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December 31, 2019

Low, dishonest decade
Posted by Patrick at 07:13 PM * 35 comments

I largely gave up political blogging after November 8, 2016, when it became obvious that I have no idea what I’m talking about. I still don’t think anyone should pay any attention to what I think.

If you’re still reading, here are some of the things I recently thought were smart. Keep in mind that I’m an idiot.

Politics is for Power, Not Consumption, by Eitan Hersh. The bullshit performative stuff we do online isn’t politics, it’s just cosplay. “If you feel unfulfilled, melancholy, paralyzed by the sadness of the news and depth of our political problems, there is an alternative: actually doing politics. Citizens who want to empower their political values would be better off if they spent less time consuming politics as at-home amateurs and instead fell in line to help strengthen organizations and leaders. Rather than kibitzing with their social media friends, they could adopt some of the spirit of the party regulars, counting votes and building interpersonal relationships in their neighborhoods.”

Twitter thread by Jonathan Smucker, author of Hegemony How-To: A Roadmap for Radicals, which I’m reading and which is so far very good. “Being right wins you exactly nothing if you have no power.” “If you don’t choose your battles, your opponents will choose them for you.” “Revelations of misdeeds of the powerful induce only popular resignation if there is no viable counter-power to take advantage of the opening.” More.

Jane McAlevey, How to Organize Your Friends and Family on Thanksgiving. Step by step, how to talk to normal human beings without being the sanctimonious leftist prick everybody hates. Not coincidentally, written by a brilliant modern union organizer. I’m reading her No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age and it’s terrific.

We Have to Take the Roses Seriously: Talking to Nathan J. Robinson. Interview with the very smart editor and publisher of the wonderfully-named Current Affairs, whose writing I’ve been generally bingeing on. “That great Terry Eagleton quote comes to mind, describing a socialist as ‘just someone who is unable to get over his or her astonishment that most people who have lived and died have spent lives of wretched, fruitless, unremitting toil.’ So I’d begin from that kind of disgust with certain features of the world, certain things that happen to some of us, certain ways that workers get treated. If we can agree that people should meaningfully participate in the decisions that affect their lives, then ‘Do you like the fact that if you drop below packing some set number of boxes per hour, a robot will fire you?’ they probably would say: ‘No, that’s not a process I personally would have established.’”

Hoping for hope. Happy new year.

Comments on Low, dishonest decade:
#1 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2019, 08:12 PM:

I have still not recovered from the sense of unreality, but I've become resigned to the notion that this is the world I'm living in now, and for as long as I can manage to stay living.

So... onward, I guess.

#2 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2019, 08:39 PM:

The last four years have felt like at least a decade.

#3 ::: Ellen Asher ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2019, 11:28 PM:

A brief comment on your postscript: whatever Safari for Mac's problem was seems to have been solved. I had no trouble seeing these comments on my desktop computer.

#4 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2020, 01:40 AM:

Turns out to be an effect of 1Blocker, Apple-approved ad-blocker add-on for Safari. To fix it, whitelist, because that was obvious, obviously. The web in 2020 sucks beyond belief.

#5 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2020, 12:10 PM:

It has become obvious to me in recent years that I'm an outlier, both politically and in other respects: some people should not be allowed to run with scissors, or engage in politics, and I am one of them.

But looking at the dead-eyed neofascist grifters currently running governments worldwide, I can't say they're any better.

#6 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2020, 01:47 PM:

If Rick Perlstein couldn't see Trump coming, I think you can be forgiven the same oversight.

#7 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2020, 04:17 PM:

Keep in mind that Trump voters are, well, maybe not quite outliers, but in the minority.

The official federal election report for 2016 (PDF here) says the Census Bureau estimated the US voting-age population at 245.5 million in 2016. Of those, a bit more than 200 million were registered to vote (Politico news story), and 136,669,276 actually cast votes for president.

