The Overview - November 02, 2020

The Overview is a weekly roundup of eclectic content in-between essay newsletters & "Conversations" podcast episodes to scratch your brain's curiosity itch.

Hello Eclectic Spacewalkers,

I wish that you and your family are safe and healthy wherever you are in the world. :)

Check out the last The Overview themed around “Law Enforcement & Policing in the United States”: HERE

Get our E-Book for free by using ‘substack’: HERE

Below are some eclectic links for the week of November 2nd, 2020.

This weeks theme is “Voting & Democracy in the United States”

Enjoy, share, and subscribe!

Table of Contents:

  • Articles via Jacobin Magazine, In These Times, The Nation, Commune Magazine, EconLib, The New Republic,, The Bellows, The Field Museum, Fake is the New Real, The American Mind, The New Yorker, Dissent Magazine,, The Abs Tract Organization, Areo Magazine, PEW Research, The Boston Review, NY Mag, ByLine Times, Harper’s

  • Books - Against Democracy - Jason Brennan; Democracy For Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsible Government - Christopher H. Achen & Larry M. Bartels; Democracy for the Few - Michael Parenti; Uninformed: Why People Know So Little About Politics and What We Can Do About It - Arthur Lupia; It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism - Thomas E. Mann & Norman J. Ornstein; A People’s History of the United States - Howard Zinn; Character & Opinion in the United States - George Santayana; A power governments cannot Suppress - Howard Zinn; Earl Thompson’s The Individual and THE STATE

  • Documentaries -Whose Vote Counts - FRONTLINE PBS; Trump’s America - DW Documentary; What is Democracy? - Astra Taylor; Whose Vote Counts - Explained on Netflix; Suppressed: The Fight To Vote - Brave New Films; Rigged: The Voter Suppression Playbook

  • Lectures - Is Democracy Just? - Jason Brennan; The Best Democracy Money Can Buy - Greg Palast

  • Papers - Voter Registration and Turnout in the United States by Benjamin Highton; Evolution of Election Polling in the United States by D. Sunshine Hillygus; The Voting Process by PEW Research

  • Podcasts - The Case Against Democracy - Philosophy Overdose; The Unlucky Many - On The Media; Uncounted - Radiolab

  • TED Talks - A bold idea to replace politicians - Cesar Hidalgo; Our democracy no longer represents the people. Here’s how we fix it - Larry Lessig; We won't fix American politics until we talk about class - Joan C. Williams; How partisan tribalism is killing democracy - Brian Klaas; The dangers of the partisan brain - Jay Van Bavel; How to Save Democracy - Brian Klaas

  • Twittersphere via @yolian_ogbu; @jason_kint

  • Videos - After Bush v. Gore: 2000 Election Documentary, Retro Report - The New York Times; Voter Suppression: It’s the American Way - VICE News; Democracy and the Road to Tyranny - Academy of Ideas; Why We Can’t Vote Our Way To Freedom - Academy of Ideas; Election 2020 - Last Week Tonight with John Oliver; The Electoral College, explained - Vox

  • Websites - Non-Partisan Reformers; US Mission to the OSCE; Protect the Vote; Fair Elections Center; VOTE Smart - Facts Matter; Ballotpedia



Why Joseph Schumpeter Hated Democracy - Jacobin Magazine

“The way I see it, there are two main aspects to the contemporary democratic crisis. One is the way that profound economic inequality threatens democracy. And the other is the threat to democracy from “right-wing populists.”

I think that Schumpeter has affected the way lots of people think about those problems. Schumpeter became influential in political science from World War II on, and lots of the most crucial figures in political science in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s were deeply influenced by Schumpeter. And as I said before, they came to see Schumpeter as offering a kind of formalistic and realistic understanding of democracy.

I want to focus on people who I think of as “behavioral Schumpeterians.” These are people who study political behavior and are influenced by Schumpeter’s view of the ordinary capacities of typical voters. In fairness, you have to say they’re unlike Schumpeter in a very important sense — their own values are egalitarian, they’re opposed to political domination. But they nevertheless see Schumpeter’s account of political psychology, his account of the behavior of ordinary citizens and voters, as fundamentally correct.

These people tend to treat political judgment in an implausibly dichotomous way — they posit on the one hand what they call “ideological thinking,” which would be sophisticated and autonomous. But they think this is rare. And then they talk about the way most people think about politics as “pseudo-thinking” — as group-influenced pseudo-thought.

This approach creates some real problems for grappling with contemporary democratic crisis.

The tendency to see group thought and identity as not really thinking at all, the tendency to not really take it seriously as an ideology, but just to see it as a thoughtless reflex — on the one hand, this makes it hard for behavioral Schumpeterians to grapple with right-wing populism as an ideology, as a fairly well-developed set of views about how the world works and what kinds of change people want in it. It makes it really hard to conceptualize that challenge.”

Astra Taylor: Bernie Sanders’ Exit Is an Indictment of Our Broken System—Not His Campaign - In These Times

“Voter suppression was stronger than Bernie Sanders’ voter turnout plan. And the pandemic has made things worse.

“Important as it may be, making demands of Biden is low hanging fruit. The real takeaway from this primary is that we need to get organized. Our policies may be broadly popular, but it doesn’t add up to much if we aren’t acting collectively and strategically. As longtime activist Yotam Marom recently wrote, “There is no skipping ahead. Elections are not how our people will take power. They will be, when we are strong enough, the expression of the power we have already taken.”

What does that mean in practice? It means we need to band together around our common interests so we can interrupt business as usual and demand concessions. Join or start a union. Find a local Sunrise hub. Start or support a rent strike in your city. Sign up for the ongoing student debt strike. Log on to a local Indivisible meeting. Start paying dues to the Democratic Socialists of America or the Debt Collective. Run for office. As the brilliant labor organizer Jane McAlevey always says, there are no shortcuts to building power for regular people. This is nitty gritty work that has to be done relationship by relationship, day by day.

Like so many others, I didn’t just want Sanders to “change the discourse” or “win the ideological war.” I wanted him to win the election. But I also knew it was an incredible longshot. We’ve made progress, even if we haven’t reached our goal. The fact that his campaign got as far as it did signals a massive sea change. A democratic socialist can win millions of votes in America. A decade ago I never would have believed such a thing to be possible, and that’s our new foundation to build from.

History will look back kindly on Sanders. The question is how generations to come will look back on the rest of us—the “us” of the Sanders campaign’s rousing slogan. Let’s make the future proud.”

