The Voter Participation Powerslide


The Politics of Crazy, available at Amazon

Republican voters support extending federal background checks for gun purchasers to gun shows and creating a federal database of gun owners. That news may come as a surprise given the positions taken by major Republican candidates. That’s just the beginning.

Most Republicans say they would be less likely to support a candidate who claims that climate change is a hoax. They support the terms of Obama’ executive actions on climate change and immigration (so long as his name isn’t mentioned). Half of Republicans support an amnesty proposal for illegal immigrants. Two-thirds of Republicans under thirty support same-sex marriage.

Why do Republican candidates so enthusiastically embrace issue positions at odds with the will of Republican voters? It has become popular to blame “big money” or the infamous 1%, for the disconnect between the will of the voters and our template of available choices. It’s nice to have a scapegoat. It absolves us of ownership while keeping us comfortably glued to our couches, convinced that forces to large for us to challenge blunt our efforts.

Find me the “big money” donors who wanted Donald Trump (or Ted Cruz, for that matter) to ravage the GOP. Find me the dark cabal of secret donors who wanted Bernie Sanders to kneecap the Democratic nominee and wreak havoc at the convention. Take it from someone who has tried to influence campaigns with donor money. The big donor is a convenient myth, but the 1% is absolutely real. Our elections are decided by the 1%, but it’s not the people we generally think.

Our candidates, especially in the GOP, are utterly disconnected from the will of the voting public for one painfully simple reason – voters do not matter very much in our political system. They never have. That’s not how our system was designed.

The Politics of Crazy sought to explain our increasingly dysfunctional political climate by introducing readers to a critical concept – elections are not nearly as important as we imagine them to be. Almost all of the meaningful work of politics is done before anyone casts a ballot. Those processes are fully open and participatory, probably more so than in any other nation. But increasingly few of us choose to invest our most valuable resource – our time – in those processes.

We are experiencing crazy, dysfunctional politics because the ecosystem from which our political choices emerge is weakening from neglect. All of our major participatory institutions are weakening along a similar pace in a great global devolution of power. That neglect has been more severe on the Republican side, but the same forces are catching up to the Democrats. The power of the 1% is growing.

To further explore this concept I assembled a graphic, the Voter Participation Powerslide. This graphic lays out the number of people who have participated in certain Republican Party activities since 2000. The numbers are estimates, but fairly reliable estimates.

GOP power

Look at the number of people who have, at some point in the past 15 years, voted for a Republican for President. Then compare that figure to the number who have offered their time as a precinct or campaign volunteer. See a pattern there? See a power differential?

Take all those little numbers to the right of the picture and compare them to the number of Republican Presidential voters and you end up with an interesting ratio – just a little less than 1%. Divide the number of people who have voted in a Republican primary by the number who have either directly volunteered on a campaign or served in a precinct position and you end up with about .4%.

Look closely at who those people are and why they are investing their time and energy and you have suddenly solved the central mystery of Republican politics. Our candidates embrace policies supported by that tiny minority of Republican who participate in local politics. Their composition varies by geography, but in terms of overall numbers they are white, male, old, hyper-religious, fearful, and bigoted. What gets them off their couches and into party meetings is too much free time, a lot of fear – mostly of foreigners and racial minorities, and (particularly in the South and Midwest) organizational backing from fundamentalist churches.

There are far more of them in rural and exurban areas than in cities. There are more of them in the South and Mountain West than in the nation’s more populated (and wealthier) areas. They are warming to Donald Trump because his emphasis on white nationalism is enough to satisfy their darkest fears, even if he fails to embrace religious language as much as they would like.

These are the people who decide which issues a Republican candidate can even begin to address and how they must address them. Republicans do not get an opportunity to vote for a candidate who supports climate change, basic abortion rights, or immigration reform because no such candidate can emerge from this swamp.

What about the Democrats? This is where the lingering influence of 19th century clientelism actually has some value. Democrats experience a similar, though considerably less steep powerslide. What matters is the character and interests of the people at the far right of that graphic. Democratic participation is buoyed by the presence of interest groups, especially labor, with very tangible, pragmatic demands.

