Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

It’s Time Again …

November 2, 2020

I don’t talk much about politics, but before the U.S. election last year I put up a post about tyranny and after it I commented on the win, noting that Trump’s victory should have made heads explode but that he wasn’t likely to do any real harmAs I noted about a month ago, that prediction was pretty much true except when it came to Covid-19, and even that one is a bit debatable because a lot of the measures have to happen at the state level in the U.S. and so how much was him and how much was them isn’t clear.  Still, he wasn’t exactly Presidential and at least at some times seemed more interested in picking fights than in deal with the issue, and in a crisis like this appearance really does matter.

So, the election is tomorrow.  And my view is that the Democrats really should win this one, and if they can’t then there’s something wrong with the Democrats.  You can debate Trump’s abilities and accomplishments, but he was the President under a pandemic where the U.S., at a minimum, didn’t outperform pretty much anyone in dealing with it.  The Democrats also have an advantage in that this time, at least, no one on their side should be complacent about the election thinking that Trump simply cannot win, since he, well, already did.  Moreover, they shouldn’t be convinced by polls that the Democrats will win easily because last time the polls said that Clinton was ahead and she lost.  And as noted above Trump is contrary enough that he should be annoying some centrists who thus should be willing to flip or come out to vote if they could get a good enough candidate.  So the Democrats have a lot of advantages that they didn’t have last time.

And yet, from reading around a lot of the indications are raising doubt about whether Biden and the Democrats will win.  Biden is being more aggressive in campaigning than people expected him to be at the end of the election.  From what I’ve heard, new voter registrations of Republicans have outstripped that of Democrats.  And most damningly, a lot of the progressives I’ve been reading and listening to are talking a lot about what might happen or what they might do or have to do if Biden loses, often more so than what they might have to do to Trump if he loses and refuses to leave (which was far more common earlier in the campaign).  They wouldn’t be talking about getting prepared for that so much if they were convinced that they were going to get an easy win.

If they don’t win, a big part of it might be the fallout from their “rainbow coalition” strategy, which balances the Republican strategy of appealing to white people with an attempt to appeal to all the various minorities.  One issue with this strategy is that despite “demographic shift”, there are a lot more white voters than minorities.  If the strategy had worked and whites considered the Republicans the party that really represented their interests and broke for them to the same percentage as minorities broke for the Democrats, the Democrats would have handily lost both the Electoral College and the popular vote.  Yes, the demographics are shifting, but they aren’t there yet, and their crowing about how demographic shift will make them unbeatable casts doubt on their views over immigration, since immigration is indeed part of that demographic shift.  When they insist that the only people who are concerned about immigration must just be racists, they admit that the majority of that immigration is minorities, which aligned with their stated strategy is essentially them attempting to bring in more people that they expect to vote for them and that that shift is critical to their strategy.  When you have something that’s so critical to their political self-interest that they defend so strongly, it’s reasonable to ask how much of their stance is driven by that political self-interest.

Another issue is one that they likely started to hit last time:  when you try to bring together so many groups, it’s hard to find a platform that appeals to all of them.  As an example, blacks and Latinos are noted for being more religious than other groups, including whites.  Biden seems to be doing a good job of at least not highlighting any issues that would clash with religions, but some progressive ideas clearly do.  If they focus too much on those issues, then they might alienate the groups that see it as a clash with their religious beliefs.  However, if they minimize it too much then the groups who care about those issues will feel like they aren’t being listened to and so will be alienated themselves.  This clash is actually a major driving force behind the issue with Bernie Sanders, as he appeals to some of those interests and they got very upset when they felt that the party was essentially rejecting him precisely because he represented those interests.  This can depress voter turnout among the groups that they need to show up to win elections.

A lot of different factions can also leave the Democrats fractured.  There are a lot of people that the Democrats rely on who aren’t happy with the Biden/Harris ticket.  The response to such people is that they should just suck it up and vote for them.  Often, that response is pretty heated.  Thus, they often devolve into in-fighting and arguing with each other instead of focusing their attention on the Republicans themselves.  The Democrats have used a strategy of “The Republicans are terrible and you have to vote for us so they don’t win!” for at least the last four elections, and it’s one that should work for them against Trump — pretty much no one on their side wants to see him win again — but I think that part of the reason they lost last time was because after using it against the fairly milquetoast Romney and McCain people just didn’t buy it that time.  Those people, then, being blamed for the loss has not made things less heated between the various factions that the Democrats rely on.

I don’t know who will win the election, but I know two things:

First, we will not know on Election Day who won the election.  Even if one side seems to have an insurmountable lead, we will be bogged down in challenges and everyone will be waiting for the mail-in ballots that are out there to come in.

Second, no matter who wins, the other side will not accept it.  Hence the challenges mentioned in the first point.

The U.S. Is Screwed …

September 21, 2020

So, in 2016, I remarked before the U.S. election that I almost hoped that Trump would win because it would make some people’s heads explode, a sentiment that I kinda carried on after he actually did win. Despite being in Canada, this wasn’t that well-received among some people I talked to, but my reasoning was that the United States political system was too monolithic for him to be able to change that much even assuming he could get his entire party behind him … which he couldn’t, because there were a lot of people in the Republican party who didn’t like him. So he wasn’t going to be able to do much one way or the other, and so fears of the damage he might do were a bit overwrought.

And I can imagine that a number of people — especially those who dislike Trump — are saying some variation of a sarcastic “Good call!” right now.

That being said, up until this year that actually was the case. There wasn’t a lot of huge damage or permanent, long-term change that he was able to make. Probably the worst thing was the large number of children being taken from their parents and placed into ICE’s camps, and from what I can tell that wasn’t intentional. They made illegally entering the country a felony again and that automatically triggered that outcome that had been put into place by previous regimes. I will say that while they didn’t intend it, they also didn’t care about that outcome, likely because of their opposition to illegal immigration and the fact that one thing they wanted to avoid was the notion that if people showed up with kids then they had to be let in or given preferential treatment because most people — reasonably — don’t want kids to suffer. But the issue with that is that as soon as it became clear that having kids with you makes things easier everyone is going to show up with kids … whether theirs or not. And since many of the people were making large treks across Central America and Mexico to try to get in, encouraging them to drag children with them isn’t something that we should want to encourage, and the administration wouldn’t want to have that because of the optics of leaving kids in camps outside the border. It was a mess, but also wasn’t something that would or could last a lifetime either. Something would change in reaction to that … either the rules, or the behaviour.

And ironically what most of the people I was talking to were probably most worried about — the stock market — from what I’ve heard is actually still doing fairly well, considering.

That being said, the Covid-19 pandemic is something that I do believe was made significantly worse with Trump being president. We can’t really know how different it would have been with someone else as President, but I do believe that it would have gone better with Hillary Clinton as President than Trump. The reason I believe this is because Clinton is a politician, and so would have reacted as a politician would. This does mean that she’d use the pandemic as a way to strength her political decision — and thus might well have played politics with relief with Democratic and Republican states like Trump seems to have as well — but would have done so with a political eye that would at least have made that look deniable, and might well have simply tried to make it look as fair and balanced as possible. Trump seemed to be doing things on the basis of what he felt personally, and didn’t really have a political motive at all. Clinton was even likely to try to look exceptionally Presidential in line with many other crisis-era Presidents and thus seem calm and neutral and dignified at all times, which probably would have helped. Still, as I said, I can’t know for certain, but I can say that Trump doesn’t even really seem calm and Presidential during this, even when compared to leaders that I know better like Justin Trudeau and Doug Ford. When the two of them are outperforming you, you probably need to do some work.

But why the title of the post is “The U.S. is screwed” is not because I think Trump is terrible and destroying the country. No, it’s because his election should have caused heads to explode, and outside of ranting it really didn’t. Both Democrats and Republicans should have been shocked by what he managed and tried to figure out what it was that he tapped into to even make it close, but for the most part Democrats blamed the Electoral College, simple racism and gerrymandering for his win while Republicans tended to either try to oppose him to appeal to those who thought he was a goof or tie themselves to him to appeal to those who liked him. Meanwhile, the U.S. started out the term the most divided it had been in a long time — perhaps even to as far back as the Civil War — and then got even worse. Or, at least, it did so publicly. Because both sides were so extreme in their views of those who disagree — and publicly it was actually Democrats that were worse about it — polls became useless because vanishingly few “moderates” wanted to actually admit what they really believed, even putting aside the fact that in this modern social media world it’s only the loudmouths that get listened to anyway. Anyway, as it stands right now for both sides for the most part they will oppose something for the sole reason that their “opponents” think it’s a good idea, even to the point of insanity.

And then Ruth Bader Ginsberg died.

Now, the U.S. Supreme Court is not supposed to be political or ideological. It’s supposed to be a neutral body where the justices assess in a neutral manner exactly what the laws and the Constitution say. And it obviously hasn’t been that way for a long, long time. And not only were the Democrats as responsible if not more so for it ending up that way, they publicly insisted that, yes, that’s what it was and that’s what it should be. Oh, they slightly couched it under concerns that “right-wing” justices would strip rights and so the court needed to be “left-wing” to preserve them, but anyone with half a brain could see that a big concern of theirs was making sure that the court had the right ideology so that it would make the decisions they wanted to see, and which we all had to accept were simply correct and not at all ideologically biased, but any decision that was primarily right-wing oriented was clearly just biased. They have even already used it as an election issue, imploring their supporters to elect their candidate so that the Supreme Court can put the “right” people in place.

