Election angst

Domestic politics in the United States are worse at this moment than they have ever been in my sad 46 years of life. And if your response is “they did it”, whoever they are, you are, I think missing the point, missing the problem. We are in this together. Once we’ve made a civil war of it we have already lost, however just the side you choose to fight on. Often moral errors feel like moral imperatives at the time.

One of the many ways contemporary social science is a poor mode for understanding human affairs is its fetish for individual-centered explanations, “methodological individualism” in the lingo. The most robust fact of social affairs is that communal characteristics trump individual characteristics in explaining almost any phenomenon of interest. All of the things we idiot idolize — educational attainment, future earnings, likelihood of poverty, likelihood of imprisonment, whatever — are much better explained by communal factors than by individual factors to the degree that we can orthogonalize the two. [1] Political phenomena are social phenomena. All social facts, characteristics that we too easily essentialize like race, characteristics we perceive as facts of nature like the unity and continuity of our identities, are socially constructed. It is much more accurate to say that communities create individuals than to say that individuals create communities, although of course both statements are true in their ways.

Politics is not about individuals. It is about communities and communal identities. Osama Bin Laden was a wealthy man, the men who brought down the twin towers were educated people who would have been able to live and prosper in Western countries. Surely, then, such acts of terrorism have nothing to do with the poverty and pathologies and resentments of Middle Eastern countries, since the individuals who perpetrate terrorism are not primarily the poor or those most directly affected by those pathologies? Terrorists must just be motivated by terrorism, that is the only explanation. I hope that the shallowness of this argument is self-evident, dear reader.

Dylan Matthews at Vox writes:

There is absolutely no evidence that Trump’s supporters, either in the primary or the general election, are disproportionately poor or working class. Exit polling from the primaries found that Trump voters made about as much as Ted Cruz voters, and significantly more than supporters of either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. Trump voters, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver found, had a median household income of $72,000, a fair bit higher than the $62,000 median household income for non-Hispanic whites in America.

Vox is a wonderful publication along many dimensions. One of its virtues is that it provides constant exercises in how a few statistics or credentialed quotes combined with ones own authoritative voice can mislead bright writers into thinking they know the one scientific truth of things. Matthews and several of his peers at Vox have invested themselves in a narrative that says the sophisticated, carefully evidenced take on the Trump phenomenon is that it’s all racism, nothing else matters. Now, it is obvious that racism and nativism and neofascism are an important and particularly disturbing aspect of the Trump phenomenon, that people who overtly identify as racist or neo-Nazi have found a home in a tent that Donald Trump has made comfortable for them. But it is also obvious that, within the Republican Party, Trump’s support comes disproportionately from troubled communities, from places that have been left behind economically, that struggle with unusual rates of opiate addiction, low educational achievement, and other social vices. If you insist on focusing on individuals, you may miss the connection, because the worst off within communities — actual chronic discouraged workers, addicts — are likely to express no opinion to the degree they can be polled at all. Trump primary voters are white Republicans who vote, automatically a more affluent baseline than the white voters generally. At the community level, patterns are clear. (See this too.) Of course, it could still all be racism, because within white communities, measures of social and economic dysfunction are likely correlated with measures you could associate with racism. Social affairs are complicated and the real world does not hand us unique well-identified models. We always have to choose our explanations, and we should think carefully about how and why we do so. Explanations have consequences, not just for the people we are imposing them upon, but for our polity as a whole. I don’t get involved in these arguments to express some high-minded empathy for Trump voters, but because I think that monocausally attributing a broad political movement to racism when it has other plausible antecedents does real harm. (See also Carl Beijer on the same Vox piece.)

A nation-state is a relatively new form of human community. Its singular problem is scale. Among nation-states, there is a strong inverse correlation between nation-state “success” (however we want to measure that) and “socioethnic fragmentation”. Nation-states “work” when their members are most powerfully attached to a common, broadly shared, communal identity. When members attach themselves primarily to more local or parochial identities, destructive politics of intercommunal struggle often plague the polity. Unfortunately, many people understand this relationship in a very simple, static way. The Nordic countries are famously “homogeneous”, and so are unusually successful as nation-states. Lebanon is a hodgepodge of sects and ethnicities, and has a hard time thriving.