Liberal Democracy Is in Trouble — And Liberals Won’t Save It - Jacobin Magazine

“The term “post-democracy” refers to the recent process where democratic institutions have been hollowed out and citizens increasingly excluded from decision-making. But a serious response to this problem can’t just denounce its “populist” symptoms — rather, we need to examine the deeper social ills stemming from economic liberalism itself.

“What If Liberalism Can’t Be Repaired?

The image Crouch offers of the current political scenario is ultimately one of impotence — a Catch-22 situation in which the Left has no clear path forward. This is most evident in his discussion of globalization and its discontents. He acknowledges that “globalisation certainly takes us to places where democracy is very weak,” but warns that “we cannot recreate the world that existed before globalization.” While Crouch is clear about the fact that globalization is to a large extent responsible for the failure of democratic institutions, he does not call for a surpassing of globalization.

Trying to “exit” globalization, according to Crouch — whose pro-European sympathies are evident, despite his criticism of EU failures — would not return us to the 1970s, because there is never a return to preexisting conditions. A deglobalization would happen in a context of “growing international hostility” in which “income and wealth would decline as gains from trade were lost” and “as populations became more nationally conscious they would grow in enmity towards, and suspicion of, foreigners of all kinds, including those living among them.” For him, any departure from globalization would just be a nostalgic and impossible return to the past.

Crouch’s proposal is thus a disappointingly modest one: a progressive liberal proposal with no serious calls for a redistribution of economic and political power. For him, we need to be realistic and improve what we already have, rather than devising something altogether new. Big concentrations of capital need to be overcome and anti-trust measures reintroduced, moving back to a “truly competitive market situation,” which has not been seen for decades if not for centuries. Furthermore, we should even accept that lobbying can be good for democracy, current problems being due merely to an “excess” of the influence of lobbying. Finally, we need to stop being so critical of the European Union, because it may well be “weak and post-democratic, but it exists, and the EU is the only example of an elaborate system of cross-national cooperation that extends beyond trade relations.”

In short, Crouch is a perfect representation of the current impasse of the globalist liberal left, caught between a moral denunciation of the fallacies of the system and a refusal to take stock of their structural motivations. The present is wrong, but the future may be worse. In the meantime, let’s stick with what we have, tweak it a bit, and most importantly lie low, because some rocks may be incoming. What we are thus offered, in short, is a recipe of paralysis and impotence. A truly unexciting prospect for future politics. But perhaps the failure in projecting any coherent alternative is not a failure of imagination or analytical perceptiveness — virtues which Crouch does not lack. It is simply the reflection of a structural reality: that counter to what is hoped by the likes of Crouch, liberalism cannot be repaired; it has to be overcome.”

Wisconsin’s Pandemic Election Is a Red Alert for Democracy in America - The Nation

“This cannot become the new normal.

“Voting rights advocates must accept that there will be Republicans who seize every opening to thwart high-turnout elections this fall—including a president who is already attacking vote-by-mail strategies. The courts cannot be counted on. Progressives in Washington and in the statehouses must recognize what they are up against and focus more intensely than ever on legislative and organizing responses that will assure a safe and fair November election. Wherever possible, they must ramp up planning and options for alternatives to in-person voting. And they must channel the anger of voters like Gretchen Fennema, who told me Tuesday, “We are in a rough spot right now. We can’t give up. They want us to give up. But, no, not us—not this time.”

These Are Conditions in Which Revolution Becomes Thinkable - Commune Magazine

“There will soon be no shortage of materials to work with, as the pandemic spins up a cycle of proletarian self-activity. Workers everywhere now have an urgent issue to agitate around—their health—and are already organizing on that basis. Wildcat strikes have broken out among garbage workers, auto workers, poultry workers, warehouse workers, and bus drivers. Amazon has seen a wave of militancy, forcing management to promise better health protections and to extend paid time off to its entire workforce. Instacart and Whole Foods workers have staged labor actions. Unionized nurses have rallied to protest shortages. Workers at GE have demanded repurposing jet engine factories to make ventilators. Mutual aid groups are emerging to coordinate grocery deliveries and childcare. Tenants across the country are organizing rent strikes. In Los Angeles, homeless families are seizing vacant homes.

These are strategies for survival but they are also, possibly, the seeds of a new world: sites of social power where people can collectively provision the resources they need and participate directly in the decisions that affect them. It is in these places and practices that the outlines of the next socialist project will be found. For this project to be credible to the people on whom it depends, it must be equal to the radicalism of our reality. It must offer a socialism that is not a branch of progressivism or a wing of the Democratic Party but a truly anti-systemic alternative, one that promises, however improbably, an end to the death cult of capital and the elevation of human health, dignity, and self-determination as the supreme organizing principles of our common life.”

State Priorities, Not State "Capacity" - Econ Lib

“The underlying confusion: When a person doesn’t do X, we often casually announce, “He can’t do X.” That, my friends, is a total leap of logic. Yes, perhaps the person in question genuinely can’t do X. On the other hand, maybe he’s simply made X a low priority. The only way to really know is to see what happens when the person in question unambiguously makes X his absolute priority. In slogan form: “Can’t implies won’t. Won’t does not imply can’t.”

The same goes for organizations, including governments. The Soviet Union failed to grow enough food to feed its people. That does not imply, however, that the Soviet Union lacked the capacity to do so. The real story, in fact, is that the Soviet government doggedly prioritized military might over civilian diet.

So what? At minimum, we need to audit the entire state capacity literature. To what extent can the problems it attributes to “state capacity” instead be assigned to “state priorities”? Unless we miraculously discover that capacity, not priorities, explains 100% of all sub-perfect government performance, the next step is to dial-down the multitudinous simplistic pleas for “increasing state capacity” – and replace them with pleas for better state priorities. Instead of pretending that the coronavirus crisis somehow confirms everything they’ve been claiming, this is a time for the fans of state capacity to engage in poignant soul-searching. Western democracies have decisively displayed their gargantuan capacity. But what good is gargantuan capacity in the hands of short-sighted, power-hungry demagogues?

There’s a great scene in Kill Bill where Vernita Green tells the Bride: “That’s being more rational than Bill led me to believe you were capable of.” And the Bride responds, “It’s mercy, compassion, and forgiveness I lack; not rationality.” Next time a researcher sees poor government performance and blames “lack of state capacity,” tell them, “Perhaps it’s good priorities it lacks, not capacity.”

Then tell me how they respond, because I’d really like to know.”

