« In Other News -- Weekend Open Thread | Main | Wednesday Reading including Hugo Novella nominees »

June 26, 2016


I think this is correct. I just read a blog post on precisely this question which said the same thing and citing polls but since it was by someone who tends to set people off, I won't cite it. But that's part of the problem-- as best I can tell every part of the political spectrum is getting more and more tribal in its attitudes.

I read the same post you speak of, and yes, I bit back the urge to cite it as well. This is a crisis of confidence as much as anything, and easy tribally comfortable explanations really aren't going to do anything to reassure anyone outside of the speakers' particular tribe. Although frankly, it's not a misplaced crisis of confidence; the lose of faith was, as Sebastion states, the blithe handiwork our esteemed leaders, and not of insidious outsiders twisting and distorting facts.

A fine post, Sebastian. There were, of course, racists among those who voted out, but I think a considerably larger component of the xenophobic reaction was about cultural identity rather than race.

Perhaps more importantly for the future, a significant proportion of the leave vote did not depend upon tribalism, which would suggest that there might be a decent majority of the electorate amenable to a settlement along these lines:
Pandora's box has been opened; there remains some hope for a way beyond the bitterness of the campaign.

I'm not sure which post you all read, but immediately after writing this post I saw a post on crooked timber here that fleshes out some of points.

The context of the referendum meant that it was always going to be a choice of evils: between the racism and bigotry that animated so much of the Leave campaign, and the neoliberalism of both the Cameron government and the EU. The option of a social democratic, or even soft neoliberal, EU was not on the ballot.


Yet, despite its dominance, neoliberalism hardly ever achieved broad support among the public at large. Rather, the seeming success of neoliberalism concealed the continued strength of currents that remained submerged for decades, becoming politically significant only in occasional eruptions.


The Global Financial Crisis, and the responses of the policy elite proved fatal to neoliberal dominance. Everywhere, bankers and the financial system were bailed out, while ordinary people were made to pay the price. The situation was worst in the Eurozone, where the design of the ECB made it virtually impossible to adopt any policy except ‘austerity’, a counterproductive focus on cutting budget deficits and controlling the non-existent threat of inflation. (Even if an alternative had been possible, the arrogance and incompetence of ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet ensured that no alternatives would be considered). The result has been a decade of depression in most of the developed world. Even in the US and UK, which have, on some measures recovered, living standards have never returned to the previous growth path, and the inequality of income has been ever more evident.


Voting for Remain involved acquiescence in austerity and an overgrown and bloated financial system, both in the UK and Europe.

I disagree with him on one major point. The Remain/EU side has a huge dash of tribalism which can be seen in a number of the peculiar ways in which those normally on the left defend the EU for things that they normally wouldn't (especially London's financial sector woes under Brexit). More indirectly there is a cosmopolitan/rube dichotomy which plays into tribalist impulses just fine for the Remain side. (It lets us write them off as less worthy of paying attention to and in at least two threads I read it turned into an overt suggestion that they might be too stupid to be allowed to vote, echoes of Republicanism on the left).

I agree with much of what you say, Sebastian, but you neglect one aspect. For years the tabloid press in the UK has harped endlessly on about the terrible immigrants, and blamed immigration for any and every problem "normal" people have (lack of school places, pressure on the NHS etc), part of the implication being of course (correctly) that the rich, liberal elite are protected from these problems. Simultaneously, and also for years, they have printed a never ending stream of invented stories (Brussels mandates straight bananas! Brussels bans barmaids' cleavages!) We may not have Fox News, but our tabloid press is famously poisonous, and remember it is an older, more newspaper reading demographic we are talking about. So of course an enormous pool of hurting, working-class voters have been heavily encouraged to blame the EU, and specifically immigration, for their ills, and to regard the EU as a meddling source of nothing good. This, coupled with a growing anti-fact, anti-expert, anti science climate (the MMR causes autism, climate change is a myth, antibiotics cure colds) means that listening to anyone who actually knows anything fact-based is now considered totally unnecessary, in fact foolish (the tabloids again: "so-called experts", Michael Gove "I think people have had enough of experts"). This is not only tribalism, it is a perfect storm of poverty, ignorance and malign manipulation.

I know that tribalism is your touchstone (a not particularly satisfactory choice of wording, but other choices made it sound even more dismissive and I don't want to be), but I feel tribalism arises when resources are scarce (or are made to seem scarce) and groups feel they are compelled to share what they felt was already theirs or feel compelled to demand a fair portion. In that sense is a symptom rather than a cause, but it is a symptom that can be fanned into a fire that makes it look that everything is burning because of it.

I think it has not been that long ago that High Finance (i.e. Wall Street outside the US context) was in favor of a Brexit because Brussels threatened higher regulation or even, horror of horros, a transaction tax. The big money guys believed that in that case money and business would flow to London where those would not apply. London would become Europe's exclsuive offshore casino.
Doesn't look that way now.

The Murdoch is (correct me, if I am wrong) still strong in the (paper) news business in Britain and his standard recipe everywhere he goes has been "play the hyperpatriot and spread hatred against people abroad". In Britain that meant constantly comparing current Germany to the 3rd Reich (no Kohl or Merkel without the moustache and no accompanying headline without garbled Nazi German). When he tried to get a foothold in Germany (he failed miserably btw*) it was the same against Britain (and other neighbours). Where would the Murdoch be without the page 3 girls and xenophobia?

*the niche was already taken. No one beats BILD.

You're not wrong, Hartmut, but he's not the only one. The three top-circulation newspapers in the UK are all tabloids, the Sun, the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, of which only the Sun is Murdoch-owned, and all backed the Leave campaign.