Democrats are seeing more and more concentration of crazy activists at their grassroots as labor unions and traditional community organizations weaken, but the remaining influence of those older patronage-driven forces remains a sort of firewall. That firewall has been on evidence in the 2016 primary, along with its steady deterioration. It’s not clear how long practical interests can continue to hold back the Sandernistas. It’s only a matter of time before you get a Democratic Party dominated by gluten activists, vaccine deniers, and social justice warriors.

The powerslide graphic demonstrates the answer to the question ‘why doesn’t the system represent my interests.’ In short, our political system doesn’t represent my interests because I can’t be bothered to invest the substantial and fairly expensive time required to shape it. There are some good reasons most people cannot afford that investment any more. Making our system function again may require us to revisit some of our assumptions about democracy. We need to place more limits on the power of the 1%, and that starts by recognizing which 1% is really responsible for driving our system off the rails.

Chris Ladd is a Texan living in the Chicago area. He has been involved in grassroots Republican politics for most of his life. He was a Republican precinct committeeman in suburban Chicago until he resigned from the party and his position after the 2016 Republican Convention. He can be reached at gopliferchicago at gmail dot com.

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46 comments on “The Voter Participation Powerslide
  1. texan5142 says:

    For those who did not watch the debate last night, it was quite the spectacle. Most entertaining tv I have watched in a long time.

  2. flypusher says:

    On a related topic, check out one of Texas’ finest RWNJs doing what he does best:

    This is what the 1% gives you.

  3. From the Huffington Post:

    Clinton vs. Trump: Predicting The Electoral College

    Let us just hope!!!

    • 1mime says:

      Richard North Patterson is an outstanding writer of more than novels. This quote says it all:

      “the GOP has become that special place where sanity goes to die.”

      Even if he turns out to be wrong in his predictions of the winner of the presidential race, he is dead right in the above statement. Lifer’s predictions of a crazy Left pale in comparison to what is happening on the Right, which Patterson clearly illustrates in this excellent opinion piece.

    • flypusher says:

      I’ll confess, back in 2000 I was quite incensed that the Electoral College inflicted George W Bush on us. But if it saves us from the even bigger disaster that is Trump, I will have to revise my opinion of it.

      • 1mime says:

        As much as I respect RN Patterson, I wouldn’t count on any predictions of what might happen in the electoral college. Heck, I wouldn’t even predict that HRC will be the Dem nominee. I think it is too easy to assign total blame to our nation’s political process. Instead, I believe that a significant portion of America’s population is seriously deluded. Just as Lifer’s snapshot of Rep. Inglis tragic experience portrays, it is not always the politicians themselves, but those in the GOP base whose world views are driving reason off the cliff. I guess they think the car can fly….who knows, maybe it can. We’ll see in ’16.

  4. flypusher says:

    Some of the really yuuuugge skeletons may be about to come out of Trump’s luxurious closet:

    That’s not going to make any impression on the due-hard Trumpkins, but the sane-GOP, GOPe, Indies, and Bernie-or-bust-bros need to think hard here.

    • 1mime says:

      I’ve been wondering why the IRS doesn’t accelerate the Trump lawsuit so he will have no excuse for not releasing his tax returns……..Why the accelerated schedule for HRC rinvestigations and none for Drumpf?

  5. Tom D says:

    ***Why do Republican candidates so enthusiastically embrace issue positions at odds with the will of Republican voters?***

    Surely at least part of the answer to this question is that most Republican voters don’t actually know or care about policy or issues. They may tell a pollster that they support this or that reasonable-sounding policy idea, but as soon as Obama’s name is attached to it, they oppose it.

    Serious, non-rhetorical question: What is the mechanism by which a few tens of thousands of party volunteers control the policy positions and votes of most GOP congresspersons? If it’s just those volunteers, and not the big donors or the voters, controlling things, then what would they do if a given Republican representative voted, e.g., for a carbon tax? Aren’t Republican politicians scared that the actual voters will reject them in the next primary, and that interest groups will spend money on advertising in order to persuade voters to do that?

    • flypusher says:

      “Aren’t Republican politicians scared that the actual voters will reject them in the next primary..”

