We are hostages to the decision, including our own collective decision on one “decider” as opposed to another. Articles like Lewis’, if they reinforce our confidence in the existent rather than the ideal executive, help us to accommodate ourselves to a void in the law and its effects: The existence of this void can serve our needs; or it can be hemmed in politically – which is to say partially and provisionally; or it can be survived until the day it happens to kill us – but it cannot be legislated or reasoned way. So we can expand our general observation on liberalism – including the liberalism that advertises its libertarian purism or its republican virtues or its partisan conservatism, with or without the tri-corner hats and Minuteman costumes: As we know, it has nothing interesting to say about these issues. It does, however, very much like to pretend that it does.
Perhaps we’ll be able one day soon to discuss why the philosophy of history holds that every civilization gets only one idea, and what that means for Americans and the American idea, never just the last best hope but also the absolute danger, impossible to be one without also being/becoming the other…
For present purposes, it may well be that nothing as ideologically coherent as an authentically left program or for that matter as Tea Party “federalism” (or Romney-Ryan free market devolution) can be implemented in the United States of America. The Theory’s very adequacy to the political moment may therefore be identical with its inadequacy to greater challenges that the American political system, maybe the American nation-state itself as presently constituted, cannot even recognize, much less successfully confront. From this point of view, the apocalypse would be not what was avoided via the Showdown, but what the showdown showed us through a crack in the blinds, something that cannot forever be voted in or out or up or down, hidden under a “tarp,” or put off until another year or two for further putting off for another year or two…
In Huntsman – a callow, hesitant, and incoherent politician whose every word and gesture betray his status as a son of immense privilege and thoroughly suppressed urges to rebel – liberals, but not lefties, glimpse victory twice over: A significant electoral victory to come, one in which all of their splendid arguments and insights receive a favorably dispassionate presentation; and a victory already won, of a political discourse defined entirely on liberal terms, endlessly to their liking.
What the Republicans have done is an example of the kind of challenge to self-governance that, multiplied out over the course of years, amidst waning national self-confidence and general and overwhelming skepticism regarding public institutions, would eventually, of necessity, likely prompt someone to cross the Potomac, destroying the DC Village even while intending, or pretending, to save it.
The un-clarity or confusion, or confusion of confusions, regarding the meaning of these two terms is typical of this historical moment, which in one sense can be thought to have simply befallen us, having never been willed into existence by anyone, but in another sense can be viewed as the predictable and desired product of choices made over the course of at least two or now three presidential elections, in as self-conscious a manner as a mass democratic system is able to undertake.
To say that Edwards, Cogburn, and Wales are all in this sense Western figures more than they are Civil War figures is not to deny their connection to the South. It is a reminder of competing and complex themes or ideas of justice: Put simply, if we are in a retroactively judgmental mood, or, perhaps like the makers of The Outlaw Josey Wales and their audience, in a 1976 post-Vietnam state of despair about all official narratives and the full history of "the Union," we can define all Union soldiers, and even the sainted Abraham, as "fighting for genocidal imperialism."
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.
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.
[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.