May 13, 2019

Incrementalist Democrat voters more risk-averse with GOP incumbent, less inclined to take a chance on Bernie than in 2016

Not everyone who voted for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary was a committed Democratic Socialist. A decent share may favor such policies and stick with him through thick and thin. But another decent share may bail on him this time around -- not because they've had a change of heart on what a better vision for America looks like, but because they believe that such change can only take place in single steps, with no leap-frogging allowed.

In 2016, the context was eight years of Obama, and the signature identity politics victory -- gay marriage -- made Democrats, and Republicans, believe that the progressive trend would only continue. No Republican would ever be elected president after the disaster of the W. Bush years.

Having eliminated the right-wing threat, the only question was how far and how quickly the progressives would push the inevitable trend. Maybe now they could finally get some action on economic populist issues, not just cultural and social issues.

A good share of Bernie's 2016 voters felt comfortable enough in what Obama had accomplished for the center-left of the party. Now it was time to take it to the next level.

But after the Trump admin has derailed those plans, these incrementalist voters feel like they've been sent back to square one. Obama's achievements have been erased, as an evil Republican is back in the White House genociding the gays, blacks, Muslims, and immigrants all over again. (Fact check: Trump is letting in legions more illegals than Obama).

If you believe that change can only proceed one major step at a time, then the next major step made by Democrats will be used up on simply getting back to where they believe society was under Obama, now that they're in hell under Trump. Only then can their next major step be another Bernie-style movement to pursue populism, rather than just having the central bank inflate another tech bubble, and re-shuffling the soldiers in Iraq over into Afghanistan.

Going from Trump to Bernie will feel like too great of a change to attempt in just one step. They are thinking in conventional left-right terms, where Trump is on the right, Obama or Biden are in the center, and Bernie is on the left.

If they thought about it in terms of populist vs. elitist, or realignment vs. status quo, then the Trump admin should be bringing them one step closer to Bernie, not setting them back. Trump campaigned on realignment, on material rather than culture war issues, and flipped states that should not have been possible.

He has delivered very little on those campaign themes, though, so that leaves the door wide open for a populist realigner like Bernie to swoop in and steal those issues for the Democrats. That door would not have been left open if Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio had won the 2016 election.

But if you're an incrementalist, you don't see the history of realignments where a massive change happened swiftly, a la the Reagan Revolution, the New Deal, the Lincolnian Civil War era, the Jacksonian takeover, or the Jeffersonian triumph. They take the big picture to be settled, so that the only open question is left vs. right within the governing paradigm.

To them, Trump is not a would-be populist realigner whose logical successor would be Bernie, after failure to deliver -- he's just another right-winger in the Reagan era. Taking the neoliberal Reaganite paradigm as fait accompli, the goal is only to shift from right to center to left within that paradigm. And since Trump is on the right, that means the next step must be the center -- boom, Biden's your uncle. Perhaps after a term or two of Biden, then we can talk about another Bernie-style challenger to move from the center to the left.

The relative lack of enthusiasm for Bernie among the very people who supported him just four years ago, gives me flashbacks to the first W. Bush term. The Nader campaign was seen as an acceptable risk to take after two terms of Clinton -- after all, Gore was going to win, not that idiot from Texas, so what's the harm in indulging in a little lefty activism for Nader? But after Bush won, a fair number of Nader's prominent supporters not only refused to do so again in 2004, they outright begged him not to run again, like Michael Moore.

In 2000, you would have been going from the center (two terms of Clinton) to the left (Nader). But after Bush interrupted those plans, suddenly the society was set back to the right. In 2004, the only possible move was to the center, with Kerry, and not two major steps to land over on the left with Nader or Dean. Nader did far worse in '04 than in '00, and yet this centrist strategy still failed to get their guy into the White House.

Frightened risk-averse incrementalists will account for Bernie doing worse in the 2020 primaries than in 2016, although with a crowded field he could still end up in first place, despite having a smaller share than before. But if the incrementalists who backed Bernie in '16 concentrate on Biden rather than split up among a variety of other non-candidates like Beto or Buttigieg, Bernie's run will be over.

The split-up outcome is still possible. The latest Emerson College poll shows that among Bernie's 2016 primary voters, one-quarter have abandoned him for either Beto or Buttigieg -- both of whom would satisfy an incrementalist's desire to have a centrist for 2020, just not the centrist who's a zillion years old. By contrast, only about one-tenth of his 2016 voters have defected outright to Biden. This poll was biased more towards younger generations, so it's more revealing of Bernie's core support base of post-Boomer generations.

The main point is to not assume that Bernie's supporters in 2016 were all die-hard populists who will mount an equal or even stronger onslaught against the status quo, after an entire term of a right-wing Republican president. A big-enough chunk of them are going to want a centrist, to move one step at a time, and the biggest unknown is whether they'll split up their votes among a variety of centrists -- almost everybody but Bernie -- or converge on Biden specifically.

If you're trying to convince people to vote for Bernie, but you sense they're an incrementalist, they might not be persuaded to stick with Bernie. In that case, agree with them, and direct them toward any of the multiple other centrists aside from Biden, joking about how there are still centrists who aren't a zillion years old, which will resonate with Gen X and Millennial Bernie voters from 2016 who are getting nervous about him for 2020.

May 12, 2019

DSA: Democrat SJWs of Astoria

Feel free to pass this phrase around without attribution.

For those who are not following the frustrated realignment on the Left, you might think the sudden surge in membership of the Democratic Socialists of America reflects a trend toward socialism.

But their biggest bump was not during the 2016 primary season, owing to Bernie's campaign, but after Mother Hillary got her ass whooped by the mean old bad man. They are mostly reactionaries against the (also frustrated) realignment that Trump tried to usher in on the Right.

They couldn't care less about de-industrialization, which is why they were still deeply asleep while both Bernie and Trump were savaging NAFTA during the primary stage, but then shit the bed and sounded the alarm when the anti-NAFTA candidate defeated the pro-NAFTA candidate in the general election. Even those who did slam NAFTA during the primary, like Rashida Tlaib back when she was helping out the Bernie campaign with the UAW in Detroit, have shut their mouths about it now that they've taken office in the Congress.

Ditto for the anti-interventionist candidate defeating the pro-interventionist candidate (not that those goals have actually materialized). They don't care. Only Islamophobes think Al-Qaeda is a serious threat to anyone -- they're just a boogeyman and scapegoat that right-wingers use to get cheap votes. So making a big deal about breaking off the Pentagon and CIA's support for the jihadists threatening to take over secular Syria -- yikes, sounds kinda problematic.

To them, the explanations and the areas of focus are the same tired old identity politics of the neoliberal era: everyone I don't agree with is a racist, Nazi, white supremacist, white nationalist, literally Hitler. Trump is an out-of-control authoritarian, not some impotent fool cockblocked by his own party and the federal institutions. And of course, he could only have won if a big enough chunk of the American electorate were also white nationalist authoritarians.

The DSA style themselves as radicals outside the two-party system -- they are die-hard Democrat partisans.

They style themselves as promoting socialism -- they are promoting SJW-ism.

They style themselves as representing the broad working class -- they represent (perhaps downwardly mobile) professional-class elites in gentrified neighborhoods of the richest cities on Earth (AOC's constituency).

If any form of socialism is to succeed, these re-branded SJWs must be mocked, ridiculed, and driven out of the political arena.

Bernie-supporting populists will have to hammer out an economics-first creed -- or economics-only -- that anyone must adhere to if they want to join the movement. Normies would not be repulsed by that -- they hate identity politics! But it would do a hell of a lot to keep out those who not only distract from the root causes of our problems but in an ethnically polarizing way.

May 8, 2019

Monotheistic socialism will replace polytheistic identity politics and American imperial cult

This is a broad and intricate topic, so I'll be writing about it in more digestible pieces. I'm also just making these connections, based on some recent readings, so these ideas are all still inchoate, and I can't write down the entire thing all in one go.

Here's the basic outline, though.

America is not just an expansionist state but a transnational empire, so we look to earlier empires for clues about how things will go after ours enters its first major crisis or disintegrative stage.

The most well known example for general audiences is the Roman Empire. For the historical summary, I'm drawing on The Triumph of Christianity by Bart Ehrman. The structural-functional roles played by religion are my own views, though they're straightforward and must be mainstream enough in the sociology of religion (not being an expert there, I don't know the names of whom to cite).

As the Roman state expanded into a transnational empire during the first two centuries AD, it incorporated the gods of the peoples and nations that it subjugated. That made it easier for the imperial center to administer the periphery -- it's easier to extract whatever you want from it on a material level (tax revenue, food, minerals, babes) if you let them continue with autonomy on the non-material levels (language, religion).

