Matt Taibbi: A Dangerous Moment for the Democratic Party

Yves here. Taibbi provides a deep dive on what the election showed and the likely next moves for the Dems.

And as much as I like Paul Jay, it’s striking to see people who pride themselves as intellectual are so quick to stereotype Trump voters and conservatives. He depicts “racist and fascist ideas” as the province of the working class and rural poor. In fact, as we’ve stressed again and again, the average income of Trump voters is markedly above that of Clinton/Sanders/Biden voters. I’ve met high income, educated, well-traveled people from both Texas and upstate New York who are firm Trump fans because they are convinced the Democrats are socialists and socialism means higher taxes with nothing good coming back to them. I am similarly highly confident that one of my in-laws, a high income corporate employee, voted for Trump due to hating Obamacare, liking the Trump tax cuts, and generally hewing to libertarian views. In other words, these simplistic takes will doom the left to more losses to conservatives.

I also have to differ with Jay and Taibbi over the wealth tax issue. An OECD report showed countries that had had wealth taxes on the main had dropped them due to difficulties with enforcement and collection. Aside from liquid assets (stocks and bonds), valuation is a dark art. Even private equity firms, when more than one firm has a stake in the same portfolio company, will often come up with valuations that differ by 200% to 300%, and each firm will have a credible story for its numbers. And remember, these are established companies, not high-flying early stage plays. The valuation issues for a wealth tax are identical to those in large estates, and the IRS hasn’t won a large estate case since the early 1980s.

Mind you, that isn’t to say that the super rich weren’t super unhappy with Sanders and to a not much lesser degree, Warren. But as a whole, what got to them wasn’t particular proposals as much as the world view that government was going to do a lot more to take care of ordinary people, which would considerably reduce the power of private sector top dogs. This is the essential point in Kalecki’s landmark essay on the barriers to achieving full employment, that businesspeople care more about preserving their advantaged position than maximizing their income.

By Paul Jay. Originally published at TheAnalysis.news

Paul Jay

Hi, I’m Paul Jay. Welcome to theAnalysis.news podcast.

As I wrote recently, Trump may be a buffoon, but the forces behind him are serious. Trump may be gone, at least for now, but many developments are driving a section of the American elites towards a more overtly coercive and racist state.

This section of the elite has been ascendant because “liberal American capitalism” is out of solutions. Had it not been for the pandemic, Trump would likely be headed back to the White House. In spite of his criminal mishandling of the pandemic, he still received 70 million votes. Obama’s economic policies favored Wall Street and produced greater income inequality. Desperation and frustration created conditions for strengthening fascist and racist ideas in segments of the working class and rural poor. It tilled the soil for Trump.

People, especially in rural America, have lost faith in traditional post-war American institutions, and evangelical and conservative religions are gaining strength. At least 60 percent of the Trump vote came from very religious people. These people have lost their ideological moorings, as have people in most of the country, and demagogues from the right, from Trump to Tucker Carlson, are staking out the anti-elitist position. I think if progressives don’t learn how to talk to people of religious faith, they can’t win this battle.

The oligarchy is aghast at the success of the Sanders campaign and the wave of progressives elected to office. They fear increasing public support for socialized solutions like Medicare for All, publicly owned banks, community control of police, and a growing consciousness that some form of socialism is a viable alternative. If Biden continues Clinton/Obama-era pro-banker economic policies, he will set the table for a more dangerous version of Trump in 2024 or maybe Trump himself all over again.

The climate crisis makes all this even more urgent. We don’t have time for compromise and reach-across-the-aisle solutions. I said, vote for Biden without illusions, because it would be a better field of battle for progressive forces. Well, the next phase of the battle has begun.

Now joining us is Matt Taibbi. Matt’s an award-winning investigative reporter, the son of a television reporter and a lawyer. Taibbi grew up admiring Russian writers, which led him to spend most of his early adult life in the former Soviet Union. Taibbi returned to the U.S. in 2002 and soon began work as a contributing editor for Rolling Stone. At Rolling Stone. Taibbi won the National Magazine Award for Columns and Commentary, and he’s best known for his coverage of four presidential election campaigns, the 2008 financial crisis, and the criminal justice system. He’s written eight books, including four New York Times bestsellers: The Great DerangementGriftopiaThe Divide, and Insane Clown President. His book, I Can’t Breathe, about the Police Killing of Eric Garner, was named one of the year’s ten best books by The Washington Post.

Thanks for joining us.

Matt Taibbi

Thanks for having me.

Paul Jay

So, I want to dig into the article you wrote recently about, you know, just which party is going to at least call itself the working-class party. I don’t think the Democratic Party ever was actually the working-class party, but a lot of people thought it was. But where are you today? Biden is now essentially going to be president. He’s had his speech where he’s announced that Trump hasn’t given up, but even much of the Republican Party seems to be bailing on him here.

So just as of today, how are you feeling about this? And then we’ll kind of dig more into your article.

Matt Taibbi

I think this is a dangerous moment for the Democrats because I think they’re going to take Biden’s victory as a validation of all of their strategy for the last two election cycles, whereas, in fact, you know, it’s really been disastrous. They lost to Trump in 2016, kind of inexplicably, and they nearly lost to him this time. And they suffered losses in the House, and they didn’t win the Senate.

You know, the Democrats have become essentially an upper-class, cosmopolitan party. People outside the cities just don’t vote Democratic. It’s a party of people who are college-educated and have professional jobs. People who are more working-class and rural, even though they may not have the class sensibility, they are much more much more likely to fall into the Trump camp. So, I think it’s a starkly divided electorate where at this point you can almost tell who’s going to vote for which candidate based on where you are in the country, and you know what that person’s background is. And that I think that’s a troubling sign for the Democrats, because I think they don’t realize it. But I think they’ve lost working-class people.

Paul Jay

Well, they certainly lost rural working-class people.

Matt Taibbi

Yes.

Paul Jay

The urban working class, I think still votes for the Democrats, although I would say in this election, the urban working class voted against Trump. I don’t know how much they voted for Biden.

Matt Taibbi

Right, but even there, there was some slippage. That’s the thing that’s ominous for the Democrats.

Paul Jay

Now, they’re in this precarious position, corporate Democrats. I think both parties depend on finance and activist billionaires. So much of the Trump vote is religious that he doesn’t have to actually deliver on the economic promises. He just has to deliver on the core religious-value promises, and they forgive him for not delivering on the economic stuff, whereas the urban workers actually wantsomething and they’re getting disillusioned. So, in fact, much more of the urban [working-class] populations turned to Sanders in the primary. And the corporate Democrats are in some ways between a rock and a hard place: like, [if we] piss off finance, [then] Sanders gains in strength, Trumpist forces gain in strength. But they don’t have a choice other than to rely on finance because that’s who they are.

Matt Taibbi

Right. The strategy that was open to them was to embrace some version of whatever Bernie Sanders was doing. And if they had done that — and if they had done that using all of the PR skill that they’ve shown over the years in marketing people like Barack Obama — I think they would have won in a walk. You know, if they’d had some kind of a message that was actually designed for kind of the “employee class” of voter.

But they didn’t do that. They went in the other direction. And they actively suppressed both Sanders and the kind of facsimile of Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, who I think ran as a bridge between the two types of Democrat. And so, they ended up having to basically run on the same platform that they ran on in 2016. And they got over the line basically because of the pandemic. You know, I mean, I think they didn’t win for any [other] reason. They did have a good turnout effort. And the logistical accomplishment was significant. But politically, they didn’t make any changes. So, yeah, they navigated a thoroughfare between Sanders and Trump successfully to get to the other side. And I guess they’re probably happy with that. But I think it portends poorly for their future.

Paul Jay

Yeah, I agree with that. But they had a problem with Warren, who was the obvious bridge candidate, as you’re saying. As much as the Sanders crowd got angry at Warren for not backing Sanders, they would have come around to Warren and more enthusiastically than they eventually did with Biden.

But I talked to some people that know the Wall Street people pretty well, and I know you’ve covered that beat a lot. And the wealth tax was just a killer. I actually sat with Tom Ferguson, who does a lot of money in politics research, and I asked him once, “Would finance rather go with a kind of fascism that Trump’s heading towards or would they put up with a Warren?” And his answer was, “As long as the wealth tax is on the table, they’ll go with fascism.” And maybe it actually was a tactical mistake of hers. Maybe the wealth tax — it’s just not the time to do that, given how strong the rightwing forces are.

Matt Taibbi

Yeah, but you have to run with some kind of plan like that, otherwise it doesn’t have any legitimacy as a working-party platform. What you’re describing with the reaction when people are asked, would they prefer Warren or Trump? — most of the people I talk to on Wall Street, they see Trump as basically a clown who is incapable of implementing any kind of real political strategy except for the things that maybe the Beltway insiders already want like the massive tax giveaway that he gave in 2017 and ’18.

So, I think it’s obvious that they would have preferred Trump over a Warren because they didn’t they didn’t see Trump as a terribly dangerous figure. He gave them everything they wanted in the pandemic bailout and his tax policy and military spending. And, yeah, Warren’s wealth tax was a problem because there was no way to loophole your way out of it. That was the whole point of the proposal. It was designed to make sure that companies just paid taxes on what they actually earned as opposed to what they reported or where they reported it.

And, yeah, maybe that was a mistake, tactically, but, you know, what are you going to do?

Paul Jay

No, I’m not talking about the corporate tax increase. I’m talking about a tax on individuals.

Matt Taibbi

Oh, yeah. Yes, right. But it was the same concept.

Paul Jay

I mean, it’s another conversation in some ways. I thought she should have pushed the estate tax because it’s a more acceptable way to get at a wealth tax than a straight wealth tax. I think sometimes many of us forget that we’re living in the heart of the empire. We’ve got to be realistic about what’s possible here. The forces of the right, the extent of the strength of financialization, the power of finance, including being able to just make up money from the Fed and throw it at a problem when you need to…

I guess, to put it another way, the people’s movement just isn’t strong enough right now to deal especially with the threat of climate with such a narrow window. There’s got to be some maneuvering here or there’s not going to be any kind of legislation passed on climate that’s going to be effective. Not that I have any great faith in Biden. Quite the opposite.

Matt Taibbi

Yeah, the only thing I would say is that if the Democratic Party actually decided they wanted to be that kind of party and threw all their institutional weight behind trying to make that happen, then I think they would have had a decent chance of getting something done because they would they would have had all the votes. Not all the votes: they would have had so much popular support, or so much more than they have now, that it would have been possible.

The problem that we have right now is that the country is essentially divided into three groups. We have the Trump coalition, which is the right-populist, evangelical group. Then there’s a massive, massive section of people who are just disinterested, don’t vote and disillusioned. And then there’s a group of people who vote Democratic who I think increasingly belong to a disaffected and undermanned professional class. There just aren’t enough of those people, ultimately, to become a permanent majority in the United States. So, unless they find a way to dig into that group of people who have stopped voting, they’re always going to be kind of behind the eight-ball electorally, I think.

Paul Jay

Yeah, and they’re not going to get handed a pandemic every time.

Matt Taibbi

Right.

Paul Jay

There’s no reason — ideologically, politically — that Trump couldn’t have actually dealt with the pandemic. It wouldn’t have hurt him in any way with his base. He could have said, “Wear masks.” Nobody would have cared about it. He’s a lunatic.