      Absolutely- that’s why the House Freedum Caucus has for more power than it should, and there’s a term for it: “getting primaried”. Former SC rep Bob Inglis, who’s in no way a Libby Lib, had his Saul-on-the-road-to-Damascus moment regarding science denial, and decided to back a carbon tax. That change of stance, also with having voted for TARP, doomed him. Eric Cantor also got zapped from the right flank, although I don’t think he was committing the same degree of heresy that Inglis was.

      The graph is quite informative. Just voting in the primaries (which I do), gives you a lot of power. I have volunteered and donated $ before, although it’s been a while. I have decided that I don’t want to give any more $, but I will be looking into some more time donations, especially in 2018. It way be tilting at a windmill, but I want that grandstanding, obstructionist RWNJ scumbag Cruz out of the Senate. One of the reasons he’s there is the poor voter turnout in TX. I think GOTV efforts will be a good use of my time.

    • goplifer says:

      It’s organizations like this:

      And this:

      And of course the party precinct organizations, and dozens of other small groups populated largely by heavily involved citizens and precinct chairs who act as the final filter prior to running for office. If you can’t win these rooms, you can’t become a city councilman or a state rep or a county commissioner or take any other low/mid office. In other words, they define the political ecosystem for a local area.

      What happens to a political figure who gets through the filter, then heads in a different direction? Former Rep. Bob Inglis has a lot to say about how that works.

      • 1mime says:

        The Mother Jones story about Bob Inglis was enlightening and so terribly sad. Inglis sounds like a Republican I could vote for – in his current metamorphosis. What a loss, especially when you think about who defeated him – Trey Gowdy.

        I recognized a name among those in the hosting Houston Realty group. We don’t see each other much lately but I know of his long-term commitment to the GOP. I have witnessed over 30 years of “friendship” how hardened and narrow he has become in his views and personal practices. It’s been sad to watch.

      • Tom D says:

        ***If you can’t win these rooms, you can’t become a city councilman or a state rep or a county commissioner or take any other low/mid office. In other words, they define the political ecosystem for a local area.***

        This is an interesting point, but the two most successful GOP presidential candidates this year, Trump and Cruz (both of whom are popular with the lunatic fringe) never had to go through that gatekeeping process because they never held those local elected offices. Cruz worked in the GWB administration, then as Texas Solicitor General (not an elected position) then was elected to the US Senate. Trump has of course never held any elected office.

        The success of Trump and Cruz seems to me to illustrate that it’s all the Republican primary voters, not just the handful that volunteer or go to meetings of local political groups, who are responsible for the type and quality of people who now represent the party.

      • 1mime says:

        I can’t speak about Drumpf, but I can tell you for certain that my friend who is actively involved in the Houston Realty Group, is a passionate supporter of Cruz. Knowing his deep and long involvement with GOP politics in Houston, I feel confident in saying that Cruz was vetted at the local level. These people don’t just give money, they are in on the screening decisions – just as Lifer pointed out. Cruz was also a Tea Party favorite, which is a “vetting” organization not mentioned directly by Lifer, but very much active in TX Republican politics.

      • goplifer says:

        Actually, Cruz did go through that gatekeeping process – at considerable length over many, many years. He did not emerge out of nowhere. Those small groups defined the issue positions that Cruz adopted and worked within them very carefully on his rise in Texas.

        You’re right though that Trump has not moved through that process, at least not in the same way as Cruz, which is one of the qualities that defines him as an emblem of the Politics of Crazy.

      • 1mime says:

        “Cruz did go through the vetting process over many, many years….”

        Thus it’s safe to assume that the TX vetting system knew full well what they were getting and actively helped “shape” him, waiting for the “right” moment to turn him loose.

        The problem, Lifer, is that if one can assume the official GOP vetting process is producing people like Cruz, why complain when he actively pursues higher ambitions? I understand that the R base is not discerning, but was all the “angst” over Cruz just for show?

        Plus, the guy is planning to run again for his Senate seat, bolstering his resume for his next run at POTUS in 2020…….He may be your “safe establishment play by the rules guy”, but I think he is dangerous for our country. There are people who are dangerous candidates for the party nomination (Drumpf) and then there are people like Cruz, who should be of larger concern. It bothers me that anyone who is astute in watching the political process would ever feel Cruz would be an “acceptable” candidate for President.