Educated Fools - The New Republic

Why Democratic leaders still misunderstand the politics of social class

The American political economy may be more rigged than even what Elizabeth Warren is telling us. While she may be wrong on college for all, at least she’s out there proposing a more democratic workplace, which is the only viable way to open up the Knowledge Economy to the members of the white working class who went for Trump. She deserves immense credit for proposing co-determination—really, a stakeholder model of collaborative enterprise that will replace, or at least transform, our top-down corporate model. But there is a risk in picking merely one part of, say, the German system of worker councils sitting on corporate boards, without taking the rest: Co-determination, if it is to work, needs a strong labor movement outside of that corporate structure to prevent it from being co-opted. The Germans have very strong unions, at least in manufacturing; and they have works councils too, which could easily turn into company unions if they’re transplanted here.

There’s another problem with pursuing co-determination as a policy end in itself: It is hard for it to electrify the country, or working people, until they see it working in real life. It is unlikely to happen at the federal level—barring some tsunami for the left in 2020—but in many blue states, it could be put in place now. No, not for profit-seeking corporations, which can escape state law on corporate governance by incorporating in Delaware or, worse, South Dakota. But it can be tried in nonprofit entities like universities—Harvard University?—or big hospitals—Massachusetts General Hospital?—that cannot escape its strictures so easily, since they depend on charitable property tax exemptions from the state.

Still, there’s Warren, and others, and if the Democrats are far from ready to try economic co-determination at the state level, at least she and a few of her colleagues have made a start. A serious co-determination movement mandates a change not just in labor law but also in corporate law to solve the fundamental economic problem of our age: that is, to get our corporations to invest not in stock buybacks but in the creation of human capital, for every employee. What the working class needs is not only a redistribution of income, or even a redistribution of power. What they need most of all is a redistribution of work.

The white working class I imagined to be around me was gone: They had disappeared like the Etruscans.

For a long time, I used to tout the German stakeholder model, which is limited and far from perfect, but still much better than our own. I thought that co-determination had some impact on big investment decisions. But I was wrong: While workers elect just under half of the directors to a supervisory board in which management can break a tie, that supervisory board has less of a role than our own executive boards of directors do in making critical corporate decisions. Yet there is a way in which this amplified voice for workers in the corridors of corporate power does lead to more investment in the skills of working people: They do have to be bought off, often in subtle ways, and the buying off can frequently take the form of broad-based investment in people as human capital. Instead of investing in a new production process, the mandate now is to invest in the people who invent the production process—indeed, in the Knowledge Economy, maybe it is a production process to be used but once, to make but one particular thing.

All of this cries out for a new form of democratic education—not college for all, but heavy state investment in lifetime learning, as in Denmark. But any such endeavor also requires heavy investments of private capital, which again becomes a far more plausible prospect if there is a new, more democratic workplace, or one that is guided by real worker voices and real worker participation. Indeed, in the case of Germany, this is part of the reason why there is still such a commitment to manufacturing: If private capital has to invest in all that human capital, not once but through the working lives of all these high-skilled workers, that creates a strong incentive to keep a manufacturing sector going, to get a return on that human capital. When John Maynard Keynes wrote The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1936), he famously argued that the central economic problem was to get the wealthy to part with their money and to invest in the construction of durable goods. Were he living today, he might insist that the central economic problem is to get the wealthy to invest in the creation of human capital—and in a bigger knowledge-based economy, to maximize the return on that investment.

But more than a change of program, the whole party, left and center left, needs a change of heart. Rather than commission studies of the working class by postgraduates in top-ranking universities, maybe we need to figure out a way to live among them. We need to find a way back into the neighborhoods from which our liberal politics used to come—instead of buying them up and pushing people out. Besides, in Walt Whitman’s poetry, we already have a great study of the working class—in this time of Trump, I have been trying to walk with Whitman. A whole agenda for today’s Democratic Party could come out of his Leaves of Grass. If we treated working people with the reverence that Whitman had for them, if we see them in the workplace as Whitman did, we might never have had a Trump. Whitman—or so wrote my old college teacher and great friend and mentor, the late Sam Beer—saw “the Democracy” coming out of a great division of labor, for to Whitman, the division of labor could be a source of solidarity as well. Whitman calls for us to pay attention to the “grand races of mechanics, work people and commonality”—for even now, as then, out of the work of every class comes the common purpose of the nation. In our division of labor, we confer gifts on one another. For Whitman, as Beer wrote, these exchanges are not just heroic in themselves, but the bonds of our political union. If we are to preserve that union, we have to pay attention to this exchange, strengthen our ability to confer gifts on one another. And if we fail to do so, there will be no great future for our party and no way out of our divide.”

For Philanthropy to Achieve Its Goals, Democracy Must Work -

“For foundations that don’t yet see democracy as a core part of their work, “Our Common Purpose,” a report from the Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, which I co-chair, offers numerous points of entry.

Informed by the voices of hundreds Americans who participated in the commission’s listening sessions, the report aims to fundamentally reinvent American democracy for the challenges of this century.

Numerous organizations are already working on the report’s recommendations to establish a National Trust for Civic Infrastructure that will invest in civic life, draft a public-interest mandate for social-media platforms, enact a constitutional amendment allowing Congress to mitigate the distorting influence of money in politics, expand paid national-service opportunities that will inspire shared public commitment to American constitutional democracy, and more. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund has committed up to $14 million to support these efforts, which will require significant investments from other foundations to succeed.

Six years from now, on July 4, 2026, Americans will celebrate the 250th anniversary of the political birth of our nation. The principles set out by its founders in 1776 have carried the United States through more than two centuries, but not without deliberate care and revision along the way to address critical shortcomings and reflect changing context. The country reinvented itself after the Civil War — a second founding. A century later, the civil-rights movement ushered in a third founding. The conditions of the 21st century urgently require a fourth.

For too long, U.S. foundations have taken democracy for granted. Now, in the face of a splintered populace, a global pandemic, and a racial-justice crisis that threaten all else we do, we must support the kind of democratic reinvention that will carry us into the next century. The public good depends on it.”

The Double Horseshoe Theory of Class Politics - The Bellows

“The “class war” isn't happening where you think it is.

What does all of this mean for the neglected working-class majority on the sidelines of American politics? A century ago, trade unionists like Samuel Gompers and socialists like Eugene Debs criticized antitrust and praised large industrial combinations, on the sensible grounds that large, modern corporations are easier to unionize and/or socialize than lots of small businesses.

A case can be made that both the professional bourgeoisie and the small business bourgeoisie are relics of an earlier techno-economic paradigm. Each is a leftover pocket of technological backwardness and labor exploitation in an advanced industrial economy.

In American higher education, a dwindling minority of tenured academics, using pedagogical methods unchanged from the agrarian era, lords it over a mass of impoverished guild apprentices, the poorly-paid, insecure, non-unionized adjuncts who now teach most university students nationwide. At the same time, the business models of many small, owner-operated firms in the U.S. are made possible by poor-country levels of worker rights and social insurance—and much of the workforce consists of recent, desperate immigrants from actual poor countries. Because the backward professional and small business sectors have much lower productivity than the rationalized, capital-intensive parts of the economy like manufacturing and energy, they pay low wages to much of their workforces while charging high prices to consumers.

