April 22, 2018

The breakdown of Arab identity, as barbarians threaten civilization in the Middle East

The civil war in Syria is emphasizing the increasingly fractured nature of "Arab" ethno-cultural identity -- and not just in the sense that it always had numerous sub-types like "Syrian Arab," "Egyptian Arab," "Iraqi Arab," etc. It is getting to the point where there is no coherent over-arching Arab identity to begin with, and where the distinctly non-Arab nation of Iran has greater influence in the region.

There is instead a growing cluster of identities around the two poles of barbarians (although they and their allies might use the term "noble savage") and civilization (whose enemies might label it urban degeneracy).

First, where did Arab identity come from? It served to group together the various peoples who were facing a common enemy who was unlike them, and who had been occupying their lands for centuries. No, that was not any European country, as Europe never colonized the Middle East and only oversaw their polities for a few decades after WWI.

It was the Ottoman Empire that had taken over much of the Middle East and North Africa (along with the Balkans). Ethnic identity is geographically rooted, and to the Arabs, the Ottomans might as well have come from outer space -- located well outside of the Fertile Crescent, in Anatolia and the circum-Aegean region, sealed off from the Middle East by large mountain ranges.

The most sustained opposition to Ottoman rule came from the tribes of the Arabian Desert that unified around the political clan of al-Saud and the religious clan of al-Wahhab, beginning in the second half of the 1700s and lasting until the Empire bit the dust after WWI, in which the Arabians played the leading role. The Arabians were never under direct occupation and rule, living in the desert that the Ottomans had no interest in.

And the geometry of their encounters with the Ottomans was more threatening than it was for other places in the Middle East -- the Empire began to surround them on all sides, running down the Red Sea coast to their west, the Persian Gulf coast to their east, and the Fertile Crescent to their north. Feeling like the walls are closing in all around you puts you in a more apocalyptic do-or-die mindset, rather than getting hit by an advancing wave from one direction only, where you feel like retreat is possible.*

After the Ottomans were driven out of the Middle East, the newly liberated groups all rejoiced as part of a single cultural group -- the Arabs, giving a nod to the leading role of the Arabian Desert tribes.

Their languages were re-interpreted to be mere dialects of the same language, Arabic -- again giving credit to the Desert tribes rather than the other regions. Thus, a person in Beirut spoke "the Levantine dialect of the Arabic language," rather than a person in Riyadh speaking "the Arabian dialect of the Levantine language" if the Levant had played the leading role in over-turning the Ottomans.

And the names of their new nations and political parties gave primacy to Arab rather than local identity -- e.g., the "Syrian Arab Republic," where the qualifier "Arab" lies closer to the head noun "Republic," while the qualifier "Syrian" lies farther away (it's the same in the original Arabic).

The Arab identity not only distinguished them from their former Ottoman rulers, but also from their Persian neighbors, who like the Anatolians are sealed off from the Arabian peninsula geographically -- and therefore ethnically -- by their own set of great mountains. Persia never fell to the Ottomans, so they could have led the charge against the Empire, but they did not, and so enjoyed no particular goodwill from the Semitic speakers who threw off the yoke themselves.

So far, so good in the post-Ottoman world -- Turks in Anatolia, Iranians in Persia, and Arabs in the Arabian peninsula and North Africa.

But with the waning of the original impetus behind Arab cohesion -- Ottoman expansion -- the various sub-types of the Arab identity felt less and less motivation to consider one another as working on the same big team toward a similar big goal.

Then, all it took was for one group within the Arab team to turn against the others, and the weakened cohesion would escalate to outright hostility -- not only in the material realm of armies and economies, but in the ethno-cultural realm as well. Suddenly, the offending group were not real Arabs, or were not acting like proper Arabs should -- or if they were, then the offended group no longer wanted to be part of the big Arab team, and would carve out their own identity distinct from being Arab.

It was the original expansionist group within the Arabs -- the Saudis, going since circa 1750 -- who continued to push to expand their influence throughout the Middle East, both materially and culturally. Their political leaders from the al-Saud clan are still aligned with the religious leaders from the al-Wahhab clan, and that means the spread of the fundamentalist strain of Sunni Islam (Wahhabism / Salafism), preferably at the barrel of a gun (jihadism), or if not, then through control over cultural institutions financed by oil wealth.

There is no longer a foreign empire for the Saudis to drive out -- Israel is mainly occupying Palestine, not the entire Middle East and North Africa like the Ottomans did, and the United States has never succeeded in militarily occupying and administering any part of the region, as much as they keep trying to.

That leaves Saudi expansion to target other members of the Arab world, especially if they are secular nationalist governments like Iraq and Syria, where the Saudis have sent jihadist militias to destabilize the societies. Still, expansionists seek to dominate even those neighbors who are similar, because just being similar doesn't make you the equal to the superior expansionist nation. The Saudis have been in a long bitter rivalry with Qatar, which most outsiders would lump in the same category of "backward Salafi monarchies from the Gulf" as Saudi Arabia itself. Yet in their drive to be #1, the Saudis have been zealous in trying to undercut #2 just to be sure.

Their larger preoccupation, though, is with Iran, whose sphere of influence has often included the eastern and northern parts of the Fertile Crescent, most recently during the 1700s. The United States has made that into reality once again by creating a power vacuum in Iraq after 30-odd years of weakening the secular regime there, allowing the long-time regional power of Iran to fill the void. An expansionist nation like Saudi Arabia does not want to see another nation expanding, which would set them on a collision course, so most of their concern is with containing Iranian influence.

As the targets of Saudi expansion all find themselves in the cross-hairs of the same group, it leads them to consider themselves as members of a single team, in strong opposition to the group that is targeting them. Materially, this means military alliances forming among Iraq, Syria, and Iran against the Saudis and their Gulf allies. Ethno-culturally, it leads people from the Fertile Crescent to increasingly shed their identity as "Arabs," as their main threat is the Arabians.

So far, those identities are local ones from before the Ottoman Empire, such as Lebanese, Phoenician, Canaanite, etc., for a person living in Beirut. Maybe Levantine or (Eastern) Mediterranean, if they're willing to join a regional identity -- but nothing that would encompass the Arabian Desert.

Right now, they have not joined a single big identity that opposes the expansionary forces of the Gulf jihadist nations. It is a seemingly very heterogeneous group -- the Shia of Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria; Christians anywhere; Alawites and Druze in the Levant; and urbanized Sunni, who are not the more easily radicalized rural Sunni.

In fact, it may be primarily a split between urbanized and rural groups -- religious minorities tend to cluster in urban areas, since greater population size allows for more specialization and diversity, whereas less populated rural areas do not and tend to have more homogeneous cultures.

In the Middle East, "rural" does not mean humble sedentary crop farmers, but proud nomadic livestock herders. The tension between settled peoples and nomadic peoples goes back to the origins of agriculture and pastoralism, with one side framing it as a struggle between civilization and barbarism, and the other side framing it as slavery vs. freedom.

So perhaps as time goes on, the no-longer-Arab targets of Saudi expansion will adopt a cultural identity that rises above their local identities -- the New Cradle of Civilization, to invert the pejorative connotation of the Saudi phrase "Shia Crescent". On the other side: desert barbarians.

Egyptians will probably go the way of the Turks and identify on a "local" level since they are a large region.

Interestingly, the Palestinians seem to be siding with the desert barbarian side of this re-alignment. Not only because that way of life is more a part of their history, lying so close to the desert and having a large Bedouin sub-population among them. But also because of their adoption of Muslim Brotherhood identity politics a la Qatar (Hamas, who replaced the secular nationalist PLO led by Arafat).

Palestinians are also more sympathetic, in general, to the jihadist side of the Syrian civil war just to their north. In the West, this has fractured the Palestinian solidarity movement -- it is no longer primarily about national liberation from a European colonial settler state (Israel), a transition that is expected to happen sooner or later. It is instead about the character that the post-Israel society will take -- one side wants it to be more like Lebanon or Syria, while the other side wants it to be more like Qatar or Saudi Arabia.

The barbarian-aligned faction of the pro-Palestine movement is larger and more influential, and has worked to marginalize the pro-Palestine faction that wants a secular nationalist government that would align with the civilized part of the Levant to their north.

It is not only Middle Easterners who find themselves caught in that tension, but also Westerners who don't have any stake in the matter. Those who consider Palestine part of the civilized Levant or Eastern Mediterranean want it to have a secular nationalist government, while those who view Palestinians as noble savages rebelling against a highly developed state like Israel, would rather let Hamas take over and form an alliance with Qatar.

On the ground, Palestine will likely end up as the western-most location of the desert barbarian identity, or at best a bridge region between civilization and barbarism.

That is why Westerners concerned with our foreign policy in the Middle East are already dividing their attention between focusing on Palestine or on Syria. They can already sense that in the short-to-medium term, those two will belong to different sides of a larger fault-line between modern and medieval. That intuition will be confirmed as the peoples of the region begin to discard Arab identity and take on the settled vs. nomadic identity.

* The last time the Arabian Desert tribes got totally surrounded by a foreign Empire was by the Sasanians from Persia -- and that led directly to the uniting of their tribes during the birth of Islam, and their explosion through the walls in all directions, leading to the Muslim conquests of the Middle East and beyond. This time has been no different qualitatively, although not so extensive quantitatively.

Lesson to folks in the region: do not surround the Arabian tribes on all sides ever again, or you'll provoke another apocalyptic Muslim army to fan out from the desert and wreak havoc on civilization.