And now, after Trump, the balance has shifted, and so much so that if the next justice is ideological whichever ideology they support will likely be the one that dominates the Supreme Court for a significant number of years. So it’s no surprise that Mitch McConnell is trying to get that appointment under Trump. I agree with those that at least until the election they will try to use it as a rallying cry to get their supporters to come out and vote, but they might just take the victory and run with it. If it was me, I’d wait until after the election and take the chance, but really neither side wants to take that chance with something that has now become so critical, so McConnell is almost certain to accept the charges of hypocrisy with his weak hand wave of “The two sides are in the same party so it’s okay” and make the move. The Democrats will scream bloody murder over it but we’re all pretty certain that they’d do the same in the same situation.

(If I was a Republican and wanted to tweak their noses I’d claim that their arguments swayed me and that in hindsight not doing it was a bad idea, making their hypocritical arguments all the more apparent. It wouldn’t do anyone any good, though).

So, I say that the U.S. is screwed simply because the two major political groups in it are far more concerned about each other than about actually governing the country properly. Even most of those who talk about being bi-partisan are pretty much only doing it because they think it’s what people want to hear. In the meantime, the loudest voices on both sides are pretty much going to scream about how terrible the other side is, how they shouldn’t be listened to, how they are evil, and how any compromise with them is giving in. It’s not the Electoral College. It’s not the two-party system. It’s not the Supreme Court. It’s entirely that the dominant attitude among the loudest people — which is not necessarily the majority — is that if you aren’t with them you’re against them. From this, all else follows.

Thoughts on the Sport Shutdown

August 31, 2020

So, here’s a case where I’d probably get myself in trouble if anyone, you know, actually read this blog, or at least anyone who would care enough to try to get me in trouble over what I say on it. Because in my opinion the sports shutdown was an event that’s being portrayed as heroic but was instead an utterly meaningless gesture. I have some widely varying thoughts on this so this post might be a little disorganized.

Anyway, let’s start with a short description. A number of the major sports postponed some of their games for a couple of days in the middle of the week, at the instigation of the players and, particularly, the players in the NBA. This was done in reaction to the Jacob Blake shooting by police in Kenosha. The first thing that’s striking about this to me is that the reason for the shutdown isn’t exactly clear, from even my brief listening to the discussions on sports highlight shows. The reason most highlighted by sports media is that the players wanted to use their platform to push for change. And yet a number of players gave a different reason, which is that they themselves were having a difficult time focusing on sports when that had happened and all of the things around that were happening. I suspect that the reasons are interconnected, which explains what the players chose to do: the players, especially those closest to the issues, were hearing about the events and wanted to do something about them, and so let those emotions push them into the dramatic actions of threatening to and striking over them. As the emotions were dominant, this would explain a lot about how it all came about and the reactions of them and others to the leagues and people who didn’t really want to participate.

The issue is that this was not a particularly well-conceived or planned event, which is par for the course for events driven more by emotion than by sober thought. For starters, no one believed that the players were going to shut down the playoffs or the season for this protest, especially since they had just started up again when the lockdowns were starting to get lifted. I was actually somewhat impressed when the Lakers and Clippers threatened to leave over these things, but in hindsight they probably weren’t actually going to do that. And for good reason, since shutting down sports likely wouldn’t have had the response they were going for. Shutting down for a couple of days causes as much headaches for the leagues as rained out games and even long overtimes have done, and is often what happens between rounds of the playoffs. So that is a minor concern at best for the fans, and shutting down longer returns sports to the case we already had, with there being no live sports on because of the pandemic. In any other year, shutting down would certainly draw the attention of sports fans, but this year the fans had already had to spend a lot of time without sports. Most of them, then, already knew how to handle life without sports, so it wouldn’t have the impact that they would have wanted it to. And those fans who really couldn’t live without sports might well be angry of them being taken away again, and so would not be that amenable to the cause that spawned the second shutdown unless they already supported the cause, at which point they aren’t the audience the shutdown would need to reach. So it starts to come across as the players feeling that they needed to do something, this was something, and so they did it.

This spontaneous action also royally screwed over the NHL. The NHL didn’t have the ground swell of players demanding something like this, and while people have griped that it is because the NHL is white-dominated it is more likely that it is Canadian and European dominated. As most of players — 75% I’m told — are not from the U.S., and because the games are being played in Canada, most of them were getting their news from Canadian and European news sources which would cover the events but in a way that would make them seem less immediate. They also wouldn’t be as attached to events in the U.S. as NBA players would. And in their countries the racism and police violence situation is better — not perfect — and so it wouldn’t be as big an issue for them. So the players wouldn’t feel that strong desire to do something, anything about it, and the NHL couldn’t have made a move like this without the players being on board even if they wanted to. Add in that the NBA case was last minute and was done without a strong attempt, at least, to co-ordinate with the other leagues and the NHL got roasted in the sports media for not doing something that they couldn’t have had any idea that it would be good for them to do until it was too late. Remember, on that first day — the Wednesday, I believe — as far as I can recall they had already played a game and were definitely preparing for their second, so it was a bit too late to poll the players and make a call once it looked like this was going to be a thing.

(And it’s also odd that the NHL, at least in Canada, got such a strong reaction when baseball, as far as I can tell from the highlights, never shut down completely, despite having a much closer connection to the issue).

I think it would have been better for the NHL, instead of shutting down for the next two days and looking like they were just following along with what had already been done, had simply stood up and said “We missed the boat on this spontaneous action, but these issues are not issues that will be fixed in a couple of days. They will be on-going. So instead of joining this action too late to have any real impact, we’re going to talk to the players and the other leagues and look at doing something coordinated in the next few weeks to really use our platforms to get the message out”. This likely wouldn’t have satisfied most of the people nagging at them, but it would have been better than the solution that no one liked, where their attempts to follow the crowd annoyed those who weren’t sure that this was something worth doing and that they did it too late annoyed those who wanted them to do it in the first place. They really couldn’t win, but at least they could have looked like their own league.

Especially since, as noted above, this approach was flawed from the outset. If they really wanted to use their platform to get the message out, what they should have done was stopped, taken their time, and come up with a coordinated approach across all the leagues in a show of solidarity. First, they should have shut down on the weekend, not during the week, because the weekend is when more people pay attention to sports. Second, what they should have done was taken those days, in conjunction with the sports networks, to run programming in the times when the games would have been played that was aimed at getting out … whatever message it was that they wanted to get out. Yes, it was a short period of time, but sports networks are even better than news networks at putting together interviews and features in a short period of time. On top of that, most of the major sports networks have associations with news outlets anyway and so could have brought in those people and likely features they already had to get the message out. That would have really been using their platform to get the message out, and that people who have money and people to work PR for them — like their agents — couldn’t think of that when it took me about an hour after hearing about it for the first time (I thought of it on my morning walk) is a bit puzzling.

Also, that they needed to shut down games to use their platform is also odd. If someone like Lebron James wanted to talk about these issues, all he needed to do was call up a major American network and say that he wanted to talk about it and they would have paid attention. All of the big stars in the major sports could have done that. So they would have needed to do something for sports specifically or aimed at those fans, but as far as I can tell no one is really trying to determine if doing this will have an effect on reaching that audience. With a shutdown like this, we can presume that the people who agreed with the message already liked it, and those who didn’t hated the action. So they’d be trying to reach the people who aren’t really decided yet, not unsympathetic to the cause but uncertain about all of those aspects. Those in that group who are casual sports fans — like myself — probably mostly ignored it and went to find something else to do. Those who were more dedicated sports fans were probably much more upset at the loss of the thing that they really loved. But would they be more upset at the conditions that “forced” this move … or at those who shut things down unnecessarily, in their eyes? We don’t know, and more distressingly those advocating for this don’t seem to want to know. Instead of gauging people’s reactions to this, most of those kept insisting that people should be bothered by this and should consider it historic and as a great move to combat these problems. Dan O’Toole from the Jay and Dan show waxed semi-eloquently about how if this is bothering you, you should answer the question of what they should have done instead, listing other things that have been done that people complained about. Naomi Osaka opined that if people were uncomfortable it was good because maybe they’d look inside themselves to see why. Both of them and many others were simply presuming the reasons for the discomfort or annoyance and asserting the strong normative statement that you should side with them, without thinking about why some people wouldn’t.

And one of the main issues here is that sports for most people are … escapism. People use sports to escape from all the terrible stuff they see on the news. If they wanted to immerse themselves in these issues and be lectured at about them … well, they’d turn on the news. Instead, they want to put it aside and not think about it for a while. And I can’t see that being something that only or even primarily whites do, because using basic empathy I have to imagine that especially the black-dominated sports like basketball are wonderful escapes for black people, where they can watch black people being judged not by the colour of their skin but instead by how many points they get. So sports, as primarily a vehicle for escapism, are things that people do not want to see get invaded too much by real-world concerns. If they get turned into vehicles for getting the message out, people may well react to what they see as an intrusion that ruins their experience of the game, which is the only reason they watch them in the first place. So we may well be able to answer Osaka with the answer that we are uncomfortable with something that we see as mostly apolitical and neutral getting explicitly turned into something political. We may be able to answer O’Toole by replying that we want the political protests kept out of sports and at least maintain the illusion that all that matters in sports is winning, not the political beliefs of the players. That doesn’t make us bad people. That doesn’t mean that we don’t care about the issues. All it means is that we don’t want people in sports to do the equivalent of arguing about world politics in a code inspection: those issues may be important, but that isn’t the purpose of the code inspection — or sports — and only impedes them.

