes close to saying here, or says just not in so many words, is that an unshakeable and foundational commitment against the moral and intellectual tenability of ideological racism de-legitimizes or ought to de-legitimize the actual operation, including political action, by large segments of the population according to racist or racialized categories and impulses. Yet this point of view inherently contradicts foundationally liberal commitments in favor of freedom of conscience and inquiry, including the “right to be wrong” politically. If racism is in fact the operative if covertly held ideology of a sizable faction, and racism is inherently self-de-legitimizing, then liberal democracy itself appears self-de-legitimizing, as the free expression of intolerable depravity.

  • @xpostfactoid1 here’s why @jonathanchait‘s right: the limits of acceptable discourse preclude an honest or authentic conversation on “race”
  • @xpostfactoid1 Put simply, “Racism: Good or Bad?” is not a debatable topic. “Race” is for us a false and invidious construct @jonathanchait
  • The meaning of the “greatest triumph” of “stigmatiz[ation]” and “extinguish[ment]” is, among other things, that almost any statement other than unambiguous support for the foundational taboo against racism will be taken to violate it or to point toward its violation. Indeed, anyone who hopes to preserve a reputation and a political-professional future will hesitate even to begin to analyze the taboo as a taboo rather than as expression of an unquestionable truth.

    Within the space of public reason, or meaningful and legitimate political discussion, there is to be no space for racism, which,
    according to the dominant critique, is finally only to be understood as white racism or white supremacism, to the effect that “racism” and “white racism” are, at least in America, functionally synonymous. Racism is held to be prima facie unreasonable, and thus disqualifying for any would-be participant in public discussion. Yet, according to this same analysis, this possibility for which there is no space is in fact a pervasive reality.

    It seems that the American people, through our “white” faction, are to a very large extent committed to racism in truth, if not in name – as according both to widely held belief on the liberal left and also as analytical conclusion supported by the studies and political history Chait adduces. Furthermore, this problem, of the unspeakable depravity of a major popular-political faction, is not merely an intellectual problem, but a or the central problem of American politics. Finally, though it goes under another name for the best reasons, assertion of a positive ethnically based identity – constructing a Black, or Asian, or Jewish, or Irish-American “interest” – is, where not encouraged, certainly tolerated among other factions, as well among sub-factions of the “white” faction. In short, the for us false and invidious construct is a near-universal construct among us.

  • @xpostfactoid1 when we maintain that race shapes our political culture, we declare ourselves indefeasibly irrational >> @jonathanchait
  • @xpostfactoid1 >> falsifying the basic premises of liberal democracy – thus also the @ezraklein “hypothesis” @jonathanchait
  • That racism is both taboo and nearly universal is a widely held left-liberal assumption. The great “triumph of liberal politics” is in this sense a linguistic triumph against democracy, a triumph primarily on the level of stigmatized or extinquished expression leaving an underlying objective reality intact.

    Klein’s analysis, based on a discussion with Yale law professor Dan Kahan, reinforces a pessimistic suspicion that there is no further victory to be had: That there is no reason to expect any change in underlying sentiment, at least on the basis of discussion or conventional political activity. Indeed, Klein via Kahan stresses the insusceptibility of partisan factions to reason and evidence at all, whether on the malignity and destructiveness of operation according to the false construct “race,” or on questions of economic equality, or on issues like gun control or abortion, or on climate change, or on neo-Keynesian economic policy, or on health insurance and welfare, on likely on every other stalled item on the reasonable left-liberal agenda.

    The “silver lining” for Klein is only that eventually, in some unspecified way, “[a] political movement that fools itself into crafting national policy based on bad evidence is a political movement that will, sooner or later, face a reckoning at the polls.” Even while declining to estimate the harm that such a movement would have to do in order to come to face such a reckoning, Klein himself recognizes just how thin that lining is:

    At least, that’s the hope. But that’s not true on issues, like climate change, where action is needed quickly to prevent a disaster that will happen slowly. There, the reckoning will be for future generations to face. And it’s not true when American politics becomes so warped by gerrymandering, big money, and congressional dysfunction that voters can’t figure out who to blame for the state of the country. If American politics is going to improve, it will be better structures, not better arguments, that win the day.

    This point is the first time in Klein’s long post that the word “structures” appears. The sentence is also the last sentence.

  • @xpostfactoid1 so @ezraklein‘s vague notion of a better “structure” is a stealthy call for aristocratic “guidance” of the unworthy masses
  • @CK_MacLeod @ezraklein don’t think so – call for for more representative structures & less veto so can course correct when reality smacks
  • @xpostfactoid1 a simply “more representative” structure would be “representation” of irrationally self-deluded factions @ezraklein
  • @xpostfactoid1 the “re-structuring” cannot occur until after “reality” has already “smacked” – overriden dysfunctional democracy @ezraklein
  • …that is, after the failure of the system to perform “reasonably” has produced harms so evident, or with effects so compelling, that even congenitally deluded and irrational partisans are shaken out of their stances. At such a point they would have no choice but to take corrective action, though it is unclear why we should expect them to take correct action.