But causal arrows in social affairs usually go both ways. It is equally accurate to say that the Nordic countries have succeeded as nation-states, and so have become “homogeneous”, while Lebanon has not thrived as a nation, and so finds itself ethnically fragmented. Shared communal identities across millions of geographically dispersed people simply do not arise without political organization. Nations create their own publics, or else they fail to do so and then they fail. The United States’ main claim to fame, its main claim to virtue in my view, is E pluribus unum. The United States, during some periods of its history, has been very good at integrating disparate groups of people into a strong national community. Communal identities are never static. Nation-states experience centripetal forces that tend towards integration and centrifugal forces that pull towards fragmentation. Open commerce, frequent geographic mixing, universal education, broadcast communication networks, rich transportation networks, a national civic religion, political consensus, a widely-shared popular culture, shared lifestyles across a broad middle class, and perceived general prosperity are all sources of integration. Physical segregation, widely divergent education, commercial segmentation or exclusion, self-organizing point-to-point communication networks, the absence or decay of civic religion, political polarization, absence of a broad popular culture, economic dispersion that stratifies lifestyles, perceived unfairness in patterns of prosperity, and immigration from external communities can be sources of fragmentation. Some of these “sources of fragmentation” are very good things! Self-organizing point-to-point communication and physical segregation derive from freedom of association. They potentially help enable a diversity of subnational communities and a rich civic society. Tolerance of immigration confers an incredibly valuable option upon potential immigrants, and can support the growth and economic strength of the nation-state. But a successful nation-state must budget the centrifugal forces it can tolerate against the centripetal forces it can generate.

Nations are either integrating or they are fragmenting. The United States spent much of the 20th Century integrating. It is currently fragmenting. We currently discuss and perceive this in very racialized terms (a fact which in my view is itself a symptom of the fragmentation). Through about the 1990s, more and more groups of people integrated into a community it is now offensive to describe as “American”. We now refer to this community as “white”, in order to emphasize by contrast the unfairness and horror of the United States’ greatest shame, our failure to fully integrate descendants of the immigrants we involuntarily imported and then brutally enslaved. Since around 2000, in my view, the “white” United States has been fragmenting. Integration has been replaced by ethnogenesis. The communities from which Trump enthusiasts disproportionately arise may be increasingly white supremicist, but they are no longer unproblematically “white” in its meaning as “default American”. They compete for national identity with ascendant “people of color”, sure, but before you go on about racial last-place aversion, note that they compete more directly and much more bitterly with a cosmopolitan but disproportionately “white” urban professional class, whose whiteness has itself been problematized, as underlined by a resurgent anti-Semitism where Jews stand-in for this class broadly.

And before we get caught up categorizing and imposing moral rankings on the various new ethnicities we are inventing, we should pause to emphasize that these are accidents, not essences. Our polity was going to fray, because we have allowed centrifugal forces to grow much stronger than the forces that might tend towards integration. Regular readers will be unsurprised that I think economic stratification and differential stagnation are the deepest sources of fragmentation and the first that we should address. We may also need to consider ideas like universal national service, or Singapore-style residential integration incentives. I hope we won’t consider rolling back our chaotic, open communication networks in favor of a more “curated” shared information environment. I hope we will find ways to define a more multidimensional space for our politics to play out, rather than limiting ourselves to an increasingly polarized line between two camps neither of which adequately represent us. Whatever we do, we will have to reconcile sometimes conflicting goals of national integration, economic success, and respect for liberal values.

For the moment, we have to get through the catastrophe that this election has become. A fault line was always going to appear between the economically dominant class and much of the rest of the country which has been left behind. In my view, it is a very great tragedy that Bernie Sanders did not win his primary campaign to represent the left-behind in a positive and inclusive way. All humans are racists in some ways and to some degrees, but it was not at all inevitable, I think, that we end up in a “battle between cosmopolitan finance capitalism and ethno-nationalist backlash”, as Chris Hayes put it. Donald Trump offered a particularly comfortable home to the most ethno-nationalist fraction of the left-behind, and no home at all to people of color. But many not-unusually-racist “white” people who, fairly or not, perceive Clinton as an icon of a corruption, now see Trump as the only game in town. It is tempting, among those of us who would be appalled by a Trump victory, to try to sway undecided voters by equating voting for Trump with racism full-stop. That’s a bad idea. If it becomes the mainstream view that Trump voters are simply racists, it leaves those who are already committed, those who are unwilling to abandon Trump or to stomach Clinton, little choice but to own what they’ve been accused of. Racist is the new queer. The same daring, transgressional psychology that, for gay people, converted an insult into a durable token of identity may persuade a mass of people who otherwise would not have challenged the social taboo surrounding racism to accept the epithet with defiant equanimity or even to embrace it. The assertion that Trump’s supporters are all racists has, I think, become partially self-fulfilling. In and of itself, that will make America’s already deeply ugly racial politics uglier. It will help justify the further pathologization of the emerging white underclass while doing nothing at all to help communities of color except, conveniently for some, to set the groups at one another’s throats so they cannot make common cause. It will become yet another excuse for beneficiaries of economic stratification to blame its victims. Things were bad before this election. They are worse now, and we should be very careful about how we carry this experience forward. These are frightening times.

