On the Futility of Conservatism.

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Esquire
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Re: On the Futility of Conservatism.

Post by Esquire » 2018-12-01 02:57am

As this year's turnout was in fact almost unprecedented for a midterm election, I don't think that's quite what's going on. Indeed, I suspect the causality here is almost diametrically opposite to your suggestion - all of my anecdata suggest that the recent Democratic emphasis on identity issues (I think that's a decently nonpoliticized phrasing? Apologies if not; I'm trying to be impartial in this paragraph) has been more discouraging to potential voters than the "both parties are awful" cliche, but I'm not aware of any data which address this rigorously. I'd be more than happy to do the analysis on any that do exist, though; this is really important and I'm concerned that it doesn't appear to be studied in any really meaningful way.

I concur with your second paragraph in entirety. Break for celebration, then we can get back to quibbling? :D I simply meant that [the set of things which are concrete Democratic policy proposals] isn't very different from what it was a decade or two ago, and isn't much more popular than the equivalent set was at that time; similarly for Republican positions.
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Re: On the Futility of Conservatism.

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2018-12-01 03:20am

Esquire wrote:
2018-12-01 02:57am
As this year's turnout was in fact almost unprecedented for a midterm election, I don't think that's quite what's going on. Indeed, I suspect the causality here is almost diametrically opposite to your suggestion - all of my anecdata suggest that the recent Democratic emphasis on identity issues (I think that's a decently nonpoliticized phrasing? Apologies if not; I'm trying to be impartial in this paragraph) has been more discouraging to potential voters than the "both parties are awful" cliche, but I'm not aware of any data which address this rigorously. I'd be more than happy to do the analysis on any that do exist, though; this is really important and I'm concerned that it doesn't appear to be studied in any really meaningful way.
Think carefully about this. This is a popular assertion on the far Right- that Democrats are losing because of their "identity politics" (an ill-defined term which is frequently used as short-hand for "they dare to acknowledge that racism and sexism exist and are problems worth addressing"). Frequently we are told that if we want to win, we need to "stop focussing on identity politics" (and, implicitly, focus on addressing the concerns of straight white men).

Leaving aside the moral repugnance of such a position, its strategically ill-advised. The people who are offended by what is generally mislabeled "identity politics" are not, by and large, going to be won over. The Republicans are better at pandering to them, and to win that game we would have to be prepared to more or less entirely thrown women and minorities (ie the majority of the Democratic base) under the bus. And Republicans know that. When the Right tells us we need to throw minorities and women under the bus, they sure as hell aren't doing it out of concern for the best interests of the Democratic Party.

So its very disheartening to me to hear liberals repeating this meme. We need to be focussing on turning out the base- meaning a diverse coalition of young people, women, minorities, and college-educated white people. Not trying to assuage the insecurities of a demographically-shrinking pool of bitter, angry working class white men.
I concur with your second paragraph in entirety. Break for celebration, then we can get back to quibbling? :D I simply meant that [the set of things which are concrete Democratic policy proposals] isn't very different from what it was a decade or two ago, and isn't much more popular than the equivalent set was at that time; similarly for Republican positions.
Republican positions have shifted hard to the right. Trump pushes things that simply would not have been advanced by any other Republican President in recent decades.

Democratic policies have perhaps shifted less... but there are major differences from the Clinton era. Gay rights is one obvious one. Universal health care has gained enormous ground as well (in both parties, actually, if you poll individual voters rather than the leadership).
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Re: On the Futility of Conservatism.