The other thing the delay would have done would have been to enable them to get experts to talk about the issues and impacts and to come up with a clear message. TSN had Kayla Grey — a relatively new member of their team and one of the few black people on the team — do a lot of talking about this, but it was clear that she didn’t really know all that much about the entire situation. Rod Smith asked her on a number of occasions about what the next steps would be and her reply was always a reiteration of how bad things are with a slight segue into a comment that the question wasn’t one that we could validly ask players since we couldn’t ask them to fix problems they didn’t create (while saying at one point that others and the owners should despite them not creating them either). But if the players are going to take strong actions and try to leverage their platform, it behooves them to come up with a clear and concise message to express with that platform, to get the point across and hopefully to spark the change they want to see. It also behooves them to come up with some clear ways to measure improvement, because this was spawned by a police shooting of a black man, but there was another shooting just a few short months before that, and there will be a shooting again, likely before the year is out. Police officers shoot people. Sometimes, the police are right. Sometimes, the police are wrong. Sometimes, the police are racist. Are they going to feel the need for a shutdown the next time any black person gets shot, even if they are more in the wrong than the police are in that case? Since this is not going to be solved overnight, how can they tell that things are getting better and so they only need to say to trust the process they’ve hopefully initiated, or that things aren’t getting better and they need to take more drastic actions? They don’t know what they want to happen next. They don’t know how they’d tell if things are improving, or even solved. They wanted to do something, and by gum they did something.

But that’s why I say that it’s meaningless. Many people simply ignored the shutdown other than tangentially. Many of the others will forget about it over the next few months, especially once the leagues stop for the year. They got out no clear message. They placed no real pressure on the people in power, especially not more than they were already experiencing. Basically, they did something, but something that is unlikely to lead to any great change over and above what is already happening because, well, they didn’t really do anything but express upset, which everyone pretty much already knew anyway. A better thought out approach would have been far better, in my opinion.

Canada’s Desperate Need to Do Something About Climate Change

October 21, 2019

Today is the federal election in Canada, so let me pause my reflections on Philosophy in Pop Culture and turn my attention to it for a moment. And to specifically reflect that at least the media sources are saying that climate change and thus reducing carbon is a big issue for Canadians, which is something that at least all the major party leaders also believe because they themselves spend a lot of time talking about it. So considering that this is, obviously, a global issue, let’s examine it in light of that and what role Canada can play in it.

Let’s start by assuming that there is a carbon issue contributing to climate change. Some may want to disagree, but it’s not relevant to the discussion I want to have, for reasons that will become clear in a moment. So, worldwide we need to reduce carbon emissions. Okay, so what should Canada do about it? Many of the parties are screaming for radical reductions and carbon taxes and all sorts of things, but does this make sense for Canada given the position it’s in?

The first thing we need to figure out is how much Canada itself is actually contributing to the problem. After all, if Canada, say, produced no carbon emissions then we’d clearly have no need to do anything but could still be impacted by climate change and still see it as a problem for us. In addition, we need to do this to see what the impact of us actually reducing our carbon emissions would have on the problem. Note that in the rhetoric I’ve seen this is almost never actually brought up. They talk as if we need to make radical changes to stop climate change, but never say what that impact would actually be. So let’s start there.

From Wikipedia and other sources, Canada’s percentage is about 1.6%, and we fall about tenth on the list. From this site, that ranking is confirmed. The only thing that’s interesting from the second site is that when you look at it by rankings per capita, we’re pretty high on the list — we jump up to fourth — relatively speaking. But the immediate take-away from the percentage is this: if Canada’s carbon and greenhouse gas emissions dropped to 0, it would do not one bit of good if countries like China, the U.S., India and Russia don’t do anything to reduce emissions. And if they significantly reduce their emissions, things will improve dramatically even if Canada does nothing.

So, first, there is no reason for us to join or attempt to live up to any climate agreement that the Big Four either aren’t a part of or are exempt from. One of the complaints in Canada was over Stephen Harper pulling us out of the Kyoto accords, but if I recall correctly the Kyoto accords exempted China and Russia from having to meet emissions targets, which by this made it a stupid agreement anyway. There’s what I believe is called the Paris Accord, but the U.S. pulled out of that one, making it, again, a pointless accord. The only reason for Canada to join and attempt to live up to these accords is just to be able to at least say to those countries that they aren’t the only ones making sacrifices in this, but it’s only that social/political guilt-trip that would have any real effect. Canada actually reducing its emissions is going to have no real impact, one way or another.

Second, this means that Canada taking drastic steps to reduce emissions isn’t a good move for Canada. After all, if we do it and no one else does, then nothing will change. And if at least the biggest contributors do it and we don’t then we should see a major improvement regardless. So Canada should not be taking drastic steps itself. Instead, it should be looking for a way to get the biggest contributors to take strong steps to reduce emissions.

Now, it is interesting that Canada is relatively high when it comes to per capita emissions. Of course, so is Australia, and their emissions are miniscule compared to everyone else’s. It might be worth looking into why Canada’s emissions are so high per capita and seeing if we can do anything about it, but I suspect that the reasons are rather trivial: Canada is a modernized society which has higher emissions overall, but is also a very large country that is very spread out, and is also a very cold country. So Canada is going to have higher emissions due to transportation and heating than other countries are. There’s … not much we can do about that, other than to encourage cleaner options. Which we definitely can and should do. But if all countries went to the exact same set of clean options, Canada’s per capita emissions would still be higher (unless they all went to 0) because of a relatively small population in a large landmass country that also has a long period of winter.

Now, countries like China can protest that while they produce a massive, massive amount of emissions, their per capita emissions are relatively low — they’re 12th on the list — and so they’ve already reduced their emissions per capita as far as they can reasonably go. It’s time for others to reduce their emissions per capita to China’s level and then they can complain about China. However, one problem with this is that China’s per capita emissions are so low likely because they have a lot of people in rural areas that are not yet modernized, but as China modernizes those areas their per capita — and overall — emissions will greatly increase. Heck, even a migration to the urban areas will increase that dramatically. Second, for all of the biggest contributors a small increase will have a dramatic impact. Take China. Their overall emissions in 2016 were 9056.8 MT. Let’s say that they reduce that by a mere 10%. That would be 905.68 MT, which is almost as much as Canada and Australia produce combined. So China reducing emissions by 10% would reduce the overall emissions by about as much as Canada and Australia reducing their emissions to zero would … which is a lot harder to do than reducing the emissions of a country by 10%, even if they were being incredibly efficient with their emissions. Which China obviously isn’t. So what we should be focusing on is getting the big contributors to reduce their emissions, not on getting the smaller contributors to reduce theirs.

So, it doesn’t look like Canada needs to take drastic steps to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. That’s not going to impact climate change at all. What we need to do is find ways to guilt or bribe the biggest contributors into reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. A carbon tax in Canada is not going to do that.

Not-So-Casual Thoughts on Brexit

March 22, 2019

So, I have BBC World News as part of my cable package, and so I’ve been able to follow Brexit a bit. Or, rather, I’ve heard a bit about it, because even after listening to specific attempts to explain what’s going on for some reason it’s rare that anyone ever really spells out what the issues really are here. With Theresa May running off to try to get an extension after giving a speech where she reiterated the EUish rhetoric that the MPs have said what they don’t want but not what they want, this is a good time for me to give my general impressions of what’s going on.

And let’s start with that speech, because it completely demonstrates just how badly May has failed at this. Determining what MPs wanted was, in fact, her main priority. It was essentially her job throughout the process. That she’s saying that she has no idea what MPs actually wanted at this late stage is incredibly, incredibly bad for her. She really should have known what they wanted by now or, failing that, known that their wants weren’t something that could be delivered. She went off to Brussels to get a deal, and came back with one that as soon as the details of it were released everyone was saying that it couldn’t pass. After it was defeated, she kept going back to get new deals and kept coming back with ones that it was obvious to everyone — except perhaps her — that it couldn’t pass. And if she was saying that she didn’t know what MPs wanted, she really needed to have a plan for figuring it out before she went off to plead for an extension. The rumour now — I just saw it on BBC World News — is that the extension deal she’s working out now is likely going to be contingent on her deal passing. This is the deal that had less support than a vote on leaving with No Deal, and so she’d be putting forward a deal that she should be aware that MPs don’t want. So, despite her rhetoric, it seems that she doesn’t know what MPs don’t want as well as not knowing what they want. Or she’s hoping that the deadline will get them to take her deal despite, again, more MPs saying that they’d rather No Deal than May’s Deal.

Okay, so what is at issue here? Well, I’m sure anyone even remotely paying attention to Brexit can immediately answer that question with “The Backstop”, but what does that, in fact, really mean? As best as I can understand it, the issue starts with the fact that everyone involved wants the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to remain open. As the two are currently part of the same economic union, that’s currently really easy to do. But after Brexit, Northern Ireland would be part of the UK and the Republic of Ireland would be part of the EU, and so they’d have different rules for a number of things, mostly around movement of people and goods between the areas. And that would suggest that some kind of border security would be needed to manage those different rules, which is what no one wants. So the current solution on the table — as best as I can understand it, so don’t quote me on this — is that for the time being Northern Ireland will follow EU rules, and the UK will provide a “backstop” where on entering the UK from Northern Ireland the UK rules would be applied. This is supposed to be in place for a set time until a better solution can be worked out. As far as I can tell, most of the relevant bodies are okay with this idea, even if it isn’t ideal.

Which leads us to the problem with May’s deal, including her latest deal. As it stands, again as best as I can tell, the backstop has to stay in place until the UK comes up with a solution that the EU finds acceptable, at which point the backstop would end and Northern Ireland would move back under UK rules. The EU, reasonably, wants this because they, I assume, don’t want the UK to come back in two months with a half-solution and say that it’s all fixed. On the other hand, the UK reasonably doesn’t want to have the EU veto a perfectly acceptable solution because it’s not the one they wanted, or because some members want to put the screws to the UK a bit more. This is why the Solicitor-General saying that the latest deal still allowed for the EU to veto removing the backstop was the death knell for the latest deal.