Matt Taibbi

Right.

Paul Jay

He just got 70 million votes.

Matt Taibbi

If he were just slightly less insane, he would have won the election and probably going away, he would have won it. Like, if he had if he had handled things with the sophistication of, like, a 13-year-old, he would have been fine. Yeah.

Paul Jay

[Laughing.] But that’s a real scary proposition because every other part of his presidency was also a disaster, starting with climate first and foremost, Iran, and go on department by department by department, unraveling every kind of social safety net and issues of carbon emission and so on and so on. A complete disaster. And I think you’re right, he would have won the election.

We once interviewed this guy in a diner outside of Baltimore, a white guy in a white area in one of the suburbs. And he said, “I think Trump is insane. I think he’s a liar. I think he’s a con man. And I voted for him anyway. What does that tell you about what I think of the other guys?”

Anyway, do you see any hope that the Biden — here’s my Hail Mary about Biden; my naivete-Hail Mary –: he doesn’t have to worry about running again. He doesn’t have to worry about a post-presidency career. He’s old enough that he could break his own mold. You think there’s any chance he’ll listen to the progressives? And I guess we’re going to find out pretty soon about who he appoints [to the cabinet].

Matt Taibbi

Oh, there’s no way that he goes that way. Biden is a creature of the Beltway. He always has been. His personal leanings, I think, politically are probably far more conservative than he lets on. He has a persona that has been carefully crafted over the years that accentuates this idea that he’s from the working class, that he’s “Scranton Joe,” and he has that hardscrabble background. But really, if you go back and look at what he actually believes in, the things that he seems to feel most strongly about are things like very draconian criminal justice plans, free trade, and he was by Barack Obama’s side through the very aggressive “democracy-promotion” foreign policy that Obama promoted all those years with drone assassination and all of that stuff. So, I don’t I don’t have any faith that they’re going to do that.

Plus, there’s already all these trial-balloon stories in the American press talking about how Biden, you know, has to resist the Warren/Sanders wing call for appointments in Treasury and places like that, which to me suggests that they’re already gearing people up for the idea that they’re going to be a whole bunch of Jamie Dimon-types in government. Maybe it won’t be exactly Jamie Dimon, but it’ll be people like that.

Paul Jay

Every rational part of my brain says you’re right. [Laughter.] I guess I’m just working backwards from climate catastrophe and hoping that some rationality will [take hold]. Because if you look at his current climate plan… Like, I interviewed Bob Pollin, the economist. We went through Biden’s climate plan that’s on his website. And phasing out fossil fuel actually isn’t really part of what he says is the climate plan. I know he kind of got off-message and said that at the last debate, and then backed out of it saying it would take decades. But it’s all based on carbon capture, his real plan, which is a totally unproven technology.

On the other hand, there does at least seem to be some recognition of how serious the climate crisis is, by Biden and even some of those circles in finance. Chuck Schumer said something interesting the morning of November 3rd. It didn’t get much coverage because it got lost in how well, at the time on November 3rd, Trump was doing and everybody went into shock. But the morning of the 3rd, when the Democrats were assuming it was going to be a cakewalk, Schumer says, “We’re going to we’re going to do what FDR did in his first 100 days. We’re going to be as progressive as FDR.” Something like that — coming from Schumer. And I think what it means is that they think they can have a massive infrastructure program, label it as “green,” and it becomes a tremendous cash cow because it’s not just about how much money you spend, it’s, what do you spend it on and who reaps the benefit of all that spending.

And maybe that’s part of what the stock markets are so happy about right now. Because even with the Republicans, if finance really likes the package, then all they need is a few Republicans in the Senate to come on board with it. It’s going to look FDR-ish, but whether it actually does anything effective will be the fight. Now, at least there’s a fight about what’s effective. Under Trump, you don’t even have that discussion.

Matt Taibbi

It’s possible. I’m very, very skeptical that that would be the reality given that they spent the entire 2019/2020 electoral season pouring every ounce of political capital they had into suppressing a candidate who had basically, exactly FDR’s politics in Bernie Sanders. I mean, he is a person who literally campaigned on returning to the New Deal, and they threw everything they had into making sure that that there wouldn’t be any kind of return to the New Deal. Bernie Sanders ran on that explicitly, and they expended every ounce of political capital they had in crushing him. I don’t think that this party believes in that kind of politics.

I think they are a — you know, it’s the Clintonian model of politics, which is very much in sync with Wall Street. So, maybe there’s something like what you’re saying, where it’s a financialized kind of Green New Deal.

Paul Jay

Yeah.

Matt Taibbi

Maybe something like that, where there’s a ton of Fed spending for a handful of companies that are creating a basket of securities that you invest into that ostensibly would address the problem. But I am extremely skeptical that they care at all about the end result. So, you know, I apologize for being a downer, but I’ve never seen any evidence that this party cares about that.

Paul Jay

Well, the party is complicated because they’ve got an urban base that does want action on climate and they are fairly educated.

Matt Taibbi

Oh, I don’t mean the people [i.e., the voters who are Democratic].

Paul Jay

No, no. But I mean, they have to worry about that. The Republican base doesn’t care very much about it. But the Democratic Party as a party, if they want to win another election and if they don’t want to strengthen the Sanders wing, they can’t do nothing. So, just from pure electoral self-interest, they have different interests that will drive them in that direction.

Finance, I think, sees an opportunity here, and not only an opportunity. You know, I interview Larry Wilkerson a lot and he’s in touch with a lot of fossil fuel people. They know that this is coming. I mean, they don’t have any doubt that the climate science is for real. They just want twenty, twenty-five years to get more fossil fuel out of the ground before anything serious happens.

Matt Taibbi

Right.

Paul Jay

But even this guy, Larry Fink, who runs BlackRock, has been paying a lot of lip service to the issue of getting off coal and some climate stuff. I mean, what he proposed is not serious, but there’s a recognition in the people that are putting money into the BlackRock investment fund that there’s some serious stuff coming down that might even threaten their assets. But there’s nothing that will get done that they won’t try to find a way to make money out of. And that’s going to be more important to them than what the most effective policy is.

I just want to just add: the biggest threat of Bernie Sanders, I think, wasn’t any of his policy proposals because there wasn’t a policy proposal of Bernie that doesn’t already exist in Europe and Canada and places like that. They’re not capitalist-threatening proposals. I think the biggest threat of Sanders is that he wasn’t in the control of Wall Street. He found a way to raise money without finance and that they can’t live with.

Matt Taibbi

Yeah, exactly. One of the most underreported stories of the last election cycle was Sanders was the leading fundraiser. You know, by January of 2020, he was outraising everybody in the party by a pretty significant margin. None of that money was big corporate money. So, there was a big proof of concept there, which — and I think you’re right — was what made Sanders uniquely dangerous to the Democratic Party. It threatens what their business model is.

Remember, they’re essentially a commercial organization, and if they allow somebody like Bernie to become the nominee, they would be eliminating thousands of cushy sinecures for all the people who’d been working for the party for years in Washington. They’d have to bring in a whole new group of people who don’t believe in what they believe in, which is taking corporate money and pretending to be socially progressive. That’s what they do. And, you know, Bernie proved that you can be a competitive politician without the money. And that’s when I think they became particularly hostile to him: precisely at that moment when he started to pull ahead and he was raising all the money.

Paul Jay

Yeah, I agree that these parties and the whole political structure didn’t have internet fundraising in mind when it was created. It’s really threatened their control of politics.

Matt Taibbi

And just as a parenthetical: I covered Howard Dean when he first ran for president. Dean actually did something very similar. He had an early fundraising lead in 2004 all through internet-generated small contributions. And that’s when all the think tanks, the big news media organizations — that’s when they all turned on him. And it wasn’t because he was a big bomb-throwing liberal, although he was anti-war. That [i.e., the independent fundraising threat] was the reason. That was what engendered all the hostility was the financial independence.

Paul Jay

Yeah, because this “democracy” has some built-In controls. One is the Electoral College, the other is the Senate, and most important is who controls the money. If you break the money control, all of a sudden it actually might start looking democratic. And it wasn’t designed for that.

Matt Taibbi

Right. And then there’s the media after that.

Paul Jay

Yeah, let’s talk about that. What the hell is going to be the new business model for CNN and MSNBC? I mean, the whole business model was anti-Trump.

Matt Taibbi

I’ve written so much about this in the last four years. These companies have transformed themselves. They’re so far from what the traditional conception of what a news organization is that they’re basically unrecognizable at this point.

They created a programming slate that was really based around the character of Donald Trump. Without him as a constant to react to, I have no idea what they’re going to do because the rest of their programming is virtually indistinguishable from the stuff you would read on the Democratic National Committee website, for instance, in press releases section. There is no other independent thought that goes on in most of these news organizations. It’s been amazing to watch.

I have no idea what they’re going to do. I think that they almost have to hope that Trump has this big domestic presence somewhere, like, maybe through a news network or something like that.

Paul Jay

Well, he probably will. He’s already started his fight with Fox.

Matt Taibbi

Right.

Paul Jay

And they with him with Fox calling Arizona before anyone else did.

Matt Taibbi

Right.

Paul Jay

And actually, I’ve been watching Fox more than MSNBC —

Matt Taibbi

Me, too.

Paul Jay

–and CNN because I know what they’re going to say. At least you get the odd surprise on Fox.

Matt Taibbi

Yeah, wasn’t that amazing? There was stuff on Fox during the election — they had people on who were supposed to be the experts in the Latino vote and were saying things like, “Yeah, he won a lot of Cuban voters, but, you know, he really let down Puerto Ricans and that’s why he didn’t do well.” Or you had Mike Huckabee on saying things like, “There’s a time to be a candidate and a time to be president, and the time to be candidate is over, and Trump has to recognize this and he has to stop talking about, you know, not counting votes anymore,” and that sort of thing.

Fox looked more like the heterodox, challenging news network — for a moment there — than the traditional CNN and MSNBC channels, which, are basically blue propaganda at this point. So, it was amazing to watch.

Paul Jay

Yeah, I mean, maybe it’s partly the influence of Chris Wallace, who also as an interviewer, I find far more interesting than anyone else on Sunday mornings.

Matt Taibbi

Absolutely.

Paul Jay

He gives his subjects a hard time. He actually acts like a journalist. I agree with that.

But I think it’s partly positioning. Fox knows that there’s a Trump media empire competition coming with Fox. So, they’re getting ready to trash him. And also, the news side of Fox was more reasonable. The pundits weren’t around that much the night of November 3rd.

Matt Taibbi

No, but at least there is a news side. See, that’s what’s so interesting.

Paul Jay

I mean, normally the news side [of Fox] has been awful. But now all of a sudden — I agree with that — they sounded like news all of a sudden.

Matt Taibbi

Right. Right. Whereas, you know, the other axis — the CNN, MSNBC, Washington PostNew York Times axis — has been moving in a direction where the news is just increasingly politicized. And it’s been an amazing transformation. I don’t know I don’t know what they’re going to do in terms of going forward now that the, you know, the great dragon has been slain.