The general voter received the message that the rich would be watched out for, and if they were poor they would not only have to fend for themselves but might have the EU side with the rich against them. This meant that if you felt you were at risk of being poor, you were no longer just fighting for economic success, but were at risk of losing the protective status of being in your tribe. That mindset is ripe for xenophobia to come to the fore.
Well said. In the US context, the tension between Republican's safety net demagoguery and their base's increasing financial insecurity and reliance on it is only resolveable through appeals to tribalism and racism. The Democrats have merely failed to offer any positive program at all and are rewarded with an apathetic base and discredited establishment.

Excellent post and commentary, and it's great having thoughtful Sebastian back in the OBWI tribe .... I mean, fold.

I think we have a toxic brew of all of the above ... legitimate grievance, xenophobia, racism, abandonment (more on this in a second) and the evil (yes, thank you Seb for using that word) of the Murdoch/Trump/Gingrich/European neofascist resurgence who stir the cauldron.

I'd like to see the term "the abandoned" unpacked a bit. This implies a group, a tribe, of people previous ascendant giving up ground to another tribe.

My sense is that instead we have had, especially here in America, but I imagine in England/Europe as well, an attempt socially and economically -- think health insurance -- to be inclusive of all those who were abandoned from the get-go. Those who were assumed to be top shelf haven't liked it; they haven't really lost anything except society's exclusive preference -- THOSE people over there are now getting what we've always had and who do they think they are (roll the footage from the past eight years)?

Hitler's brownshirts felt abandoned too. ISIS recruits the abandoned. Rush Limbaugh manages to feel abandoned and live the high life in Palm Beach next to rising ocean levels at the same time.

Excellent point regarding the lack of censure of the finance leviathan, but austerity for everyone else.

I find it remarkable too that those who have rushed to swamp the lifeboats on the starboard side ...


... may in fact be embracing the very evil ones who plan to abandon them further by gutting the social safety net, see West Virginia's Gubernatorial politics last time around.

Regarding Sebastian's reference to previous threads here where it was suggested that the other tribe shouldn't be permitted to vote, for my part, they may continue to vote, but in that case I want cats to have the franchise too.

Dead cats too, at least in Chicago.

Were that to happen, the same Murdoch/Trump/Gingrich Republican Party tribe would be handing out gunny sacks to drown kittens.

If we look back to Weyrich and company's planning stages for tribal warfare 40 years ago, I think it damnably apparent who donned the warpaint first.

You act Comanche, at some point the Texas Rangers are going to figure out a way to be Comanche in return.


"The Democrats have merely failed to offer any positive program at all and are rewarded with an apathetic base and discredited establishment."

Yup. Cowards.

I think if they applied some warpaint, it would stiffen their resolve.

"but I feel tribalism arises when resources are scarce (or are made to seem scarce) and groups feel they are compelled to share what they felt was already theirs or feel compelled to demand a fair portion."

You're absolutely right. Part of the reason why 'xenophobia' is such a useless dismissal at this point is because xenophobia is always present in large communities, the question isn't whether or not it is present, but rather when and why does it come to the fore.

The frame the past 30 or so years around global trade has been that 'we' have to be willing to deal with some adjustment in order to have things go more smoothly in the long run. Sharing the sacrifices is an appeal to tribalism. We don't expect most human beings to sacrifice very much for people they see as well outside their tribe.

But the problem is that an increasing large portion of people suspects that much of the financial sector really divides it into 'you all' need to accept the pain of the transition while 'we' reap the profits of it and 'we' will use those profits to bid up the housing so 'you all' need to find other neighborhoods.

Another theme I return to often is the spending of social capital. The financial world has been drawing on deep reserves of tribal capital in their constant invocation of the idea that their countries should engage in short term sacrifice for long term reward. The problem is that if you ask the community to sacrifice you have to understand that the community expects to share in the reward.

The global elite have intentionally undermined the idea that they have anything to do with the masses of their countries. But they aren't very happy when any large portion of those masses finally agree with them and suggest that they can't draw on the mutual social capital without paying back into it from time to time.

Precisely, Sebastian.

Speaking of markets, here's some commentary by a guy I read, who was exactly wrong about which way the Brexit vote would go and the plunge in the markets:


He suffers too from the financial elite's incentivized choice (in that if he wrote negative commentary for any length of time, he's be fired) to be positive and optimistic at all times, which is a pet peeve.

Although I suppose gay rights could be considered the pro-social leftist appeal to tribalism.

Those who were assumed to be top shelf haven't liked it; they haven't really lost anything except society's exclusive preference

This is rather like the distinction that I have seen made in discussions about the "shrinking/hollowing out of the middle class." There, it isn't that people are worse off financially and materially in any absolute sense. It is that their relative wealth is preceived to be slipping.

Similarly, if you have had it good, and now others (who previously hadn't) are getting the same kind of treatment. You aren't any less favored absolutely. But your relative preverence is disappearing. For some, that is reason enough to get upset -- the growing shortage of others that you can look down on.

The global elite have intentionally undermined the idea that they have anything to do with the masses of their countries.

Not sure "intentionally" applies? Seems more like they have implemented an ideology and associated public policy that immiserates (to borrow a term)the vast majority.

Perhaps just saying the same thing using different words.

Wj, I think you're on to something but I believe it works at both ends of the subjective view lens. The hollowing out of the middle class means that there are many more points in our system where there is no effective way forward/up which saps hope.

The wife and I went to a beer festival over the weekend with some old friends - a couple just old enough that they could be our youngish parents. The husband and I had a spirited political discussion on the way to the event (before any drinking, even!).