Post by Esquire » 2018-12-01 04:05am

The Romulan Republic wrote:
2018-12-01 03:20am
Think carefully about this. This is a popular assertion on the far Right- that Democrats are losing because of their "identity politics" (an ill-defined term which is frequently used as short-hand for "they dare to acknowledge that racism and sexism exist and are problems worth addressing"). Frequently we are told that if we want to win, we need to "stop focussing on identity politics" (and, implicitly, focus on addressing the concerns of straight white men).
I have done, thank you, and am not using any such shorthand, whence my explicit avoidance of the usual phrase. The intelligent form of your 'popular assertion' (I mean this in the most logically-stringent sense; mine is the form of argument sharing this base sentiment which is worth considering and of which I am aware) is that there are ways to phrase the same desired outcomes that don't plausibly* come off as direct personal attacks on a majority of the current electorate.
Leaving aside the moral repugnance of such a position, its strategically ill-advised. The people who are offended by what is generally mislabeled "identity politics" are not, by and large, going to be won over. The Republicans are better at pandering to them, and to win that game we would have to be prepared to more or less entirely thrown women and minorities (ie the majority of the Democratic base) under the bus. And Republicans know that. When the Right tells us we need to throw minorities and women under the bus, they sure as hell aren't doing it out of concern for the best interests of the Democratic Party.

Counterpoint: Somewhere between 9 and 13% of 2012 Obama voters voted for Trump in 2016, which fact more than decides the election on it's face. Any time we can achieve the same thing without alienating significantly-significant swathes of the electorate, we should do that instead of the alternate case.
So its very disheartening to me to hear liberals repeating this meme. We need to be focussing on turning out the base- meaning a diverse coalition of young people, women, minorities, and college-educated white people. Not trying to assuage the insecurities of a demographically-shrinking pool of bitter, angry working class white men.
I would agree, except that nobody has yet managed to solve-for-base-turnout and I would way rather broaden the base and keep current base-turnout rates, especially if we can do this by simply making a few semantic changes.
Republican positions have shifted hard to the right. Trump pushes things that simply would not have been advanced by any other Republican President in recent decades.
I admit I'm less certain of this than other parts of the argument - my impression is that President Trump isn't doing anything that Republican presidents wouldn't have done if they thought they could get away with it, but this is easily explained as weird knock-on effects from the 2016 elections which were clearly corrected in the 2018 ones. Thoughts?
Democratic policies have perhaps shifted less... but there are major differences from the Clinton era. Gay rights is one obvious one. Universal health care has gained enormous ground as well (in both parties, actually, if you poll individual voters rather than the leadership).
I note that these are places where my heuristic doesn't work properly.

That said, universal health care suffers very severe 'what exactly does that actually mean in practice' problems, and is still net-unpassable; gay rights became a political nonissue so quickly that I suspect something very weird was going on in the surveys regarding them for about the 10 years prior to Obergefell v. Hodges. Please note, not committed to this and thought is based on anecdata and remembered NYT articles.

*Look, you and I both know that 'racism is a thing' doesn't mean 'all white people are basically KKK members,' but this distinction has not been made anything like clear enough and my anecdata suggest that we're shooting ourselves not just in the foot, but probably up to about the thigh through this kind of thing; this is especially true for people who's main forms of political engagement are online. Shibboleths are a thing, people perceive opposed groups as more sneaky than they are, and more flies are caught with honey.
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Re: On the Futility of Conservatism.

Post by Avrjoe » 2018-12-01 04:46pm

Well look at marijuana law. It exposed what happens when political leaders try to keep oppressive laws on the books. They demonize an issue and convince voters to vote out of fear. They make extreme claims about the consequences of accepting a tolerant viewpoint on the issue. If they evidence doesn't support their narrative they make up evidence.

The real world examples show that civilization doesn't fall where weed is legal. A platform built on unfounded fear starts to crumble. People believe what they see over the talking points. Numbers start to swing toward acceptance. Chip away at the fear that promotes hate. Kill the vine from the root.
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Re: On the Futility of Conservatism.

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2018-12-01 05:04pm

Esquire wrote:
2018-12-01 04:05am
I have done, thank you, and am not using any such shorthand, whence my explicit avoidance of the usual phrase. The intelligent form of your 'popular assertion' (I mean this in the most logically-stringent sense; mine is the form of argument sharing this base sentiment which is worth considering and of which I am aware) is that there are ways to phrase the same desired outcomes that don't plausibly* come off as direct personal attacks on a majority of the current electorate.
Yeah, I know you're not trying to use it the way the Alt. Reich does. But it does nonetheless get used that way a lot.