Paul Jay

One of the things that surprised me about this vote, which shows that I bought into, I don’t know, polling or whatever it was. I always thought that Hillary could have and should have won that election, and she didn’t because she didn’t campaign in the swing states. Well, now it turns out that Biden, who did campaign in key swing states — and yeah, he won, but won in Michigan by 140,000 votes. I mean, after four years of Trump, it shouldn’t have been close. One hundred and forty thousand votes is still close.

So, the 70 million votes that Trump gets, it’s a real solid base. And I think what the corporate Dems either don’t care about or don’t know to do is: they don’t know how to get [the opportunity] to communicate. I’m not talking messaging here. That’s another issue. They actually don’t have a distribution channel to get to those 70 million people because those 70 million people don’t watch CNN, MSNBC, they don’t read The Post, they don’t read The Times. They either watch Fox — and even Fox is overrated. Tucker Carlson does an average of I think it’s 4.4 million, which is great for cable. It’s not even close to network news. Network news does 20 million, 22 million. Each one of them does up in those numbers.

So, it’s not just Fox. I think it’s radio and it’s the pulpit. They [i.e., the corporate Democrats] are not getting that they have no way to talk to those people. And they seem to make no effort to talk to those people.

Matt Taibbi

Yeah. And this is another thing I’ve written a lot about. I’ve talked a lot about this with people like Tom Frank, the author.

Paul Jay

I just had him on. He was just on. I have a piece with him.

Matt Taibbi

Oh, really? Okay.

Paul Jay

Yeah. It’s in fact the top story on the website right now: Whatever happened to America? With Tom Frank.

Matt Taibbi

There you go. He and I have talked a lot about this. Again, there has been this transformation in the news media where the voice of the working person, which used to be an integral part of the news experience [is absent.] There was always one columnist or a couple of columnists like Jimmy Breslin, Mike Barnicle — it didn’t matter who. Every city had that person whose job it was to speak in the vernacular of the working person and to make sure that the news organizations maintained some kind of connection to regular people.

And those people have been eliminated over the years. What’s been fascinating is to watch how they’ve been eliminated. Like, first they got rid of the sort of genuinely working-class people and replaced them, frankly, with people like Tom Frank and myself who were, you know, sort of upper-class intellectuals, but who were sympathetic to the ordinary person. Then they got rid of us.

Paul Jay

They got rid of both of you. Both of you don’t get on anymore.

Matt Taibbi

Yeah, exactly. Or anybody like us. And we’ve all been replaced by these Apostles of the Professional Class whose job is to constantly exalt the bottomless wisdom of, you know, the experts in America. And so, the problem with the news media now is that they don’t have any people who even have a thought about how to communicate with ordinary folks. And that’s why they keep missing things like the 2016 election and now the 2020 election, because they don’t know anybody who —

Paul Jay

Well, actually, they kind of do. But the problem is the leaders of fairly conservative unions, and that’s who tells them what the working class wants to hear. But if they bothered getting to know people in the unions, they would know that most of the members of the union can’t stand them.

Matt Taibbi

Right.

Paul Jay

They don’t like these union leaders and not because they’re progressive, but because they’re hacks.

Matt Taibbi

Right, exactly.

Paul Jay

I go into grocery stores that are unionized. And I ask, “You know who your steward is?” “No.” “Do you know the name of your union?” I think it’s the something union of something, something.” Like, there’s just no communication between the union leaders who go for these $500 lunches and eat steaks like —

Matt Taibbi

Right. At The Monocle, yeah.

Paul Jay

Yeah. And that’s who’s interpreting the working class for the leaders of the Democratic Party.

Matt Taibbi

Right. That’s exactly right. That’s how they keep their finger on the pulse of the people, right? [Laughter.]

It’s that. It’s polls. I remember hearing a story during the Obama presidency from somebody in Treasury who said that they had a presentation from a bunch of high-ranking executives of big retail companies like Target and Wal-Mart. This was in 2009. And they told them, “You know, there’s a lot of pain out there because of the financial crisis. People aren’t going to buy that much this this holiday season.” And the people at Treasury were like, “Oh, really?” Like, that’s how they found out that people we’re having a hard time after the 2008 crash: from a presentation by these rapacious retail companies. So, yeah, they don’t have any of that connection.

And I wrote about this sort of as a joke, but if you look at the media treatments of this race, there were so many think pieces about who Homer Simpson was going to vote for. And the reason for that is because Homer Simpson is the only potential Trump voter that most journalists even know, you know?

Paul Jay

[Laughs.]

Matt Taibbi

It’s so embarrassing on so many levels, but it’s a very serious problem.

Paul Jay

The other thing they know, but I don’t get how they can’t get their head around what to do about it, even when they’re so close to finance and everything else.

But anyway: they know, they’ve been told at least since 2004, 2005, how the Koch brothers and other billionaires allied with them have consciously, methodically, systematically created this alliance of far-right think tanks promoting hack, con-man, evangelical religious leaders. Ordinary people are not disingenuous, most of them. Most evangelicals, I think, are quite sincere in what they believe. But the leaders are hacks. And every so often there’s a sexual exposé, there’s a corruption scandal. It just doesn’t matter because the narrative is they get forgiven.

I did a film once on professional wrestling, and it taught me a lot about this whole thing. You know, this idea of heroes, who are called “faces,” turning into heels and then turning back into faces. That catharsis is very meaningful for people because they go through that catharsis with the character they’re viewing and identifying with.

Matt Taibbi

Yep.

Paul Jay

So, this great network has been created of millions and millions. At least 60 percent, I think, of the Trump vote is this very religious vote. It may be as high as 70 percent. But these people believe in these values with a great deal of sincerity, even if there’s a dose of white privilege or white supremacy thrown in the mix. But a chunk of those people voted for Obama.

Matt Taibbi

And a big chunk.

Paul Jay

A big chunk. It’s really significant that they voted for a black guy for president. So, I’m not discounting the racist part of this narrative. It’s certainly not the whole narrative when so many of these people did vote for the first black president. But when you talk directly to a lot of Trump voters — and I’ve talked to a lot of religious Trump voters — when you start talking about, “Well, how does Trump jive with the message of Jesus?” You know, “How does Trump walk through the eye of a needle?” You know, the camel: they [i.e., the rich] have as much chance of getting into heaven as a camel does walking through the eye of a needle. When you start quoting the Bible and Jesus and they realize you’ll have a sincere conversation with them about that, nobody’s jumped and said, “Oh, I’ve seen the light because I talked to you.” No. But it shakes them a bit.

And there’s been so little effort — just add one more thing. The progressive candidates, they don’t just buy some TV advertising. They’re going door-to-door in between elections. You know, they’re talking to people over and over. The Corp Dems don’t seem to do that. They just think you wait till the election, then you buy a bunch of TV advertising and that’s supposed to win you something.

Matt Taibbi

Yeah, I talked to Marianne Williamson about this a little bit. The inability of the Democratic candidates — not even the inability, the unwillingness of the Democratic Party to find a way to talk believably about spirituality. It’s endemic to their problem because they. They don’t have any real belief in it. They don’t have any connection to it. They don’t have anybody who knows how to talk that way. And they haven’t since, I would say, Bill Clinton. And the modern ethos of a lot of kind of progressive/liberal thinking is completely hostile to spirituality and doesn’t know how to talk about it in any way that’s meaningful.

And the reason that Trump gets those votes is because he doesn’t condescend to those people. You know, he talks to them as if they’re not idiots, which they probably aren’t compared to him, right? But that’s not really the issue. When Democrats try to talk to, you know, evangelicals, there’s always this kind of condescending, like, “We’re going to start talking a little bit more slowly,” like, “We feel sorry for you, but let me tell you where your real interests are.” And they completely discount anything that they think where they might have very serious beliefs, whether it’s on reproductive choice or anything else. They just assume that they’re completely wrong and they don’t want to engage in any of those things

So, that’s a big problem. And I would also add there’s an issue that’s starting to arise with progressivism where the lack of a religious tradition, even among parents, has created a new kind of Democratic voter who has started to embrace politics as almost like a replacement for their spiritual beliefs. And they are talking about things like, you know, whether it’s Black Lives Matter or environmentalism, but they sometimes start to sound like religious people when they speak, which I think speaks to something that’s going on that is a little on the Democratic side. But ultimately the point remains that they just don’t have a way to talk to religious people, which I think is, you know, consistent with what you’ve been saying.

Paul Jay

I think what you just said is really important, and maybe that’s part of how we can talk to religious people, is that we acknowledge that pretty well all politics is identity politics. You know, I know a lot of progressives, including me, until maybe — it took me living in Baltimore for a few years to get past this — but I would look down on identity politics, and that it’s got to be about class and so on. But there’s a reason people want identity politics. It’s because they feel their identity is under threat. If their identity wasn’t threatened, they wouldn’t go there. So, yeah, I personally believe the resolution of the threat to people’s identity is a more socially just equal society and so on. Let me go further than that: change which class has power, really? But that ain’t going to happen fast.

But when you start arguing religion and politics, and it’s not like it’s that different, as you say, not just for religious people, for supposedly secular people, too: you are fighting with people’s identity, not opinions. You know, it’s not one scientist who’s doing this test and another that, and let’s argue about what the results are. We’re talking the core of people’s identity.

Matt Taibbi

Exactly.

Paul Jay

And if you don’t respect that, you can’t talk. So, you got to start with finding the common ground when talking to people. And slowly, you know, like I say, we can start talking about the message of Jesus. I’m a big fan of Jesus. I’m not religious in the sense that I don’t believe in the God, the son of God, and so on and so on. But the message of Jesus, what I believe it is, is sublime. And I mean, turn the other cheek, I mean, God, the idea of that kind of forgiveness? I mean, to me that’s understanding that we’re part of a historical process. It’s not about good guys and bad guys – like, even Hitler, to me, he’s not a villain. He’s a part of the historical process. And to me, that’s my interpretation of the message of Jesus. I think if you start talking that way, at least we can have a conversation. Except that in a lot of minds, people of religion just get demonized. “Oh, they’re the deplorables. You can’t talk to them.”

Matt Taibbi

Which is a complete misread of the situation in almost all cases. And this is, I think, a result of just people not mixing enough. I did a book a long time ago where I I joined one of those megachurches you talked about.

Paul Jay

I went to one once.

Matt Taibbi

So, the leader of this church, John Hagee, is one of the biggest con men in Washington. But the people in the church were good people, you know what I’m saying? And my eyes were really opened by a lot of what I heard during that experience.

Just to take an example, evangelicals came an incredibly long way on the issue of gay marriage really quickly. And they did it through the prism of their own understanding of the biblical teaching, right? Like, they got there that way. And I don’t think most progressives and most people in academia in America would have thought that was possible, you know, even ten years ago or fifteen years ago. And so, it’s frustrating to me that a lot of the people who are Trump voters, they’re so caricatured and people have this idea that they’re completely inflexible in their thinking. That’s not really true. I think the thing that is most deeply felt by those folks is a sense of, like, betrayal and hurt, and the feeling of being disrespected is what’s most profound with those people.

And if we could find a way to not do that, I think that that’s where that the hope for a better future might come.

Paul Jay

Well, I think one place to start is when you look at the fact that 80 percent or 82 percent of evangelicals voted for Trump. Well, that means 20 percent didn’t. And that 20 percent goes to the same church as the 80 percent, and they have tea and strawberry shortcake or whatever the heck they eat at parties.