We are members of the same social tribe in the sense that we're good long-time friends, but not members of the same political tribe. The demographics are that they are older, more rural and whiter (at least than I am - my wife's unambiguously white).

We started off more or less agreeing about Trump, though he was convinced that the Trump campaign's money issues were not really an issue at all. But that led to a discussion of his opponent, that thieving Hillary Clinton, who was going steal the rugs from the White House if she became president. (She might even start a foundation afterward, like Bill did. The nerve!)

After that, it was Obama's turn. He's ruining (RUINING!) the country. I asked "how?" You know, it was going down the tubes and falling apart, and it was a big ol' mess. Specifics? His picks for Attorney General sucked, the economy isn't growing fast enough, and Black Lives Matter. Obama has divided us and put everyone in categories, mainly racial ones. Obamacare sucks.

What about the housing crisis before he took office? He's been in office for 8 years now. He should have fixed it. What about W having been in office for several years before it happened? That was the bankers' fault, not W's.

What about slavery, Jim Crow, George Wallace, the KKK, housing discrimination, etc.? Didn't that all happen before Obama? Ancient history. It's all worse now, because of HIM.

Obamacare does kind of suck, but what preceded it sucked, too, and possibly for far more people.

Granted, I'm not arguing that Obama's some perfect golden god of a president. And I'm not super thrilled about Hillary (mainly because she's too much like a Republican, though). I'm just trying to fathom the idea that the country is somehow now going down the tubes (if it wasn't already doing so before Obama took office). I'm saying that Hillary Clinton isn't a completely absurd candidate for the presidency, something I can't say about Trump. (We never did establish who he was going to vote for, if anyone.)

None of this is about Brexit, of course, but it's a similar dynamic. One side is convinced we're headed of a sharp cliff and that anything is better than that. The other side is saying it's not all that bad even if it's not great, and the proposed alternative appears to be significantly worse. Of course, it's a lot easier to be passionate about heading off disaster than it is to deal with existing imperfections and take measured steps to improve things.

It's a conservatism-liberalism dynamic turned on its head. It's revolution over evolution on the so-called conservative side, while it's the so-called liberals who want largely to maintain the status quo while making incremental improvements (where possible - don't be disruptive!).


I wasn't thinking of that cover when I wrote that, but I had seen it at some point. Maybe there was some subliminal impetus there.

Here's a different post from the one I (and probably NV) mysteriously alluded to above. I can't say I know much about British politics, but it seems like a plausible analysis to me--


"None of this is about Brexit, of course, but it's a similar dynamic. One side is convinced we're headed of a sharp cliff and that anything is better than that. The other side is saying it's not all that bad even if it's not great, and the proposed alternative appears to be significantly worse. Of course, it's a lot easier to be passionate about heading off disaster than it is to deal with existing imperfections and take measured steps to improve things."

I just yesterday listened to a rant about how the country was being overrun by conservative Christians as evidenced by the fact of the wedding cake for gays case. I said: fifteen years ago I thought I would never be allowed to marry. If we were really being 'overrun' that would still be true.

Good post. The "racism" angle didn't make sense to me. The concern appears to be Eastern Europeans and the inability to choose who comes into your country. Here in California, I love latin Americans (and I speak fluent Spanish), but I love Indians, Europeans, and Koreans too, so would it be considered racist to say the mix leans too heavily towards Latin Americans?

Xenophobic, maybe, but I'm not convinced it was racist. I'm not even convinced it is Xenophobic. It might be entirely self-interest for those workers "left behind" as Seb's post suggests. Since when is self interest automatically xenophobic? The falling pound may put those in finance in a flutter, but those British goods just got a lot more affordable. Maybe those factory workers aren't so dumb after all . . .

One other angle that isn't getting much discussion here is the simple lack of responsiveness from those making the decisions. The EU has always seemed to me to represent the worst in bureaucracy (which was once defined to me as the process of turning energy into solid waste). We have our own problem in the US with the administrative state. Some in the "leave" camp appeared to me to see the trajectory of the EU and found it lacking and decided to leave before it got that much worse. And some seemed to channel our own Founding Fathers no less (unresponsive distant power, etc.) (but note: Brussels distant?). So a trading nation may soon be free to negotiate its own trade agreements with (heaven forbid) the Commonwealth. The horror!

I'm not an economist. I think this was bad for those banking (pun intended) on staying. That included a lot of multinational banks. But I'm not so sure it will be bad all around in the UK in the long run. A vote for responsive government is, IMHO, almost always a good thing.

Since when is self interest automatically xenophobic?

Obviously it isn't. But when you are complaining about "foreigners" coming in and taking jobs, but you aren't willing to do those jobs yourself (farm work leaps immediately to mind, but it isn't the only example)? At that point, the "self interest" justification looks seriously threadbare.

Part of the shrinking/hollowing out of the middle class in the US is due to the increased size of the upper middle class.

Share of Each Class as a Percentage of US Population, 1979-2014

Is the middle class moving up?

" ... so would it be considered racist to say the mix leans too heavily towards Latin Americans?"

I don't know. What's the right mix?


Make more of the Latin Americans American citizens through immigration reform.

It is only temporarily majority/plurality white in the fullness of time, just like it was only temporarily Spanish/Mexican for awhile.

It use to be the home of black Amazon women exclusively, according to legend:


Think how they felt when they were abandoned.

I think sometimes a statement about the Brexit referendum and the debate leading up it exposing a previously unappreciated racist/xenophobic faction in Britain gets interpreted as meaning that being pro-Brexit universally means being racist/xenophobic. The fact is, blatantly racist and xenophobic rhetoric was used (almost?) exclusively on the pro-Brexit side, and not just by people ranting in pubs. That isn't entirely without meaning, even if it isn't everything.