        Obviously, I am speaking of my own views.

  6. texan5142 says:

    What a hoot watching the libertarian debate live, Hahaha!

  7. 1mime says:

    I’ll look for The Weeds, Rob. Mosler recommended a site called “Evonomics” which I have been following (as often as I have time – deep, “good” stuff). Today’s post deals with how economic thinking is changing and how this will impact politics and policy. It’s a most interesting read and an excellent recitation of economic theory development. The author, Eric Beinhofer, gives excellent examples that reinforce his theories. So much of what we observe is driven by economic considerations. What if we approached our projections and public policies differently?

    ” Economic thinking is changing. If that thesis is correct – and there are many reasons to believe it is – then historical experience suggests policy and politics will change as well. How significant that change will be remains to be seen. It is still early days and the impact thus far has been limited. Few politicians or policymakers are even dimly aware of the changes underway in economics; but these changes are deep and profound, and the implications for policy and politics are potentially transformative.”

    Adapted from Complex New World: Translating new economic thinking into public policy, published by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

  8. 1mime says:

    Americans have become lazy in their political involvement. It used to be a source of pride and great satisfaction to become actively involved – by which I mean: give time, donate, research issues, vote. Now too many people want someone else do that so all they have to do is the last step – vote.

    We need to start early by teaching our teens through a civics like environment. There are a lot of creative ways to involve them so that they understand the process and how they can become involved. I’ve had some wonderful experiences in this regard and the students were very responsive.

  9. n1cholas says:

    “It’s only a matter of time before you get a Democratic Party dominated by gluten activists, vaccine deniers, and social justice warriors.”

    Not in a million years.

    • goplifer says:

      Heh heh heh…. It’s much closer than you think. The DNC is about to get it’s first taste of a Texas-style party platform.

      The crazy? It’s coming:

      • Griffin says:

        I don’t think Keith Ellison or Elijah Cummings are “crazy”. Neither are the policy proposals put forward by the “progressives”. While I personally disagree with many of those positions this is supposed to be their job as a labor oriented party, all of those policy proposals are to be totally expected from a left-wing party that represents the blue collar working class.

        It’s the responsibilty of the Republicans (or whatever takes their place) to put forward sane alternatives as the party that represents capital and to compromise with (i.e. take the edge off) the labor parties policies if they lose the election. They aren’t doing their job so now we are only hearing one slate of policy positions as a result, but we shouldn’t be surprised when the blue collar party puts forward the blue collar interests of greater trust in centralized government than tweaking markets. I put much more blame on the Republicans than the Democrats for this.

        However if Dems go crazy I think GMO bans are the first thing to look out for. That and (shudder) postmodernism. I find Sanders more annoying for not ending his campaign than his positions per se (even if I disagree with them). Here’s a good article on Sanders’ popularity from Jonathan Chait which posits that many young Dems aren’t moving very far left so much as many of them really don’t like Hillary Clinton:

        I think many of Clinton’s problems with younger voters would go away if she was just comfortable enough to be “herself” while speaking. It irks me how bad such an experienced and intelligent candidate is at basic campaigning.

      • goplifer says:

        To be fair, Ellison and Cummings are rock solid. The rest of the list – not so much. And Cornel West had devolved into the Democratic Party’s crazy drunk uncle.

      • n1cholas says:

        What you miss, because you’re still a righty, is that if you poll the US Public on almost every issue that Sanders is in favor of, the majority agree with him.

        So, you have to point to tiny interest groups who have absolutely no power anywhere, except perhaps on some internet comment boards, as about to take over the Democratic party.

        That’s ridiculous on its face.

        Take a look at the newest Texas Republican party platform – that is what the Republican party believes reality looks like, boiled down and published for the world to see.

        Now, do me a favor – point to the Democratic party platform of any state that you feel is the more delusional.

        We’ll compare them to see just how “crazy” the Democratic party is getting.

        Or, to put it another way, you’re pointing at Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Rick Santorum, and saying look at those established lunatics on the right! But! But! But!, check out these comments on this internet website of equally crazy liberals!

        Come on. The Republican party is basically a rabid dog that needs to be put down. The Democratic party is what a big tent party looks like. Yes, there are a few delusional people in it, but they get kicked in the teeth anytime they get anywhere close to the speakers podium – for good reason.