Needless to say, any new cross-class settlement would have to follow the recreation of powerful mass-membership working-class organizations in current and newly-rationalized, sectors, which would permit the transformation of the majority of Americans in the bottom horseshoe into subjects, not mere objects, of American politics. But that is a story for another day.”

Democracy and the Iroquois Constitution - The Field Museum

“We are a nation built on the ideals of many, and Native North American contributions to our collective culture and society are immeasurable. The founders who wrote our U.S. Constitution, based on their democratic ideals, were influenced in part by Native American way of government.

The Iroquois Constitution, also known as the Great Law of Peace, is a great oral narrative that documents the formation of a League of six nations: Cayuga, Onondaga, Mohawk, Oneida, Seneca, and later on, the Tuscarora nations. The date of origin is contested, but it was well before the arrival of European settlers to America. The constitution, also commemorated on Wampum (beads fashioned from the shells of whelks and quahog clams), included more than a few familiar concepts: a restriction on holding dual offices, processes to remove leaders within the confederacy, a bicameral legislature with procedures in place for passing laws, a delineation of power to declare war, and a creation of a balance of power between the Iroquois Confederacy and individual tribes, according to later transcriptions. Founding Fathers such as Benjamin Franklin were in regular contact with the Iroquois Confederacy, and Great Council leaders were invited to address the Continental Congress in 1776.

The six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy (or Haudenosaunee (ho dee noe sho nee—People of the Long House) thrive today. Here at The Field Museum, we are proud to hold in trust a collection of over 200 artifacts labeled as Iroquois, dating from the 1900s to the present day, and another about 200 from the separate nations that comprise the confederacy.”

Electoral college reform (fifty states with equal population) - Fake is the New Real

“The electoral college is a time-honored, logical system for picking the chief executive of the United States. However, the American body politic has also grown accustomed to paying close attention to the popular vote. This is only rarely a problem, since the electoral college and the popular vote have only disagreed three times in 200 years. However, it's obvious that reforms are needed.

The fundamental problem of the electoral college is that the states of the United States are too disparate in size and influence. The largest state is 66 times as populous as the smallest and has 18 times as many electoral votes. This increases the chance for Electoral College results that don't match the popular vote. To remedy this issue, the Electoral Reform Map redivides the fifty United States into 50 states of equal population. The 2010 Census records a population of 308,745,538 for the United States, which this map divides into 50 states, each with a population of about 6,175,000.1”

Married to the Mob - The American Mind

Romanticizing direct democracy leads to pandemic anarchy

“In times of upheaval and uncertainty, there is an understandable instinct to reach for and defend the familiar—to check up on friends, take stock of enemies, and graft old patterns onto new problems. Even before the coronavirus, rising tensions with China had primed pundits to view the world as a contest between liberal democracies and authoritarian states, conceptual heuristics borrowed from the Cold War. Now, as death tolls and downturns diverge rapidly by region, many are framing the divergence in terms of that contest, noting the ways in which democracies have—on average—bested autocracies.

The point of representation, then, is to keep the dosage in check. Free and fair elections, for state officials as well as national ones, mean that citizens can choose who will be in charge of curtailing their freedoms should the situation warrant it, and discourage leaders from abusing that authority if they want to win another term. Given these safeguards, there is very little risk of “tyranny” when governors tell their constituents to stay at home. There is, however, a risk of anarchy when they shut down synagogues instead of Antifa.

Of course, if a governor thinks the most prudent course of action will get him voted out, he’ll still be disincentivized from taking it. So although COVID-19 hasn’t shown democracy to be intrinsically less competent than authoritarianism, it has offered us a glimpse of where democracy can end up when its inner tendencies are not qualified and resisted, and how challenging it can be to resist them.

And therein lies the paradox of the pandemic: for the first two months of 2020, it was taken more seriously by populists and early Trumpists than by experts or the establishment. Yet our late and lackadaisical response to it also illustrates the dangers of populism, particularly in its tyrannophobic, American variants—Left and Right.

True, our elites failed to anticipate the virus. True, many of them were slow to react, and reacted incompetently when they did. But those failures happened because popular sovereignty was allowed to reach its populist, pernicious denouement, in the form of a governing class unwilling to defy the people’s whims. If COVID-19 damages democracy, it won’t be due to the imagined virtues of authoritarianism. It will be, as Madison and Adams forewarned, because democracy became too democratic for its own good.”

Will We Actually Get to Vote in November? - The New Yorker

“Clearly, Trump and his allies know that their best chance of winning is to suppress turnout. That is what the Attorney General, William Barr, believes based on his gross exaggeration of the risk of voter fraud. So, too, many Republican governors and state le gislators who are making it increasingly difficult for Americans to vote. And—let’s not forget—Trump himself. In the 2016 election, one arm of the Trump campaign was dedicated to convincing people—black folks and young people particularly—not to bother voting. This was in tandem with the efforts of Republican secretaries of state and other elected officials to enact draconian voter-registration requirements and redraw electoral maps, making it more difficult for people to vote. Or, if they did manage to cast ballots, to insure that their voices would be drowned out. These efforts persist, and, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, they have escalated, as the Attorney General floats a phony argument that foreign governments might manipulate mailed ballots, and the Republican National Committee, following the lead of the President, is working to limit voting by mail because it believes mail ballots would extend the franchise to the “wrong” people. Add to this Trump’s attacks on the U.S. Postal Service, which recently saw the installation of one of his ideologues as its head; as the President knows, a working postal service is necessary to facilitate mailed ballots.

A few weeks ago, when I asked the legal scholar Rick Hasen about a scenario, then circulating, that laid out a “legal” way for the Trump Administration to bypass elections and keep Trump in power, he said it would lead to rioting in the streets. That was before there was rioting in the streets, which has given the Trump Administration an opportunity to mobilize U.S. soldiers to police U.S. citizens, and local governments to deploy militarized police forces that have shown little respect for constitutional rights as they fire rubber bullets, deploy tear gas, and charge and beat peaceful protesters. The spectre of violence in the streets, which horrifies most Americans, appears to energize our self-declared “law-and-order President.” Certainly, it gives cover for greater surveillance and the thwarting of dissent. On Tuesday, as voters went to the polls in eight states and the District of Columbia, with many citizens under curfew orders, we saw a whole new way to keep citizens from voting.