April 18, 2018

With GOP-ers not campaigning as populists, only choice is Bernie Dems

On the theory that the GOP is undergoing a transformation from a globalist into an anti-globalist party, or from an elitist party into a populist working-class party, we should see legions of GOP candidates campaigning on these transformational themes.

We're approaching the first midterms after the purported foundational event of the transformation -- Trump's winning the nomination and then the general election in 2016. And primary season is coming up, so that would be the best time for internal differences to be emphasized.

Populist candidates should be using that phrase, or at least key policies associated with it -- tariffs meant to bring high-paying manufacturing plants back to America, "I don't want people dying in the streets" just because they're too poor to afford the hospital bill (which the government will pay instead), and so on and so forth.

Anti-globalist candidates should be talking about unwinding our failed empire that spans much of the globe, beginning with the Middle East and Afghanistan -- "I stand with President Trump when he says we should pull out of Syria right now," etc.

And yet, the ads that are saturating cable news right now are the same old cuckservative crap that the voters decisively rejected two years ago. If we wanted a "Constitutional conservative," we would have voted for anyone but Trump -- that's their slogan, not his.

While they are shamelessly trying to appropriate his name -- "Trump conservative" -- it means nothing without saying which parts of Trump's platform back then, or policies right now, you're latching onto. Tax cuts, deregulation, and conservatives on the courts? BORRRINNNG. Been there, done that -- that's what got us into the mess that we elected Trump to start digging us out of.

They don't mean "Trump conservative" in the sense of seeking massive cuts to the empire-support side of the budget. Or that, even if you did want to preserve the imperial project, at the least you would ruthlessly negotiate down the prices paid to the weapons manufacturers and defense contractors -- get more for less! Shrink the deficit and debt! Balance the budget!

Nope. Not one sign of wanting to reform the gravy train going to the elites within the GOP sectors of the economy, who will continue to get massive bailouts and bubbles inflated on their behalf by these ridiculous dinosaur candidates.

Hilariously, none are running on "repealing and replacing Obamacare" -- wouldn't want to remind the voters of how pathetically little you accomplish if they cast their lot with you! And again, in the supposed re-alignment of Trump's time, there should be a whole new crop of GOP-ers saying, "Send me to Congress, and I'll work with President Trump to undo the Medicare D law that says they have to pay whatever gouging prices the drug monopolies demand. We're going to negotiate down those prices so fast, it'll make ya head spin!"

With zero Republicans anywhere running on the combination of issues that delivered Trump his upset victory, it's the same ol' slap fights between the closeted homosexuals appealing to the country club yuppies, and the crazy-eyed ideologues appealing to the Tea Party dead-enders.

And remember, this is at a time when there are record retirements from the Congressional GOP -- entirely among the mainstream "governing" wing of the party, symbolized by the Speaker of the House himself. If the Trump "movement" were going to seize power, rather than remain isolated on the fringes, this is the only window they're going to get. If instead a bunch of country clubbers and Tea Partiers fill these record number of uncontested slots, the Trump candidates would have to wait years for another such ripe opportunity.

Translation: there is no Trump movement. There may be a good amount of popular support for it, but there is absolutely nobody running to meet that demand. Why? Because the GOP is an ossified party at the very end of its dominance, which began nearly 40 years ago under Reagan. They didn't even give the voters Trump -- he staged a hostile takeover, which they fought bitterly every step of the way.

A terminal-stage party does not respond to its voters, who it takes for granted, and it cannot adapt to new problems. If you thought the GOP would learn the lessons of 2016, you thought wrong. They're just going to ride it out until the Bernie revolution takes over the government, and whine impotently about socialized medicine.

Just as the dethroned Democrats did after Carter's failed attempt to transform it away from the New Deal / Great Society paradigm, the Republicans in the Bernie era will continue running legacy candidates because they will see the Bernie take-over as just a fluke or a brief nightmare that they'll soon wake up from.

The Democrats ran New Deal style candidates in '84 and '88 -- and got crushed. They had to submit to the Reagan revolution and run a semi-liberal variation on the Reaganite themes if they wanted to win, and they finally got that with Bill Clinton -- took them long enough, though.

The Republicans in the Bernie era will not run a populist or isolationist at first. They will not accept that their formerly dominant paradigm has been superseded, and they will continue running Reaganites like Nikki Haley in 2024, and Marco Rubio in 2028, both of whom will get obliterated. Maybe by 2032, they'll get with the program and run a Tucker Carlson / Ann Coulter ticket.

The populist-nationalist Trump supporters must be realistic about when their issues will actually take over the party -- it will only happen when the party elites are forced to do so in order to win elections. So far, since 1980 they've been doing OK on the Reaganite paradigm. They're going to have to see the Bernie revolution take over the Democrat party, and then win with a general electorate for several cycles, in order to accept that as the new reality, where Trump's old platform will be the right-wing variant on what the people now want.

For that matter, how many Bernie-style candidates are running on the Democrat side? A whole bunch. They even have them all listed in one convenient page so you can check who to vote for in your elections. That is the sign of a re-aligning and reviving party, rather than a backward moribund party.

In the meantime, before the GOP finally gets a clue, your only choices for populists are on the Democrat side, albeit so far only among primary candidates. But that just means you should vote in the Democrat primaries, to advance populists into the general election, since there are no populists to advance out of the GOP primaries, where your vote would be wasted.

And some Democrat primary candidates will be guilt-free choices, since they may have supported Trump over Hillary! Dennis Kucinich, running for Ohio Governor, was on Fox Business an awful lot in 2016 saying he wanted Bernie, but that Trump was hitting the right notes on trade and re-industrialization, foreign policy, preserving the social safety net, etc., which Hillary was not interested in, and how shameful it is for Democrats that Trump is so easily stealing all these old New Deal issues away from the party.

To reiterate, the GOP will never give you populist candidates unless they see that as a winning strategy on the other side, forcing them to compete on the same winning issues on their own side. Right now, the other side in their minds is still Hillary Clinton and neoliberalism, so they only need to offer the right-wing version of that -- Reaganism.

The Democrats have already seen populism win on the other side -- Trump's nomination and then winning the general. They now have to compete on those populist issues if they want to stay relevant, and that will drive the Bernie take-over of the party.

The GOP does not react this way to Trump's success because he is not the other side to them, so they don't feel the pressure to fight populism with populism. Trump is, in their minds, a fluke internal to their party -- not the thing they need to beat Democrats.

Likewise, the Democrats did not see Carter, the skeptic of the New Deal, as necessary to defeat Republicans -- they assumed he was an internal fluke, and kept running old-style New Deal candidates well into the Reagan revolution. But the Republicans saw Carter's success on the other side and realized that in 1980, they needed to run Reagan rather than New Deal-friendly Republicans, if they wanted a solid answer to Carter's program of deregulation.

So, as strange as it may seem, if you want Tucker Carlson in 2032, you have to vote for Bernie first in 2020.

April 16, 2018

Are special elections like primaries, where turnout does not carry over to general?

Time to throw a new pitcher of cold water on the idea of there being a blue "wave" coming for the midterms, based on the outcomes of the special elections held so far -- supposedly a harbinger of the enthusiasm gap that will wipe out the GOP in the fall.

Of course, the GOP will do worse in at least the House and maybe just tread water in the Senate, but that doesn't mean either will flip, let alone by a large margin. We see this from the history of midterms for disjunctive presidents like Trump, Carter, Hoover, Cleveland, Buchanan, and Quincy Adams (those who were the last of their era, attempting to re-orient their ossified party, but failing and getting supplanted by an entirely new paradigm by their rival party).

Nor does polling support a "wave" for Democrats, who only enjoy single-digit leads in the generic ballot.

The main empirical basis of the "wave" narrative is the outcome of the special elections held so far (including state-level), and the other forms of collective action like the protests (women's march, anti-gun march, etc.). Democrats are so fired up that they're "swinging" their districts or states by so-many points from the 2016 presidential election -- just imagine the "wave" in the fall if even half of that swing holds!

The problem is that these special elections are not ordinary -- they're not the general election held in the fall of an even-numbered year. They're out of place in the year, or in the wrong-numbered year. They are too early to qualify in most people's minds as election-elections.

During the 2016 campaign, I discussed why primaries and generals are independent of each other, and why primary turn-out does not predict general turn-out over the years. Briefly, primaries are early-stage behavior -- and if there's nothing exciting going on early, few will show up. But when the "real" elections take place, when voting "really" counts, a whole lot of voters will show up who had tuned out the early activity.

It's possible that these special elections are functioning like primaries -- allowing people to participate early if there's something exciting going on within their side, or giving people a reason to keep sitting on the couch if it's boring on their side. Here, it is not the internal electoral battles to decide the future of the party, but just any reason to get out of the house and take part in collective action for your party, or against the other party.

As with primaries, though, just because a lot of people turn out early on doesn't mean so many more will turn out on the real date. Maybe a lot of folks who were already going to vote Democrat in the fall are turning out early because they're highly motivated to take collective action against Trump and the GOP. And maybe a lot of Republicans are eventually going to turn out in the fall, as they routinely do, but are just sitting at home early on because there's nothing exciting for them to do at this preliminary stage.

Or maybe the specials will resemble the ordinary elections. In the primaries, there is simply no correlation one way or another with early turn-out and general turn-out. My hunch is the specials are like primaries, where over the years there is no correlation one way or the other, and the early stage and final stage behaviors are independent of each other.

