Nobody Knows Anything

Whatever is going on in U.S. politics has gone completely out of bounds of all the known knowns and unknown knowns and known unknowns and whatever other combination of confusion one could put together. We’re all in uncharted territory here.

Ezra Klein writes that the parties appear to have completely lost control of the nomination process. Many of you, like me, are old enough to remember when the nominee was chosen in backroom deals at party conventions. Now Citizens United and new media technology has made parties close to irrelevant to who walks away with the prize.

Regarding Republicans: Although most of the beltway media tribe are as oblivious as ever, Frank Bruni (seriously?) is beginning to notice something is out of whack.

[Republicans] have become the party of brinkmanship, the party of imminent credit defaults, the party of threatened shutdowns, the party that won’t pass a proper transportation bill, the party that is suddenly demonizing the Export-Import Bank, the party of “no,” the party of ire, the party that casts even someone as unquestionably conservative as John Boehner in the role of apostate, simply because he knows the difference between fights that can be won and those that can’t, between standing on principle and shooting yourself in the foot.

Let it not be forgot that Bruni has been a leader of the both-sides-are-just-as-bad tribe for some time.

Conventional wisdom says that John Boehner’s resignation puts an end to any shutdown over Planned Parenthood, because the Crazy Caucus won’t be able to threaten him with a coup any more. However, conventional wisdom also says that What Comes Next will be worse for President Obama and Mitch McConnell.  But Josh Marshall disagrees.

This is a basic misunderstanding of the dynamics of the situation, actually a fundamental one – based again on the assumption that the only thing standing in the way of the House “Freedom Caucus” and right wing glory is that they haven’t shut the government down enough, or haven’t voted to repeal Obamacare enough. Was John Boehner really running interference for President Obama, shielding him from the ferocious fury of the right wing of the House caucus or was he frequently bending over backwards to find ways to avoid House nutballs from inflicting even more damage on the party’s national standing?

The latest brouhaha was about whether or not to shut the government down over defunding Planned Parenthood. Note today’s Quinnipiac Poll which shows that Americans oppose shutting down the government over defunding Planned Parenthood by a 69% to 23% margin. Even Republicans oppose it by a 56% to 36% margin. The opposition to this is broad based and overwhelming. It has all the kinetics and logic of driving 100 miles an hour into a reinforced cement wall.

Gerrymandering pretty much guarantees the GOP will hang on to the House at least until 2020, Josh M. continues. So they think they’re invincible. But if the hard Right in the House is allowed to charge ahead in all of its irrational glory and cause one crisis after another to force its will, this is unlikely to particularly hurt President Obama, or Democrats.

Whether it would hurt Republicans remains to be seen; the pattern we’ve seen over the past several years is that when one layer of crazy comes apart, an even crazier layer is revealed. Apparently the “fix” for the failures of extremist conservatism is even more radical extremist conservatism.

The question in my mind is, how far is this going to go? Nothing continues forever. The trajectory will fail, eventually. I’m sure I’ve mentioned the Taoist view that all things carry the seeds of their own destruction. The question is, how long? And, when the collapse comes, will our political institutions be strong enough to adjust? Or have extremism and corruption made them too vulnerable to stand?

16 thoughts on “Nobody Knows Anything

  1. Whatever is going on in U.S. politics has gone completely out of bounds of all the known knowns and unknown knowns and known unknowns and whatever other combination of confusion one could put together. We’re all in uncharted territory here.

    I disagree. Study the rise of dictators, they thrive in the conditions we’re now in.You need a population that feels disempowered and angry about it (check). An ossified, in-grown political system that produces milquetoast candidates that are at best managers (and that’s being generous) and not leaders (check). A charismatic outsider who promises to fix everything, based only on his bluster and force of personality (check).

    When is the last time any political party fielded 17 serious candidates to run for the presidency, most of them with little or no specifics to their platform, none really needed by their angry backers?

    America has turned into an oligarchy, where we get to choose a D or an R face of the system, but have not much say into what policies they push. Nothing fundamentally changes. Conservatives have spent decades demonizing government, and turning it into a money machine for themselves and their friends, and for their final act, they’re going to destroy it. Democracy has been dying in this country for a long time, and they’re going to finally make it official.

    Mussolini railed endlessly in his speeches against a similarly entrenched political class in Italy. He continually evoked the glory of Rome, the greatest empire on earth, and how Italians should be the natural inheritors of this greatness. He promised he himself would make Italy even greater than Rome. All dictators follow this pattern. All dictators talk about the fallen state their country is now in, give reasons why we should be so much more, and then promise to take their people to even greater glory. They always demonize the other, the out-group, they’re to blame for what’s wrong with country.