At the same time, the subject peoples must also worship the civic gods of the imperial center, such as the Emperor himself. This does not conflict with worship of local gods -- it's an addition, not a substitution, just to make sure the subjects prove their loyalty to the empire, and not only loyalty to their own local group.

This polytheism did not mean everyone worshiped the same large number of gods -- it was mix-and-match, based on who you were loyal to at various levels of societal complexity. There were gods of the family or household, neighborhood, city or town, region, nation, and ultimately empire. And there were various gods who oversaw good fortune in various domains of life -- harvest, childbearing, war, travel, and so on. If your material subsistence was more dependent on travel, you focused more on the patron gods of travelers than other people did.

While this religious pluralism, headed by the imperial cult, served as a glue that held together the expanding empire for its first two centuries, that reversed during the Crisis of the Third Century. That's when Christianity starts to make major strides among Roman subjects, and it culminates in the 4th C., when the Emperor Constantine converted and later the Emperor Theodosius I made Christianity the official state religion of the empire. At the same time, the 3rd C. saw the only period of intense state persecution of Christianity, unlike the earlier practice of tolerance and pluralism.

Unlike the pluralist approach during the rise of the empire, Christianity, which took off during the empire's decline, was monotheistic and exclusivist -- you could only worship one god, and the other so-called gods did not even really exist. You could not be both a Christian and a devotee of the imperial cult, or of the polytheistic array of sub-imperial gods. That disloyalty made it a direct threat to the imperial powers, leading them to crack down on it, especially during the desperate climate of fragmentation during the 3rd C.

But no empire holds together forever, and the decline of the Roman Empire allowed for the flourishing of Christianity.

This seems to be a general feature: inclusive and pluralist during the rise of a transnational empire, to glue together the subjects of a newly united political-economic power, and then exclusivist and not tolerant during the empire's break-up. It allows for some kind of continuity during the disintegration at the material level -- we will still all be following the same exclusivist religion, despite belonging to now separate and smaller nations. Then sometime after that stage, the unity of the religion begins to fragment itself, and regional camps with their own idiosyncrasies evolve, bringing back a kind of pluralism, albeit not under the umbrella of a single polity as before (e.g., Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, Catholic).

There's a parallel from the Ottoman Empire, which was religiously tolerant and pluralist during its rise (the millet system), and then saw the seeds of Islamism begin to grow during the empire's declining stage of the 19th C. Once the empire broke up circa 1920, exclusivist transnational Islamism took off in its former colonies (e.g., the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and by 1980 in Turkey itself), but not in places that the Ottomans failed to conquer (Iran, where a pluralist Shia council is in control, or Saudi Arabia, where the militant Salafi jihadism took root, rather than the peaceful political infiltration model of the Muslim Brotherhood, who are their bitter rivals).

Other examples from Muslim history include the pluralism of Al-Andalus during the rise of the Emirate of Cordoba (the Umayyad dynasty's branch that ruled Iberia), which gave way to intolerant and exclusivist waves during the decline (the non-Umayyad Almohads on the Muslim side, and the Catholic Kings on the Christian side). Then there was the pluralism of the Fatimid Caliphate, whose decline and replacement by foreign mercenaries (the Mamluks) saw the emergence of bitterly exclusivist schools of Islam led by, e.g., Ibn Taymiyyah (from the Hanbali school, and inspiration to today's exclusivists and fundamentalists within Islam). In fact, the founders of the Hanbali school themselves flourished during the declining stage of the Abbasid Caliphate, which during its golden age had been pluralist (to incorporate the newly subjugated Persian bureaucrats and administrators).

With that historical and sociological background, let's look at the current situation.

America has been an expansionist empire since its independence, and it began the unification of the 13 Colonies by upholding religious liberty, where various forms of intolerance of certain sects was permitted before. During our rise, an imperial cult grew up -- sometimes called the American civil religion. We worship our Constitution, flag, and supposedly temporal leaders as though they were partly or fully divine, unlike the other advanced nations.

Crucially, this is a distinct religion -- not Christian. We have never said, "In Jesus we trust," or "One nation under Jesus," our flag and other sacred national symbols do not feature a cross, and none of Jesus' or Paul's messages have been at the forefront of the attempt to "put religion back in society" (at best, it's the Ten Commandments from the Old Testament). When we say "God," we're using a weasel-word generic label, "god," but to refer to the patron god of our nation / empire, who provides for and protects us, his chosen people.

He only influences the lives of other people on Earth to the extent that we Americans bring our political-economic rule to them (whether we go over there or they come over here). By implication, other peoples have their own patron gods, who are not as badass as ours is, if they lose to us -- or who rely on tricks and cheating to block our patron god from helping us win, as we deserve to.

That is not the God-the-Father-of-Jesus from the New Testament -- or else there would be some connection to Jesus -- it is not Jesus Christ, and it is not the Holy Spirit. It's a standard patron god of a nation from any old polytheistic society.

The people we subjugate must worship our civil religion, whatever else they do or don't do in religious affairs. Muslim, Christian, Hindu, who cares? As long as you pay material tribute to the imperial center, and pay your symbolic respects to its patron god and imperial cult, our leaders don't give a damn what religious beliefs and behaviors you have. That's equally true for people we occupy and for immigrants here.

Conversely, if you refuse to submit materially to the empire, or if you blaspheme against its patron god and civil religion, you will get persecution and punishment, to coerce you into subject status.

Aside from our imperial cult, there's a wide variety of religious beliefs and practices that fall under the term "identity politics". Some of it is local patron gods for various ethnic groups under our control, some of it is gods who influence our fortunes in the different domains of life (love, sex, marriage, food, child-rearing, etc.). These come in left-wing and right-wing forms, but the polytheistic strand is strongest on the left.

There is a never-ending competition to add more and more gods to worship -- first it was just the pro-black god, then it was the pro-Hispanic god, perhaps generalized into an anti-racist god. Then it was the feminist god, and the gay god, and the tranny god, the vegan god, the environmental god. This is just like the inclusive, pluralist polytheism of the Roman Empire -- worshiping one does not preclude you from worshiping any combination of the others. In fact, most people do worship several of these divine forces.

They worship them to stay on their good side and receive good luck in their personal lives -- and to smite their enemies in their personal lives. These are like the capricious amoral gods of a pre-monotheist society, who can either act for good or for evil, and it just depends on how fervently you worship them, whether you'll be the recipient of their favor or the target of their destruction.

What is the fate of the American imperial cult and idpol-ytheism?

Our empire has been breaking up since our peak during WWII, after which we lost the Philippines and Cuba in short order (both of which we had won by conquest during the Spanish-American War), and we have lost our ability to control "our own backyard" of Central America (none of the right-wing death squads won during the 1980s, and the economic nationalists took over instead, not to mention our repeated failures right now to topple Maduro further south in Venezuela). Aside from losing what we used to have, we have failed at our endless attempts to gain new spheres of influence, all on mainland Asia (North Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, etc.).

As our empire declines and fragments on the political-economic level, the tolerant and pluralist tendency will go up in a puff of smoke. It will be replaced by an intolerant and exclusivist moral order -- one whose practitioners cannot worship any of the other gods that are around currently. That could take the form of a resurgence in Christianity, but that religion has been on the long-term decline since the Industrial Revolution.

Rather, the monotheistic replacement will be "socialism" -- in quotes because, like early Christianity, it encompasses several strains and is not a mature ideology or program for structuring society. But unlike all of the forms of identity politics, it makes an exclusivist demand on its adherents -- notwithstanding the fleeting heresy of "intersectionality," everyone understands that socialism is "class-first" (technically henotheist, worshiping one god above other gods) or "class only" and "economic reductionist" (strict monotheism). Marx and other materialists hold material conditions to be the base, and social-cultural features to be the superstructure that stems therefrom.

Again, there will be some diversity of opinion, as with any new religion, but it's clear to see that socialism is not tolerant of elevating other gods to equal status with its own, if it even holds those other gods to exist in the first place. That is unlike all the other leftist, or rightist, forms of identity politics -- being an antiracist allows you to be a feminist, a pro-gay, and a pro-tranny activist. They all have equal standing. Even when identity politics elevates one over the others (henotheism), it does not deny the existence of the others, let alone try to stamp them out, blaspheme against them, and so on.

Socialism makes everything in the moral ordering of society about material conditions, primarily economics. And now, beyond denying equal status to the other gods, it blasphemes them as false gods altogether -- tools of the ruling class to perpetuate the elite material dominance over the masses. This insight of the socialists became especially clear when presidential candidate Hillary Clinton barked back at the class warriors: What is breaking up the big banks going to do to end racism, sexism, and homophobia?

Identity politics serves as a glue to hold together an overly complex empire, which has already begun to come apart. You can't glue it back together, so going forward fewer and fewer people will see any point in trying to enforce identity politics. Nations and ethnic groups under the empire's rule will fragment, and identitarians will be out of business.

