July 23, 2017

Pessimistic on the elites, optimistic on the people

The tone of most diehard Trump supporters -- from Lou Dobbs to Alex Jones to Mike Cernovich to random white working class voters to yours truly -- has changed over the past several months, away from the triumphalism of the transition and Inauguration period, and back toward insurgency. What gives?

Quite simply, we thought that after we sent the elites the mother of all rude awakenings throughout the campaign, culminating in "Trump wins!" on election night, they would begin to negotiate with us. Given how stinging and unambiguous our rejection of their vision was, the negotiation should have been over the terms of their surrender. But at least some form of reconciliation between the insulated parasitic elites and the alienated and abused citizenry.

And yet while relations should have moved toward repair and harmony, they have instead moved toward further fracture and conflict between the upper and below-the-upper layers of society. That has come from the elites doggedly holding onto their parasitic grasp over the highest levers of power, not from the people who were content to signal the greatest vote of no confidence ever in human history, and then go back to their normal everyday lives.

It is the elites who have reneged on the social contract -- not just silently withdrawing from it and hoping nobody notices, as they had begun to do during the 1970s and '80s, but now actively conspiring to subvert, in plain sight, the loud-and-clear will of the people.

This is most obvious in the escalating Deep State witch hunt against Trump, where Democrats play bad cop and Republicans play good cop against the detained President. This conflict will absolutely not end until one side shuts the other side down. Either the Trump faction within the administration will shut down the witch hunt, or the witch hunt will shut down the Trump faction.

We cannot autistically quibble over what particular forms these two sole outcomes may take. A victory for the Trump faction could conceivably stem from Trump himself firing Mueller, or AG Sessions rescinding his recusal and firing Mueller, or Trump firing Deputy AG Rosenstein and anyone else further down until he finds someone willing to fire Mueller, or or or...

And a victory for the witch hunt could conceivably stem from a formal exit from office by Trump, or by others in his camp, or Trump becoming neutered while remaining nominally in office, or a witch hunt that has no final conclusion but manages to consume so much attention, resources, and political capital, that very little is left over to pursue the Trump agenda. Maybe the GOP Congress would formally voice no confidence, maybe they would only stand idly by. Maybe an element of the military would speak up, or even act up, and maybe they would not. Or or or...

The point is that particulars do not matter -- either our side will shut down their side, or they will shut down our side. As Chuck Schumer warned on primetime, the intelligence agencies "have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you" if you take them on. Just because plan A doesn't succeed, doesn't mean that plan B through plan Z are not also running. Our job is to keep all of those subversions from toppling the democratically elected President.

Although the coup is the most threatening plot against the President's agenda, the elites have sabotaged his efforts on all other major fronts as well. For every step that Trump takes in the right direction, the whole rest of the elites take us ten steps backward. And on issues that were central throughout the campaign, where the elites cannot feign ignorance about what the American people voted for.

At the macro level, they have sidelined the major issues of the campaign -- immigration, global entanglements, re-industrialization, radical Islamic terrorism -- and pursued their own issues that nobody cares about or does not trust them to do the right thing -- re-shaping healthcare in the GOP's mold, revising the entire tax code, and maybe in the distant future something about infrastructure (in America, not Afghanistan).

Those are the standard obsessions of the GOP orthodoxy that were decisively rejected by hardcore Republican voters during the primary. If we wanted the insurance monopolies to re-do Obamacare, or the Koch Brothers to re-write the entire tax code, or the Club for Growth to set our national economic priorities, we would have voted for any of the other dozen GOP candidates. We did not, so we did not.

It is a baldfaced betrayal of the voters that the GOP Congress is acting as though Jeb Bush had won the election, rather than the guy who reminded Americans that "the World Trade Center came down under your brother's reign".

Even on the issues that the elites are pursuing, they are not taking positions that the people want.

Trump did not run on "getting the government out of healthcare" (a failed GOP slogan), has defended single-payer on both moral and cost-efficiency grounds since the 1990s, and said the government will pay the hospital bill of a poor person who gets sick so that they will not be "dying in the streets".

Trump barely put together a tax plan during the campaign, and none of his fans cared one way or the other about it. But certainly the white working class voters in the Rust Belt who delivered him victory do not care about slashing corporate tax rates or abolishing the estate tax that only targets the inheritances of the ultra-wealthy.

In fact, when Trump was planning a campaign in 2000, he not only promoted single-payer healthcare, he also wanted a 14% tax on wealth or total net worth, not just income, which would have paid off the entire federal debt and left enough over for a middle-class tax cut. With the corporate elites preparing the tax reform plans (Cohn, Mnuchin, Brady, Ryan, et al), we can be sure that they are not planning to soak the rich in order to relieve the middle class.

And on foreign entanglements, Trump ran on a clear America-only platform. He did not point to a single alliance that the American people were benefiting from, and repeatedly named all of the parasites who have been "ripping us off big-league" for decades. Those alliances have only been ramped up, with the military-industrial complex sending hundreds of billions worth of arms to Jihadi Arabia, the Pentagon sending thousands more troops to Afghanistan, escalation within Syria, serving as South Korea and Japan's military for free as tensions rise with the North, and the all-out sabotage of Trump's plan to "get along with Russia" -- from the ever-intensifying hysteria over "meddling" in the election, to economic sanctions, to speeches in Warsaw devoted to the theme of containing Russia, to commitment to regime change against their allies (still the official goal in Syria, and maybe next in Iran).

Trump's victories have mostly taken the form of blocking new entanglements that the elites had been hoping to enter us into, where we were not already entangled -- TPP, Paris climate accords, regime change in Venezuela, etc. The one exception may be NAFTA, although the prognosis looks uncertain after the statement of goals barely discusses manufacturing and re-industrialization, but is heavy on agriculture, finance, and media sectors. Trade is the one area that the Trump faction has had the most success in -- at least getting their people into top positions (Ross, Lighthizer). With the rest of the big picture showing concerted elite betrayal, we can no longer just rest assured that the Trump people will prevail over the corporate globalists in the NAFTA re-negotiations.