One of my unpaid interns out there somewhere can go through the historical data to test these ideas. Start by separating presidential from midterm years. Check which party did better during special elections -- either the partisan gap per se, or how the gap changed from the previous ordinary election. Then check the partisan gap per se in the next ordinary election, or the swing in the gap from the last ordinary election. There aren't a whole lot of these specials at the national level, and getting the greater range of cases at the state level would take some hunting around for the data. But someone could look into it.

Although I'm not empirically checking to see if my analogy is right between primary and special elections (both being "early"), neither is the side that just assumes the special elections are a harbinger of the ordinarily scheduled elections.

My argument is more congruent with the other signs we have of what will happen, so I'll stick with that until someone goes back over many years of data and shows that performance in specials predicts performance in ordinary elections.

If you're only going to pick one midterm season to investigate, it would be 1978 or 1930 -- the most relevant to this year's, as midterms during a disjunctive presidency.

April 11, 2018

Mueller probe's power dynamics make it like Plame Affair, not Watergate or Lewinsky

It's time to zoom out from the nano-hysteria du jour on the Mueller probe, and look for historical parallels to see what's going on and how it will play itself out.

To begin with, the details of the case are irrelevant since this is not a prosecution based on suspicion of a crime having been committed, and devoting precious finite resources to this rather than to other crimes. It's clearly a shape-shifting pretext used to further an attack in a collective conflict -- Team A targeting Team B, picking off as many as they can, however they can.

In this case, it's the Feds (DoJ and FBI) vs. Trump's circle. This witch hunt is not partisan, as all the principal actors are Republican. The Special Counsel investigation started with Russian interference in the 2016 election, but has gone in any direction from there that they please (unlike a real prosecution).

The Feds started the beef by putting Trump's circle under surveillance during the campaign, and turning up the heat even more after he won, by insinuating that his circle had colluded with the Russian government to swing the election away from its rightful winner, Crooked Hillary Clinton, who did not threaten to "drain the Swamp" or show up to the CIA headquarters to call them all a bunch of fifth columnists.

Trump escalated the feud by bumping off one of their top guys -- FBI Director Comey -- which prompted their side's de facto leader, Deputy AG Rosenstein, to appoint Special Counsel Mueller to hound the Trump circle about anything they could dig up, not only the Russian interference ideas.

But those are just the particular details -- they do not have anything to do with who's going to win the feud, as though there were some dispassionate God of Justice that will divinely intervene if the outcome looks to be going the wrong way for the side that has logic and evidence on its side. Nope: it all comes down to power dynamics. This is a pure power play between two sides, so that's what we will analyze.

Drawing on the theory of political cycles by Stephen Skowronek, we note that Trump (and his circle) belong to the dominant party -- the GOP, which has been dominant since the current political paradigm was established by that party in 1980 under Reagan. Dominant party presidents do not get impeached or de facto removed from office -- only opposition presidents suffer that fate. Clinton was a Democrat during Reaganite GOP dominance, Nixon was a Republican during New Deal Democrat dominance, and Andrew Johnson was a Democrat during Civil War Republican dominance.

Not surprisingly, those presidents also faced a hostile Congress -- both houses belonged to the rival, dominant party. A mismatch between the White House party and the Congress party already sets up for a showdown, but when the target president is from the opposition party, he begins in an even weaker position.

The dominant party uses their control over Congress to rein in a president from the opposition, lest they threaten the dominant party's paradigm. The facts of the matter are immaterial, and they will find whatever pretext they need to get revenge for the opposition president trying to undo a key element of the dominant party's paradigm.

In Johnson's case, it was slow-walking the abolition of slavery, a key plank of the dominant Republican paradigm during the Civil War. In Nixon's case, it was pulling out of the Vietnam War, when militarism was a key plank of the dominant New Deal Democrat paradigm. In Clinton's case, it was promoting universal healthcare, an assault weapons ban, and other liberal goals during the Reagan GOP paradigm.

Since Trump is from the dominant party, and so are both houses of Congress, we can conclude that he will not be impeached by the House, let alone removed by the Senate. Even if the Dems take over the House during the midterms, they will not also take over the Senate (the map is stacked against that). So they would face the choice of impeaching the president knowing full well that the Senate would reject it easily. They will be seen as having wasted a bunch of time, money, and emotional energy -- just for a big fat disappointment that was totally predictable from the start.

Clinton got impeached but not removed by the Senate, but that was not totally predictable -- with the Senate being controlled by the rival, dominant party, it was certainly possible. If a Dem-controlled House thinks of impeaching Trump, they know from the outset that they'll get shut down by the GOP-controlled Senate, making their efforts knowingly pointless, rather than a risk they think is worth taking.

But what if a miracle happens and the Dems take back both houses of Congress? That never results in impeachment either, not even during the increasingly polarized climate of the past 40 years. Reagan's last two years were under a Dem-controlled Congress, as was all of Bush Sr's term, and the last two years of Bush Jr. Neither came close to getting impeached, and not for want of a pretext either -- there was the Iran-Contra scandal during the late '80s and early '90s, and the unpopular Iraq War during the late 2000s.

However, there were Special Counsel investigations that hit on those themes, and did result in taking out some of those close to the president. So we may see -- in fact, we are seeing -- that level of collective attack toward the president's circle. But unlike impeachment, these were totally internal factional fights within the dominant party. In neither case did the president himself get wounded personally. Therefore, neither will Trump himself.

The first case was the Special Counsel investigation of the Iran-Contra affair. We won't dwell on this one since the power dynamics didn't match those of today. They had a dominant GOP president and an opposition Democrat Congress. This case would only apply if Democrats took over both houses of Congress in the midterms and launched a new or beefed-up Special Counsel investigation for Trump's final two years.

The important points are as follows. Both the Special Counsel and those he was prosecuting were from the dominant party, making it internal rather than partisan. Those who got indicted or sentenced would later get pardons from Bush Sr, another member of the dominant party, in the last days of his presidency. The dominant party ultimately protects its own members.

When Congress is controlled by the opposition party, it may make the executive branch members of the dominant party concerned when scandal erupts. If the opposition Congress takes over the matter, they could start impeachment hearings. So instead, the dominant party gets out in front of things, and through executive branch options like a Special Counsel investigation, they open up what looks like an in-fight, although ultimately the president will pardon or commute the damage done to members of his party.

Rather than the Iran-Contra scandal that took place in the context of an opposition-controlled Congress, the Mueller probe is shaping up to be more like the Special Counsel investigation during a period when the dominant party controlled the White House and Congress -- the Iraq War-themed Valerie Plame affair of Bush Jr's first and second terms, although before the opposition party took over the Congress in 2007.

Briefly, the narrative went as follows. Bush was busy lying the American public into the Iraq War by insinuating that Saddam Hussein would soon have weapons of mass destruction, and toward that end he had tried to get uranium from Niger. The diplomat sent to Niger to investigate that claim, Joseph Wilson, wrote op-eds in the NYT saying Bush's claim was bogus. His wife was an undercover CIA agent, Valerie Plame, who recommended her husband for the job of investigating the "Niger uranium" claim.

This public undercutting of Bush's rationale for war pissed off his administration, some of whom in the VP's circle decided to get back at the whistleblower. How? By revealing to a conservative columnist that the whistleblower's wife was a CIA agent, whose job and full name the columnist then revealed in a newspaper article. But it turns out she was undercover! With her cover blown, Plame's career as a spy was over -- and that's what you get for helping to undercut the "Saddam has WMDs" rationale that the admin was pushing to get us to accept the Iraq War.

That's what Special Counsel Fitzgerald was investigating. Again, forget these details of the case, since they don't matter -- power dynamics matter -- but just so the background is clear.

As in the Mueller probe, all the powerful characters were in-fighters from the same dominant party, the GOP -- the AG (Ashcroft) who recused himself just like Sessions, the Deputy AG who took over the investigation (Comey -- yes, the same one as now), the Special Counsel (Fitzgerald), the fantasy dream targets (President Bush and VP Cheney), and the members of the White House circle who actually did get investigated and/or indicted (Armitage, Rove, Libby). A Republican media columnist was also central (Novak), although he doesn't seem to have a counterpart in the Mueller probe.

As in the Mueller probe, it's impossible to summarize the shape-shifting course of the investigation and the acts it was investigating -- check out the Wikipedia entry linked above, and try digesting the gist of the zillion words in less than three weeks.

Or Google "valerie plame affair" and see how many endless results pages you get that seem to be talking about nothing, yet very seriously. Over ten years later, nobody remembers it who was not obsessed with the micro-scoops on it back during its original media-seizing run -- unlike Watergate, Monica Lewinsky, Iran-Contra, etc.

And these obsessives were from the opposition party, largely from the media sector, and were certain that something would be revealed from the Special Counsel that would bring down the illegitimate ("selected, not elected") president and his administration -- and wound up with nothing but a terminal case of blue balls.

In the end, only the Chief of Staff to the VP, Scooter Libby, got indicted, and even then Bush commuted the prison part of his sentence so that he avoided jail. One of the perks of being a dominant-party president is knowing that you and your circle will never be in any ultimate legal danger.

Libby didn't commit an underlying crime, but was found guilty of process crimes during the investigation itself (perjury and obstruction of justice). The true culprit of the underlying crime -- leaking that Plame was a CIA agent -- was the Deputy Secretary of State Armitage. Yet he was not prosecuted, even though the Special Counsel knew from the get-go that he was the culprit -- the Special Counsel just wanted to go on a fishing expedition to put a few more notches on his prosecutorial belt.