So here’s a breakdown of the voting-age population that year:

  • 27% voting for Clinton
  • 26% voting for Trump
  • 3% voting third-party or write-in
  • 26% registered, but not voting for president
  • 19% not registered (maybe someone else can figure out how to break this last category down into those with and without legal voting rights)

#8 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2020, 07:20 PM:

I'm happy to hear that the "crazification factor" of Trump voters was only 26%, and not the 27% that had been foretold:

John: You realize this leads to there being over 30 million crazy people in the US?

Tyrone: Does that seem wrong?

John: ... a bit low, actually.

#9 ::: Dave MB ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2020, 08:12 PM:

Chris@6 -- thanks for the pointer to that excellent Perlstein piece, which I missed the first time round.

#10 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2020, 08:42 PM:

Without seeing the write-ins, I wouldn't go that far.

#11 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2020, 10:11 PM:

Those comparisons of numbers are conspiracy-theory-level wrong, Jeremy (replying to Avram) -- the numbers look similar, but they're talking about completely different parts of the population under different measurement regimes that are just not comparable.

And it's rather a distraction from the main point I see PMH trying to make.

#12 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2020, 01:25 PM:

Thank you for posting this, Patrick.

Slowly reading through the linked articles.

I've been pondering volunteering for the Warren campaign, while also fighting my reflexive skepticism as to the effectiveness of things like canvassing and phone banking. (I hate people knocking on my door and calling me on the phone during campaign seasons. Why would others feel any differently about me? But I also recall that, if that AOC documentary is to be believed, she won largely on the strength of her ground game, and the success rate they quoted was something like 1/150.)

#13 ::: Venus ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2020, 03:53 PM:

@12 Speaking as an activist of decades of experience, door knocking and phone banking are the most successful methods. They're expensive to do because they're labor-intensive, but they're absolutely the most effective. If you have the ability to volunteer, it would be a great use of your time.

That said, I encourage all new activists to let go of any pressure in trying to figure out the right way to help. Just help! You'll be making a difference, and the work will start to feel more comfortable as you get more experience. Change it up if you need to! If door knocking isn't possible, try phones, if not phones, write post-cards, if not post-cards, switch to envelope stuffing. If not a campaign, then a GOTV, if not GOTV, then a service charity. Whatever work you can find that suits you is good work to be doing.

IME, hobbyist culture spends a lot of time invalidating earnest effort. I encourage new activists to ignore any and all folks who denigrate whatever work you decide to try. Perfect is the enemy of the good. Just help. There's never enough hands for the work. Just help.

#14 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2020, 04:06 PM:

Venus: Thank you. That's...really helpful. Thank you.

#15 ::: H.E.Wolf ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2020, 07:48 PM:

Thank you to Venus for specific examples, and for being a voice of hopefulness.

I've had good results by asking for "tasks for introverts". If that baffles the organizer(s), I suggest data entry or one of the options that Venus listed. has been a comfortable fit for my energy level, and a boost to my spirits. Their FAQ page is very detailed.

#16 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2020, 06:32 PM:

Venus, #13, wrote: IME, hobbyist culture spends a lot of time invalidating earnest effort. I encourage new activists to ignore any and all folks who denigrate whatever work you decide to try. Perfect is the enemy of the good. Just help. There's never enough hands for the work. Just help.

I just wanted to re-post that, because it's great.

If I'm lucky, I'll listen to it and take its advice. Meanwhile I hope other people do.

#17 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2020, 06:52 PM:

(TNH and I turned out last night to demonstrate in front of our neighbor Chuck Schumer's Park Slope apartment. Because why should we let our prevaricating centrist senior senator, who happens to also be Senate Minority Leader, get pressured only by the Right.)