      • Tom D says:

        Who on the platform committee do you claim is a “gluten activist” or a vaccine denier? (What is a gluten activist anyway? Is there a political movement to ban gluten?)

        Cornel West seems to have lost his marbles as far as I can tell, but I don’t see anyone else on the platform committee who a reasonable person should have a problem with.

        They all have records of fighting for social justice, which actually is a good thing despite the moronic use of “social justice warrior” as a derogatory term.

        (Seriously, who’s going to be offended by being called a SJW? It’s about as insulting as calling a right-winger a “champion of freedom”.)

      • 1mime says:

        “Seriously, who’s going to be offended by being called a SJW? It’s about as insulting as calling a right-winger a “champion of freedom”.

        Seriously – who would call a right-winger a “champion for freedom” with a straight face?

      • formdib says:

        This is a follow up to Griffin, but I don’t have a ‘reply’ button under his post:

        “However if Dems go crazy I think GMO bans are the first thing to look out for. That and (shudder) postmodernism.”

        What does postmodernism mean in this context? The only time I’ve heard postmodernism cited in politics was some dominionist claiming that the postmodernists were preachers of moral relativity for the purpose of destroying our civic institutions.

      • Griffin says:

        Moral relativists (who are not descriptivists) and subjectivists.

        The first kind has the stereotypical attitude of “Saudi Arabia repressing women/gays/religious minorities/etc. is just as legitimate as any other nations policies because all cultures are equal”. They’re rare but they exist.

        The second kind is far scarier as they are a bit more common, claiming that anyone can create their own reality and that science is just one of many versions of reality. In practice this leads to many of them merely using science when it suits them but disregarding it when it no longer serves their ideology. They have an active dislike of the Enlightenment and “Western science”. While I suppose it’s possible to be a sane post-modernist most of the extreme left craziness is heavily inspired by post-modernism. Noam Chomsky of all people had one of the best summaries of the concept and it’s crazed contempt for science I’ve ever seen (even if you usually don’t like Chomsky you should still watch this video from at least the 5:39 mark to the finish of it if you want to understand where “academic” anti-science radical left is coming from):

      • flypusher says:

        Griffin, David Brin has a few comments on the academic rift:

        I personally haven’t had any run ins with anti-science academics, fortunely. In fact I’m involved right now in helping set up a collaborative project between creative writing grad students and various science grad students/ post docs, which will result in essays about the science and the process of science. Which should be a win-win. One of the failings of the scientific community right now is a lack of communication.

        The Rice U lingo for the divide is “S&E’s” and “Academs”. I remember feeling much luckier than my Acedem friends, in that I had a stipend and didn’t have to search for extra teaching gigs to pay the bills.

      • formdib says:

        “Moral relativists (who are not descriptivists) and subjectivists.”

        Postmodernism != moral relativity. There are postmodernists who are not moral relativists, and there are moral relativists who are not postmodernists. The two are not linked.

        I have, however, certainly run across postmodern moral relativists like you. They appropriate the language of postmodernism, sure, but they’d appropriate some other language if they needed to. Just as you can’t blame science on woo practitioners using scientific language, you can’t blame postmodernism on moral relativists using its language.

        “The first kind has the stereotypical attitude of “Saudi Arabia repressing women/gays/religious minorities/etc. is just as legitimate as any other nations policies because all cultures are equal”. They’re rare but they exist.”

        ‘Stereotypical’ attitude? I’ven’t even heard anyone say this ever, and you’re generalizing an entire academic theory around it? You say rare, this is a statistical rounding error.

        I do hear from leftists complaints that America has no moral standard to justify its international policy. That argument goes as follows:

        * Many of the enemies we cite as immoral are no more immoral than Saudi Arabia, but we don’t fight Saudi Arabia because they are ‘allies’ (sometimes they throw Israel in there for good measure).

        * Meanwhile, many of the international policies we have are more destructive to human life and rights violations internationally than most other small national dictatorships. See: drones, War on Terrorism, War on Drugs, CIA backed South American coups, etc and so forth.

        * But of course other countries do truly morally reprehensible from universal values things like genocide and slavery. Like, you know, how we treat/ed the indigenous people and Africans.