Analogizing from there to the Mueller probe, they find some crime related to the 2016 election, let's say a campaign finance violation from paying hush money to Stormy Daniels. Someone linked to it, say Trump's attorney Michael Cohen, will get indicted and/or sentenced. The president commutes or pardons Cohen. Maybe commutes or pardons Flynn, whose indictment is not related to the 2016 election (process crime). Maybe commutes or pardons Manafort, whose crime was also unrelated to the election -- money laundering long before -- although that seems harder to sustain, since it's not a mere process crime.

At any rate, nobody from the actual Trump administration gets indicted. Manafort and Cohen never joined the government, and Flynn was National Security Adviser for all of five seconds before Deep State railroaded him out. These people from his outside-the-government circle get protected.

Nobody remembers jack shit about any of the details of this investigation in 5-10 years, unless they were already addicted to the daily micro-scoops when it was originally on TV. Future observers are puzzled when they unearth how much media content was obsessively devoted to the investigation.

Trump's presidency, like Bush Jr's, does not get remembered fondly by most people, although the Special Counsel investigation will play no part in the story of what made it bad -- except perhaps as a meta-commentary on the ridiculousness of the investigation itself and its obsessive consumers in the media.

So, it's not crucial for Trump to somehow end the investigation. He himself is in no ultimate danger, and neither are the members of his circle. Worst case scenario, someone like Cohen gets an indictment on mickey-mouse charges like campaign finance violation, but gets pardoned anyway, and only carries some embarrassment afterward, which no one remembers.

The only thing that would put him in danger is if he keeps escalating his feud with the Feds -- firing Comey was what triggered the Special Counsel investigation to begin with, which is more powerful than the original FBI investigation into bogus Russian involvement in the election. The Feds would strike back this time as well, and he might also alienate members of his own party in Congress.

If enough of them disowned him from what they consider "their party," they wouldn't have his back any more than they would a president of the rival party or a third party. And since he's a disjunctive president, whose mission is to radically alter the paradigm of his own party, they already would like to see him leave office, so they can go back to their comfortable, familiar old paradigm of Reaganism.

As annoying as it is, he's just going to have to let the sucker burn itself out.

April 8, 2018

Learning lessons from the Syrian quagmire; Trump should copy Obama to wiggle out of Deep State's headlock

In recent weeks, Trump had made repeated and unequivocal statements about wanting Americans out of Syria immediately, lest we waste another $7 trillion in the Middle East.

This parallels, almost to the day, the statements that most of his top Cabinet officials made last year about Assad's fate being left up to the Syrian people, as the US was no longer going to be in the regime change business anymore.

These Cabinet officials included Secretary of State Tillerson, UN Ambassador Haley, and Press Secretary Spicer -- but crucially not Secretary of Defense Mattis, who was asked directly about this matter during a press conference with his British counterpart in London, and completely dodged the question, which was as good as an answer that he -- and the Pentagon -- still wanted regime change.

The Deep State responded to Trump's attempt to pull the US out of Syria by not just bombing a government airfield over there, but by more than doubling the number of Americans on the ground (at least 2000), building more bases to dig in its presence in the northeast, amassing a private army of Kurds that threatens to provoke Turkey into attacking their American masters, and shifting the rhetorical frame away from non-intervention and toward Assad must go, the US will stay in Syria forever, and Russia and Iran are pulling the puppet-strings and may need to be attacked as well.

* * *

Everyone who apologized for the strike on Syria a year ago by saying it would go no further than a few pock marks on a little airfield has been proven totally wrong. Not just regarding the series of escalations that the US did in fact take after bombing the airfield, but regarding the whole framework and tone of viewing the situation.

Obviously if Trump gives the Pentagon an inch, they will take a mile. Military intervention and occupation is a self-sustaining process, where one action begets more actions. It is not a one-time, cathartic, get-it-out-of-the-system release of energy, characterized by negative feedback loops. It is founding a little armed colony that will grow and grow and grow.

The other discredited framework is that we shouldn't worry until it's too late and the really bad shit has already happened. This approach views our commentary, whether on the internet or in phone calls to our Congressmen, as akin to calling a coin that is tossed in the air. Will the call be accurate or inaccurate?

In real life, accuracy of a prediction does not matter as much as survival from the process whose outcomes are being predicted. If the person calls "war" and the coin lands "no change," nothing is lost. Innocuous false alarm. If the person calls "no change" and the coin lands "war," there are massive negative consequences -- not just the war itself, but the lack of preparations you now suffer from, after assuming the coin would land "no change".

This asymmetric pay-off function means we should always err on the side of mobilizing to head off disaster once we see that the war-coin is tossed into the air.

And with a self-sustaining process like collective violence -- whether a mob rioting or an army invading -- we can never know ahead of time the order of magnitude of the damage done. Maybe only a few individuals will be killed -- or a few dozen, or a few hundred, a few thousand, a few million. All it took was the assassination of one individual, Archduke Ferdinand, to ignite a positive feedback loop that ended up killing tens of millions.

In a negative feedback loop, one person or at most a few people get killed, and that's the end of it. Some robber who shoots someone to steal their wallet, or two guys who get into a deadly fight in a bar when one steps on the other's shoes.

This is individual-level violence, not collective. Any further individuals have a rapidly smaller motive to get involved in the existing violence -- it's just a beef between those two guys who bumped into each other, no need for any bystanders to take offense and get involved.

If the killing is between members of entire groups -- Team A vs. Team B -- then anyone on Team A has a motive to get involved in killing anyone from Team B, and vice versa. That makes each killing like a contagious event that spreads in an epidemic, where if one person gets killed from Team A, it provokes multiple members of Team A to strike back and kill multiple members of Team B. One killing begets multiple killings. Collective violence like this could be between two races in a race riot, two groups of fans for rival soccer teams, or two armies on opposing sides of a conflict.

When we are faced with the decision to get involved in collective violence, the disaster can easily turn out to be orders of magnitude worse than we thought possible, as it feeds on itself. It must require the most catastrophic immediate threat to us, to even consider getting involved.

And needless to say in this case, Syria poses the American people absolutely no threat. They have never attacked us, are not attacking us now, and have no plans to attack us in the future.

The worst attackers from the Middle East have been the Saudi Arabians, who carried out 9/11. Yet they are our #1 allies in the world -- no one has so brutally attacked us and gotten off scot free. The Pentagon prioritizes its alliance with jihadist nations who can help it to attack Iran in their part of the world, rather than its duty to protect the American people on our side of the world. Imperialism is necessarily globalist, and weakens the core nation in order to prop up the crumbling borders on its far-flung fringes.

* * *

As this pathetic process repeats itself all over this year, almost right down to the day, how can Trump and his allies do better this time to resist plunging us further into the Syrian quagmire?

This is all the more important in 2018 since the Russians are far more involved in Syria, and have stopped giving the US the benefit of the doubt about the Trump administration being anti-interventionist. They have clearly stated that a US attack based on a hoax chemical attack may be met with the gravest consequences.

First, Trump must realize that he personally has zero political capital when it comes to deciding military policy, where he is dwarfed by the combined political capital of the Pentagon and other warmongering institutions like the CIA. At every major decision, he has said "I don't want to do this, and I campaigned against doing this, but the Pentagon has my head in a vise, and I have no choice but to surrender to their orders." Syria, Afghanistan, now Syria again.

Aside from giving the Deep State the inch that turns into the mile, he signals weakness by pushing so strongly in one direction and then, one week later, parroting his enemies so strongly in the opposite direction. It makes it clear that he got out-maneuvered and has not only folded, but has chosen to spread his enemy's propaganda for them.

The only recent precedent we have for a president resisting the Deep State that wanted to get us further involved in a factional conflict, was Obama in 2013. Not coincidentally, it was the same country of Syria, same region of Eastern Ghouta, same phony pretext of chemical attacks, same jihadist allies of ours, and the same demand by the Deep State and its mass media mouthpieces to Do Something militarily.

And not coincidentally, on Twitter Trump himself lobbied Obama non-stop and in the most unequivocal terms not to get us entangled any further in Syria.

How did Obama wiggle out of the Deep State's headlock? He could not take them on personally, since no single person can outmatch the political capital of the entire Deep State when they are foaming at the mouth for war.

Instead, he passed the buck to the Congress and to the American people -- putting the decision up for a prolonged public debate. Although the Deep State outweighed the political capital of Obama himself, they did not outweigh the political capital of the entire American citizenry and its representatives in Congress.

And the more they heard about it, the more they talked about it, and the more they thought about it, the more they wanted nothing to do with it. Opinion polls showed it was deeply unpopular -- and worse, that it was most unpopular with Republican citizens (which may, in fairness, have been partisan naysaying). Getting an endorsement from Congress was dead on arrival.

So, it never happened. The Deep State had been arming, funding, and enabling its proxy forces in Syria, and would continue to stand by these jihadist militias as they tried unsuccessfully to topple Assad. But Obama and his allies kept it from getting orders of magnitude worse -- no thousands of Americans on the ground, no amassing a private army of Kurds right along the Turkish border that would provoke that regional power into attacking their NATO ally, and no prospect of the other nuclear superpower launching a punishing attack on the US since Russia was not involved in Syria in 2013.

* * *

Trump's Achilles heel is his blindness to institutional forces, and seeing relations in entirely personal terms, as well as his obsession with countering whatever Obama did, whether it was good or bad. So it may prove impossible for him to copy Obama's successes, if framed that way. Thus, it is imperative for his allies to frame the decision to give Congress and the American people the final say-so, in terms that flatter his ego.