(Seriously, we did the exact same thing 17 years ago, in the runup to the Iraq invasion that Chuck ultimately voted for. Difference being, 17 years ago, we were kept across the street from the Schumer apartment building, and our crowd consisted of a half-dozen crusty old Trots and maybe ten or twenty shell-shocked I-can't-believe-this-is-happening young white professionals. On 3 Jan 2020, it was hundreds of people, all of whom came out on less than a day's notice. We may all fail just as badly -- power doesn't really give a shit -- but we'll have lots more useful networky conversations while we're failing. For instance, T and I met (and fanboyed) the eminent lefty journalist David Klion, which made the effort worthwhile all by itself.)

#18 ::: Quercus ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2020, 10:46 AM:

I was going to say something here, but Venus said it at least as well as I could. Hear, hear!

I'm not sure what Charlie Stross means by 'should not be allowed to [..] engage in politics'. He probably wouldn't be a great candidate for most positions, and not my first choice to run a national campaign (No offense; I wouldn't be my first or hundredth choice either), but that's not the only way of engaging in politics. Phone-banking, door-knocking, contributing cash, hosting a yard sign, anything helps. The amount of volunteer professional assistance that campaigns need is sadly always less than the amount that people want to give, but it's possible that there's a campaign that could use the help of a real professional writer, even if it's just proof-reading press releases.

#19 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2020, 12:22 PM:

Charlie writes about politics on his blog. I think that counts for quite a lot. And he gets invited to speak about the future. One would hope that thinking about the future is part of politics. Charlie is a good writer and speaker. His politics are sensible and caring. I wish that did not make him so much of an outlier.

#20 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2020, 01:48 AM:

Warren Selfies Twitter thread: Interesting parallax on the McAlevey Thanksgiving link in the OP.

#21 ::: Susan Kitchens ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2020, 07:46 PM:

I remember coming here to read accounts of the First in the nation's first in the nation primary at Dixville Notch. Reported by Jim Macdonald (who, according to google search for name and this site, has not been posting recently)

Very interested to get a firsthand report from there a few hours from now. I'll circle back here. And check twitter.

#22 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2020, 12:27 PM:

The results from Dixville Notch, via WMUR:
Bloomberg 2, Pete 1, Bernie 1

#23 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2020, 12:49 PM:

I'd actually seen different results in my Apple News feed this morning, with significantnly more voters. Sanders first (8), Warren and Buttigeig second (4), Klobuchar, Biden and Bloomberg trailing but still getting votes.

#24 ::: Ewan ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2020, 01:01 PM:

I also came here hoping for Dixville commentary. I miss this site in general.

#25 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2020, 09:00 PM:

Hrmfph. Planning on caucusing tomorrow for a Dem challenger to Cory Gardner. (First time I've ever done this.) Wish me spoons....

#26 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2020, 01:57 AM:

Bless you, Jacque, and everyone with the strength and determination to caucus, or to stand in line to vote in a primary; we need every one of you.

#27 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2020, 03:58 AM:

I'm spoiled (read: privileged): my (paper) primary ballot came to my house several weeks ago, and I dropped it off at work a week later.

I'm hoping the caucus eats only five hours out of my day...?

#28 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2020, 09:59 PM:

Okay! Ah dun mah civic dooty! Looks like I'm going to the county caucus in two weeks. Let's please have that be the end of it for me, pretty please...?

#29 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2020, 01:43 PM:

Jacque (28): I think this is a candidate for the Dreadful Phrases thread: I read that as "county cactus" the first time.

#30 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2020, 12:24 AM:

@29: Approve! Fully endorse! XD

#31 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2020, 09:21 AM:

It sounds as though the county cactus has just been Hi Jacked, or was it cactus jacked?

#32 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2020, 11:48 AM:

Oh, you Bad Terrible Moose lol!


#33 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2020, 07:40 PM:

Just as an afterthought:

Hi Jacque!



#34 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2020, 08:45 PM:

Just don't ever do that when we're on an airplane!!


#35 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2020, 11:06 AM:

Bret Stephens: Covid-19: A Look Back From 2025.

Once power is given, it's hard to reclaim....

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