I have a friend who’s a lefty Jewish woman, lives in Tennessee, and is married to an evangelical guy. And on most political issues, they agree. And I went down to visit them. I insisted he take me to his church, and he did. And honestly — I got to be honest — I don’t understand how a rational person can listen to the service that’s practically promising you a color TV if you believe and don’t commit these sins. But it almost doesn’t matter what the preacher says, in some ways. The experience of being in the church with all the other people that believe, as you believe, is cathartic. It’s transcendental. It makes you it lifts you up on the wings, whatever the phrase is. And I felt that even though I don’t believe really any of it. So, the experience is cathartic and people just don’t get dramatic, emotional, cathartic experiences in their lives.

And, you know, it doesn’t matter what policy you’re talking about, if you can’t understand that — for the same reason professional wrestling is so popular. Like, most people can’t figure out why the hell anyone would ever go when they know — in fact, it was my film that broke the news that it’s all theater. But it’s still cathartic.

Matt Taibbi

Right. Right. Absolutely. Yeah. No, I agree. I think, you know, from the perspective of conservative voters, a lot of them are very frustrated. Look, a lot of these voters spend a lot of time thinking about their spiritual lives and ethics and morality as something separate and apart from politics. And I don’t see the same thing necessarily from voters on the Democratic side. Like, it’s just a different way of thinking about life. And, I don’t know, it’s frustrating. Yes, evangelicals think a lot of silly things. There are people who believe in, you know, the coming apocalypse and they read books like Left Behind and they think they’re real. But, you know, there’s a lot of deeply felt stuff in there that’s important.

Paul Jay

The other thing I think is really important in this moment is not to forget how powerful that movement around the Sanders candidacy was before he lost. The movement, the motion was really electrifying: hundreds of thousands of people coming together around very progressive values, threatening the power structure of the Democratic Party.

And, yeah, there’s been this tactical truce to defeat Trump, maybe a little too much in the sense that I don’t think there needed to be as much withholding of critique of the Biden forces in order to defeat Trump. On the other hand, I’ve never won an election in my life, so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about. I really mean that in all sincerity. It’s hard to say they should have done this and should have done that to people that have actually won elections.

But that being said. And I also don’t think we should underestimate how much finance sector and much of the Democratic Party really hate the left. The way Thomas Frank says it, they don’t dislike the left — they hate the left. But I think there is a new dynamic here because of how strong that Sanders candidacy was. Take Kamala Harris looking forward to four years from now. If she really pisses off the progressive wing of the party over this next four years, there’s going to be a serious progressive challenge to her. I don’t know whether it’s AOC or I mean, that’s the way it’s looking. I mean, God, what a primary that would be.

Matt Taibbi

Yes.  And Bernie did come very close, and I was pretty plugged in to the Sanders campaign. I’ve known Bernie for a long time and talked to him a lot in the last 10 years. And I think, you know, one of the things that happened with his campaign that was just unfortunate and a stroke of bad luck is that he happened to run against a candidate who he liked personally.

Bernie is a complicated character in a lot of ways. He’s simple on the political side. He believes what he believes, and that’s and that’s what makes him so appealing to people. They can see the sincerity. But he’s not a ruthless character in the same way that somebody like Bill Clinton might be. And even though intellectually I think he might have understood the necessity of going harder against Joe Biden, he just likes Joe Biden. Joe Biden was nice to him when Bernie was, you know, a backbencher Independent, once upon a time. And that kind of stuff has a lot of currency with Sanders. And there was a major difference. You know, Bernie did not like Hillary Clinton and he had a deep and profound personal dislike for her politics and her viewpoint on the world. And he was able to summon outrage that was easy to connect with over, you know, the things she was doing like collecting $600,000 in a day for a couple of speeches to Wall Street banks or whatever it was. He didn’t feel the same thing towards Joe Biden for obvious reasons. But that isn’t Biden’s thing. And Biden has a similar, slightly, kind of background to Bernie. So, that dulled the edge a little bit.

As far as what happens going forward, though, you know, I worry about that because they were so successful in kind of throttling Sanders at the end there that it took a lot of the air out of the balloon of the progressive movement, I think, here in the States. If it’s going to be led by somebody like AOC, you know, I worry about that because the history of the party is that it always does one of two things with those candidates. It either completely crushes them so that they have no route forward and are never taken seriously again, like Dennis Kucinich. Or they bring them into the fold and kind of buy them off with influence and a voice, like Howard Dean. And I worry that that’s going to be what’s going to happen with the AOC is they’re going to make her the public face of the party and have her talk about certain issues that they don’t really care about. And with that, they’re going to make sure that she doesn’t spend all the next four years talking about all the giveaways that they’re going to give to Wall Street and to the pharmaceutical industry So, that would be an early thing to look out for if I were paying attention.

Paul Jay

Well, I’m sure you will be paying attention. [Laughter.] But I don’t know, I haven’t seen it so far from her. I’ve been — what’s the word? “Pleasantly surprised” might be the right word, but so far, she seems to stick to her guns. There’s no doubt what you say is the cautionary side of it, and they will try that.

Matt Taibbi

But I mean, they’re going to offer, you can be the next Nancy Pelosi. That’s what they’re going to do; that’s what they’re going to hold out.

Paul Jay

Oh, no way. Oh, God. She’s going to have to make a lot of capitulations before that ever happens.

Matt Taibbi

Well, it’s just something to keep in mind. I think that’s a possible plotline. So, yeah.

Paul Jay

All right. Well, just finally — and I hope we get to do this again soon.

Matt Taibbi

Mmm-hmm. This was great.

Paul Jay

But just quickly, a few litmus tests about what direction this is going in terms of transition team appointments. When he starts talking about cabinet appointments, what are you going to be looking for that will tell the tale?

Matt Taibbi

Well, I’m very concerned about whether they’re going to be bringing back a lot of the national security creeps from the Bush and Obama administrations. If we start seeing names like Michael Hayden and John Brennan and James Clapper back in the Biden administration, that, to me, is a sign that we’re in very serious trouble. It’s not just the foreign policy issues. It’s not just the kind of continuation of the Dick Cheney, state-within-a-state, war-on-terrorism stuff. It’s the new stuff that I really worry about. It’s the growing union of politics and Silicon Valley content moderation. A lot of these folks were very influential behind the scenes through groups like the Atlantic Council in bringing about this new form of media distribution that’s now so heavily regulated.

And I think their vision of the future is dystopian. And I think that’s where I’m most worried. Are we going to see those people back in government? And, what are they going to do on issues like media, and, you know, fake news and that sort of thing.

Paul Jay

And continued growth of financialization.

Matt Taibbi

Oh, of course.

Paul Jay

As that sector becomes even more powerful, which Roosevelt described as fascism. There’s this great quote from Roosevelt, where he says that when one section of capitalists is able to take control essentially of the state — I described it in this article I wrote, what you were just talking about, this kind of dystopia and the financialization, which I know you’ve written about, that’s a sort of systemic cancer. The malignant tumor was Trump and the forces behind him. And that tumor, in my mind, had to be removed because otherwise, you know, the patient is dead. But the fight against the systemic cancer? By no means does getting rid of Trump get rid of the cancer.

Matt Taibbi

Yeah, and not to go on about this, but the bailout that came after the pandemic started: the argument that Wall Street made at that time was essentially, the Fed has an obligation not just to stabilize markets, but basically to prop them up. Right? Like, this was a different argument than they made in 2008 when they said, OK, well, we have to make these companies whole because otherwise there will be permanent, lasting damage, you know, collateral damage to the economy. And we’ll just fix it just this one time, and we’ll go back to a free-market system. They actually overtly made the argument this time that the Fed needs to make sure that prices in the various capital markets stay at a reasonable level so that there’s some predictability to it, which is essentially —

Paul Jay

Even higher than reasonable

Matt Taibbi

Yeah, higher than reasonable.

Paul Jay

So, in terms of, the stock market is crazy. We’ve got a pandemic and a depression and the markets are going through the roof.

Matt Taibbi

Right. Like, what, exactly, is the justification for that? Apart from, we have to make sure that people who are invested in — not in the stock markets, they didn’t do it directly there. But, you know, the money-market-funds market, for instance, right? Like, why do we have to make sure that that stays at a particularly high rate? I mean, and so, you know, twenty-five years after we had ended welfare, as we know it, under the Clinton administration, we’ve created this other thing, which essentially is, like, permanent Fed backstopping of the financial markets.

And they did it through Trump, but it’s not associated with Trump. It’s a thing that kind of happened that the public doesn’t associate with him. And if that continues, I mean, that’s a pretty extraordinary development to commit so much of our resources to that. And so that’s another thing to keep an eye on.

Paul Jay

And then, Act Two. I don’t know when Act Two comes about — as soon as the economy really starts to come back. Act Two will be “Oh, the debt’s too big.” After saying, we don’t care how much money they create, then the austerity hawks are going to get their Act. And then it’s going to be back to, well, the people are going to have to pay because the debt is so high.

Matt Taibbi

Absolutely. As they were disregarding the entire concept of debt during this period. Like, you know, they literally said, it doesn’t matter at all. Right? I forget what the Fed chair’s comment was, how he phrased it exactly. But essentially, it’s like, we’re not going to run out of ammunition.

So, there was no there was no ceiling to how much debt they were willing to incur to do this. But they will they will absolutely make that argument once the economy starts to come back and everybody knows what’s going to happen. You’re right. It’s going to be some version of Greece or Italy. You know what I’m saying? It’s going to be like that.

Paul Jay

They’re going to talk that way. When it comes to any legislation that’s actually going to help people.

Matt Taibbi

Right.

Paul Jay

There’s a really interesting number I saw. I think it was from 2018, The Brookings Institution. They did a study of how much wealth is in private hands, assets after liabilities. Ninety-eight trillion dollars. And in private, American hands.

Matt Taibbi

Wow. Yeah.

Paul Jay

I mean, that’s insane and, you know, the ability to tax some of that and pay for this stuff is rather easy. If you had, you know, the political will. But they’re going to claim there’s not enough money and this debt’s so horrible. I mean, they could pay off the debt in five winks if they would just tax some of that $98 trillion.

Matt Taibbi

But then the Atlases will go on strike, you know, like in the book [Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand] and they won’t permit that kind of politics. So, that’s all stuff worth watching out for in the post-Trump universe. I think we’re going to see more discussion of that because those changes were pretty profound when they started to happen after the pandemic. And we’ll see what happens going forward.

Paul Jay

Anyway, I’m a little hopeful, even though there’s a lot of reasons not to be. I think the main thing is going to be — and I think people will get this pretty soon. At least the more activist types. That is, you know, the Biden presidency is just the beginning of another battle. And people got to get organized. It’s really simple. People got to get organized because there’s no time for some evolutionary working out of this stuff. The climate crisis has just put a different window on time and, you know, what do we have? I don’t even know what time we have. I just know we don’t have time.

Matt Taibbi

Right.