P.S. I will be voting for Hillary Clinton. Not happily. Perhaps there is room for optimism. Perhaps I’ll be pleasantly surprised. I very much hope that the Democrats win the House and Senate as well. If I’m to be disappointed, I’d rather have clear lines of accountability rather than have blame diffused by claims of gridlock. I don’t think Donald Trump should be President. I think he’s unfit, and a statue of an upraised middle finger would be a better choice for all concerned. Regardless of my views, I respect your vote however you choose to cast it, because that is the first courtesy we owe one another in a democracy.

Update: James Kwak offers a much better and more careful discussion of the Vox piece I didn’t like so much.

[1] What does that mean? For example, if you tell me an individuals’ parental incomes, that’s very informative about, say, likely educational achievement. But you are giving me information both about the individual and about her community, since incomes aren’t uniformly distributed across communities. If you offer me just one of (a) the decile of parental income within a person’s community (under almost any reasonable definition of community, but without identifying the community) or (b) the identity of the community from which which she hails without the specific income information, (b), the identity of the community, will be more informative.

Update History:

  • 17-Oct-2016, 10:10 p.m. PDT: Add bold update with link to James Kwak’s piece.
  • 7-Nov-2016, 1:30 p.m. PST: “…most powerfully attached to a common, broadly shared…”; “The United States main claim to fame…”; “But And before we get caught up categorizing…”

43 Responses to “Election angst”

  1. When we were ingegrating, we were integrating in our urban melting pots – our opportunity centers. Places like New York City and Los Angeles are icons of aspirational destinations. Those cities have a moat around them now because of housing restrictions and the related high cost of living. Where do you imagine integration is supposed to happen now? Not only are aspirational working class families locked out of those cities, but hundreds of thousands flee each year to make room for the professionals that can outbid them for access. We are becoming two nations, segregated by skill, connections, and income, and it comes down to the fact that the cities that made this country won’t build any #&$!ing housing.

  2. Foppe writes:

    I have been trying, with little success so far, to explain to self-identifying “liberals”/”progressives” around me that a. that racism isn’t actually the issue; the fact that immigration (and trade) policies lead to job displacement/impovishment, while the governments that create those policies (de facto) do nothing to create alternative sources of (meaningful/decent) employment — arguing that this isn’t allowed (b/c market), or unaffordable, or wrong (because the uneducated are basically irredeemable) and thus don’t deserve a comfortable life — is. Getting them to see this second point is actually the harder part, because thanks to the credentialed media class (very much including TDS/Stewart/Colbert), they’ve internalized this themselves; and/or they’ve come to believe that voting trump/brexit/whatever makes the voter irredeemably bad (and personally responsible for others’ behavior) *because* it feeds into those/further racist narratives / “helps/encourages/endorses” racism, etc..
    And b., even if you believe that people are motivated by racist reasoning, it isn’t right (or healthy, or likely to be successful) go try to get people to be better by attempting to shame them into submission via name-calling; and that it is thus exceedingly undesirable to exclusively hand people narratives that focus on “racism” as the main/overriding explanatory factor for their discontent/worries/etc., while dismissing the underlying concerns via “arguments” such as “even if they are hurting/worried/etc., they should understand that doing X is beyond the pale”.

    I am currently mildly hopeful that some may see the issue more clearly once they’ve read Tom Frank’s indictment of meritocratic thinking (aka social darwinism using an amended scale of value) / the professional class takeover of the democratic party & the european “labor” parties in Listen, Liberal; but it’s pretty disheartening to see how badly “progressives” misunderstand what’s going on, and what/who they allow themselves to say/endorse because of their experienced despair over the “other side”.

    (As for your election outcome, to me 4 more years of gridlock, enacted however, seems like it may be least-worst for the world, and perhaps also domestically (though given the Clintons’ tendency towards triangulation, it may not matter much either way, absent extra-institutional political pressure). But I have little doubt that it’s not going to get better.

  3. foosion writes:

    An issue with the economic anxiety explanation of Trump supporters is that Clinton’s economic policies appear to be much better for the average Trump supporter than Trump’s economic policies. Trump’s policies would appear to be much more appealing to someone motivated by racism or perhaps social anxiety.

  4. Sohier writes:

    For anyone else curious about Singapore’s forced residential integration program, I enjoyed this article:

  5. Stacy writes:

    “Vox is a wonderful publication along many dimensions. One of its virtues is that it provides constant exercises in how a few statistics or credentialed quotes combined with ones own authoritative voice can mislead bright writers into thinking they know the one scientific truth of things… Now, it is obvious that racism and nativism and neofascism are an important and particularly disturbing aspect of the Trump phenomenon, that people who overtly identify as racist or neo-Nazi have found a home in a tent that Donald Trump has made comfortable for them.”

    I think you just hoisted yourself with your own petard there ace.

    How many people in the entire country do you think actually identify as “neo-Nazi”? 52?, 117? Show me some hard stats that it’s anywhere near 1% of the general population. And if it’s not, why is it relevant in this context? Hillary may very well have most of the LEGALLY IDENTIFIED sex-offender population in her corner but I doubt you’ll be leading with that deatil in describing her broad appeal.