For the past few years, I’ve dipped into “On Tyranny,” finding it weirdly orienting at those times when I’ve barely recognized this country and its government, and when the vitriol and distrust that now cleave us have made me feel hopeless. It has been like a map—the more I study its features, the more I understand where we have landed. Monday night, as a group of white men wielding baseball bats marched down the streets of Philadelphia, apparently with the blessing of local police, I reread Snyder’s warning to be wary of paramilitaries. “It is impossible to carry out democratic elections, try cases at court, design and enforce laws, or indeed manage any of the other quiet business of government when agencies beyond the state have access to violence,” he wrote. “For just this reason, people and parties who wish to undermine democracy and the rule of law create and fund violent organizations that involve themselves in politics.” In a leaked recording obtained by the Intercept in April, Republican operatives can be heard hatching a plan to send retired Navy SEALs to keep watch on polling places, now that a ban on recruiting soldiers and law-enforcement personnel to oversee voting was lifted by a judge in 2018. (The ban was in response to earlier efforts by the Republican National Committee to send uniformed poll watchers to intimidate African-American voters.)

But the lesson of Snyder’s book that I keep going back to, and the one that seems to acquire more salience the longer Trump remains in office, is the one where he exhorts readers to “defend institutions,” because they cannot protect themselves. “The mistake is to assume that rulers who came to power through institutions cannot change or destroy those very institutions—even when that is exactly what they have announced they will do,” Snyder wrote. “Sometimes institutions are deprived of vitality and function, turned into a simulacrum of what they once were.” I would like to believe that, if we are lucky, we will mail in our ballots or go to the polls in November, and the election will be free and fair. But, truly, luck will play no part in it.”

Neoliberalism’s World Order - Dissent Magazine

“Since its inception, neoliberalism has sought not to demolish the state, but to create an international order strong enough to override democracy in the service of private property.

In a world framed by what, according to Slobodian, ought to be considered a contradiction in terms—neoliberal growthmanship—how should the left respond?

The overwhelming stress on the priority of “the economy” and its imperatives leads many on the left to adopt a position that mirrors Hayek’s. Following thinkers like Karl Polanyi, they criticize the way that “the economy” has assumed an almost godlike authority. Nor is it by accident that the libertarian left shares Hayek’s distaste for top-down economic policy, what the political scientist James Scott has dubbed “seeing like a state.” As the neoliberals realized in the 1930s, the nation-state and the national economy are twins. If this remains somewhat veiled in the histories of countries like France and the United Kingdom, the conjoined emergence of state power and the developmental imperative was stamped on the face of the postcolonial world.

Such critiques can be radically illuminating by exposing the foundations of key concepts of modernity. But where do they lead? For Hayek this was not a question. The entire point was to silence policy debate. By focusing on broad questions of the economic constitution, rather than the details of economic processes, neoliberals sought to outlaw prying questions about how things actually worked. It was when you started asking for statistics and assembling spreadsheets that you took the first dangerous step toward politicizing “the economy.” In its critique of neoliberalism, the left has challenged this depoliticization. But by failing to enquire into the actual workings of the system, the left has accepted Hayek’s injunction that economic policy debate confine itself to the most abstract and general level. Indeed, the intellectual preoccupation with the critique of neoliberalism is itself symptomatic. We concentrate on elucidating the intellectual logic and history of ideologies and modes of government, rather than investigating processes of accumulation, production, and distribution. We are thus playing the neoliberals at their own game.

Given neoliberalism’s association with globalization, it might be tempting to see reclaiming the national economy as a way out of this trap. This is the impulse that lies behind “Lexit,” which, at its best, is a call for a return to the ambitious, left-wing social democracy of the 1970s. Given that this was the moment that provoked the neoliberals into their most vicious counterattack, one can see the attraction. The question is whether it is a real possibility. After all, the global South in the 1970s proposed not a series of go-it-alone national solutions, but a New International Economic Order. And in that moment, the global South could call on the energy of the first flush of postcolonial politics. The passions that have been unleashed in the United Kingdom and the United States since 2016 are of a more rancid vintage.

As long as it remains at the level of abstract gestures toward “taking back control,” the impulse of resistance mirrors what it opposes. We are still not engaging with the actual mechanisms of power and production. To move beyond Hayek, what we need to revive is not simply the idea of economic sovereignty, whether on a national or transnational scale, but his true enemies: the impulse to know, the will to intervene, the freedom to choose not privately but as a political body. An anti-Hayekian history of neoliberalism would be one that refuses neoliberalism’s deliberately elevated level of discourse and addresses itself instead to what neoliberalism’s airy talk of orders and constitutions seeks to obscure: namely, the engines both large and small through which social and economic reality is constantly made and remade, its tools of power and knowledge ranging from cost-of-living indicators to carbon budgets, diesel emission tests and school evaluations. It is here that we meet real, actually existing neoliberalism—and may perhaps hope to counter it.”

The Last Stand: The 2020 Contest May Be Our Final Chance For Free And Fair Elections -

“Again, the GOP and Trump find themselves symbiotically linked. Republicans need to resist measures to increase the electorate and Trump is steadfastly determined to believe there are conspiracies against him. It is these interlocking needs and beliefs that have brought the GOP and Trump together, and unfortunately it is these interlocking needs and beliefs that will more than likely interrupt free and fair elections as far as we have them.

If you want free and fair elections, in November or beyond, the time to fight for them is now. In fact, it is past. We have watched for decades and generations as the Republican Party has undermined them and engineered them for the purposes of power. Even without a pandemic, they would have attempted to undermine them in 2020, but now the opportunity is there and obvious. As with all things Trump, people need to realize institutions are only as strong as our ability and willingness to defend them. We cannot assume that laws and institutions will save themselves or survive his onslaught. Unfortunately, we’ve already seen too many instances where that is simply not the case.”

Man on Fire, Sign of the End-Times: How Scorched Earth Politics Inflames Extreme Protest - The Abs Tract Organization

“Epilogue: Bonfire of the Humanities

The title ‘Bonfire of the Vanities’ borrowed by novelist Tom Wolfe refers to a 1495-97 event in which Italians burned art, books, and other personal objects deemed tempting or immoral. This was an anti-Renaissance expression of a festival and symbolized the purging of sin and vanity, and it was a horrible, senseless loss. Ironically, the guy who started the practice was eventually judged, crucified, and burned to death. Releasing our vanities without destroying anything seems like a better idea.

Today, it seems such vanities are not burned nor discarded (except maybe at Burning Man), but gilded and fetishized in consumerism and status-quo politics. There is also figurative book burning in the act of demonizing scholars and whole fields of practice, expressing a new wave of anti-intellectualism (a la Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, 1964). I call this the bonfire of the humanities; the destruction of reason through the culture wars, in the name of reason itself, no less.