Paul Jay

It may be less than a decade. I mean, some of the predictions are really dire. And I think the big battle is going to be against greenwashing. I think they are going to do some stuff. It’s just, is it going to be bullshit? Because I think the urgency is being understood even in the circles of the elites. But they can’t help themselves. They just can’t help themselves. They got to figure out a way to make money out of whatever gets done. And the most effective policy isn’t going to make them quick money. And that’s the big battle, and we better get organized for it or we’re kind of doomed. What’s Chomsky’s line? “Organized human life on this planet.”

Matt Taibbi

Absolutely. Well, we’ll see what happens. You know, they’ve only just gotten into office. So, we’ll see what takes place. But, yeah, very interesting stuff.

Paul Jay

Yeah. Thanks very much, man. Let’s do it again soon.

Matt Taibbi

Absolutely. Take care now.

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103 comments

  1. Sound of the Suburbs

    Trump’s secret weapon.
    The Democrats.
    They put up really bad candidates to help him win.

    Hillary “Wall Street” Clinton
    Good grief.
    How can things possibly get any worse?
    The Australian media have noticed Biden has a problem, and it’s not hard.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aA-GoeFGyIc

    If the Democrats found a good candidate they could easily beat Trump, but they don’t bother.

    Phew, that was lucky.
    We just managed to scrape through with a really bad candidate.

    Reply
    1. Sound of the Suburbs

      Western liberalism’s descent into chaos.

      1920s/2000s – neoclassical economics, high inequality, high banker pay, low regulation, low taxes for the wealthy, robber barons (CEOs), reckless bankers, globalisation phase
      1929/2008 – Wall Street crash
      1930s/2010s – Global recession, currency wars, trade wars, austerity, rising nationalism and extremism
      1940s – World war.

      Right wing populist leaders are what we should be expecting at this stage.

      This neoliberalism isn’t very new is it?
      It was supposed to be, and they did try to learn from past mistakes, but the Mont Pelerin Society went round in a circle and got back to pretty much where they started.

      Reply
      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        There’s a massive baton lying on the ground right now and somebody could easily pick it up. Best thing for the system and America in my view is if Trump is certified the loser. He leaves the completely corrupt R machine behind and forms a new party, call it the True American Party (TAP). The platform is exclusively policies that benefit America and the only requirement to join is that you are an American citizen and that you make a contribution of $17.76. Make them click through and agree the terms of The Pledge of Allegiance. He can probably split off 30M people right off the bat, maybe 40, especially if Team D and the MSM continue their efforts to block transparent vote validation. He stays on the subject of globalization and how it offers nothing to working people, the main outreach then becomes “left” progressives and disaffected Bernie people. Two years of Pres. Kamala should convince them that IdPol + NATO + PMC + Blackrock + Tech Totalitarianism do not offer a single thing good for them. The social issues are very emphatically left at the door, and economic and class issues trump everything else. The trick will be the people / corporations axis, Trump is still a corporatist. But he can establish a major difference there, too: small business versus megacorps. Nothing but a raft of policies that benefit small American businesses, which have been absolutely smashed by the lockdowns. With enough Congressmen and Senators the result might be something more parliamentarian where to get anything through D and R need to get TAP support. The model is TR and The Bull Moose Party, and he communicates with his supporters on Parler. They don’t even offer press credentials to CNN, MSNBC, ABC, etc, split completely off from the MSM, they’ll struggle with DDOS attacks and other censorship attempts but those are manageable.

        Reply
        1. a different chris

          This “Trump” guy you speak of.. .man if that guy could be President for even one term then so much could be accomplished! /s

          Lordy.

          Reply
          1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            So true! If you reflect on the amount of action he was able to take while weighted down with the baggage of the old R Party. And of course the party of RussiaRussiaRussia. Remind me what Team Peeing Russian Prostitutes did for you? Jettison.

            Reply
            1. JE

              Action? Lol!!! The only thing Trump gives a wet fart about are his ratings. Action!!?! His whole presidential campaign was about being paid less than the hosts of The Voice. Just because the R and D machines are so pathetically out of touch he won and stumbled into and now out of the presidency. The idea that he had any plan of action beyond some general boost to his brand and wholesale grift is laughable.

              Reply
              1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

                I guess it all depends what you heard, and whom you heard it from. I heard he wanted America out of bad trade deals, wanted to secure the borders against illegal immigration, wanted to stop billions going to NATO so they can prevent Brezhnev’s tanks from rolling into Germany, and wanted the nation to stop the highly successful efforts to boost the standard of living of the Chinese middle class.

                But you did nail it with your line: “because the R and D machines are so pathetically out of touch”

                Reply
                1. drumlin woodchuckles

                  He also, however, wanted to “deconstruct the Administrative State”. In practice that means granting all the notorious polluters carte blanche permissiveness to pollute without control and without limit. That’s why he placed Pruitt in charge of EPA, for example.

                  Since I want to have enough of an Administrative State to stop the polluter class from filling the air with cancer gas, filling the water with cancer juice, and covering the food supply with cancer gravy; I had to vote Biden in hopes of restoring enough of an Administrative State that someone in government retains or regains the power to make sure that ” it isn’t arsenic in the bottle if it says aspirin on the label”.

                  I also found Trump’s fantasy-based denialism of certain basic Carbon skyflooding facts to be putting the rest of us at downstream survival risk. So I voted for Biden to get a little fact-based reality-acknowledgement back into government thinking.

                  Reply
                  1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

                    These are excellent points! I wish we had a pluralist political system so the “right answer” could be constructed from many different policy position points of view. As an example, here in Australia I can vote for the Hunting and Fishing Party. They in turn ally with larger parties who agree to promote their policies through something called “preferences”. Instead we are all faced with one of two dog’s breakfasts and must live with them as a binary choice.

                    Reply
                    1. dcrane

                      And somehow managed to begin fewer new wars than anyone since Carter, I think. Though in the case of Iran this might have been partly luck.

        2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          For the record, the electoral count right now not including states that have not been called, are still counting, are recounting, or with cases now in the courts is Biden 226, Trump 232.

          Reply
          1. The Historian

            South Carolina is still counting and they can count until Nov. 12th. Since it isn’t November 12th yet, by your rules, Trump is still at 217.

            I suggest you look at the lawsuits Trump has filed.
            https://time.com/5908505/trump-lawsuits-biden-wins/

            How many of those lawsuits are actually going to be able to change the outcome of the state elections, even if Trump wins them?

            Reply
            1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

              Sorry, I didn’t get past the starting line in the Time magazine (!) article you sent:

              “Joe Biden won the presidential election on Saturday after the Associated Press called him the winner in Pennsylvania”

              Maybe you can forward them an explanation on how elections are certified. Hint: it’s not the media that do it.

              Reply
              1. Brunches with Cats

                O’HAL, the AP has an entire infrastructure for calling elections. Because of that, it’s the ONLY media organization that is qualified to do so. The others all “project” winners based on a number of factors, some of which turn out to be wrong. The AP gets the numbers directly from the vote counters.

                Rev Kev made a comment similar to yours on NC’s election night open blog, initiating a discussion thread on how it works. I provided links to the AP’s election reporting pages where they explain how they get the numbers, how they tabulate the results, at what point they call a race, etc. This year they also had articles explaining exactly how they called individual states. I don’t recall their doing that in the past, although I might have just missed it.

                Anyway, if you’re interested, here’s a link to the beginning of the election night thread:
                https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2020/11/2020-election-night-live-blog-open-thread.html#comment-3459973

                Reply
                1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

                  That’s all great! I’d prefer that we rely on the laws in place for election certification, rather than have Joe start calling foreign leaders because the press thinks he will very probably be the next president. Q: Wouldn’t that be a violation of The Logan Act, you know, that they put Michael Flynn in prison for?

                  Reply
                2. dcrane

                  The AP lost their credibility as the “caller” of this election by pushing three years of tendentious Russiagate conspiracy theory (for starters!).

                  The electoral college ultimately decides the president in this country.

                  Reply
    2. Shiloh1

      Surprised that they were arrogant enough to mention Howard Dean. That was a pure and concerted main stream media take-down kill-shot if there ever was one.

      Reply
      1. Rhondda

        Absolutely true. I recall sitting in my living room watching the smear unfold in real time. It started with Larry King — and then the false opprobrium of the “Dean scream” was taken up by every other lickspittle media lackey. As I flipped around the channels I could see and hear it spreading.

        It still amazes me that a sincere shout of victory could be twisted into something so hideous and awful that it could be characterized as utterly disqualifying. As Lambert often says: “clarifying.”

        Reply
        1. Oh

          It shows how flippant the people are. Every election cycle these people get served the same Bernay’s sauce and they lap it up.

          Reply
        2. Off The Street

          Media oligopoly, the early years.
          That was pre-JournoList, when it was hard to find that shop steward when needed.

          Concentrated ownership of media does the public no favors. Bust’em up, like Teddy Roosevelt did to other malign influences, and like Stoller and others have written about.

          Of course, Congress has very little interest in that due to the money influence. Say, why not kill two clichés with one stone, by limiting media ownership concentration and limiting money in politics. Regular people know it isn’t speech.

          Reply
          1. Anonymous

            Bust’em up, like Teddy Roosevelt did to other malign influences, … Off The Street

            Yes, but let’s admit that an economy that produces such powerful malign influences can’t be just to begin with.

            True, even the smallest deviation from justice is bound to create obvious evil eventually but that’s no excuse for not aiming for the best we know how now.

            Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Yes, added in the post. Thanks for asking! IMHO, it’s one of the two most important works in political economy, the other being Polanyi’s The Great Transformation.

      Reply
      1. Off The Street

        Yves,
        You may have already addressed this in prior columns, so apologies if redundant.

        Do college econ, or other, departments include Kalicki and Polanyi in syllabi, and if so, where? I’d imagine that the average person is unaware of them.

        Reply
        1. Left in Wisconsin

          I’m not Yves but here is two cents from someone who has spent a long time in and around academic social science: No, college econ departments do not teach Kalecki or Polanyi. There are a couple of departments that are notable exceptions (e.g. UMass and New School) but virtually every top 100 econ department in the country teaches undergrads exclusively a “model” of economic life appropriate only to a fictional, mathematical world bearing no serious resemblance to the one we actually live in, and for graduate students backs off only modestly on the rigidity of the model (e.g. by making room for exceptions) but only within the same meta framework.

          A couple examples: 1. Mark Blythe is not in the economics department at Brown; I think he is in political science. No way would he be allowed in the econ department. 2. Philip Mirowski, one of the most brilliant economists around, saw his econ department at Notre Dame split into two – a “real” econ department that does math and a “political economy” or “applied economics” department that does economic history and has room for people like Polanyi and Kalecki (and Mirowski). 3. If you look at who in contemporary academic social science is doing work informed by people like Polanyi and Kalecki, virtually all of them are outside mainstream academic economics (spread across the overlapping disciplines of political economy, sociology, geography, anthropology, industrial relations, etc etc. and among the various tribes of “heterodox” economists).

          So, yes, there are places in college where inquisitive people can learn and think about these issues. But, again with a notable handful of exceptions, it is not in economics. And to the extent it is academically-trained economists exclusively staffing every economic policy agency of government, think tank, tenured positions in academic economics, etc., our economic politics are unlikely to be influenced by people who take Kalecki or Polanyi seriously.

          Reply
          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            Or Charles Walters or “Red” Paulsen or Erhard Pfingsten or Howard Odum or Kenneth Boulding or Frederick Soddy, either.