    Then, after equating Trump supporters with fascist sympatizers you launch into a whole list of central planning initiatives that we may or may not need to have forced down our throatrs by our political overloards in the event that the electorate’s attitude doesn’t freshen up a bit. Asshole.

    By the way, not wanting your country to be flooded with third-world peasants isn’t any more racist than not wanting sex-offenders to move into your neighborhood who happen to have a different skin color from your own. Go spend a few weeks in the “melting pots” of Sweden and get back to me.

    Also, as a means to help you connect the dots on this issue, go ask your wife if you can adopt a young, female “refugee” from a broken family (a real shame!…long story) into your own family. Tell the wife that this young woman will cost your family some money and resources up front, sure, but you have every reason to believe that she’ll be pulling her own weight in no time. Don’t forget to mention the “aging demographics” issue in your own family too and how this fine young woman would be willing to do certain jobs that, you know, existing family members are no longer willing to perform…

  6. Lord writes:

    We shouldn’t delight in forcing Hillary down their craws? What fun are you? Yes, calling people racist isn’t going to persuade anyone, but it isn’t like good policy is going to persuade them either. Not that they aren’t due some sympathy, but also they are due some truth.

  7. Rob in CT writes:

    Stacy doing his or her level best to prove the Voxers (Voxians?) have the right of it.

  8. Your focus on institutions is correct, but you miss the obvious problem.

    Media bias is very real, and at every turn is biased against institutions. Bernie Sanders hacked this bug and was thus unlikely to save us from it.

    Doubt it? Read this story of how one arrogant Harvard scientist fucked us all over told as a tale of the Agriculture Industy (which gives meaning to the life of Trump voters) and government (necessary to solve our problems) failed.

  9. asdf writes:

    Interfluidity: You’re racist are totally wrong and we’re not going to change any policies, but we ought to be more polite and empathetic about disenfranchising you people.

    Also, even though its never actually worked, I have this weird fantasy about poor whites and poor blacks locking hands and enacting a Scandinavian welfare state. Never mind that NAM immigrants are actually ripping apart the real Scandinavia. Whites and NAMs are EXACTLY the same and have no conflicting behaviors or interests whatsoever.

    This isn’t hard. Genetics between the races are different. Peace is impossible because of this scientific fact. Shoving millions of NAMs down our throats against our will to permanently change the countries demographics was the worst decision in our entire history. Importing mercenary voters was a cheap way to gain political power without actually winning the souls of white America. White America is going to vote majority Trump on Nov 8th, they are going to vote for their own right to exist. They aren’t going to form a political coalition with the people burning down their cities, beating their kids up at school, and suing their businesses out of existence.

  10. Rob in CT writes:

    Oh, look, another person who is really driven by economic anxiety!

  11. asdf writes:

    @Rob in CT

    What, exactly, is insightful or clever about your commentary?

    Are most white people not about to vote for Trump?

    Is Steve not promising more of the same on anti-white policies that are directly against the interests of white people?

    Are NAMs not genetically different from whites in ways that matter? Is our entire legal and cultural system not based on denying this and then blaming and punishing middle class whites when the idealism doesn’t pan out because of the hard biological facts?

    Which of these facts are wrong? Or are you just going to point and sputter and through a “wow, just wow” hissy fit.

  12. MattW writes:

    It’s too late on the transgressional psychology bit. And there’s no way to stop it regardless of who wins this election. Trump wins and like Slate Star Codex explained his unpopularity and bumbling anti-PC speech will cause the social justice movement to increase in volume and nonsensical views. If Clinton wins this conservative reaction that is propelling Trump will grow even stronger.

  13. Lawrence D'Anna writes:

    great post!

    “ethnogenesis” … “Racist is the new queer”

    That’s truly a terrifying prospect. You only need to look at Yugoslavia and Lebanon and Iraq and Syria to see just how dangerous a runaway process of ethnic fragmentation really is. I think what’s saved us so far is that there are no sharp ethnic boundaries within “white” as a group. Most white people don’t identify primarily in terms of ethnicity. You can’t always tell if someone is red-white or blue-white. People move from one group to the other, or feel themselves outside of both groups. If a process of ethnogenesis actually split off red-white into its own distinct ethnic group it could be disastrous.

    Kevin Erdmann has it absolutely correct on housing.

    I live in California, so there’s no point for me to degrade myself by voting for Clinton, but if I lived in a swing state I would. I think I’d be a lot less happy about it than you are. I can’t imagine why you would hope for a democratic congress with Clinton in the white house. She is I think a true believer in the sort of pre-Reagan, baby boomer, unreformed mainstream American leftism that never sees a tax increase it doesn’t like, never sees a social problem that HUD or the Department of Education can’t fix by spending more money, never sees a credit market it doesn’t want to allocate from DC. A Hillary Clinton administration is going to be a lot less neoliberal than Bill Clinton or Obama were. I’ll take gridlock please, over a 68 year old lifelong leftist’s attempt to restore the golden age of the 60s.