Also in the big picture -- elite betrayal is not limited to the Trump agenda. The British elites have already signaled their intention to water down or neuter the Brexit victory, against an electoral uprising of the people. And the Democrat Establishment has refused to move in a populist direction, against the wishes of half of its own voters and the wishes of any Trump voter who might consider voting Democrat at the state or local level. They are still the party of Wall Street and identity politics, and have expanded into outright sedition, becoming the most zealous accomplices of the Deep State against the democracy.

So far, then, there is minimal evidence that the elites have decided to relent and compromise with their alienated and increasingly angry populations. The only place where the people can exert leverage is at the ballot box -- but the elites might just ignore the outcome and carry on as before, or even double down in order to punish the people for daring to issue a public vote of no confidence.

There are other ways that the people can use their leverage, which consists entirely in their sheer numbers rather than political connections, favors owed, blackmail, wealth, and so on and so forth. If it comes down to torches and pitchforks, the side with the larger mob will defeat the side with the smaller mob. At a lower level of escalation, it could be a million protesters surrounding the CNN building, or a million marching on the Pentagon, or a million forming a picket line around a plant that is sending its jobs out of the country or that relies on immigrant labor (legal or illegal).

Those mass direct actions, along with mass participation at the ballot box, turned the country around during the Progressive Era, including the closing off of immigration during the 1920s. If the elites refuse to make deals with our good-faith negotiator, Trump, then we will have no alternative but to escalate the type of person we send into the White House, and the kind of actions we take elsewhere -- from complaining on the internet, to occupying the City Halls of sanctuary cities.

So far, the people seem determined not to just go back to alienation mode as the elites sabotage the nascent populist and nationalist revolt. In an earlier time, we would've just said, "Yeah, well politics sucks and you can't change things after all, so let's just go back to our lives and block it all out again." Now the people are getting more and more angry that the government isn't doing what we told them to do, and how the elites are more and more flagrantly treating us like a bunch of peons who will never get a voice in how the society is run.

That smoldering anger is promising -- it means the Trump faction can stoke the embers into a real fire, unlike in the aftermath of most elections where everyone goes back to their own preoccupations. But that means that Trump and his team must shift gears back to the rabble-rousers they were during the campaign, and give the people something concrete they can channel their immense numbers into, something beyond casting the vote that we have already cast.

Most of what the people want is already on the books somewhere -- it's just gone unenforced by the executive and judicial wings of the government for so long. Trump's faction has very little political capital within the DC swamp itself, and will likely continue to be unsuccessful at changing things through legislation or even executive orders (who will enforce the should-be enforcers?).

Trump can take to the bully pulpit, but only if it manages to fire up the people who then take concrete mass action against the elites who refuse to follow and enforce existing laws. Virtually nobody in government respects Trump, so they will not respond to his attempts to shame them or chew them out. The only way for Trump to really light a fire under someone's ass is to sic his mob of rabid supporters on them. No one in the Swamp has that large and that zealous of a mob of their own, and what are they going to do instead -- try to call in favors from the CIA to gun down a mass of citizens protesting their parasitic elites?

Smug and naive triumphalism is no longer tenable. The verdict is in: the elites are hell-bent on not just ignoring the voice of the people but punishing them for daring to speak up, and a President who has only political debt within the DC swamp must mobilize the people into action to counteract the widespread subversion of democracy by the doubling-down elites.


  1. "It's very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their President."

    Good start -- now tell your supporters to flood the phone lines of these Republicans complicit in the sedition. Or to surround their state capitol building. Or hold marches through downtown.

    They need a way to put the pressure on the worthless Republicans, since so far the politicians have ignored Trump's attempt to shame them.

  2. http://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20170724/HR_____.pdf

    I'm seeing that passed around on both r/The_Donald and /pol/ (which probably means that the likes of Cernovich, Katie McHugh and the like will be spreading it) which I keep seeing interpreted as basically enshrining Obama's executive orders w/r/t Russian sanctions and not allowing the president to weaken or waive those sanctions without congressional approval. As Red State puts it:

    "In this case, Congress is placing a serious check on presidential power by codifying existing sanctions on Russia, issuing more, and then requiring the President to seek Congressional approval to weaken, waive or rescind sanctions. Most sanctions were established by Executive Order with directions to the executive branch departments to follow through on implementation."

    Basically they put they codify Russian sanctions, add more then tie Trump's hands so that if he vetoes it then he's made to look like he's protecting big evil Russia. These guys are slime of the highest order. There's no working with them any more. Action, via protest or the vote, is the only option left. Run every last establishment cuck, GOP or Dem, out of DC on a rail.

  3. And notice who the 2 votes were against the sanctions bill -- Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders.

    They actually have good support among the base in their parties, and even decent cross-party support on certain major issues anyway (Dems liking Paul's stance on war or civil liberties, Republicans liking Sanders' stance on trade and industry).

    No regular person gives a shit what Schumer, McConnell, et al think.

    In the Swamp, 2 votes against 98 in the Senate is not enough to block the elites. But if those 2 outliers can punch above their weight with the citizens and voters, that's an opening for the Trump faction to make the case to the people about why this bill is garbage.

    He'd actually have to do some formal, public events with both of them, but what's to stop that? Rand, Bernie, and the Don -- pretty easy to make that message connect with the people, especially since they're already predisposed to want the whole Russia hysteria to go away so the government can move on to the real business of America.

    In general, I hope to see a Bernie-Rand partnership like there was between Nader and Buchanan, which will be amplified by the President himself.

    They'll each put their own distinct spin on it -- Rand about citizens resisting govt tyranny, Bernie about the common people resisting the elites, Trump about the outsiders taking on the Swamp. But they will all be three shadows cast from a single anti-Establishment Platonic essence.