            But just because the “profession” doesn’t, and the government-industrial complex doesn’t; doesn’t mean that we can’t. We can.

            If Frederick Soddy’s work really did point the way to a true-to-life bio-physiconomics the way he wanted it to, then the things Soddy discovered are really true and can be understood and worked within and worked through by bunches of people at levels of organization smaller than “national government”.

            Perhaps a movement-load of people can begin thinking about how to live within a Free UnMarket BioPhysiconomy in opposition to the Slave Market Moneyconomy. Perhaps a movement-load of people bent on creating a GreenLife BetterCulture should not feel bound to wait for such understanding to penetrate into the decision-making nodes of hostile governments and classes.

            Reply
        2. ocop

          Its all getting a bit (a lot) fuzzy, but Polanyi was definitely on the syllabus of a mid-2000s large survey-type undergraduate class on international development/economics I took at UNC. It wasn’t econ 101 necessarily, but this was not at all an advanced course. Departmentally I’m guessing it was homed in the political science dept and not econ, however.

          Reply
  2. dk

    “The progressive candidates, they don’t just buy some TV advertising. They’re going door-to-door in between elections. You know, they’re talking to people over and over. The Corp Dems don’t seem to do that. They just think you wait till the election, then you buy a bunch of TV advertising and that’s supposed to win you something.”

    There is a specific reason corporate Dems don’t do direct voter contact. These repeated conversations, at the door, by phone, or at local town-hall type events, are effective promises, implicit contracts, that the representative will A) try to push through the policies they describe, and B) that the representative will hear their constituents issues and considerations.

    And in campaigns where there is a lot of this field contact, if the elected doesn’t follow through and at least visibly and consistently try to deliver A, and also continue to be present and available for B, in the next election, the constituents that voted for them once will turn against them and look elsewhere, at the other party’s candidate if need be. This isn’t conjecture, it’s been a known pattern in decades of field campaigns. If you’re just going to sell your constituency out, it’s better to give them pretty images and flattery, and diffuse promises of hope and serenity, and never a one-to-one conversation that could imply a specific commitment. Centrist Dem avoidance of field campaigning isn’t passive, it’s active; they consider it a hazard. But when AOC and other call them out publicly and with receipts, they can’t say that.

    Reply
  3. PLM

    I think there are some decent points here but they miss the boat right off the bat with some fairly blind assertions. This idea that the left doesn’t speak to people who are religious is patently false. What they mean is that the left does not embrace conservative evangelicals which is not the same as speaking to people of faith or those who are spiritual. Black people are overwhelming religious (sometimes conservatively so) and yet also overwhelmingly support Dems and carried this ticket to victory. Then this talk of sophisticated city dwellers…is that how we are describing Tuscon, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Savannah? Again this plays into the deductive idea that progressives/Dems are “bi-coastal elites” most densely populated locales even in Mississippi supported Dems…less populated even in “Blue NY State” supported Trump…missing these factors as connected to race, migration, etc suggest these folks are still not quite getting it.

    Reply
    1. KevinD

      +1
      Goods point on both religious and urban voters.
      Conservative Evangelical Christians are a cult, not a religion. They have nothing whatsoever to do with the teachings of Christ.

      Reply
      1. Geo

        Doesn’t mean Dems can’t still reach out to them, and successfully so:

        “Regardless of their political allegiances, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) urged the audience at Liberty University’s Convocation — the world’s largest regular gathering of Christian young people — Monday to fight for a moral and just society, where all are treated with equal dignity.”
        https://www.liberty.edu/index.cfm?PID=18495&MID=167323

        Reply
        1. PLM

          but neither Taibbi and Jay are making that point. Evangelical’s are not shorthand for religious and working class is not shorthand for white. Both of these points leave out a wide collection of voters who support Dems who fall into BOTH categories. If you look at the collective of Dem voters: Blacks, Jewish, Latinos, Asians, South Asian, Muslim most have religion as part of their identity….in culture if not in practice. This notion of evangelicals as uniquely religious has to be refuted because it makes no sense and to activate it in a political context even less so. Rashida Talib organized the hell out of Michigan Muslim voters..how does that not factor into the conversation? The Black church has long been one of the critical organizing entities for political engagement. On and on…so huge swing and a miss on both their parts.

          Reply
          1. Michael Fiorillo

            It’s not that they’re uniquely religious, it’s that they vote effectively as a bloc.

            The Hasidim in NY State do likewise, marrying their backward fundamentalism with right-wing politics, frequent looting -look at their behavior when they control school boards in communities they dominate – and intimidation of elected officials.

            Reply
    2. Mikel

      “This idea that the left doesn’t speak to people who are religious is patently false.”
      True. Marianne Williamson is an example.

      Disclaimer: this comment is not to be considered an endorsement of any candidate past or present.

      Reply
  4. Carla

    Yeah, I watched a lot of this interview yesterday and was pretty disappointed with how thin and unoriginal it was. Doubt I’ll bother with the rest of it. As usual, Yves’ remarks prefacing it seem right-on to me. Will dive into Kalecki later today.

    Reply
    1. Dirk77

      Paul Jay talks too much. If he has thoughts it should be in the types of questions he asks his invited speakers. He is supposed to be a reporter; so act like one. If Paul wants to talk, he can get himself invited on someone else’s show.

      Reply
      1. Basil Pesto

        I kind of like it. I think there’s room for more conversational interviews, ideally with a socratic character. Interviews can take many forms and that’s fine.

        Reply
  5. Cocomaan

    Read this and didn’t watch but Jay is kind of cringey, I really find his commentary unhelpful and not at all original. Feels like he’s reading from a script.

    Reply
    1. Louis Fyne

      if i reacll correctly, joe rogan interviewed taibbi.

      rogan is a master interviewer. talks as minimum as possible, let’s his guest speak and only interrupts when he (or listener) needs background info or clarification. and when joe opines, he wears his position on his sleeve and is transparent about his biases.

      rogan puts most journalists to shame

      Reply
      1. cocomaan

        Yep, I’ve likely listened to thousands of hours of Joe’s podcast. He’s a goofball and sometimes not always consistent but he’s a decent interviewer and a good guy.

        Reply
    2. TsWkr

      Jay does tend to go down the path of “preaching to the choir” with a lot of repeat guests on his shows repeating the same points (i.e. Bob Pollin, Lawrence Wilkerson). Occasionally there’s a unique insight to left media since he has a good historical memory and experience in actually talking with unions. Overall, I find him to be a good person to have in the fold, but if you are already paying attention, you’ll have experiences like you described.

      Reply
  6. edmondo

    The oligarchy is aghast at the success of the Sanders campaign…

    So, in fact, much more of the urban [working-class] populations turned to Sanders in the primary….

    You know, Bernie did not like Hillary Clinton and he had a deep and profound personal dislike for her politics and her viewpoint on the world. And he was able to summon outrage that was easy to connect with over, you know, the things she was doing like collecting $600,000 in a day for a couple of speeches to Wall Street banks or whatever it was. He didn’t feel the same thing towards Joe Biden for obvious reasons. But that isn’t Biden’s thing. And Biden has a similar, slightly, kind of background to Bernie. So, that dulled the edge a little bit.

    Here’s a couple excerpts from the interview. If you believe this nonsense, go ahead and read the rest. An amazingly shallow and very inaccurate view of the past election.

    Reply
  7. Barking Cat

    There’s no reason to micro-analyze Biden’s glorious victory. For four years the Establishment engaged in a 24/7 anti-Trump hate-fest because Trump didn’t toe the line with respect to the Establishment’s officially acceptable positions. Mondale, the Democrat who carried exactly one state, would have won in a landslide. Now it’s time to meet the new boss.

    Reply
    1. KevinD

      Barking Cat – respectfully, I disagree.
      Who is the Establishment?
      Can’t be Fox News.
      Can’t be Limbaugh.
      Maybe for a short period it might have been the GOP, but not for very long – they lined up behind him pretty quickly.
      I distinctly remember leading up to 2016 how trump cornered the market on media time at the expense of anyone else in the field on either side. It was all trump all the time.
      There is no such thing as bad media exposure as far as trump is concerned – whatever he said that the left-leaning media called out, he knew Fox and Friends would put a good spin on it.
      i just don’t see a poor Trump beaten up by the media – but i hear it a lot.

      Reply
        1. Duke of Prunes

          Did you both sleep through 4 years of RussiaRussiaRussa!!! ? That’s right, it was free media exposure which is all good. What about Putin?

          Reply
      1. Aumua

        i just don’t see a poor Trump beaten up by the media – but i hear it a lot.

        Right, they did him a favor by heaping endless negative attention on him. Gave him exactly what wanted and what he thrives off of.

        Reply
  8. km

    An honest question:

    If you take out people of color, how would that change the median incomes and educations of Clinton/Biden vs Trump supporters?

    I also think that this is a fair question, since I don’t think anyone is claiming that Trump has a dark hold over poor non-whites.

    Reply
  9. neo-realist

    It sounds to me like those well educated, well traveled, high income earning Trump voters 1) Don’t like progressive policies (and progressives), e.g., Medicare4All, which they could benefit from, but I suspect they don’t like the idea of their lessers getting the same quality that they would get. 2) Live in the right wing media bubble in spite of being well traveled and well educated – Most tuned in people know that the mainstream democratic party is so far from socialism and go out of their way to bury progressive policies and progressives, but fox news and right wing radio feed the narrative that these so-called (not that tuned in) bourgeois believe that the democrats are socialists who embrace socialist policies. 3) If they don’t embrace Trump’s racism, they are, in my view, very obtuse to racism if they are willing to embrace Trump, and I suspect they are not POC and, as a result, are not touched by the implications of Trump’s enabling of vigilantes and police brutality and opposition to racial sensitivity training to educate people out of being racist toward POC.

    Reply
    1. MK

      Your take on Trump supports is just your personal opinion and off base, in my opinion.

      Let me ask you, what is the most racist entity in America right now?

      School districts. Where you live should not determine which school you are allowed to attend. If you want to talk about educating people ‘out of being racist toward POC” then you need to stop imagining Trump supporters as the main problem and start talking about knocking down the walls of school district segregation. The fact no Democrat or Republican will talk about the school district segregation tells you all you need to know about who the real racists are.

      Reply
      1. KevinD

        In addition to the point you make; The red-lining that took place post WWII cemented lot of what you mention above in place – entire communities locked out of prosperity.

        Reply
      2. Shiloh1

        That would be the ‘burbs just outside the big cities in the north. I know this: Trump lost all of Cook, DuPage, Lake, Kane, Will and Kendall Counties surrounding Chicago, so that’s sure not TrumpLand. Now to compare segregated schools within this metropolitan area … a lot of corporate managerial professional class virtue signalers abound.

        Reply
    2. Felix_47

      Maybe a lot of people voted for Biden because they live in Minnesota or Michigan or Illinois and they are hammered by huge taxes since Trump got rid of the SALT deduction and they live in expensive houses in nice areas so their kids don’t have to learn with blacks. Why?? The SALT tax deduction which was exactly why many of my neighbors voted for Biden. They are not racist but they like our school district just as it is……..essentially no poor minorities……..the only minorities are Indian and African children of minority immigrant doctors…..and they are often the best students and the black children are all getting nultiple Ivy League offers. Nothing like filling your freshmen class with black children of Nigerian immigrant neurosurgeons to make the press get all wobbly in the knees and to fill your glossy press releases with pictures of happy POC surrounded by Gothic ivy.

