“What It Took”: The Price of Democrat Victory in 2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

About the title: Richard Ben Cramer’s What It Takes: The Way to the White House is a famous book in the political class. It’s the story of the 1988 Presidential race, and covers George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, Dick Gephardt, Joe Biden, Gary Hart, and Michael Dukakis (and not, oddly, Jesse Jackson, which is a bit like writing a book about campaigns 2016 and 2020 without mentioning… Bill? Bud? Barry? Bernie!). Dukakis was the ultimate Democrat nominee, but the book also includes a vivid portrait of Joe Biden. For grins, here’s an example of the famous Biden empathy at work:

Cramer has a nice, easy style, a little like a Hunter Thompson who never made it past Barstow, and the drugs never began to take hold.

Anyhow, I didn’t come to praise Biden or to bury him. I think American politics changed substantively in the four years since 2016, especially as practiced in and by the Democrat Party. “What It Took” to elect Biden — besides a pandemic — was those changes. I’m about to make a series of claims about those changes, which I hope can serve as what Yves calls a “forcing device” for discussion by the NC commentariat. Now, normally I would festoon my prose with links and a boatload of quotes, but I need to get out of this post alive without writing 20,000 words, and in any case none of these topics will go away. So I’m going to make a lot of bare assertions, and back them up — or abandon them — in comments. There are probably other substantive changes I have missed, but these will do to go on with. Here are my claims. In the years 2016-2020:

1)The Professional Managerial Class (PMC) attained class consciousness.

2) The PMC was and is embubbled by a domestic psyop.

3) The press replaced reporting with advocacy.

4) Election legitimacy is determined by extra-Constitutional actors.

5) “Fascism” became an empty signifier, not an analytical tool.

Let us look at each of these claims.

1) The PMC attained class consciousness. As Thomas Frank has shown (Listen, Liberal!), the PMC has replaced the working class as the Democrat Party base[1]. During the period 2016-2020, the PMC, collectively, experienced Trump’s election as literal, actual trauma (as pain, as an energy suck, as constant stress, as depression, etc. Parents wept to tell their children, and so forth. That the burden of such trauma is — with respect to the post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by, say, soldiers. abuse victims, or the homeless — quite slight may lead some — well, me — to mock it (“How was brunch?”), but the trauma is deeply felt and real). Importantly, as Steve Randy Waldman has urged, the class position — and hence the class consciousness — of the PMC is marked by “predatory precarity“; the predation comes from what a professional must do to maintain their class position in a financialized economy driven by rent-seeking; the precarity comes from the fact that their class position is maintained, not by the ownership of capital, or the inheritance of a title, but by expensive “positional goods” like credentials. Trump’s right-wing populism, with its distrust of experts — the same meritorious experts whose Esq.s were on every foreclosure notice or dunning letter, and whose M.D.s were on every surprise medical bill — struck directly at both exposed nerves. Not only might they not be consulted on how best to rule, their very credentials might turn out to be worthless. Hence the rage, the fear, the hate, certainly universally expressed in the press, but also in such organizations as Indivisible, the Women’s March, etc. The PMC as a class came to consciousness screaming Make it stop!

2) The PMC was and is embubbled by a domestic psyop. Make it stop! was, however, followed hard upon by I didn’t do it! Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, in Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign, describes how Robbie Mook deployed RussiaGate to delegitimize the newly elected President in a meeting with the rest of the defeated Clinton camp the day after Election Day 2016. RussiaGate became the Goebbelsian propaganda operation that it was — if there had been anything to it, Pelosi would have impeached Trump for it, Mueller Report or no[2] — through an unholy alliance of the Democrat Party apparatus, the intelligence community, and the press. All were variously motivated — “There in stately splendor, far removed from the squalid village below, they fight their petty battles over power and money” (Bob and Ray) — but the effect on the PMC was extraordinary: To this very day, any opposing or dissenting force to the liberal Democrat orthodoxy of the day can be dismissed with a one-liner about Putin! I’ve never seen anything like it.[3] Both (1) and (2) combined to drive turnout, voluntering, donations, and everything else. (That the Democrat base is too slim to rule on its own is another issue entirely.)

After Russiagate imploded, when the Mueller investigation failed to find that Trump was a Russian puppet, Aaron Maté, who was one of the few journalists courageous enough to call bullshit on the whole revolting episode, interviewed his father, psychiatrist Gabor Maté about the psychological mechanisms that enabled Russiagate to damage the many brains that it did. It’s worth listening to in full; it’s humane:

From the transcript, the elder Maté identifies two psychological mechanisms at work:

And like individuals can be in denial, a society can be in denial[4]. So this society is deeply in denial about its own trauma, and particularly in this case about the trauma of that election. So one way to deal with trauma is denial of it. The other way is to project onto other people things that you don’t like about yourself.

Denial, Maté says, is of “of the actual dynamics in American society”; see the discussion of predatory precarity above. That Putin “meddled” in our election — remember the ludicrous Facebook ads? That was the best the Russian demon could do? — is purest projection; America interferes with elections all over the world (and Democrats interfere with them in, say, Iowa or Brooklyn or Florida).

The net effect is that, for the PMC, all must accept RussiaGate as dogma, so their psychological mechanisms of denial and projection remain intact. Honestly, it’s far more virulent than Iraq WMDs, and that was engineered by Bush and Cheney.

3) The press replaced reporting with advocacy. This ground was been well-tilled by Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald. One question: If in fact the Trump campaign was able to produce legitimate affidavits of election fraud, or hacking by insiders of ballot marking devices, tabulating machines, or voter rolls — all of which have not only been shown to be technically feasible, but have been accomplished — do you think the press would report it?

4) Election legitimacy is determined by extra-Constitutional actors.. There are two, both of whom played starring roles in Russiagate. (Note that we have an established process whereby individual states certify election results. There is no structural or Constitutional need for additional, independent actors.) The first legitimizing institution is the press: It “calls” elections. (The next step, also taking place in the press, is a “concession speech” by the losing candidate. None of this has a Constitutional mandate, except as bestowed by the Norms Fairy.) The second legitimizing institution is the intelligence community; if the DHS or the FBI “determined” — no doubt without exposing their sources and methods to public scrutiny, and for the best possible of motives[5] — that an election had been “hacked,” then the press would cover it that way, and it would be; they are the guarantors of the State against foreign contamination. (Fortunately for us all, only the press is playing its legitimizing role in 2020; there is no need for the intelligence community to step in.)

5) “Fascism” became an empty signifier, not an analytical tool. If Trump were really Hitler, Nancy Pelosi wouldn’t have given him a whole new Space Force for a playtoy, wouldn’t have given him more defense money than he asked for, and wouldn’t have rolled over on the Amy Coney Barrett nomination, either. If the Trump administration were a fascist regime, a lot of people would already be in camps; people like Fauci; Pelosi herself; the Sanders wing of the Democrat party down to the organizers, and so on. If you conceive of fascism monolithically, as in the single form of goverment in a single state, we’re nowhere near it; where are the organized paramilitary units? (And please, please, please don’t tell me the Proud Boys are anything like the Freikorps, let alone the Nazi Sturmabteilung. In addition to being heavily infiltrated by informants, they don’t have the scale, they don’t have the skills, and they don’t have the trauma of having lost World War I in the blood and mud of the trenches.) More destructively, classifying Trump as a fascist prevents us from recognizing fascist forms of government organic to the United States itself, as in the Reconstruction South or Jim Crow. Even more destructively, projecting fascism onto Trump enables the Democrat base to deny giving its own frightening thirst for, er, leadership, and its tendency to authoritarian followership, as when entire states in which Biden didn’t even have a campaign office lined up behind him after Obama anointed him as his successor.

* * *

Now, I cannot prove that the PMC attaining class consciousness, a domestic psyop, a non-reportorial press, degraded elections, and engineered ignorance about fascism were all sufficient to get Biden elected, but they were all necessary (plus money, of course). And that implies that Biden’s victory over Trump came at a very high price, perhaps a price to high to bear.

The worst of it is that the PMC, the press, the intelligence community, and the Democrat Party have all tasted blood; I don’t see how, even under a Biden Restoration, the PMC or any of these institutions will revert even to their decadent conditions of 2016. In consequence, we have a professional managerial class that is, both in geopolitical terms and the daily cut and thrust of conversation and retail politics, unmoored from reality; flat earthers. And who’s to say what ___Gate will be cooked up next, since the first one worked so well? And if our politics are driven by hate and fear, projection and denial — all strategized and gaslit by well-paid experts, also from the PMC — how does “our democracy” continue to function? I find this a very painful prospect to contemplate.


[1] English, with its “all”, “most”, and “some”, doesn’t do well with sets that have fuzzy edges, and so one has endless discussions of the form “Not all ____ are ___.” True enough, in all cases! Further, “all” and its friends are adjectives, and one can’t build a strong sentence out of adjectives. Hence, one treats “bourgeoisie,” say, as a class with a set membership function of owning capital and buying labor power, but then a mass of other family resemblances come into play that don’t involve ownership and often involve virtues. So, “not all bourgeoisie”! And “not all PMC!” After all, class traitors do exist; Engels ran a factory in Manchester after all. Perhaps if I become a better writer I will figure this out.

[2] Clinton claimed, in debate, that Trump was “a Russian puppet.”

[3] I’m forgetting who characterized Russiagate as “QAnon for people with mortgages.”

[4] I’m not entirely sure that’s not a category error. But in this case, where a collectively is feeling the same things — granted, partly because those things were engineered — I don’t think it is.

[5] As, say, in Bolivia. Or Chile.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Fastball

    Uhm … Lambert, you do realize that the so called “intelligence community” and much of the PMC infotainment media are one and the same, right? I mean, Andrea Mitchell was on just a day or so ago spouting CIA talking points about the CIA “watching” Iran and Russia for signs of “interference” with absolutely zero evidence of anything. It’s not like the “intelligence community” (I do so hate that phrase because they are neither intelligent nor a community) didn’t step in. They did step in. They did an Alien Facehugger on MSDNC and other liberal outlets, with agents literally taking the place of reporters.

    1. lambert strether

      Yes, personnel overlap; see note [1] on language difficulties

      There actually is an “intelligence community” website, you know. It’s not just a phrase.

      1. Fastball

        Noted, and I hate getting all semantical but I don’t think a website of spooks (or police for that matter) qualify as a “community”, IMHO. Community means more to me than spooks with a website and mutually overlapping psyops.

        Community is something we humans have lost, not something spooks have gained. It’s like talking about a “police community” to me. They may see themselves as a mutually supporting community — and that’s HIGHLY dangerous for us, but they ain’t. They’re well paid people with a job who cover for each other. That to me is not community. I wouldn’t bother but it’s slightly more than just semantics to me.

        I don’t call my coworkers “my community” because it’s just a job and I do what I’m told. And if I had a community it wouldn’t be people who pay me and treat me like some kind of rogue club.

        But yes, understand your point. Just sayin’. I just don’t think intelligent agents nor police should ever be allowed “communities” with each other, nor do I personally ever use community in that sense of the word.

        Intelligence agents and police need to be controlled, not turned into abusive authoritarian “communities”.

        1. Angie Neer

          Hear, hear on “community.” A fine word that has been repurposed for marketing all sorts of repugnant ideas. It constantly grates on me, too. Like “folks”.

        2. Fastball

          Also, “community” is a term that the PMC liberals and Republicans have turned into a term of art, like the idea that torturers and perjurers like James Clapper, Brennan and Gina Haspel form a community.

          At least partially it’s used to try to humanize criminals including torturers and get people like us to see them as attendees at a county festival. That’s the PMC infotainers’ jobs.

          Police use the understanding of themselves as a “community” to huge effect.

          I’m not saying what anyone else should do but I think repeating that these criminals are communities isn’t a good idea.

          “Intelligence agents” and “police” suffice if neutrality is desired. They’ve learned to atomize us and turn all the regular humans into individuals, not parts of communities. Now they need the same.

          The company I work for is highly unethical. I like my coworkers and they’re not unethical. But they still aren’t my “community”. I only work for them because they haven’t asked me to be unethical.

        3. Person

          They may see themselves as a mutually supporting community — and that’s HIGHLY dangerous for us, but they ain’t. They’re well paid people with a job who cover for each other. That to me is not community. I wouldn’t bother but it’s slightly more than just semantics to me.

          This is actually worse for us than if they were a real community. In a way the PMC suffers from more precarity than the actual precariat, because continued “membership” in their club (and the benefits conferred from this) are 100% contingent on following the party line. Those huge credit lines and mortgages aren’t going to pay themselves. Short of bankruptcy, exiting this situation may be impossible depending on how leveraged they are.

          A functional community can countenance a reasonable measure of disagreement and still find common ground. A community that expels its members upon dissent (or insufficiently enthusiastic support) is not a community; it is a cult.

          1. Person

            (It’s not really fair of me to say that they suffer from more precarity than people who truly find themselves jumping between different types of gig work. That’s hyperbole and the two aren’t really comparable situations. Still, imagine being neck deep in debt and knowing that you have to continue to smile and nod or possibly lose your job, home, friends, and in some cases family.)

        4. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Community means more to me than spooks with a website and mutually overlapping psyops.

          The “intelligence community” is the institutional backing for the website. That’s what these people call themselves. Taking the false “-ic” off “Democrat Party” still leaves the referent clear; that’s not the case if I invent a fresh term for the “intelligence community.”

          I understand that the use of “community” is corrupt and Beltway-esque, but that is where we are.

          1. Starry Gordon

            Actually, though, ‘community’ is a useful concept which might be salvageable. With regard to the PMC as used here (in this discussion) I’m not sure what, exactly, people mean. For instance, computer programmers and related types are now regarded as ‘professionals’ but do they recognize one another as a ‘community’ with the kind of shared experiences as do, say, a formerly (and maybe still) discriminated ethnic or religious group? (That is, the ‘Black community’, ‘the Jewish community’, ‘the Korean community’, etc.)

            1. Fastball

              Believe it or not, I actually AM a programmer.

              I think we would best be described as a “loose association” at best. The programming world is so vast and varied that one man’s programmer might often be another man’s gibberish speaker depending on the programmer’s learning and versatility. (others know far more than me and I would have no idea what they might be saying in techese, for example)

              I read that there’s an effort underway to unionize programmers but that it’s not going so well.

              So no I don’t consider other programmers as part of any sort of “community”. And that makes it a useful example.

              We are atomized, as intelligence agents and police SHOULD be. I think things like “Black community”, “LGBT community”, “Jewish community” should be used guardedly. We aren’t all the same people; we don’t live in the same places and have nothing in common with each other besides one shared aspect of identity.

              I happen to also be gay but just because another guy is gay doesn’t mean he’s part of my community. I think what it is is just a convenient political handle for media types to handle a certain aspect of people’s identity a certain way. Not that that’s always wrong.

              What should not be atomized is the traditional meaning of “community”. neighbors and friends. Lambert wants a better term to come up with than “intelligence community”. I gave him one: “Intelligence agents”.

              1. Lambert Strether Post author

                > Lambert wants a better term to come up with than “intelligence community”. I gave him one: “Intelligence agents”.

                No, I don’t. I think “intelligence community” is the term to use. Note that “agents” implies a collection of individuals; “community” implies a network. It’s not better. It’s worse.

          2. rtah100

            I think the word you are looking for is “faction” or “interest”, *not* community.

            Let’s not fight on their terrain.

  2. Ep3

    Lambert, in regards to the PMC. Remember, we have all but destroyed the blue collar manufacturing base. And those of us lucky enough (who were born to blue collar Dem parents) to work our way out of blue collar, goto college, become “white collar”, we are what I would call the PMC. We were raised by blue collar parents, so we won’t become white collar republicans.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      That’s very true. It’s not the individual’s fault that class pressures corrupted what it means to be a professional (or a manager).

      Adding, the “we” in “we have all but destroyed the blue collar manufacturing base” would be the PMC itself (in service to capital, of course). I mean, who else?

  3. dcrane

    Good summary. Must send in my long-delayed donation to Water Cooler for this year.

    On the trauma suffered by core Democrats. I just finished an airbnb stay for a month with a lovely and decent couple, late 50s, core New England Democrats. PMC, but not six-figure-salary types. These people appeared physically immiserated by the long week of waiting for Biden’s “win”. Victims of the unending domestic psyop you mentioned. I get being emotionally involved, but the magnitude seemed out of whack for what was really involved in this election.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > physically immiserated… emotionally involved, but the magnitude seemed out of whack for what was really involved in this election

      At first I thought it was hyperbole from the Molly Jong-Fasts of this world, but there was so very much of it that I finally decided the “trauma” was real. Thanks for the confirmation. I should probably make a compilation…

      1. Stephen The Tech Critic

        Here’s an anecdote for you:

        One of my very Liberal neighbors who is a heavy MSNBC viewer was hospitalized about 2 weeks ago for what was eventually diagnosed as Broken Heart Syndrome. I saw her shortly after she got out, and she herself seemed to attribute it to election-related stress.