As socialism delivers a superior result for people's everyday lives (likely beginning with universal free healthcare), relative to antiracism, feminism, etc., people will start to ignore those impotent gods and only worship the one true socialist god. The one who alone can deliver the goods.

But that also means that socialism is an existential threat to the imperial cult and to idpol-ytheism. Socialists do not revere the patron god of the American empire, and they deny the power or existence of the identitarian gods. So, just as the establishment severely cracked down on Christians during the Crisis of the Third Century, so will ours crack down on socialists as the seams of the empire really start to come apart. There were occasional persecutions of Christians during the rise of the empire, just as there was an occasional Red Scare here during our rise (circa 1920 big-time, and less so during the McCarthyite 1950s). But they will really ramp up during the next pronounced stage of imperial collapse.

Christians could not persecute pagans during the Roman Empire, and socialists cannot persecute the civil religionists or the identity politics people today. Antiracists, feminists, etc., are mainstream and dominant, though not for a whole lot longer. But for now, it's clear who can get their lives ruined -- those who blaspheme the identity gods, not those who blaspheme the materialist / class / economics god.

After we get through the collapse of the American empire, and its former constituent nations and/or regions of the US gain political-economic autonomy, there will be a flourishing of exclusivist socialism. You didn't need to belong to the Roman Empire to be a Christian, and you don't need to be a subject of the American empire to be a socialist and enjoy its superior benefits. Maybe then the socialists will persecute the identity politics heretics, but that's way off in the distance for now.

And after the initial wave of united socialist zeal, it will eventually fragment into regionally appropriate camps, much like the regional camps of Christianity. "Socialism in one country".

And of course, there will be left-wing and right-wing forms of socialism, depending on which coalition is the dominant or opposition for its phase in the regime cycle. During the proto-socialist Mid-20th C., some nations were left-wing socialist (UK, US) while others were right-wing socialist (the Mediterranean). At a bird's-eye-view, they were the same -- populist economic nationalists, only with the military more in control for the right-wing version, and the finance sector in control of the left-wing version.

Left-wingers will have to accept that de Gaulle's France was not a fascist Nazi nightmare, nor was Christian Democrat Italy, both nations whose left-wing party (the Communists) were in the opposition status. They were (proto-)socialist, just run by conservative military types rather than liberal financier types as in the US and UK.

That is the major project for the short-to-medium term -- reach out to normies and right-wingers to unite around monotheistic socialism. Downplay the American civil religion, at least in its imperial cult form, and banish identity politics as false gods preserving the empire. Christianity, Islam, and other major exclusivist religions were missionary and evangelist, converting most of their members from outside the original group. Socialism will never materialize if it is restricted to left-wingers, even those who reject identity politics. As in the New Deal, it needs support from normies and conservatives (the American South consistently voted for New Deal liberal presidents). Socialist mayors did not preside over entire cities during the Progressive Era by only turning out left-wingers on election day.

The monotheist appeal of socialism allows it to transcend all other ideological barriers, unlike antiracism, feminism, etc. It is the only moral vision to unite enough of a society around it to transform it for the better.

May 3, 2019

Tucker still only major outlet against war / coup in Venezuela

A few months ago, during the last failed coup attempt in Venezuela, I reviewed the many right-wingers against intervention in that third-world socialist country.

That contradicts the puritanical and incestuous part of the Left, exemplified by the Media Roots Radio podcast (Abby and Robbie Martin), who insist that there's no commonality between the Left and Right on the matter of American imperialism.

For the puritanical Left, real-world outcomes do not matter -- only internal motivations, which reveal how pure or corrupted an individual's soul is. If Tucker Carlson wants to stop the Pentagon and CIA from carrying out a coup in Venezuela for different reasons than Bay Area leftists want, they will reject the alliance.

Only if he sincerely and convincingly converts at the emotional, motivational level -- wanting to stop the coup for the same reasons as the leftists -- will Carlson find support from the puritanical Left. Otherwise, his dirty soul will corrupt their clean souls, and they will feel icky.

This leads to the brutal status quo humming right along, but that is not the primary concern for most leftoids these days. Their project is not improving material conditions for third-world people, but exposing how evil people are in the first world, and perhaps converting or purifying these corrupted souls into being good people. Only when and if that conversion takes place, will leftists feel comfortable unwinding the American empire. Until then, their main mode of "activism" is just impotently calling out people for being evil.

Several months later, and the Right is still the only source of mainstream media resistance to the coup in Venezuela. This week, Tucker continued his anti-coup campaign by hosting Anya Parampil, an anti-imperial leftist who used to work on-air for RT America. She got several minutes of uninterrupted speech against the coup and the sanctions. At the end, both she and Tucker agree that Trump is breaking campaign promises about "draining the swamp" by filling up his national security team with neo-con retreads from the George W. Bush years, like John Bolton.

Liberal mainstream media would not let her on for more than a few seconds, and would subject her to a hostile cross-examination instead.

Now that she has appeared on Tucker's show, will Parampil be labeled an enabler of white nationalism, or some other hysterical crap, by her friend and former RT colleague Abby Martin? According to her podcast, there can be no alliance with evil racists, and yet Parampil sits for an in-studio interview with the supposedly most dangerous of white nationalist media brainwashers.

Parampil seems to fit into the category of leftists who are "normies of color" -- those who are focused on improving material conditions for non-white people around the world, especially those targeted by first-world powers (economically or militarily). She's like her friend Rania Khalek in that way. The politician of this category is Tulsi Gabbard, who's also been on Tucker's show to speak against imperialism and Trump's broken promises to not intervene on behalf of jihadists in Syria. They do not come from some weird sub-cultural background, and have no interest in making the Left an inward-looking sub-culture for weirdos.

It's true that they do not come from the majority culture, so they drift toward the Left coalition, which includes all who are outside the majority culture for any reason. But normies of color come from their own normal culture -- one that is normal somewhere on Earth, i.e. whatever country their ancestors came from -- whereas most leftists come from and promote abnormal sub-cultural norms -- those that are not the norm anywhere on Earth.

Normies of color want the Western war-and-debt-slavery machines out of their ancestral countries so that the non-white people of those countries can just live out their normie lives in peace. In their view, the Pentagon, World Bank, etc. are forces of destabilization that warp normal conditions, and their goal is to remove these forces in order to give the world more stability and normality.

Sub-cultural leftists, on the other hand, view the Pentagon and World Bank as forces that promote normality and order and discipline -- they're the authoritarian father to whom the spoiled activist constantly wants to shout "Fuck you!" These leftists oppose imperialism because they want to promote anti-authoritarian chaos and anarchy.

This opens up a natural rift within the Left -- normies of color want nothing to do with sowing chaos and anarchy, just the opposite.

But then it also opens up a natural alliance with a part of the Right -- normies of paleness, like Tucker, who see the attempt to prop up our crumbling bloated empire as a dire threat to normal life here in the core nation of the empire. It depletes the treasury funded by normie tax payers, it drives up the debt that will have to be paid for by future normies (or normies will suffer when their country can no longer borrow money, if the debt is defaulted on), it sends normie men into a pointless meat grinder, and it kills the normie desire to feel national pride -- damn near impossible when all we do is lose one pointless war after another, decade after decade. And when our elites destabilize a foreign nation, its citizens will come scrambling over here, which threatens the economic prospects and the cultural cohesion of normies here in America.

These two camps of normies have far more in common with each other on the issue of imperialism, than either one does with those on their side for whom politics is just an incestuous sub-culture. That includes left-wing sub-cultures and right-wing sub-cultures.

Fortunately, the normies are a lot more numerous than the weirdos. Unfortunately, weirdos have disproportionate influence on the direction of their parties, and are more concerned with "solidifying the Left" or "uniting the Right" in airhead partisan fashion. As social-cultural rejects, they come to politics looking for communal belonging, even with people who oppose their material well-being, as opposed to forming alliances to improve material conditions, even with people who don't belong to the same (sub-)culture as you.

This polarization accomplishes nothing for normies -- the current polarization began during the neoliberal transition, when normie liberals and normie conservatives have gotten raped to death on their pet issues, while the elites of both sides have benefited from their blind partisan allegiance. Before then, during the New Deal era, both sides worked together and accomplished a lot for normal people, whereas the elites did not have carte blanche while in power because their voters were not blind followers.

We are many decades away from re-establishing those kinds of relations again, but in the meantime the normal people have to take whatever measures they can to form pragmatic alliances based on shared outcomes, and speak against the puritanical drive to focus on shared motivations.