    Who can say how far that alliance, plus the public actions it motivates, will lead in any given case? But it sounds a lot more promising than trying to negotiate with the Establishment, which has gone worse than nowhere.

  4. Bernie, ol' Rand-o, and Don.

  5. I can certainly see that attracting enthusiasm. Keep in mind that "centrist" is no longer the compliment that it was at the turn of the millennium. Two financial crashes, several boondoggled "regime change" operations and continually growing inequality later, "centrist" now means in the popular mindset, "even more committed to the failed policies of the past seventeen years than anyone else is"!

  6. ConantheContrarian7/24/17, 10:24 AM

    "Trump's faction has very little political capital within the DC swamp itself, and will likely continue to be unsuccessful at changing things through legislation or even executive orders (who will enforce the should-be enforcers?)." If a should-be enforcer is not enforcing, fire him or move him to a post in the Marshall Islands. Then put a Trump-hire in his place. Is that possible?

  7. An issue is that Trump has no intellectual core to help develop and push through policies. Perhaps the closest would be the staff at the new American Affairs magazine, which was intended to "Trumpism for high-brows". Some of its articles are actually pretty insightful and imaginative.

  8. The whole American willingness to believe in the concepts of "fairness", "hard work gets you ahead" and "meritocracy" is why we keep seeing elites consistently getting to take away what gains the bottom 90/99 percent can manage to get after a decade or two of having them.

    Welp, looks like America is exhibit A for how europeans can develop a highly unequal, striving anthill like Chinese "society", if you can even call it a society.

  9. Gen X and Millennials are pretty cynical about those myths about hard work gets you ahead, etc.

    Those myths are just the Me Generation (Silents and Boomers) rationalizing their own climb to the top by tossing "fairness" and "group harmony" in the garbage bin. They went from harmony to conflict as their basic mode of social interaction, and by now the later generations realize it's all about war, not just hard work and fair play (which gets you run over).

    You can already see the Republican base turning against the idea that "fair play" means turning the other cheek, and are moving more toward "fair play" meaning reciprocity or "an eye for an eye".

    We've already got Trump in office, now we need more "an eye for an eye" types -- Giuliani instead of Sessions as AG, for example. (With Sessions heading Homeland Security instead.)

    It's time to balance the cosmic scales of justice against the side that's been corrupting our society for decades.

  10. There was a decent, prole Boomer/Gen X-er of all castes backlash over striving and yuppies in the late 80's-mid 90's:

    - the media discovers slacker culture

    - Beavis and Butthead

    - grunge/anti-fasion (Eddie Vedder proudly drives a beat-up pick-up instead of a red sports car)

    - early 90's recession causes a backlash towards immigrants (we saw greater bi-partisan honesty/research

    about this issue at this time than we did before or since)
    - Sitcoms that start in the Bush 1 era and feature blue collar unpretentious families (Home Improvement, Married with Children, Roseanne, etc.) are quite popular. One Roseanne episode deals with the family "settling" for a Sega since the Super Nintendo is more expensive. The SNES overtook Sega by Christmas of '94, at which time families were beginning to blow lots of money again (Sega and the venerable NES were much more popular before 1994).

    Alas, Clinton is able to balance the budget (more or less....) by cutting welfare, not starting a major war, and for the first time the Fed Gov. reduces entitlement burdens by fudging with inflation measures thereby reducing what they owe to people. As for the economic "recovery", as well all know by now it was largely based on FIRE, including the ignominious housing bubble that began around 1994 and took quite some time to pop. Boomers and some X-ers thrill to the first Boomer directed presidency which produces over-hyped prosperity that really benefited super rich people and older people, not so much everyone in general. By '97, whatever was left of the Bush 1 era populist wave had crashed and people were back to the Reagan era "what me worry" mentality but this time with uglier fashion, greater tolerance for deviancy, and fatter bodies.

  11. The Bush 1 era has mostly been evicted from popular memory, and rarely does it get any kind of notice besides being ground zero for Grunge which is erroneously called a backlash to the 80's even though it was a product of the 80's;weird that nobody says thrash metal or gangsta rap represented a backlash to the 80's when those genres were also very popular at the same time as grunge (Pantera hit #1 in 1994).

    The time period is chiefly of interest to X-ers, who seldom are interested in reveling in nostalgia like other generations.

  12. Grunge got worse the further from the 80's it got; if it was supposedly killing 80's culture, then why didn't it get better later? Likewise for every other genre of music, which begin to heavily stagnate after 2-3 years of Clinton. Guys, I know cocooning should take some of the blame for pop culture getting worse, yet it's hard to shake the feeling that Clinton represented a return to complacency that gathered momentum with every passing month of his presidency. We didn't have the Soviets to fight anymore, the economy seemed to be on track, crime began to decline, etc. There's a reason the horror movies of 1992-mid 90's are terrible.

  13. "We've already got Trump in office, now we need more "an eye for an eye" types -- Giuliani instead of Sessions as AG, for example. (With Sessions heading Homeland Security instead.)"

    Didn't they throw a lot of crap at Giuliani when he was a vocal surrogate? Seems like they didn't want to Giuliani America as a whole. Sessions is good ideologically, but he's not really a scrapper; he's been intimidated away from newly popular populist ideas, some of which he championed for decades, and into de rigueur anti-crime Reagan/Clinton era policies which do nothing to upset the globalists.

    Also, Giuliani took 9/11 personal, as did Trump. I'm sure Sessions cares too, but he didn't have the same gut reaction that non-cucked NY'ers did: we let this happen to us in the name of diversity, and that's not an acceptable price to pay. Giuliani was willing to bruise the egos of liberals to cut down urban crime, no reason he wouldn't do a similar thing to cut down terrorism and other ills associated with immigrants across the country. Remember during the campaign, how Trump brought up greater monitoring of Muslim areas and doing more to ferret out bad guys who are already here? I wonder if he had something in mind that was inspired by what Giuliani did in the early 90's. Stop and Frisk, figuratively and literally, of the people likely to be hostile to a peaceful and safe America.