        So this emotional trauma may be crossing over to damage the physical body as well.

        1. Arizona Slim

          True story: I was scheduled to meet with someone last Tuesday. It was a business meeting and had to be rescheduled to last Monday. Why? Because the other party was stressed out about the election.

          When we met last Monday, the other party was fighting off a sore throat. Massive quantities of herbal tea, with strong notes of ginger, were consumed.

          Rest assured that this was a virtual meeting.

  4. Jason Boxman

    The Liberal Democrat response to Trump’s presidency presents us with two equally terrifying possibilities, neither mutually exclusive: (a) Liberal Democrats believe Trump is a fascist and b) Liberal Democrats do not believe a) and spent 4 years pushing it anyway.

    People with no gasp of reality or any perspective, in the halls of power, can do some serious damage, and already have. I’d go as far as to say Liberal Democrats and their supporters, as a class, are completely unhinged.

    And now they’re back in the white house for 4 years, hooray!

    But this seems to be how our political class functions. We could only look ahead after W. Bush’s great Iraq slaughter, and now he’s a hero of the Liberal Democrat Resistance. All is forgiven, if you only claim to find Trump repugnant, a fascist, and a Russian agent.

    1. ObjectiveFunction

      > And now they’re back in the white house for 4 years, hooray!

      Perhaps not. I personally take it as given that Biden won’t be around beyond Spring 2022.

      1. On top of his mental decline, I expect the Senate GOP opposition to go to town on Hunter (discretion is clearly not a strong suit in House Biden).

      For all the “Come on man” about bipartisanship and unity, the Repubs have no real choice but to rip out his guts. Their former suburban base that votes for low taxes, cheap foreign goods and cheap loans has found its new home in the PMC Uniparty. The 1995 Gingrich agenda is now the DNC platform, with a side order of IdPol virtue signaling.

      …So the GOP standard bearers must pander to the fury of Trump Nation, plus a few other religious conservatives of all races. Fox and whatever new vehicle Trump sets up to perpetuate his onanism will be baying for blood, gaining new viewers disgusted by the whitewashing of the MSDNC Ministry of Truth.

      2. So Old Joe, beset by gaffes, scandals, gridlock and deepening crisis, and with a midterm election looming that could make Gingrich look tame, will be nudged out to pasture by the Directorate ‘for health reasons’.

      In that way the Vast West Wing Conspiracy will try to hit a reset and play the Kamala ‘healing’ card (yes, I am laughing hysterically as I type that!); look for the MSM to obediently bleat that line nonstop.

      3. In substance, Kamala Harris’ resume seems to consist of being a protege to a series of powerful patrons. Sleek, comfortable, amorphous, with no real base beyond the Hamptons, making her tone deaf to what’s going on outside Versailles. It remains to be seen whether she Has What It Takes to become an Iron Lady (Kamala Regina), or basically serves Obama’s third term for him, or finds another Svengali (or several).

      The Megaphone and KHive will of course do what they do: shout down any criticism of our Benetton Kween as lese majeste, prima facie evidence of rac!sm (Unclean! Kapu! Cancel it with fire!)

      And this will simply drive more Shy Tories to quietly seek their (fake) news on the Dark Side, being exposed to the various CTs and alt.facts that come bundled with that.

      5. And meanwhile, our Long Emergency continues to deepen:

      a. The corporate world has now completed its 2021 planning cycle and is tightening its belts, counterparties and customers be damned. Here in SG I am seeing noticeable stock-outs of goods in store after store. Similarly, in deal world, only projects that were in the pipe in Dec 2019 seem to be advancing; nothing really new is originating past Zoom call stage.

      My read is that it’s basically the Beer Game gone macro, with each actor trying to pass off its risks and losses onto its no-trust/low-bid supply chains. War of all against all. Anyone else seeing this?

      b. The pink slips are already going out, and are culling the PMC work from home ‘bolsoi jobs’. Liberal arts MBAs over 50 are likely to be as reemployable as coal miners. I expect unemployment in the Uniparty’s base to hit 20% early next year

      c. The resulting games of office politics musical chairs will call out all the most ‘predatory’ instincts of the “PMCPP”.

      …And now a word about that Healing. That will consist of the IdPol and Reparations set attempting to drive into policy and law that all senior management openings (and government contracts) must go to scheduled castes, in due order of oppressed status (you lose, white gay men, except maybe for the new VP).

      Our Safran Queen will of course be both poster child and Scold in Chief for this movement. As noted, that’s pretty much what she does, with a tin ear and none of Barack’s “Beer Summit” smarm.

      6. And by November 2022, I’d say about 2/3 of America will be truly done with this flavor of dog food and will send the Uniparty the way of the Whigs. The Dems in Congress could literally be reduced to a few black machine districts and techie-college towns.

      In which case, look for impeachments, on whatever pretext suits, followed by installation of the GOP House Speaker as a new president. And that guy (or lady) *could* become an actual Caudillo or Caesar if they were lucky and played their cards right.

      (Phew, shagged out after a long squawk!)

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > send the Uniparty the way of the Whigs. The Dems in Congress could literally be reduced to a few black machine districts and techie-college towns.

        That’s a bit linear for me, and also assumes that liberal Democrats have no institutional strength. They do, having seen off not one but two populist movements, one from the right and one from the left.

        I do expect the Biden administration to be worse than the Obama administration (70% of people, i.e., workers, not made whole IIRC ten years after the Crash) because the same people, now fatter, dumber, and happier having sucked up the corporate bucks, are faced with worse initial conditions and more intractable problems to solve. (I do need to check that Transition Integrity Project website to see if “Be magnanimous in victory” is on any of the checklists. Somehow, I doubt it.)

        So, yes, continued volatility; expect a bumpy ride.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > two equally terrifying possibilities, neither mutually exclusive: (a) Liberal Democrats believe Trump is a fascist and b) Liberal Democrats do not believe a) and spent 4 years pushing it anyway.

      I think they “believe” it, but their concept of “fascist” is so sloppy and tendentious that it’s like believing in phlogiston.

      Incidentally, “terrifying” is a “tell” of PMC “trauma.” Once you start seeing it, you’ll see it everywhere. (I would speculate that it’s so easy for cool heads to gaslight our fear-crazed PMC because “predatory precarity” is rooted in fear, fear of losing your place, fear of those above, fear of those below).

      1. Pookah Harvey

        The democrats calling Trump a fascist is the pot calling the kettle back. It is at least admitting that fascism exists in our society. Lawrence Britt has a list of the 14 characteristics of fascism. It is interesting to compare your list with his, especially if a class conscious PMC ( business aristocracy) is needed to support a dictatorial fascism.
        I’m not saying the Proud Boys are the equivalent of the Brownshirts. But if we wait for the Brownshirts to show up it may be too late.

      2. jsn

        The real material conditions of all but the top echelons of the “predatory precariat” are very stressful. Maybe they have “granite counters” and “brunch”, but they definitely have no realistic view into a positive future with any kind of security in anything. In my little window into it, as architects, junior staff were poorly paid in the mid 80s when I joined the workforce. And while salaries have marginally improved, not at anywhere near the rate of the actual cost of living within range of the jobs.

        Even in a nominally “artistic” field where people generally have strong morals and highly collaborative temperaments, this real material stress on time and living conditions is the substrate over which the nihilist, winner take all tableau of “meritocracy” plays out.

        Through the distorting lens of neoliberalism, “community” has become that economic social unit of peer competitors, bosses and business structures around who’s interests everyone is required structure their own behavior, hopes, ambitions and fears because the “market” has taken great care to leave no one but the top echelons with any time to think about anything else. The trauma I believe you have correctly identified is exactly I think coterminous with all the solidarity, fellow feeling, care and humanity neoliberalism has stripped from the meaning of “community.”

  5. Whiteylockmandoubled

    Wonderful distillation of very large forces into a cogent analysis. Curious how much writing for a named target of the psyop influenced your understanding. Regardless, thank you.

  6. MS Server

    So I guess 75 million people are all dupes? Trump had nothing to do with not being reelected? It’s all the media, PMC, CIA, FBI acting in a coordinated manner to deprive Trump another 4 years of winning? Oh, I nearly forgot, thanks Obama!

    Hmmm… maybe it’s time for some Occam’s Razoring…

    1. Geo

      Only 75 Million people are dupes? I’d estimate a lot higher.

      Example from March, 2003:
      “Seventy-two percent of Americans favor the war against Iraq, while 25% are opposed. Roughly the same number approve of the job President George W. Bush is doing.”

      People are easily mislead. It’s been proven over and over again.

      “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” – Abraham Lincoln (maybe?)

      Even this famous quote attributed to Lincoln is possibly falsely attributed to him… proving how easy it is to fool us all sometimes.

          1. patrick

            Took the words right out my mouth. Some thinker once wrote that the common fallacy of western thought is the “either-or” proposition. the East (or orient) tends to think in terms of “both”

      1. Harold

        “In argumentation theory, an argumentum ad populum (Latin for ‘appeal to the people’) is a fallacious argument that concludes that a proposition must be true because many or most people believe it, often concisely encapsulated as: ‘If many believe so, it is so’.”

        People are, indeed, easily misled, but in a Democracy they will recognize and correct their error more easily than can individual princes (leaders). This was the argument used by Machiavelli in the Discourses X to defend republican forms of government (rule by the people. He even said, “It is for this reason that the Voice of the People is often likened to the Voice of God (Vox Populi, vox Dei).

    2. Geo

      “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you,” Schumer told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow regarding Trump.

      Did a lot of us want Trump out? Yes.

      Does that mean those groups mentioned in the article didn’t have some hand in all of it? No.

    3. Yves Smith

      It has been repeatedly demonstrated, starting in the US (Google Creel Committee) that concerted, message-consistend propagandizing over a period of mere months can radically shift public opinion.

      That is likely the real reason for the shock over the blue wave fail. With the media braying with one voice against Trump, and the overwhelming ad spend against him too, he should have been shellacked.

      1. Ian Ollmann

        But we have two media populations and two distinct populations of viewers now too, don’t we? For the most part, they do not cross pollinate, either. For one set of viewers the election was over on Saturday, huge sigh of relief, time to start thinking about the Holidays! For the other population, we are just getting started on the part where we try to get victory in the courts instead. It is totally NOT over!

        Cut to me yesterday driving through affluent Los Gatos, CA on the way to a store to buy balloons for my son’s science experiment, and there is this guy driving down the street waving a full size flag out the window of his car. It was a Trump supporter with a Trump 2020 flag who is still living that election. I’m thinking, like, Really? What is the point of this? This is about as out of place and laughable as Four Seasons Landscaping for a Rudy Giuliani press conference, but since it is Los Gatos, a more haute couture and fewer porn shops.

        The fact of the matter is that we are now two Americas with two sets of facts. You can only imagine why the PMC is annoyed by this because for them, there is really only one set of factual facts, and a bunch of loonies subject to popular delusion who are going to cause a lot of damage when reality catches up with them, which by natural law it must do, eventually. Must we really go down the flusher with them?

        Because, it will spill over, and you know, given the pandemic and our lousy response to it, it seems it already has, at least once.

        1. ObjectiveFunction

          > we have two media populations and two distinct populations of viewers now too, don’t we? For the most part, they do not cross pollinate, either.

          Well said. Also note that NC is one of the few oases on the web where the populations do cross-pollinate! and manage to coexist civilly, in spite of the occasional driveby smug bomb from the Kos crowd.

          > for them, there is really only one set of factual facts, and a bunch of loonies subject to popular delusion who are going to cause a lot of damage when reality catches up with them, which by natural law it must do, eventually.

          Yes, but as you know it is PMC that lives in Powerpoint and Excel fantasy world. Their ability to ‘model’ and then ‘pitch’ (and fund) a decision (read, allocation of Other People’s Money), using an elaborate smokescreen of elementary finance and decision science that masks a few dumbed down operating assumptions (or worse, ‘benchmarks’) carries a far higher paycheck and prestige (honor’s in a dollah) than the hard work, expertise and experience required to discover the real world inputs.

          …In fact, that real world experience is actively harmful in PMC world. After all, it tends to result in ‘FUDs’ (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt), and therefore no greenlight and no remunerative follow on workstreams (see ‘Bu!!sh!t Jobs). Shun those losers (also old, stubborn, overpriced and disproportionately white).

          1. Ian Ollmann

            It all comes down to ethics with data. If you are a scientist, then no that doesn’t happen. Likewise, a civil engineer or doctor or those in drug discovery would have huge huge problems if they behaved that way. Actuaries too, I’m sure. Undoubtedly there are a few more. That is the world that I come from.

            The rest of the PMC world, especially the managerial classes, and much of the rest of the FIRE world is bent on your and their own destruction with this sort of numerical irresponsibility and deserves every last bit of scorn you care to deliver.

            From my own experience, there is a bit too much theory in college, too many toy examples, and not enough real world problems that are not neat and tidy. It takes a while being kicked in the head by reality before that can be removed.

            The people in those areas have had a good deal of head kicking.

            1. jsn

              I’m sad to say it infects science, engineering and medicine too.

              Look into the replicability crisis in Science.

              Look at software engineering.

              Look at the PPE messaging disaster of the last 10 months for medicine.

              In all of these, experts were doing what they were expert at but lost sight of all the variables in the symbolic systems they were managing, mistaking their maps for their territories. And because those territories are so abstract, they talk right past and cannot hear the feedback reality sends: it’s not formatted properly.

              Where ever symbolic knowledge becomes reified, those social structures that reified it try to force reality to conform to their knowledge and their expertise blinds them to the etiology of the resistance they encounter, mistaking it for ignorance because it’s, again, not formatted properly.

        2. fresno dan

          Ian Ollmann
          November 9, 2020 at 11:58 pm

          I agree. One point, I don’t know how many people watch BOTH Hannity and Maddow, but one point that can be overlooked is that most of what they say is true. But incomplete. An unwillingness to see the other side, and that things aren’t as black and white as the moral crusaders on both sides refuse to see.
          And one other thing that irks me – Russiagate was extremely bad – I have made that point a zillion times.
          And yet, the fact that Trump constantly insinuated that Obama was not born in America gets short shrift. Did Trump think that up on his own, or did some group give him the idea and support its propagation in the public. It seems to me that racism thwarts “progressivism” more than the PMC, but it is debatable – but it never seems to be debated. Was saying Obama was not born in America a big deal? I would assert it is a far bigger deal than the PMC. So there is a named group for the anti Trump people (PMC) but what is the group that believes Obama was not born in America? I would say that those who even think it is OK to question whether Obama was born in America are analogous to people who would question the Holocaust. Yet – dare I say it – norms prevent one question from ever being stated (correctly in my view, and freedom of speech people, the government doesn’t prevent you from asking it, good sense should)
          while a pretty vocal and large group continuously kept questioning Obama’s birthplace in public discussion.

          1. Reality Bites

            This is an incredibly important, yet often overlooked, point. If there is one that grates on me about so many, is things like this. Birtherism, Pizzagate, and the like are equally as damaging. The worst offenders are people like David Brooks and Lincoln Project types that shrugged through all of this but suddenly became horrified by Trump. We rightly criticize the DNC and broad PMC but I feel like the other side gets short shrift.

          2. John Steinbach

            But ‘birther gate”, “pizza gate” etc were marginal conspiracy theories dismissed by virtually all the mass media & political establishment. On the contrary, “Russiagate”, “Ukrainegate”, “70 million racist sexist morons” were embraced by virtually all the mass media and the political establishment.

            1. fresno dan

              John Steinbach
              November 10, 2020 at 10:52 am

              But ‘birther gate”, “pizza gate” etc were marginal conspiracy theories dismissed by virtually all the mass media & political establishment.

              I would dispute that the birther theory was dismissed by “mass media” – MSM yes, but mass media no – FOX which has far more viewers than CNN and MSNBC combined, as well as Limbaugh pushed the birther theory QUESTION relentlessly – they didn’t say it was correct, but they certainly made the case that Obama’s birthplace could be doubted. It was certainly a topic in Red State, Hot Air, Instapundit and any number of other right websites.
              The mass media let Trump get away with his questioning of Obama’s origins with Trump’s caveats such as “many people say” or “lets just get the original birth certificate.” Reporters now a days are so inept that they seemed to lack the presence of mind to ask such simple questions as “Who says this” “what evidence do they have” “why does Trump not believe Obama” and at one time Trump said he had hired an investigator, but no question on who this investigator was or what he had found
              NOW, my point is, say I was to run for office, and I made the statement, “I don’t know if the Holocaust occured – maybe we should just look into it – I mean, its just a question, right?” that I could NOT be elected to even dog catcher. The fact that Trump could make such a statement and that it wasn’t considered shocking and beyond the pale is my point.
              Its like Sherlock Holmes and the dog that didn’t bark. Making such a claim, that a black man wasn’t really a BORN AMERICAN when there is indisputable evidence that he was, that it was not considered important to repute, to my mind speaks volumes. Maybe the MSM isn’t as pro black as portrayed by the right wing media…
              Trump in my view succeeded, not solely, but in part, because he went some where the other repub nominees didn’t think they could go. They were wrong, and Trump was right…to our misfortune.