"Obviously it isn't. But when you are complaining about "foreigners" coming in and taking jobs"

I see this objection quite a bit from people who are otherwise very unfriendly to the idea of 'scabs' coming in and accepting lower wages/different benefits. That is interesting because most of the same people line up on both opposite sides of that question but the differences are subtle enough that if there weren't tribalism involved in the decision making process I would expect lots of people to cross sides in differentiating between the two.

[Note I really do mean both sides, so those who think that crossing picket lines is laudable but are nervous about immigrants are just as implicated as the reverse].


Maybe "something else" is not going on.

Same old. Same old.

I don't know about that, bp. The author makes a case for correlation but does nothing more than raise an eyebrow suggestively to demonstrate causation. The age cleave could just as easily be a result of lack of experience with wage stagnation, poor employment prospects, and lack of political representation for their economic stake on the part of the younger voters; i.e., youth voters being more optimistic because they're more likely to buy into rhetoric, or assume that they'll be more economically mobile than they actually may end up, simply because they lack personal, invested experience as workers and constituents.

Beaten by Iceland !

When we Brexit, we make a thorough job of it.

Could be. But if that is the case, why did they (the olds) wait until Brexit to express such disenchantment? They seem to be a very patient bunch!

At the very least, it would seem that racism is the straw breaking the camel's back. The number of immigrants in the country doubled in the last 20 years.

As for wages? Some data here:


I'd say at the very least one-dimensional narratives aren't going to be correct if they claim to be the whole story. I'd say your UK wages link corroborates that.

One thing I find fascinating is the Leave supporters who now say they don't actually want to leave. But that the vote will give UK negotiators the upper hand in getting a better deal with the EU.

Why they think the EU would want to set a precedent of rewarding threats to leave is not immediately obvious. Except that believing it feels better than accepting that they have screwed the pooch big time.

This will you make you sick to your stomach:


The NRA and the vermin in the Republican Party, the Republican media, and the Republican gun murder industry know all about tribalism. It's their marketing technique:

'The U.S. Concealed Carry Association had a large exhibit. Based in Wisconsin, it promotes what it calls the “concealed-carry lifestyle” and sells training materials and “self-defense insurance,” which subsidizes legal fees for gun owners if they shoot someone. Tim Schmidt, the founder, told me, “When I had kids, I went through what I call my ‘self-defense awakening.’ ” In 2004, he launched the magazine Concealed Carry and then expanded. Members now receive daily e-mails urging them to buy additional training and insurance, in case, as a recent e-mail put it, “God forbid, the unthinkable should happen to you, and you’re forced by some scumbag in a drug fueled rage to pull the trigger.”

For several years, Schmidt had a sideline in packaging his sales techniques. He calls the approach “tribal marketing.” It’s based on generating revenue by emphasizing the boundaries of a community. “We all have the NEED to BELONG,” he wrote in a presentation entitled “How to Turn One of Mankind’s Deepest Needs Into Cold, Hard CASH.” In a section called “How Do You Create Belief & Belonging?,” he explained, “You can’t have a yin without a yang. Must have an enemy.”

The meeting featured seminars, and one after another the speakers encouraged attendees to be ready to fight. Kyle Lamb, a former Delta Force operator, urged the mostly middle-aged crowd to adopt a “combat mind-set.” He said, “Ten minutes from now, or an hour from now, or two days from now, you may be in that fight.” He said that we must prepare for the emotional consequences, including “the sound people make when they get shot.”'

Read the rest and keep a puke bucket handy.

My tribe is losing the arms race and until all of these conservative filth are shot dead with their own firearms, there is no way out.

Maybe the blonde shot-for-brains Republican gun loving masturbater shot down the other day after trying to shoot down her own daughters is showing us how to rid society of these monsters.

Get them to shoot each other and then blow them away.

Only one side does this. My side does not do this shit. Fuck them. Fuck their mothers and their children.

Not all of the news is bad:


Here's an alternate view:

Also available as a video:

Looks like we can't get rid of Texas as easily as all that.

OK then, we keep Texas, the land and the resources, and we deport 91% of the State's white population, the other 9% being of the decent, reasonable sort according to data I pulled out of Trump's ample derriere.


I believe that I know of a country that was a known associate of Timothy McVeigh, the North Carolina black church murderer, and that American guy from Queens who murdered 50 in Orlando the other week.

The American tribe as they like to call it.

I don't know where all of the deported Texans are going to go once the rest of the world bans travel from all countries associated with terrorism.

Maybe they can cling to oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

I agree--the issues of the lower middle class and the working poor are real. And I think xenophobia is a very, very common phenomenon.

And I think that at this point in our history, the whole Republican party (not just Trump) are exploiters of xenophobia to get those working class and lower middle class to vote for the party that will never, ever serve their interests. They will never be addressed by electing Republicans, however.

I think that it is a mistake for people to label Trump as racist. He's a hatemongerer, as is nearly every other Republican politician at the national level, but he, like the others, is an equal opportunity hater and targets whoever is seen as not part of the Republican base tribe.

Yeah, or maybe the Brexit voters ARE a bunch of completely irrational, stupid, racist twats:


Novakant your link says "But what it will mean for an area dependent on inward investment and with the highest unemployment in Wales – nearly 40% of people are either unemployed or not available for work..." Perhaps globalization worked a bit better for London.

Parts of Wales have always had a weak economy, it doesn't have anything to do with globalization. The point is: they have no immigrants to speak of, the EU has been showering them with money for decades and they still voted Leave.