      Reply
  10. Jeff

    I can help….

    Political parties are businesses that cater to their paying customers the way that Subway caters to a lunchtime crowd.

    The misunderstanding voters have is that they believe politicians represent them. They don’t. Politicians represent those writing big checks.

    Think of politicians like car salesmen and think of political donors as the dealership owner. The salesmen are hired to separate you, the car buyer, from your money. Most car salesmen have little knowledge of the products they’re selling or what their customer (aka mark) ultimately wants…. they just want your money so they can move onto the next mark.

    In a very palpable sense, the dealership owner owns the salesmen. And the salesmen will tell you anything to get your money.

    Nice ecosystem, eh?

    Reply
  11. flora

    Why the endless media insistence by left-leaning media that T was/is uniquely dangerous? No new wars started. No effort to cut SS and MC. No TPP or TPIP. The Dem House gave him everything he asked for, even stuff he didn’t ask for in MIC spending. Re-authorized the Patriot Act, etc.

    A blustering TV personality, a rude bloviator/twitter-er he may be, but uniquely dangerous to the country? He’s only uniquely dangerous to the blob’s mindset, imo.

    Reply
    1. flora

      Maybe T winning in 2016 and nearly winning now — driving the MSM crazy — is the latest example of what Thomas Frank calls a “democracy scare”. Can’t have “the people” voting for a candidate that’s unapproved of by the “great and good”.

      https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2020/09/democracy-scares-from-the-destruction-of-bryan-to-the-abdication-of-bernie-why-america-desperately-needs-a-second-populist-movement-but-aint-gonna-get-one-an-interview-review-of-the-peopl.html

      Reply
    2. neo-realist

      Trump talked with AG Barr about utilizing the RICO statutes to prosecute the lefty organizers behind the demonstrations. In Portland, Chicago and NYC, federal officers kidnapped peaceful demonstrators and indefinitely detained them – that’s like Banana Republic Dictatorship stuff, that will likely be used on steroids in a second Trump administration. In other words, Trump would lay the groundwork for 4 years of “Kristalnacht” against the left, where he would practically make it an existential danger to publicly advocate for a progressive type of politic in the United States.

      Yes, Obama went military on Occupy, but Trump appears to be looking at pursuing a much more thorough and broader destruction of the expression of left politics that Conservative Republicans and Neoliberal Democrats could only dream of.

      Reply
      1. Susan the other

        It was mostly theater. Trump might well have instigated all the “riots” to make himself look like a good, strong leader and use it to win the election. For instance, the “riots” in Portland, Oregon? They were skirmishes of people who were not inclined to get violent, limited to 2 square city blocks; totally under control (the protestors used leaf blowers to blow back the Fed’s tear gas, etc.) –

        Reply
        1. neo-realist

          You think the demonstrators who were kidnapped by federal officials in Portland appreciated the police state version of the theater of the Grand Guignol, with audience participation??? Even if the kidnappings were acts designed to make Trump look tough, you have to admit they were downright fascist, way beyond acceptable conduct in a supposedly free and democratic society, not to mention frightening when thinking of being subject to such conduct by state officials.

          Reply
    3. furies

      He *did* ramp up disability reviews; he also suspended SS payroll taxes–current at this time and predicted to force the ‘sustainability’ issue.

      So not as benign as you make out.

      Not to mention the gutting of environmental laws and all those judge appointments.

      The divisiveness he engenders will not be missed by me.

      I did not vote for Joe, so…from where I am on the totem pole, me, and people like me, are doomed.

      Reply
    4. m sam

      Nobody can force you to see the unique danger a far right administration like Donald Trump’s poses to various American populations. But at the same time, it is your choice to ignore them (meaning, when people say “Trump is a unique danger to my community,” and you say, “where’s the proof”?)

      I’m sorry. There is lots to complain about with the Democrats. But to turn that into there isn’t actually anything wrong with Trump, to quote your comment: “A blustering TV personality, a rude bloviator/twitter-er he may be, but uniquely dangerous to the country? He’s only uniquely dangerous to the blob’s mindset, imo”

      What?

      Sure, blame the liberal democrats all you want. But denying any problems “beyond the blob’s mindset” is going to far, and blinkered beyond all comprehension.

      Reply
      1. flora

        “far right administration like Donald Trump”… who was a registered Dem for a good part of his adult life.

        Did I say there wasn’t anything much wrong with T? No. Don’t straw man.

        Reply
        1. m sam

          Straw man? Didn’t you say “He’s only uniquely dangerous to the blob’s mindset, imo.” Where is the straw man in pointing out this isn’t actually true?

          My apologies, flora. I don’t actually know your opinions or your point of view. But “was a Democrat for a good part of his adult life” is not exactly reassuring; I’m sure we can at least agree on that.

          Reply
      2. Anon

        And yet, it was the Trump administration that started a multiagency task force to investigate cold and current cases of missing Indigenous women, a serious public safety threat to women ignored by Democrats. Pretty much ignored by the press as well.

        Reply
  12. Susan the other

    I liked this interview – it was appropriate for them to be this introspective – and retrospective – because I believe it is all over but the shouting. It’s kinda like (imo) the Kalecki-style denial of reality by those in power (lest they lose their power) already happened. Both the loss and the denial. They lost their power long ago, beginning in the 60s, but they squirmed for another 50+ years. Until they managed to piss everyone and their dog off. So now even if “They” rely on old habits of speaking and maneuvering, they can no longer deny reality. It’s not an option. Taibbi and Jay didn’t put a very fine point on any of it, they were very gentle – but the fact is Wall Street and big money and international corporations; Big Medical and Big Pharma and all the grasping FIRE corporations… They are all cornered. They cornered themselves. We have every reason to breathe a sigh of relief. Because TINA. Or maybe we should call it neoTINA. It’s what happens when you can no longer deny reality. (Taibbi referred to “Atlases going on strike again” – but he laughed, as he should, because there is nothing to gain from another big-money-temper-tantrum… ever again.)

    Reply
    1. a different chris

      >They are all cornered.

      Are you serious?

      They got Trump to sell the right wing, got rid of Trump, and now they can do what they please.

      Who exactly is cornered? Not Jamie Dimon of the Rapacious Business Flank. Not James Dobson of the Religious Nutjobs flank. Pfizer is looking to go from “doing well” to “owning the world”.

      Who?

      Reply
      1. flora

        I’ve been involved in close local, county local, and state politics for some time. The larger the electoral area of contest, the slower the currently reigning ideology changes. But it does change, election by election. The current Dem estab can yell to the rafters that “socialism” aka M4A and student debt, eg, cost them this election. They know well that all the Dem House candidates supporting M4A won their re-election seats. Estab pols never, ever, ever (to use Hills phrasing) admit they were wrong. Ever. But behind the scenes change happens. What was “unthinkable” becomes “thinkable.” But not because the estab ever admits they were wrong, ground has shifted; they quietly shift with the change. Politicians are followers, not leaders, imo. The ground is shifting, imo. Too many have financially suffered at the hands of monopolies and the tbtf’s for too long.

        Reply
        1. flora

          adding: Today I tuned into NPR a couple times and heard 2 different news stories about people working in the low wage industries, the reporter questioning who sets the wages, aren’t their govt regulations, is such low wage and powerlessness fair, etc? I was very surprised to hear theses reports on NPR. Can’t think of the last time I heard anything like this. Past economic reporting has been mostly focused on the tbtf, Wall St. and the bigs, not on the poorly paid workers. A little ground shifting.

          Reply
          1. flora

            adding: one NPR report was about financial predators targeting young US service men and women, and asking if it’s right that citizens who risk their lives to defend our country should then be preyed on by US financial predators. It was a good report.

            Reply
      2. JBird4049

        I think that it is a defensible position to believe that our beloved elites are cornered. Most of them just don’t realize it. Yet.

        I just bought and somehow misplaced a book called The Proud Tower by Barbara Tuchman. The title comes from some lines from an Edgar Allen Poe poem The City in the Sea: “While from a proud tower in the town/ Death looks gigantically down.” Typical Victorian melancholy.

        It can be considered a companion book to The Guns of August that detailed the events up to and during the first month (August) of the Great War. IIRC, The Proud Tower sketches out the twenty-five years in Britain and France before that August. Almost no one believed that that war would happen in 1914 and if did, why it would be all over by Christmastime for that is what had happened before. Indeed, there were writers who had written convincingly on the reasons why such a horrible multi-empire war could not happen. Among them, world trade, the economies of all of Europe, and the rest of the world was integrated as never before and all these countries’ economies depended on the continuing flow.

        Yet when the war happened, against everyone’s expectations, the economic links were broken, all the powers found someway to feed, clothe, and arm all those massive armies, and most of the civilian populations for four years. Ways were found to do this. Vast resources, new dictatorial laws, all used to keep the war going.

        All it cost was over thirty-one million dead and wounded and five, maybe six empires although the empires of Britain and France did take around thirty-five years to stop shambling about. Oh, and the destruction of the internal economy of Europe and the reduction of much of the economy of the world.

        (When I was in the shipping industry, I did some research to confirm that the level of international trade did not reach the level of 1914 until something like 2000. Bit of a shock to realize that prewar Europe had been trading to that level, that in modern times used those gigantic container ships I could see moving across the office windows.)

        So, right before the war, it was a golden age for the Europeans, although not for the colonies that they used to create this golden age. The colonies, some of which had been large, wealthy, powerful kingdoms and empires, but reduced to a national peonage. The Mughal and Chinese Empires, Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam, the various kingdoms of the Malay Archipelago, and of course all of Africa.

        The world of July 1918, just like much of our world today, did not foresee, perhaps as whole they could not believe of such a gigantic, grandly terrible, thing like the Great War. And while like the British liked to believe in Rudyard Kipling’s drivel because it excused their warfare and pillaging:

        Take up the White Man’s burden/Send forth the best ye breed/Go bind your sons to exile/To serve your captives’ need;/To wait in heavy harness/On fluttered folk and wild/Your new-caught, sullen peoples, /Half devil and half child…

        I think really, the European and the modern elites, deep in their shriveled souls, (stealing here from George Orwell) imagined a boot stamping on a human face – forever. It is an insane desire for status.

        I think that many Americans now feel that our Deplorables are today’s “sullen peoples, /Half devil and half child.” Indeed, it explains the lack of guilt of the ruling classes for the destruction of our own states, counties and cities of the United States as well as the destruction of the countries and cities outside of the United States.

        Those various empires tried really hard to not only survive, but to maintain their grift. It is true that many people sincerely believed in the good of those empires, and some of what those empires did was good. However, the leaders were more interested in their own status and wealth and were willing to spend as much blood and money to keep it just the way it was, or at least close to what had been. Until they couldn’t anymore, which is what our society is going through now.

        Reply
        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Germany had a few symbolic foreign colonies, a “place in the sun”. But not enough colonies to make any economic difference in Germany’s development. So how did Germany without any significant colonies develop enough to hold up its end of a World War for 4 years?