              1. juliania

                No, you don’t get to do that! Plenty of people, and I’m one of them, were scandalized by Obama without having anything to do with where he was born. That’s scapegoating so the liberals can feel ‘smarter than the average bear’!

          3. anon y'mouse

            saying someone was not born in, and therefore may not technically qualify, for the U.S. presidential position, is a different kettle of fish than saying the U.S. president (and while president-elect) was committing treason with a foreign power.

            plus, one was an insinuation (dogwhistle racism & xenophobia) and the other was outright accusation, concocted charges and impeachment.

            i don’t see us going to war with either Kenya or Indonesia (two possible places of Obama foreign birth according to those stupid conspiracy theories) over a birth cert.

        3. nippersdad

          Why just stop at two media populations? There is also the forty percent of the population that has just tuned out or is getting their news from YouTube and substack bloggers, and Chuck Rocha proved that Latino outreach is not represented in most of the major media outlets.

          I think that there may be at least a third of the population that does not fit easily into your rationale, and those may be the people that the PMC should be worrying about most.

        4. MBLG

          since it is Los Gatos, a more haute couture and fewer porn shops.

          ** We have porn shops? I’ve lived here decades. Where are they hiding? Never mind, the LG PMC finally got rid of the gun store so I rest with that. ;-)

      2. Jamie

        This is related to the assertion in the article that “The press replaced reporting with advocacy”.

        It didn’t. It slightly modified the range of things it advocates. I’m not touching the Gr**nw*ld discussion, but those braying the loudest are those who skated to where they thought the puck was going, only to find media owners decided on a different play.

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      > It’s all the

      Match for that straw? I made a list of systemic changes without which Biden would not have won. I stated explicitly that they were necessary but not sufficient. Please read more closely, and if you have issues with any individual claim, do feel free to address them.

      1. juliania

        Why do you keep saying he won, Lambert? Don’t we have to wait till the electoral entities say that? Are you just taking it for fact that the press, as flawed as we have seen them be, are the final arbiters?

        1. juliania

          Many of us (and we even thought we were liberals then!) decried the rapid acceptance of losing that happened in past elections. We wanted to see recounts, and in some places that was deemed impossible because of the many different styles of counting the votes. Remember 2000? That time was seared in my brain – and hey, what about counting votes by hand, votes that have been individually recorded, on paper ballots, which can be recounted if need be in a close election. What was this—spaghetti? In 2000, the Supreme Court decided NOT to keep counting (with the help of the suits descending on little old ladies – I remember!)

          Recounts verify voting. We will be more secure that the election went as it should have after recounts – if that is at all possible to do. And if not, why not????

  7. richard

    This is awesome Lambert.
    If the pmc attained a class consciousness in the last 4 years, it will be interesting to see how that informs questions about legitimacy going forward, and if a new working class consciousness might develop simply in reaction to the pmc.
    the legitimacy of our existing institutions doesn’t mix very well with any kind of obvious, out front class consciousness, even among the owners and bosses. The clumsy propaganda of Russiagate and whatever comes next from natsec can’t (imho) can’t offer the same stability/legitimacy that decades of cultural “classlessness” provided. I mean, right?

      1. richard

        yeah, that sounds about right, but how do you keep a lid on things? Healing “trauma” opens the door for all sorts of other healing that isn’t on the menu.
        maybe i’m just wishful thinking. wouldn’t be the first time.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      “…and if a new working class consciousness might develop simply in reaction to the pmc…”

      one can hope.
      and that’s one of the things Polanyi hammered upon….action and reaction. In this case, if PMC class consciousness emerged in the last 4 years, we might expect some kind of oppositional matrix to form organically in response.
      of course, the ingredients of such a counteremergent consciousness are poisoned by the ongoing ontological crises and mindf%%k….so who knows what will come.
      i’d say that now is not the time for silence….i’ll be back in the feedstore, again, holding ad hoc symposia, again…after i give them some time to sober up(say, next summer,lol)

      1. Person

        I completely agree. There are some irreconcilable differences between left and right populists. But that doesn’t mean we can’t set them aside for a time to fight for fair wages and restoring the social safety net. We may all have to part ways on universal health care (unless you believe that recent Fox poll!), but I’ll take anything we can get.

        As long as the Biden win holds, it seems that conditions are right for an American Yellow Vest movement given the multitude of stresses on the working class and the apparent lack political will to address them. The real left is still marching, but without the distraction of an election, and now the right has taken to the streets as well.

      2. Ian Ollmann

        Or the PMC could start managing things more to the benefit of the working class. The most damning criticism of the PMC (not being a student of this class) is that it is thoroughly sold out to moneyed interests. This is axiomatic. Higher paychecks must come from somewhere, and as only as only the wealthy people have money, that is who the PMC works for. It is the same as for politicians. However, this does not need to be so, because the wealth does not need to be distributed this way.

        The more the rich poor gap widens, the less for-profit capitalism will lift a finger to service the needs of the poor, and so goes the PMC and so goes the politicians. Because neither the PMC or the politicians are paid to help the poor, Eventually capitalism will service the their needs so little there will be mass desperation, and the poor can either be sold for meat or choose to burn the system to the ground.

        Now, where have we heard “Burn it to the ground!” before?

        The PMC will use their considerable talents to make life better for the working classes if the PMC is employed by the working classes. Some segments are. Pure scientists live off of government largesse, and M.D.s see patients. The FIRE sector, not so much. Fix the money and many of these problems will go away.

        1. sharonsj

          Why would for-profit capitalism help the poor when the capitalists make such a huge profit off the backs of the poor? From payday lenders to electric bills to rents to excessive local and bank fines (not to mention nearly free prison labor), the poor are squeezed dry.

        2. hunkerdown

          Austerity is the health of the class order. Elites have one job, and that is to create and reproduce the class order. They must ensure that the poors do can not successfully revolt. If elites allow the lumpenproles to keep what they make, they eventually make weapons and eliminate the elites and their system too. The same goes for the PMC, who are a sort of lumpen within the elite. To see and feel themselves set apart from the lumpenproles entails concessions. Such concessions become expensive when the lumpenproles are allowed too much more than subsistence levels of wealth and income, and when the PMC are being so overproduced.

          “OMG the poors have flat screen TVs and cell phones now” but those are meant in all cases for elites’ benefit. It’s always been about preventing the exercise of mass power.

      3. .Tom

        > “one can hope”

        The PMC has so much organization behind it. The people’s party barely exists. The oligarchic power and the D & R parties both existentially depend on it not forming and they are very good at keeping it from forming through cultural divide and conquer.

  8. Pavel

    I had to read down a few paragraphs to realise that PMC didn’t mean the “Permanent Military Campaign” or something similar. If there is one thing Biden, Clinton, Obama, et al have never wavered from, it is endless support for endless war.

    That is in no way to excuse McCain, Cheney, Bush père et fils, or other Repubs… except to note that they have all almost been sanctified by the Dems.

    Trump for all his myriad faults and blatant falsehoods seemed at least to have tried to withdraw a few thousand or so troops.

    Assuming Biden and Harris take charge, the neocon and neoliberal warmongers will be on steroids.

    1. TBellT

      Trump dropped a record number of bombs in Afghanistan in 2019

      Hard for me to agree with the premise that he made any attempts to dismantle the empire. Merely he tried to rework who pays what to keep it going.

      Off the top of my head, he kept up the trend of Obama’s increased drone warfare. He still tried to drum up some PR with foots on ground operations like the Yakla raid or the Baghdadi operation. He tried to export more Middle East decision making to the Saudis and Israel who are incredibly vicious. He also exported South American policy to rightwing insurgents like Guaido and Anez who comically lost.

      Adding this all up it it’s hard for me to tease any of this 4 years out as a clear win for anyone except arms manufacturers.

      Trump’s loss of military support to Biden also suggests to me that most of the troops didn’t see the benefit of Trump’s new policies. Much like the tax scam helped a targeted section of “everyday people” a little, and major campaign donors a lot.

      1. ObjectiveFunction

        Trump did in fact have a strategy, and strategy is actually largely about deciding what battles you AREN’T going to choose to spend your blood and treasure fighting.

        1. Trump prioritizes cheap wins: he is a pure instinct reptile brain, with zero patience or integrative skills (I have met a surprising number of these at C level).

        ‘Cheap’ means low effort and low execution risk: either loud talking (Kim summit, China on-off-on trade war) or pressing a button (droning folks). For Trump as with most pols, the ‘win’ is in the press release, not in the long term outcomes or consequences, of course)

        The Wall is about as long term as he got, and I’m sure it originally looked straightforward, like Wollman Rink (I’m curious whether Biden pulls it down and dismantles ICE. Of course he won’t).

        2. Trump didn’t personally give a rat’s ass whether the entire populations of A’stan and Yemen lived or died, since their interests garner no votes outside a few Uber drivers in Queens.

        3. Israel wants the Empire on the ground in the Islamic Crescent, and what it wants, it gets. The Lobby still didn’t meaningfully back Trump in the end (the James Baker theory), but at least they weren’t strongly motivated to bankroll the Dems.

        4. Unlike Kim, there was no identifiable strongman for him to do a Big Deal with.

        Conclusion: dragging the MIC kicking and screaming out of their self-digging quagmires was just not going to make his agenda, just as it didn’t make Obama’s. But on the plus side, jumping into new quagmires didn’t make his cut either. So he has left the Empire on autopilot. No principles involved here, just cold calculation, or what passed for it in Trump’s brain.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I had to read down a few paragraphs to realise that PMC didn’t mean the “Permanent Military Campaign”

      I just edited the post to expand the acronym on first use. Whoops!

    1. Ian Ollmann

      Speaking as a probable member of the PMC, none of this registered as realistic to me at all. I manage no one but have a Ph.D. and make more than most managers. Lambert is totally off the mark.

      What deeply bothered me about Trump and got me to donate to political campaigns, which I had never done before, was his assault on the rule of law. He is also quite evidently unable to lead in a constructive fashion. Rampant incompetence, etc.

      2016 — It would cost lives.
      2020 — It did cost lives, maybe 180k over what we would have gotten if we managed the pandemic like other major industrialized economies.

      Trump is currently having troubles mounting his legal defense because his lead attorneys keep getting sick, having caught COVID-19 in the White House. Biden may have to keep his office in Camp David the first week while they disinfect the place.

      I believe in the governments ability to solve problems that no one else can solve. Why? There is no one else, and so it must. Capitalism will only solve problems it finds profitable to solve. There are definitely many more things we need to plan for and manage such as a common defense, pandemic preparedness, infrastructure, regulating natural monopolies so they don’t abuse their power and run up costs, regulate the money supply, etc. that we need to be on top of to avoid disaster. Capitalism is also a little too efficient at times, especially when it can foist its costs off on other people in the form of pollution, tragedy of the commons, etc., quite famously so. When the a Republican Party hamstrings the government, we have only half an economy and the country is sick. This electorate should get over its blinkered ideology and be practical. Trump just isn’t practical. He’s an anarchist.

      1. French75


        The death rates per million are:

        Belgium: 1136
        Spain: 824
        UK: 732
        US: 720
        Italy: 686
        France: 595

        Reducing our death rate by 20% to put it below that of France (current total is 240K) would be 48K fewer deaths, not 180K.

        source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1104709/coronavirus-deaths-worldwide-per-million-inhabitants/

        I appreciate your backing up your claims with statements about your credentials and how much money you make. It might be better, next time, to back them up with actual facts.

        1. Ian Ollmann

          Yup. My numbers are based on mean world response to the virus and not just industrial countries. I certainly did not describe it accurately!

          That said, presenting the just top of a chart of a long list of nations showing the US in the top four, doesn’t really make your case. Going into this pandemic, the US was top rated for its ability to survive a pandemic. It’s the delta between what epidemiologists thought we would have achieved and what we actually managed that I object to. So much of it was unnecessary. The CDC was not the CDC we’ve come to expect. The life saving response was muted for political ends and I can’t think of anything lower than that.

          1. French75

            > It’s the delta between what epidemiologists thought we would have achieved and what we actually managed that I object to.

            I concede the point that we could have kept cases to the low 100s per million if we had pushed for immediate lockdown, contact tracing, and testing.

            I do not, however, accept that a different administration would have successfully navigated to a different outcome. It is likely that epidemiologists, in their model, did not account for poor compliance in a low-personal-risk environment; and more importantly did not account for kit reagent shortages.

            Aside from the fact that you can expect social distancing compliance to be low for high individual-liberty cultures like the US and UK; and focus on widespread testing, which seems to be the agreed-upon largest factor for successful control of the pandemic.Testing was hard to ramp up because:

            The current trouble is a critical shortage of the physical components needed to carry out tests of any variety. Among these components are so-called viral transport media, which are used to stabilize a specimen as it travels from patient to lab; extraction kits, which isolate viral RNA from specimens once they reach the lab; and the reagents that do the actual work of determining whether the coronavirus that causes COVID19 is present in the sample.

            Switching to a different source (USA Today):

            Some of the testing components are manufactured by Qiagen, a multinational leader in molecular testing headquartered in Germany. Responding to spiking demand for its products, the company increased production to three shifts a day, seven days a week, at plants in Germany and Spain.

            “This now is an unprecedented situation,” said Qiagen corporate spokesman Thomas Theuringer. “Demand is exploding, especially in the United States … and this is stretching our capacity.”

            So the US, due to not having the manufacturing capacity to rapidly increase testing, and not being able to import kits from Europe or China at a sufficient rate, was slow to increase testing. Incidently, this is why France wound up being high on the list too:

            France couldn’t get a clear picture of the growing problem due to a lack of tests. As Politico reported last week, the country doesn’t manufacture its own testing kits, but rather “relies on China for their main components.” With China paralyzed by its coronavirus outbreak at the time, France was unable to quickly get more tests.


            It is for this reason that I maintain that regardless of who ran the CDC, FDA, or Executive Branch in 2020, we should reasonably expect it to look more like Spain, Italy, or France as opposed to Germany, Norway, or New Zealand.

            1. Felix_47

              As a doctor my opinion is that testing is close to useless. Test me Monday, expose me Tuesday. We are under a lot of pressure to report COVID because the hospitals do get massive support from the government if they do this. What we can fault Trump on is not being honest. If Woodward is correct he knew in January or early February that it was transmitted through the air. He said it in his interview with Woodward. He knew it was bad assuming Woodward is not lying but he taped the interview apparently. I think someone told Trump the HK flu years ago killed a lot of people and that there is nothing one can do. So he just shrugged his shoulders and said nothing because he did not want to panic the markets. That is what he told Woodward…..he did not want to panic people. He knew universal mask wear would decrease the cases massively. He said transmitted through air. People demand more of government now than back in the 1960s and there is more transparency. For that he deserved to lose. Trump still could have won this election big time if he had only proposed medicare for all on the grounds of the pandemic and sent it to Congress three or four months ago even. He could have offered to have Sanders co sponsor it. The Dems would have been split. The Obama Buttigieg Harris PMC coalition would be broken. As an agnostic dyslexic know nothing he would have violated no deeply held belief. It makes one think either he is extremely stupid and he is relying on his son in law for political advice since he fired Bannon or he did not want to win a few months ago and he changed his mind in the last two weeks. Trump earned this loss and half of the voters still found him preferable to the vomit milkshake as Taibi said they were offered by the Dems. Too bad. This opportunity might not come back for decades. The insurance industry and hospital industry own the Black Congressional Caucus and the Democrats. Our insane health industrial complex is a huge drag on the standard of living and prosperity of the nation although it makes quite a few people rich. If Trump was half a patriot he could do that in his lame duck period. It would be like throwing a grenade at the Dems and the conservative Repubs and it would set up a return match in four years…..if he lives that long. We need medicare for all and we need associated utilization and cost control. Joe and Kamala should not get better or different healthcare than George Floyds children.

              1. Felix_47

                And he owed nothing to the medical insurance drug PACs. They backed Biden big time and stepped in to defenestrate Sanders. They were his enemy. They would have been check mated. Hard to argue against M4A in a pandemic that the federal government is paying for anyway. So Trump earned his loss the honest way…..by being unimaginative, lazy and out of touch……just like his opposition.

            2. MBLG

              It is for this reason that I maintain that regardless of who ran the CDC, FDA, or Executive Branch in 2020, we should reasonably expect it to look more like Spain, Italy, or France as opposed to Germany, Norway, or New Zealand.