It would not be passing the buck to tell the Deep State "hey, it wasn't my decision" -- it would be giving a voice to the Forgotten Man and Forgotten Woman, none of whom were chanting "Death to Assad" at the Trump rallies. And it would not be copying Obama's proven success -- it would be taking a historically bold move that no other president had the guts to try, far more bold of a move than whatever Obama may have tried.

It will probably require lying to Trump about what Obama did in the same situation -- tell him that Obama just choked like a dog before the generals, whereas Trump will pull off an ingenious trick by throwing the matter to prolonged public debate, where it will die of its own unpopularity. Trump has already started calling Obama weak for ignoring the "red line," so it will take some effort to convince him that Obama was secretly doing the bidding of the Pentagon, and that he should make it a public debate instead.

We don't have to like the kind of people and situations we're dealing with here, but that's the best shot we have to keep the Deep State from getting America further entangled in the Syrian civil war.

Nevertheless, we should remain realistic that this task will be even harder to pull off in 2018 since Trump just idiotically made John Bolton his National Security Adviser, who will be constantly in his ear agitating for war. Again, spend more time framing the bold move Trump can take to make this a referendum with the public and Congress, and less time calling him an idiot for making an idiotic decision that is fait accompli for now.

And do whatever you can to weaken and damage Bolton's reputation, framing anything that goes wrong as Bolton's fault. McMaster was garbage, and presided over last year's escalation in Syria, but Bolton is worse still.

Don't bother lobbying directionless, sycophantic Hannity on Twitter -- more sympathetic will be Tucker Carlson, Ann Coulter, and perhaps Lou Dobbs, who openly groused about "Oh please don't get us sucked into another one" when Bolton was on air a few weeks ago. And the usual libertarians in Congress like Rand Paul, who has good rapport with Trump.

And of course, prepare to vote out every Republican in the midterms and for Bernie in 2020. We're not getting what we voted for, and it's time for a little regime change within our own country before it becomes a shithole itself.

April 6, 2018

ICE raid shows why GOP is so weak on immigration -- they profit too much

As a reminder of why the GOP will never get tough on immigration, legal or illegal, the biggest ICE raid has rounded up nearly 100 illegals at -- where, exactly? Well, knowing that those durn LIEBRULS are the ones behind our demographic replacement, they must have been getting paid working at a media outlet, or a tech company, or a bank, or a university.

In reality, it was in the agricultural sector of a deep red state -- a meatpacking plant in a rural county outside of Knoxville, TN, which has voted Republican in every election during the 100 years from 1916 to Trump (and in 1912 they voted for Teddy Roosevelt, the rogue Republican running on a third party ticket).

Identity politics has zero to do with mass immigration -- the elites are not trying to erase our identity, our culture, our race, our ethnicity, our whatever. They are class warrior materialists, simply looking to boost profits by cutting labor costs. They do that by hiring cheap foreigners, whether by off-shoring a manufacturing plant to China or by allowing in hordes of Mexicans (the group arrested in this raid).

Because the GOP is the vehicle for sectors of the economy that are labor-intensive, it is they who will fight hardest against keeping America American. Their material interests are most threatened if the cost of labor goes up when only Americans can be hired. The agricultural sector is the worst, but so are the many Republican-aligned "small businesses" that rely on immigrants to clean, cook, and do other menial tasks.

This is no different from the antebellum plantation landowners, who hauled in legions of African slaves to work more cost-effectively than Americans in the agricultural sector. We saw what happened before when an entire sector of the economy put cheap foreign labor over the welfare of society, and we could easily see that again.

You might have also heard Republicans representing the agricultural sector shouting the loudest about Trump's announced but not implemented tariffs against China, and China's potential but not actual retaliation of putting tariffs on American soybeans.

Senator Sasse from Nebraska is the worst, but only the most vocal, of a group that needs to be neutered politically if this country wants to re-industrialize its economy in order to provide its citizens with high-paying jobs that don't require a college degree.

Again, we see the current Reaganite GOP acting like the antebellum Democrats, who not only hauled in zillions of cheap-labor foreigners to toil in the fields, but who sought to lower tariffs so that their agricultural exports would not get retaliated against, even if that meant American industry and manufacturing would suffer.

The antebellum Democrats also did not want to spend money on infrastructure to modernize the economy away from agriculture and toward the Industrial Revolution. At least they paired low spending with low taxes, unlike their Reaganite GOP descendants today who just put everything on a great big government credit card and push us deeply in debt.

They were also the military expansionists of their day, just like the Reaganite GOP, which itself is a form of anti-American globalization. Imperialism means there is no core nation of America, which gets reduced to a central district within a single sprawling empire.

And what good came of their main expansion anyway -- during the Mexican War? As of this century, the Greater Southwest is being rapidly reconquered by Central Americans and increasingly by Asians. Its American residents will have to wage a Second Mexican War to take it back -- and at a time when national cohesion is imploding, and the other regions of the country will not be interested in going to war for them or paying for it either.

Before the ultimate solution, where the regions secede from each other for good, in the meantime the goal must be to remove the GOP from power at all levels and in all places. They have been the main political enablers of mass immigration, which has exploded under their Reaganite paradigm of the past 30-some years, as it benefits the labor-intensive sectors of the economy that control the GOP.

Aside from that political change, there must be an economic change that targets and punishes the employers and landlords of illegal immigrants -- they are the ones who sustain the immigrants on a material level, not the pitiful amounts of welfare that they may be able to scrounge up. Because those employers will mostly be aligned with the GOP, their party will not punish its own controllers, and that opens an opportunity for the Democrats to punish them.

Perhaps the Democrats will use different rhetoric -- about greedy Republican employers who profit from exploiting cheap laborers who have no rights, rather than about the erasure of American culture or the demographic replacement of Americans. Who cares? What matters is the end results.

Toward that end, I've maintained that the best strategy for reducing illegal immigration now and going forward is to demand a high minimum wage for immigrants (say, $25 an hour), and for them to be provided with cheap housing (say, $1000 a month) within 1% zip codes. That will eliminate most immigration, legal and illegal, which is only brought in for the purpose of cutting labor costs to employers or raising housing prices for landlords.

Obviously it would be pointless to pitch that idea to any Republican, but it would at least get a hearing with the Bernie revolution that is quickly taking over the Democrat party. And if the populists who voted for Trump storm the Democrat party, they will have even more influence over the shape that the re-alignment takes.

Clearly, trying to alter the ossified Reaganite GOP has proven to be a 99% failure, notwithstanding the welcome 1% improvement. The Bernie paradigm is still just beginning to take shape, so get in on the ground floor with that party, and there can be and will be lasting changes made on immigration.

Also, no more debunked myths about Democrats importing foreigners to vote for them, as though there were no hope for reforming that party on immigration either. I keep hearing that from Ann Coulter and Tucker Carlson, who do have the guts to call out the GOP for its cheap-labor interest in immigration, but who try to suggest the Dems have a strong material interest in immigration as well. Multicultural identity politics is not a material interest, and will be blown away by cold hard material interests like workers wanting higher wages and cheaper housing.

Electorally, amnesty would be suicide for the Dems, not the GOP. Hispanic citizens don't vote, immigrants of any background don't vote, and Hispanic immigrants really don't vote. Only 28% of eligible Hispanic immigrants voted in 2012. African-American citizens are much more reliable voters -- 72% voted in 2012, no different from white Americans who voted at 68% in 2012. Immigrants are also confined to safe red and safe blue states, not purple or swing states like Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, etc., where it is African-Americans who could swing a race that was close among white voters.

Since immigrants disproportionately displace African-American citizens by working for low wages and piling into low-rent housing in urban areas, the Democrats are destroying the non-white part of their electoral base by supporting mass immigration.

Unlike the shut-out Democrats, Republicans have obviously not been hurt electorally for their mass immigration policies -- they have been the dominant party since Reagan, when mass immigration began, and the voters of Texas, Iowa, Tennessee, etc., have never thrown out their GOP politicians despite getting flooded with immigrants.

As the Bernie movement -- an actual movement with meetings, volunteers, activists, and candidates -- shifts their party in a populist direction, it's the Democrats who will put American workers first and cheap (foreign) labor second. If we can get them to pass and enforce a national $25 minimum wage, immigration would dry up overnight, and current illegals would not get hired anymore and have to return to their home countries.

The times they are a-changin'.

Related post: Kate Steinle's illegal immigrant killer was let in by Reagan or Bush, and was sustained by employment in GOP sectors that hire itinerant day-laborers, likely agriculture.

April 3, 2018

Roseanne, 20-some years later

Since this is now the most talked-about pop culture phenomenon, there are several layers to discuss -- the show itself, the audience's reactions to the show, the pundits' commentary on the audience's reaction to the show, and on and on.

The show itself is a time warp back to good writing and performances, rather than what passes for comedy today -- which is built on random wackiness instead of humor, a self-aware rather than naturalistic tone, and driven by a series of buzzwords, references, and one-liners that do not require a particular place, cast, or narrative for them to be made, instead of humor arising from the how the distinctive characters interact with each other, their time, and their place, according to a plotline.

The political aspects of the show are no different from the original -- working-class populism based on the daily challenges of living below the top 10-20%, with the hot-button issues being mostly one-off distractions like the "very special episodes" of the 1980s and early '90s. They are not trotted out to score cheap rhetorical points against an enemy in a highly polarized debate, but presented as obstacles of contemporary society that everyone in the cast must work together to find a solution to.

When the high schoolers on Saved By the Bell encountered the problem of homelessness, no one ham-fistedly said, "Well, what do we expect with Republicans in the White House and trickle-down Reaganomics continuing to fail the working class?" The point would have been taken, but it would not have fit into the genre of a sit-com or drama.