        I don’t fully agree with that perspective but it’s a more rational perspective than ‘all countries are equal so let them oppress people.’ In so many words leftists are basically just calling the US out on hypocrisy. If that’s not what you’re referring to, then you’re referring to cranks who, as I’ve already said, are as indicative of ‘postmodernism’ as Dr. Oz is of medicine.

        “The second kind is far scarier as they are a bit more common, claiming that anyone can create their own reality and that science is just one of many versions of reality. In practice this leads to many of them merely using science when it suits them but disregarding it when it no longer serves their ideology. They have an active dislike of the Enlightenment and “Western science”.”

        Yeah, if you talk to the guy who just took Sophomore lit studies. This is where simplifying postmodernism is probably helpful:

        Postmodernism is varied as it reacts to various elements of modernism. At core of modernism are linear narratives of ideas, ideologies, theories, etc. usually with utopic results. For example, Marxism is a modernist theory of economics that states that capital is _essentially_ understood as a conflict between workers and owners. Freudian psychoanalysis is a modernist theory of psychology that states that cognition is _essentially_ understood as influences of the conscious, subconscious, and id. Modern art is an approach that aesthetics is _essentially_ understood as formal elements of composition. And yes, science is a method of inquiry that relies _essentially_ on objective observation for falsifiability.

        Each modernism relies on the assumption of both a linear history and that word _essential_ relates to platonic apotheoses of each modernism from a Hegelian tradition. Tl;dr of that is: no, human nature and our current circumstances cannot be cleanly stated as ‘essentially’ caused by one thing leading to another. The world is more complex than that.

        That’s the ‘postmodern situation’ as described by Lyotard. The rest is postmodern THEORY. Theory in this sense is critical theory, not scientific theory. It’s an attempt by academics to develop methods of describing a more complex, nonlinear approach to phenomena. Like every other type of critical theory, the language developed is based around no end of other academic texts, so it’s mostly meant to be read under the understanding that the reader has an academic background. It’s also famously dense and infamously a favored approach of obfuscurants.

        We could then go into the question of what the value of all of it is but like most academic theories, it’s more a type of engagement with literature, art, history, and sociology than it is any sort of attempt to create a revolutionary or governmental structure. It inspires a few artists and writers to do goofy things, sometimes with interesting results.

        It’s harmless.

        “While I suppose it’s possible to be a sane post-modernist most of the extreme left craziness is heavily inspired by post-modernism. Noam Chomsky of all people had one of the best summaries of the concept and it’s crazed contempt for science I’ve ever seen:”

        Noam Chomsky is complicated to talk about but for purposes of this discussion it boils down to this: he’s a smart dude and heady talker and has done world-renowned work in linguistics that nearly successfully argued for a coherent universal language. This work was later falsified but it still had important but highly specialized significance. Most of that work neither you or I understand. Forget about it.

        Then he became interested in writing about political science using his linguistic background and for the most part is considered by other political scientists to be like how climatologists feel when the geologist from Buttfuck, Nowhere, Okladakotasota sez he’s a scientist that ‘doesn’t believe in man made climate change because it’s just weather, damn it’: A smart and well-spoken dude but whose specialism has fuck-all to do with their area of inquiry.

        And of course Noam Chomsky worries about the effects of certain types of academics he disagrees with, especially an area of academia that outright rejects the notion of language having essential characteristics (though to be fair to Chomsky, postmodernists != linguists) and that languages only constitute limits of understanding rather than breadths. Chomsky’s work is actually affected by those thinkers. So as far as the internal politics of academia goes, sure, Chomsky has a bone to pick.

        How does that affect politics?

        Mostly doesn’t.

        The leftist anti-GMO anti-vaxxer science denialist cranks come at it from postmodernism sometimes, sometimes from Orientalism (“Namaste, duderino”), sometimes they’re just rich ass white people in urban cities never saw a measles mump decided some hack doctor’s falsified study from the 90s was ‘buried’ by ‘the man’ because the ‘mainstream media’ keeps ignoring it because they are special flowers who need to feel like they’re one up on society. Cranks are cranks, left wing or right.