              **Except for masks and self management protocols, which could have helped.

            3. rd

              This is why the Defense Production Act exists. The US government could have used some of the trillions of stimulus and Fed money to direct and fund manufacturers to produce needed PPE and testing products. The law is in place. It just needed to be activated.

              Many manufacturers that could have manufactured things were reluctant to retool and expand lines because it would have been a financial gamble on their part. Some manufacturers that geared up previously for potential pandemics nearly went bankrupt when the demand suddenly imploded. If the US government had stepped up in March/April and said “Here is a guaranteed order for X million of this item at this price with an initial retooling fee as an advance”, we would probably have had all the capacity we needed by August. Instead, the US relied on the “free market” which is not well-structured for technical products with a sudden surge in demand with a relatively predicatable vanishing demand after two-three years.

              1. French75

                > we would probably have had all the capacity we needed by August.

                We already were at 200 tests per 1000 people by August (see link). In the context of keeping deaths to the “epidemiologist-predicted baseline”, we needed that rate by April at the latest; and throwing money at the problem would not have helped. FTA:

                The federal government, Becker said, was “slowly waking up to the fact that this is an incredibly complex process. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Throwing money at the problem isn’t necessarily going to help it.”

                Indeed a few of the components could only be imported (heck, remember when we were worried that we would be unable to produce generics, because India wasn’t exporting some of the basic ingredients? https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/24/us-drug-shortage-fears-grow-as-india-locks-down-due-to-the-coronavirus.html)

                Globalization of the medical supply chain is at fault; and no matter how much money you throw at it, I doubt it can be unwound in a matter of weeks.

                1. rd

                  In our county, a bunch of schools are in Cuomo’s “Yellow Zone” , so they can stay open if they do 20% testing of staff and students. However, it appears that there is inadequate testing capacity, so quite a few schools will likely have to close simply because they can’t meet that testing mandate.So far it looks like the cases related to the schools are community transmission, not transmission within the schools themselves that are taking reasonable precautions, so closing should be unnecessary at this time.

                  If you go for a test, it is typically taking 3-4 days still to get results back. That is people quarantined during that period that are not supposed to shop or work.

                  These are things that money could fix over a period of 6 months.

                  I suspect we will see hospitals running out of PPE in the near future while also doing triage on Covid patients. Not much we can do about the triage but if the population has neither the self-discipline to avoid parties nor the ability to get rapid testing to identify and quarantine quickly, the least we should be able to do is protect the healthcare workers. Money and planning can solve that.

      2. Aumua

        I don’t think anyone here could say it better than you just did, about the PMC. Thank you for your honesty.

      3. notabanker

        Why? There is no one else, and so it must.
        Sounds a lot to me like hope.

        Blyth has made some compelling arguments that national sovereigns can no longer regulate markets in a globally connected economy. So you may have to face a reality that something else will fill that vacuum.

        A little too efficient is also doing a lot of work here. Capitalism that controls the government that is supposed to regulate I guess is the ultimate in efficiency. Monolithic, tyrannical, even.

        There are definitely many more things we need to plan for and manage such as a common defense, pandemic preparedness, infrastructure, regulating natural monopolies so they don’t abuse their power and run up costs, regulate the money supply, etc. that we need to be on top of to avoid disaster.
        What was the last US government administration that did any one of these things well? I’ve yet to see it in my lifetime, over 5 decades now.

        If you want to be practical, corporate power needs to be radically constrained to be brought back into balance. There is no electoral mechanism to do this with Citizens United, moneyed interests now control the US government, not covertly but overtly. Now who is the anarchist?

        1. Ian Ollmann

          We’ve been on a conservative swing for the last four decades now. You may recall the can do attitude of the 70’s even as screwed up as it was from your childhood, but little of that still exists. Since then, everything is “too expensive” and cost cutting, deregulation and efficiency have been the focus instead of investment. Most modern US companies with a few notable exceptions in tech have become quite moribund. Too much financialization instead of making real products. 747-Max instead of the next great design.

          Government is what we make of it, but if we tell ourselves that nothing can be done with government, we won’t event try. Of course you have reason to be cynical. After the wreckage of that time period and the turmoil of the present administration, what talented person would want to go into government?

          Perhaps if corporations were worker owned, things would be different. In the mean time there is the tax system.

          1. Starry Gordon

            Government is certainly not what I make of it, nor for millions of other people. That includes the tax system and all the other means of extracting value from those who create it.

      4. Yves Smith

        Having a degree does not make one a member of the PMC. Lambert defined the conditions: it is being in an institutional or professional setting where one is subject to pressure about your work product and process, despite the appearance of some degree of autonomy by virtue of elite status. It most certainly is not just about credentials or pay. And you don’t have to be senior either. As Clive put it in 2015:

        I’ve spent almost 30 years working in the FIRE (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate) sector, my entire adult life. When I first started, it was viewed as a most suitable career choice for middle class not particularly aspirational sorts who wanted security, respectability and a recognisable position in the community. It was never supposed to be a passport to significant wealth or even much more than very modest wealth. It was certainly never supposed to be anything which oppressed or harmed anyone.

        By the early 1990’s the rot, which had started to set in during the mid-1980’s, had begun to accelerate. Most regular readers of Naked Capitalism know how the movie ended. If only it was just a work of fiction. For those of you who have suffered financially, emotionally, physically (or all three) through an unlawful foreclosure, fee gouging, predatory lending, junk insurance or scam financial products you will know what the consequences of an industry which threw away its moral compass and any sense of a social contract are.

        For those of us on the inside, we don’t deserve any sympathy. But I’d like to offer a glimmer of insight into the conflict that those of us with any sort of conscience wrestle with because it is a conflict which is going to shape our societies over the next generation.

        Increasingly, if you want to get and hang on to a middle class job, that job will involve dishonesty or exploitation of others in some way. Industries such as finance have seized and held onto larger and larger proportions of the economy.

        The same disproportionate growth can be seen in financialised healthcare and finacialised education.


        In other words, being a member of the PMC critically includes that you are sufficiently not in control of your work process or product that if you object to widespread practices (either in the industry or at your place of employment) you find morally offensive, you can expect to suffer serious career or income costs. Most people believe they can’t afford that and so go along.

        If you are concerned about the rule of law, you apparently weren’t paying attention when Obama was president. He got rid of habeas corpus. His Administration prosecuted a New York Times reporter. His Administration sat pat as servicers foreclosed on 9 million homes, many and likely most when they had no legal basis for doing so. When some of the foreclosure abuses started getting media attention, rather than use that as leverage to force the servicers to give modifications to borrowers who had adequate income (as banks had previously done as a matter of course and here would clearly have reduced losses to investors too; the policy of foreclosure benefitted only services and late-in-game hedge fund investors in the most speculative tranches of subprime MBS), his Administration instead crafted a “get out of jail nearly free” “settlement” to derail an effort led by state attorneys general.

        1. richard

          are public school teachers pmc? or maybe public ed. administrators? I ask seriously, as teachers seem to fit some of the criteria apart from income maybe, if that is one.
          i have a sense that some of my colleagues see themselves in this light/class. perhaps aspirationally.

          1. Yves Smith

            I agree completely with your aspirational point, and more generally, it’s hard to draw tidy borders around a social class. Yes, people can also identify with the PMC even if they don’t fit into the tighter definition. There are also class traitors and rebels (see Trump fan Zelda, who is famous in her credentialed field, as an example).

            Public school teachers are an interesting category. A great deal of their work is regimented, yet they also have strong union protections in most states. Because teachers have been so demonized by the right and Republicans, they strongly identify against that, which pushes them towards Team D and its PMC culture.

            1. Teacher Spouse

              My spouse is a public school teacher in an inner city school. A few observations.

              There are numerous very dedicated teachers working their butts off with inadequate resources.

              There are some teachers that are slackers. The good teachers and some principals have tried to get rid of them, but union rules and administrations that can’t be bothered to fight to get rid of them mean they stick around for 30 years until age 55-62 and get a good pension when they eventually retire. Same issue we are seeing in police forces although teachers generally don’t have the us vs. them mindset.

              The same forces that provided the FHA support for white flight in the 50s-70s while preventing minorities from owning homes have meant that school districts are largely funded through their local dollars. so the wealthy suburban school districts have resources that the inner city schools can’t dream of. Yet the inner city schools have the most challenges to getting their students up to desired standards.

              The US has massive structural flaws that started with slavery that morphed into Jim Crow that morphed into simple physical segregation of poor minorities from wealthy white families in a time of large inequality compared to 50 years ago. This is playing out in a very destructive way in the school systems and is likely to be the biggest single drag on the US economy over the next half-century as a large swathe of US society will not be able to provide maximum economic and social value.

        2. Ian Ollmann

          Though trained as a scientist, these days I work as an engineer for a consumer products company. It has a fairly liberal tradition of debate culture, so engineers have a great deal of input into what happens, and enjoy some limited autonomy in this regard. However, a number of things about the design, particularly the margins are non-negotiable. In this regard one can expect serious blowback if you try to cut into that. I’m probably in this class somewhere.

          I am not interested in defending Obama from a partisan standpoint. As I mentioned before, I’d like to see practical good government, and he did not always achieve that. He did not achieve much after the Republicans recaptured the Senate and I think wasted his time on healthcare when he could get something done. There were better choices. Some examples of deviation from rule of law is not equivalent to the wholesale onslaught against it in the Trump administration. It starts with the grift, proceeds through the undermining of the watchdog portions of the government, cronyism on the grand scale and ends with undermining the democratic process itself. Though, it is true that Obama clearly should have prosecuted many people in the financial crisis, it is not anywhere near the same class. We can call it an example of cronyism, if you like, but he did not attempt to undermine the electoral process. Trump does not want democracy. He wants monarchy. Obama was never on this level.

          1. Yves Smith

            The Trump grift was nothing compared to the Iraq War grift:


            Obamacare benefitted Big Pharma and the health care industry, for decades the biggest lobbyist group in DC. For instance, in the early 1990s, 90 cents of every health insurance dollar went to medical care. Obamacare allows for only 80 cents to go to care. Big Pharma and health insurer stocks went up when the bill was passed.

            And I don’t see Trump cronyism being “on a grand scale”. It was gross and shameless and few bothered to try to hide.

            1. Ian Ollmann

              I feel that whataboutism does not service the discussion. It is all bad.
              Whataboutism only makes sense in a partisan discussion. I am not a partisan.

              Using the other sides misbehavior to license your own is an antisolution. It does not excuse the behavior.

              1. French75


                Your initial statement:

                What deeply bothered me about Trump and got me to donate to political campaigns, which I had never done before, was his assault on the rule of law. He is also quite evidently unable to lead in a constructive fashion. Rampant incompetence, etc.

                appears to imply that Trump is uniquely atrocious when it comes to undermining the rule of law, and/or uniquely incompetent when it comes to leadership. Yves’ point is that we don’t need to look that far back to see equal or greater levels in either case.

                The pivot to “whataboutism” appears to concede this point. Is this so?

                1. Jake Barnes

                  Iraq War grift: War always brings the grift. And Grifting-Tech had at that point been more advanced than ever had been possible before, what with the Wild West of Finance in full bloom in the 2000s

                  Big Pharma and Obamacare: I dont know the particulars maybe well enough, but I still think it is fair to say that Obamacare being passed was it’s own kind of ‘war’, and sure enough, payola had to go around to smooth things out.

                  Trump and his crew managed to be grifty and illegal while not ACCOMPLISHING (or breaking, in the case of Iraq) anything.

                  Surely that puts it in another category. And therefore invoking whataboutism after Yves’ examples was right and proper.

                  1. French75

                    Presumably it should be the magnitude of the illegality at issue, and not the Machiavellian “but what did we get in return?”

                    One of our Presidents ordered drone strikes to kill United States citizens — one of whom was 16 years old — without trial. I’m not sure how you can fall into a category “beyond” this, short of an actual Reichstag Fire Decree

            2. ObjectiveFunction

              In his 2000s book ‘Bobos in Paradise’ NYT Mouth of Sauron David Brooks spoke of the interesting phenomenon he observed among the BoBo (Bourgeois Bohemian) set of credentialed ‘predator’ professionals (bankers, lawyers, consultants, salespeople, corporate managers) marrying ‘nurturer’ professionals (doctors, academics, teachers, civil servants).

              While like most here, I have little use for Brooks, this particular observation rang true in the NYC-San Fran postgrad degree BMW and farmers market circles I mainly socialized in. And while the lower paid partner was likely to suspend or downgrade their career to raise the kids (usually but not always the woman), it didn’t mean that the aspirational mindset went away; both partners adopt the ethic of the breadwinner’s interest, in effect. (Not always, for sure, but pretty common)

              Similarly, ‘meritocracies’ invariably train up more technocrats than they have suitable jobs for, to drive competition, create BS jobs for academics and drive compliance with the monoculture (John Michael Greer writes about this a lot, as has Roussinos). So even as yet unsuccessful aspirants to the PMC brass rings have a strong incentive to bellyfeel and mouth the ‘ethic’ of the class, at least up to the point when they fall off the programmed course or are cast aside….

            3. Michael Fiorillo

              As Lambert has pointed out, 2016 is Year Zero for liberals, and nothing that happened before then can be used to explain Trump’s ascent; it’s all Putin and irredeemable white working people (white, non-college educated males critical to Uncle Joe’s election notwithstanding).

          2. lambert strether

            Anybody who thinks Obama never tried to undermine the electoral process wasn’t watching the 2008 Texas caucuses. I saw the affidavits, and two movies were made from them.

        3. greensachs


          Thanks, Yves and Clive for what intellectual revisionism doesn’t look like.
          “The agency for society is not working as it should.” -John Bogle
          The Ownership Society is being financialized into a intermediation society dominated by professional money managers and corporations that has not been accompanied by the development of ethical regulatory and legal environment. Behaviorally, quite the opposite.

      5. Alternate Delegate

        I think anarchists might take offense at being compared with Trump? They generally oppose both public and private means of controlling others, while libertarians oppose only the former, and Trump gleefully uses both to an extent hitherto considered unseemly by the rich.

        Seeing a positive role for government certainly places you outside the neoliberal belief that only private industry can accomplish anything. But I have to ask whether you’re prepared to follow the public logic as far as Medicare For All, which would be my starting point?

        The property question then becomes more strained, when one has more of a private position to lose, and proposals like Debt Cancellation and Universal Basic Income seem further and further out there. But how far out are these proposals really, when a country shredded and torn by inequality is finally starting to rip apart? How far would you go?

        1. Yves Smith

          Milton Friedman was a libertarian anarchist. To the extent that Trump’s policies matched on to Friedman’s, one could try to make that case. But Trump has an insane need to dominate. It’s measured in a DISC personality profile (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DISC_assessment), which was and may still be used at brokerage firms, among others. Merrill back in the day would only train broker candidates who scored as high D.

          Yours truly is high D and I therefore understand some of Trump’s bad impulses. High Ds need to win in a conflict situation, even if what it takes to win that encounter is destructive in a broader context.

        2. Ian Ollmann

          Yep. I’m quite progressive.
          I believe we should probably have MFA and a UBI program so that finding yourself out of work does not precipitate calamity. If we have that then a minimum wage increase or healthcare benefits probably aren’t necessary so Ray Kroc and Uber can rest easy. A lot of corporate money is sunk into this today, so I’d be looking to recover it to pay for government benefits with an increase in corporate taxes.
          I believe that we can solve a fair bit of poverty and climate problems with a strong green infrastructure program. GND is too much new deal and not enough green for my taste though. Flip it 90:10 the other direction.
          I think we should ban the sale of new ICEVs in 2030 or sooner, if practical.
          I think we need to take Boeing to task to get non carbon fuels powering the airline industry. Current management is an unlikely cast to see in that act, but they need money, so make them a deal they can’t refuse.
          We need a high voltage smart grid to enable facile energy trading between regional grids. This will diversify exposure to variation in renewable energy production due to local conditions. If it is snowy in new hampshire, it might be sunny in Arizona.
          Finally, I’d stop the foreign wars, close down what remains of Guantanamo (whether legal or not) and ship the poor bastards wherever someone will take them, or failing that just remove the fences and see who decides to escape. If they want to build their own village there then that is fine. We can provide seed corn and farmers tools, fishing nets and animals.

      6. Lambert Strether Post author

        > his assault on the rule of law.

        Just to be fair, let me expand on your list of Trump’s lawless actions:

        1) Retroactively legalizing warrantless surveillance

        2) Creating impunity for torturers

        3) Killing US citizens without due process

        4) Failing to prosecute bankers for enormous accounting control frauds

        5) Failing to prosecute mortgage servicers for enormous signature frauds

        Oh, wait….