Cycles of political tension and collective violence go in 50-year cycles, according to Peter Turchin's research, the last peak landing around 1970 and another expected to land around 2020. The valley between those peaks was the first half of the '90s, and that's when the non-partisan "very special episodes" were common, whether on sit-coms like Saved By the Bell and Roseanne, or dramas like My So-Called Life and the early seasons of Law & Order.

Political tension within sit-com writing and acting was a lot higher during the last peak, as seen on All In the Family. Presumably those tensions will re-emerge as we approach the upcoming peak. But so far in the Roseanne revival, the format of "characters playing out a national partisan political debate" was limited to Roseanne and Jackie airing their grievances over the 2016 election as a cathartic form of making up and moving on with their personal relationship.

I just don't see the target audience craving a partisan knife fight between cardboard cut-outs standing in for the Dumbocraps and the Rethuglicans.

The unexpectedly weak partisanship and the relative minimization of culture war issues stems from the show's working-class characters and setting. The culture war only matters to middle-class and elite people, who are well-off enough on a material level to have free time, money, and cognitive resources to worry about airy-fairy issues. People with more pressing material concerns are not interested in debates about trannies and bathrooms.

As Andrew Gelman and colleagues have shown, partisan polarization is minimal among poor people but wide as hell among the wealthy. The real culture war is between the elites who got rich through the oil industry vs. those who got rich through the media industry, not between construction workers in Texas vs. construction workers in California.

Contra Thomas Frank, the culture war is not the opiate of the masses, but of the chattering middle and upper classes.

And sure enough, the Roseanne revival's main audience is the Rust Belt, according to Nielsen ratings by media market, showing that the appeal is for people whose material prosperity traditionally came from certain kinds of economic activity -- not certain ideologies, or certain religious practices, or whatever else.

The show has not been welcomed in the South, southern Appalachia, Texas, or the Mountain West (landing with a thud in Roseanne's hometown of Salt Lake City). The only place outside the Rust Belt where it did well was Tulsa, OK, which is part of the Ozarks. While some of those regions, especially the South, have seen the disappearance of manufacturing and industrial jobs, they have also seen a deluge of post-industrial tech-bubble jobs, unlike the Great Lakes region.

The Sun Belt has also seen a flood of immigrants who will work for peanuts, allowing the middle class and elites to enjoy a higher standard of living than their counterparts in the Rust Belt. Need your yard landscaped, or your kitchen remodeled? Why hire an American when you can hire a cheaper immigrant? This decline in concern for their fellow Americans, especially the working class, is reflected in their "whatever" attitude toward the should-be all-American appeal of Roseanne.

MSNBC dug up the ratings by media market from the show's first season in the late '80s, and it was a hit all around the country -- Seattle, Albuquerque, Knoxville, Wilkes-Barre, etc., not just the Midwest. But that was before NAFTA and other globalist free trade deals hollowed out the manufacturing sector in those places, before the rise of the tech bubble economy, and before partisan and regional and cultural polarization had reached the high levels of today.

It's not surprising that the show's revival is not popular in places that have become over-run with liberal tech-bubble yuppie transplants. But it is striking how lukewarm or cold the reception has been in the Greater South.

It would be King of the Hill, not Roseanne, whose revival would do best in those places. Although it is a symptom rather than cause, the rise of cultural phenomena like King of the Hill that eclipsed those like Roseanne shows how the Republican party lost the Reagan Democrats of the Great Lakes, who would only return -- likely for just one trial election -- if they would speak to the concerns of the audience for Roseanne instead of the audience for King of the Hill.

The stark contrast between the two shows goes right over the heads of the clueless liberal elites, who lump everyone who is not a creative-class professional living on the coasts, into the same "basket of deplorables" -- whether that's a white working-class family outside of Chicago, or a conservative household outside of Dallas headed by a manager / salesman, since that manager works for the gas & energy sector rather than an informational sector.

Aside from Hank Hill being a manager rather than a worker, his personality and lifestyle could not be more different from Dan Conner's -- mild-mannered, long-suffering, deferential, puritanical, devout, gentle, well-behaved, and workaholic. He is the Protestant Work Ethic incarnate. Also naive, impressionable, and welcoming of immigrants -- characteristically Nordic and Lutheran.

Dan Conner is a Celt of no particular religion, yet who feels compelled to reinforce cultural norms more than Hank, who may be more personally repulsed but who keeps it to himself. As someone who it is not easy to walk all over, Dan is a more masculine character, which threatens not only the soft-handed coder who votes Democrat, but also the keep-your-head-down regional manager for Chili's who votes Republican. More temperamental, he fights and puts down his foot more often than Hank, but is also more playful, charming, and funny.

In a cultural landscape populated by polarized figures, it's welcome to see someone like Dan who is neither an effete liberal degenerate nor a spineless conservative wet blanket.

But it isn't just liberal elites who mindlessly conflate Dan Conner and Hank Hill. Conservative elites have been just as clueless, always expecting to win the votes of the Dan Conners of the Rust Belt, just because he isn't a homosexual owner of a Manhattan PR firm. He may not be -- but neither is he a manager for a Texas oil-related company, nor a pointless defense contractor in Virginia feeding off of the bloated federal budget.

These Dan Conner guys keep voting Democrat, who take them for granted. They gave Trump a shot, but will start shifting back to voting Democrat as that party re-aligns itself under the Bernie revolution, giving them Democrats they don't have to hold their nose for (like Connor Lamb).

When they took these guys for granted, they would only give them token benefits for having voted Democrat -- stage their ads in a small-town diner, give them Chris Matthews to present the evening news, and hire Bruce Springsteen to headline their fundraisers.

Now that these voters have temporarily defected to Trump, the Democrats must now actually deliver cold hard results that improve their standard of living -- and that means not obsessing over giving amnesty to cheap-labor immigrants who undercut Dan Conner's wages and drive him out of his neighborhood after millions of new residents in his town have bid up the price of housing.

A more interesting development will be Roseanne the character's reaction to the failure of the GOP as an entire party, and Trump individually, to deliver on the campaign themes that were supposed to alter the Reagan party into a working-class populist party. Roseanne the person has never been Republican, having sought the Green Party nomination for president and having voted for Obama. I don't see her character obsessing over the boogeymen for either Fox News or MSNBC and CNN -- Hillary, Comey, Mueller, etc., or for that matter, Trump himself.

Perhaps the most radical departure the show will take from the standard Trump voting crowd will be the de-personalization of the political world, and a focus strictly on the issues. Trump has not only created a personality cult around himself, he only sees things in personal rather than institutional terms -- prizing personal congeniality and loyalty, even if that person cuts completely against the president's stated agenda for re-shaping society's institutions (e.g., John Bolton as National Security Advisor).

Well, the Obama-to-Trump voters don't care about what kind of theatrical performance Trump puts on for his audience, and they have no loyalty to the man or the party in control of the White House. Their vote was a purely transactional, high-risk / high-reward gamble that they took on the candidate who promised to shake up the status quo on an instrumental level, not just rhetorically.

If that gamble does not pay off -- oh well, no big deal, it was a chance they had to take, and now onto Bernie and his people, who look like much more promising candidates for shaking things up and getting shit done for the populist agenda.

We already know how the Republican partisans will respond to the failures of the current administration -- keep complaining about the leaders, keep voting for them anyway, and keep parroting their talking points about corporate tax cuts and deregulation during a populist uprising.

What's up in the air is how the Obama-to-Trump voters are going to respond, especially the Independents rather than the diehard Democrats. Dems will go right back to voting for Dems. But Independents could tune out altogether, glom onto a third party, or turn their attention to getting Bernie's people to take over the Democrat party.

Watch for cultural signals of this shift on Roseanne itself and the audience reactions to it.

April 2, 2018

Guns don't protect speech, and govt is not the main censor: Antitrust needed to break up media / tech monopolies who control public forums

As the gun nuts become more desperate to defend their policy of allowing private citizens to amass personal arsenals of military-style weapons, they have shifted from making one sort of slippery slope argument to another.

First, they began by appealing to other gun nuts and conservatives, arguing that if you let the government prohibit you from owning an extreme type of gun, they will not be satisfied and will move on to prohibiting ordinary types of guns. Realizing that there aren't that many gun nuts or conservatives in the population, compared to moderates and liberals, they gave up on that line of defense.

Now they have begun trying to appeal to normies by arguing that the political goals of moderates -- not just conservatives -- are served by a hardline stance on gun deregulation.

The NRA's recent propaganda tries to show non-whites and women as the winners from gun deregulation -- letting them practice self-defense in dangerous ghettos or against violent would-be rapist males. If you want to regulate guns, the propaganda says, you're only going to make disarmed minorities and women more vulnerable -- and therefore, gun-grabbing liberals are the real racists and sexists.

No one believes any argument about liberals and Democrats being the real racists and sexists, but that doesn't stop the Right from trotting out these failed appeals over and over again. The even more retarded among them agree that it's a pointless argument -- but only because appealing to normies at all is pointless, and that they should only focus on ginning up hysteria to turn out the gun nut "base" (a tiny minority in a country where 3% of the population owns 50% of the guns).

In the same vein as "Dems are the real racists," gun nuts have begun arguing that extreme deregulation of gun laws serves another treasured goal of moderates -- protecting free speech. As a commenter here recently said, "When you give up your second amendment they will take your first amendment."

I'm not clear on whether they focus on freedom of thought and speech, or extend it to freedom of assembly also -- as though we could not freely assemble in public without the possibility of showing up armed, to deter would-be breaker-uppers of our crowd.