April 27, 2019

"Sweet but Psycho" marks end of vulnerable phase of excitement cycle, next wave of disco during early 2020s (plus earlier historical examples of phase changes)

An interesting topic in studying the 15-year cultural excitement cycle, consisting of three five-year phases, is how some element of the final year of one phase prefigures the overall tone of the following phase. It's ahead of its time by a little bit, and stands out against the norm of its phase, but you can feel it heralding a new direction, which becomes even clearer in retrospect.

A recent post looked at the changes to dance music during the vulnerable phase of the cultural excitement cycle, where the upbeat and bouncy tunes of the previous manic phase give way to a more dissonant and spastic type.

Somehow that must transition into the following phase, the restless, warm-up phase, which is characterized by conscious dance crazes that are meant to get people's bodies back into the groove after slumbering for so long during the refractory state of the vulnerable phase.

There's always one song from the final year of the vulnerable phase that departs from the dissonant, spastic norm and points the way forward to a renewed atmosphere of restlessness, wanting the body to do warm-ups rather than sleep in bed any longer.

And since the refractory period is starting to wear off, dance music no longer has to go into rhythmic overdrive to over-compensate for the drained energy levels of the audience. Once their energy levels are back to baseline, during the warm-up phase, they don't need the over-the-top spastic rhythms to pick them up -- a simple, even minimal, catchy beat will suffice. With normal energy levels restored, they can dance more effortlessly, rather than having to force themselves into it rhythmically.

Still, these harbinger songs are not entirely free from their zeitgeist, and do tend to have passages of near silence, especially during the bridge, when the rhythm nearly grinds to a halt. That allows the audience to feel comfortably familiar with them, as most dance songs of the vulnerable phase have this off-and-on rhythm. But in these new songs, there's only one instance of this halted rhythm, rather than punctuating the entire song.

And there is somewhat of a downer or melancholy tinge to the emotional delivery, making it familiar to emo-accustomed audiences. But overall, the tone is brighter than the norm of its time. These new-direction songs all use the major key tonality, whereas the dissonant norm is to use the minor key.

On a side note, these musical changes are also happening at the same time as broader changes in the cultural zeitgeist, as the end of the vulnerable phase spells the end of sex-negative feminism, female victimhood, and related feelings of "all social contact is too painful to bear". See this post on how the phases of feminism track the phases of the excitement cycle. For now, the point is that the new-direction dance songs herald the end of an emo phase of feminism, as Me Too bottoms out on bottoming out.

To contrast the following examples of new-direction dance songs against their background, go through the post on dissonant dance songs, which has many examples from each vulnerable phase going back to the late '80s. These songs ascend the Billboard charts during the first half of the final year -- they are not borderline cases from the end of the final year, but are truly just-ahead of their time. They were all #1 Dance Club hits, for as long as that chart has existed, or were major hits (especially in dance clubs) before that chart began in 1975.

In the current vulnerable phase of the second half of the 2010s, the backdrop is the soft emo mainstream, and dance music in the mold of Clean Bandit. All of a sudden comes a dance hit that uses the major key and a simple beat that gets only a little more complex to build some tension before the chorus. The only halting moment is the bridge. The assertive and clingy lyrics are the opposite of the victimized and avoidant Me Too feeling.

Everyone compares it to early Lady Gaga, but those songs were way higher in energy and danceability. They were from the final year of the last restless warm-up phase, 2009, and were the pinnacle of the decadent disco climate of the late 2000s. They shade into the following manic phase (but that's the topic for another post about final years of the other two phases). This one is just getting the ball rolling again, and we won't hear another string of early Gaga-type dance hits until 2024. But this is clearly where dance music will be heading over the next five years (neo-neo-neo-disco).

"Sweet but Psycho" by Ava Max (2019):



During the last vulnerable phase of the early 2000s, the backdrop was the soft emo mainstream, and dance music in the mold of electroclash. Even Top 40 dance songs with a simpler rhythm, like "Toxic," had a severely dissonant minor key (especially the strings), and in retrospect they don't sound like what was to come in the late 2000s. The new-direction song here has a more subdued vocal than the others, but is otherwise similar: major key, stripped-down beat, lyrics about connecting with rather than mistrusting the opposite sex, and paving the way for the next five years (neo-neo-disco of the late 2000s).

"Slow" by Kylie Minogue (2004):



During the vulnerable phase of the late '80s, the backdrop was soft rock, emo power ballads, and dance music of the Hi-NRG and freestyle type. The next song broke with the minor key trend, kept the rhythm simple, used a minimal-yet-catchy hook during the chorus, and paved the way for the rap-inflected neo-disco of the early '90s warm-up phase (Technotronic, C&C Music Factory, Deee-Lite, etc.).

"Buffalo Stance" by Neneh Cherry (1989):



During the vulnerable phase of the early '70s, the backdrop was plaintive singer-songwriter ballads, and no real dance music to speak of. "Electronic rhythmic music" was prog rock. From out of nowhere, the first disco hit emerges with a major key, simple rhythm (the opposite of prog), cheerful lyrics about a couple sticking together, and paving the way for original disco. This is the only example without a moment of halted rhythm during the whole song.

"Rock the Boat" by the Hues Corporation (1974):



Finally, during the vulnerable phase of the late '50s, the backdrop was moody doo-wop and lovelorn teenager pop. Use the major key, keep the rhythm simple yet engaging, pepper it with some sexual vocalizations to signal you're no longer in a refractory state -- and you've got the birth of proto-disco, or soul music, which would really take off during the following dance-crazy warm-up phase of the early '60s.

"What'd I Say" by Ray Charles (1959):



April 18, 2019

Resilience songs help audiences spring back after vulnerable phase of cultural excitement cycle

As people transition from the vulnerable phase of the 15-year excitement cycle, when their energy levels have collapsed into a refractory state, and into the restless, warm-up phase, when those levels are restored to a baseline state, they need some motivation to pull themselves out of their emo funk and get back into the swing of things. Before they can transition into the next manic phase, they must first get over their sense that social stimulation is too painful to bear.

When pop culture responds to this transition of phases, it does not have to comment on it directly. Music simply becomes less emo, without drawing attention to that change on a meta-level. But there are a handful of songs that hit more directly on the themes of overcoming adversity, toughing out a painful situation until you feel better, and not letting antagonistic forces keep you down. They're not going to let you wallow any longer -- it's time to start feeling normal again.

Reinforcing these lyrical themes, the music itself is uplifting and moving, although not uniformly so, as it might be during the manic phase. It also has a melancholy passage or overall tinge to it, as a reminder of what a downer their recent emotional state has been. But it isn't uniformly moody either -- it tends to contrast a vulnerable verse with a more confident, even defiant chorus.

The following survey is from songs that made the year-end Billboard Hot 100 charts.

The first warm-up phase of the modern era, the first half of the 1960s, does not have too many explicit examples. Back then, almost all songs were strictly about dating, romance, marriage, etc. They did not comment on more general themes. Still, within this domain of romantic songs, there were some about looking forward to finally finding someone after a spell of loneliness ("Blue Moon" and "Where the Boys Are"), lovers persisting through a temporary separation ("Sealed with a Kiss"), and toughing out whatever adversity comes their way ("Stand by Me").

These songs counteract the emo tendencies of the late '50s.

"Blue Moon" has an interesting history, since its first recording was in the early '30s, then again in the late '40s, and the one we know best from the early '60s. These five-year periods are all 15 years apart, suggesting that they were in fact the same phase of the cycle.

At any rate, here is the exception from this period, a hit song that addressed the general theme of persisting through tough or painful situations, because somehow (here, by God) they'll get better. Pop songs were allowed to not be about romance, as long as they were narrative or allusions to history, religion, etc.

"Wings of a Dove" by Ferlin Husky (1961):



The next warm-up phase, during the late '70s, was counteracting the emo state of the early '70s. "Stayin' Alive" is not a relevant example here, since it's about getting through everyday obstacles, rather than transitioning from one enduring phase into another. "Good Times" is more to the point, emphasizing that emotional states are changing from the recent past.

"Bohemian Rhapsody" is probably the greatest example from the period, although the themes are addressed somewhat more indirectly than in Queen's other major entry in this genre. And sure enough, during the next warm-up phase of the early '90s, "Bohemian Rhapsody" was revived on the charts thanks to being included in the soundtrack for Wayne's World. If the late '70s had not matched the early '90s in its emotional state, these songs would not have resonated so powerfully. It was released again in 2018 for the movie of the same name, but it did not do well enough to land on the year-end Hot 100 at all (only on the rock chart), since general audiences today are in the vulnerable phase and want to wallow there, not be shaken out of it and act defiantly.

Here are the most direct examples from the late '70s.