          Reply
          1. JBird4049

            Don’t forget that the Austro-Hungarian Empire was a part of the Central Powers and that in population, manufacturing, and education was equal or superior to any other county.

            However, like Great Britain, it depended on imports especially food to survive. Both countries spent the entire war trying to cut the imports of the other.

            Germany almost succeeded in doing so. IIRC, had the u-boat kept it’s top level of success for about two-three weeks, military production would have stopped and food would have run out for the population.

            The British Empire did succeed. It was only by developing new techniques and extreme rationing that Germany could keep fighting. Germany strategy called for ending the war quickly because it was going to run out of explosive and fertilizer in less than a year of war. Then the Haber-Bosch process was created. Bombs away. Germany still couldn’t quite make up the shortfall in food, so every year the general hunger got worse especially as the military got priority.

            By the end, with the influenza pandemic shortages, and general hunger, the German population, not the leadership, made the decision to end the war.

            Reply
            1. JBird4049

              I might have not answered your actual question! Before the war, Germany did not have much in the way of colonies, so it’s economy was focused on being better than everyone else (not it might have been outright stated or planned). In higher education, science, manufacturing as in weapons, glass, steel, etc, the chemical industry especially in dyes and so on. Just think of the general reputation of German engineering, today.

              Reply
  13. deplorado

    >> “high income, educated, well-traveled people from both Texas and upstate New York who are firm Trump fans because they are convinced the Democrats are socialists”

    Yes. Three fairly close friends of mine from the Boston area (over 200k income, traveled and travel for work to ALL continents, 2 work for themselves) are avid Trump supporters for exactly the same reason. One is contemplating moving to LatAm to escape “the socialists” (while telling me socialist talk is all over the radio in LatAm).

    About wealth tax, isn’t Switzerland a successful model? I think they employ it in a focused and selective way and maybe that is the difference – i.e. not as a general approach to redistribution.

    Reply
    1. JBird4049

      Have they ever been to Latin America? Trust me, there are good reasons for the socialist parties and the perennial general unrest despite the United States continued support of death squads and coups.

      If they don’t like pay taxes, they can used the money saved to pay for armed bodyguards and armored vehicles.

      Reply
  14. LAS

    Yeah, well, we don’t have gods on earth. We only have flawed people. Even the critics have one or another type of vision problem.

    Reply
  15. lordkoos

    “An OECD report showed countries that had had wealth taxes on the main had dropped them due to difficulties with enforcement and collection.”

    I’d like to see more details about this — what were the actual “difficulties”? It’s one thing to pass a wealth tax, but enforcement is a separate issue. I wonder if the enforcement and collection part of it was corrupted in some way — seems likely.

    Reply
      1. eg

        Here’s a fix: the wealthy owner gets to set the value of the painting upon which the tax is then applied — but every year some random number of taxpayers get paid exactly the value they set for it, and the government takes the painting in exchange.

        Get the random number right, and suddenly wealthy owners start coming correct on their asset valuations …

        Reply
        1. John Anthony La Pietra

          I think one of the societies visited in Robert Heinlein’s “– the Number of the Beast” had a tax system like that, for homes at least. IIRC, you could name your own taxable value — but if someone offered to buy the property at that price and you didn’t want to sell, you had to raise your valuation and pay a couple of years’ worth of additional taxes on the new basis.

          Reply
    1. BlakeFelix

      It’s easy to say let’s start taxing wealth, but even calculating wealth is nightmarishly tricky, even before people start hiding and destroying it to lower the tax burden. Just not good policy IMO. Tax carbon, maybe bare land value, but don’t go trying to make a database of the current market value of every painting and heirloom in America.

      Reply
  16. Crazy Horse

    I’m thorough outraged by the discrimination exhibited by this election. The Un-dead rightfully earned their right to participate in our great national exercise of Democracy when the Democrat Party opened its arms to all, no matter how long they had been dead.

    But what about the Unborn? If the Un-dead have the right to participate so should they. The only proper solution is to mail 12 certified ballots to every Karen on which she could list the names of all future offspring she would produce if she had her wish.. Since the ballots would be pre-certified as to lineage and citizenship there is no reason why they shouldn’t be immediately added to the voter rolls.

    Reply
  17. Rock Hard

    I have mixed feelings on Paul Jay, he seems to half get it, and half be out in lala land. I’m a pretty big Taibbi fan though. I’ll have to go back and listen to the Thomas Frank one Jay just did, seemed like MT kept name checking him. Or finish listening to “The People, No”. You have to look at the economic part: the one thing Trump consistently came out ahead on was people trust him more with the economy. I don’t share that belief, but if you’re looking for a reason, there it is. COVID damage might be Trump’s fault, but people are looking for some help economically and they trusted Trump to deliver more. I really don’t want to overanalyze this like some people: 28 years later, it’s still the economy, stupid.

    I was listening to Questlove Supreme podcast last night, he had Lin-Manuel Miranda on. It’s a music-focused discussion but after talking music and Broadway for 2 hours LMM got into politics in the last 10-15 minutes talking about the “Latino bloc” and why anyone voted for Trump when he started off with “Mexicans are murderers and rapists” and went down from there. LMM doesn’t buy into the idea of a bloc and essentially said “you can’t talk to Latinos like they’re all the same”.

    LMM definitely sounded like a NYC elite, missing the economic appeal, but he had a great point: Trump’s message about “they’re coming for your X” resonates with people from Latin American countries where this has actually happened, so it seems more possible to them.

    Reply
  18. Waking Up

    Paul Jay states:

    “People, especially in rural America, have lost faith in traditional post-war American institutions, and evangelical and conservative religions are gaining strength. At least 60 percent of the Trump vote came from very religious people. These people have lost their ideological moorings, as have people in most of the country, and demagogues from the right, from Trump to Tucker Carlson, are staking out the anti-elitist position. I think if progressives don’t learn how to talk to people of religious faith, they can’t win this battle.”

    In 2000, Robert Putnam wrote the book, “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community”. It was about civic life and social cohesion in post-war America and how we have lost “social capital”, meaning a sense of connectedness and social participation. This has only become far worse since 2000.

    There was a time when civic engagements (town hall meetings, League of Woman Voters, etc.), labor unions, social clubs, military veterans groups, fraternal organizations (Lions Club, Kiwanis, etc.), volunteering, bowling clubs, sporting events, parent-teacher groups, and many more were all an important part of peoples lives…especially in rural areas. Being part of a religious organization has always played a significant role in this country. However, with the loss of so much of our social capital and participation, for many, attending a church is the only route they have left to feel connected to other people. As Robert Putnam stated, “If we give up our participation in local community associations, we lose some of our compassion for the ‘others’; because we don’t know much about them since we don’t regularly talk with them. I think comparing notes in a civil way is the antidote to a polarized society in which we don’t understand a point of view other than our own.” “Social media” is no where near a replacement for real person to person social interaction and if anything, is probably leading to even worse cultural decline. This needs to be considered when discussing “rural” America.

    Reply
    1. montanamaven

      Yes, with the end of “The Great Good Place” (Ray Oldenberg), those third places between work and home – The “Cheers Bar” when you rubbed shoulders with all kinds and classes of people and discussed all manner of things – we are much bereft. I found such a place in Upstate NY but with the pandemic, there is no more bar talk of any kind. Sad.

      Reply
  19. Glen

    I hardly bet on anything, but what’s the line on the Dems holding the House in 2022?

    I’m pretty sure they’ll get whooped.

    Reply
    1. sharonsj

      Depends on what Biden and his “cabinet” do. The current list of possibles includes Republicans and lobbyists and politicians who couldn’t get re-elected. I suppose if there is the usual no change and then no hope, along with crumbs like free face masks, I might start voting Republican. Why not vote for the real ones instead of the imitations?

      Reply
  20. Minnesota RN

    To Neo-realist

    “Racial sensitivity” training is Critical Race Theory. Trump
    in response to the Sandia Labs incident forbade it in tax-payer
    funded emplyment. https://www.abqjournal.com/1502792/sandia-labs-needs-to-shed-light-on-its-diversity-training.html
    Sensitivity training or Critical Race Theory is racism in reverse. It
    is irrational, fact-free and counter to community and everything
    Dr. Martin Luther King stood for. In fact, if you look up Greg
    Stanton’s stages of genocide, you will perceive warning signs.

    Reply
  21. Palaver

    Paul Jay stated that dismissing Identity Politics could be an insult to religious voters.

    I was amused. You can change your religion, but you can’t change your skin color, ethnicity, gender, or age–at least not convincingly. But I kind of get it.

    I read American Theocracy by Kevin Phillips when I was young and impressionable. Protestant denominations can be on the wrong side of history (and slavery). They not monolithic and their fortunes rise and fall according to the political climate.

    The error in [white] liberalism is preaching without a church. Corporate conferences don’t open their doors to the masses or speak of feeding the multitudes with 5 loaves and 2 fish.

    Reply
  22. John Rose

    Nobody is talking about the elephant who is not going to leave the room of public discourse. Trump is the de-facto leader of the Republican Party and can solidify that position by threatening to run pro-Trump candidates in Republican primaries. He is not likely to give that power up since it gives him what he needs desperately, publicity.
    I can see him continuing to campaign in opposition to Biden’s every move with McConnell guaranteeing success.
    What will Biden and the Democrats be doing about that?

    Reply
    1. Glen

      I don’t think there is anything they can do – or should do. Trump’s affiliation with the Republican party is between Trump and the Republican party.

      But I suspect that the Republicans in the Senate are going to revert to opposing Biden at every turn whether Trump is there or not. I worry more on the things that Biden and McConnell will agree on which will be austerity and cutting Social Security, SNAP, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. Obama was trying to do all of this but the Republicans blocked it because they would not work with Obama on ANYTHING.

      Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        McConnell and Biden will agree on making the Kamalanuchin Tax Cuts permanent. ( ” Kamalanuchin”? Why not “Trump”? Because Trump gave Mnuchin carte blanche to design the tax cuts, and Mnuchin was only able to do that because Kamala immunized and impunified his financial crimes in order to keep him out of prison in order to keep him circulating among the general population. So . . . “Kamalanuchin” tax cuts).

        Reply
  23. jerry

    I find it odd that people actually think this is over. No, its just gone into overtime, thanks to the georgia senate races. People forget that the republicans have absolutely no message other than Trump, if they bail on him now they may very well lose the senate majority. And that mitch mcconnell cannot let happen. Then you’ve got a real fight, and possibly real action, on things like financial regulation, taxes, healthcare.. since the left would have both houses of congress.

    So, they’ve got to give legitimacy to Trumps hunt for fraud and lawsuits. And people forget that public opinion is way more important than the legitimacy of the lawsuits. If the right can build the narrative of corruption and fraud from the left (which isn’t hard to do – a “vaccine” magically coming out literally the first day after they announced Biden the presumptive winner, for one), then this whole thing can get pretty crazy, pretty fast. People are just too angry, bitter, and divided right now for this to work itself out cleanly.

    Not sure how many times democrats can make the same mistake of ignoring, if not outright insulting, the average citizen, while underestimating Trumps ability to stay alive no matter the odds. Combine that with no stimulus, no covid plan, this thing is far from over my friends.

    Reply

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