Dave Rubin’s awful memoir/ ‘book’, aptly titled “Don’t Burn This Book” (foreword by Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, no less) captures the supreme irony of purporting knowledge production while actually destroying it for a living. Moreover, Rubin very likely burned the book himself just for the photo op, as if to be the contrived punchline of an endless unfunny conservative joke. Rest assured, none of his Intellectual Dark Web friends give a shit about any of these serious matters either, which is not hard to fact check; just try to engage any of them on social justice, or process my critiques of them (1, 2).

By May 30, 2019, this mocking collage had been posted on /pol/.

In other (far-)right-wing flame wars, this horrendously offensive collage from 4chan combined Arnav Gupta on fire with various symbols or caricatures of leftist and liberal culture. By juxtaposing images of resistance on the scene of the death of a Syrian refugee child, perhaps the image attempts to show how we’re all supposedly hypocrites under the brutal horrors of capitalism. There is Canadian Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the foreground taking a selfie. Is that Conan O’Brien wading in the water with a coconut?

Then there is more grave and inexplicable superhybridity. Colin Kapernick takes a knee to protest police brutality and racial injustice, but with his cleat on the dead child’s back. The man seated in the chair with sunglasses is actually a dead teenager, tragically slain while walking his dog, the photo taken from his funeral in which his body was staged to be playing video games and eating junk food, his favourite pastimes. It is not entirely clear what the message of all this is supposed to be, but it is a sad detraction from the spirit of protest, and represents a foreclosure and appropriation of meaning; the eclipse of reason.

As Dvorak asked, ‘are we listening?’ As Conroy asked, ‘did anyone care?’ Often I wonder what I have to do to be heard, what extremes must I go to, or not? Or what I have to do to even amplify others voices effectively? How can we come together and save people Arnav Gupta and the countless others he and David Buckel die for? I think I know the answer, and you aren’t going to like it; you need to feel the revolution within you. The least you could do towards these ends is actually care, not just say you do. This issue is connected to every other issue. Do not let it be mystified by those who would ignore them. Listen to the dead speak, so they did not die in vain, to be forgotten. And let the living do good in the world, so that they do not burn out for your sinful negligence.

Arnav Gupta was an anti-racist educator who had suffered racist attacks himself, and America sorely needs to be schooled in these hard lessons. The current eruptions in Minneapolis over the murder of George Lloyd by racist cop Derek Chauvin are taking the form of citizen uprisings and militarized cops being deployed in response. It is a perfect storm of American white supremacy, white moderate complacency and ignorance, mass media distortion, and dysfunctional neofascist governance coming to the fore. The timing is another temporal coincidence, another synchronicity, not to be missed. The world must converge, come together, to enable a peaceful revolution.

The refusal to arrest and charge Chauvin (who beyond the shadow of a doubt murdered George Lloyd) has led to the local police precincts being destroyed, which also reflect the institutional rot that plagues the country as a whole. Many more disturbing details are emerging about the story as it unfolds, and as anyone who cares about these issues knows, it is only one exposed instance of a widespread systemic problem. While the city of Minneapolis burns, remember that one year ago to this day Arnav Gupta, a metamodern artist and martyr, was consumed by the fire within for these exact kinds of reasons, and virtually no one noticed or cared; or worse, they will say that they care and then invest their attention and energies in all sorts of contrarian places. That kind of hypocrisy and negligence is what reproduces the meta-crisis.”

Land of Social Democracy, Still - Areo Magazine

In his analysis, Hochman makes two descriptive claims and one normative one. The first descriptive claim is that the results in South Carolina and on Super Tuesday disproved the Sanders’ camp’s theory of change. They thought that they could energize potential voters who normally remain disengaged from the political process—this turned out not to be the case. The second and more interesting claim is that the primary reason why they were wrong was an ideological disconnect between Bernie Sanders’ social democratic agenda and the policy preferences of American voters—even Democratic primary voters. Finally, and most importantly, the normative claim is that voters were right to reject social democracy because Sanders’ “statist” and “utopian” proposals flew in the face of “uniquely American” ideas of “individual liberty.”

We’ve already addressed the claim that the outcome of the Democratic primaries was a result of these ideological commitments. The remaining question is whether any voters who really were allergic to what Hochman calls “government-funded entitlements” because of their commitment to an ethos of self-reliance were right.

Hochman takes it for granted that freedom and economic leftism point in opposite directions. We argue for the contrary conclusion here. But, when it comes to questions of self-reliance and government spending, we don’t entirely disagree. At least some government interventions to pick winners and losers in the economy have been pretty unsavory. Over the past decade, the American government has spent billions if not trillions backing up everything from the banking sector to airlines. This has added up to a remarkable display of socialism for the affluent and self-reliance for the impoverished.

When confronted with the reality of crony capitalism, many apologists insist that, while such may be our lot now, that is not how the system is supposed to work. In this, they resemble apologists for Soviet-style communism, who insist that any flaws in that system were due to insufficient adherence to communist ideals. But, as Adam Smith complains in his Theory of Moral Sentiments, wealthy capitalists hijack the political system for their own ends. This isn’t a bug in the system but a persistent feature. Crony capitalism is simply capitalism as it exists in the real world. Hoping that concentrating economic resources in the hands of a small minority will not to lead to a parallel concentration of political power in the hands of the same individuals is like hoping that water will flow upstream. A system that milks workers and corrodes democracy for the benefit of the few is not consistent with the moral principle that “all men are created equal.”

In a truly just system, citizens would have a more equal say in the forces that govern their lives, and everyone would enjoy fair opportunities to develop their individual talents, while contributing to the common good. The irony of defending the system by appealing to self-reliance is that twenty-first-century America is increasingly a land of inherited wealth. Three families currently own about $347 billion dollars, or about 4 million times the median wealth of US families. For the Koch, Walton, L’Oreal and other such families, this wealth has been passed on through the generations in a manner that would be familiar to the British aristocrats of the eighteenth century. We have nothing against people being successful and making sure their families are materially comfortable, but the idea that disparities on this level can be justified by appealing to the self-reliance of people who have been dead for decades strains plausibility. A fraction of such wealth could provide hundreds or thousands with an opportunity to go to college, start a business or put food on the table—things they are unable to do, through no fault of their own. We need something lot more convincing than a vague appeal to the virtues of self-reliance to justify keeping things as they are. That is why Sanders’ campaign was so important. It re-directed the American conversation to issues that had not been taken seriously in mainstream politics for many years. Its failure, while unfortunate, should not be the end but the beginning.”

