Surprise, surprise! What I’m reading, March 9, 2016 (updated)

Updated for articles on Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio.


The Horse Race

It might finally be dawning on the so-called “free” traders that “[many] angry white males . . . feel trade has marginalized their jobs and prospects.”[1] What this misses, obviously, is that white men are by no means the only ones concerned with this issue.[2] What Clinton and her supporters fundamentally fail to understand is that the economy very much is also, and has been for a very long time,[3] a feminist issue and an issue for people of color. She fails to understand that as rationales for oppression, class, race, and gender are fundamentally inseparable.[4]

Meanwhile, Emily Crockett exposes abortion rights organizations as having spun Hillary Clinton’s more equivocal answer in a Faux News “Town Hall” on abortions after 20 weeks by claiming that “Clinton told a clearer story about how abortion rights are under attack.” In his response, Bernie Sanders was, at least as Crockett portrays it,[5] much more clear:

“Can you name a single circumstance at any point in a pregnancy in which you would be okay with abortion being illegal?” moderator Bret Baier asked Sanders during his time on stage.

“It’s not a question of me being okay,” Sanders said. “I happen to believe that it is wrong for the government to be telling a woman what to do with her own body.” . . . Sanders pivoted to his frustration with Republicans who want to “get the government off our backs,” yet “somehow on this issue, they want to tell every woman in America what she should do with her body.”

Baier followed up: “I guess the genesis of the question is that there are some Democrats who say after five months, with the exception of the life of the mother or the health of the baby, that perhaps that’s something to look at. You’re saying no.”

Sanders’s answer suggested that he had no interest in haggling over restrictions and exceptions: “I am very strongly pro-choice. That is a decision to be made by the woman, her physician, and her family. That’s my view.”[6]

But abortion rights groups have endorsed Clinton, who is, even by second wave (1960s and 1970s-era) standards, a fraudulent feminist. Sanders pointed to Republican hypocrisy while Clinton said she “[has] been on record in favor of a late pregnancy regulation that would have exceptions for the life and health of the mother.”[7] I might note that in a time when I did vote (I don’t now[8]), I decided I could not vote for Barack Obama because he would also be complicit in limitations.[9]

Gerald F. Seib, “Angry White Males Propel Donald Trump—and Bernie Sanders,” Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/angry-white-males-propel-donald-trumpand-bernie-sanders-1457495579

Emily Crockett, “Clinton and Sanders were asked about abortion. Their answers weren’t the same,” Vox, March 9, 2016, http://www.vox.com/2016/3/9/11181870/clinton-sanders-abortion-questions-fox

Nolan D. McCaskill, “GOP superlawyer on contested convention rule: ‘In fact, that’s not a rule,'” Politico, March 9, 2016, http://www.politico.com/blogs/2016-gop-primary-live-updates-and-results/2016/03/ben-ginsberg-republican-contested-convention-rules-220499

Héctor Tobar, “Latinos’ Slow-Burn Anger,” New York Times, March 9, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/09/opinion/latinos-slow-burn-anger.html


‘Brexit’

Deutschewelle, “Buckingham Palace complains to press watchdog over Brexit article,” March 9, 2016, http://www.dw.com/en/buckingham-palace-complains-to-press-watchdog-over-brexit-article/a-19104688


Hillary Clinton

Here’s what I’m seeing with Bill Curry: He writes that “thinking only tactically makes you a bad tactician.”[10] And I agree, but one also has to pay some attention to, though I loathe saying it, poll numbers, history, and the fact that a significant portion of the population is basically satisfied with the status quo.

One of the theories I looked into when I was exploring radical social change—even revolution—is critical mass theory. No one is quite sure how large a portion of the population is required to form a ‘critical mass’ that can prevail against the elites (functionalist conservatives) and I’m inclined to think that at least until we get to violent asymmetric conflict on a large scale, technology tends to magnify elite advantages (for example, with domestic spying) simply because the government can afford bigger machines and many more of them than the insurgency. More classically, there are all sorts of complications about what people believe versus what they say, what they’re willing to do about it, and how they decide to switch sides—often simply because they want to be on the winning side or fear being on the losing side, which in turn involve all sorts of judgments about how people judge which side is stronger or will ultimately prevail.

For instance, I am critical of abortion rights groups above because they have become spokespeople for Hillary Clinton. As much as I care about abortion rights, I feel I can no longer support these groups because I can no longer respect Clinton who, as Curry puts it, “[comes] off as entitled, presumptuous and condescending,”[11] or her supporters. I can understand why these groups have chosen to endorse her: They think they’ve chosen the winning horse and they are seeking to gain influence with her. But I cannot bring myself to respect that decision, in part because I see Clinton as part of the entitled establishment whose neglect virtually ensures I will never again find employment. The price of the status quo is one I can’t afford and I would be just as unemployed under a Republican as I am under mainstream Democrats.