  14. Very good post, Ag. I've been both a little more sanguine, yet hopeful than you because it's all so familiar having been at the grassroots for over a decade. Been beaten down more, you could say. But the differences this time are so striking, which you all laid out in your post, that it makes me more hopeful at the same time. I mean, these guys with their wealth and power (thinktanks, gurus, pundits, etc.) had truly turned denial about how unpopular the plutocratic positions were into an artform.

    I quickly want to revisit a post or comment of yours and I think it is relevant going forward. Saw a discussion amongst old-timey and more recent anarchists and I believe less that the community gets co-opted by the Deep State and more that it is an organic thing, this turn of "Antifa". These gals' activism spanned the past 40 years and they increasingly found themselves estranged as the movement became more taken over by wealthy sociopaths. The ones who were more recently estranged were more defensive of the movement than the older guard, but all ages agreed about its basic trajectory. Also, they said it mirrored the developments in Europe. Less Bernie/Jill/down-with-Starbucks, more trustfunders wanting to bash in pretty people's faces. But before (and still) turning toward physical attacks on people (Rightists/Trump supporters), the policing of the movement from within had taken a much darker and violent turn. Mostly against women.

    I am of the persuasion that there is a small constituency, probably much or exactly like the original communists, who are fake populists who really, I mean *profoundly*, care about the identity-racial and social politics. Per Ted Kaczynski, they aren't genuine about wanting to lift up the purported minority victims, either. They're incredibly dangerous because they have both that wealth-induced sociopathy plus jealousy against the normal, regular core stemming from whatever insecurities they may have.

  15. BTW,

    My poor, very troubled (but doing better, sober for nearly a year now) cousin has a TRAAAASHHHHY picture of she and Kid Rock partying together in the early aughts...if he gets memed into the Senate, that photo will represent the closest our family has come to power!!!!!!

  16. "Huntington even predicts the timing of America’s next fight: “If the periodicity of the past prevails,” he writes, “a major sustained creedal passion period will occur in the second and third decades of the twenty-first century.”

    We’re right on schedule.
    There is a cyclical nature to our passions, Huntington argues. Indignation cannot endure long, so cynicism supplants it, a belief that all are corrupt, and we learn to tolerate the gap between ideals and reality. (Today we might call this the “lol nothing matters” stage.) Eventually hypocrisy takes over and we deny the gap altogether — until the next wave of moralizing. In the Trump era, moralism, cynicism and hypocrisy coexist. Not peacefully."

    Ahhh. Moralism. That's what makes a cohort preachy. We're most impressionable from 14-24, which it just so happens is when we're in High School and college. When were you in high school or college?

    Birth year / Formative period
    1946: 1960-1970
    1947: 1961-1971
    1948: 1962-1972
    1949: 1963-1973
    1950: 1964-1974
    1951: 1965-1975
    1952: 1966-1976
    1953: 1967-1977
    1954: 1968-1978
    1955: 1969-1979
    Preachy cohort: Early Boomers / Moralistic period: mid 60's-early 70's

    1956: 1970-1980
    1957: 1971-1981
    1958: 1972-1982
    1959: 1973-1983
    1960: 1974-1984
    1961: 1975-1985
    1962: 1976-1986
    1963: 1977-1987
    1964: 1978-1988
    1965: 1979-1989
    1966: 1980-1990
    1967: 1981-1991
    Cool cohort: Late Boomers and very early X-ers / Relaxed period: late 1970's-1980's

    1968: 1982-1992
    1969: 1983-1993
    1970: 1984-1994
    1971: 1985-1995
    1972: 1986-1996
    1973: 1987-1997
    1974: 1988-1998
    1975: 1989-1999
    Preachy Cohort: Mid period X-ers / Moralistic period: early-mid 1990's

    1976: 1990-2000
    1977: 1991-2001
    1978: 1992-2002
    1979: 1993-2003
    1980: 1994-2004
    1981: 1995-2005
    1982: 1996-2006
    1983: 1997-2007
    1984: 1998-2008
    1985: 1999-2009
    1986: 2000-2010
    Cool Cohort: Late X-ers and very early Millennials / Relaxed period: late 90's-2000's

    And so on. As you can see, those who came of age during moralistic time periods end up being kind of a pain in the ass and histrionic, since when they were teens everybody was supposed to get on a soap box and bloviate.

  17. The current moralist hysteria started in earnest with Obama's 2nd term (though one could start it 2-3 years earlier than that). It might burn itself out soon, or maybe drag on another 4-5 years. These periods have a shelf-life of 5-10 years; to be optimistic, let's say it started in 2010 so we ought to be over this crap by the time Trump is vying for another term.

    Mercifully, a relaxed and more uhh, plain, atmosphere prevails almost always for a good decade and a half before people lose their minds all over again.

    I also wonder how much of this is driven by "mini" generations; one level headed/unassuming generation goes with the flow, the next starts screaming about all the injustices in the world; in turn, the next half/one-third of a generation is turned off from activism/soapboxing by the rampant egomania and false promises of the slightly older and preachier cohort.

  18. And duh, the 80's were cool because late 50's-mid 60's born people ruled. They were buoyant personalities, good actors, entertaining musicians, great talkers and easy to relate to, etc. Go older and you get early Boomers whining about the "coarsening" of culture (yeah, you did so much to elevate it in The Sixties, go crawl into a hole), go younger and the whining about muh turd world poverty and muh 3rd wave feminist stuff gets out of hand.