While I might be being naive, I have a thought on what seems like the best deal to make everyone merely grumble about the situation. The Republic of Ireland would use EU rules. Northern Ireland would use UK rules. No one would check at the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland what rules the various things followed. The whole island would essentially be a “free zone”. The UK and the EU would have the option to create backstops of their own if they wanted to restrict people or things from entering the EU or UK proper, but since they already have to do checks for things coming from other countries that shouldn’t add that much more overhead. If there are things that are too problematic to pass directly through the border, then the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have to agree on those rules and how to enforce them.

The most obvious flaw in this plan is the risk of “smuggling”, where products are shipped to either Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland and then snuck out into the UK or EU proper. The backstops help with this, but another solution would involve perhaps some extra “Country of Origin” paperwork or other agreements between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Probably the worst issue is that this might encourage the complete reunification of the two nations — since they’d be closer to each other than to the other jurisdictions — but the cultural desire for the two of them to remain either independent — the Republic of Ireland — or in the UK — for Northern Ireland — would probably prevent that.

But even if this solution isn’t workable, the fact remains that politics are also playing a major role in this. Some MPs don’t want Brexit to happen at all. Some EU officials don’t want the UK to leave, or at least want to make it as difficult for them to do so as possible. Some MPs actually want to leave with No Deal. All of this is making a pretty complicated process worse.

Brexit is a bit of a mess, and is confusing itself. After months of loosely following it, this is the best I can do.

Empathy as Self-Justification

June 23, 2017

So, Katha Pollitt is complaining about liberals being asked to show empathy and understanding for those voters that didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton. Her main argument seems to be that liberals already show more empathy than those people and so being constantly reminded to show empathy is annoying. The problem is that she does so by completely ignoring what empathy actually is and instead ends up claiming to have and be showing more empathy simply because of the policies she supports, and in so doing shows that she doesn’t actually have any empathy or respect for the people that she’s complaining people keep telling her to have empathy and respect for.

She starts off by misrepresenting the situation:

And that’s not even counting the 92,346 feature stories about rural Trump voters and their heartwarming folkways. (“I played by the rules,” said retired rancher Tom Grady, 66, delving into the Daffodil Diner’s famous rhubarb pie. “Why should I pay for some deadbeat’s trip to Europe?”) I’m still waiting for the deep dives into the hearts and minds of Clinton supporters—what concerns motivated the 94 percent of black women voters who chose her? Is there nothing of interest there? For that matter, why don’t we see explorations of the voters who made up the majority of Trump’s base, people who are not miners or unemployed factory workers but regular Republicans, most quite well-fixed in life? (“I would vote for Satan himself if he promised to cut my taxes,” said Bill Thorberg, a 45-year-old dentist in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “I’m basically just selfish.”) There are, after all, only around 75,000 coal miners in the entire country, and by now every one of them has been profiled in the Times.

First, it’s not like we haven’t been seeing a large number of articles appealing for empathy for those who would be impacted by, say, the death of the ACA, focusing on people with health problems who were only able to afford treatment with the ACA but who now can’t. So there are more than enough counter-narratives from the liberal side to balance the narratives from the conservative side.

Second, one of the reasons for all of these articles is in fact that people were not expecting them to vote for Trump. Thus, there is a lot of interest in figuring out why they did so. Pretty much everyone already knows why those 94 percent of black women voted for Clinton, and at least all of the liberals like Pollitt think they know why those “well-fixed”, “regular” Republicans voted for Trump … although her summary is almost certainly wrong for most “regular” Republicans, as extreme exaggeration starting from a basis of stereotypes and bias tends to be. For liberals specifically, the interest and admonishments happen because they want to see how they can get these votes back. Pollitt herself hints at the importance of this when she talks about how these areas have, under the existing system, disproportionate power — citing the “3 million more votes” line yet again — but ignores that Obama and Bill Clinton managed to win enough votes — or, at least, enough apathy — from them to win elections, while Hillary Clinton didn’t. There’s certainly reason for liberals to want to see if they can pick up those votes and thus win elections, and denying that any changes need to be made might start to slide into “repetitive insanity” mode.

Pollitt then moves towards “two wrongs make a right” territory:

But here’s my question: Who is telling the Tea Partiers and Trump voters to empathize with the rest of us? Why is it all one way? Hochschild’s subjects have plenty of demeaning preconceptions about liberals and blue-staters—that distant land of hippies, feminazis, and freeloaders of all kinds. Nor do they seem to have much interest in climbing the empathy wall, given that they voted for a racist misogynist who wants to throw 11 million people out of the country and ban people from our shores on the basis of religion (as he keeps admitting on Twitter, even as his administration argues in court that Islam has nothing to do with it). Furthermore, they are the ones who won, despite having almost 3 million fewer votes. Thanks to the founding fathers, red-staters have outsize power in both the Senate and the Electoral College, and with great power comes great responsibility. So shouldn’t they be trying to figure out the strange polyglot population they now dominate from their strongholds in the South and Midwest? What about their stereotypes?

Well, first, because they have the power to, in fact, determine who will win the election, it is in the best interests of liberals to figure out how they can get these people to vote for them. That means understanding them and what they want. These are people who, at least, won’t turn up to vote for just any Republican and might even (gasp) vote Democrat on occasion. That they didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton means that something in what Hillary Clinton said didn’t appeal to them and even turned them off. If you have no interest in figuring out what that is and how you can use that to your advantage in the next election, you either have to believe that they will always vote and vote Republican — which, given Bill Clinton and Obama, is flatly false — or else you have to decide that you don’t care if you win or not. You can do the latter on a basis of principle — promising them what they want violates your moral principles — but a) Pollitt here is not suggesting that those specific people are the evil and selfish ones — for her, those are the “regular” Republicans — and b) any liberal who wants to take that tack can’t have ever argued that people should have held their nose and voted for Clinton despite disliking her. You can’t stand on principle only when it’s convenient for you and still be a person of principle.

But the issue here is that this is definitely “two wrongs are all right”, where someone who presumably thinks that morality and moral decisions should be based on empathy is saying that that only counts when the other person is doing it, which is invalid. To use a personal exmaple, I, personally, believe that basing morality on empathy is a really bad thing to do and oftentimes borders on being evil. By Pollitt’s logic, people who base their morality on empathy should not bother applying empathy to me or trying to understand me, even if they need me to work with them on things. This is despite the fact that since I lean Kantian/Stoic and definitely lean towards rationalistic morality they actually could convince me of their side by simply appealing to why the action is right rather than by asking me to think of how I’d feel in that situation (to which my usual reply is that I can see how they feel but that, in and of itself, doesn’t make the action right or wrong). I can justify not trying to climb the “empathy wall” for them because for me that’s not relevant to making moral decisions. They cannot. Thus, Pollitt would be justifying acting immorally towards me on the basis that I don’t share her morality. That seems to contradict her line in the post that she wants to help all people (more on that later).

And at the end of the day, this is all false anyway; there are lots of attempts to get those people to feel empathy for those people that Pollitt is concerned about. It seems that for the most part it’s had as much impact on them as the liberal calls for Pollitt to show empathy for those who voted for Trump had on her.

What difference does it make if I think believing in the Rapture is nuts, and hunting for pleasure is cruel? So what if I prefer opera to Elvis? What does that have to do with anything important? Empathy and respect are not about kowtowing to someone’s cultural and social preferences. They’re about supporting policies that make people’s lives better, whether they share your values, or your tastes, or not.

Um, no, that’s not what empathy and respect are about. She’s trying to pull a “deeds, not words” argument here, but it doesn’t work. Empathy is about understanding who people are, what they want, and why they want it, and respect is about not looking down on them for those things that they want that are different from what you want, and treating them as having an equal right and justification to pursue their own wants and needs even if they don’t want what you want. To take on her examples, I don’t care for either opera or country — the predominant music form of those areas — but I can at least potentially understand why they might prefer those to what I prefer, and I don’t look down on them for liking things I don’t like and not liking the things I like. Pollitt here seems to, in general, do both, and liberals in general, in fact, have been acting that way for a while now, and arguably that’s what cost Hillary Clinton the election: the idea that Clinton and the Democrats only had any respect for them if they thought “the right way” and wanted “the right things”. They never tried to understand what they wanted or why they wanted it, and when they did usually argued that what they wanted was wrong and they were bad people for wanting that. That is not a way to get people to vote for you.

Sorry, self-abasing liberal pundits: If you go by actual deeds, liberals and leftists are the ones with empathy. We want everyone to have health care, for example, even those Tea Partiers who in the debate over the Affordable Care Act loudly asserted that people who can’t afford treatment should just die. We want everyone to be decently paid for their labor, no matter how low they wear their pants—somehow the party that claims to be the voice of working people has no problem with paying them so little they’re eligible for food stamps, which that same party wants to take away. We want college to be affordable for everyone—even for the children of parents who didn’t start saving for college when the pregnancy test came out positive. We want everyone to be free to worship as they please—including Muslims—even if we ourselves are nonbelievers.

What should matter in politics is what the government does. Everything else is just flattery, like George H.W. Bush’s oft-cited love of pork rinds. Unfortunately, flattery gets you everywhere.

The problem is that she defines herself as “having empathy” entirely on the basis of the things that she thinks are right or important and thus carries on the idea that those who disagree are evil or ignorant. But that’s not necessarily the case. Let me use the example of the ACA. A large number of the ACA’s strongest supporters in my experience are liberals who either a) have serious medical problems themselves or b) know people who have serious medical problems. So of course their “empathy” is going to kick in towards finding a way to help those people. Many of them are also people who are mostly self-employed — or, again, associate with people who are — and so don’t have health insurance through their jobs, and hold out little prospects of getting it. So, again, that they find health insurance to be the most important issue is reasonable, given their context. But not everyone is like that. A poor family working a labour job that is generally healthy is likely going to less concerned about their health care than about their job, even if they think the ACA benefited them. Those coal miners and manufacturing workers? They had to note that Clinton was at best not saying anything about helping them with their jobs and was at worst promising that they’d lose their jobs. Now let’s take a middle class manufacturing worker, or worker in general. Many of them had health insurance through their jobs before the ACA. And what I learned is that much of the time, for these workers, their health insurance premiums increased. So they actually ended up paying more for what is arguably the same health care that they had before. They aren’t likely to see it as all that great a deal given that … and they’d have a point.