Personally, though, I don't see how addressing racism and sexism as ongoing problems is something that a reasonable person would see as "direct personal attacks on the majority of the electorate". And I would frankly suspect the motives of anyone who did see it that way. If one sees attacks on racism or sexism as attacks on themselves... well, frankly, that seems like a tacit admission that they're racist/sexist.
Counterpoint: Somewhere between 9 and 13% of 2012 Obama voters voted for Trump in 2016, which fact more than decides the election on it's face. Any time we can achieve the same thing without alienating significantly-significant swathes of the electorate, we should do that instead of the alternate case.
But at the same time, if they voted for Obama, that suggests that they aren't terribly threatened by the advancement of non-white people.

Some of that swing can be put down to Hillary Clinton being personally a far inferior candidate to Barak Obama. I suppose there could also be some people who are more sexist than they are racist, and who can stomach a black President but not a female one. Misogyny runs very deep in our society.

[/quote] I would agree, except that nobody has yet managed to solve-for-base-turnout and I would way rather broaden the base and keep current base-turnout rates, especially if we can do this by simply making a few semantic changes.[/quote]

The point is that, moral bankruptcy of throwing the most vulnerable members of society under the bus for political expediency to appease the insecurities of bigots aside, I don't think "Shut up and stop talking about bigotry and discrimination" will actually broaden the base. I think we risk losing more by alienating minorities, women, and young voters, than we stand to gain by appeasing the insecurities of older white men. I'm not opposed to broadening the base by any means- but not at the expense of alienating voters we already have.
I admit I'm less certain of this than other parts of the argument - my impression is that President Trump isn't doing anything that Republican presidents wouldn't have done if they thought they could get away with it, but this is easily explained as weird knock-on effects from the 2016 elections which were clearly corrected in the 2018 ones. Thoughts?
I disagree. Some of Trump's policies are extensions of past mainstream Republican ideology. Others, however, cross lines his predecessors never would have. Just to take one example: after 9/11 George W. Bush made a point of telling the American people that we were not at war with Islam. Can you imagine for one second that Donald "Muslim Ban" Trump would have done the same in his shoes? With Bush's post-9/11 approval ratings and the excuse of national security to justify anything he wanted, Trump would more likely have gone full-dictator with concentration camps.

Tell me I'm wrong.
I note that these are places where my heuristic doesn't work properly.
But that's the point. How valid an argument is it, if you must acknowledge from the outside that there are multiple major exceptions to it on some of the most significant issues facing the country?
That said, universal health care suffers very severe 'what exactly does that actually mean in practice' problems, and is still net-unpassable; gay rights became a political nonissue so quickly that I suspect something very weird was going on in the surveys regarding them for about the 10 years prior to Obergefell v. Hodges. Please note, not committed to this and thought is based on anecdata and remembered NYT articles.
I'd question that gay rights is a non-issue, actually. There are lots of states where discrimination is still legal in various ways, Trump is trying to ban transgender people from the military (and erase recognition of transgender people altogether), and I bet you there'd be a challenge to gay marriage as a Constitutional right if the Republicans got a couple more Supreme Court seats. The country has shifted, but not so quickly or thoroughly as to suggest that the polls were way off all along.
*Look, you and I both know that 'racism is a thing' doesn't mean 'all white people are basically KKK members,' but this distinction has not been made anything like clear enough and my anecdata suggest that we're shooting ourselves not just in the foot, but probably up to about the thigh through this kind of thing; this is especially true for people who's main forms of political engagement are online. Shibboleths are a thing, people perceive opposed groups as more sneaky than they are, and more flies are caught with honey.
No major Democrat has suggested anything like "all white people are basically KKK members", or anything like that, to my knowledge. Sure, there are some progressive radicals who will say things like that, but they have basically no power or influence at the national level. That is largely just a straw man put forward by the Alt. Reich and its allies, a caricature of and "SJW agenda" waging a "war on white men". Its a stereotype designed to scare white people into thinking the Democrats are out to get them, not a reflection of reality.