        Seriously, the “rule of law” horse left the barn a l-o-o-o-n-g time ago, and now it’s in the next county. The trick, apparently, is to be articulate, keep your temper, and cultivate a reputation for cool irony. Then nobody notices, or nobody who is anybody.

        “The human eye is a wonderful device; with a little effort it can fail to see even the most glaring injustice” –Quellcrist Falconer (Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon)

        1. fresno dan

          Lambert Strether
          November 10, 2020 at 3:32 am

          Fortunately, our staunch defenders of constitutionalism, i.e., republics excoriated Obama at every opportunity for doing those things…(sarc of course – repubs thought Obama didn’t do those thing enough)

        2. dcblogger

          obviously it was a degraded political culture that made it possible for someone like Trump to come to power. That does not alter the fact that he greatly advanced the idea of’L’etat c’est moi, or as Trump would say, it is the law because I say so.

          1. MK

            Or, maybe it was saint Kamala who repeatedly and openly defied U.S. Supreme Court orders to reduce overcrowding in California prisons while serving as the state’s attorney general. Keeping prisoners on special work details was just one of her tricks.

      7. km

        “Speaking as a probable member of the PMC, none of this registered as realistic to me at all. I manage no one but have a Ph.D. and make more than most managers. Lambert is totally off the mark.”

        Why? And what makes you think any of the factions in American politics care the slightest for the “Rule of Law” except as a stick to beat their enemies with?

  9. CraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazyChris

    You left out an expansion of item 2 (embubbled?)

    Also, looking forward, part of the price will be how much damage is baked in due to Sloppy Joe baggage. The Republicans could go straight to Hunter-Gate, or they could let the laptop stuff languish. It remains to be seen….

    1. flora

      Caitlin Johnstone had a funny (it only hurts when I laugh) comment about then embubblement:

      The record turnout for Biden wasn’t for Biden. It wasn’t even really to stop Trump. Ultimately, though most voters were unconscious of their true motive, it was to stop the mass media from shrieking hysterical bullshit in their faces all the time and making them feel crazy.


      1. richard

        i’d give a LOT to get them to stop. i could see people voting biden. It can be both funny and true, right?

      2. fresno dan

        November 9, 2020 at 8:23 pm

        Its funny cause its true. Is it better to be put into a warm pot and slowly be cooked? Or is it better to die screaming? All the hysterical reporting just doesn’t get to what is really screwing us, so it is just wearing and annoying. US bankers endanger us about a million times more than the russkies. Facebook endangers us far more than those supposed russkie campaign ads. I for one would welcome a resurgent US communist party so there could be a real debate instead of the Potemkin duopoly that is nothing but an ersatz choice. And we could have a warm kumbaya moment when Hannity and Maddow come together to warn that the russkies are coming…

      3. sharonsj

        The mass media is why I gave up satellite TV. For certain subjects, I knew more than their pundits. But I was sick and tired of non-stop opinions from half a dozen panelists that passed for news. And I decided that if Chris Matthews asked one more question to which he interrupted the answer, I would put my foot through the screen.

  10. Josef K

    Is there a reason the misnomer “Democrat” instead of the correct “Democratic” is being used? It’s a safe bet Democrat as an adjective and/or part of the Party’s name originated with the GOP, I recall first hearing the term being used regularly by George W. Bush and company, and surmised it was to avoid associating Democrats with democracy. It appears to have become normalized among righties.

    To be sure the Democratic Party isn’t very democratic, probably never was very democratic and never will be. But have they changed their party’s name to reflect this? Is it being used disparagingly as righties use it? Or is an unconscious adoption of their corruption of the correct designation, Democratic Party?

    1. Arizona Slim

      Here in NC-land, we use it disparagingly. It’s our way of wishing that this party actually was democratic.

      1. Angie Neer

        But please keep in mind that “we” are not monolithic. I greatly admire Lambert and always appreciate Slim’s comments, but find this particular habit a bit juvenile.

        1. fresno dan

          Angie Neer
          November 9, 2020 at 9:00 pm

          If we say democrat party instead of democratic party, why don’t we say republic party instead of republican party???
          And if truth in naming is sooooo important, why don’t we call the parties the A$$holetic and A$$holecan?

        2. Jeff W

          But please keep in mind that “we” are not monolithic.

          I agree.

          And, whether or not we find this habit “juvenile,” its rationale—that the party is not “democratic” in some way and has to “earn” the word—is not supported by the actual genesis of the name.

          The word “Democratic” in the party name does not refer to some espousal of specific democratic processes (e.g., broadening the franchise, etc.) in the US. It arose in the early 1790s from the practice of members of the opposing Federalist Party mocking Jefferson’s party, the Republican party, as the “Democratic–Republican Party” in reference to the “democratic” radicals of the French Revolution.

          Jefferson’s party would adopt that name and, some time later, the party would break apart, with one faction adopting the “Republican” part and the other, later on, adopting the “Democratic” one.

          Obviously, people can call things by whatever names they want but I’d rather not ascribe a claim to a name that has no basis in fact as part of my rationale.

    2. Amfortas the hippie

      yeah. that started with gop operatives using “democRAT”, during Clinton’s folly, when he was busy implementing so much of their platform.

      i reckon Lambert uses it in the spirit of condemnation, but with a lot more substance than them.
      and anyway….it’s not like they’re very “democratic”.
      I regularly refer to them as Vichy Dems, Versailles Dems, or the Moderate Wing of the GOP.
      Perfidious and vile.
      but with a better Tone than their more rabid brethren.

    3. Jeremy Grimm

      Democrat versus Democratic is noun versus adjective. The usages of George W. Bush have and should have been discounted considering his other difficulties using the English language. I would never discuss a Democrat or Democratic party in my comments because I do not believe the capitalization is deserved in any sense. I have no regard for the democratic party or born-agin’ democrats or any democratic manuevers they might conspire to make.

      1. Josef K

        I appreciate the thoughtful replies. I’m aware of the general stance here vis a vis the Democrats, especially the upper echelons, DNC, etc. FWIW I mostly agree, but what is sadly the only major alternative has become as autocratic as ever–or more so. Not that two rights don’t make a right (-wing country).

        I spoke to an Aussie friend a couple of days ago and his very first words were “how could that many people vote for Trump?” My response was in fact most of them voted against Biden, who merely lucked out that more people voted against Trump.

        I still associate the term with the kind of 1990s-on sophomoric or adolescent style of a lot GOP rhetoric and politicking, so I have a visceral reaction.
        Then, ahem, nouning weirds language, so I’m urged to inquire if it looks like such a neologism is forming.

        1. Jeremy Grimm

          I’ll settle for the first paragraph of your initial comment above. Beyond that I am not terribly concerned about how the democratic party might prefer to be referred to.

    4. marym

      My own reason: Once years ago when I still watched cable Barney Frank and some Republican were on. Frank very pointedly said Republic instead of Republican after the other guy used Democrat instead of Democrat. It was the only time before or since that I ever heard a Dem politician bothering to defend the name of their own party. They just let the Republicans define the usage. So I decided I wouldn’t say Democratic Party either. I don’t respect them anyway, so why defend their name more than they do?

    5. ambrit

      I’m all in with the disparagement inherent in the use of the noun “Democrat” to describe the Party, versus the adjectival term “Democratic” to describe the Party. To this cynic, “Democratic” is incorrectly used when in any relation to the “Left” faction of the “Uniparty.” “Democrat” is also an accurate descriptor of the “soul” of that Party. ‘D’ in name only. No action in support of any actual benefits to the Demos.
      This exercise is also an example of the “critical thinking” encouraged by this website. Names have power. As in the summoning of spirit entities from the Lower Depths, nomenclature can be a literally Life or Death issue.

    6. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Is there a reason the misnomer “Democrat” instead of the correct “Democratic” is being used?

      First, as a PMCer, albeit a downwardly mobile one, and the child of not but two humanities professors, it’s my social function to determine what is “correct” in language usage, especially at NC. Yes, this is an argument from authority. That is because I actually possess authority.

      Second, anybody who has been following the Democrat Party closely knows that it is “Democratic that is the misnomer (see, e.g., at “smoke cigars and pick a candidate that way“).

      Now, sometimes (as in “the intelligence community” discussion above) it’s best to let the name a self-identified group chooses for itself stand. However, Democrat Party enforces demanding that I call their party “[D|d]emocratic” is so arrogant, so hypocritical, so at variance with their behavior, so Orwellian, that I can’t go along with it. (I believe Mao would call this “rectification of names.”) So, since the referent of the more accurate “Democrat Party” is clear, the only downside is that a few loyalists get bent out of shape. That is a price I am prepared to pay.

      1. stefan

        Not Mao. That would be Confucius (from Analects 13):

        Tsze-lu said, “The ruler of Wei has been waiting for you, in order with you to administer the government. What will you consider the first thing to be done?”

        The Master replied, “What is necessary is to rectify names.” “So! indeed!” said Tsze-lu. “You are wide of the mark! Why must there be such rectification?”

        The Master said, “How uncultivated you are, Yu! A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve.

        “If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.

        “When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot.

        “Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect.”

        1. juliania

          I can’t quote it exactly, but I remember there is a saying of Confucius that if you speak as though higher modes of action are on the verge of happening, you enable them to do exactly that. Something like having regard for the office of the presidency as that in itself ought to be respected – even when you are very aware that disrespect may be warranted by the actions of the person holding office. I guess the Chinese are more easily shamed into doing the right thing than we Americans are. Plenty of them weren’t (doing the right thing) in Confucius’s day.

    7. dcblogger

      Is there a reason the misnomer “Democrat” instead of the correct “Democratic” is being used?

      an insult adopted by Republicans back in the Carter administration which, for reasons best known to himself, lambert has adopted. It annoys me, but lambert has the best coverage of of the healthcare debate on the internet.

  11. ChrisPacific

    You’re missing a point 2 in your responses. I assume that was the Russiagate/psychology discussion and you just left off the heading.

  12. Withheld

    It’s actually called the Democratic Party. Karl Rove started the DemocRAT thing (with emphasis on the rat). If you use that, you’ve fallen prey to the dog whistle.

    1. dcrane

      I use it with the emphasis on the “not democratic”, rather than the schoolboy namecalling intent. The fake primary they ran this year being Example A.

    2. Alternate Delegate

      Lambert knows that full well, and uses the term purposefully. Why do you think that is?

  13. Edward

    I think after Trump was elected there were several constituencies that were pledging “resistance” such as the left and the right-wing Clinton democrats. The Clinton block was able to steer the resistance away from dangerous topics like the corruption of the political system and toward the safe topic of Russiagate. Otherwise there was the danger that the “resistance” could turn its attention not just to Trump but to a critique of America’s social ills, which would not be so good for many democrats, but probably good for the Sanders wing. Russiagate was probably foisted successfully on the resistance, because a natural behavior for politically inexperienced people is to accept uncritically the claims made by people you perceive as on your side. (I think this is what destroyed the Egyptian protest movement. From what I could tell, the people in that movement were all expected to agree with everyone else in the movement. There was a fear of disagreement. Saudi Arabia funded a billion dollar psy-op in Egypt using social media. My guess is they were able steer the protests to support the military and oppose to the Morsi government. The protestors fell in line with what they perceived as planks of the movement.)

    Russiagate was a godsend for Trump; it gave Trump legitimacy and discredited the “resistance”. The people who created Russiagate should have understood this would be the outcome, so I think they either 1) didn’t care or 2) wanted the resistance wrecked or Trump helped or both.

    Biden ran a curiously lackluster campaign, both in the primary and against Trump. There is even a video where Biden tells someone asking a question to vote for someone else. It makes me wonder if either Biden didn’t want to run and was pressured into it, or if he expected to win through vote-rigging and didn’t feel an effort was required. He seemed ambivalent about his candidacy.

  14. JBird4049

    Very good post. Thanks.

    It seems like the decreasing wealth, income, and health of the bottom 80% of Americans and increasing poverty, income, and deaths of the bottom 20% is unnoticed by the PMC. I keep reading about how racism, and maybe the socialism (which is never defined), is the reason for the Trump near victory and the Democratic losses; the Bad People are thinking Bad Thoughts. What with the Enemies List, I almost believe that they will want to put those people into the Cornfield.

    Aside from feeling like I am in a Twilight Zone episode, it also has the feeling of McCarthyism with a bit of 1984. Maybe a social lynch mob. Gives me a wonderful bit of frisson.

    Yet, I can drive 10, 20, 30 minutes and find a homeless camp. Well, it would be easier during daylight. I stumble over, or see, or read about the growing population of the homeless. Same with the vans and cars being lived in. Don’t have to try really to find these forlorn people.

    And then there is increasing difficulty getting work that pays enough for housing including just a fricking room. The pandemic just increased the speed of national decay. It is all there for the seeing and has been before 9/11. The Golden State is a cruel, even sadistic, joke nowadays. How can people not see all this? The rotting roads, highways, bridges? The Banana Republic nature of the United States? It is all right there.

    What really scares me is that some people will agree with me, and that the Democrats aren’t doing much. (And the long decline) Yet, the Orange Man is because of those racists, those nasty deplorables not voting for the Right People. The Right People who are responsible for this Banana Republic. Cult thinking right in front of my nose. Lovely.

    1. Ford Prefect

      Much of US domestic policy in the 20th century was setting up social safety nets designed to exclude black people. Social Security and Earned Income Tax Credit are two key exceptions I can think of, which is probably why there is so much whining about undeserving people in those programs.

      As the neo-liberal globalization polcies started to gut white middle-class jobs, those people began to fall into categories that previously had largely been reserved for black people. “Independent contractors” have very few protections in the US which was deliberate as that does a good job of describing a lot of sharecroppers and menial labor 70-80 years ago which were job categories that many black men fell into. Health insurance was tied to employers because employers wanted the control over worker benefits instead of ceding it to government or unions. Those good jobs were largely reserved for whites as the economy grew in the 50s and 60s.

      So we now have a declining white middle class that are slowly discovering that they have been devolving into being treated like black people economically. And they don’t like it. Some of the politicians have been pointing their fingers at minorities and saying they are the cause of their troubles instead of identifying rampantly rising inequality as the place their money is going.

      However, there are bright sparks on the horizon like Florida voting to increase the minimum wage to $15 over the next 6 years. It will be interesting to see how the Florida legislature and governor go about defanging that initiative the way they did the felon voting ballot inititative.

  15. polecat

    Lambert, we ALL tumble down the bloody gorge. That’s the only way to redemption, valhala, another karmic state .. however you wish to depict THE END! .. and by extension, new ‘beginings’. Cuz I don’t see a turnaround from what the culmination of these last 20 years of hyperferengiism has brought us to ..
    The former regulatory backstops to reign in this shit no longer exists. So over the precipice we go.

    Wear your paradigm helmet. You’ll gonna need it!

  16. Alternate Delegate

    Okay, the PMC has fully realized that the Democratic Party is their real gang, and they have effectively expelled everyone they want out. Specifically, they have neutralized any and all representatives of the economic interests of the 90% (and I have no idea what Bernie thinks he is doing now).

    Gangs are for gang violence, and that is what the D Party is for: simple violence against the 90%. That much has been made crystal clear.

    So that’s the action. What about the reaction? I fear we are seeing the formation of new gangs among the 90% as well. The D’s idpol distraction has been all too effective, and these gangs seem to be forming around identities that are irrelevant to people’s economic interests. Many of those who don’t fit the new categories simply find a home across the Republican line in another tribal identity gang.

    It’s not news that the 90% helps to divide itself. But what of the alternative?

    As for myself, if I insist on the sovereignity of my own speech, and refuse to acceed to thought-policing demands to, for example, capitalize “black”, or use a flattering “they” pronoun on demand – I can face real-world punishment by those who, on economic grounds, ought to be my friends.

    The point is that the formation of these defensive gangs blocks essential communication. That communication is the key to getting the Overton window shoved back over towards the economic interests of the 90%.

    If the pen is to defeat the sword, then more people will have to learn to be leery of their own gang memberships and thought-police instincts.

    1. ambrit

      One of the real problems with the ‘allure’ of ‘gang’ membership, with attendant violent impulses, is that it is much cheaper, simpler, and quicker to just kill off one’s ‘opponents of the week.’ To ‘gang’ sensibilities, the prevalent ‘rhetorical’ device is, and always been, “Occam’s KA-BAR.”
      We have begun the American descent into domestic barbarism.

      1. JBird4049

        One doesn’t have to physical action for a lethal result. Just use emails, phone calls, even enough snail mail and goodbye to the Unwoken’s job and income, health insurance, and friends. It was what made McCarthyism so effective. Get fired and blacklisted from getting new work. With the horrible economy and the already precarious existence of maybe most Americans, I can see people really trying to virtue signal by throwing someone to the wolves.