So I have an interest in change, even change as limited as that which Bernie Sanders advocates. In my personal cost-benefit analysis, I only lose with Clinton, an erstwhile “Goldwater Girl,”[12] or the Republicans. I simply can’t care that much whether Clinton or a Republican wins because I don’t see enough of a difference between them to make a difference in my life. But with Sanders, I have a bare glimmer of hope, not enough hope to overcome my disdain for the two-party system[13] and of the electoral system to actually vote,[14] but a bare glimmer of hope nonetheless. In the context of critical mass theory, therefore, I may be sympathetic with the Sanders ‘insurgency,’ but I am not motivated to take action, in large part because I suspect that even if he climbs that incredibly steep hill to the White House, he won’t be able to effect real change on anything like the scale I need. Which is to say, I think the elites would prevail even with a President Sanders.

Other folks, especially those abortion rights groups or, for that matter, pretty much anybody making a decent living in the present order, may weigh that decision differently. Social justice just isn’t that pressing an issue for them. To them, Sanders poses a risk. To back him, they need to be persuaded that it is in their interest to do so. And right now, the establishment seems like a better bet. Even authoritarian populist hero Donald Trump might be a better bet, because they’re quite cozy with neoliberalism and it’s probably a safe bet that despite his rhetoric, there’s some reason to doubt that he would upset that apple cart too much.[15]

And in critical mass theory, it’s all about how many people weigh that decision which way and whether an insurgency gains enough popular support to overcome the forces aligned with the establishment. Howard Zinn effectively nods to this theory when he suggests that the history of the U.S. is largely about elites giving as little as they can to as few people as they can get away with to prevent an insurrection from succeeding. In this drama, blood has occasionally been shed as riots compel the elites to calibrate their response.[16]

In this calculation, I think Curry may be being too optimistic. He might be right, but it’s also worth noting that he was wrong in forecasting the imminent demise of Trump.[17]

Bill Curry, “It should be over for Hillary: Party elites and MSNBC can’t prop her up after Bernie’s Michigan miracle,” Salon, March 9, 2016, http://www.salon.com/2016/03/09/it_should_be_over_for_hillary_party_elites_and_msnbc_cant_prop_her_up_after_bernies_michigan_miracle/


Marco Rubio

Doomed.

Arturo Garcia, “CNN reveals sad state of Rubio campaign: Stadium rally on his ‘home turf’ draws next to nobody,” Raw Story, March 9, 2016, http://www.rawstory.com/2016/03/cnn-reveals-sad-state-of-rubio-campaign-stadium-rally-on-his-home-turf-draws-next-to-nobody/

Katherine Krueger, “Rubio Is Speaking To A Nearly Empty Florida Stadium,” Talking Points Memo, March 9, 2016, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/cnn-rubio-florida-empty-stadium