Perhaps we need to do a better job of refuting that lie. But not by playing the Republicans' game and refusing to tackle bigotry and discrimination as issues. Because then we are letting them define the terms of the debate, and we know where that leads- they accuse anything to the Left of Mein Kampf of having "liberal bias" and the mainstream media and Democrats move further and further right, or automatically default to treating both sides as equal even when the facts don't support it, in a futile effort to silence the accusations of bias by proving how "moderate" they are.
"Well, Grant, we've had the devil's own day, haven't we?"

"Yes. Lick 'em tomorrow though."

-Generals William T. Sherman and Ulysses S Grant, the Battle of Shiloh.


"You need to believe in things that aren't true. How else can they become?"-Terry Pratchett's DEATH.


I am a dual citizen of the United States and Canada.


Fuck Civility.

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Re: On the Futility of Conservatism.

Post by Esquire » 2018-12-03 12:29am

The Romulan Republic wrote:
2018-12-01 05:04pm
Yeah, I know you're not trying to use it the way the Alt. Reich does. But it does nonetheless get used that way a lot.

Personally, though, I don't see how addressing racism and sexism as ongoing problems is something that a reasonable person would see as "direct personal attacks on the majority of the electorate". And I would frankly suspect the motives of anyone who did see it that way. If one sees attacks on racism or sexism as attacks on themselves... well, frankly, that seems like a tacit admission that they're racist/sexist.
This will be addressed more fully below, I just want to note that the actual intention isn't at all the point - it's that if even a couple of percent of undecided voters perceive it that way, we lose all elections before the demographic transition is complete due to how thin the probable-voters margins are.
But at the same time, if they voted for Obama, that suggests that they aren't terribly threatened by the advancement of non-white people.

Some of that swing can be put down to Hillary Clinton being personally a far inferior candidate to Barack Obama. I suppose there could also be some people who are more sexist than they are racist, and who can stomach a black President but not a female one. Misogyny runs very deep in our society.
Oh, absolutely. That's exactly the point - comparatively few people are bothered by the advancement of non-white people, as far as I can tell. rather more people are bothered by the implied threat of dragging down white people to the current level of non-white people, and in trying to tap into the base's growing interest in such issues without having to actually change policies, the Democratic Party has not specified where exactly they fall on this. Again, very thin margins mean this problem can have outsized impacts.
The point is that, moral bankruptcy of throwing the most vulnerable members of society under the bus for political expediency to appease the insecurities of bigots aside, I don't think "Shut up and stop talking about bigotry and discrimination" will actually broaden the base. I think we risk losing more by alienating minorities, women, and young voters, than we stand to gain by appeasing the insecurities of older white men. I'm not opposed to broadening the base by any means- but not at the expense of alienating voters we already have.
Look, again, we lost 9-13% of 2012 Obama voters in 2016, and therefore had two years with Republican domination of all three branches of government. They'll probably keep the Senate and the Supreme Court for at least the next one or two. This empirically did happen. Something about the above logic didn't hold up in the past, and I'm not willing to agree to try it again going forward unless you can explain why it will now.

I don't say 'stop trying to address bigotry and discrimination.' I say 'could we please try and implement the same policies in a way which doesn't alienate electorally-significant chunks of people who voted for us just last election.'
I disagree. Some of Trump's policies are extensions of past mainstream Republican ideology. Others, however, cross lines his predecessors never would have. Just to take one example: after 9/11 George W. Bush made a point of telling the American people that we were not at war with Islam. Can you imagine for one second that Donald "Muslim Ban" Trump would have done the same in his shoes? With Bush's post-9/11 approval ratings and the excuse of national security to justify anything he wanted, Trump would more likely have gone full-dictator with concentration camps.