And all that people like Pollitt will do is chide them for not having empathy, and point to their trying to help certain specific people with an appeal that certain things “just ought to be covered” as their argument. I’m not saying that Pollitt et al are right about that. I’m not saying they’re wrong about that either. I’m saying that if you don’t understand what these people want, you aren’t going to be able to demonstrate to them that you a) care about what they want and b) can make their lives better. So all you’ll end up doing is coming in, putting things in place “for their own good” that actually leave them, specifically, worse off than they were before, and then end up angrily denouncing them as selfish, ignorant, and evil when they refuse to support you because, well, what you do keeps hurting them instead of helping them.

This is why Pollitt’s empathy is self-justifying. She defines the actions that show empathy, and is willing to stick to them no matter how much it hurts some people, and then when she is asked to consider people other than those she most empathizes with hides behind “But my actions really show that I care, no matter what they think of it”. Which is … a bad argument, but highlights the problems with empathy: it is easier to empathize with people you understand. Those other liberals are asking Pollitt to come to understand more people so that she can properly empathize with them, and Pollitt is mustering lots of reasons to avoid doing that. That’s not something that someone who wants people to act out of empathy can do, as it ends up with her only applying empathy to those she thinks “deserve” it, for whatever reason, and hurting people for their own good. And she — and many liberals — don’t seem to see that.

And, as Dukat said, that’s bad.

Did I Ever Mention How Much I HATE Appeals to Empathy?

December 30, 2016

So, over at Brute Reason, Miri is talking about how liberals failed to empathize with conservatives, which to sum up is essentially that they didn’t realize that conservatives really were terrible, evil, racist and sexist bigots out to hurt women, LGBT people and blacks/people who are not white even if it meant that they lost in the bargain. It’s how she justifies this that I want to talk about here, because she appeals to, you guessed it, empathy. And not only empathy, but her own super-duper special ability of empathy that can cut right through all the clutter and get at what these people are really thinking.

I know this because I listen to right-wingers and read what they write.

And because I have a relatively high empathic ability, which I train for hours each day in the course of my job, I can actually put myself right into a hypothetical conservative’s shoes and see why they’d feel what they feel given the beliefs that they have. If I had those beliefs, I would also feel (and vote) the way they do.

And when I put myself in the headspace of a white conservative, and run a simulation in my mind of their beliefs and values, their support for Trump and other Republicans makes complete sense to me.

So, the question is: how does she know that she’s right? How does she know that they really have the beliefs that she’s imputing to them, and that she’s not importing other beliefs and values that she has into the simulation and thus coming to a conclusion that works for her? It seems to me that believing that these people actually were bigots and thus it’s not that the Democrats and liberals failed to address reasonable concerns has some potential benefit to her mental image of herself and liberals and Democrats, and so doesn’t she have to be concerned that she’s coming to the conclusion that she likes best rather than the one that’s really true? So, then, on what basis can she argue that her empathy-based rationale is, in fact, the correct one?

Well, she can’t really do it on the basis of her past history and training. As I’ve talked about repeatedly on this blog, simulation and empathy break down when the person you are trying to simulate/empathize with is, in fact, radically different from yourself. It’s a lot easier to empathize with people who are mostly like you than it is with people who are completely different from you, which is one if the reasons I despise using empathy to determine things like moral obligations. So, in the past it might well be the case that her successes with empathy were due to similarities or even a limited scope than with superior empathic ability. Additionally, as a therapist she is in a position to fall for confirmation bias, where she can assume that her conclusions are always correct, and that when she succeeds it’s because she got the conclusions based on empathy right, and when she fails it’s not because her empathy failed, but for other reasons, including that they were deluding themselves into thinking that she was wrong about those empathic conclusions. So she needs an objective way to tell if her empathy is working in these cases.

She also can’t do it by appealing to the argument that it makes the results of this election make sense, or that it in fact predicted a number of things in the past. It’s way too easy to make any theory fit past facts, and the sample size is too small anyway. This would then run the risk of her rationalizing the results to fit her theory, and also run the risk of her missing another explanation that would explain the results equally well if not better.

So, how would you go about determining if your empathy is working or not in a specific case, if you can appeal to history with other groups, and you can’t appeal to predictions? Well, typically, the easiest way is to ask them if you’re getting it right. Sure, you can do long-term predictions, where you predict what the person will do over a number of relevant situations and not that your predictions work out, but that’s not what we have here. So Miri, then, ought to look at what conservatives say and determine if her views of their beliefs and values and actions really works.

Unfortunately, when it comes to discussing how to have actual empathy towards conservatives, she actually neatly cuts herself off from any such testing:

1. We take them seriously.

When someone tells you who they are, believe them.

2. We learn to read and listen critically.

On the other hand, we can’t take people’s statements so literally and interpret them so shallowly that we fail to understand what they actually mean.

Which essentially means — or at least runs the risk of meaning — that when they say things that align with your theory, believe them, and when they don’t, then they “really” mean something else. This is a recipe for never having to or being able to correct any misconceptions, because every time they tell you you’re getting it wrong you read out the code words and interpret them in line with those misconceptions. You can do this if, in fact, you already do know that you are interpreting them correctly, but Miri does not and cannot know that. Given this, she tries to make some arguments on that basis, but she isn’t careful to separate what she knows and believes from what they know and believe. Take this part:

There’s little evidence that they voted “against their interests,” because as much of a failure as Trump will be at improving their economic circumstances, that wasn’t the only interest they had. They were also very interested in reducing the number of people of color (especially Muslims) in the United States, maintaining Christianity as the dominant American value system, making sure that women don’t take what isn’t theirs, and preventing LGBTQ people from further corrupting American culture. They accomplished all of this and more by electing Trump.

Sure, many of them shot themselves in the foot economically in order to do that. But there’s nothing surprising about it. Psychological research (which I unfortunately can’t find right now, so feel free to take this with a grain of salt) suggests that people may willingly lose money in order to harm someone that they want to harm.

But even if we take it as a given that electing Trump does shoot them in the foot economically, we’d still have to establish that they knew and believed that it would when they elected him. If they really thought that he was their best choice economically and that their economic health was the most important thing to him, then Miri’s analysis here fails. And this holds even if Trumps platform wasn’t perfect; they would be voting for what they perceive to be the best, not what is a) actually the best and b) what is perfect or ideal. Heck, a number of liberals thought that Clinton was far from perfect, but thought that she was the best option; the same courtesy ought to be extended to conservatives, methinks.

So, again, we have potential confounds in Miri’s claim to be properly empathizing with conservatives, and she’s shut herself off from any possible evidence that could overturn those confounds.

And then we get into identity politics:

Conservatives don’t simply believe that climate change is a hoax; they really, really need to believe that climate change is a hoax. If they stop believing that climate change is a hoax, they will lose part of their sense of who they are, not to mention cause conflict with their friends and family and also start fearing that we’re all literally going to die. That’s some powerful motivation to keep believing that climate change is a hoax. Avoiding cognitive dissonance is a much stronger drive than your calm and reasoned arguments can possibly provide.

Okay, two questions here:

1) How does Miri know that climate change being a hoax is actually part of their identity and their sense of who they are?

2) Even if she’s right, how is it that a specific matter of fact became so critical to their identity?

Any matter of fact does not become part of one’s identity naturally. If people think that opposing climate change is part of their identity, it likely became so as the result of other commitments, beliefs, and identities that they have. One obvious one here is the idea that stopping climate change is a liberal position, and opposing it is a conservative one. If they see themselves critically as conservatives, then of course they’d make opposing climate change part of their identity. But this would only be because they identify as conservatives, and climate change is seen as something critically part of the identity of conservatives and individuals. Thus, if this is correct, then one could make great strides in changing that by decoupling the issue from the liberal/conservative divide. After all, there’s no inherent reason why positions on climate change would be necessarily liberal or conservative positions; there would be conservative or liberal approaches to combating it once people accept that it is happening. So turning it back into a matter of fact as opposed to a political football seems like a good start.

And all of that presumes that they do see it as an integral part of their identity, as opposed to simply not being convinced by those claiming that it exists.

Ultimately, Miri claims to really understand Trump supporters, but has no way of testing her conclusions or demonstrating that they are correct. All she has is her belief in empathy, which could very easily be impacted by her own beliefs, and that she’s built up a strong framework to defend no matter what evidence is adduced against her. Thus, empathy pretends to be objective while, really, being far more subjective than it should be. If anyone wants to claim that they are right based on “proper empathy”, the minimum reaction ought to be being skeptical, if not being outright hostile.

Identity Politics: Adam Lee

December 16, 2016

So, for the last post in “Identity Politics Week”, I return to the Left and a a post by Adam Lee, entitled “Why America Needs Identity Politics”. Obviously, then, this will be an attempt to demonstrate why identity politics is necessary and appropriate and the way to go, despite the Democrats likely making the most focused use of it that we’ve ever seen and losing the election anyway.

He is responding to by Mark Lilla in the NY Times, arguing that the time has come to end identity liberalism. Lee starts his own post by quoting Lilla saying this:

In recent years American liberalism has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing.

Lee responds thusly:

Notice how Lilla begins his argument: by framing activism on race and gender issues as a “distortion” from the true message of liberalism.