    Donald Trump is following this playbook to a T. He has an ego the size of Texas, childishly believes he can fix America single-handedly, and with his theatrics, can easily run rings around any of the usual politicians in a debate. He doesn’t need a platform with specific plans spelled out, he really believes he is completely adequate to the task all by himself. People laughed at Hitler and Mussolini when they were running for office, nobody believed they would win. But they did.

  2. Ok, Moonbat…ya just scared the bejesus outta me…but that has been the very same thoughts that have been tickling those little hairs on the back of my neck…I have been trying to read a little more about the rise of fascism in the early part of the last century…It seems your vision is fairly accurate, and I hope you are wrong….

  3. “Whatever is going on in U.S. politics has gone completely out of bounds of all the known knowns and unknown knowns and known unknowns and whatever other combination of confusion one could put together. We’re all in uncharted territory here.”

    I have to disagree, Moonbat. Comparing Trump to Hitler or Mussolini is an insult to those leaders. Evil men they were, but leaders they were and Trump is not. There’s two huge historical differences which. as long as they are absent, will prevent a wing-nut tyrant. First, you have to suppress all dissent, through murder if necessary. That’s not just protesters but you have to completely control the media to provide a single narrative. Trump is held in contempt by the media and he doesn’t have the capacity for wholesale murder. Cheney he’s not. (Cruz scares me on this count.)

    Second, you have to put the military and police at the disposal of that one man with a willingness to do violence against opposition inside and outside the borders. Oath Keepers wants to be the organization that brokers this army, but there’s more talk than troops in that group. Other militia groups may be better financed and organized but I don’t see any signs they have the capacity for more than domestic terrorism which is politically counterproductive.

    The greater threat is to push the country into collapse, where a group is ready with even a small disciplined force and a plan to restore order. (The Russian Mafia provided this function when the USSR fell.) I’m concerned that organizations like ALEC have as their real function to destabilize government. Who is waiting in the wings.. is unknown.

    The forces I oppose have one powerful weapon which can be neutralized in the political process – money. Reduce the influence of Grover Norquest and the Koch brothers in the electoral process and ban them from paying legalized bribes after members leave office and you move the ball 40 yards in one play. Replace sold-out establishment politicians with populists (liberal AND conservative) and let’s see how that affects the ecology of politics.

  4. “the party that casts even someone as unquestionably conservative as John Boehner in the role of apostate”

    The GOP has become the party of right-wing propaganda, Rush, Drudge, Beck, Alex Jones, etc. are in charge, we have presidential candidates debating wild conspiracy theories like they are common facts, Planned Parenthood, Jade helm, Agenda 21, Benghazi, etc. How can a party be expected to govern effectively when many of their representatives were elected based on their opposition to many of these fantasies? The title to your post should be: “Nobody Knows Anything Real”.

  5. Wow! This is a first; Cruz says stuff that is basically correct:


    I guess he’s “Jumped the Shark”.

    I’m still metaphorically betting Bush or Trump for the nominee. A few weeks ago, I’d have favored Bush 4/1. Now, I’m think Bush 3/1. I think all the other nominees have basically already peaked. Every time I see Fiorina, I see an evil *itch– Trump may not be very sharp, but once he puts the brand on you, it sticks. Low-energy Bush, despised as he is, has a lot of old blood backing him up,

    I am glad to see Big Dog out actively helping HRC. I prefer Bernie, but I’d take ANY Democrat all the way down to Jim Webb over anybody in the GOP clown parade– they all need to be isolated in a rubber room and heavily sedated.

  6. The comments show how crazy this all is. I am not a political junkie and am not an expert in how politics works. Neither am I an expert in history. I hated history in school. It was all about memorizing dates, wars and of course emphasized how “right” the U.S. was in everything no matter what they did.
    I am very apathetic about the “democratic” process. It actually seems to me that no matter who gets in office, either President or Congress, the situation remains the same or even gets worse. They all promise to change what they believe is wrong. But the truth is that they can’t. There are some theories that there is an underground government that overrules everything that is supposed to be legal or democratic. I am beginning to believe this is true. I know the CIA has done a lot of things in secrecy and they get away with it. Who is really running the government? And what can we, the common people do about things we want changed? There is always the mantra: Vote, get the bums out of office. But we get the bums out and put in even worse ones. I’m apathetic and depressed about it all. Time for some chocolate.