    And BTW, how much of this driven by the parents? Late X-ers and early Millennials frequently have parents (esp. mothers) born in the 50's and early 60's). My '60 born parents didn't lecture me about watching violent movies, neither did they bitch about PC stuff, even in the early 90's. Seems like cool cohorts had cool parents. X-ers born in the late 60's and early 70's often had humorless douche early Boomer parents, and that seems to make some of their kids bitter and vindictive, sometimes towards the parents.

    I heard a podcast about Pump Up the volume ('89 or so) in which Christian Slater is a mid-period X-er who complains about his early Boomer parents selling out. The mid-period X-er hosts related to Slater's character. An early 80's birth like me is more likely to roll their eyes about generation gap non-sense since we tended to like our parents, and judging from personal histories on this blog, those of us born in the late 70's and early 80's generally found our parents to be mildly absent or unsupportive, at worst. But we never thought they were full of shit and preachy.

  19. "The time period is chiefly of interest to X-ers, who seldom are interested in reveling in nostalgia like other generations."

    That only applies more to the later Xers, who spent much of their youth during the cocooning from 1993-present. Cocooning produces a totally disposable, forgettable pop culture.
    the Boomers have very vivid memories of their childhoods, whereas Millenials have only vague memories. When crime rises, people have more meaningful experiences. Furthermore, reaching more maturity as a child produces a better memory - you have to self-reflect more on the past because you're making your own decisions, steering your own ship.

    Nostalgia, afterall, is considered a mark of maturity. It helps a person take control of their life - by analyzing the past, paying attention to positive experiences. "I liked it when it was like that - maybe I should try to make it more like that". remember, lack of nostalgia is considered part of Peter Pan Syndrome...

    But that said, the Xers do seem to have a lot of nostalgia for periods during the 70s and 80s. not for everything, but for some experiences they had back then.

    1. I am an early Xer (1967) and I have a lot of nostalgia and fond memories for the 70s and 80s. I am even starting to romanticize the 90s.

  20. Neil Young, Piece of Crap ('94)

    It's good natured, straightforward gripefest about frustration over buying shitty stuff, that fits into the early 90's populist zeitgeist. And let's not forget that nobody in the '92 election got that many votes (Clinton didn't get over 50%).

    I know that there was a lot bitching about PC stuff at the time too, but even as late as '94 some of the venting did also have a populist/prole friendly angle. Remember Falling Down, how Michael Douglas really is a stand-in for the masses of working stiffs who were tired of getting the short end of the stick by the early 90's? That kind of movie would never have been made in the Obama era.

    When things get testy, as they periodically do, at least some of the elite have to listen to the people. In the early 70's and early 90's, we still had at least a few elites on our side as we saw with Hollywood giving us Dirty Harry and Falling Down. And let's not forget what Dem Barbara Jordan had to say about immigration in 1995; for that matter, the NY Times well into the 90's endorsed immigration control on economic grounds. Now granted, the elite of the elite had no desire to cut off cheap labor in the 80's and 90's, which is why nothing was really done to reform our policies. But at least it seemed theoretically possible. Flash to the Obama era, and by this point striving has gotten so out of hand that a mob of liberals refuses to consider the idea of immigration reduction, and shouts you down as a racist for supporting such a thing. No discussion of economics is permitted. And Trump's election intensified anti-populist sentiment among many elites, with no apparent end in sight as we see with open anti-Trump propaganda being blasted 24/7 and crooked/delusional judges dictating what Trump can do.

    One thing that sticks out right now is that even in the heightened tension/hectoring climate of circa 1970 and circa 1992, there was still a decent amount of rollicking and funny/borderline populist (as in anti-elitist) culture, as opposed to humorless scolding of vulnerable/down on their luck people. I'd imagine the last time we went through a phase like the one were in right now was circa 1920, when Robber Barons and their toadies fought tooth and nail to hang onto (increasingly unearned and dangerous) privilege and power.

    Piece of Crap and Falling Down were about frustration over the seemingly trivial and rather banal inconveniences that pile up throughout the day/week/month/year, that start to gnaw at you because of the sense that we've been let down too many times and nobody seems to really care anymore. 25 years later, and much of the public is ready to leave the cynicism of the Carter-Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama era behind. When will the elite's butt boys get a clue?

  21. The time period is chiefly of interest to X-ers, who seldom are interested in reveling in nostalgia like other generations.

    "That only applies more to the later Xers, who spent much of their youth during the cocooning from 1993-present. Cocooning produces a totally disposable, forgettable pop culture"

    I was getting at the Bush 1 era (about 1988-1992), not so much mid-late 90's. How the era's politics and culture differed from the Reagan and Clinton era.

    - The economy was more depressed

    - Hedonism and materialism took a hit (black crackheads were the exception that proves the rule). Did anyone hitch hike anymore, by the late 80's?

    - "Street" culture (as represented by skateboarding, Beat-em-up video games, Cops, rap, thrash metal, even grunge to some extent) became very popular, as opposed to the more pretentious/berguoise culture of the late 70's-mid 80's

    - Long hair for guys hits peak popularity

    - Van Damme and Segal replaced Norris and Stallone (Shwarzenegger just couldn't be stopped though, not unti 1993's irony fest Last Action Hero flopped)

    In hindsight, we haven't done a great job conveying or even really remembering this era. Most 80's nostalgia (and/or critiscim) centers on the high-flying Reagan era ('83-'86). Cocaine, yuppies, Members Only jackets, gaudy over-consumption, wild late Boomer teen comedies/slasher movies, New Wave, Alex Keaton/Marty McFly etc. Some of this is probably generational; Boomers dominated the Reagan era, while X-ers injected a lot of their personality into the Bush 1 era (for better or for worse....). Notably, X-ers basically took over the audience for pop culture in the late 80's.

    This is the 80's I remember; looking back at photos from '88/'89, something was changing. More sobrieity; more reflection. The party was ending, and the early 90's recession finished it off. As I said above, the (financial) party got started again under Clinton; we coulda elected Perot and got to some long-overdue work on dealing with our financial/political/self-discipline problems, but it never happened. Houses got bigger, waist lines got bigger, younger people started using more drugs in the later 90's (after use declined in the late 80's/early 90's).