Tell me I'm wrong.
Personally, I think actually starting two literal wars of aggression under differentially-specious justifications, killing many hundreds of thousands of people over the course of more than a decade, and destabilizing entire regions of the world for at least the foreseeable future is rather worse than enforcing plausible, if extreme and counter-productively cruel interpretations of actual US laws in an outrageously incompetent fashion for obviously self-aggrandizing reasons, but I'm willing to debate that. Plus, if President Bush had thought he was in as strong a postions as President Trump thinks he is, I would not have been at all surprised to see the same actions out of his administration.

I note that these are places where my heuristic doesn't work properly.
But that's the point. How valid an argument is it, if you must acknowledge from the outside that there are multiple major exceptions to it on some of the most significant issues facing the country?
That said, universal health care suffers very severe 'what exactly does that actually mean in practice' problems, and is still net-unpassable; gay rights became a political nonissue so quickly that I suspect something very weird was going on in the surveys regarding them for about the 10 years prior to Obergefell v. Hodges. Please note, not committed to this and thought is based on anecdata and remembered NYT articles.
I'd question that gay rights is a non-issue, actually. There are lots of states where discrimination is still legal in various ways, Trump is trying to ban transgender people from the military (and erase recognition of transgender people altogether), and I bet you there'd be a challenge to gay marriage as a Constitutional right if the Republicans got a couple more Supreme Court seats. The country has shifted, but not so quickly or thoroughly as to suggest that the polls were way off all along.
This is fair. I should have said something like 'gay rights are sufficiently popular as to no longer be a productive subject of national political debate,' meaning that although House Republicans may have said any number of insane things when the last Senate and President Obama were there to make those meaningless gestures, you'll note that nothing much was done when Republicans had solid control of all three branches of government. Don't mistake noise for activity.

This calculus does not apply to transgender rights as yet, but hopefully it will soon. Some delay is to be expected, if not necessarily accepted - there' something like 100 times fewer transgender people than homosexual people, after all, and much more strongly concentrated in politically-noncompetitive districts. Politicians, like all of us, respond to incentives.
No major Democrat has suggested anything like "all white people are basically KKK members", or anything like that, to my knowledge. Sure, there are some progressive radicals who will say things like that, but they have basically no power or influence at the national level. That is largely just a straw man put forward by the Alt. Reich and its allies, a caricature of and "SJW agenda" waging a "war on white men". Its a stereotype designed to scare white people into thinking the Democrats are out to get them, not a reflection of reality.

Perhaps we need to do a better job of refuting that lie. But not by playing the Republicans' game and refusing to tackle bigotry and discrimination as issues. Because then we are letting them define the terms of the debate, and we know where that leads- they accuse anything to the Left of Mein Kampf of having "liberal bias" and the mainstream media and Democrats move further and further right, or automatically default to treating both sides as equal even when the facts don't support it, in a futile effort to silence the accusations of bias by proving how "moderate" they are.
Again, noise and activity should not be confused. Obviously no even plausibly-electable Democrat could actually hold such a positon, but some small number of our own Tea Party equivalents do, or at least are willing to claim so over the Internet, and they are much louder than the press statements of Senators partially trying to appeal to these people as well as the rest of the party base. My proposal to the Democratic Party, as always, is to work out a set of concrete policy proposals and phrase them in terms of benefiting the broadest possible number of people as an obvious way to benefit in wider elections. For example, if we're going to try a basic income scheme (fingers crossed!), phrase it as being about benefiting the poor generally, not just minorities. This is semantics vs. potentially losing elections for the next couple of decades.

I am not fully addressing a separate problem here, because I need to be up early tomorrow, but it's also really important to note that a lot of the things which Democratic activists label as 'bigotry and discrimination' are at least not intuitively quite the sorts of things those words have historically meant. For example, affirmative action at the college level fairly empirically does not work as currently implemented, and according to at least a few studies actually produces net-worse outcomes for everybody involved; how does the Democratic Party think I should interpret this?

I think this is sort of labeling change is a better bet than steering into more controversial policy waters further Left, even though those are probably better policies, but would love to be proven wrong.
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