“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Thursday, November 10, 2016

election thoughts - on the Clinton campaign

I just have to get this off my chest. I voted for Clinton, and I believed the polls, so I’m shocked. It is worth while playing the tape again so that we can see how we got here. In other words, how did Clinton lose?
The first reaction of the Dem fluffer league was that it must be the evil Green Party. This excuse makes me want to cry. That is like saying that it is all because of the Republican party. If only she ran unopposed, this would never have happened! Guess what? As the Green party has made abundantly clear over the years, it is a party and will go everywhere for votes on election day. If the Clinton campaign people did not know this and plan for it, then it is on the Clinton campaign people. The merest baby knew it. You can deal with it by trying to pursuade people from that tiny party to vote for you, or you can try to get your people in greater numbers to vote for you. If you aim for the former, here’s some advice: don’t think you will get anywhere by shaming. What didn’t work over the last four elections probably isn’t going to work in this one.
I’ve been thinking, to move onto a more serious note, about the fact that 55 percent of white women didn’t vote for Clinton – that is, who voted.
That’s an interesting stat. If 55 percent of African Americans had not voted for Obama, he would never have been president.
So why? What failed here?
I think one thing that failed was that the campaign idea to feature Clinton as a model woman – a mother, a wife, a grandmother – carrying Susan B. Anthony’s torch ignored the fact, was blind to the fact, that one thing about Clinton’s life that we all know is that he husband is very publically unfaithful to her. I can’t imagine anybody in the campaign wanted to confront her on this, but if you are going to run on a personal story, you are going to drag into that personnal story what people know about you. Perhaps in the 50s and 60s, the stand by your man thing would have seemed heroic. In 2016, it just seems weird.  Why would a woman who stands for feminism seemingly never retaliate,  or free herself? Perhaps even so the campaign could have worked if she hadn’t been running against Trump. There was a Saturday night live skit where the Hillary character shows hilarious steeliness about Trump bringing Bill’s ex “mistresses” to the debate. It was funny, but it was funny puzzling. If we are “with her”, what’s the deal with such public humiliation? What kind of her is this?
I am nobody to judge Hillary Clinton. We make all kinds of decisions in our personal life. But you can’t have it both ways – you can’t put up your personal life as a political advertisement and then be simply silent about a very well known fact about it.
Even if this were not the case, Clinton certainly should have torn a page out of Obama’s book and made some speech about what it means to run as a woman. In Obama’s case, it was about the moral grounding of our history and its direction – how white and black could meet finally as equals and partners in a political struggle. It was brilliant. Clinton, foregrounding gender, then sort of let it hang therre, as if it was a given that we all know about. This was not not not good. It was perceived as arrogant, I’m sure, by women who would otherwise have loved to hear about this. And men too. It might have been corny, it might have been the kind of thing that would make my teeth grind, but I think it definitely should have been done. If one of your attractions as a candidate is your gender, you can’t just be all I’m with her, you have to get down to brass tacks. It took Michelle Obama, way too late in the campaign, to address this.
Then there was the odd, in retrospect, idea that the Dems just didn’t have to worry about their base states. Huh? Given the poll numbers, even at the time, it made no sense to concentrate so much on, like, North Carolina. That was fruitless. Clinton didn’t need an overwhelming victory, she needed a victory, and the states she needed she should have hit. Instead, Florida – from what I’ve read about the get out the vote there – was haphazard, and Pennsylvania was an afterthought. Michigan, which she lost to Sanders, was really necessary, but the Clinton campaign seemed oblivious. All the shit about Putin was of concern to a lot of D.C. journalists, but otherwise of no interest to the country at large. But China and the trade deficit and the currency manipulation – now these were areas to plunge into. I have a great fear that the Clinton campaign was sotto voce about trade cause they plannned to do the TPP once in office. I don’t understand that at all. Obama won those Midwest states by taking apart Romney, and sometimes it seems like Clinton was runnig as Romney, spending more time fundraising among the ultrarich than staying on the trail. Just borrow the fucking money shoulda been the motto.
That leads to my final bit. All campaigns have a narcissistic end – the campaign about the campaign. Usually this happens when the whole thing is winding down. But I think the shambles of the DNC and the Podesta organizations were much more focused on their own navels than on what was happening. Every day that Clinton was not in the headlines, and Trump was, was a bad day for Clinton. The strategy seemed to be – let him kill himself. But by the time Trump was nominated, it was obvious this strategy didn’t work. Instead, his domination of the headlines was becoming a sort of Fuehrer thing. That’s why keeping the press at arm’s length was, frankly, insane. Clinton might hate the press, but you gotta make a lotta noise if you are going to keep viable.
In as much as Clinton was part of these decisions, she is to blame. But really, she was paying a lot of money to campaign people whose job was to lead her away from mistakes. Instead, they seemed to participate in them. It was like they thought it was 1996.

It wasn’t. It’s 1984, alas.        