  22. "Mercifully, a relaxed and more uhh, plain, atmosphere prevails almost always for a good decade and a half before people lose their minds all over again."

    Feryl, what kind of zeitgeist cycles do you believe exist, besides inequality/equality and cocooning/outgoing?

    what about the timing of Strauss/Howe's system, vs. Turchin's?(Strauss Howe, inequality/equality cycling every 40 years, vs. Turchin's 50-year cycles?) Turchin can't account for a history-changing event every 80 years.(Revolutionary War in 1775; Civil War in 1861; WW II in 1942).

  23. More early 90's populism, movie--wise

    '90 / Last of the Finest - L.A. cops stumble onto an Iran-Contra type scandal and have to go on the run. The movie ends with a unctuous politician going unpunished as he reassures the public at a press confererence. Obscure movie but worth tracking down (Brian Dennehy is one of the cops). Decent suspense/action scenes.

    '91 / Robin Hood - self explanatory, notable mainly because of how popular it was (say what you will about it, but they musta done something right given how the last few versions of this story flopped)

    '92 / Wayne's World - Hessier buddies have a cable access show and corporate forces take it over. The show gets stale, and Rob Lowe plays a preppy and sleazy yuppie. Still a fun movie, and most of the characters are endearingly ditzy (more recent movies are targeted at insecure audiences who want perfect characters).

    '93 / Mighty Ducks - Emilio Estevez is a cocky young lawyer busted for DUI. He pleads to a sentence of coaching a mostly blue collar kid hockey team (the one rich kid gets a lot of shit from the others). Takes place in Minnesota and doesn't make any pretense out of it (after a couple years of Clinton, elites really started to hammer the South and Midwest and if anything it's gotten much worse since then).

    When at least some elites weren't totally braindead, we got movies that captured the more populist streak of the zeitgeist at a particular time. Even in Hollywood, they went after rich/privileged/pretentious characters for being arrogant/hypocritical/greedy etc. That's because culturally speaking, we were all at least approaching the same page even if we didn't totally agree on what the page said. The dissonance between elites and proles existed in the 70's/80's/early 90's, but it's gotten much worse since then.

    The scary thing is that because elite narcissism and striving has gotten so out of hand, it's like they feel it's a force so powerful it can't possibly be reined in. Yet the action of this decadence will eventually provoke a greater reaction the longer it goes unpunished. That's why no (and I mean no) mainstream movie dares tackle populist themes in the Age of Trump. So many current and wannabe elites feel like their friends and family are under siege right now. As well they should since over the last 25 years they've left prole America (prole West, in general) to rot. And they figured it was so weak it would never have the strength to fight back.

    Also, there was a not inaccurate perception that Reagan/Bush and Dubya encouraged excess and glibness. But then again, Clinton and especially Obama sure as hell didn't much to counter those trends, either. Obama was such a failure from a populist stand point (the only thing propping him is shameless partisanship), and liberals deep down inside know it. They probably blame him as much as anyone else for the frustration that gave us Sanders, Brexit, and Trump. Left-leaning cultural elites (Hollywood and so on) know that the days of reassuring people and getting them back to sleep are over. Finished. Football ratings are down. You can't play the game of bad president/good president anymore.

  24. "Feryl, what kind of zeitgeist cycles do you believe exist, besides inequality/equality and cocooning/outgoing? "

    Parental cycle, maybe? I heard a podcast about the Trainspotting movies (which mostly has actors born in the late 60's/earlier 70's). The hosts were born in that time frame too, and they talked up how "edgy" and "anti-Reagan" the original movie from 1997 was. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater, perhaps? Sure, the economic policies were mostly terrible, but the 80's (and early 90's) at least were culturally not too bad. 90's nihilism didn't really take off until '94 at the earliest. As people cocooned, their bonds with other people weakened and iall the sudden drugs were cool again. Whereas before, people were more aware of how many people got burned out on drugs in the 70's and 80's, and didn't want to see that happen to anyone else. Because people cared about each other.

    Poseurs, too. You want edgy in the late 90's? How 'bout making a movie that condemns stupid and irresponsible choices? Heroin? BTW, trivializing heroin in the 90's was bad enough, but to think they'd do sequel twenty years later in the midst of a terrible OD epidemic. And what really makes a lot of '94-'02(?) culture so gay is that it caricatures and glorifies hedonism and being a "rebel" at a time when these things were declining in most respects. In the 70's and earlier 80's, these things were handled more matter of factly. Yeah, they screw, yeah they smoke a joint, big deal. By the late 80's, these things were being toned down altogether (by '87, even James Bond wasn't sleeping around as much).

    Back to the parenting idea, maybe pretentious soapboxing generations raise kids who are full of shit, too. I grew up mostly around born in the late 70's/early 80's, and most of us had late Boomer parents. When they were teens in the later 70's and 80's, people were chill. And some of that gets imprinted onto their kids.It's not just generation, per se, either. The majority of people i've been around (and celebrities I'm familiar with) who were born in '65 and even '66 seem pretty cool and modest. You start to see more posturing with those born in the late 60's, and the ones born in the early-mid 70's are the most annoying. Why? Save the Rainforest, Take Back the Night, blah blah blah. When they were in High School/College in the early 90's, they got soaked in a lot of the airheaded liberal crap. Their were some cool populist trends at the time, but they didn't always find purchase in the teenagers of the time. I was watching a '93 horror movie the other day, and the early X-er dude in the movie naturally picks fights with his uptight early Boomer father. But rarely do you see movie scenes with late Boomers taking on Silent parents, or early Millennials taking on late Boomer parents.