        If this really gets going, we could have the FBI or some other alphabet agency personally visit your family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors “just” to ask some questions. If you deny loudly enough the obvious truthyness about Russia or the racist or those violent agitators, maybe you might be a Communist Russian sympathizer.

        1. ambrit

          True enough, but, my reading in America’s history, the “nuts and bolts” kind of history, not the “officially approved” kind of history, is that, eventually, the depredations of the predacious classes become onerous enough to spontaneously engender backlash. Backlash can also be called ‘blowback.’
          Your comment made me recall one of my favourite expositions of systemic dysfunction, Richard Feynman’s Appendix F to the Challenger Shuttle Disaster. In the very last sentence, Feynman nails the problem we all face today; “…reality must take precedence over public relations…”
          See: https://science.ksc.nasa.gov/shuttle/missions/51-l/docs/rogers-commission/Appendix-F.txt
          Someone upstream in the thread mentioned that Trump was, for all intents and purposes, an anarchist. Given the literally lethal level of dysfunction we face as a society, one could be forgiven for observing that ‘anarchism’ looks like a rational response to the extant political system.

          1. JBird4049

            I rather believe that “The Arc of the Moral Universe is Long but it Bends Toward Justice.” However, those blowbacks are often long journeys that are often hellish. Just look at the long struggle on racism and slavery.

            So, while I think that the PMC and especially the “Democratic” Party will face justice of one kind or another, but I really don’t look towards the trip.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Gangs are for gang violence

      I have been working on a metaphor of the Democrat Party as gang for some time, but I can’t quite get it. The territory they control — like a street corner — is the ballot: Who gets listed on it, how it is counted, how it is legitimated. However, I think the party as a social structure/institution is more complicated and resilient than a gang, and so I’ve never deployed it.

      (Notice that both early voting and vote-by-mail are balloting practices said to benefit Democrats. I well remember spotted the first references to early voting in the press, cheering it on. Of course, if election day were a paid national holiday, and ballots were hand-marked, and hand-counted in public we woudn’t need all these other complex arrangements, including the private equity-owned monopoly voting machines. One can only wonder why the party that insists on being addressed as “Democratic” does not support such measures.)

      1. lyman alpha blob

        Maybe you should check out The Warriors for some ideas! Lots of gangs to use as metaphors there.

        The Democrat party are definitely not the Gramercy Riffs, who try to unite people and have their leader murdered – they’re more of a Sanders campaign gang.

        And they are not the titular gang, who actually manage to defeat the bad guys. We could use a real life Warriors analog.

        Not a perfect comparison, but if I had to make a quick pick of one Warriors gang to compare the Democrat part to, I’d go with the Lizzies – heavy on the idpol with a propensity for bringing a knife to a gunfight ;)

    3. stefan

      Bernie Sanders Agenda (from https://www.sanders.senate.gov/agenda/):

      Rebuilding Our Crumbling Infrastructure
      Reversing Climate Change
      Creating Worker Co-ops
      Growing the Trade Union Movement
      Raising the Minimum Wage
      Pay Equity for Women Workers
      Trade Policies that Benefit American Workers
      Making College Affordable for All
      Taking on Wall Street
      Health Care as a Right for All
      Protecting the Most Vulnerable Americans
      Real Tax Reform

  17. David in Santa Cruz

    I tend to agree with Nina Turner’s op-ed in yesterday’s Washington Post. Working people gained class consciousness — as a new class of former working people. The Army of the Un- and Under-Employed. COVID and the death of George Floyd combined with their economic precarity to mobilize them in a way that could only be authentic.

    Media manipulation aside, let’s be clear: Trump spending 20 hours a day on Twitter didn’t exactly do himself any favors. It became evident to anybody who read a fraction of his deranged tweets that he was a pathological liar and a total a** h*le, without being filtered through media advocacy or Adam Schiff.

    Hitler and National Socialism aren’t the only variation of fascism. Corporatism and nostalgia engaged in opposition to democratic labor movements are the core principles of fascism — violence is simply an overlay. I think we’ve operated under a kind of “soft fascism” since Reagan. Trump is a fascist, just like Obama was.

    The Under-Employed Precariat threw-out Trump when he failed to deliver, just like they will shun Harris if Biden fails to deliver material benefits to them.

    1. truly

      I agree with your take on “soft fascism”.
      I agree with much of Lamber’s thinking here, but disagree with whether Trump is fascist or not. I don’t think he is any more fascist than Obama or W Bush or Clinton or GWB. But in my view he, and they, are all fascists.
      As an aside, I think it would be nice if the NC community worked on how fascism is defined. Would make a great post IMHO. I prefer Mussolini’s take that fascism is “the merger of corporate and state”. By that definition we have been a fascist nation for some time now.

      1. Calypso Facto

        I’ve actually referred to Obama’s second term as ‘Beige Fascism’ or ‘Marvel Fascism’ for a few years now (the second term tends to click faster with normies). The interesting thing is that there isn’t a lot of state funding of new corporate enterprises, only protecting and entrenching existing. This makes me think it is less Mussolini-style Fascism and more akin to state-backed looting (or job guarantees for the bootlicking/ruling class, however you prefer). From this perspective, Trump was an amateur compared to Obama who was an amateur compared to the Bushes and Clintons.

      2. Amfortas the hippie

        a very dense book on the subject, by an insider, wrotten in 1980.

        remember that the CIA, etc made certain to save and import numerous Actual Fascists after WW2….and not just Rocket Scientists.
        By now, it’s in the DNA of the PTB.
        Notice also, that the Aristocracy can easily tolerate Right Wing agitators…even armed with long guns in a state house.
        But people camped in a park with a direct and all but unchallengeable indictment of neoliberal “capitalism”….well…pull out all the stops to stamp that out….

      3. Edward

        I think the U.S. government(as opposed to the public) has been fascist for a long time in the sense that it organizes coups abroad to install fascist-style military dictatorships. The beginning of the end for the U.S. may have been the Kennedy assassination, which was probably organized by Dulles and other CIA types. After the Bay of Pigs fiasco, Kennedy had sworn to smash the CIA, but he died before anything was done… The U.S. public is fed misinformation about U.S. foreign policy because IMHO the public does not share the ruthless, criminal values of the Washington leadership, and the truth must be hidden to avoid a schism. Elites tend to be amoral, criminal, and ruthless.

        The fascism in Germany was probably different because a part of the German public supported the fascist agenda. Is this becoming true in America today?

        My basic feeling is that fascism is just colonialism that went after rich Europeans, rather then hapless third world peasants.

      4. km

        Without arguing about what is “fascism” (the word in practice usually means “anyone whose policies I really don’t approve of”), Trump is such a pathetic authoritarian that he couldn’t get a Team R dominated Congress to repeal Obamacare.

        I can believe that Trump might muse about being an authoritarian, but then he’d start thinking about lunch or have to sign some document put in front of him or Fox and Friends would come on and then he’d forget about it for a while.

    2. vlade

      “Trump is a fascist, just like Obama was.”

      I think this is the key point that many people miss. When I put comments here that take on Trump, I’m often put into Biden’s bin. I do think that Dems are marginally better than Reps, but it’s – to repeat what I said before – a difference between being shot and having terminal stage cancer. In one case you’re dead, in other case you’re 99.9999% dead.

      Pox on both their houses.

      1. apleb

        And still neither is a fascist in any way shape or form. At most an oligarch, oligarch lackey or elite PMC.

        Even with all the USA! USA! Rah RAH RAH!, there is no actual fascism I can see. A fascist does not, under no circumstances, betray his nation for anything. If you try to bribe a fascist to act against his nation he will shoot you on the spot if possible. Maybe you can make him betray his Führer, if there is one, and he feels betrayed by him in the first place, but never patria.

        Obama, Trump, Biden: they are all poor (relatively) and greedy. They all live off breadcrumbs of bigger predators. They are like pilot fish around sharks: they service the sharks and live off them. And so do their respective parties.

        1. JBird4049

          The leaders in many movements often don’t believe what they preach. An ordinary fascist can be patriotic as anyone while his leader just does not care.

          1. apleb

            Then the leader is per definitionem not a fascist. And even if this is the case here, I still don’t see any fascism except for fringe cases. Imperialism does not fascism make, neither does a bit of idolization. It’s a necessary condition but not sufficient.

            Have there been many children named Donald yet?

  18. farmboy

    Will this incoming administration find issues necessary of attention? Can they, inclusive, find meaningful solutions? Or will they be off in the weeds on blind alley conspiracies? We haven’t been the same since 9-11, almost 20 years ago. That was when America discovered conspiracy as likely, determinate. UFO’s curious, but not that important. USSR and FSU, well they faded into a wicked witch pool. Middle East- just oil. But the horrifying image in the mirror of a monster with two heads, the nature of dualism receding into eclipse with little urge to unite or unbundle to discover urges, motivations, or desire. Capitalism leashed to gaming, celebrating winners over participants, finality over narrative. Another step in externalizing daily life, capitalism in daily living Do you buy or sell that idea, explanation, emotion? Personal truth under attack thanks to the shrinks, anointed priests. We are at the final assault on personal liberty, losing the right to define ourselves. Media disorients and then applies the healing salve, what ethos and tragedy. It all seems evolutionarily inevitable and essential.

  19. Jeremy Grimm

    I am not convinced “American politics changed substantively in the four years since 2016”. I very much doubt the PMC has attained class consciousness. Other than claim #1 I agree with your assertions … but I am not convinced your five assertions in sum convincingly argue for the idea that American politics changed substantively in the four years since 2016. Do you — Lambert — truly believe a what ___Gate is in the offing from the Biden win? I cannot say it isn’t but I don’t see the need for it. Our intelligence community can cook up a what ___Gate without basis at the drop of a hat. I don’t see why they would want to … unless they can’t come up with anything better to use for entertainment or popular diversion. Hasn’t the intelligence community well ensconced members of the entertainment community within their midst? Though I could see how the intelligence community might misuse their resources I don’t see how their entertainment resources might fail the intelligence community — as so many of them have already so well served the causes of the intelligence community.

    The tail of this post: “… how does ‘our democracy’ continue to function? I find this a very painful prospect to contemplate” is also very painful for me. However, I try to project some future from the projections and realities I read at NakedCapitalism. I do not see how this particular post helps me in projecting what might come. [Not a conclusion I like to reach for many many reasons. PLEASE make me wrong!]

  20. Roquentin

    These are all pretty spot on and are an accurate description of the coalition which came together to elect Joe Biden. However, I think you’re leaving out a pretty big sixth factor: Silicon Valley and the billionaires running it were basically all in for the Democrats. Silicon Valley decided, for whatever reason, that Biden was preferable to Trump, and they got what they wanted. I guess that sort of fits into “the media did advocacy instead of reporting,” but it’s a little different. FB full on censored stories that hurt the Biden campaign, Twitter put warning on Trump’s tweets, etc.

    Also, fascism for sure became an empty signifier, but that doesn’t go far enough. Trump *had to* be fascist for the hysterical liberal narratives to cohere. Much like Russiagate, the pieces never had to fit, it was about serving the psychological needs of the American liberals and left first and foremost. Plenty got to LARP as resistance warriors (or maybe even Antifa if you like your politics spicier). Admitting that Trump was just a moderately louder, dumber, and more obnoxious version of a standard issue GOP politician was utterly intolerable to them.

    I think it went even deeper than that. If Trump could defeat them (the experts, the PMC, etc), it was more comforting to believe that he was some kind of an ultimate evil rather than a mediocre shithead who won an election even he expected to lose. It’s more acceptable to believe he was all these terrible things than facing up to the fact that they all just sucked that much and blew it.

  21. Calypso Facto

    I feel like multiple vectors summed to create the outcome we have today, but I’m not sure about the class consciousness framing. My theory is that on a personal level most of the PMC are not at all class-aware; what they are (and indeed what most Americans are) is simply trying to get by, but what dictates their minimum quality of lifestyle is what we detached intellectual types might call class signifiers, like a nice enough house or a certain type of wardrobe or whatever else. Nobody told them they had to have those things but somehow as a group they all ‘knew’ which cities, which jobs, which wardrobes they had to get to maintain their precarious standing. Even stating it like this will invoke reactions though – “Not ALL PMC!” – just like when people post online woe is me crap about how their 200k a year salary isn’t enough.

    Perhaps it could be said that the PMC as an individual is defined by the precarity that cannot be directly named – stating openly that the credentialism doesn’t determine merit or guarantee specific financial outcomes – because doing so would destroy the illusion that the hyperinflated assets they engaged in cutthroat viciousness just to attain, were actually worthless, that none of it had value after all. I believe this is the root of the unmooring from reality, everything else is predicated on this lie that must be maintained if the PMC as a group is to maintain their position as individuals.

    Millions were disabused of this notion after the crash. How many more millions are being disillusioned now? I think if there are enough different perspectives on reality that can only work when there is lots of largesse for everyone to enjoy.

  22. Roberoo

    The best definition of fascism I have see is Robert Paxton’s: Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.

    Given Trump’s obsessions with “decline, humiliation, or victimhood” and “..by compensatory cults of unity, energy (MAGA) , and purity,”… I would say Trump was checking all the boxes in the first two thirds of the definition. He may be working on the latter third at the moment but given he is so incompetent and rejected by half American voters it is unlikely to be successful. In the early 20s Mussolini was an aspirational fascist as maybe Trump is now but the latter is running out of steam. It took Mussolini good 10 to 12 years to knock Fascism into its final shape. Took about another 10 years to unravel completely. Trump does not have that time.

    1. Brunches with Cats

      The first mention I saw of Trump as a fascist was in the fall of 2015, by members of his own party as they realized to their horror that he might win the GOP nomination. The one I remember most, though, was a May 2016 WaPo column by uber-neoliberal Robert Kagan (who I’d bet was either a participant or observer in the Transition Integrity Project’s election war-gaming exercise). Kagan caught some flak for that piece. In response, he cited Paxton.

      Kagan dismissed any suggestion that economic conditions were at the root of Trumpism. Writing for TNR several months later, Jeet Heer cited Kagan and took his argument even further, calling Trump’s base a scary “fascistic mass movement” that would live on even if he lost to Hillary — much as some pundits are cautioning that “Trumpism” will keep going after he leaves the White House. (The TNR article has links to Kagan and a New Yorker article penned around the same time.) https://newrepublic.com/article/137339/donald-trump-fascist

      In an essay for Foreign Policy a little over a year ago, historian Eliah Bures urged extreme caution in using the F-word, which he noted had been used by opponents against Reagan, Clinton, Bush-43 and Obama:

      If the reductio ad fascism is inadvisable on pragmatic and even moral grounds, it is also a symptom of cloudy thinking. Comparisons to fascism suffer from two near-fatal problems. First, they almost always have at least some validity. And second, they are almost always accompanied by enormous blind spots, often glancing past what was most salient about historical fascism—namely, its violent methods and revolutionary aims.

      There are hazards, George Orwell warned, in allowing language to sink into slovenliness and gobbledygook—a hazard evident anytime we permit jargon or buzzwords to think for us. Already in 1946, Orwell could opine that fascism “has now no meaning except insofar as it signifies ‘something not desirable.’”


      Ironically, more than 20 years ago, when Pat Buchanan was running for president, he was called a racist and a neo-Nazi by one of his opponents — Donald Trump.

    2. JBird4049

      I am probably squinting really hard here, but with the exception of being nationalist, I think the Woken meet that definition. Since nationalism refers to groups of people, like the American White Nationalists, or the Ku Klux Klan, or the Nazis, or whatever, and not nation the state or government. It is a form of racism or racialized politics.

      Now with the acknowledgement that this is whole subject is mined with nitroglycerin, this rhymes with the various “scientific” (rolling eyes here) debates of the late 19th and early 20th on the variously described races and ethnicities and their supposed superiority or inferiority of the same. It really does especially when the white guilt or sin of slavery as being somehow inherited or transmitted down the generations even when it is Americans who came to Ellis Island. It is like the supposed blood guilt of the Jews for Killing Jesus two thousand years ago. It also rhymes with American debates on eugenics and Social Darwinism a century ago. It feels like some people are losing their minds.

      1. IceyX

        I don’t exactly disagree with you but I think its more of a square peg in a round hole situation. To me the “Woken” fall more under the (Great Proletarian) Cultural Revolution brand of crazy. They are primarily obsessed with ‘spiritual perfection’, purity and the policing of thought. Also, note the dominant role of the (highly privileged) children of elites (and those that aspire to be) wearing (metaphorical) hair-shirts. They are also missing narrative of ‘The Fall’ (to them the oppression is eternal) and the raw call to power of fascism.

        Still scary… just different scary.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The best definition of fascism I have see is Robert Paxton’s

      See Robert O. Paxton’s “The Five Stages of Fascism” at NC, way back in 2019. The “committed nationalist militants” is missing. The Proud Boys ain’t it.