"We Are the Champions" by Queen (1977):



"Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" by McFadden & Whitehead (1979):



During the next warm-up phase of the early '90s, they had listened to one too many soft rock and power ballad songs from the emo late '80s. "Something to Believe In" by Poison dwells a little too heavily on the downer side of things, but it is still looking for a way to be pulled up out of that state. "Tears in Heaven" is also a real downer, but rather than wallow, it emphasizes needing to be strong enough to get through a terrible event.

Of the entire Billboard history, the song that most directly tackles these themes is "Hold On," which I can easily see coming back into style in the next few years, now that Me Too is winding down and women will want to hear music that grabs them by the shoulders and tells them to just snap out of it already. "Under the Bridge" is the most personal and intimate of those surveyed here. A lot of wild, heavy shit had happened during the outgoing, rising-crime period of the early '60s through the early '90s, and there was a lot to reflect on from one's own life, not just historical or literary figures.

"Hold On" by Wilson Phillips (1990):



"Under the Bridge" by Red Hot Chili Peppers (1991):



The most recent warm-up phase was the late 2000s, counteracting the emo phase of the early 2000s. Perhaps the most annoying song ever written, and shockingly the #1 song for the entire year of 2006, is "Bad Day" by Daniel Powter. There's a throwaway line about singing a sad song "just to turn it around," but overall the tone is wallowing in how crappy your day has been, not springing back from it. And anyway, how would singing a sad song turn it around -- shouldn't you be trying to sing something more uplifting? Just another aspect of how terrible that song is. As it turns out, though, it was written and recorded in the emo early 2000s, and its hit status in 2006 was part of the continuation of the emo mood into the late 2000s.

Remember, during the warm-up phase, there's a mix of the two sentiments, a downer and an upper, since energy levels are just at a normal baseline. They can be low-energy or high-energy, but not uniformly one or the other, as in a refractory collapse or manic spike.

The three major examples are all from artists who had contributed to the mellow, emo mood of the early 2000s, and their songs from the late 2000s represent the broader shift in themes and tone. After moping about absent boyfriends, Avril Lavigne released a more uplifting "Keep Holding on".

The John Mayer song followed the winding down of the various political moral panics from the first half of the 2000s, and shows that these songs don't have to be about definitively having reached a better state yet, but at least trusting that they will improve sooner rather than later, and no longer dwelling constantly on how screwed up the world is.

I expect that to find a new life in the early 2020s, after the Republican likely wins again in 2020. Just like how the activism of the early 2000s died off in the later half, all this bullshit about "Trump = Nazi / Putin," "This Is Not Normal," etc. is going to melt away. Not for political reasons of things improving -- the GOP won again in 2004, and likely will in 2020 -- but for emotional reasons. You can only stay in the vulnerable emo phase for around five years, and this is the last of those years for the current phase.

The My Chemical Romance song could not be more of a shift from their earlier downer material, which like the rest of early 2000s emo, was mopey or impotently aggro. The mood in this one is more uplifting, confident, and determined to persist. If "Under the Bridge" was the "Bohemian Rhapsody" of the early '90s, in the late 2000s it was "Welcome to the Black Parade". I expect one of the current downer bands to shift tone in the same way during the early 2020s, but have no idea who it will be -- just as no one predicted such a major change coming from the most stereotypically emo band of the early 2000s.

"Waiting on the World to Change" by John Mayer (2006):



"Welcome to the Black Parade" by My Chemical Romance (2006):



April 11, 2019

All emo'd out: MeToo winds down, setting up anything-goes revival for 2020

A recent spate of attacks on Joe Biden for being a handsy creeper has failed to derail his presidential bid even slightly. Lest you think that's only due to his Establishment credentials, earlier in the year when Bernie announced his bid, they tried these attacks against him as well, referring to the work climate of his campaign in 2016 -- but they accomplished nothing, and are already forgotten.

No doubt these attacks will continue throughout the year, showing that there's still a bit more life left in the #MeToo movement, but not much. Contrast with the figures large and small, Establishment and otherwise, who were taken down over the last several years -- Trump (pussygate), Hollywood mega-mogul Harvey Weinstein, SNL alum and senator Al Franken, "Civil Rights icon" Congressman John Conyers, and so on and so forth. On the Right, Bill O'Reilly got canned, while Tucker has survived the 2019 attacks.

The stalling out of MeToo reflects the ending of the vulnerable phase of the 15-year cultural excitement cycle, as people are pretty close to getting back to baseline energy levels, after suffering in the refractory period since 2015. Each of the phases lasts 5 years, so we're on the last one for this phase.

In an earlier post, I detailed the history of feminism over the course of multiple excitement cycles, showing how the concerns and attitudes regularly repeat during each of the phases. During the manic, invincible phase, feminism is exhibitionistic, sex-positive, and agency-granting toward women. When excitement levels collapse during the vulnerable phase, feminism focuses on victimhood, feels like all sexuality is rape-y, and denies women agency. Finally when their levels restore to baseline during the restless, warm-up phase, they're in between -- done with victimhood, but not yet so exhibitionistic, more like coming out of their shell, getting flirty and feisty, and getting to know the opposite sex all over again.

During the Kavanaugh hearings, I noted how the Slutwalk-era feminists were ignoring the MeToo hysteria over the supposed rapist-nominee, since the "you go girl" feminists of the early 2010s wanted no part of a narrative about how powerless women were, how they need rescuing from the big scary men, and the overall tone of sex as dangerous rather than liberating. But during that height of MeToo, they were in the distinct minority, a shrinking holdover from the ever-receding world of Slutwalk and the No Pants Subway Ride.

The Kavanaugh hearings were so over-the-top hysterical, that they forced people's vulnerable feelings to hit rock bottom. After that, they can only drift upwards toward a normal baseline, and we're in the process of that already.

We've seen similar rock-bottom moments for other moral panics of this vulnerable period, which seems to give rise to them in all sorts of domains, not just dating-and-mating. The peaks of moral panics striking during the vulnerable phase of the cycle is a topic for another more detailed historical post, though.

The whole Alt-Right / white supremacy / everyone's a Nazi panic began during the 2015-16 election season, and hit rock bottom with the media hoax against the Covington high school kids. Whining about everyone and everything being racist is only going to get more tiresome during the remainder of this year, and although that may not keep some from beating a dead horse in 2020, it will not result in the hysterical panics that we've had to suffer through since 2015.

Then there was the whole "Russia's working to undo America" hysteria, and that hit rock bottom when the Mueller report's findings were announced. More accurately, it "is hitting" rock bottom, since it'll take some time for the "full report" to come out, etc etc etc., but it's basically done. Again, some fools may run with it in 2020, but it will not resonate like it has since 2016.

As people stop feeling so vulnerable -- so sensitive to external stimulation that everyone else is somehow victimizing them just by existing -- they won't be so susceptible to these hysterical panics anymore, or at least for the next 10 years (two phases of the cycle, until the next vulnerable phase hits around 2030).

In the meantime, we can look forward to a new restless warm-up phase beginning around next year. The last time we were in that phase was 2005-09, after the early 2000s vulnerable phase of Law & Order: SVU, emo music, the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal, 9/11, the Valerie Plame affair, and "everyone who voted for Bushitler is a Nazi".

In contrast to the first half of the 2000s, the second half was way more do-whatever, anything goes, hold nothing sacred or taboo, experiment, play around, and don't give a fuck. Raunchy anarchic Family Guy humor came into the mainstream after being an obscure cult hit during the early 2000s, the Game / Pickup Artist phenomenon showed that people didn't feel sex was icky or dangerous, American Apparel ads, pop music got more flirtatious instead of distancing, young people began packing dance clubs as a neo-disco atmosphere took over, and the Left stopped taking itself so seriously and moralistically, as shown by the viral hit site Stuff White People Like (which ended, fittingly enough, in 2010, as the manic phase replaced the warm-up phase).

It may not feel like it right now, but before you know it, there will be no more "Girls Like You" and "Happier" songs on the radio, but flippant and decadent indie hits just like the last time around:



April 4, 2019

Brooklyn transplants have crappier furniture than flyovers, and greater inequality

To understand the material motivations behind much of the contemporary liberal and leftist agendas, let's take a look at a disparity between a coastal metropolis and one from flyover country, in a simple yet revealing domain of material culture -- furniture.

Some furniture is of higher quality than other furniture, and we can measure the average level of quality among a group of people, as well as the variance or inequality among them. A good society will produce a high average and a low level of inequality, while a bad society will produce a low average and a high level of inequality.

I first got the impression of how bad life is in liberal / leftist hives like Brooklyn from listening to the Red Scare podcast, which unlike others of the socialist-y type, provides honest commentary on daily life in Brooklyn, where all of these people live. Everyone else either hypes up or humblebrags about how awesome it is, or at worst keeps quiet about it. The ladies from Red Scare are about the only ones who paint a warts-and-all picture of the place, like their refrain that guys in Brooklyn can't keep it up.