Right, and my point is that lashing out isn't deeply logical. It is lashing out when you get a chance.

..., the EU has been showering them with money for decades and they still voted Leave.

Too often with these programs, special interests in a location get showered with money while the people in general just get trickled on.

bc wrote

'The concern appears to be Eastern Europeans'

An unhinged Trump supporter, retwatted by Trump HIMself, doesn't like the "poles" either.

"@JimVitari: @ABC @washingtonpost we know they're fake just like poles during primary. I'm sure u will crush #CrookedHillary in general"

The presumptious, consumptive Chief of the cannibal tribe doesn't need to know what's going on to make decisions:


Paul Manafort, late of Idi Amin's and Vlad Putin's campaigns:

"The good thing is, we have a candidate who doesn’t need to figure out what’s going on in order to say what he wants to do."

Then Trump walked that back, just minutes after boasting that he would sign an executive order as President making walking backwards a federal crime in all 50 states.

His toupee then reared up on his head and ate a pelican that had flown too low for a looksee, the bird thinking he'd smelt three-day old fish.

Matt Taibbi with an different angle.

My tribe's jokes are better:


Somewhere, perhaps here, I read that American conservative Brexit fans were referring to pro-Brexit leaders in the UK as "Churchillian".

That scream you heard was a stiff upper-lipped, toffee-nosed British Colonel being hacked to death by machete-wielding Zulus wondering where their independence had gotten to.


Mahatma Gandhi weighed in regarding Brittania taking their country back by first having and then eating a sacred cow as preliminary to an eternal fast, after hearing the Raj's Churchill say this:

"It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr. Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer of the type well-known in the East, now posing as a fakir, striding half naked up the steps of the Viceregal palace to parley on equal terms with the representative of the King-Emperor."

That great sucking sound you heard was seditious Scotsman Sean Connery forcing Britain's fat Goldfinger ass through the airplane window as his country declared their independence too.

Spokespillocks for the know-nothing historians from the Koch-financed Tea Party in the U.S., and Mel Gibson weighed in as well regarding Britain's love of independence for all people.

It'll grow back.

P.S. the Taibbi piece is a view with some merit. The U.S. Founders liked checks and balances on everyone, including the "People". Direct democracy, as in binding referendums, which I gather the Brexit vote was not, was not their favorite deal, especially if it was put up by women, slaves, and Injuns, definite mix changers.

I mean, front-room deals can be just as bad as back-room deals.

If there was a binding referendum that we must wear our underpants backwards and on the outside of our pants, with our holsters on the outside of THAT, I doubt we'd conclude democracy was functioning properly.

But both sides do it. I, for example want all of us to wear our underpants over our heads.

HSH--good link.

What mck said. Good article.

Mine or Matt Taibbi's? I used the wrong indefinite article in my comment. ;^)

the exit is the biggest Rorschach test American punditry has ever seen.

Another take.

Bobby, thanks for the link. I treasure this line:
The Welsh have a word for this feeling. The word is "hiraeth". It means a longing for a home you can never return to, a home which may never have existed at all. [emphasis added]

Ah, the mythic past that never was. Sounds so familiar from American political blathering.

"Not on a day when we’re being congratulated by Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, and nobody else."

Libertarians, on the whole, think the exit was a good idea. But, I guess, that comes under the heading of "nobody else." :)

I don't usually read Greenwald, but

Matt Taibbi agrees with me much more often than not. And Ken Rogoff is not a paragon of wisdom in my book. Still, I think Taibbi was a bit unfair to Rogoff's op-ed, which I cited more or less approvingly earlier in this thread. Taibbi:

If you think there's ever such a thing as "too much democracy," you probably never believed in it in the first place.
I don't know where Matt stands on guns or taxes, but if he equates democracy with one-time plurality-wins popular referenda then he presumably would accept a ban on private firearms or a return to Eisenhower-level marginal rates on a "democratic" basis.


I don't usually read Greenwald, but... I really messed up that link.

Sigh. Enjoy.

I like Taibbi as a top writer at Rolling Stone.

I'll refer to Laurie Penny henceforth as Madame Prime Minister.

Facts? Who needs facts when we have all this data!

Another morsel for thought.

Yes bobbyp, traditional conservatives, liberals, and libertarians (whatever those are; I suspect they would have promised Brexit fans that they would have abolished the NHS too for a double kick in the nuts to the elderly retirees on pensions who voted for the break) should take no comfort in the fact that the revanchist movements, with fascist, racist, nationalist elements swept along, gaining ascendancy in Europe, in America with Trump, and in other parts of the world (I would argue Putin's Russia was the first to dial it back for something else) is a colossal reaction, long simmering, against the Reagan/Thatcher revolutions and the continuance and development of those policies under succeeding governments, both conservative, liberal, and moderate.

Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, and in many ways, Barack Obama have carried on largely conservative policies originated by Reagan and Thatcher, of course only to be savaged by disgraceful, dangerous elements far to the right of both Reagan and Thatcher, for their trouble.

If I were China, India and other major world powers recently escaping from their feudal bondage, I'd be ramping up their nuclear deterrents and aiming the weapons our way.

As a rule, people resent being saved from themselves. And if you think depriving people of their right to make mistakes makes sense, you probably never had respect for their right to make decisions at all.

From HSH's link.

I have no wish to deprive anybody of their right to vote as they wish, or make whatever decisions they care to make for themselves.

But I think Tabibi's formulation here elides some important things.

The folks who voted to leave the EU weren't just "making mistakes" for themselves. To the degree that they were making mistakes - casting regrettable votes out of sense of resentment and pique - they were making mistakes that had consequences for everybody around them.