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

non president hilary clinton and dialectical feminism

The analytic bug... Hmm, it tickles. Anyway, I'm going to give in and say something about sexism that may well reveal my own sexism. I define sexism, by the way, as acting against sexism, no noble feelings rot counts.
During this election, on twitter, I followed Rebecca Traister, a journalist I respect. And I saw in her threads, very often, make statements about what Clinton wasn't "allowed", or couldn't "get to do", because of sexism. For instance, today: "God I wish she were allowed to just cry like the rest of us."  
Now this might seem like it is bashing sexism, being critical of the mass of sexism in the populace, etc. Traister could easily point to people threatening her, physically, using the word bitch or cunt, etc. So she is right, sexism exacts a price from every woman. But to my mind, under the surface, this kind of rhetoric just enables sexism. In fact, one of Clinton's problems as a politician is/ was that I think she hears a lot of this kind of talk. It made her shorten her punches, or not do things because the sexists out there wouldn't "allow" it.
But in fact the only way to blow the sexists out of there is to do precisely that. To show emotion, to cry or laugh, to not be "tough" - these may, or no, will evoke vile sexist comments. But there is no way that the vile sexist commenters are going to be appeased. Seventies feminists - dialectical feminists - saw the bind between criticizing sexism and practically reinforcing its dictums very well.
In fact, Clinton would not be a rich, famous and important woman if she was not always doing things that "aren't allowed". If she allowed her public persona to be governed by a strategy that cedes the right to self imaging to the sexist, she is not only not being "allowed", she is retreating. The scriptedness, the self-imaging along the most conservative lines, takes away the politicians best tool. Trump, an idiot in so many ways, knows people love self-fashioning - at least for a while. 

I am hoping that the next woman to run for president is not surrounded by enablers of sexism. It is ruinous. 
I think, in the end, this goes back to a patriarchal trope that Americans swallow whole: permanent strength. Strength and toughness are always good. Losers and whiners are always bad. We want our women "strong". As in a Hollywood action flick.
I think that's shorthand for fascism.When we are weak, we are "allowed" to be weak. In fact, often it is the appropriate response. The cult of toughness aborts one's feelings until the feelings abort themselves. Fuck that. Obama had his moments, and the one thing I really adored in him was that he was very low on the tough talk scale. He saw sometimes that the better move was to be weak. An unacceptable thought in hypermasculinized DC.

Monday, November 07, 2016

President Hillary Clinton and epistocracy in that order

I was so hoping the Trump sex tape would turn up by now. It is surely out there. Well, no sex tape. No joy! 

Anyway, I am going to start calling her President Clinton, cause it is all over save the vote suppression - which is not going to save the KKK's favorite candidate. But more sadly, I suspect that the Dems are not going to get past 49 in the Senate.


So, turning aside to Caleb Crain's review of Jason Brennan's book, Against Democracy - it does sound like Jason Brennan is full of bad bad arguments. Crain ropes him in with Bryan Caplen, the libertarian economist from Koch, er George Mason University - Crain stints on the background and just calls him an "economist", although I'd bet cash money that if Bryan Caplen were a Marxist economist, that fact would be mentioned. As a former reviewer myself - hey, I've got at least four hundred reviews under my belt, so I am not talking about one piece on a list serv or something - I count points off. Reviewing is much like wrestling, in that the points are awarded for things that the spectators can't quite see. Anyway, I was surprised that the review of the Brennan book, which really, really sound irritating, said absolutely zip about the concentration of power that goes along with Brennan's technocratic wetdream. Whereas in the 70s, Foucault savaged the kind of disciplinary society propelled, in part, by institutionilzed expertise, in the nudgery 10s, we find it getting a lot of neo-lib love. The first move is to take at face value polls about content, which supposedly display the vast ignorant of the American boobs out there. Of course, no parallel polls are ever taken about the knowledge of such bright beacons as Brennan about the experience of working class folks out there. For instance, what number of black households are in the top one percent? And what number of whites? What is the colloquial name for the stretch between East Baton Rouge and New Orleans? etc., etc.
Stories about technocratic power in the US tend to be pretty dystopian. Crain doesn't seem to have any of them at his fingertips, meaning that he has a nice ignorance of American history, one usually repandu among the centrist-liberal reviewer crowd. It isn't as if democracy has not been kicked in the teeth in the American experience about a million times. Crain does even refer to the eugenics programs that the US used to be no. 1 in, until Nazi Germany, admiring our policies, took away the crown. For, after all, if people who are ignorant about who the VP is (and who know silly things like the fact that the concentration of carcinogens in the area around East Baton Rouge all along the east bank of the Mississippi has earned it the name Cancer Alley) shouldn't vote, but should trust experts - well, why should they be allowed to have children. Crain doesn't advance even gingerly into the topic, although the topic cries out for it. Points off, points off!
There's a weird American tendency to reduce history to one's personal experience.If I wasn't born in 1910, then I am supposed to know nothing of 1920 or 30. I suppose this tendency moves in tandem with the idea that novels are all about the author who wrote them. However, this is definitely a standard that the reviewer should shun. 'You had to be there' is the deathknell of the historical consciousness. I do wish Crain had seized the elevation of nudgery to "epistocracy" and given it a rougher, much rougher, shake, with examples from the entire history of so called democratic societies.
Oh well.