Notice how Lee immediately drops the focus on identity that Lilla was very clear about to instead focus on activism. As we say in Zvan’s post, this is a fairly standard liberal tactic: defend identity politics by focusing on specific issues that don’t necessarily require identity politics and seem reasonable, and then insist that the only right way to solve them is to use identity politics. The presumption seems to be that you can’t possibly appeal to anything other than identity to correct these grave injustices, as if, say, appealing to them as injustices couldn’t possibly work. This is at best a conflation of characteristics with identity, and at worst reflects the same sort of thinking that spawns racism and sexism in the first place.

He takes it for granted that he has the right to say what liberalism is “really” about and what’s a deviation from the right path.

But … why shouldn’t he take that for granted? Surely he has as much right to say what liberalism is really about as Lee does, or any other liberal does, or in fact as anyone else does. On what grounds does Lee suggest that he doesn’t? His race? His gender? That he disagrees with Lee?

Ironically, Lee then goes on to exercise the right to say what liberalism is really about:

In its best form, liberalism is about recognizing and guaranteeing the basic equality and dignity of all people. It strives to break down all artificial distinctions, whether of class, of race, of gender, or of any of the other excuses that are used to justify treating others as lesser-than.

And if Lee had remembered to consider identity above, he’d see the problem here: identity politics means appealing to these precise artificial distinctions that he feels liberalism, in its best form, tries to break down. It elevates specific different traits, circumstances or issues into an identity, and then both assumes and promotes the idea that if you have those traits, circumstances or issues that they critically define who you are and not only how you will vote, but how you ought to vote. No matter what other traits you have, what other “intersections”, it is assumed that your well-being is defined by that specific grouping, as if that completely defines who you are. But it is not unreasonable to think that, for example, a gay person might find themselves more concerned about their economic situation than about the legalization of same-sex marriage, even if the latter one can be seen as violating their rights.

Identity politics doesn’t break down artificial distinctions, it instead embraces them. That fact alone would seem to prove Lilla’s point.

Was the fight for women’s suffrage a distortion? Was the civil rights era a distortion? Was the fight for LGBT rights and marriage equality a distortion? Has liberalism been wrong all along, and only Mark Lilla can put it right? Or is this just another version of the march of progress where social causes that were wildly controversial and divisive in their day become obvious common sense as soon as they triumph?

What do these things have to do with identity politics? These are, indeed, all about breaking down artificial distinctions, by promoting the idea that being a woman doesn’t mean anything wrt the right to vote, that being black doesn’t mean anything wrt the ability to work and intelligence, and that being gay doesn’t mean anything wrt being married. In a sense, these all took away a trait that was considered to define that specific group’s identity and argued that it was instead a meaningless consideration. Identity politics, on the other hand, would say that, for example, at least wanting the right to get married is an important part of the identity of someone who is gay, and in fact that their sexuality is an important part of who they are, important enough that they should identify with the party that gave that to them and against the party that opposed giving that to them.

So far, Lee is trying to defend identity politics by appealing to injustices, not to identities. But we ought not need to have or recognize a specific “identity” in order to recognize and oppose actual injustices. Any time a liberal appeals to an identity instead of an injustice it’s pretty much a sign that they don’t have a good enough argument to establish the injustice.

Lee quotes Lilla again:

Hillary Clinton was at her best and most uplifting when she spoke about American interests in world affairs and how they relate to our understanding of democracy. But when it came to life at home, she tended on the campaign trail to lose that large vision and slip into the rhetoric of diversity, calling out explicitly to African-American, Latino, L.G.B.T. and women voters at every stop.

Lee replies thusly:

This implies, astonishingly, that it’s wrong to recognize the diverse groups that make up an electoral coalition and speak to their specific wants and needs. In Lilla’s mind, the only right way to campaign is to treat all your supporters as a blended, amorphous mass with no distinct interests.

The problem is that he reaches for an “implication” without bothering to address why Lilla thought it an error:

This was a strategic mistake. If you are going to mention groups in America, you had better mention all of them. If you don’t, those left out will notice and feel excluded. Which, as the data show, was exactly what happened with the white working class and those with strong religious convictions. Fully two-thirds of white voters without college degrees voted for Donald Trump, as did over 80 percent of white evangelicals.

And this is not only absolutely true, but an issue with identity politics. Once you start dividing people up into identifiable groups and encouraging them to identify with that group, they will, of course, feel a bond with that group. If you then fail to mention that group, it will feel like you don’t care about that group, which means that then it will feel like you don’t care about them. Which is, in fact, exactly what happened: white people — and white men in particular — didn’t feel that the Democrats cared about them and their interests. No surprise, then, that they refused to vote for them.

It may have escaped him that the reason Republicans can do this is because they don’t have a diverse base to appeal to. They’ve tied their fortunes to a specific demographic group and a specific set of interests. Their one-voice, one-interest strategy simply wouldn’t work for the Democrats’ rainbow coalition, which draws together people from very different backgrounds and circumstances.

As I talked about wrt Zvan’s post, this is an issue for the Democrats if they insist on using identity politics. Sure, groups will react badly if they aren’t mentioned, but just mentioning them isn’t going to be enough. If the Democrats try to wrangle this multi-interest strategy on the basis of identity, since the interests of these groups clash there will be times when they have to choose one group over another. If you do that too often, at a minimum the outside groups will feel unappreciated and feel that while you talk like you have their interests at heart, you really don’t. And then they won’t be very enthusiastic about you winning the election.

And this seems to have happened in this election. There was a lot of grumbling in liberal circles about the Democrats choosing Clinton over Sanders and ignoring the wishes and desires of specific groups of traditional liberal or Democratic voters. The response from the liberals was always that Trump was so bad that they needed to vote for Clinton anyway, even if they didn’t like her and even if they liked someone else better. But you can only play the “boogeyman” card for so long before the groups whose interests you’re ignoring decide that, at best, they aren’t getting anything out of the deal and see no need to support you. And lots of liberal voters decided that the Democrats weren’t really interested in them after all, so felt no need to be interested in the Democrats.

Lee then goes on to repeat one of the most ridiculous things that he continually talks about:

And it needs to be emphasized – because Lilla entirely overlooks it – that despite the undemocratic outcome made possible by the electoral college, Clinton won the popular vote by a hefty margin – 2 million votes and climbing. This is hardly proof that “identity politics” is an electoral dead end.

There were almost 130 million votes cast just for Trump and Clinton. Two million out of that is somewhere between 1 – 2%. That is not “hefty”. That is, in fact, rather pathetic. For comparison, Lee often calls Trump’s electoral college win “slim”, even though the difference in college votes is 15%.

Clinton lost the electoral college, and had a lower percentage of the popular vote than Obama had for his first term (oddly, it looks now like she has about the same number of votes that Obama had for his second term). This all came in an election where identity politics played a huge role, and likely a larger role than it has in any other election previously. Clinton went all-in on identity politics and her advantage over her Republican opponent dropped two million votes over what Obama had over Romney … who was known to be milquetoast but not as the anti-Christ, and who was mostly supported by his own party. In what strange world is this not seen as evidence, and strong evidence, that identity politics didn’t work? They went all-in on identity politics, against an opponent who seemed to be even more vulnerable than usual to identity politics and had a number of clear flaws to appeal to, and they still lost ground in pretty much every measurable metric. In what way did playing identity politics help here?

Lee then tries to dismiss the economic interests argument:

If economic disadvantage was the force driving Trump voters, you have to explain why they supported a candidate who promised to take away the hard-won safety-net gains they’ve achieved under Democrats. In particular, as I wrote last week, many white people who are desperately dependent on Obamacare backed a party that’s made destroying Obamacare its overriding goal, with no plan for a replacement.

Paul Krugman’s back-of-the-envelope math suggests an astonishing 5.5 million people voted to cut off their own access to health care. Coal miners in particular have benefited from a provision of Obamacare that helps them win compensation for work-related lung disease, and many of them are now dismayed and worried because they didn’t think they might actually get what they voted for.

If economic insecurity was the force animating Trump voters, this is an unsolvable paradox. However, the “whitelash” hypothesis explains it neatly: racist rage blinded them to the ways they were voting against their own tangible interests.

Lee links to a few posts that talk about these issues — you can find them there — and it turns out that the conclusions are … less than accurate:

1) For Obamacare, one of them notes that Trump after the election walked back his rhetoric about completely doing away with it. The problem? During the campaign I heard one of his speeches, in full, on CBC, and he was already talking about replacing it with something better. So for people who actually heard that, there would be less fear that they were going to completely lose their health care coverage.

2) For the coal miners, that was one specific clause buried in the text. It is not likely that many of them made the association, and even if they did many of them might well have believed that he did indeed care about them and so would keep that or at least do something to help them … unlike Clinton’s infamous comment about putting a lot of them out of work.

So, Lee here seems to be accusing them of deliberately voting against their own well-being and interests based on information and beliefs that he has, but that they didn’t necessarily have. You can’t justify assigning deliberate motives on that sort of basis.

But let’s assume that it wasn’t really this that convinced them, that they were instead voting on identity. It makes more sense to assume that the reason they voted for Trump wasn’t because they were just racist, but instead because Trump promised to care about them and their interests, and the Democrats promised to ignore them. Why in the world would anyone vote for a party that explicitly said and acted like they didn’t care, and not only that, thought that they were inherently evil for caring about their own interests? Identity politics, then, caused the issue, by dividing the people up into groups and then ignoring one group to the point of calling the whole group evil.

And this is the natural result of identity politics. In order to identify as X, you need a ~X, a group that is outside of your identity that you can compare yourself to to say that you are not them. This is probably natural and so there isn’t much you can do about that. But identity politics means encouraging people to associate themselves with that group and to align their own interests with that group, and to consider the other groups as not sharing those interests. This, then, creates Us vs Them thinking, and the idea that your interests and their interests cannot both be promoted at the same time; one side has to give. And while the Democrats have been pushing the narrative that the Us vs Them is everyone else vs whites, identities don’t always follow the political will of the Democratic party. And so people may see that the Us vs Them are, for example, trans people vs feminists, or any number of other breakdowns.