To the degree that the (R) primary voters who coughed up Donald J Trump were doing so to flip the bird to the "elites", they were also flipping the bird to all of the people who rely on, and benefit from, the institutions that the "elites" operate.

In many cases, they were flipping the bird to themselves.

I have no use for people like Sullivan, with his endless f***king Burkean Tory bleating about Those Who Deserve To Rule. Nor for his American equivalents, who are actually fairly numerous.

That said, I also have little use for folks who piss on the institutions of public life because they think some swanky dude on some coast or other is looking down on them.

Use your head, that's all I ask.

Participation in public life is a right, and it's also a responsibility. I'm not interested in taking anybody's rights away. I am interested in people not using the institutions of public life to indulge their stupid bone-ignorant reactionary impulses.

By all means, go ahead and vote. But for the love of god, kindly break into your piggy bank and go buy a freaking clue beforehand.

It ain't much to ask.

Shorter me:

My grandmother used to have a cocker spaniel that would crap on the living room rug if it thought it wasn't getting enough attention.

The point was eloquently made. But then somebody had to come and clean up the sh*t.


But there's one difference. The spaniel didn't have to worry about being the one to do the cleanup. The Brexit voters may not have realized it, but they are not similarly immune.

also - thanks Sebastian for an excellent post. It is, as your work always is, thoughtful, candid, and even-handed. Impassioned in the best way.

It's great to have you back on the front page.

The point was eloquently made. But then somebody had to come and clean up the sh*t.

see also: liberal eye rolling at the whole "BernItDown" thing.

but our leaders need to realize their fault for abandoning too many people.

in every society , there's a large and thriving industry devoted to convincing people that "the establishment" is the cause of their problems. for every situation you find yourself in, if you try hard enough, you can identify a "system" that's keeping you down.

that's how "leaders" get their jobs, after all: telling people that the current leaders are the cause of all their problems, that the establishment is the problem and that they will tear it down and replace it with a system that listens to The People. it's the oldest political play in the book.

Labour's two tribes going to war...



Down with the man, up with people.

I think however, this cogent statement by Sebastian up thread bears repeating:

"Another theme I return to often is the spending of social capital. The financial world has been drawing on deep reserves of tribal capital in their constant invocation of the idea that their countries should engage in short term sacrifice for long term reward. The problem is that if you ask the community to sacrifice you have to understand that the community expects to share in the reward.

The global elite have intentionally undermined the idea that they have anything to do with the masses of their countries. But they aren't very happy when any large portion of those masses finally agree with them and suggest that they can't draw on the mutual social capital without paying back into it from time to time."

So, the attitude is understandable and aimed at a bipartisan elite.

Those demagogues appointed, by themselves mostly, to lead the charge leave much to be desired (he said with uncommon restraint).

Trump obviously. The man who just renewed his call for more torture after this latest Turkish airport outrage. Right. He ought to run for leader of Turkey where torture in prisons and against groups deemed enemies by the Turkish government is already in situ and ongoing.

The f*ck. The murderer. The thug elitist.

And Sanders has become so enamored of himself after his success and the adulation poured his way in the primary that he's beginning to take on all the trappings of the elite himself.

Along with bitterness and intransigence.

To wit:


often it seems like the counter to the 'establishment' and 'the man' is unhinged delusions and knee-jerk contrarianism where people assume any information that they can't personally understand is suspect. and then we get anti-vaxxers, 9/11 Truthers, creationists, and people who love Trump because he indulges their unhinged nonsense.

Trump's tribal warriors will be on hand in Cleveland.

I don't think BB guns are going to be the problem.

Here's hoping the Cleveland police use the same judgement and restraint on these hopeless Trump romantics, of the same tribe that murdered British MP Jo Cox, that they used on Tamir Rice.



Often it seems like defense of the 'establishment' and 'the man' is baseless platitudes and knee-jerk ad hominems where people assume any idea threatening their comfortable status quo is suspect. And then we get trickle-down economics, High Broderism, neoconservatism, and people who love Clinton because she indulges their patronizing conviction that their critics are ignorant, ungrateful children speaking out of turn.

(Which is obviously to say that weaselly dismissive generalizations may be satisfying to make, but they don't contribute anything useful - let alone insightful - to the conversation.)

Countme-in: Poles. Lol.

And thanks for that, HSH.

Hannan's defense to the motivations many assign to the leave campaign:

I can't put my finger on the polls he references on Democracy being the #1 concern. Important, IMO, if true.

perhaps i wasn't actually referring to you, NV. perhaps i was talking about the people i actually mentioned.

it's the oldest political play in the book.

Gosh. People arguing over Who Gets The Stuff....why, the pure effrontery of it!


Perhaps, cleek. And perhaps the "advantage" of adopting that sort of tone is that it's entirely ambiguous who - if anyone - you're referring to - or not referring to.

This seems apropos:

"The Remain camp should have made a positive case for Britain’s EU membership. Instead, it focused the campaign on the negatives of Brexit."

bobbyp: Since next to no one else commented on your link, I, too, rarely read GG - but I do appreciate your posting that even if I myself had demurred at the prospect of doing so (strong temptation notwithstanding).

it's entirely ambiguous who - if anyone - you're referring to

and then we get anti-vaxxers, 9/11 Truthers, creationists, and people who love Trump because he indulges their unhinged nonsense.

such ambiguity. much confusion.