One aspect they've commented on several times, that really jumped out at me, was how little stuff they have, and hinting at how crappy what they do have is. They were not complaining about lacking a shitload of pointless junk, they were saying how much of the necessities they did not have, and how unsuitable what did have was. Furniture, kitchen appliances and utensils, (quality) clothing, and so on. They may have expensive internet-related devices, but that is only a portal into the virtual world, while back in the material world they live amidst sparse piles of cheap crud.

"Why don't they just buy decent stuff from a Goodwill?" I thought. Here in flyover country, you can walk into any thrift store and find hardwood furniture, Corning Ware cooking dishes, and 100% wool coats in winter (one of their complaints during the cold snap earlier this year). Then it occurred to me that they must not have such a great selection where they live.

On a hunch, I browsed the furniture section of the Brooklyn Craigslist, and it was indeed littered with crappy trendoid stuff -- made from fiberboard, poorly constructed in a slave labor colony (or you assemble it yourself), but given a bland minimal-modern styling to distract from how crappy it is materially, and allow you to rationalize paying so much for so little.

To find a good comparison in flyover country, I looked for cities that had all four of the recurring brands from the Brooklyn Craigslist. Otherwise, their greater numbers in Brooklyn may simply reflect their greater local availability, compared to a city without a physical store nearby. Chicago matched, but I decided to go with the only other Midwestern / Rust Belt city that matched -- Minneapolis. It is held in greater contempt by the coastal elites, and it lies in a state that more-or-less voted for Trump in 2016 (he was only held off by a 3rd-party conservative spoiler, McMullin).

I searched the "furniture" section in "for sale," exploring several related themes: brands that are overpriced yuppie crap, brands that are made to higher quality, materials that are of higher quality, and construction techniques that indicate higher quality.

Here are the number of listings for each of the search terms, where all are out of a total of 3000 listings. The search was done on the night of April 3, and these will fluctuate somewhat, but the differences are stark enough.

Search term Brooklyn Minneapolis



IKEA 698 577
West Elm 275 116
CB2 195 79
Design Within Reach 150 18



Ethan Allen 61 167
Drexel 55 83
Thomasville 6 93
Henredon 17 64



Solid wood 328 1047
Leather 383 1170
Brass 208 281
Wool 86 161
Copper 12 39



Dovetail(ed) 73 160
Carved 82 158
Stained glass 4 25
Quarter()sawn 4 28

All of the crappy yuppie brands are more common in Brooklyn than Minneapolis. IKEA makes up nearly one-fourth of all listings in Brooklyn!

If anything, this comparison understates the difference because Minneapolis is way more IKEA-friendly than other Rust Belt cities that have had an IKEA nearby for 10 years or more (enough time for their stuff to find its way into the second-hand market). Cincinnati has only 152 listings, and Detroit has only 177. Perhaps this is due to the high concentration of Scandinavians in Minneapolis, showing ethnic pride for a Swedish company (misplaced pride, since the actual manufacturing is done in slave labor colonies).

Is this just a greater fixation on brands in Brooklyn, regardless of what kind of stuff they make? No: they have fewer listings for brands that are made in a first-world country, using hardwood instead of fiberboard, assembled by trained workers rather than your own dumb ass, and owned as staples of the golden age of the middle class, before it was hollowed out by neoliberalism.

This does not reflect young trendoids living in Brooklyn, and traditional old farts living in Minneapolis. The median age in Brooklyn is actually slightly older -- 33 vs. 32 for Minneapolis. Young people in the Midwest just have greater immunity to becoming fashion victims -- and those who do succumb are likely to transplant themselves to poser magnets like Brooklyn anyway. (Felix, Matt, and Amber: move back here.)

Aside from specific brands, how about materials that are superior to others? You might not know (or care) who made it, but you can still tell what it's made of. Solid wood, leather, wool, copper and its alloy brass are all much more common in Minneapolis. The cheap yuppie crap that predominates in Brooklyn is more likely to be made of fiberboard, "vegan leather" / synthetic ultra-"suede," synthetic rug fibers, and stainless steel.

As for the techniques used to turn these raw materials into usable parts and whole items, some are more labor-intensive, require greater skill, look more attractive, and make the item more stable and resistant to wear-and-tear. These skilled techniques are all more common in the furniture of Minneapolis.

We can tell the lack of skilled techniques is not just due to the minimalist styling of striver Brooklynite furniture, because dovetailed joints are not visible from the outside and are not florid ornaments even when the drawers are open. Quarter-sawing the lumber happens before any rough shaping, joinery, carving, or other styling takes place, and is totally compatible with minimal styling (as in the Arts & Crafts and Mission styles that heavily used it). The rudimentary nature of the construction of trendoid crap is just another symptom of its poorly made quality.

So, furniture in Minneapolis is higher-quality, on average. What about the inequality? We've already seen that there's a lot more low-quality stuff in Brooklyn than in Minneapolis, but is there also more really high-quality stuff? This is harder to measure, because at the very top, the sample size is expected to be small (and it is). But my overall impression from browsing both sites is that the most desirable stuff is more common in Brooklyn -- although still rare there. As just one example, "Heywood Wakefield" has 11 listings in Minneapolis, but nearly twice as many in Brooklyn (19). Further investigation could look into Old World antiques and the like.

Brooklyn is both more top-heavy and bottom-heavy than Minneapolis, with less of a stable middle. This means a bit more upward mobility but far more downward mobility, constant precariousness, and status anxiety.

And this is not only a reflection of the inequality in wealth or income, which is greater in Brooklyn. If it were, the low end of Brooklyn would have the same kind of stuff that the low end of Minneapolis did -- there would just be more people in that low end in Brooklyn.

But it gets worse than that, since Brooklyn is also more subject to never-ending waves of transplants, turning it into a rootless striver colony, whereas Minneapolis has a greater social and cultural rootedness. Sure, it attracts newcomers from elsewhere in the state, or perhaps from the Midwest, but not from all over -- and they tend to stay put once they get there.

That's why Brooklyn not only suffers from a surfeit of cheap crap -- it's cheap crap that was only made within the past 10-20 years, since that's the deepest that anyone's roots go there. With greater rootedness in Midwestern cities, it's common to find stuff from far earlier, which was better made. And that generalizes to all of material culture (housewares, clothing, tools, cars, etc.).

Rootlessness is another aspect of status-striving, which also produces inequality. When more and more people are competing to be at the top, it not only produces greater inequality, as high-risk / high-reward means some win big but most lose big. It also attracts more and more outsiders to join in the competition where all the action is, leading to rootlessness.

Anyone who had Ethan Allen furniture in Brooklyn -- a holdover from the egalitarian Midcentury -- got gentrified out of the area by neoliberal striver transplants years ago. Today, each wave of transplants only has crappy IKEA stuff to pass on to the next wave.

So, if it seems like the would-be vanguard of the political party realignment are desperate, deprived, and rootless -- it's because they are. They cannot be allowed to be in the driver's seat, as the end of the Reagan era gives way to a new era where the Democrats are the dominant party.

As proven in 2016, the coastal elites need the large population states in the Rust Belt in order to win, and these folks are more normal than their counterparts on the coasts. Most importantly, they are more opposed to turning all of life into a hyper-competitive status contest, which produces a few more big winners but a lot more big losers. As more people warm up to the label of "socialism," the Midwesterners will have to insist on that resulting in egalitarianism a la the New Deal, rather than just providing a soft landing for the downwardly mobile super-strivers on the coasts.

Nobody made them move to Brooklyn, and they deserve no special padded landing when they fail to make it into the big leagues there. All they deserve is moving back to wherever they actually come from, where they'll enjoy a higher standard-of-living on average, and with less inequality among their community. Then we can work on collective action and solidarity. But first, we have to eradicate the impulse toward status-striving, which is individualist and antithetical to solidarity.

Pointing out how much better their material lives will be back in their home towns, delivered in a disarming ironic tone, could be the first step toward winding down the status-striving arms race.

On a policy level, if we ever get something like universal basic income or a raise in the minimum wage, it should absolutely not take into account the local cost-of-living -- these over-priced, over-populated coastal shitholes need to be depopulated, and see their excess population redistributed back to less-competitive and less-populous places. Just as there is no right for foreigners to live in America, there is no right for co-national outsiders to live within a city as transplants. Egalitarianism requires less mobility and churning, not more.

March 30, 2019

Heterosexuality still declining among young women

That's the title of a post I've been writing on and off over the past decade, because the trend keeps getting worse. Here is the last one on the topic, and a follow-up showing that it held even among "conservatives" (meaning libertarians, not regular church-going types).

Since then, there have been two more waves of data from the General Social Survey, and sure enough, there's no stopping the bi-curiosity of young women (here, ages 18-29).