      See also Liberalism & Fascism: The Good Cop & Bad Cop of Capitalism at Black Agenda Report. This a model that’s both sophisticated and more in tune with the American experience (which IMNHSO includes actual, not metaphorical, fascism in the post-Reconstruction South). Exactly as the Civil War pointed the way to World War I via trench warfare, the role of railroads and the telegraph, total war, and the absence of a decisive victory in battle, so to the post-Reconstruction South pointe the way to 30s facism (see Gary Brecher for an entertaining perspective).

      1. CuriosityConcern

        How about Matt Shea up there in WA?

        advocated the replacement of US democracy with a theocracy and the killing of all males who do not agree

        The Republican minority in the state legislature did suspend him from the caucus.

        Shea also engaged in militia training for “armed conflicts against federal, state and local governments”. He supported “the training of youth and young adults to fight a holy war”, as previously reported in the Guardian.

        And this:

        via encrypted email to Cows members. They included the Idaho state representative Heather Scott, the Nevada assemblywoman Michele Fiore,

        I know this isnt evidence of a vast conspiracy, but it’s surely enough to be of some concern?

    4. Clem

      “community decline, humiliation, or victimhood,,,”
      Talk to people who used to live in strong urban communities, that had parishes, safe streets and parks, generations living together, multiple main streets, then the housing projects were built under the pretense of housing poor local people, freeways divided the cities, bussing started, neighborhoods became ghettos and those residents left for the suburbs to form new but divided communities. Lots of people look back in anger and will vote for whomever acknowledges their geographical and cultural dispossession. They will pass those ideas to their children etc.

      Now the second and third wave of people are fleeing the cities for some of the same reasons. Each generation has no idea of what they have lost in terms of the economy, the environment or any semblance of national unity.

      Polticians who try to create the same beholdant voter base in the suburbs that they had in the urban areas, based on minority identity politics, will be rejected when it comes to the real issues, not nonsense like free abortions for the transgender undocumented.

      Josh Hawley 2024

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        The local poor people didn’t need housing until the housing they already had in the neighborhoods they already lived in was mass-destroyed for Highways and Other Urban Renewal excuses to destroy Black Neighborhoods.

        The housing projects were designed to re-house the poor people whose existing housing was very carefully and with malice aforethought destroyed FIRST. By the Corporate Fascist Pig Liberals and their Highway and Urban Renewal projects.

    5. Ford Prefect

      I generally include the integration of the police, military, and corporations as the key elites to help maintain undemocratic processes in fascism.

      So far, I must commend the US military for staying out of the domestic politics. The St. John’s Church debacle was probably an essential wake-up call to Esper and Milley on how Trump could drag them into the political sewer. Ultimately, Trump has been unable to woo that key support if he wanted to be a true and effective authoritarian.

  23. The Rev Kev

    Good post this. Been trying to think through the ramifications and possibilities as a result of this past election. One possibility is that the Republicans may brand themselves the party of the working class. Stranger things have happened and it is not like the votes are not there laying around, ready to be picked up. Another is that hundreds of millions of people in America will find that they will no longer have a voice. Not in the main stream media (true for a long time) but that they will even be monitored and perhaps banned from social media. The only places that you can hear their voices will be in AM radio throughout the land which was talked about a day or so ago. But there is another thing that concerns me after reading this post so you will excuse me if I go off into left field.

    Every entity has to be able to correctly interpret and respond to their environment. It does not matter if you are talking about a person, a community, an organization, a country or even an empire. They have to be able to see what is going on around them and decide on a course of action in response to that. Or even no course of action. One history book I used as a kid was even called “Challenge and Response.” So here is the thing. In what state has America been pushed now so that it can keep doing so? The PMC let themselves become delusional about Trump and has put them in a position of hating their own countrymen. I say hatred becaue they are now desiring to punish all those who voted not only for Trump but the Republican party in general. They are setting up the conditions for a low-key Social war.

    If having a self-described elite adopting such attitudes was not bad enough, the main stream media has signed up for this as well – including Fox – as they are part of this credentialed class. Constitutional norms are to be pushed aside if it gets in the way of what they want when they want it. They are literally becoming what they said that they were fighting against – fascists. They will brook no opposition. My long-winded point is this. The elite of America have now reached a point where they may no longer be able to respond to the real challenges that America faces. Every problem will be passed through their warped viewpoint which could lead to disastrous responses to challenges. To them, it will always be about America no matter where they are talking about and they will be easily manipulated. If you want one example, this version of America might gleefully sign up for the TPP knowing that not only will it be profitable for them, but that it will punish working-class America. Ignored will be the damage that it does to America itself being a NAFTA 2.0 MAX. In short, the elite are no longer fit for purpose.

    1. Ian Ollmann

      They can’t become the party of the working class because the money doesn’t come from those turnips. They would become the party of lip service to the working class, just as they are the party of lip service to the religious right, cultural conservatives and anti abortionists. (More turnips.) What they actually DO is enrich billionaires. What is Trump’s major accomplishment (apart from not starting a war) the tax cut, wherein he cut corporate taxes deeply. The money did not go into investment as claimed it would. 99%+ went for stock buybacks and dividends. It went to the wealthy, domestic and abroad. No effort was spent on anything else productive by Trump. He is a lazy man.

      There is also a cultural problem. I really don’t think that the more traditional Republicans can hold their nose tight enough to do anything for the working class.

      > I say hatred becaue they are now desiring to punish all those who voted not only for Trump but the Republican party in general

      It’s true, that. I think at this point I would object if my daughter wanted to marry a Trumpist and I certainly would not go into business with one. The wisdom is low with that set. Damn fools, really. Going to cause a lot of disaster before they come to their senses. I’m delighted to help the working poor — it should be our top priority along with climate — but damn the Trumpier ones have been making it hard! They fact of the matter is that they have so empowered obstruction that it very difficult to see how progressives can help them any time soon, and so the rage continues.

      1. Brunches with Cats

        Ian, I live in blood-red Trump country and can tell you that the typical Trumper portrayed by the media is a cartoon character. Sure, there are some like that. Most are not. They are hard-working people, struggling to survive in a region so abandoned that I don’t think it can be called “flyover.” There is some detectable racism and sexism among the older generations, although it’s not overt. The younger generations are more integrated.

        The “non-college-educated men” referred to in the polls — here they work in the trades, often having done apprenticeships in the family. It’s hard, given how depressed the area is, but they earn more in a few years than I made in two decades with a college degree. In several families I know, the husband works in some kind of building/construction trade. The wives work either as school teachers or in healthcare — jobs requiring a minimum of four years of college — and this is how they get their health insurance.

        There’s a young couple down the street with two little girls. They’re into girly things — Barbie pink, unicorns, painting their toenails — but also are into dad teaching them basic carpentry, fishing, growing vegetables, winter sports, and I forget what else. I’m always struck by how well-balanced they seem, like they’ve got their priorities in life straight. He’s a Trump supporter, but laid-back and one of the few with whom it’s possible to have a civil debate. If I had a daughter, that’s exactly the guy I’d want her to marry.

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          i second your assessment of the non-cartoon “conservative”(small-C).
          a small handfull of True Believer maganuts…but most R’s didn’t vote for him the first time, and held their nose this time(largely due to the propaganda regarding Biden=Commie, etc, facilitated by hyperconfusion and total disruption of pandemic)
          “conservatives” are just people….not monsters…although their cohort does contain some monsters, or wannabe monsters. No more so than the vichydems, though.

          and of course all of this is enabled and caused by putting people’s backs to the wall for 40 years, with silly explanations as to why that is, that rarely hold up to scrutiny.
          that JFK quote about making violent revolution inevitable has been bubbling up in my mind for a long while.
          I reckon the Bosses(both sides) would like for Us’n’s to kill each other off…the non-viral part of Culling the Herd.
          I ain’t gonna play that game(defensive violence only, out here)

        2. Ford Prefect

          Yep. Met a lot like this.

          I think a big challenge for the US is that the big cities are getting so big, they are now totally disconnected from the rest of the country. In turn, the rest of the country is totally disconnected form the big cities. The states that are becoming Blue are because the big cities are getting much bigger, so anything that is remotely like a rural county tends to vote Republican while the cities vote Democratic.

          The disconnects are so big because there are so few interactions. The people in the cities don’t know where their food comes from while the rural people struggle to understand why someobody would live in a city.The cost of living is radically different as well, so there are disconnects on how somebody could struggle to live in a city while making $60k/year which is median in the country and common in the rural areas.

          The Electoral College and Senate don’t reflect the majority of the people because the majority of the people are much more concentrated in big cities in just a few states compared to a few decades ago.In this sense, it is a bit of a return to the pre-Civil War era when the Southern states had increased clout due to the Senate, Electoral College, and having slaves counted in the census but could not vote. Now the rural states are in that position with the Senate and Electoral College, but without slaves to be counted.

      2. JBird4049

        The only group of voters who votes declined from 2016 for Trump were non college educated White men. Yet, they seem to be getting most of the hate from the PMC. Why would a poor or working class person work with people who apparently think that they are diseased, stupid, or budding Nazis? I wouldn’t.

    2. Ian Ollmann

      > The elite of America have now reached a point where they may no longer be able to respond to the real challenges that America faces.

      I feel like you are making a statement here about the emotional state of the elite. I don’t buy that. These are people who are long trained to look for optimal outcomes despite the pressures of the day. I do however believe it true on an operational level. Between a conservative Supreme Court super majority making it hard to advance with progressive legislation, and the probability of a obstructionist senate it may be almost impossible to achieve anything in the progressive agenda, even if the useless Democrat centrists could be convinced.

      The problem is that at least from my point of view we are nearing a couple of existential crises on climate and the economic disenfranchisement of the working class. If they get much poorer, capitalism will stop servicing the needs of the lower classes entirely and it will become a society of capitalism for some and a good swift kicks for the rest. We’ve had 40 years of dysfunction in these areas and it is not going to end well.

      When problems become existential crises, norms fall away.

      1. The Rev Kev

        ‘I feel like you are making a statement here about the emotional state of the elite.’

        That was part of it but you were correct to say that it is true on an operational level. And if Biden’s term ends in gridlock lie you suggested you will basically have a Seinfeld Presidency. Except that climate change will be getting worse of course.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > the Republicans may brand themselves the party of the working class

      It will be a neat trick doing that without actually empowering them. Of course, the Democrat Party managed it, so….

      > The PMC let themselves become delusional about Trump and has put them in a position of hating their own countrymen. I say hatred becaue they are now desiring to punish all those who voted not only for Trump but the Republican party in general. They are setting up the conditions for a low-key Social war.

      I didn’t get to liberal Democrat inability to self-reflect, although I suppose that’s implicit in what Gabor Maté says. Surely some form of self-reflection is essential for an elite that performs any social function other than looting? The only example of total elite disconnect I can think of is when the UK invaded Suez. They imagined they were still an imperial power, a habit of centuries*, but Eisenhower set them straight.

      Anyhow, pretty much. Social war would be profitable for a lot of people, too; go long security companies and prisons. One can only wonder if Amazon shipping is making any preparations for disruption….

      NOTE * Making their empire far more successful than our own

  24. Lambert Strether Post author

    If you are returning to this post, I accidentally left out the introductory paragraph to the second point. (I don’t recall ever having done something like that; this post was very painful to write). Please reread it, since it’s my summary of the Russiagate domestic psyop, plus it includes an elegant Bob and Ray reference!

    1. ambrit

      There used to be an American Democrat Party Senator who was Very Up on Bob and Ray. He ended up being one of the first prominent victims of the Woke culture. His ‘example’ showed me how ‘deep’ the institutional rot was in the PMC classes. He could do all the obligatory grovelings and expiations, and still be thrown out into the cold.
      So, let us look at the “silver lining” of this Woke movement. Because there are so many ‘types’ of Woke, the Woke, as a class, have a tendency to destroy themselves from within. The unfortunate side effect of that process is that it tends to select for sociopaths.
      “Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!”

    2. Brunches with Cats

      Thank you for that, Lambert. I’ve been patiently waiting for the addition, since that’s one of aspects I’ve been following the closet — that, and the landslide erosion of First Amendment rights.

      I don’t doubt that this was a painful venture for you. I foresaw at least ten years ago where we were headed, and I predicted that it would be the Democrats who ultimately led us over the cliff. And still, despite knowing it was coming, now that we’re standing here on the edge, staring down into the abyss, it’s hard to fathom how this happened in half a lifetime. I’ve barely slept for three weeks (was up 48 hours straight after discovering the TIP white paper). I don’t know, maybe you meant something completely different by “painful.” For me, it’s a state of shock — meaning I probably haven’t felt the full impact yet.

      We need to do something, but what? When Trump won in 2016 and caught the “unholy alliance” off-guard, they didn’t waste any time mobilizing all their money and “human resources” to take him down. Granted, they had the structure in place. We’re not even close. The one thing I do know is that we can’t wait for another Bernie, or keep our fingers crossed that AOC will fill his shoes, or that the Squad will continue to expand until it reaches a critical mass. I half suspect that the donors already have gotten to her, so she’s no longer a danger.

      A few hours ago, I watched the latest (I think) edition of Useful Idiots. They had Greenwald on. Terrific but sobering discussion directly addressing many of the points you make here.

      FYI, have you seen any of the declassified Mueller Report? Matt mentioned it before the interview with Greenwald started.

  25. George Phillies

    “Nancy Pelosi wouldn’t have…. rolled over on the Amy Coney Barrett nomination”

    Approving judges is purely an act of the Senate. Pelosi had no say in the matter.

      1. a different chris

        No you have to fix that. Replace Pelosi with Schumer, fine.

        As a Dem, sure she could have had behind-the-scenes consultation with Schumer and his ilk. And she certainly considers them all one team, except for those nasty Squaddies, of course.

        But Pelosi as a House Member had no arrows, and
        “Behind-the-scenes” means we don’t know. You can’t just post (stuff).

  26. apleb

    I’m not sure about a few (sub)points:
    2. There have been pysops before. All of Joe McCarthy comes to mind. “Red” instead of “Putin”.

    3. Reporting compared to advocacy was on the decline at least since Fox News started. Not due to Fox but due to the rivalry of preexisting CNN and now Fox. Or maybe since right wing talk radio as the article a few days ago showed. MSNBC later certainly cemented it. Now you had a dichotomy, now it wasn’t reporting that was important but advocacy and signaling your tribe you belong and have the proper mindset. And the so called reporter’s job was to deliver the raw material for the the advocacy. Social media and other tech “improved” it but the seed was long before.

    4. Open intervention by the intelligence community which is more than CIA, NSA alphabet soup, it’s also and especially FBI and DOJ. Not just tradition spooks, is certainly new. And they probably but not certainly, stay. The empire needs them more and more so they get more and more important, more and more power. After all, they are a very new addition to the halls of power: 75 years instead of 200 years. So they are still in their youth so to speak and might fizzle out, or not. The press however did their job of kingmaker since forever. Dewey defeats Truman, or the 2000 Florida fiasco. Intelligence community new, press: old hat.

    5. Calling the other side fascist started in WW2 and has never ever stopped in almost any country. Like waves sometimes more, sometimes less but it always was there. And almost no one using the term has a clue what it actually means. E.g. is it a normal dictatorship, is it a totalitarian dictatorship or is it actually fascism?

  27. Stephen The Tech Critic

    Question: Are we certain that PMC collective consciousness arose in the 2016-2020 period? Or did it merely become more energized and focused during that period?

    I wonder because I saw plenty of early signs of this before Trump. I saw this develop in a scientist friend of mine, someone who has been nominally very progressive Liberal but who seemed to develop concern about “far left” people, who she associated with anti-science and pro-conspiracy theory views. For example she attributed anti-vaxxer sentiment to the “far left”, even though I pointed out there was much stronger resistance to vaccination among right wingers. I’m fairly certain her reaction is quintessentially anti-populist.

    Another reason I wonder is because I discovered a kind of metaphor in Trump’s “build a wall” exhortation. I can see it as an expression of envy on behalf of Trump supporters for PMCs, whom Trump supporters feel have “walls” of their own to protect them from people on the outside who might compete for their jobs: credentials including licensures and certifications, fancy jargon, professional networks, etc. Trump supporters wanted walls of their own to keep out *those people* who compete for their jobs.

    Of course, Trump utterly failed to build a wall, yet the perceived threat of immigration by Trump supporters seems to have dropped dramatically since his election. Perhaps his supporters are content to see the cracks forming in the PMC’s walls delivered by the “Trump wrecking ball”. At least they aren’t the only one’s suffering now.