    These days, a lot of later Millennials are being a pain the ass, and something tells me it has a lot to do with '67-'75 born parents having a soabox persona which wears on the nerves of their kids who upon adolescence enter a "rebel" or "activist" phase that they never quite leave. If you were born in '65 or even '66, by the time you likely left college we hadn't hit the peak of PC in 1992, thereby sparing your cohort from being so full of shit.

  25. Back to the Trainspotting podcast, it hit me that a lot of early X-ers are just as fixated as early Boomers with inane rebel fantasies. Grow up, man. We get it, your (half) generation thought you had the drop on your parents. News flash: no cohort really "gets it", has it figured out. We've got to to keep a roof over our heads, somehow. That's really all that matters. Knock off the bullshit about how the old ways were overrated and boring, and your generation's gonna make things real, fresh, soulful.

    Pretension V matter of factness/casualness. I just did what I did, man, or I'm gonna make a statement, and people gotta hear it.

  26. "BTW, trivializing heroin in the 90's was bad enough, but to think they'd do sequel twenty years later in the midst of a terrible OD epidemic. And what really makes a lot of '94-'02(?) culture so gay is that it caricatures and glorifies hedonism and being a "rebel" at a time when these things were declining in most respects"

    Indeed, cocooning makes people more naive and more likely to romanticize drugs.

    It also makes people more morally confused, and more likely to sympathize with bad guys. Agnostic wrote previously how cocooning produces video games like Grand Theft Auto, where teenage boys fantasize about running people over and abusing prostitutes. In the same way, something like Trainspotting humanizes scummy drug dealers.

    There is also a numbing quality to it - cocooners don't like accurate portrayals of reality. They can't handle how horrible something like drug addiction is in real life, so a movie like "trainspotting" makes it seem funny and quirky. This numbs the cocooners and allays their anxiety.

  27. As to your point about populism in the early 90s - well, I think throughout a period of inequality, there is always a lot of media targeted more towards nationalists and populists. They are the majority, and most movies tend ot have a basic message of fairness and doing the right thing. Afterall, hardcore status-strivers are only a minority of the population.

    But as inequality drags on, representations of morality in the media become more common. Rather than an upsurge of populism in the 90s, populism was less common than it was in the 80s and 70s. Notice the decline of Classic Rock we talked about, replaced by rap(status-striving music for sure - some guy bragging about getting rich, drive-by shootings, etc.), etc.

  28. The author's a total liberal, but I do like J.K. Muir's horror movie books that tackle the 70's, the 80's, and the 90's. One thing that comes up a lot with 80's horror is that beneath the superficial markers of prosperity and gloss, something not so nice was rotting underneath. In A Nightmare on Elm Street, Silents murder Freddy Krueger and expect him to stay buried...But he comes back and attacks their Gen X kids who did nothing to deserve it. The locations and people seem pretty wholesome at first glance...But why does Nancy's mom hide booze everywhere? The scene of Nancy confronting her mom is something that too many of us can relate to. Muir talks about how X-ers like himself grew up around Silent and Boomer adults who couldn't keep their shit together. Couldn't stay married, couldn't stay clean, couldn't face what they'd done to themselves and their kids.

    In the 80's a lot of Silents and Boomers tried to tell themselves that they'd made amends for the 60's and 70's. And wouldn't ya know, the economy turned around by '83. A lot of people were buying houses and cars, and wrinkle free cotton shirts. Maybe things were brightening? Yet, as the movies of the time suggest, a lot of them knew that too much had been lost and maybe we'd never get it back. Wes Craven understood that young adults in particular had unleashed something in the 60's, were blissfully ignorant about in the 70's, and by the 80's were trying to reconcile just what they did and it's consequences.

  29. "populism was less common than it was in the 80s and 70s."

    I dunno. There was concern that too many elites/wannabe elites were turning their back on the rest of us in the Carter and Reagan era, I suppose. But Iran-Contra, the late '87 Wall Street troubles, the S&L scandal, etc. darkened the mood of the late 80's/early 90's. Granted, there wasn't the sense of grit, or betrayal, or depression that people felt in the 70's when The Sixties crashed and burned and we couldn't seem to do anything right anymore. I bet the washed out vibe of the 70's is largely due to Silents being a bummer; no other decade bears the mark of Silents more than the 70's. Neil Howe said that Silents thought of the decade as a crime they wished everyone would forget.

    Anyway, by the late 70's a lot of people were developing a more cynical and self-absorbed attitude towards a lot of things. Things were starting to take on a bit of gloss, and the me generation was starting to check out of the social contract (to the extent that they ever bought into it in the first place). Boomers didn't start having more kids until the late 80's. The critique of the Reagan era that it represented increasingly unbalanced (undeserved?) rewards for a fair number of strivers isn't off the mark. When things were going pretty well in the mid 80's, there wasn't too much bitterness over anything. But due to the aforementioned late 80's/early 90's problems, a lot of people really turned on the Reagan era's cynicism and myths.

    Hollywood liberals were still old-school enough at the time that having protagonists from the wrong part of town still happened. Then again, with the increased focus on naturalism, having homely characters from humble backgrounds was more common in the 70's/80's/early 90's than it was before then or since then. Maybe it's not politics as much as it is what the audience wants (cool audience doesn't mind imperfections, cocooners want a lifestyle fantasy).