Among whites, about 20% have "had sex" with at least one girl since they turned 18. That's up from 10-15% in the earlier part of the decade. And far above the less than 5% circa the 1990s, when the data begin.

Among blacks, just over 25% have experimented with other girls, way up from the 10-15% earlier in the decade.

There's no clear pattern for Asians or Hispanics, due to smaller sample sizes. For "other" races overall, though, bi-experimentation is holding steady at 5-10%.

Without repeating all the details of the earlier posts, suffice it to say that the main source of this rise in bi-curiosity is among the younger ages of this group, and the rise doesn't show up so much when you ask about their regular partners, e.g. who they've had sex with in the past year rather than anyone since turning 18. So, this trend reflects occasional experimenting during the college years, rather than a lifelong predilection for pussy.

But to contract HPV and get oral cancer, you only have to munch one rug. And now guys have to worry not only about getting it from going down on a girl, but perhaps just making out with her, if she's gone down on a girl who had it. Dangerous, on top of gross, on top of boring.

(And no, there is still no trend toward greater gayness or bi-curiosity among men. You're either gay or straight, and that settles in at an early age.)

The laissez-faire morality that has accompanied neoliberal economic changes has delivered what even the old-school Marxists recognized as bourgeois decadence. But we are only getting started, since the Reagan era is a parallel of the Jacksonian (early Victorian) era -- the opening act for the Gilded Age and Fin de Siecle that prevailed during the later part of the 19th century.

That will echo this time around, where the Reagan era just got the ball rolling by ending the New Deal-era practice of vice squads raiding gay bars, deregulating bath-houses and creating the ecosystem for AIDS etc. to arise, striking down sodomy laws, upholding gay marriage, and whatever else the Reaganites are going to achieve during their final years.

Just wait until it's the Democrats who are the dominant party in the next era. They'll allow even greater deregulation of sexuality, and bring on even greater levels of epidemics, atomization, and joyless addiction treadmills.

GSS variables: numwomen, year, sex, age, race

March 28, 2019

In 2016, Ellis Islanders defected to Trump, founding stock voted less for GOP

The data from the 2018 General Social Survey are now available, and they include questions on voting in the 2016 election. The GSS is the gold standard for social science research, especially in getting a representative view of the population.

These gold-standard data bear out the impressions and the fuzzier data from exit polls regarding Trump's unique appeal in 2016 -- i.e., compared to Romney -- with the white working class, no matter how it's measured (education, income, self-described class label), with urban voters (except for the biggest shithole cities), with liberals and moderates, and with Democrats and Independents.

I won't rehash those findings here, since they are already well known. The flipping of urban areas is not so well known, but I already wrote the definitive post on that topic (with maps) back in 2016. His flipping of the Rust Belt states and the one district in Maine is still commonly attributed to the rural vote -- but nobody lives there, certainly not in heavily populated industrial states, so even if rural people did vote more for Trump than Romney, that would not have been enough to make a difference.

It was Trump's surge in urban areas -- where a whole lot more people live -- that flipped those states. These were second or third-tier cities (the forgotten man and the forgotten woman) rather than the shiny, smug, affluent first-tier cities, who voted even less for Trump than Romney. Bunch of striver-tards.

The major political group division today is rural vs. urban, so this dimension will show the most cognitive dissonance. Voters may cross other political lines, but not urban vs. rural. People can believe that white working-class people voted Republican -- smearing them as working-class bigots, or bla bla bla. But they can absolutely not fathom that legions of urban dwellers defected to a Republican after voting for Obama twice.

There's also the class difference: yuppies are happy to smear working-class whites for voting Trump, because that does not implicate themselves. But if they had to blame urban dwellers, that would indict their own in-group, the one that they identify the most forcefully with (supposedly cosmopolitan urbanites).

Well, here's another major finding that explodes the clueless punditry on the hot-button issue of immigration and economic nationalism. The GSS shows that the surging white vote for Trump came from Ellis Island ethnic groups, not from the founding stock. That had to have been true, given which states, which counties, and which party members Trump managed to flip. There's not a lot of founding stock in Staten Island, Wilkes-Barre PA, the Detroit or Cleveland metro areas, and all those other Rust Belt towns that drew the Ellis Island immigrants during their industrial revolution heyday.

Among whites, those whose ancestry is from England & Wales voted 55% for Romney, and 53% for Trump -- if anything, a slight decline percentage-wise, and given how large their total numbers are in the population, that amounts to a fairly big loss in total voters. He must have made up for it with other ethnic groups.

He did somewhat better with smaller founding stock groups like the French (French and French Canadians), going from 37% for Romney to 43% for Trump -- but still losing to Clinton.

The one partially founding stock group who surged for Trump were the Scots, who voted 53% for Romney and 64% for Trump. However, the Scotch-Irish form a decent chunk of those who claim Scottish descent in the US, and although they were present in large numbers from before the Revolution and into the closed-borders Jeffersonian period, they also joined the Ellis Islanders during the open-borders era of the Jackson, Lincoln, and most of the McKinley periods.

Turning to clear Ellis Island groups, we see a surge for Trump, particularly among the largest groups:

The Irish voted 45% for Romney, 57% for Trump.

Italians voted 40% for Romney, 55% for Trump.

The Germans voted 50% for Romney, 55% for Trump.

Scandinavians* voted 45% for Romney (who lost them), 49% for Trump (beating Clinton's 39%).

The Slavs** voted 41% for Romney, 45% for Trump (tying with Clinton).

All these decades and centuries later, there is still a big East vs. West European split, including immigrants to the US who have supposedly been assimilated into the melting pot. Slavs have assimilated less, and among Ellis Island descendants they are the most in favor of immigration. They are also the one group of Europeans who we continue to import, since they're still poor and can be exploited as cheap labor by the employer class.

The one exception among Ellis Islanders were the Jews (those raised Jewish), who voted 24% for Romney, and just 16% for Trump. That change is likely a product of their higher class status and residence in the largest cities, compared to working-class dwellers of 3rd-tier cities in the other Ellis Island groups. It makes it all the more hilarious that Trump and the GOP are shilling so hard for Israeli interests, and trying to paint the Democrats as the real anti-Semites. That's obviously for the wealthy AIPAC-connected donors, and not Jewish voters themselves.

To this wave of defection by Ellis Islanders to the candidate who took a hard line against immigration and promoted economic nationalism, the clueless libs and leftoids wag their finger, scolding them about remembering when "y'all were the poor immigrants in this country," and how others should be able to enjoy that today.

"Ey-oh, oh-ey -- that was then, and this is now. America barely had anybody in it when our guy, Christopher Columbus, discovered it. Now? -- this country is fuckin' FULL. Sorry, lots of luck to ya, but the rest of the world AIN'T OUR PROBLEM."

That's what the dumb liberal airheads don't get about importing cheap labor (the only form of immigration) -- the initial immigrants strike it rich, compared to where they're from, but after wave after wave after wave of immigrants, the initial ones have their supposedly higher standard of living eroded by all the others desperately trying to cash in on the bubble while it's still inflating.

But no boom avoids ending in a bust. At some point, new immigrants will see no improvement to their standard of living by moving countries -- because that niche has already been filled up by waves of earlier immigrants -- and they decide against immigrating.

During the inflation of a cheap labor bubble, it's in the material interests of each wave of immigrants to want the borders slammed shut right after they themselves have gotten in. Why face even more competition in the labor market than already exists? (That's true for native workers, too, of course.) But as poorly rooted immigrants, they lack the collective organizing power to make that happen.

However, after these immigrants have been assimilated into the mainstream, it is still in their interests to want the borders kept shut, only now they have greater civic engagement and organization. Now they can do something collectively to make that happen. It starts with voting, and we just saw the Ellis Islanders make a decisive shift against open borders and cheap labor -- their people have been there, done that, and don't want to live in clapboard tenements while slaving away for pennies a day like their ancestors.

But it could escalate far more from there. With wave after wave of newer immigrants during the Reagan era, the old Ellis Island immigrants have an interest in distinguishing themselves -- they're the good, old, assimilated immigrants, not these bad, new, unassimilated immigrants. What do they think about the new ones assimilating just like their ancestors did?

"Ey-oh, oh-ey, these ain't exactly Irish and Italians who are coming into the country these days, y'know what I mean? Just take a look. Plain as day."

The Italians swung more than the other groups probably because their enclave in the Mid-Atlantic has been so swamped by Muslims, which will make Italian-American ethnogenesis far more hardened than for other Ellis Island groups who find themselves living next to Mexicans, for instance. At least the Mexicans are some kind of Christians. Religious divides make for incredibly heightened "Us vs. Them" contests over resources. In the Mid-Atlantic Italian-American mind, they're the policemen and firefighters who gave their lives during an Islamic attack on 9/11, and many smaller-scale ones since then.