    But of course, Trump gets way too much credit from “both sides” in this regard. Peak globalization may well have happened already by the middle of the decade, and COVID-19 seems to have done far more to de-globalize the world than Trump’s flailing efforts. I suspect it is these structural changes (as well as the PMC’s failure to confront the neo-liberal rot that infests their institutions) that are are the real threat to PMC status. But of course, it’s much easier to find some *others* (deplorables) to blame for it, especially when their unofficial spokesperson (Trump) has been so eager to play-act the role of the villain.

  28. .Tom

    Jeff Schmidt’s excellent book Disciplined Minds is worth a read for anyone interested in understanding the PMC. In it he explains that the difference between a salaried professional and a wage worker in a corporation is that the salaried professional is trusted to adopt the ideology the organization and behave accordingly, as though it were his or her own ideology. The wage worker is not trusted and closely supervised. If not borne to and naturally comfortable as a salaried professional, the process of becoming one can be tough. Schmidt’s book lays this out in great detail.


    I think this is an important part of understanding the deep belief many PMC people have that their station in life is right and proper. They are invested not only in their own merit but in the ideology of the employer. Solidarity with wage workers is very difficult in this condition.

  29. .Tom

    On the topic of projection in your 2), there’s another denial. American oligarchs manipulate our elections. They outspent Russian 3 or 4 decimal orders of magnitude influencing the 2016 outcome. Ordinary Americans have no such power.

  30. zagonostra

    I’m wondering what the relationship is between the PMC, as a distinct identifiable class, with that of the ruling elite (transnational class). I’m assuming it’s a symbiotic one, to an extent. But I imagine that the PMC is as disposable as the working class when push comes to shove.

    Excellent, succinct analysis by the way, saved it to my personal folder for future reference, thanks.

    1. cocomaan

      That’s funny, Zagonstra, I just wrote that I think the PMC has global concerns, particularly with how to manipulate US’s imperial Pax Americana petrodollar machine.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Both can be true. The PMC do not own capital and do not buy labor power. That is the source of their predatory precarity. There is your dividing line at the top. At the bottom, the division is more hazy, as adjuncts (for example) might as well be thought of as selling their labor power, i.e. are interchangeable and working class — even if they do aspire to tenure. I suppose the same might be said of YouTubers and media personalities before they become “voices“…

        1. cocomaan

          I really like the PMC precarity idea. I think using it as the dividing line is really apt.

          I was talking with my wife about it on our afternoon walk today, Lambert, and she said that one of the remarkable things about these PMC folks and their precarity is how little work they do. They act paralyzed by simple tasks. Many of them are just functionaries keeping that machine going through persistent obeisance.

          Only part of the way through the Voices article, very good.

    2. apleb

      Yes, PMC are disposable, but so in the end are the transnational oligarchs.
      E.g. if we get another communist revolution, the PMC will immediately do a good job for the new communist party elite, and some former PMC might even be part of that elite, just like they did it for the old elite. Same happened in Nazi Germany to modern federal Germany as well.

      And no matter what happens, every ruler, be it our billionaires of today or possible future Mad Max Thunderdome chieftains and warlords, needs trustable henchmen that implement the warlord’s vision. Serfs don’t dominate themselves, you need the foot inside the jackboot.

    3. Miller

      I also thought that Lambert left this relationship unmentioned. Isn’t the PMC a sort of junior clerk for the American oligarchy?

  31. dcblogger

    And please, please, please don’t tell me the Proud Boys are anything like the Freikorps, let alone the Nazi Sturmabteilung

    In many ways the leaderless resistance (see Turner diaries) nature of American fascism makes a precise repetition of Germany impossible. But all these groups are deadly to their targets and they are getting worse, not better. The Democrats willingness to continue to fund the baby prisons and the rest of the security apparatus does not make it less oppressive. What saved us with Trump is that he was lazy and too repulsive to the Powers That Be to succeed as dictator. Biden is too ineffectual. Tom Cotton, or whoever the Republicans throw up next time will be far more dangerous.

    1. apleb

      There is no fascism in the US. There isn’t even a dictator unless you maybe anthromorphize Mr. Market. A dictator would be the worst outcome for the current ruling circles. There might be a breakup with local warlords and dicators one day, but the US is very very unlikely to get a dictator.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Tom Cotton, or whoever the Republicans throw up next time will be far more dangerous.

      I agree. However, my absolute worst case scenario was a capitol seizure, and that was a lot more mild than what many liberal Democrats were pushing. Nothing even close to a capital seizure happened.

      I think one should ignore all pictures of crowds that are not taken with a wide angle lens or from a great height. And so with cosplaying gun humpers.

  32. Tom Stone

    I believe Kamala Harris will be America’s “Iron Lady”.
    She was 30 when she became Willie Brown’s mistress, five years older than most of Willie’s girlfriends.
    And she was an assistant DA in San Francisco, meeting Willie was not by chance.
    If you wanted power in California there could be no better teacher than Willie Brown, the greatest bag man in California history and a political genius.
    Look at the Board Appointments Willie got her ( He always got his mistresses nice jobs, often as a “Goodbye Gift”.)
    Think about the contacts you make as Willie’s Mistress, the lobbyists in Sacto would feel comfortable with you…
    And when she gave One west and Mnuchin a pass she sent a message that was loud and clear to those that matter Nationwide.
    VP elect Harris has made it clear by her past actions that she will delight in grinding the peasants into dust while vastly enriching both the already wealthy and her self.

  33. cocomaan

    Fantastic work, Lambert, particularly your summary of 1, the PMC attaining class consciousness.

    Two critiques/comments I want to make.

    The first is that I would say the PMC didn’t attain class consciousness in 2016, but instead maintained a successful class position previously through a true dominion over political discourse for many decades. There was consciousness insofar as it was “we are the dominant class”.

    The 2008 financial crisis and the war on terror, two huge bungles/bamboozles/profitmaking opportunities by the PMC ended up with the rise of Trump and the rise of conspiracy theory as mainstream and the rise of skepticism of experts. Covid has only accelerated the divide.

    The class consciousness was there previously, but it had a stranglehold on discourse. Media was trusted, so were experts. That’s why Clintons term looked so much like GWBush’s term which looked so much like Obama’s when it came to the primacy of bankers, military, and raw trade deals.

    The second is that I’d say that the PMC is transnational. Many of their concerns have to do with Pax Americana and the continued operation of a certain global system of governance and commerce that is threatened by the United States stepping out of its lane as enabler. The debt on US society needs to continue to mount to make sure that the United States does not act in a nationalist capacity. Debt, so far as it is an obligation, keeps the US from acting up too much.

    Anyway, great stuff!

  34. rob

    While I agree with the framing of lamert’s post, and I agree with the general thrust..

    I also think this is just the organic growth of conditions that have been in existence for over 70 years.
    Isn’t this just one of the predictable outcomes of the “national security state”, which really had it’s modern beginnings with the adoption of the 1947 national security act, which gave “special powers” to the then existing PMC…. political class establishment front groups like the council on foreign relations.

    Since 1947 through the turn of this century, MOST government positions of power, and media influences/owners/editors and corporate fortune 100 execs were in the orbit of establishment “card holding” groups like the council on foreign relations… which was set up to be a “circle of initiates”…
    These people ,@ 1,500/year to @ 5,000/year fleshed out what was “political.social,economic, academic; directors of our “culture of government”.
    The actions of this grouping was thoroughly described in Carroll Quigley’s book in 1966 “Tradgedy and hope: a history of the world in out time…. 1895-1961
    It was also bastardized in the “fledgling resistance ” to the morgan syndicate and rockefeller syndicates control of the council leadership by what was then written about in “right-wing” fronts created by people like daddy, fred KOCH ;in groups /publications of the “john birch society” in the 60’s and seventies…
    There is a long history of power centers controlling opinions, and winning the spoils . This has been the truth of the last hundred years, they birthed the neoliberals and the neoconservatives… in actual fact. The members of groups like the council on foreign relations, were the figures who created our current duopoly… in the name of cosmopolitan sophistication. There are lists of people,each year… and they had bio’s… it really can’t be argued with. The roster’s are a form of “meta data” as to who was where when… and ascribing no motive, only proximity… it is a case that can be made.
    Then came the point when this “system” took a turn. Again “why”; is something maybe known to those on the inside, and it may be the conflux of events and personalities, and natural degridation of traditions after a period of long standing privilege.”those who win a rigged game too long .get stupid”
    Then along point when this older system was given punctuation. Our american ” crossing of the rubicon” 9/11….
    This is when the national security state took over. What was left in place by the clinton administration, was taken up by the bush clan… and turned into justification for “all propaganda , all the time..
    the narrative was completely divorced from reality… people were “prepared” by constant disinformation and “new” rules, that made the gov’t all powerful and omnipotent…
    And the last 20 years has just been the resulting degradation of society. the abandonment of truth. the hollow feeling of being “set up” and being in a position of “check” with the realization that “check-mate” is a certainty… how many moves remains to be seen…. but here we are.

    And the small groups of resistance don’t have the numbers, the isolated communities of critical thought, can’t budge the “general consensus”…. and we are left with nothing but planning for life under occupation…. with no where to escape to. There is no more “new frontier”, we have to make it here.

    So . I think the particular situation you are referring to, still exists in a bigger picture… which doesn’t mean this slice of the pie, isn’t enough to choke on…..But it isn’t in isolation. And resistance has to take into account the whole of history. Lest we face certain defeat.

    1. rob

      crossing the Rubicon moment…..

      before the 2008 episode
      before 2016 and the beginning of “russiagate”
      Our new era really started with 9/11

      9/11 hijackers were protected as early as 2000… while clinton was still there…
      robert Wright and john vincent…
      chicago fbi office investigation two hijackers and yasin Al-qadi…. saudi busnessman part owner in P-tech ; software firm with above top secret clearance to computer systems software of :FBI,CIA,NSA,NORAD,DIA,secret service,FAA,NRO,etc….virginia office was one where contact was

      When people know where the bodies are buried, they have pull .till they are one of those bodies…

    2. cocomaan

      Isn’t this just one of the predictable outcomes of the “national security state”, which really had it’s modern beginnings with the adoption of the 1947 national security act, which gave “special powers” to the then existing PMC…. political class establishment front groups like the council on foreign relations.

      Yep, it’s pretty easy to see us in a cycle of Empire here. A bit like the reactionary Janissaries during the Ottoman Empire, an increasingly decadent military clique that refused to budge and also lashed out any time someone presumed to curtail their power.

  35. Noone from Nowheresville

    We’re caught up in labels. Get rid of the Democrats. Get rid of the Republicans. Now look at the narrative-scape. Start by asking:

    What’s the core of the story? What’s the reality? Who are your point-of-view characters? Who are the protags? antags? Which characters have agency within the story-scape? Which ones are supporting story characters whose job it is to support or hinder the characters with agency? Which characters never make the page but dramatically impact the story? What are the rules of the universe? Which ones can’t be broken?

    And have fun with the story generator, make Trump a protag and see how the story plays out. Make Pelosi the protag and see how the story changes. Then start looking for the core of the story.

    e.g. In Lord of the Rings, we have many point-of-view characters with their own agendas. If you strip it down to the core as written, it’s ultimately Frodo’s story and journey. By focusing on Frodo, we’re limiting ourselves a rather narrow perspective of the forces at play. Especially the ones the author chooses not to show us or the ones we’re not allowed to ask after.

    So… The PMC are not a monolithic class. The ones identified in this article are very specific subsection of the PMC which spans multiple economic and political sub-classes. This subsection of PMC are tools very much like the specific subsection of religious groups of Reagan’s morning in America “win” were tools. They are to be cultivated, honed and deployed.

    So whose victory was Reagan’s morning in America?

    Using similar criteria for above, who’s victory is 2020?

    I’m not sure what we’re after when we talk about price. What was the price of Reagan’s morning in America? Again using similar criteria what will be the price of whoever’s victory it was in 2020?

    Couple of off-the cuff thoughts.
    We say RussiaGate imploded but I know that’s not true because too many people still talk about it out there in the non-NC world. From what I see in real life as opposed to online, it’s not denial. They aren’t even aware that they should be in a denial because the lie continues uninterrupted.

    The press replaced with advocacy? Why are we acting like this is something new? Are we holding tight to some golden age journalist mythos? There is still good, dare I say great, reporting out there if one seeks it out. Yes, a very complicated topic. Requires it’s own post. Probably an entire series of posts to hash it out.

    I suspect we’re not after journalism so much as how do we create “truth?” Or perhaps dispel “truth?”

    Sorry, gotta run. Looks like a great discussion. Hope to catch up on it tomorrow.

  36. Bob


    Are we missing the impact of bribes (campaign donations) ?

    I suspect that many candidates presell their positions in order to garner bribes (campaign donations).

    And if fact we know that folks as disparate as Cy Vance, Kamala, Ms. Bondi, Trump have accepted bribes (campaign donations) and then the prosecution of criminal wrongdoing is suddenly, magically dropped.

    While there are stirring speeches once in a while for the majority of folks are stuck with crumbs or better still nothing.

  37. freedomny

    Great post! I’ve been a PMC traitor for years. The next year is going to be really interesting…..

  38. Pelham

    First of all, great analysis. Worth not only a read but also a reread.

    I’ll just add these factors: Social media’s skewed censorship and voting prompts, and the polls. As for the latter, were they simply in error this year or were they purposely skewed to make it appear that Biden was a shoo-in in a bid to discourage Trump voters? In 2016, maybe the polling debacle was all an innocent mistake. This year, maybe not.

    As for your question about whether the media would report actual evidence of voting fraud, I have my doubts. On the one hand, I don’t see how they could avoid it. On the other, they’ve done worse. Already, I’ve noted they’re very careful when reporting on the GOP challenges to add that there’s “no actual evidence” of misdoing, or words to that effect. Every. Single. Time. Makes one wonder.

  39. Tom67

    Greetings from Germany ! This is by far the very best I have read on the political situation in the US. Thank you ! I have send a small contribution as well

  40. Gulag

    I really like the label cognitive elite better than PMC. This cognitive elite also tends to be made up of both “insiders” and “outsiders.” I believe NC could be characterized as the home of small faction of the outsider cognitive elite.

    The insider cognitive elite is largely responsible for a narrative that over-emphasizes cognitive achievement and disparages any other route to success ( through, for example, business, vocational, or caring skills).

    Powerful insider cognitive elites tend to cluster in big cities and have large advantages through such things as mating patterns–leading to the creation of a type of hereditary caste.

    What will be the role of outsider cognitive elites in the near future?

    Is meritocracy even more divisive than a class system?

    What are the power interests of the outsider cognitive elites?

    1. ambrit

      I’ll just toss this out; “outsider cognitive elites” will be the ‘seeds’ from which civilization begins to recover after the “Big Crash.” Being often literally ‘outside’ of the urban centres that the “insiders” inhabit, or, at the least ready to abandon those urban centres, they stand a much higher chance of surviving “The Culling.”

    1. ahimsa

      lambert strether
      November 10, 2020 at 3:06 pm
      Anybody who thinks Obama never tried to undermine the electoral process wasn’t watching the 2008 Texas caucuses. I saw the affidavits, and two movies were made from them.

  41. Rhondda

    Your observations are always interesting, Lambert. Two thoughts that occurred to me as I read:

    It seems to me that the precarity of the PMC’s position indicates that they may just be proles afflicted with false-consciousness.

    Your parenthetical comment under election legitimacy — “no need for the intelligence community to step in” — made me LOL. JournoList. Operation Mockingbird. Bill Casey’s “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.” *

    I mean, isn’t the media responsible for the “trauma” these people feel? And isn’t that the origin of the psy ops bubble? And that’s just the pre-work. Maybe a little Hammer/Scorecard? This whole thing has looked a lot like a color rev to me.

    * The CIA says that’s Israeli? disinformation.

  42. Jon Cloke

    Re Trump Isn’t Hitler – neither was Hitler, until he broke through in 1932. It would have been quite literally beyond the imagination of Weimar elites that the regime which emerged in the 1930s could have done what it did; plainly the Proud Boys aren’t the Stahlhelm or the SA, but there’s more than one path to fascism.

    The GOP spent decades before Trump gerrymandering districts, purging voter lists and stacking the federal courts, not because they needed a Hitler, but because if you can rig the balance of powers in US electoral structures (particularly keeping control of an increasingly white-minority elected Senate) you don’t need one..

    And in the meantime, the Dem platform has been “Sure, we’re lazy crooks but if you don’t vote for us you get the crazies”, whilst waiting for an increasing invisible demographic shift to pay out… In the end, as Capital fears losing control of the system through climate change, it will side with some form of fascism.

    you read it here first!

    1. rob

      “Sure we’re lazy crooks, but if you don’t vote for us ; you get the crazies.”

      To wrap up this whole post…. that is a great accurate description of the democratic party leadership’s position ,in all of this.
      The party “deciders”, should run with this for the 2022 elections..
      I can see the yard signs now. If they want to start telling the truth to try and attract voters.

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