        The postmodernists themselves wouldn’t be capable of writing legislation people would be capable of following, and probably wouldn’t be interested (too busy redefining erasure over another 1000 pages of text). Those college sophomore dropouts that took a few critical theory classes and determined that since sign =/= signifier, map =/= territory, therefore all social structures and politics of identity are arbitrary! aren’t capable of organizing any meaningful social group, believe me, I’ve seen them try. Some of them are Bernie Bros and telling me that Hillary is going to lose because they refuse to vote for her, but they never voted before anyway and it didn’t seem to change the election results.

        At any rate, alls I’m saying is, as far as what is broadly called the ‘postmodern condition’, since I’m sure you know social and cultural influences are more complex than singular linear narratives can essentialize, you’re with the rest of us postmodernists. Whereas as academic postmodernism is concerned, it’s actually pretty passe and academia has moved on.

      • formdib says:

        As a postscript to all that:

        I think it bears worth considering that much of academia is a prestige industry. Most academics understand, whether they like to admit it or not, that their range of influence is mostly confined to narrow specialisms and a few wonky nerds like me who manage to slip in some Deleuze between issues of The Economist and Cronenberg’s newish novel.

        The best academics have a sense of humor. The worst are all too serious. The latter would never get voted into a neighborhood association council, less manage to create a meaningful cult of personality to compete with technocrats and reality stars.

  10. Stephen says:

    I have walked streets for candidates before, been a precinct committeeman and contribute money to campaigns. Helped stop the local party from endorsing someone in the primary for county mayor. The one that won and the more extreme were against went on to become a US Senator. He was a moderate Republican when such was to be had.

    While I have not for the last decade been that active I remain a super voter never missing an election. I tried to get the local party to start changing direction in the late nineties when my county was still purple. Now it is blue. The local Republican Party has remained a right wing tea which does not work in a diverse community.

    Several decades ago I was talking to my neighbor about politics. He was a Democrat and we discuss who he would vote for. His remark about his own party was “What have you lately done for me?” He was open to crossing party lines if his concerns were better address by the other party. Same deal now. If you ask the people of this country that question today except for( old white people or rich old men both a minority) they would say not a dang thing.

    Lifer until the GOP addresses the issues of the majority of the population it is heading towards extinction. A renegade component of the Republican Party doing that could draw new blood in and could take over the GOP. There are plenty of people who vote Democrat who would be willing to change their voting patterns if their concerns were better address. The problem is as you note getting those kind of people involved with politics including party politics. Many political movements today start and are supported on line. Think the Arab Spring. Complex software is regularly developed and written by volunteers on-line. Think open source. The solution might be right in front of our eyes.

  11. Rob Ambrose says:

    What a total disaster this Congress is. Possibly one of the worst. Ever.

    The latest: the HFC dumoed Boehner, in part, because he kept too tight control of allowed amendment votes, depriving the loons of adding their fav pet projects into unrelated bills. Paul Ryan agreed to loosen the reins as a fig leaf to them. It seems the HFC meant only THEY could add amendments though. When they realized Democrats can do it too, especially with bi partisan support for LGBT amendments becoming more common.

    Basically, when they thought this rule would allow them to include important things (like defunding PP, auditing the Fed, abolishing the IRS and declaring the moon landing a hoax) that was fine. But when other reps try to insert civilization destroying amendments like, say, protecting LGBT citizens, well that kind of tyranny just can’t stand, and now they want Ryan to tighten the rules again.

    What a bunch of absolute clowns.

    The best part is, apparently this sets up a potential gov shutdown in October. As in, a month before a presidential election.

    What a bloodbath that would be for the GOP.

    • 1mime says:

      If it didn’t seem to hurt them with their base when Cruz shut down government for, what, two weeks in 2013, then nearly shut down government again last year over the ACA. What have they learned? What have they lost?

      • formdib says:

        Congressional approval dropped from 19 to 11 during the government shutdown in October 2013, plus sunk a further two points in November.

        The 2015 ratings are less clear because the shutdown ultimately didn’t happen, but during the period from June 2015 to November 2015 Congressional approval dipped from 17 to 11 rather than 19 to 9. I would argue the news of the potential government shutdown had its roll to play, and if the shutdown had happened approval ratings would have dropped even further.