And as this continues, coalitions become harder to form, as each individual grouping feels that promoting the interests of that group will, in the long run, hurt their own interests … even if, in the short-term, their interests are aligned. We saw this clearly in the atheist movement, with many atheists refusing to align with Catholics to oppose creationism in public schools, and then atheists refusing to align with conservative atheists, and then atheists that weren’t feminist enough, and then atheists that weren’t trans-aware enough, and so on and so forth. When you see anyone with differing interests as an enemy, it’s hard to build any kind of stable alliance.

Lee quotes Lilla again:

Finally, the whitelash thesis is convenient because it absolves liberals of not recognizing how their own obsession with diversity has encouraged white, rural, religious Americans to think of themselves as a disadvantaged group whose identity is being threatened or ignored. Such people are not actually reacting against the reality of our diverse America (they tend, after all, to live in homogeneous areas of the country). But they are reacting against the omnipresent rhetoric of identity, which is what they mean by “political correctness.” Liberals should bear in mind that the first identity movement in American politics was the Ku Klux Klan, which still exists.

Lee replies:

Lilla doesn’t notice how his argument contradicts itself within the same paragraph. Which is it? Are angry white voters reacting to the intrusion of identity politics into their lives? Or did they invent identity politics when they founded the KKK as a movement dedicated to upholding white supremacy in America? You can’t have it both ways.

Lee again ignores the point: whites in today’s society have come to see themselves as an identity group that is under threat because liberals have defined them as a unified identity group and then claimed that their interests are not only not of interest, but are harmful. Lee’s argument that this is a contradiction relies precisely on the presumption that whites have always seen themselves as a unique and specific identity group, an argument that will see ludicrous to the Polish, Irish and Catholic groups that were predominantly or entirely white and yet were actively discriminated against in the United States for a long, long time. The KKK appealed to identity politics … and so do liberals and the Democrats. The problem Lilla is talking about is how the focus on identity politics created the very group that the KKK wanted to appeal to, and that they ultimately failed to create or at least maintain.

Until the liberals did it for them.

Especially in our society, being a white man is considered the neutral, default identity, while everyone else is implicitly treated as a special case. Like the confused and angry fellow who insisted that atheism needs to be kept pure of “ideology”, many people – even allegedly liberal columnists – believe that white men banding together to advance their own causes is just the natural state of affairs, unremarkable, unobjectionable. But when women, people of color, and other minority groups do the same, it merits scolding from concern trolls who warn of disaster if we don’t stop reminding the world that we have our own concerns.

The problem is that white people, in general, don’t band together to promote their specific interests as white people. White people only act in solidarity with each other when they feel that they are being attacked as white people. Guess what the liberal identity politics has succeeded in doing?

This is the crux of the argument. Even a brief glance over American history would show you that women, blacks, Latinos, and, yes, atheists have been subjected to discrimination in targeted and specific ways throughout the span of our country’s existence: Jim Crow, redlining, mass incarceration, coverture laws, workplace harassment, English-only laws, immigration restrictions, religious tests, and on and on. In many cases, the harm done by those prejudicial laws and norms lingers into the present day. We can debate the best way to fix these injustices, but first we have to recognize that they exist.

What does this have to do with identity politics, though? Let’s take, for example, religious tests. These applied to many more groups than just atheists, and arguably were applied to any purportedly minority religion. Remember when people worried about JFK being Catholic and running for President? What identity are you going to assign all the people impacted by that? What Us vs Them are you going to create to oppose that? Instead of running things on the basis of identity, run on the basis of shared specific interests. Appeal to injustice, not that it hurts a specific group. After all, how can you expect people not in the affected group to care about the issues if you present it as an issue that impacts that affected group but not them? You’re either falling back on injustice or you’re failing.

As I said in one of my earliest posts, you can’t fix a problem that you can’t see. Lilla wants us to defeat racism without acknowledging its existence – an impossible feat. It’s like trying to treat a sick person without diagnosing what’s causing their illness. As long as you refuse to admit what’s causing the injustices that plague America, your solutions will always be aimed at the wrong targets.

But there’s nothing in Lilla’s post that says that you should refuse to acknowledge that racism exists. Instead, he’s arguing that you shouldn’t divide things up into identity groups that you then divide into the good and the bad, the ones you care about and the ones you don’t. Why does Lee think it impossible to define racism and then point out the specific cases without having to make it all be one big identity group?

And this response can be put to him: You can’t defeat racism, the idea that there are significant inherent differences that make the races different from each other, by accepting that there are significant enough inherent differences between the races that you can build identities based only on them. If there are no significant differences, then there is nothing to hang identity on … and if there are significant enough differences to hang identity on, then maybe those differences and treatment are, in fact, right.

The question of how to reach people who’ll vote away their own well-being to reinforce racial hierarchy is a hard problem indeed. I don’t have any simple answers to offer.

You start by removing the conflation between position in the racial hierarchy and one’s own personal well-being. Guess what identity politics explicitly doesn’t do, and in fact promotes?

Identity Politics: Vox Day

December 14, 2016

After and during the election, Vox Day constantly opined that ideological politics was over and it was the time of identity politics. At times, Day almost seems apologetic about that, implying that he uses the tactics of his enemies — which includes identity politics — only because they use them, and you need to fight fire with fire. But in these two posts, Day settles himself into the identity politics that he most subscribes to: that there is something special about whiteness and the white races of the West, and that the real problem in America and other places is replacing white people with people who are not white.

Note that Day isn’t actually a classical white supremacist in any way. He constantly argues that when it comes to intelligence, for example, whites aren’t the most intelligent. Asians are. But underlying his entire philosophy is the idea that the white cultures of Europe and North America are the ones that are civilized and are the most capable of it, and that the way for those cultures to survive is for them to remain predominantly white.

Which, then, leads to his frustration with these questions:

I find it very annoying when someone decides it is an optimal use of my time to ask me to contemplate their personal situation and ascertain a) if their current political position can be characterized as Alt-Right, b) what variant of Alt-Right best describes their current political perspective, c) what the Alt-Right makes of their family situation, which inevitably involves some amount of interracial sex or adoption, d) if the Alt-Right has taken into account their family situation, which inevitably involves some amount of interracial sex or adoption, or e) if the Alt-Right is aware that its political theories violate the individual’s current theological perspective.

He tries to respond through translating the questions through an analysis of Keynesian economics:

How, then, would one regard an individual who asked the following questions?

  1. Can my current financial position be characterized as Keynesian?
  2. What variant of Keynesianism best describes my current financial position?
  3. What do Keynesians make of my financial situation, which inevitably involves some amount of debt or investment?
  4. Have Keynesians taken into account my financial situation, which inevitably involves some amount of debt or investment?
  5. Are Keynesians aware that their economic theories contradict my current theological perspective?

Now does the utter irrelevance of these questions make a little more sense? The truth or falsehood of Keynesianism does not depend on the amount one presently owes on ones’s student loan debt or credit card balance. Many people seem to be of the opinion that the legitimacy of the Alt-Right somehow depends upon whether it is good for them or not. This is, in three words, stupid, solipsistic, and erroneous.

Well, let’s examine them in order, because there’s at least potentially a bit more to the question than simple solipsism:

1 – 2) I’m currently using this financial position. It seems to work and doesn’t seem to contradict your economic model. Am I right in that, even if it differs in some places?

3- 4) This is the only financial system that makes sense for me to use. Can your view encompass it? Or do I have to reject your financial model?

5) Your view and the religion we share seem intertwined. But how can you advocate for that position and still maintain this theological commitment of that religion we share?

Any of these can be, in some way, translated to a charge that the position is not, in fact, correct, as it ignores reality or at least something that the economist seems to think true, and might even contradict it.

So let’s go back to the original questions, then:

1 – 2) Our political positions seem to broadly agree. Am I, then, a member of the Alt-Right and acceptable to it, even if I disagree on some points? Are there even acceptable variants (note that Day is explicit that there are).

3 – 4) You constantly talk about race mixing and those of other races as being inherently incapable of producing or maintaining civilization. But my other race spouse is as dedicated to your values as you are, and my children act more in line with how you want people to act than most white children. How does your view explain that? Or, if it can’t, isn’t this evidence that you’re wrong?

5) You claim to base this or associate this with Christianity. But you seem to contradict this part of Christianity. How can you maintain your view and claim that it reflects Christianity?

This leads us to the big problem with the identity politics of the Alt-Right: what they want to appeal to are certain values or cultural beliefs, but they are mistaken to think that the things they want are necessarily attached to race, religion or even nationality.

Think about it. There is a significant number of white people who are SJWs, and a not insignificant number of people who are not white who at least lean towards the values Day appeals to. A not insignificant number of the immigrants that Day dislikes really do want to come to the United States because they see American values as being in and of themselves good. They really do see America as civilized and their own nations as backwards. They have no interest in converting America into a copy of the nation they’re leaving. Moreover, many of them are willing to work hard and at whatever jobs they can get to get ahead, and have no interest in government assistance … often moreso than a lot of white Americans. Is Vox Day going to prefer lazy, entitled, SJWs to these people only because they share his race? Shouldn’t Day push to kick out the people who don’t share the proper values and keep those who do, no matter what their skin colour is?