  30. I guess maybe in wild/outgoing times, we like to see people called out for letting us down. In Aliens, Ripley feels frustration over the company/Burke pulling the same sleazy crap all over again, while she also is forced to take command in battle when the green captain turns out to be a panicky wuss. When bonds are stronger (we had more friends in the 80's, it's true) we expect more from the people around us. The "you betrayed me" or "why didn't you tell us that" meme shows up in Predator, Aliens, and Rambo 2, among other movies. It's like their telling the audience that the world around you is a challenging place and sometimes, you're going to be led down a rough path and you've just got to make the best of it. And betrayal as a theme, as I'm sure we've talked about before, resonates much more in outgoing times when we place our trust in people more readily and therefore are more vulnerable to feeling stung by people letting us down. In Dressed to Kill (1980), it starts with a women having a one night stand with a seemingly decent guy....Who turns out to have an STD. Cocooners would react..um...differently to this scene these days. Instead of empathy, they'd judge the women for being stupid enough to sleep around. It's like how audiences used to participate in horror movies....Then as time went on, even when watching older (e.g. better) horror movies they preferred to analyze the logistics and make fun of the characters. I heard an early 80's born guy on a podcast talk about how L.A. swpl audiences can't watch almost any lower budget 70's/80's genre movie without laughing and jeering. He's talked before about how there's something (the film stock, the acting, the music, etc.) that makes 70's and 80's movies more interesting. Esp. the horror movies, which in cocooning times are going to be worse since cocooning actors have a hard time imagining themselves in threatening situations. And the music and photography become more dull since cocooners fear being too stimulated.

  31. absolutely, A Nightmare on Elm Street reflects both the rising-crime rate and status-striving. A bunch of yuppie children are preyed on by school janitor, who turns out to be a serial killer. Wes Craven surely made the metaphor on purpose, since its a theme he examined in his other films("Last House on the Left", "The Hills have Eyes" - both about surbubanites who accidentally encounter the bad element). In "Nightmare...", the tension between yuppies and the working-class is made more overt because it turns out the monster is a school janitor who lives in the same community.

    Yes, good call on "Nightmare's..." indictment of the Boomers. Wes Craven showing the Boomer parents as being a lynch-mob - another metaphor. Still, it works on a different level also - since in "Last House...", the suburban parents also go crazy and torture and kill the criminals who killed their daughter. Craven is making a "Lord of the Flies" type statement about the evil within's men's hearts, etc.

  32. I believe John Saxon, the dad, was a cop. I didn't get the class sense that you did. Craven grew up in 40's/50's Ohio..pretty egalitarian setting, and Krueger was murdered in that kind of environment. Well, it might not have started out as a class thing when he died, but given how the middle aged parents and their children now live in a pleasant early 80's suburb where they'd just like to tend to their own business, perhaps a class angle was added. And like I say, Craven captured the 80's mood/fears pretty well....Maybe some adults had carved out a comfortable life, but had they outran their prior sins?

    Craven was A Silent, as was John Saxon. Strauss/Howe said that the Silents intended to not shield their late Boomer/early X-er kids from the many kinds of experiences and knowledge that a person can have, at any age theoretically. But the Silents didn't get those things at a young age, and they felt like they'd been cheated. So they didn't want to cheat their kids.

    As Elm Street powerfully conveys, many Silents eventually came to wonder if they let their kids down. In the movie, the kids don't do anything wrong above the typical hijinks. It's the impulsive/judgemental (when young) and substance addled/cowardly/neurotic (when older) Silent parents who fucked up and they get the worst kind of payback: their kids are punished for what they did.

  33. http://query.nytimes.com/search/sitesearch/#/needle+exchange/from19800101to20000101/allresults/19/allauthors/newest/

    "Needle exchange" search from 1980-2000 reveals that in 1995, this meme soared with politicians/cultural elites whining about past attitudes to drugs being harsh and cold.. We lost our common sense that fast, folks. In the 80's and early 90's, we warned people to not touch this crap in the first place. Treating drug addiction like some kind of act of God since circa 1995 has had terrible consequences. It looks like the combo of striving and cocooning has conspired to give us policies/attitudes that enable idiotic choices, like becoming a heroin addict.

    The LOLbertarians would have you believe that 1980's anti-drug culture has inflicted grievous damage on us; but that's fatuous. The anti-drug measures of the time came about after so many people wrecked their lives in the 70's. Had the culture not shifted to glorify selfish behavior in the late 60's and 70's, fewer people would've gotten into the drugs in the first place thereby not necessitating social/political policies designed to deal with addicts by shaming them and locking up dealers (the 80's/early 90's) or by "harm-reduction" (the mid 90's-present).

    Being that we're still in a cocooning cycle, numbing opiates have become the drug of choice. It just so happens that heroin and such are the most addictive drugs and have the worst long-term consequences. Oh, and after 20+years of harm-reduction, what benefits have been reaped? I saw an article about a bum encampment in Orange county, that mentioned needles being among the junk strewn about."Hey kids, let's be positive and encouraging to moron losers who shoot a numbing agent into their system to forget about how worthless they are".

  34. "Neil Howe said that Silents thought of the decade as a crime they wished everyone would forget.

    Anyway, by the late 70's a lot of people were developing a more cynical and self-absorbed attitude towards a lot of things"

    I believe that the real cynicism didn't start until the 80s and 90s. Remember, Gen X is known as being a cynical generation, and 1985-2005 is when they came of age. The Boomers, having come of age from 1965-1985, are more optimistic - because that was a more optimistic time.

    It has to do with the decline of America's wealth. There was still more opportunity in the 60s and 70s. This is why the Boomers are more career-oriented - you could still make a career when they were young. Gen X-ers, on the other hand, came of age when there was less wealth and opportunity - this made them more lifestyle-oriented, and cynical(the two go hand in hand).

    Remember, the two of us discussed the music changes which happened in the mid-80s. Classic rock and soul music declined, thrash rock and rap music became more popular. Thrash and rap are much angrier - they represent the decline in opportunity and growing poverty which really took off in the mid-80s. Gen-Xers became lifestyle strivers because there weren't many careers left.

    Strauss and Howe talk about this - they say the Awakening(1964-1984) was more optimistic, the Unraveling(1985-2004) more pessimistic. It is because of worsening inequality.

    The hyper-aggressive nature of the Boomers is caused by the fact that they came of age during a period when status-striving was increasing, but America was still a lot of opportunity - they could be as competitive as they wanted, because there was still a lot of pie to go around. Not so with Gen X, who ended up more cynical, lifestyle-oriented.


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