I have rarely read GG myself but fairly deep in his article(thanks bobbyp):

More importantly still — and directly contrary to what establishment liberals love to claim in order to demonize all who reject their authority — economic suffering and xenophobia/racism are not mutually exclusive. The opposite is true: The former fuels the latter, as sustained economic misery makes people more receptive to tribalistic scapegoating. That’s precisely why plutocratic policies that deprive huge portions of the population of basic opportunity and hope are so dangerous. Claiming that supporters of Brexit or Trump or Corbyn or Sanders or anti-establishment European parties on the left and right are motivated only by hatred but not genuine economic suffering and political oppression is a transparent tactic for exonerating status quo institutions and evading responsibility for doing anything about their core corruption.

However an equally powerful statement in The Atlantic:

In March, a Trump supporter told The New York Times, “I want to see Trump go up there and do damage to the Republican Party.” Another said, “We know who Donald Trump is, and we’re going to use Donald Trump to either take over the G.O.P. or blow it up.” That kind of anti-establishment nihilism deserves no respect or accommodation in American public life. Populism, individualism, and a skeptical attitude toward politics are all healthy up to a point, but America has passed that point. Political professionals and parties have many shortcomings to answer for—including, primarily on the Republican side, their self-mutilating embrace of anti-establishment rhetoric—but relentlessly bashing them is no solution. You haven’t heard anyone say this, but it’s time someone did: Our most pressing political problem today is that the country abandoned the establishment, not the other way around.

As the article covers, we have taken away all of the tools that allowed the professional political class to govern effectively in a way that was responsive to the needs of the nation, and replaced them with the kind of disdain usually reserved for teachers. We then wonder why each election cycle gets more angry at Washington, it is not confusing. We ensured the political system would fail and those left trying to figure out a way to make it work defend themselves in the only way they know.

Greenwald doesn't know what he is talking about, he is making stuff up as he goes along:

establishment political and media elites in the U.K. were vehemently united against Brexit, but their decreed wisdom was ignored, even scorned.

This is simply false.

Generally speaking, I find it rather annoying how many non-British commentators use the Brexit to suit their own political purposes while displaying little knowledge of the, admittedly very complex, reality of the UK.

Two good pieces to add to Laurie Penny:



We ensured the political system would fail and those left trying to figure out a way to make it work defend themselves in the only way they know.

Before I make the expected acerbic comment, I'd say that I agree a lot more with the Atlantic article (and therefore with Marty) than GG.

But I have to ask "Who do you mean we, kemosabe?' :)

lj, I think it's a very general we. We all wanted some form of campaign reform at different times, different levels of spending controls, limitations on perceived corruption and, finally, pork barrel. I never understood McCain and others focus on that, it is what created common ground for negotiations in lots of cases.

Our governmental institutions' are transactional by design. I don't necessarily like the design but they are designed to create incentives by district, state etc.

One of our challenges is that the constant renegotiation of the next bill creates a lack of trust over time. We have seen that anything agreed to today is just the baseline for the next negotiation. Which seemed to work fine as long as everybody got something. Now, in most cases, there isn't the pork that it took to get Nebraska on board with the ACA the right thing to available to create an incentive for compromise.

So, we, the almost universal "we" politically, have crippled our system because we didn't understand, or like, how compromise was created, or managed.

[add acerbic comment here]

I didn't like the Atlantic article. There is some truth to it--we do need people willing to compromise in DC, on the left and the right. Maybe pork barrel projects are a good idea p, part of the necessary lubrication needed to make the system work.

What I didn't like was the all-encompassing nature of his explanation, where he gets to pose, yes, as a very serious person opposed to the sociopaths. He's ignoring why the mainstream has been so discredited--first there was the Iraq War, which was a bipartisan endeavor and then there was the financial collapse whose causes again were bipartisan in nature. There is a justified sense in many of us that there are morally repugnant elites ( a term I first read about in connection with Haiti) in the US who are never accountable for anything no matter how much harm they cause. I can feel this way without wanting to vote for Trump and in my case I will still support the lesser evil (Clinton) in November. But Rauch, it seems to me, is pushing his own ideology by demonizing his opponents. One giveaway is his support for the Grand Bargain which failed in 2011. The usual claim by Obama supporters that I've seen is that Obama himself didn't want that bargain and only offered it because he knew the Republicans would reject it. Then Obama would look good to people like Rauch. I want Washington to work, but no, I don't want bipartisan support for insane wars or financial deregulation that nearly destroys the economy or Grand Bargains that further increase inequality in this country.

Put another way, I think Rauch's Atlantic piece was an oversimplified fairy tale masquerading as sophisticated analysis. Not everything was false, but the rhetorical effectiveness of it depended a lot on name-calling and cherrypicking of facts.

... and, finally, pork barrel. I never understood McCain and others focus on that...

Marty, I think the focus on pork barrel spending came from the view that government was spending way too much money. And pork barrel spending, almost by definition, benefits one specific Congressman's constituents . . . and, therefore, doesn't benefit (directly) the rest of the country. Which makes attacking it easy. (Bridge To Nowhere projects make it even easier, since there isn't any visible benefit even to most of the people in that one district.)

So if you can't cut programs which are widely popular (much as you would like to), because they provide benefits to lots of people, you cut those which are narrowly focused. And "pork barrel" makes such a great label -- and after all, nobody allows themselves to think that the "Federal money" going to stuff in their area is "pork barrel."

wj, I understand all that, it just seems really shortsighted for a pretty senior Senator, or Senators, to publish a list of reasonably small money projects each year to try to kill something he had to know was valuable until they created enough pressure to have the Congress take action.

Did he think it got him a meaningful number of votes in the next election?