Moreover, by associating it with racial or even national culture, he ends up including a lot of values that are irrelevant. I would rather associate with someone who works hard and respects other people and celebrates Ramadan than someone who doesn’t do that and celebrates Christmas. When you try to pick an identity as a proxy for virtue, you end up including things as virtues that are, at best, indifferents (long time readers will know what that means, but if ya want a hint, read the name). Virtue does not align perfectly with race, or even with culture. I know; of the people that I’d work with again in a heartbeat, there is one person of Polish — and so white — descent, and one who is Egyptian. And there are a number of others from the Middle East, from India, from Canada and, well, pretty much everywhere. And this also goes for the people I’d never work with again if I could help it. All racial groups can have virtue and vice, and Vox Day really wants virtue. But he insists on selecting on the basis of race.

Note that this doesn’t even have to impact his policies. Swamping the existing American culture through immigration may indeed destroy America, not not necessarily because they are bringing in too many “brown people”, but because they are bringing in too many people with cultural commitments to values that at least contradict those of America. If someone thinks that American values are inferior to those of those other cultures, then that would seem like a good thing … but very few people really think that. What we’d want to do is, ironically, something like what that “racist” Trump espoused: let’s try to bring in people with the right set of values. But you can’t determine that by the colour of their skin.

The second failing of identity politics is that determining what identity to focus on is always difficult, because it’s not clear what identities mean. As a Stoic-leaning philosopher, you could indeed read off what that should at least mean for the values I have and what I think are virtues and vices … but to what degree is that an identity as opposed to a philosophical position or worldview? And as a white man, you can easily point to that as an identity, but what does that say about me? I clearly disagree, often strongly, with both sides in this debate. You can’t read my virtues from my skin colour, gender, or social or economic status or class. The logical thing to do would be to stop trying.

But identity politics forces you to try. And that’s one of the things that’s terribly wrong with it.

Identity Politics: Stephanie Zvan

December 12, 2016

Welcome to Identity Politics week! This week, I plan to have posts every day about identity politics, featuring both sides of the divide. At the end of it all, hopefully everyone will be clear why I think identity politics is a really, really bad idea, for both sides, and why we really, really, have to get past it.

I’ll start with a post by Stephanie Zvan arguing against the left abandoning identity politics. She starts by trying to set up to argue against the “strawman” definition of identity politics:

So, strawman identity politics. This is the Bernie Sanders et al version, in which representation is happening for its own sake regardless of positions on issues. Since no one in the Democratic Party is saying Sarah Palin or Carly Fiorina should be in office, and since many people stop being impressed with Tulsi Gabbard when they know her positions, we know this is a strawman, but let’s pretend it’s not.

Which really is indeed a strawman … of her opponents’ position. No one is arguing that identity politics means that any candidate will be chosen regardless of their views. There certainly will be positions and views that they could hold that would disqualify them from consideration. But the idea is that in general their “identity” will at a minimum be considered more important than the opponents feel is proper in determining who gets what positions. If we look at the specific Sanders case, the idea would be that the Democrats found Clinton’s gender and the possibility of electing the first woman president and appealing to diversity more important that their actual positions, as Clinton was far too conservative and had far too many skeletons in her closet to be the best candidate, and Sanders might have been promoting better ideas and getting castigated for it. For example, Sanders’ view that we should address poverty itself and by doing that improve the lot of black people is the anti-thesis of identity politics … but seems like something that might work, and certainly sounds like a better argument. There is no reason to white people to oppose trying to alleviate poverty in general, but trying to alleviate poverty specifically for black people might raise some eyebrows. The counter is that racism itself is a major factor, and Sanders’ identity-neutral approach might end up ignoring that and so not really work. But there’s certainly a debate to be had here over whether one should appeal to specific identities — ie blacks and women specifically should be appealed to — or to generalities when one plays politics.

Zvan, after completely ignoring her opponents’ case, now tries to say what it would really mean:

That leaves us with a choice to apply more rigid standards to candidates from marginalized groups than we do to white men. Really, it does. The standard test for a white male Democratic candidate is “the guy who can get elected in that district”. You don’t have to believe me on that. Ask Collin Peterson. Ask the progressives in his district. There’s a reason we have the term “Blue Dog Democrat”.

As long as we continue to have white male Blue Dog Democrats, the only thing we accomplish by insisting that candidates from marginalized groups meet different tests for ideological purity is to keep diversity artificially low. This is discrimination in action, which makes it unacceptable for its own sake.

Well, first, the standard test ought to be — even if it isn’t right now — “Out of the available candidates, which of them has the best chance of getting elected in that district?”. The only reason to merely ask if they can get elected is if there are no other candidates. Which means, then, that for marginalized groups the question should be if they are the candidate that is most likely to win. If people vote in terms of identity, then in a number of cases it might indeed be the case that they aren’t the best candidate because most people won’t vote for that candidate based on the fact that they don’t match their identity and so they worry that they won’t be able to represent them. But it seems to me that people who are concerned with not discriminating would then want to argue against that sort of identification, not pander and advance it. Yet liberals stand very much on identity, arguing that marginalized groups are marginalized because white, male, cis people can’t very well represent groups that don’t share that identity. But if you argue that, then you have to expect that people who don’t share the identity of your candidate will feel that that candidate is incapable of representing them. If in a district or a country those who do not share that identity are in the majority, and if you’re voting democratically, that is a recipe for a loss.

This also demonstrates that the liberal “rainbow coalition” becomes self-defeating when joined with identity politics. If the liberals try to argue that people ought not feel represented by someone who isn’t part of their identity group, it is in fact impossible for them to put forward a candidate that everyone feels represents them … or, at least, not without making their competence suspect. It is possible but not likely that a female, black, trans, lesbian would just happen to be the best qualified candidate; that really looks like selection on the basis of diversity. But without that, some key members of the groups the liberals are trying to appeal to will feel unrepresented. You’d have to hope that the other side comes across worse, and while the conservatives have often been doing just that, it’s not a strategy you can rely on. So, again, liberals should want to appeal to justice for all groups and equality in general, not for groups to vote on the basis of their identity.

So, on to “real” identity politics:

Now, real identity politics. This is the banding together of a group of people based on one or more shared characteristics that bring shared political challenges. Class solidarity is identity politics. Atheist activism is identity politics. White Christian nationalism is identity politics. Gamergate is identity politics. So are feminism, BLM, LGBTQ activism, etc. So is a bunch of white men in power, even if they never call it anything other than “What? This is how it’s always been.”

Except that real identity politics has to include “identity” in there somewhere, and there is no reason to assume that any of those things are or have to be something that people associate importantly with their identity. People can get together to discuss issues that relate to a specific characteristic they have without consider that specific characteristic important to their identity. In fact, this is just what white and cis people have been doing; they happen to be white or cis, but they are generally dismissive of it unless they are challenged on that specific trait. White people generally don’t get together and think about or vote based on the interests of white people … until this election, when they felt they had to because the other side was, in fact, arguing that people should vote on the basis of their racial identity and were crowing about how the shifting demographics — including people coming in through immigration — would make it so that the white people were a minority and so the interests of the current minority groups would always win. Given that they were facing a threat specifically based on identity, white people rallied around their identity, but that’s not really a general consideration. Recall that in the U.K. a lot of the rumbling was about Polish people, who are, in fact, white. Thus, identity politics rallies around the artificial divisions that the issue and those talking about it create, not about any real or inherent identity that we can appeal to.

Liberals have been creating these artificial divisions for a long time now, and so left themselves vulnerable to the other side(s) of that division rallying against them, and also leave themselves vulnerable to shifting artificial divisions that might follow from other or new issues.

As an aside, many liberals place a lot of weight on Clinton winning the popular vote, and they might argue that my analysis ignores that. It doesn’t. While Trump won the majority of white voters, he didn’t win them in anywhere near the overwhelming percentage that Clinton won the other racial groups. If he had, Clinton would have definitively lost the popular vote. Liberals, then, want to ensure that white voters don’t vote on the basis of their purportedly shared interests as white people. You can’t do that by arguing that there are different interests for minority racial groups vs white racial groups, and that minorities should vote for their own interests, and that means voting Democrat because they will work for their interests and not for the interests of — and even at the expense of the interests of — white voters. Eventually, white voters will decide that voting Democrat is not in their best interests.

One of the lessons of this election may well be that white men will not vote for anyone who doesn’t put them front and center. (Not our first opportunity to learn this, but it’s harder to avoid the conclusion this time around.)

But “not putting them front and centre” does not mean playing identity politics. There is pretty much no voting group that, over time, will vote en mass for a group that insists that they aren’t considering or going to work for their own best interests. If the Democrats keep losing the white male vote, it pretty much means that white men think that the Democratic Party is not going to work for their interests. While Zvan talks about how their “Rainbow Coalition” (which she doesn’t actually name) wins them elections, it is essentially doing so because they are trying to swamp that vote by rallying all of the other groups and appealing to them. Essentially, in response to white men — and now, perhaps, white voters — not seeing them as a party they can support, they are doubling down and trying to rally all of the other groups so that they have no need of that group. But this can only work as long as they can keep all of those groups together, and the strategy of insisting that people can’t vote for the other guy because those white men can’t represent people not of their identity works to create rifts in these groups. See, for example, the rifts in the atheist movement over feminism, between those who identify with feminism and those who don’t. Or the rifts in the feminist movement over trans issues. It is relatively easy for the Republicans to find issues that they can rally whites around, even though they have diverse interests … and especially so if the Democrats keep giving them the issue of “We, as Democrats, don’t care about the interests of white people”. It’s a lot harder to find one critically important issue that can appeal to all of the other groups, whom quite often have conflicting interests. As an example, Latinos, as far as I can tell, tend to be more religious than whites, so appealing to secular or atheistic interests might alienate them. The only way to make this work is to find a big enough issue or threat that you can use to rally all of those diverse groups and cause them to ignore the conflicts. Over time, though, those issues will fester, and groups will start to feel that the party doesn’t really care about them, and are in fact just using them.

Kinda like a lot of groups grumbled about in this election, actually.