  1. [1]Gerald F. Seib, “Angry White Males Propel Donald Trump—and Bernie Sanders,” Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/angry-white-males-propel-donald-trumpand-bernie-sanders-1457495579
  2. [2]Jill Abramson, “‘Hillary, can you excite us?’: The trouble with Clinton and young women,” Guardian, January 24, 2016, http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/commentisfree/2016/jan/24/hillary-clinton-young-women-voters-jill-abramson; Michelle Alexander, “Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote,” Nation, February 10, 2016, http://www.thenation.com/article/hillary-clinton-does-not-deserve-black-peoples-votes/; Dana Bolger, “Dear New York Times: The Real Reason Young Feminists Reject Hillary,” Feministing, December 17, 2015, http://feministing.com/2015/12/17/dear-new-york-times-the-real-reason-young-feminists-reject-hillary/; Amy Chozick and Yamiche Alcindor, “Moms and Daughters Debate Gender Factor in Hillary Clinton’s Bid,” New York Times, December 12, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/13/us/politics/moms-and-daughters-debate-gender-factor-in-hillary-clintons-bid.html; Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Against Endorsements,” Atlantic, February 10, 2016, http://www.theatlantic.com/notes/2016/02/against-endorsements/462261/; Liza Featherstone, “Hillary Clinton’s Faux Feminism,” Truthout, February 28, 2016, http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/35006-hillary-clinton-s-faux-feminism; Husna Haq, “Are white women abandoning Hillary Clinton?” Christian Science Monitor, August 4, 2015, http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2015/0804/Are-white-women-abandoning-Hillary-Clinton; Bradford Richardson, “Gloria Steinem: Young women support Sanders to attract men,” Hill, February 6, 2016, http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/dem-primaries/268498-gloria-steinem-young-women-support-sanders-to-attract-men; Gail Sheehy, “The Women Who Should Love Hillary Clinton,” New York Times, January 29, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/31/opinion/campaign-stops/why-dont-boomer-women-like-hillary-clinton.html; Donna Smith, “An Open Letter to Hillary Clinton from One Progressive Woman,” Common Dreams, January 23, 2016, http://www.commondreams.org/views/2016/01/23/open-letter-hillary-clinton-one-progressive-woman; Karen Tumulty, “Poll: Sharp erosion in Clinton support among Democratic women,” Washington Post, September 14, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/poll-sharp-erosion-in-clinton-support-among-democratic-women/2015/09/14/6406e2a0-58c3-11e5-b8c9-944725fcd3b9_story.html; Cornel West, “Why Brother Bernie Is Better for Black People Than Sister Hillary,” Politico, February 13, 2016, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/02/bernie-sanders-african-americans-cornel-west-hillary-clinton-213627
  3. [3]Thomas Shapiro, ed., Great Divides: Readings in Social Inequality in the United States, 3rd ed. (Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2005).
  4. [4]Scott Sernau, Worlds Apart: Social Inequalities in a Global Economy, 2nd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge, 2006).
  5. [5]Emily Crockett, “Clinton and Sanders were asked about abortion. Their answers weren’t the same,” Vox, March 9, 2016, http://www.vox.com/2016/3/9/11181870/clinton-sanders-abortion-questions-fox
  6. [6]Emily Crockett, “Clinton and Sanders were asked about abortion. Their answers weren’t the same,” Vox, March 9, 2016, http://www.vox.com/2016/3/9/11181870/clinton-sanders-abortion-questions-fox
  7. [7]Emily Crockett, “Clinton and Sanders were asked about abortion. Their answers weren’t the same,” Vox, March 9, 2016, http://www.vox.com/2016/3/9/11181870/clinton-sanders-abortion-questions-fox
  8. [8]David Benfell, “Why I do not vote,” Not Housebroken, February 25, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=8743
  9. [9]David Benfell, “No way,” Not Housebroken, July 9, 2008, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=1916
  10. [10]Bill Curry, “It should be over for Hillary: Party elites and MSNBC can’t prop her up after Bernie’s Michigan miracle,” Salon, March 9, 2016, http://www.salon.com/2016/03/09/it_should_be_over_for_hillary_party_elites_and_msnbc_cant_prop_her_up_after_bernies_michigan_miracle/
  11. [11]Bill Curry, “It should be over for Hillary: Party elites and MSNBC can’t prop her up after Bernie’s Michigan miracle,” Salon, March 9, 2016, http://www.salon.com/2016/03/09/it_should_be_over_for_hillary_party_elites_and_msnbc_cant_prop_her_up_after_bernies_michigan_miracle/
  12. [12]Robert Scheer, “Go Ahead, Back Hillary Clinton and Forget All About Her Record,” Truthdig, October 9, 2015, http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/go_ahead_back_hillary_clinton_and_forget_all_about_her_record_20151009
  13. [13]David Benfell, “A pox on both your parties,” Not Housebroken, February 27, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=8785
  14. [14]David Benfell, “Why I do not vote,” Not Housebroken, February 25, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=8743
  15. [15]Michael Barbaro and Ashley Parker, “The Party of Bush Yields, Warily, to a New Face: Donald Trump,” New York Times, February 20, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/21/us/politics/bush-family-donald-trump.html; Jeet Heer, “Donald Trump Is Not a Populist. He’s the Voice of Aggrieved Privilege,” New Republic, August 24, 2015, http://www.newrepublic.com/article/122590/if-you-think-donald-trump-populist-you-dont-know-your-history; Dana Milbank, “Republican elites surrender to Trump,” Washington Post, January 22, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/republican-elites-surrender-to-trump/2016/01/22/32d06fee-c10a-11e5-83d4-42e3bceea902_story.html; Jonathan Swan, “Donors changing tune on Trump,” Hill, January 20, 2016, http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/266389-donors-changing-their-tune-on-donald-trump
  16. [16]Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present (New York: HarperPerennial, 2005).
  17. [17]Bill Curry, “Hillary’s in danger, Trump is sunk: The hard truths America is ignoring this election season,” Salon, August 17, 2015, http://www.salon.com/2015/08/17/hillarys_in_danger_trump_is_sunk_the_hard_truths_america_is_ignoring_this_election_season_thanks_to_th

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