1. Our elites have taken us down the wrong path, economically and socially.
2. White racism was a key component assisting and validating the power of these elites.
3. Therefore? Blame for these policy failures can and should be placed at the feet of a racist white working class? Opinions vary.
4. The white working class now stands in (some kind of) opposition due to the elite's inability to deliver the goods.
5. What a surprise.

Acerbic comments welcome :)

I'd guess (and it is only that) that he thought it would help burnish his credentials as someone who fought "big government" and "government waste." Whether that was to gain votes, or just to avoid losing some, I don't know.

Those projects may be sub-microscopic compared to the whole Federal budget. But it can look pretty big to someone for whom the price tag is several times his annual income.

1) yup
2) arguable, at best. Especially in the last couple of generations about in most regions of the country.
3) only to the extent that, for some of them, racism was what moved them to keep voting for those who were pushing policies which were not in their (economic) interest.
4) Lots of people, white or not, working class or not, are unhappy with where we've gotten to. That's behind a lot of the popularity of both Trump and Sanders -- whose supporters otherwise have rather little in common.
5) "...but you can't fool all of the people all of the time." The scam has had a good run; nearly four decades by my count. But eventually it becomes really hard to avoid noticing that the emperor has no clothes.

Not sure I have achieved acerbic. But not for lack of trying.

But I have to ask "Who do you mean we, kemosabe?' :)

For the life of me, I can't think who.

Marty wrote:

"As the article covers, we have taken away all of the tools that allowed the professional political class to govern effectively in a way that was responsive to the needs of the nation, and replaced them with the kind of disdain usually reserved for teachers."

As a former Federal employee, I and my mates in government join with teachers in wanting the disdain formerly reserved for all of us, without exception, back, in full. I mean, what was the point in making the reservations for the disdain in the first place if the conservative movement was going to make us share it with the entire scientific profession, feminazis, unarmed blacks, wetbacks, immigrants, innocent Muslim Americans, anyone working to gain any expertise whatsoever, the poor, the indigent, the unemployed, the medically uninsured, the so-called politically correct, our higher education system, anyone who attempts to govern and well, the list, it grows daily.

The disdained class, unlike the middle class, is booming.

Again, I can't think who engineered, organized, wurlitzered, bought and paid for, nurtured, encouraged and propagandized all of this disdain over time.

It's reached a crescendo of Wagnerian intensity.

Even many of the professional disdainful disdainers are now cast among the disdained by the Trump movement.

How do ya like them apples? I know the previously disdainful find it uncomfortable to now be among the disdained and are now shocked ... shocked I tell you .. over the disdain the new fascism is aiming their way, but fear not, at some point gunfire will be aimed your way too like it has at been at government employees and teachers and their public school students at various times in the past.

Here's a little disdain for ya:


The revenge will be Comanche in severity. Mr Carr will be found buried up to his neck naked and his head cheese will be fed upon by terror ants and then his skull will play a prominent part in Comanche croquet.

His women and children will be liberated and raised as Comanche, and it will probably be a relief to them.

It's all tribal now until one or the other tribe is dead.

Any other conclusion would be politically correct.

"replaced them with the kind of disdain usually reserved for teachers. "

OT, maybe (or maybe not) but this made me really sad.

I can't think who seeks to preserve this country's most treasonous and seditious symbol, the symbol of national dissolution, the symbol of the authors of the deadliest terrorist war on American soil, the flag embodying America's original sin - slavery - and its f*cking racist tradition right down to this day -- the symbol under which the murder of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King and the ruination of hundreds of millions of lives over the past century and half has been carried out, all to deny, belittle, and hold up top disdain the effective governance that might save a few more lives of the unborn (let's not forget the born too, those chumps) by combating the Zika Virus.


Hmmm, kemosabe.

Well, if you celebrate ignorance, you can hardly do anything else but distain teachers. (Although I suppose you could argue about which way causality runs....)

Not sure I have achieved acerbic...

Not. Even. Close.

We appear to agree on 1 & 5. We are at loggerheads on 2 & 3. #4 is a toss-up.

On to the tie breaker.

"I'll take Silent Majority, those nine terrifying words, "there is no society", and "fool me twice" for a thousand, Alex.

For quotes and thoughts, I spent a lot of time reflecting on the places we have, variously we, have started chipping away at the Constitution. The latest being the lack of due process around the no fly list in general. I was reminded that every coup starts with someone "suspending" the constitution, and declaring martial law, then disbanding the legislature. All of which I could see seeming ok to way too many Americans.

Whoops, too late! Britain's Parliament already suspended the U.S. Constitution.


See the embedded video therein.

Actually, I think the Presidency was declared defunct by the Senate and House in 2010.

I agree the no-fly list is problematic.

al Qaeda won that one.

Plus they convinced us to keep military weaponry in the hands of the citizenry so we can help them help us kill each other in mass shootings.

Marty, the KKK is giddy over what you fear about the Constitution:


I spotted this in the article:

"Most Klan groups I talk to could hold a meeting in the bathroom in McDonald's," said Chris Barker, imperial wizard of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Eden, North Carolina. As for his Klavern, he said, "Right now, I'm close to 3,800 members in my group alone."

Which made think of this too:


I'm trying to imagine walking into that bathroom that is clotted with Klansmen AND Laura Ingraham in, robes, hoods, AND diapers, with Ingraham trying to apply her lipstick through the eyeholes in her hood at the mirror, while Dinesh D'Souza is making a stink about something or other in the far stall without actually showing his Brahmin elitist church lady blackface to the assembled menagerie.

Probably best just to roll a grenade through the door of the bathroom, placing one of those yellow plastic "bathroom being cleaned" sawhorse barriers in front of the door, and head over to check out what the spooky Burger King is up to.

The comments to this entry are closed.