U.S. population keeps growing, but House of Representatives is same size as in Taft era - PEW Research

“We took the most recent population estimate for each OECD nation and divided it by the current number of seats in the lower chamber of each national legislature (or, in the case of unicameral bodies, the single chamber). After the U.S., the two countries with the highest representation ratios are Japan (one lawmaker for every 272,108 Japanese) and Mexico (one for every 247,965 Mexicans). Iceland had the lowest ratio: one member of the Althing for every 5,500 or so Icelanders.

While much of the cross-national disparity in representation ratios can be explained by the big population of the U.S. (with more than 325 million people it’s the largest country in the OECD), that’s not the only reason. Eight OECD countries have larger lower chambers than the U.S. House, with Germany’s Bundestag topping the league table with 709 members. The British House of Commons has 650 MPs (Members of Parliament); Italy’s Chamber of Deputies has 630 lawmakers.

Even if Congress decided to expand the size of the House, the large U.S. population puts some practical limits on how much the representation ratio could be lowered. If the House were to grow as large as the Bundestag, for instance, the ratio would fall only to one representative per 458,428 people. In order to reduce the ratio to where it was after the 1930 census, the House would need to have 1,156 members. (That would still be smaller than China’s National People’s Congress, the largest national legislature in the world with 2,980 members.)”

We’re Not Polarized Enough - The New Republic

“Ezra Klein’s flawed diagnosis of the divisions in American politics

We’re now living in the world the political scientists and commentators of the 1950s believed they wanted, and we contend with consequences they couldn’t have foreseen. Today, American voters and politicians are grouped fairly neatly into two clear camps at the left and right ends of the political spectrum—Democrats have become more thoroughly liberal, and Republicans have become more thoroughly conservative. Fear and mutual antipathy ensure that almost any major party nominee can expect to win roughly half the electorate, which cannot abide the idea of being governed by the other half. “We are so locked into our political identities,” Ezra Klein writes in his new book, Why We’re Polarized, “that there is virtually no candidate, no information, no condition that can force us to change our minds.” The result is a politics “devoid of guardrails, standards, persuasion, or accountability.”

If an intense tendency toward group formation and identification is an inescapable fact of human nature, shouldn’t it loom large not only over politics in the United States, but over politics everywhere? Yet the state of American politics appears altogether different from partisan arrangements across the world. Elsewhere, the ideological divides between major parties are less deep, sociocultural identification with parties is less strong, and functional relationships between multiple parties are common. If the human brain truly craves tight partisan affiliations and intractable partisan conflict, how have political systems at odds with those impulses—multiparty systems that often rely on coalition governments, for instance—endured for so long in other countries? Is the American brain different? There seems to be more to the story here, and a more thorough accounting of why polarization occurs would probably acknowledge that politics also takes place beyond our borders.

Crucially, though, the psychological perspective also leaves one with a muddled view of the American sociopolitical scene. Take, for instance, Klein’s characterization of the finding that over 60 percent of Republicans tend to prefer large houses and open space, while nearly the same proportion of Democrats tends to prefer smaller houses and walkable communities. “Thus, a preference that seems nonpolitical on its face,” he writes, “becomes yet another force pulling partisans away from each other.” This is meant to mean that partisan divides “don’t merely track differences in our politics. They track differences in our psychologies.” But do they? How many Americans declare a preference for large houses and yards over diverse cities largely because rural or suburban areas are where they’ve spent most of their time, perhaps through no particular choice of their own? How sure can we be, in general, that our preferences are innate rather than artifacts of the communities we happen to find ourselves in?

If, as Klein suggests more soundly, addressing those tensions requires a drastic program of democratic reforms, then the true remedy for polarization is a bit of a catch-22. Proposals like ending the filibuster and adding new states would surely inflame partisanship before suppressing it, given the check they would place on Republican power. The obstacles to Democrats pursuing these ideas more seriously to begin with include both widespread concerns about intensifying political conflict and the preference of the party for working with political opponents.

Nevertheless, the health and stability of the American political system depends on the defeat of the Republican Party. Absent a radical shift in the right’s priorities, the only way to depolarize our institutions is to win and win big against those who want to keep them undemocratic, protecting the right from the moderating influence more competitive elections could have. Those victories will depend on reformers successfully marshaling the forces driving group identity, rather than assuming the balance of power in America has been set primarily by immutable psychologies. The way forward lies in convincing Americans not to retreat from national politics but to think even more broadly and abstractly about where this country ought to go. Why We’re Polarized does some of the job, but leaves a daunting truth unsaid: To fight polarization, we’ll have to get much more polarized. The only way out is through.”

Hydroxychloroquine and the Political Polarization of Science - The Boston Review

“How a drug became an object lesson in political tribalism

This tribalism about COVID-19 may be exacerbated by media practices. There is tremendous interest in the disease, and thus tremendous opportunity for journalists to capture readership. Readers are drawn to claims that are surprising and novel, including those that emphasize extreme events. For instance, we see many articles about the most overwhelmed hospitals in the world and the worst-case scenario predictions for COVID-19 deaths, even when many other hospitals in the same regions are not overwhelmed and well-informed predictions of total fatalities vary widely. By contrast, evidence that fits neatly into our current, best theories of COVID-19 is relatively underreported in the mainstream news.

This bias toward extremes means that once opposing camps have formed, there is a lot of fodder for each side to appeal to as evidence of bias. Furthermore, with COVID-19, it is often the case that the different groups only trust one of the extremes. Extremity bias can thus amplify polarization, especially in an already factionalized environment.

The end result is that even without misinformation, or with relatively little of it, we can end up misinformed. And misinformed decision makers—from patients, to physicians, to public health experts and politicians—will not be able to act judiciously. In the present crisis, this is a matter of life and death.

There are no easy solutions to polarization, writ large. Telling journalists not to report on extreme events is hopeless, though we might do well to call for more nuanced and contextualized reporting—telling the whole truth, rather than some isolated part of it. Politicians, for their part, have plenty of incentives for playing up polarization. But individuals, including physicians and others whose expertise we rely on, can resist, by attempting to recognize the ways that their own belief factions may be distorting the evidence they see and trust. Perhaps more importantly, we must recognize that not everything shared or believed by those with whom we disagree is misinformation, even if it later turns out to have been false.”

Why Americans Don’t Vote Their Class Anymore - NY Mag

“The left has good reason to lament the decline of class politics. Class-based political organizations were the muscle behind virtually every major progressive reform in U.S. history. And a radicalized working class is a much more plausible agent for democratizing capital ownership than are affluent liberals (however comfortable the latter may be with western European–style social democracy). More mundanely, unless the Democratic Party staunches its bleeding with non-college-educated voters, it will struggle to assemble Senate majorities.