  14. Shbv writes:

    I much prefer gridlock.

  15. Simon writes:

    This post is ridiculous. The economic problems facing ess-educated whites have been around for decades, and no unusual economic calamity has befallen them recently. Economic outcomes for this group have actually improved in the last couple of years, as they have for most groups. There is no wave of illegal immigrants currently entering the US, and there is no crime wave afflicting the nation. The idea that uneducated whites support Trump because they are suffering from some kind of economic or social disaster is just not correct.

    A much simpler explanation for what’s going on is that the republican party has included a faction of poorly-educated, racist white voters for decades. The size and influence of this group has not grown. The republican party ran a disastrous primary and nominated a candidate that caters to this group, and as a result it ended up with the least-popular presidential candidate in recent memory and will lose the election by a giant margin.

  16. asdf writes:


    Decades of economic decline coupled with the Great Recession obviously represent a complete failure on the economic front.

    The illegal immigrant wave happened over the last several decades, despite constant public support against it.
    People did elect people to stop it and they did nothing. Currently we need to deport lots of the people who have come here illegally because of that failure. That this is disruptive is the fault of the corrupt politicians who allowed them in to begin with.

    There is a crime wave affecting the nation, it only looks good compared to the height of the crack epidemic in the early 90s. Crime rates are terrible compared to 1960, and race riots are back. Also, the most common statistic, the murder rate, doesn’t look good when you adjust for vastly superior trauma care survival rates.

    So your wrong on all points.

    Also, Trump would win this election if only whites voted. He would also be elected by college educated white men and non-college educated white women. Tyranny is being forced on the majority of whites by a minority and their hired mercenaries. The leftists never won the debate, they imported orcish hordes to reinforce them at the ballot box.

  17. Old Strings writes:

    Great post.

  18. Old Strings writes:

    “Racist is the new queer.” Wow. You put your finger on it. The Voxsplainer about the Alt-Right should have just been that.

    I was trying to say something like that on Twitter but the character limit prevented me.

  19. Simon writes:


    The illegal immigrant population peaked during the GW Bush years and has been declining since. Net migration from Mexico has been negative the last few years. No crisis there.

    Violent crime has been falling steadily since 1994. No crisis there.

    I’m not even going to address your use of “mongrel hordes” to refer to racial minorities, or the bizarre idea that one subgroup of people is subject to “tyranny” because their preferred candidate doesn’t win an election.

    Trump is getting a smaller share of white voters than Mitt Romney did. He is a weak candidate drawing support from misinformed people by talking about a fictional crime-ridden america overrun by illegal aliens. It will be a pleasure watching him get destroyed in three weeks.

  20. Vik writes:

    Hey Steve

    Love your writing and been following you for several years. I’m speaking from a different cultural experience but here in Australia we’re thinking about the same kinds of problems as you are in America and we have the same motley cast of petty bourgeois and nativists in our polity wreaking havoc. I’d like your perspective on the argument made by Vox et al that Scandinavian countries and other Western European countries generally have very strong and comprehensive social democracies and yet see this virulent strain of nativism/neofascism gain significant voice in public life. Dylan Matthews reasonably points out that this movement appears to be independent of labour force participation/unemployment rate (and I might add per capita income growth at lower quantiles of income distribution).

    Fundamentally, it seems that there is a ‘test case’ of sorts on the economic anxiety v racism argument in Western Europe and to the cursory observer at least, it seems that racism is a pretty central motivator independent of economic factors in the rise of nativist/neofascist politics.

    Thanks for your response.

  21. Richard Serlin writes:


    As usual, it can take me a while before I have time to complete reading all of a post, so I tend to give comments as I go. I’d like to say a few things now, if that’s ok:

    1) I am a big admirer of Hillary’s. I do really wonder if your reluctance is due to falling for one or more of the many psuedo-scandles of the billionaire-powered right-wing machine over the last 25 years. I recommend Kevin Drum’s Mother Jones blog. Really smart guy, who really researches the facts on these in detail, with strong credible-sourced evidence presented. For example: Email scandal; A poor attempt to keep personal emails private via a private email server, a common practice by top government officials. No significant confidential info in the emails; Clinton Foundation; billions raised for the poorest people in the world, sterling ethics and efficiency of the charity from top independent evaluation, nothing to the Clintons, and no government favors in exchange for donations, which wouldn’t even go to the Clintons. They’d go to very worthy causes! And so on.

    And yes, in ideal world I’d go much further than Clinton or Obama on many issues (and so would they if they could), but in a second I’ll take half a loaf instead of none, especially when that half a loaf means tens of millions get health care, the planet is far less likely to be fried,… Just like Hillary or Obama I would certainly compromise to prevent these terrible things.