        Government shutdowns may not have long term implications to Congressional approval ratings, but they do create drastic short term dips that take at least some time to recover. And that recovery never fully happens due to Congressional gridlock etc and so forth (a 19% approval rating is still shitty).

        But the point here being, a government shutdown one month before November would be the perfect thing to ensure a Democratic sweep, I would argue even regardless of whether Trump or Hillary wins considering Trump would bombast about it as much as anyone.

        That said, my relative rate of predictions-to-outcomes is outright terrible this season, so hey.

      • 1mime says:

        Hi fellow night owl! Yeah, I know the polls dropped, but Repubs still haven’t paid the penultimate price at the polls which is the only metric they care about. Of course their base is deluded, but I am waiting for some “real” consequences…the kind that send people home. Anything less will be spun as “Trump’s fault”.

      • Shutting down the government doesn’t seem to hurt the evrage person. Certainly not the Republican base. And all goverment workers eventually get paid. So it seems to me to be just another thing to read about. If here were real pain felt, then there would be political repercussions.

      • 1mime says:

        Yeah, well – the shut down in ’13 cost we taxpayers $24 Billion dollars….for those who live with their heads in the sand, that might not matter. For those of us who are alert – it matters deeply. But, you are correct that part of the subliminal brainwashing of the GOP voter has been denial….of many, many truths.

  12. Fair Economist says:

    The takeover of the Republican party machinery by these unhinged extremists is part of the story. I think you’re underestimating the role of the 1%, though. There are some unhinged wealthy folks who give these people lots of funding. Remember the Tea Party started as an astroturf operation although it took on a life of its own, and they continue to get financial support even though a number of major donors have pulled back.

    The process is slower on the Democratic side, and I think is much further from takeover than you think. There are three reasons for this. First, the left is less unhinged – there’s nothing on the left like Fox News or conservative talk radio to create a vast echo chamber pushing extreme nonsense. Second, there aren’t any unhinged billionaires on the left to push the process along. There are some kooky media personalities, but they don’t have anything like the influence or money of the kooks on the right.

    Finally, the lefty revolutionaries usually consider it a badge of pride that they’re not involved in the Democratic party, unlike the righties whose top priority is usually influence in the Republican party. The Sandernistas might well be a majority of primary votes by 2024 but they’re unlikely to be running the party machinery putting primary candidate forwards, by their own choice.

    • formdib says:

      “there’s nothing on the left like Fox News or conservative talk radio to create a vast echo chamber pushing extreme nonsense.”

      Not according to MY social media feeds.

      Vox, Huffington Post, Mic, NowThis, A+J, and ThinkProgress are the definition of an echo chamber, as they all pretty much pick up each others’ opinion editorials (“You wouldn’t believe what this right wing rightist righty right wad said about progress!”) and recycle them ad nauseum. Their often misinformation and limited knowledge of what is going on at any given point are spread at the speed of shares.

      And you know how FOX and the various radio hosts are always going on about ‘the mainstream media?’ Yeah, according to these illustrious new media platforms, the mainstream media “never talks about” whatever issue these platforms are directly citing their reaction to, raising the fun epistemological challenge of asking where exactly they got their information from in the first place.

    • Titanium Dragon says:

      You’re actually wrong about the Left not having a huge echo chamber. People will suggest it is media sources, but it isn’t.

      It is Tumblr.

      And it is AWFUL.

      The Tumblrsphere is… I don’t even know what to say about it. But they’re utterly bonkers.

      Tumblr is a fine platform for some things, but if you go out into the weeds, you find absolute, utter insanity.

      The main bulwark that the Democrats have against the Tumblrsphere is the actual liberals. GamerGate was a fight between the blues and the grays, not the blues and the reds, however much a few reds tried to jump in. The SJWs are loathed by a large number of people.

      The main danger is that the SJWs are more organized, but also kind of prone to self-destructing. They’re more media-friendly than the far right though.

  13. Rob Ambrose says:

    Vox has a podcast I listen to called The Weeds. A reference to how wonky and “deep into the weeds” they get with their topics.

    This is a very weedsy post, and I mean that in a good way. I’m not sure I agree with everything, but this is some really good analysis.

    Great post.

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