At any rate, "No 1A without the 2A" is the most paranoid branding mistake that gun nuts could make when trying to appeal to normies. The desired regulations are not to repeal the 2nd Amendment anyway, but to de-militarize the weaponry that private citizens own.

The NRA was not a gun nut lobby until the late 1970s -- meaning, the focus on more military style weapons, vigilante fantasies, and paranoid rhetoric about the federal gubmint coming to take your guns.

Americans did enjoy free speech before the late '70s, and if anything the situation has deteriorated during the Reagan era since. That's not because the Reaganites championed censorship per se, but because of their over-arching goal of deregulation and laissez-faire toward corporations.

That directly led to the consolidation of the media into five gigantic monopolies, and later to info-tech firms that would centralize all online media into a few monopolies. From that concentration of wealth and power came the ability to censor speech -- and with the ability, the implementation.

And unlike the agricultural, energy, and military-industrial sectors of the economy who control the Reaganite GOP, the senior management of the media and info-tech sectors are overwhelmingly liberal. So when they flex their organizational muscles, it will be to strangle conservatives.

Impotent right-wingers only wagged their limp fingers at the media and tech monopolies whose towering wealth and power they had encouraged and indeed worshiped. Why would organizations with the ability to censor, not actually use it? For the greater good? -- bullshit, they're imperial corporations controlled by power-hungry billionaires.

And for the longest time, conservatives refused to even identify corporations as the main threat to free speech -- their #1 enemy was always the gubmint, from whose tyranny the corporations would save us. Corporations would never regulate our lives, right?

The growth of the internet was supposed to provide a forum inherently immune from attacks by government tyranny -- it was a virtual rather than physical space, and distributed rather than centralized in organization. And yet, it has given us mega-corporations that are the sole space for most speech these days, which is subject to arbitrary censorship by the managers of these corporations.

The only way to break their hold on free speech is to break up their concentrated wealth and power, through antitrust actions. But the dumb dinosaur Reaganites are still adhering to the faith about laissez-faire regardless of the costs to society and to individuals -- even when the regulations would crush liberal censors like Facebook and Twitter.

It's time for the Right to get with the Trumpian times, and start demanding trust-busting of media and tech monopolies in order to protect free speech -- not promote some laughable vigilante fantasy about protecting your free speech with guns.

Your entire private arsenal will have zero effect on Twitter, Google, Facebook, and YouTube banning conservative people or ideas. You're not going to take your private arsenal to a college campus and do literal battle with the Leftist professors. And you're not going to launch a literal attack by surrounding the CNN headquarters with your militia buddies.

You have to fight power with power -- and security-blanket arsenals give no power to the cosplay warriors who own them. They must instead take over the government to dismantle the over-sized corporations that have such a monopoly on the forums of speech.

Somebody's going to be doing the regulating. Regulate them before they regulate you.

March 29, 2018

The disintegration of the GOP during '18 and '20, as Reaganism gives way to Bernie-ism

With each round of fluctuating polls that show the Democrats' consistent lead widening and narrowing ahead of the midterms, it's important to focus on the big picture.

We'll start with an overview of long-term political cycles, and come back to the current climate of midterm elections and the 2020 presidential election.

* * *

Political cycles take place over all sorts of time scales -- from the daily news cycle, the annual legislative cycle, the midterm and presidential electoral cycle, and the regime or paradigm cycle.

The last one tends to get left out because it lasts over multiple elections, lasting decades, making it hard for people to personally remember the previous stage of the cycle. (Who remembers when Democrats had a lock on the voters of "the Solid South"?)

We're currently in a paradigm set by the Reagan revolution of 1980, which overturned the FDR paradigm of 1932, which supplanted the McKinley paradigm of 1896, which modified the Lincoln paradigm of 1860, which overturned the Jackson paradigm of 1828, which supplanted the Jefferson paradigm of 1800.

Going back so quickly to our nation's founding is possible because we're not bogged down in the dozens of individual elections, let alone the hundreds of annual snapshots. There is a structure above the level of elections that groups them into paradigms spanning several decades, allowing us to take steps backward 40 years at a time.

Within each paradigm, the elections play out in stages described by political scientist Stephen Skowronek. The trailblazer radically alters the paradigm that came before, and his party enjoys at least three consecutive terms to change as much of society as they can. Then there is some pushback from the opposition party, although generally staying within the overall paradigm set by the dominant party. Then control returns to the dominant party, who extends their original paradigm.

As the paradigm runs out of gains to make, a would-be reformer from within the dominant party rises to substantially alter the paradigm from within his own dominant party. Thwarted by all the institutions and factions of the dominant party, who have no interest in radically altering the paradigm that has brought them such seemingly everlasting success, the would-be reformer falls from grace, earning a reputation as a do-nothing, and leaving a sour taste in the mouths of anyone looking back on his administration.

Then a new trailblazer comes along from the opposition party, who therefore faces none of the institutional constraints of the internal reformer, and succeeds in implementing a new paradigm where his do-nothing predecessor had failed. And the cycle repeats.

Why doesn't this paradigm shift happen with earlier presidents from the opposition party? Because voters must first be of the mind that they're giving the dominant party One Last Chance to substantially reform itself, before they lose all confidence in the old dominant party and choose to give a broad mandate to the old opposition party to blaze a new trail.

* * *

These themes were explored in this post and comment discussion, looking at the striking parallels between the presidencies of Trump and Jimmy Carter, as well as the parallels between rising Bernie and rising Reagan of the late '70s.

Skowronek refers to these attempts to reform from within the dominant party as "disjunctive," and as time goes on, we see more and more of the pattern filling in with the Trump admin. Every time he tries to cut against the Reaganite orthodoxy -- most notably on industrial policy (trade, tariffs) -- he notches a small symbolic win or is wrestled back into the old way of doing things by the Establishment of the party (the entire party).

Still, the Reagan party cannot tolerate these small departures from orthodoxy, since they are intended as a slippery slope that will undo the entire edifice built by their party over the past 40 years.

And they are even more threatened by Trump's more substantial change in rhetoric and values compared to standard Republicans -- trade deficits are killing our workers, we've wasted seven trillion dollars in the Middle East, we're going to build a wall on the border, I don't want people dying in the streets just because they can't afford health insurance, and so on and so forth.

While these pronouncements do not result in sweeping policy changes, they nevertheless take voters out of the old mindset, and open them up to supporting radical change by somebody who actually can deliver the goods. The GOP knows that Trump cannot be that change agent, shackled and neutered as he is by the GOP itself, but they also know that they sure as hell aren't going to make radical changes either.

In the back of their minds, the Establishment realizes that Trump is paving the way not only for the destruction of the GOP, but for the election of an unshackled reformer from the opposition party -- Bernie Sanders, or someone like him.

Bernie's party is not beholden to the Chamber of Commerce or National Association of Manufacturers (Dems voted against NAFTA in both houses of Congress). So he can slam heavy tariffs on off-shored manufacturing or foreign steel and not suffer a loss of support from his elite factions. Ditto for winding down our failed military occupations and expansions all over the world -- his party is not beholden to the Pentagon for elite support.

* * *

Returning to the midterm elections, what does the "stages of the paradigm" theory predict?

An earlier post looked at the record number of Congressional retirements from the dominant party, which also showed up in the last midterm election of a disjunctive president, in 1978. That disjunctive president began his term with his party controlling both the House and the Senate, as does our disjunctive president.

As part of the loss of confidence in the dominant party, they lost seats in both chambers of Congress, although they still remained above 50% and held control of all government for the second half of Carter's term. After Carter's failures, the Reagan revolution of 1980 also took control of the Senate, though not the House.

What about earlier disjunctive administrations and their midterms? See this history of party strength in Congress, with both charts and tables.

The last disjunctive president before Carter was Hoover, elected in 1928 at the end of the pro-industrialist paradigm of the Progressive Era GOP, before the labor-oriented paradigm of the New Deal that was chosen in '32. Hoover began with his party controlling both chambers of Congress, but during the 1930 midterms -- after the Great Depression began to discredit the pro-business party -- they lost seats in both houses, yet still barely held onto full control of government.

The next presidential election in 1932, Hoover's party lost all three elected bodies to the trailblazing Democrats under FDR's leadership.

Before Hoover, the last end-of-an-era president was Cleveland during his second (non-consecutive) term. Elected in 1892, he began with his Democrat party controlling both chambers of Congress. During the midterms, they lost both houses to the Republicans in the wake of the Panic of 1893, which discredited the laissez-faire Bourbon Democrats who Cleveland represented, and paved the way for trailblazing populist Republicans, who kept all three bodies for decades after McKinley's victory in 1896.

Before Cleveland, the last disjunctive president was Buchanan, elected in 1856 as the last of the Jacksonian Democrats before the Civil War shifted control to the trailblazing Republicans under Lincoln. He began with his party controlling both chambers of Congress. In the 1858 midterms, they lost seats in both chambers, losing the House outright while still holding onto the Senate. No progress was being made to avert secession by Southern states -- the pro-slavery Dred Scott decision from the Supreme Court was delivered since Buchanan's inauguration -- so voters lost confidence in the dominant Democrats to solve the problems of sectional tensions over slavery.

The next presidential election, the trailblazing Republicans under Lincoln won the White House, kept the House, and picked up the Senate for total control.