    2) Asymmetric and poor information is incredibly powerful in politics, and always has been. Education is a great counter to that, that democracy depends on fundamentally, as well as a good press (Ours has been shameful with the false equivalence at all costs, he said, she said,…, but recently got shocked into looking in the mirror.) I do see the potential for revolutionary advance against asymmetric and poor information with IT and AI, what I call veracity apps, or programs. I have a brief post on this here:


  22. asdf writes:


    Illegal immigration has been unpopular since the 1990s and nobody did anything about it. Those immigrants are still here! It’s not just about stopping current immigrants, but about deporting the ones that have been coming here illegally for some time.

    It’s also more generally about immigration in the west going forward. The same globalist logic is behind Merkel’s refugee flood and Hillary’s private remarks about creating a borderless hemisphere and common market.

    I already explained above how cherry picking the height of the crack epidemic doesn’t address people’s concerns about crime. A lot of things are below cherry picked 50 year highs, that’s how 50 year highs work.

    I don’t know where Trump will finally come in on whites, but he was polling around Romney levels for much of the eleciton and will win a majority of them regardless. The point is that you’ve imported scab voters rather then win over Americans. It’s no different then the Tsar using the Cossaks to keep people in line, or anyone else that brings in a foreign ethnicity as enforcers to oppress the natives.

  23. reason writes:

    Kevin Erdmann @1
    You are right and you are wrong.

    You are right that the high cost of those is driving people out. You are wrong that that is because they don’t build any housing.


    The real answer has to be to create more centers of development rather than trying to squeeze ever more people (with all the resulting externalities) into existing ones. Now I think there are policies that will do that (basic income, subsidized tertiary education, increased building of infrastructure). Ever bigger, ever denser cities sounds a lot like the start of a black hole to me.

  24. reason writes:

    it seems that some people have come here and are trying very hard to prove that some of your contentions are actually wrong. I’m not sure if they are genuine or just clever satire. (Poe’s law and all that).

  25. Lord writes:

    I would say it is more political anxiety than anything else. They are used to dominating and now that they no longer do (and even majorities in Congress are not dominate), they are fearful and lost. Opposition to attempt regaining dominance only underscored their weakness. Only losses and time in the minority will persuade them to rethink their strategies and goals.

  26. Paul writes:

    Steve, your second paragraph should be read, shouted, posted on billboards and painted on the rooftops, at every politician, new-age charlatan, self-improvement guru, and policy entrepreneur. I posted it (with attribution) on my facebook page.
    For sheer quality of posts (thought provoking but also well-written) this is the best blog I read. Thank you.

  27. b. writes:

    “Perhaps there is room for optimism.”

    There is a self-defeating aspect to this – the more votes Clinton receives, the more she will claim for herself a “mandate” to act against the interests and wishes of a larger and larger percentage of her voters, or even supporters. In terms of a “mexican hat” distribution, optimism is maximized only in the asymptote of Clinton losing the election.

    Sanders was a weak alternative to the status quo when it came to foreign policy, defense spending, and national security. Yet for all his weakness as to the root causes of US decline, he would have been reasonably positioned to retain a mandate to act on the coming economic collapse.

    Because neither Bush nor Obama responded in any meaningful way to 2000-2001 and 2007-2009, our economy is once more returned – at stunning expenditure – to its Gilded Age peaks, primed for another “sub-prime” performance of the monied and credentialed elites.

    Clinton will get herself elected, most likely, and will preside over the crash that should have rightfully been Obama’s. Given who she is, and how she is perceived, she will be as unqualified as Trump to organize the overdue corrections, and she will have no mandate whatsoever in the eyes of many if not most voters once the edifice that Greenspan, Bernanke and Yellen have built experiences the third period of rapid contraction. This dismal election only primes an increasing fragile polity for the inevitable repercussions and blowback. Clinton might deserve to be handed such a legacy, but the electorate does not.

    Frankly, on the merits a vote for Trump 2016 is much more understandable and excusable than a vote for Bush 2004 – or Obama 2012, for that matter.

  28. Stephen Douglas writes:

    Will you tell me one thing? Because everytime I read that Trump is a racist, I just think: Wtf are ou talking about?

    Name me one thing Trump has said or done that is racist.

    Just one.
    He said Mexico wasn’t sending their best, but also said that many were not that way. That’s not racist.

    He said Muslims immigration should be halted, but just until some type of reliable vetting could be instituted. Not only are Muslims not a race, but Trump’s proposal is not racist.

    Where on earth do you and every supposed smart person get off name-calling with nothing to back it up? It just makes hou sound emotional, not smart.

  29. Some Guy writes:

    “Through about the 1990s…”

    So what changed in the 1990’s?