So far, you haven't seen the events necessary to create that level of between-group hostility among Somalis and Swedes in Minnesota, or Irish and Indians in Chicago. But that's only a matter of degree, since the Swedes and Irish shifted substantially toward Trump's 2016 platform, just not quite so much as the Italians did.

What are the Bernie people and other would-be realigners going to do to reassure these Ellis Island defectors and bring them into a mass-politics coalition that can move on from Reaganism into something different?

First, any negative reference to "white people" will blow up in their faces. The clueless libs think they're dunking only on the rural hillbillies and genteel WASPs in red states when they drone on and on about "white people". But a large chunk of assimilated Ellis Islanders in blue-state cities take offense to that, too, not just the founding stock. And far from brushing it off as meaningless banter, they take the threat of open borders very seriously. They've already taken one election hostage to get their legitimate grievances across to the callous elites -- who says they can't do so again?

Economic populists on the Left must prioritize class and economics over race and other boutique identity issues, and in a way that intersects with the immigration issue. Their policy can be that while they welcome people of all backgrounds, we first and foremost have to protect our own workers, so there will be no immigration that serves as a cheap labor pipeline to the rich employer class. Most people recognize that just about all immigrants are poorer than natives, so they can connect the dots on their own that such an economics-only policy will in fact reduce immigration by over 90%. Anxiety alleviated!

But given how poorly the entire Left has understood the 2016 election, I don't expect them to learn any lessons here either, not now anyway. They are still committed to the cognitive dissonance-reducing view that an army of Anglo rednecks rose up out of rural areas to swing cities, counties, and states that haven't voted Republican in decades.

They can't admit how much they've lost from their urban coalition, since "urbanite" is their primary identity badge, nor will they be able to admit how much they've lost from their Ellis Islander coalition, for the same reason (many on the Left are Ellis Islanders).

I think it will take another devastating loss in 2020 to wake up the opposition to just how bitterly hated their platform is. Nobody wants Reaganism anymore, so the real issue is what replaces it -- and the answer is not, "Reaganism, but woke" or even worse, "Reaganism, but woke and enforced by commissars".

Leave it to the neolibs and the radlibs to alienate even the Ellis Islanders. The opposition has to radically change its tune by shutting up about identity, and focus only on mass economics, or it will deliver another term of moribund Reaganism.

* Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish combined to boost sample size

** Czechoslovakians, Hungarians, Poles, Russians, Lithuanians, Yugoslavians, Romanians, and Other Europeans, who did not identify Jewish as the religion they were raised in

GSS variables: pres16, pres12, race, ethnic, relig16

March 26, 2019

Russiagate was Know-Nothing-ism: Status quo opposition delayed realignment by blaming foreign influence for dominant party's stunning victory

With the utter collapse of the Russiagate narrative, you'll be seeing lots of postmortem attempts to figure out what went wrong (or right), and they will be using historical comparisons. McCarthyism, Watergate, Valerie Plame, Saddam had WMDs, etc.

The only one of those that remotely resembles Russiagate is the Valerie Plame affair, as I detailed earlier here and here. From that, it was easy to predict that nobody from the president's inner circle would be indicted, and that he himself would not be impeached. Fact check: true.

But after I started looking deeper into the parallels between today and the lead-up to the Civil War, I figured out the true historical echo for Russiagate -- the Know-Nothing phenomenon / party. See this post that outlines their structural similarities in extensive detail, and this follow-up that showed why McCarthyism is the wrong comparison.

Without going again into the specifics, the Know-Nothings were from the opposition coalition, favored the status quo rather than realignment, resorted to conspiracy theories about "authoritarian foreign influence" (the Pope) over their domestic electoral defeat that defied all odds, and used this rationalization as an excuse not to name and take on the true Powers That Be within our own country, delaying realignment for another full election cycle, and thereby making the explosion all the more catastrophic when it inevitably blew up.

In all these ways, they are identical to the status quo faction of the Democrats at the disjunctive end of the Reagan era, who pushed the Russiagate conspiracy theory to rationalize why the dominant party had just won against all odds.

The status quo Dems of today have invested so much in Russiagate not because they wanted to bring down the Republicans -- there are many ways to go about doing that, but they have done so in a way that has blocked their intra-party rivals from gaining momentum toward realignment. The true way to bring down Trump and the Reaganite GOP is to hammer them on the major issues of our crisis stage, and point to the groups responsible for our troubles -- e.g., the de-industrialization that has hollowed out the middle and working classes, which has been orchestrated by the manufacturing elites, who have gotten fantastically richer for free, widening inequality.

But that strategy would benefit the Bernie realignment camp of the opposition, who are busy building a coalition to deliver populist outcomes. The status quo faction wants to both attack the dominant party, while preventing their intra-party rivals from playing a central role in the attack.

This is the same as the Know-Nothings wanting to attack the Jacksonian Democrats, but only in a way that avoided the major issues of the day -- such as slavery -- and avoided blaming or challenging the groups in society who were causing the trouble, i.e. the Southern plantation owners. Instead of addressing the real problems at home, they conjured up a problem from outside -- the Pope's sway over Catholic immigrants caused them to vote Democrat.

So, the foreign conspiracy theories functioned to excuse the opposition for having run status quo candidates, rather than those who wanted realignment. The Whigs did not run an abolitionist in 1852, and the Democrats did not run a populist in 2016. This allowed the dominant party to run on issues of widespread appeal -- Pierce could convince voters he didn't want to expand the number of slave states, and Trump could convince voters he wanted to re-industrialize our economy.

This is the angle that most left/liberal critics have missed about the 2016 election, and Russiagate. The Bernie people will admit what a terrible candidate Clinton was, for running as an elitist during a populist climate. In their words, "she lost the most easily winnable election in US history, that's how bad of a candidate she was."

But it was not an easily winnable election -- the Dems were not running against a de-industrializing, warmongering, open-borders orthodox Republican, like McCain or Romney. They were running against a guy who said he wanted to reverse 90% of the Reagan revolution that had cemented the GOP's grip on power -- only siding with them on providing a tax cut, and putting conservatives in the courts.

Massive tariffs against US companies who have off-shored their production, risking counter-tariffs on US agriculture, exiting NATO and the rest of our global occupations, and shutting off the supply of cheap labor for employers (immigration) -- that was far more radical than what Bernie was proposing. (Trump has also been in favor of single-payer healthcare since the 1990s).

The Russiagate narrative thus also distracted from the strengths of the Trump campaign. If they were to admit these strengths, that would naturally lead the opposition to focus on how to steal those issues away from Trump -- imitate the successful, or go extinct. If it's protectionism and isolationism that Republicans -- and general voters -- want, then the Democrats will have to tack in that direction if they want to win a single election, let alone dethrone the GOP as the dominant party.

During the terms of Pierce and Trump, though, they failed to deliver the goods -- Pierce allowed Kansas to choose to become a slave state, and Trump has only driven up the trade deficit in goods to record highs, expanded our military footprint, and overseen the greatest skyrocketing of illegal immigration perhaps ever. The opposition ought to seize on those failures, and promise to deliver what the dominant party has failed to deliver for so many decades. The realignment factions of the opposition were happy to do that -- the nascent GOP to move toward abolition of slavery, and the Bernie Democrats toward economic populism and demilitarizing our foreign policy.

And yet the status quo faction of the opposition would lose if the dominant party were challenged in that way, since their whole raison d'etre is providing more of what has been going on, not something radically different, even if it's what voters now want. The conspiracy theories about the Pope and about Putin have allowed the status quo opposition to keep from being displaced by the realignment opposition, by distracting attention away from the real and major failures of the dominant party's administrations.

It's too early to tell, but I don't sense much change from the status quo Democrats even after the Mueller report ought to have shut them up about Russiagate. They may speak less about Russia specifically, but will move on to some other irrelevant line of attack on the Trump White House or the GOP -- rather than trying to out-Trump Trump on populism and anti-interventionism.

They show no signs of allowing only Bernie Sanders to compete against the Republican in 2020 -- either they will block his nomination for the Democrat ticket, or they will grudgingly let that go through but then run Biden or someone else as a spoiler. That goes for grassroots voters as well, not just party bosses -- the status quo Democrat voters show little sign of giving up on their delusions of the past several years, and enough of them will vote for the status quo Republican (or the Biden-esque spoiler) to defeat Bernie in 2020.

The solution is to use the collapse of Russiagate to point out why Clinton was a weak candidate, why Trump was a strong candidate, and how the realigner Democrat can steal Trump's decisive issues away from him and the GOP, rather than go on another wild goose chase with the status quo Dems. That will likely only bear fruit in 2024, but if the work does not begin now, it may wait until even later.