    As for the hope in better “structures,” it is even less clear why or how a thoroughly dysfunctional system would acquire the ability to repair itself. How is a system of “gerrymandering, big money, and congressional dysfunction” supposed to solve gerrymandering, big money, and congressional dysfunction? The indications are that it has not been able to do so, and that it shows no signs of doing so, and we have Klein/Cahan and Chait ready to explain why it is not likely ever to do so at least on the basis of its own intrinsic character.

  • @xpostfactoid1 the correct course evident to educated gentlepeople is taken after the emergency that democracy cannot anticipate @ezraklein
  • @CK_MacLeod His point: in democracy, reality can smack hard enough to discredit prejudiced delusion — if disillusoned majority empowered
  • @xpostfactoid1 but the premise is that prejudice delusion is endemic, so any democracy becomes, at best, government by emergency >>
  • @xpostfactoid1 >> under twin presumptions that emergencies are always solvable 1) at acceptable cost, 2) by democratic means
  • @CK_MacLeod to a degree. But change happens, prejudices dissipate.
  • @xpostfactoid1 Klein nowhere suggests they or the tendency can dissolve to produce a republic of reason – to the contrary
  • Indeed, according to Chait and even more according to the standard left-liberal analysis, even 150 years of smacking with reality has not produced what left-liberalism considers unquestionably reasonable (abandonment of racism among whites in communities under a direct legacy of slavery and its abolition).
  • @xpostfactoid1 while the history of liberal democracy suggests precisely the tendency toward crises requiring suspension of democracy, or >>
  • …in other words:
  • @xpostfactoid1 >> falsification of the second presumption, uncertainty of the first
  • …falsification of any expectation that our democracy or version of democracy typically handles its emergencies, small and large, democratically; uncertainty that, however it manages to handle true threats to its survival as liberal democracy, that it will be able to do so dependably.

    Sprung is right, in short, that Chait and Klein agree: They agree that the familiar premises of left-liberal politics, their politics, are chronically and dangerously flawed. This conclusion does not necessarily imply that the premises of a centrist or rightwing or any other politics would be superior or preferable. They do seem to leave us with no real choice but to await or prepare for the next “reckoning,” and the one after that.



Home Page  Public Email  Twitter  Facebook  YouTube  Github   

Writing since ancient times, blogging, e-commercing, and site installing-designing-maintaining since 2001; WordPress theme and plugin configuring and developing since 2004 or so; a lifelong freelancer, not associated nor to be associated with any company, publication, party, university, church, or other institution.

Posts in this series

9 comments on “Which came first, politics or stupidity?

Commenting at CK MacLeod's

We are determined to encourage thoughtful discussion, so please be respectful to others. We also provide a set of Commenting Options - comment/commenter highlighting and ignoring, and commenter archives that you can access by clicking the commenter options button (). Go to our Commenting Guidelines page for more details, including how to report offensive and spam commenting.

  1. Actually, no, Chaitred ignores the color of Obama’s politics, an issue we wouldn’t have with an Allen West or a Clarence Thomas, of course the left has shown those two so much civility, just consider Julianne Malveaux’s helpful suggestion,

  2. His wife should feed him a high fat diet, so he could die of coronary disease, as to the former, Wright, Khalidi, Bell, Ayers, De Unger, et al, critical legal studies, that the Chaitred piece seems to suffer from,

    • The statement you describe is of course utterly out of place in “civil discourse.” I’m still not getting how you think critical legal studies arguments are reflected in Chait’s piece, and what you think it has to do with either my argument or his.

  3. the left, has pulled this interesting hat trick, there is no way to really question Obama’s abyssmal policies or else one is accused of being a racist, the attacks on the Tea Party were certainly part of this,

  4. They still don’t appreciate ‘the fundamental transformation’ he has wrought, the critique is from the left, ie; why hasn’t he pushed for single player,

2 Pings/Trackbacks for "Which came first, politics or stupidity?"
  1. […] installments in this series of posts are “Which came first, politics or stupidity?,”  “Objectively, the Chait Insanity Theorem Holds,” and, less relevant to the […]

Commenter Ignore Button by CK's Plug-Ins

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Noted & Quoted

[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.

Comment →

So, does Mitchell make any money on the work, which has been shared so many times? He uploaded a high-res image of the symbol and granted permission for anyone to use it personally for free. But for those who want to support his work or simply want something readymade, you can also buy T-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, and journals emblazoned with the symbol through Threadless.“I really just want to spread the image as much as possible and cement it in history,” Mitchell says. “In all honesty, the amount I’ve made from my Threadless shop so far is still less than my hourly rate, so I don’t really see it as a big deal. If you look at my Twitter, half the replies are people wanting to know where they can buy a shirt. Threadless is happy to help them out with that, and so I’m happy to let that happen.”Now that the symbol has flooded our streets and our timelines, Mitchell just has one request: “Impeach this idiot already,” he says.

Comment →

This is a Waterloo moment for Trump, the tea party and their alliance. They have been stopped in their tracks not only by Democratic opposition but because of a mutiny within their own ranks. Although never particularly liked or respected, it is now clear that they are no longer feared. The bankruptcy of their ideas and their incompetence have been exposed. Their momentum has been dissipated. Their rejection of political norms has itself been scorned. Our long national nightmare may finally be coming to an end.

Comment →
CK's WP Plugins


Extraordinary Comments

CK's WP Plugins