    My humble suggestion is to go read, ‘Understanding Media’ by Marshall McLuhan and come back to this topic.

    Here’s a hint, if you’re reading this comment, you’re not watching TV.

    I recall my first encounter with access to the internet (in the 1990’s, of course), in undergrad, came with a list of rules, against ‘flaming’ and such, along with exhortations to remain civil and polite. My reaction was puzzlement, did they think we were barbarians? Where was this coming from? But soon enough I well understood where they were coming from, and the futility of their efforts.

    There are more things in heaven and earth than racism and economic uncertainty.

  30. Ian writes:

    Much to admire and think on here, but this: “Trump’s support comes disproportionately from troubled communities…” – it’s just ont true, is it? Yes, like Chris Arnade, you can find troubled people who are Trump supporters and make it seem like it is, there just isn’t a correlation between ‘places that have been left behind’ and Trump support.

  31. reason writes:

    Steven Douglas @28
    You may even be right that Trump is himself not racist (although I personally doubt it), but you should follow some of the links that Steve provides. The trump campaign has repeatedly made dog whistles to the white supremacist community (by for instance borrowing their symbols and language for tweets).

  32. Foppe writes:

    reason @31: quite possibly, but how does that even compare to “bringing superpredators to heel” and drumming up support for the 1994 crime bill, the “only deserving poor people will get a bit of passing support” — aka TANF — “welfare reforms”, etc?
    Describing all the ways in which Trump is vile is all well and good, but when everything the other side does is taboo because “they’re the reasonable ones who only inflict what suffering they must”, the result is today’s public debates, where killing foreign nationals using drones is fine, and (Bill) associating with a convicted statutory rapist billionaire (J. Epstein) is not worth mentioning, but sexist talk (and possibly also assault, but that is not “proven” yet, for whatever that’s worth) is not. To me, that does not spell “recognition of the inherent value of the lives of others”; but selectively generating scandals to checkmate particular people for personal fame & glory. And yes, Trump is just as guilty of that, and that is how elections have worked for a while now. But that’s no excuse, nor is it the root of the problem. The problem is that the media (and the public, of which the people who report on stuff are also a part) also thinks this way, regardless of political affiliation, with only very few exceptions.

  33. reason writes:

    politics is like looking in the fridge on Monday morning, sometimes there are no perfect choices.

  34. Foppe writes:

    Reason: I’m not sure where you got the impression that I was asking for perfect choices; all I’m trying to point out that the debate makes no sense as is, because of selective outrage, brought on by self-censorship, presumably brought on in turn by a desire to create neat Manichean distinctions between the “sides”, via a process in which “reasonable” people decide that, e.g., “we came, we saw, he died” [bleeding out after being anally raped using a knife] is fine & dandy, and thus not to be mentioned, but sexist remarks are despicable beyond words (keep in mind that when that started, there were no women coming forward yet, so it truly was purely about words/mindset). Now, this is by no means to suggest that I think the latter has any place in interpersonal interactions, or that I would pal around with a person behaving thusly, but if I had to make a statement on what type of attitude towards human life/interests I find more disturbing, I am fairly sure that Trump’s behavior is (and I say this with great sadness) bothers me less. (This especially considering Qaddafi was one of the few despots not in the US’s pocket, and/or friends with/donors to B/H; given the general disinterest in the ‘character’ of the heads of state the US supports, I am not at all swayed by ‘justifications’ of the type ‘he was a horribly bad person’. In their book, that’s irrelevant, so it was about something else — e.g. a bucket list.)

  35. reason writes:

    while I think you are right that that is a debate worth having, I don’t see it here as particularly relevant (Trump is pro-torture and not at all morally troubled about it). And from the point of view who perpetrated the horror you mentioned they were responding in kind (which doesn’t make it right but makes it more understandable). Whoever the commander in chief will be, they will be commander in chief of a machine that practices real-politik. If we want to distinguish between them, other criteria will in the end have to be more important.

  36. Foppe writes:

    (Note that this imo says fairly little about who would be preferable as president, and that it would say even less relevant if the institutional constitution of the US govt were anywhere close to “sound” (which it’s obviously not); for that, we need to look at different facts, such as those presented by Frank in Listen, Liberal.)

  37. Foppe writes:

    Crossposted. Yes, I wasn’t trying to say that it’s (directly) relevant to the question who would make for the “less worse” president; just that this seems to me equally as relevant as Trump’s personal behavior is, while unjustifiably being ignored, so that all the attention/reproach/loathing falls on Trump. Her record — consisting of superpredator remarks, general dog whistling, “deplorable”-think & her voting record — OTOH, strikes me as rather more relevant than Trump’s pipe dreams about making mexico pay for a wall; though it is admittedly nigh-impossible to weigh that against the fact that a R-dominated executive & legislature would most certainly (also) result in terrible laws and policy changes being enacted.