But in the absence of a strong trade-union movement or laborite media, class position exerts a much weaker influence on voting behavior and policy preferences than some socialists have assumed — while higher education exerts a much stronger one. Some of America’s most ardent dialectical materialists are themselves affluent college graduates whose politics grew more radical during their time at university. If academic socialization could teach such children of the upper-middle class to prioritize Marxist convictions above their 401(k)s, why couldn’t it also teach millions of “normie” college-educated Democrats to prize progressive principles above their marginal tax rates?

None of this is to say that leftists shouldn’t be fighting for the hearts and minds of white high-school graduates. Class position does not mechanically determine ideology. But neither does race or education. Tens of millions of white non-college-educated voters cast their ballots for Democrats every election year, and the party could not survive without their support. There is no inherent reason why a larger percentage of this demographic group can’t be won over to progressive politics. But there’s little evidence that mere advocacy for social-democratic reform will overwhelm the contingent reasons for the prevalence of white working-class conservatism and/or nonvoting. Only left-wing institutions with a footprint in non-college-educated voters’ workplaces and communities can plausibly overwhelm the hegemony that right-wing media exercises over the median white American’s political imagination. Whatever flaws the left’s account of class depolarization may have, its critique of the Democratic Party’s malign indifference to organized labor’s fate is unimpeachable. The failure of every unified Democratic government since the Second World War to prioritize labor-law reform doubtlessly exacerbated the rightward drift of the white working class.

Nevertheless, for the purposes of near-term electoral strategy, the left must presume that the class composition of the Democratic coalition cannot be drastically changed in the course of a single campaign — and that college-educated Democrats are as “natural” a constituency for the party’s progressive wing as any other.”

The Lost Art of Seriousness in Politics - ByLine Times

“Social media has also played a role in this dumbing down. It has reduced political content to bite-sized chucks. If you can’t say what you mean in 280 characters than forget it. It has meant that the old debating chamber of politics has been replaced with easily accessible and direct engagements with voters through a controversial tweet. The old long-winded and detailed speech has been hijacked by populists with one pithy tweet on social media.

The damage that rewards the cult of the celebrity politician is considerable. Their activities discredit established political parties, dumb down our discourse, do not provide well thought-out, long-term solutions and simply provide an X Factor-style reality TV for political demagogues.

These political hucksters have sought to destroy established political machinery and have replaced it with something much worse: nothingness – except simplistic messages that lead to dangerous decision-making by voters. Their pitch to a nation is for a new way of politics. But all that’s left is a tailor-made, grotesque farce of the emperor’s new clothes.”

The Pessimistic Style in American Politics - Harper’s

“Further examples from the bitter, costly campaign of 1896 can be piled up almost without limit, but you get the point: we are in the grip of a remarkably similar distemper today. To be clear, I believe that President Trump richly deserves nearly any criticism he gets. He is not really a populist, and I have no intention of building sympathy for him. But the danger of anti-populism is that it goes far beyond objecting to one vile politician. This was demonstrated in March as the anti-populist establishment came together to pummel the campaign of Bernie Sanders. Whatever its target, anti-populism is always a brief for elite and even aristocratic power, an attack on the democratic tradition itself. That is ultimately what’s in the crosshairs when commentators tell us that populism is a “threat to liberal democracy”; when they announce that populism “is almost inherently antidemocratic”; when they declare that “all people of goodwill must come together to defend liberal democracy from the populist threat.”

These are strong, urgent statements, obviously intended to frighten us away from a particular set of views. Millions of foundation dollars have been invested to put scary pronouncements like these before the public. Media outlets have incorporated them into the thought feeds of the world. Just as in 1896, such ideas are everywhere now: your daily newspaper, if your town still has one, almost certainly throws the word “populist” at racist demagogues and pro-labor liberals alike.

Here is David Brooks, making the connection between “populists of left and right” in a New York Times column denouncing Sanders. The Vermont senator, Brooks asserts, embraces

the populist values, which are different [from liberal ones]: rage, bitter and relentless polarization, a demand for ideological purity among your friends and incessant hatred for your supposed foes.

And here is how The Economist made exactly the same point, whining that Americans may soon be forced to choose

between a corrupt, divisive, right-wing populist, who scorns the rule of law and the constitution, and a sanctimonious, divisive, left-wing populist, who blames a cabal of billionaires and businesses for everything that is wrong with the world. All this when the country is as peaceful and prosperous as at any time in its history. It is hard to think of a worse choice.

As it happens, the men of quality did their job, and working Americans will not face the ignoble prospect of voting for a candidate who takes their side against billionaires and businesses. The larger message of anti-populism, regardless of where it comes from on the political spectrum, is always one of complacency. Elites rule us because elites should rule us. They are in charge because they are the best.

And so we come to understand the real task before us today: to rescue from the enormous condescension of the comfortable the one political tradition that has a chance of reversing our decades-long turn to the right.”


Documentary Films

  • Whose Vote Counts - FRONTLINE PBS

  • Trump’s America - DW Documentary

    What is Democracy? - Astra Taylor

  • Whose Vote Counts - Explained on Netflix

  • Suppressed: The Fight To Vote - Brave New Films

  • Rigged: The Voter Suppression Playbook


  • Is Democracy Just? - Jason Brennan

  • The Best Democracy Money Can Buy - Greg Palast



  • The Case Against Democracy - Philosophy Overdose

TED Talks

  • Be a Citizen, not a Partisan - Jennifer Mercieca

  • We won't fix American politics until we talk about class - Joan C. Williams

  • How partisan tribalism is killing democracy - Brian Klaas

  • The dangers of the partisan brain - Jay Van Bavel

  • How to Save Democracy - Brian Klaas


“in 1956, W.E.B. DuBois refused to even register to vote arguing that "democracy has so far disappeared in the United States that no 'two evils' exist. there is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all i can do or say."

Peter Thiel at Center of Facebook’s Internal Divisions on Politics

Billionaire investor thinks political-ad policy shouldn’t change; some directors and executives disagree

“know what is absolutely crazy? We’re 6 months from a quarantined election that will mostly be decided by influence on digital media... yet Facebook still allows microtargeting of false political ads (due to Peter Thiel’s influence according to WSJ). /1


  • After Bush v. Gore: 2000 Election Documentary, Retro Report - The New York Times

  • Voter Suppression: It’s the American Way - VICE News

  • Democracy and the Road to Tyranny - Academy of Ideas

  • Why We Can’t Vote Our Way To Freedom - Academy of Ideas

  • Election 2020 - Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

  • The Electoral College, explained - Vox


That’s it for this week. Until next time - Ad Astra!


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