Before Buchanan, the last disjunctive president was John Quincy Adams, elected in 1824 as the last of the Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans, as the Era of Good Feelings would give way to the sectional tensions of the Jacksonian era. Adams was the only disjunctive president to not begin with his party controlling both chambers of Congress -- they had the House but not the Senate. During the 1826 midterms, the dominant party lost seats in both chambers, enough to lose the House on top of already not having the Senate.

The next presidential election, the trailblazing Democrats under Jackson won the White House in addition to keeping control over both chambers of Congress.

Before John Quincy Adams, the last -- and first -- disjunctive president was his father, John Adams, elected in 1796 to continue Washington's largely Federalist program. His party began with control of both chambers of Congress, and unique among disjunctive presidencies, did not lose seats during the midterms (1798). They neither gained nor lost seats in the Senate, and picked up a few in the House.

This lack of lost seats during a disjunctive midterm could be due to the largely uneventful nature of Adams' first two years, at least regarding intra-party relations that could reveal the party to be a fragmented do-nothing party. The major split within the Federalists came after his response to the XYZ Affair (pursuing peace rather than war against France), which fell during the second half of his term. The unpopular Alien and Sedition Acts were signed during the summer right before the 1798 midterms, so any anger they generated must not have caught on fast enough to throw his party out of either chamber of Congress that autumn.

The next presidential election, the trailblazing Democratic-Republicans under Jefferson won the White House and swung both chambers of Congress for full control of the government.

* * *

Wrapping up, it seems certain that the midterms during the current disjunctive presidency will see the dominant party lose seats in the House, although not necessarily enough to fall under 50% and lose control of the chamber. They ought to lose seats in the Senate while still retaining control, but the map this year just happens to work to their advantage -- mostly breaking even.

Voters are growing anxious and moving into getting sick of the do-nothing GOP that is not delivering on the president's promise of radically altering the party away from Reaganism -- especially on trade, immigration, and war.

The next presidential election, the trailblazing Bernie Democrats will win the White House, gain even more seats in the House (flipping it if they haven't already in the midterms), and flip the Senate for total control. Republicans cannot gloat about the '18 Senate map without looking at how much they stand to get clobbered in the '20 Senate map, which will piggy-back on a wave of populist discontent with the elitist globalist GOP during a high-turnout presidential year.

Below the federal level, the map of governors' races in the '18 midterms looks to upset a lot of Republicans in the Great Lakes and New England, as their populist voters are sick of the GOP being a one-trick pony of cutting taxes to boost corporate profits, and as the Dems re-align away from trying to push social-cultural liberalism on a moderate electorate, while emphasizing quasi-populist economic issues.

* * *

Disillusioned populists who voted for Trump would do well to cut their losses and abandon the sinking ship of the Reagan party. The more Trumpian populists that invade the rising Democrat party, and the earlier that they do so, the more that the new Bernie-style party will be shaped away from the flaming social liberalism of the dinosaur Dems and toward a truce in the culture war, as populist material issues become paramount.

That includes getting the Democrats to pursue immigration restriction -- not as a culture war issue, but as a populist issue. The GOP will not deliver on that issue even when it controls all three elected bodies of the federal government -- let alone when it gets shut out of influence during the upcoming re-alignment favoring the Bernie Democrats.

If the Bernie people don't take up the issue during their initial stage of three consecutive terms, it will be because suicidally partisan Republicans didn't want to pollute their tribal purity by forging a winning alliance with populists from the other party. Younger Trump populists who are not dyed-in-the-wool GOP-ers will be the influential group in that regard, not the hidebound Boomer-publicans.

March 28, 2018

Citizen q on Census will benefit blacks and white urbanites, in mostly-blue Rust Belt

The inclusion of a question about citizenship status on the 2020 Census would help the effort to fairly represent Americans in their own government.

Districts for the House of Representatives are apportioned based on population size, which also affects the weight that a state has in the Electoral College when choosing a president. And there's the matter of how much resources need to be allocated to an area to serve the Americans living there. Our government exists to serve us, not foreigners.

Illegal immigrants should not get any representation in our government or receive government spending. They will have influence over the government and receive services from the government when they return to their home countries, who have sole jurisdiction over them.

Temporary legal immigrants -- whether Indian tech drones or Mexican farm hands -- are still not citizens and don't have voting rights for the limited time they're here. So they too should not be influencing our government, and all costs associated with their being here should fall on their employers, not the broad American taxpayer base.

On such a hot-button issue, there's a lot of confusion, and as usual the Right has bought into the bogus picture of reality presented by the Left -- only differing on whether they like it or hate it.

Early in the 2016 campaign, I discussed at length what effects there are from giving Congressional districts based on resident population rather than citizen population, and followed up in a post from last fall.

The effects do NOT include illegal immigrants voting in our elections, which is the main hysterical talking point from the Right. Hispanics are the main immigrant group, and they do not vote even when they are American citizens. Immigrants don't vote, and Hispanic immigrants really don't vote -- only 28% of those who were even eligible to vote (excluding illegals) did so in 2012. Obviously illegals are going to vote at even lower rates.

Even if they did, they are located in deep blue and deep red states where they will not make a difference in the outcome -- California will be blue even if only white people voted, and Texas is red despite all the Hispanics there.

The true effect is not on partisan balance, but on the strength of the state's vote for president.

California may be blue no matter what, but it has an unfair outsized effect on the presidential election if they have 55 vs. 45 votes due to their larger population of non-citizens. And since the number of districts in the entire country is fixed, if California has more influence, that means some other state has an unfair under-sized influence.

Those are states that have minimal non-citizen populations, but are still large enough in population to deserve many EC votes -- mostly these are in the Rust Belt, like Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, and Indiana.

Within the districts that are unfairly awarded to places with large non-citizen populations, it's not as though the illegals themselves are voting for the representative -- remember, they don't vote. It is their employers who do the voting, akin to the slavemasters from the old South having a say in government, while their slaves did not, even though the slaves counted toward population size and therefore number of representatives.

So the current system gives an unfair advantage not to the immigrants themselves, but to the latter-day slavemasters who employ illegals and temporary legal immigrants, largely in the Sun Belt.

What would happen if we apportioned districts fairly, according to citizen populations? Here again the Right is clueless because they buy into the bogus picture presented by the Left, only differing in liking it vs. hating it.

The wrong conclusion is that the change would penalize blue states and reward red states, penalize Hispanics and reward whites, and although they don't explicitly say so, they're assuming it will penalize urbanites and reward more sparsely populated areas (that completes the gestalt of typical Republican voters).

First, the second-biggest loser after California would be deep red Texas, along with other Sun Belt red states like Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, and the swing state of Florida. Blue state losers aside from California would be New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts.

More importantly, where would these districts go to? Mostly to other blue states -- Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania -- and the swing state of Ohio. Oregon could pick up one as well. Some red states might gain a few, like Tennessee or Missouri, and Indiana for sure. But generally speaking, red states don't have large populations -- whether resident or citizen -- so they're not in a position to get awarded more districts.

So the main change would be from the Sun Belt to the Rust Belt.

Within a state, the districts would go to where there are large populations -- meaning cities, not small towns or rural areas. When Michigan gets a few more districts, they will go to the Detroit metro rather than the Upper Peninsula. In Wisconsin, they will go to the Milwaukee metro rather than the north. In Ohio, to the Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati metros rather than Appalachia.

Because districts go to higher populations, and since the Democrats are currently so urban-oriented, the change would not only leave the partisan balance roughly the same -- it would preserve the urban orientation of the party and its goals in Congress.

Finally, within a metro area, the change would disproportionately benefit African-Americans because they're more likely to be urbanites than whites are. If Detroit gets two more representatives in Congress, you can bet that both will be black themselves and will be representing black communities. Ditto for Milwaukee, Cleveland, etc.

Urban / suburban whites will pick up a little more representation, but the chief effect will be to reduce the influence of white slavemasters in heavily immigrant areas, and to boost the influence of African-Americans from places that have been relatively uncolonized by immigrants (like the Rust Belt, where economic prospects are not as great as elsewhere in the phony bubble economy).

On every level, the demographic implications still favor the Democrats if anything.

The change would be entirely within the Democrat party, then. Take away districts and resources from California, and give them to Michigan. Take from one urban metro, give it to another urban metro. Take from the white employers of illegal Hispanics, give it to the African-American working class.

Such an internal shift within the Democrats would be part of their overall re-alignment -- winning back the Rust Belt, focusing on their core non-white group (African-Americans) rather than unreliable non-white groups (Hispanics and Asians), and emphasizing America rather than a multinational Tower of Babel.

There will be a smaller shift on the GOP side, taking away from Texas and giving to Indiana, although again taking from one urban metro and giving to another urban metro, and taking away from white slavemasters of illegal Hispanics and giving to African-American workers in Gary. With more districts going to disproportionately black metros, Indiana, Missouri, and Tennessee will become slightly less red, but still red. Ohio has always been a swing state, and would probably stay one.

In pushing for a fair apportionment of Congressional districts and federal funding, the nationalists on the Trump side should reach out as much as possible to Rust Belt Democrats and the African-Americans of the large metro areas in the Midwest, since that's who the natural allies are. They will be beneficiaries more so than white rural Americans from tiny farm states.

Point out to Michigan Democrats that their state will gain from California's loss, that it's only the white slavemasters in California who are losing anyway, not the immigrants for whom Michigan Dems might have sympathy, and that Michigan's gain will disproportionately benefit their African-American communities.

This should be a slam dunk to get bipartisan support for within the crucial Rust Belt region -- both on the Trump and Bernie sides. Elsewhere support will probably split along partisan lines, but the Rust Belt has enough people to swing the overall debate.