  7. “There is always the mantra: Vote, get the bums out of office. But we get the bums out and put in even worse ones. ”

    Well, a big part of the problem is Gerrymandering, but it really goes beyond that; I think the way we draw congressional districts is inherently flawed. It gives away a large number of districts to primarily rural areas, and, not to get city-mouse; country-mouse about it, but rural folks seem to vote against their interests. You see that even in blue states, like CA,IL,NY. Not sure why that is. Maybe rural voters rely on fewer news outlets (Fox News). Maybe it’s because rural schools aren’t as good. Maybe it’s because people vote to support rural megaindustries they personally rely on (factory farming, mining, etc). Maybe rural areas have more “wacky” religions”. I have no idea. I never read “What’s the Matter with Kansas”. Whatever the problem is, the GOP exploits it.

  8. I’m cautiously optimistic for the long term, based on our experience in California with a Republican party that grew ever crazier over the years. Prop 13 let them continue to wield power as if they were a majority party long after they reached minority status, as will gerrymandering on the national level, but even so, eventually they became so obviously crazy that their numbers cratered, they lost too many elections, and stopped having any appreciable effect on state politics.

  9. Tom_b …One of the things that someone had mentioned to me about rural areas is the fact that most prisons are located in rural areas ( which makes sense) and the prisoners themselves don’t get to vote but are still counted for representation. And those prisons need staffing so the people employed by the prisons are dependant upon the political powers to keep those jobs. The corporations that run those prisons are eager to support Repug politicians who keep them in business..So that might account for rural counties and Congressional districts being Repuglican strongholds.. It certainly makes it easier to control Congressional districts when you skew the numbers.

  10. “the fact that most prisons are located in rural areas ( which makes sense) and the prisoners themselves don’t get to vote but are still counted for representation”

    Swami did you see This Story?

  11. I have lived in different places in this country. Indiana, N.C.. Florida, L.A., Santa Barbara and now Walla Walla, WA. I have a personal theory that people who live near the ocean (esp. Pacific) are less judgmental and more progressive. Rural areas are more community oriented and therefore more likely to conform. In cities people can be isolated from their neighbors and more likely to follow their own consciences. The western part of this state (WA) tends to be more progressive while the eastern part is more rural and more conservative. Of course, there are exceptions to this but generally I have found this to be true. But then this is just my observation.
    Climate has a lot to do with temperament or so I have heard. People in cold harsh climates have to struggle more. People in climates like Hawaii are more peaceful and easy-going. I think this has a lot to do with belief systems.

  12. “who is really running the government” Wow, that’s the question I’d like to know. I think it’s like an iceberg, we see just enough to know it’s there. Few realize U.S. special forces are operating in over 19 African countries. I’m getting very discouraged with this country, I wish I was a young man with enough talent to go live in New Zealand.

  13. I would say that there are precedents for what’s going on, you just have to look further back in our history.

    Or maybe the only precedent is that we’ve entered into uncharted territory before. But if you look at it that way, then much of American history has been about entering uncharted territory. Even if you just limit it to political history, we have seen whole parties collapse–first the Federalists, then the Whigs. The Republicans have been more durable than either of them, partly because the modern parties are much more institutionalized than the older ones, but nothing lasts forever.

    Which is not to say I’m sure the party is going to collapse, but it’s one possible outcome. As for governing, if they do control the House, then eventually they’re going to have to cut the dead enders loose and start working with Democrats. And eventually there are going to be enough not-entirely-crazy Republicans who have nothing to lose politically by doing their goddamn jobs.

    As for right-wing tyranny, there just aren’t enough Trumpofascists, thank God. Like Doug said, they can do a lot of damage, but they don’t have the numbers to do anything more than that. I mean, just imagine a bunch of Oath Keepers rolling into LA or New York City and announcing that they’re in charge. They’d be eaten alive.

  14. Moonbat: Thanks for that link. It explains a lot and now I’m more depressed although the author does provide a glimmer of hope saying he thinks the people are fed up and will eventually do what it necessary to get rid of it. Seems like a Herculean effort though.

  15. I’m not sure I find Klein’s piece all that convincing the more I’ve thought about it. For one, it really makes no sense when applied to the Democratic side of things. Sanders isn’t an “outsider” in any meaningful sense, and certainly not in the way Trump/Carson/Fiorina are. He’s a long serving member of Congress who’s well respected by the Democratic Party, works with the Democratic caucus and leadership, and is essentially the only opponent to Clinton in the race.

    The Republican side is a little bit more complicated but, a) the reason Trump/Carson/Fiorina is doing well is more that they’re blowing up the rules of a long-standing Republican Party rhetorical strategy and just tossing out even larger portions of red meat, b) none of these three are likely to be the nominee, c) it appears that Rubio is the most likely nominee, and he’s the guy I would have expected the establishment to back all along.

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