    To clarify: I wasn’t talking about the Libyans’ motivations; just in Hillary’s response to their actions, which struck me as rather unbecoming / disturbing.

  38. Foppe writes:

    (But again, if that debate were held openly, we wouldn’t be seeing the type of conceited/smug/intellectually lazy “analysis” & op/ed writing by “professional pundits” that is the norm nowadays.)

  39. TomG writes:

    With all this talk about “racism”, let’s define it a bit more clearly.
    A) Treating two individual persons differently, altho they seem to behave similarly, with the difference based on their race
    B) Supporting any policy change which seems to have a negative effect on US blacks

    Which racism are you talking about?

    Affirmative Action is clearly (A) racist, in treating blacks better than similar whites, as shown in SAT scores for acceptance to Harvard or Stanford. But anybody opposed to that racism is accused of being a (B) racist for wanting to end AA and instead treat all similarly based on their character — MLK’s dream. With 70% of black kids not growing up with their fathers married to their mothers, the US black community is going to get worse before it gets better.

    Note clearly that racism is primarily an individual choice, CONTRARY to your second anti-individual paragraph. Of course, some 90% of blacks voted for lying John Kerry, dishonestly claiming to be illegally in Cambodia in 1968 (and in at least one newspaper claiming it was Pres. Nixon, who didn’t become Pres until 1969), 3 purple hearts without staying in a hospital, super rich Herman Munsterish (Jib-Jab). Voting 95% for Obama, partly because of his “First Black” result, is very understandable, but also very racist. (Voting for Hillary “because she’s a woman”, or against her for that, is also sexist.)

    Dems have long been encouraging blacks to have a group think anti-Rep view, and claim any black who is or votes for any Rep is a “race traitor”. There’s a black Rep Congressman who is not welcome in the “Black Congressional Caucus”. Because being Dem is more important than being black.

    The Dems attempt to demonize every single Rep candidate … and have since 1960’s Nixon, including Goldwater, Nixon (especially), Ford, Reagan (2x), Bush I, Dole, Bush II, McCain, & Romney.

    Romney was the most decent, humane, excellent candidate since Reagan — but attack dog Dems created fake scandals. And the lies of Obama “You can keep your doctor”, “[We can leave Iraq safely now]” (what were his actual lying words?) have created a far worse and more uncertain world.

    Without checking I’m pretty sure you rationalized voting for a terrible Obama in 2012. Smart folk can rationalize anything — they know how to lie to themselves and believe their own lies. (Me too, I think.)

    US success is based on morals, and moral individuals. Those who deny that individuals have moral agency, and instead argue for “group rights”, or “group identities”, are supporting the group fragmentation you say you want to be reduced. Your support for Clinton is support for fragmentation and demonization of opponents. Plus support for a crook — criminally negligent on national security, repeatedly lying about it and being protected from indictment by gov’t weasels in the FBI & DOJ — weasels who would be likely to prosecute similar illegal actions by a Rep.

    Dem “group think”, or as you ask for “communal identities” is infecting the US media, the academy, and the gov’t. All areas performing poorly, and getting worse, and excluding Reps — much like Nazis excluded Jews. Your voting for it is supporting it far more than your weak arguments against it.

    There’s a great map out there on counties, showing the vast majority of low density counties supporting Trump and Reps, while the more dense cities support Clinton and the Dems. The post-WW II “way of life”, including hopes for the future, seem to be dying in most small towns. “Nothin’ but the dead and dying in My Little Town” (S&G) has seemed true for many decades to many who left; now it seems true to those who feel they can’t leave.

    Trump is a lousy louse. Hillary is a legal-bribe taking criminal “Queen”, claiming that laws don’t apply to her and protected by Dem gov’t enablers plus media plus academy.

  40. reason writes:

    Tom G
    I think objectivity is a foreign word to you.

    Now I might agree that there are better ways to address inequality than affirmative action (because I think equal opportunity is the wrong target, greater equality of outcome is more important and because I agree with you the principle is a bit iffy in that it uses race as a criteria) but I have the feeling that we couldn’t communicate on anything else because you see everything through a partisan screen.

  41. asdf writes:
  42. Foppe writes:

    asdf: Really? The only thing that matters to you is which party wins the contest, and not what they stand for?
    Even if the dems would win all, the bottom 30-40% would still be ignored by them, because “deplorable”/”uneducated”/”we can’t [won’t] afford helping them”/etc.. Please watch Mark Blyth on “Global Trumpism”

  43. asdf writes:

    I know the Dems hate non-elite whites. Hence why most aren’t voting for them.

    There is no way to slice the white vote that doesn’t give it to Rs. Education. Gender. Doesn’t matter. If Ds win it will be because they imported enough non-whites to win, and their policy goals will be to punish non-elite whites.

    The point is that they never won the debate. They brought in outside mercenaries to enforce their dictates.