Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 27, 2020
by Tony Wikrent
Strategic Political Economy
[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-21-20]
economy ideology, stupid:
Paul Waldman, December 21, 2020 [The American Prospect]
It exposed an impotent political system, a deadly mythology of rugged individualism, and a Republican Party without shame….
Our individualism is deadly. In no other country were the simple public-health measures necessary to contain the coronavirus so quickly and easily politicized. Trump bears much of the blame, but it didn’t take much for him to convince people that wearing masks is a terrible imposition on their freedom, and that it could be a worthwhile emblem of political identity. So many of us have spent our lives steeping in the ideology of “rugged individualism,” learning that any government edict is inherently repressive and making a personal sacrifice for the good of your neighbors, even a tiny one, makes you weak. No quantity of dead Americans has managed to dissuade so many of us from believing this.
Yep, it’s definitely the ideology, stupid:
"Neal Katyal and the Depravity of Big Law: The Democratic lawyer's sickening defense of corporate immunity in a Supreme Court case reveals a growing moral rot in the legal community.
Alex Pareene, December 8, 2020 [The New Republic, via Avedon’s Sideshow]
The United States has a political class that mistakes its professional norms for ethics. Mainstream political journalists mindlessly grant anonymity to professional liars. Elected officials put collegiality and institutional procedure over the needs and interests of their constituents. And as for lawyers, they have refined this tendency into what amounts to a religion of self-justification. [...] It is that mutated creed that explains why Neal Katyal went to the Supreme Court last Tuesday to argue that children enslaved to work on cocoa plantations should not be allowed to sue the corporations that abetted their enslavement.
Katyal is among the most prominent and decorated attorneys in the country. He is a Democrat who has been in and out of government since Bill Clinton’s second term. He returned to his private firm, Hogan Lovells, after serving as acting solicitor general for Barack Obama’s Justice Department. He is omnipresent on television and newspaper op-ed pages as a voice of “The Resistance” to Donald Trump. He is about as close as you could come to the embodiment of Big Law’s connection to the institutional Democratic Party.
And last week he argued that because the corporation that supplied Zyklon B to the Nazis for use in their extermination camps was not indicted at Nuremberg, Nestle and Cargill should not be held liable for their use of child slave labor. In his argument before the court, Katyal espoused a view of corporate immunity so expansive that even the conservative judges seemed skeptical. If you took him at his word, he was effectively asking the Supreme Court to make it impossible for any foreigner to sue any company for any harm done to them, up to and including kidnapping and enslavement….
The point is that the cases Katyal chooses to take, the arguments he chooses to make, even the firm he chooses to work for, all speak to his values. He cannot separate his politics, whatever he thinks they are, and whatever he wants everyone else to think they are, from his decision to defend Nestle against the threat of potential lawsuits from enslaved children. That is a statement about how one believes the world should be organized and on whose behalf the legal system should operate.
[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-21-20]
This is David Blight, Civil War scholar, and author of the biography of Frederic Douglass which won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for history:
[Washington Post 12-20-2020]
... based on interviews over the past month with 48 senior administration officials, government health professionals, outside presidential advisers and other people briefed on the inner workings of the federal response….
The catastrophe began with Trump’s initial refusal to take seriously the threat of a once-in-a-century pandemic. But, as officials detailed, it has been compounded over time by a host of damaging presidential traits — his skepticism of science, impatience with health restrictions, prioritization of personal politics over public safety, undisciplined communications, chaotic management style, indulgence of conspiracies, proclivity toward magical thinking, allowance of turf wars and flagrant disregard for the well-being of those around him.
“There isn’t a single light-switch moment where the government has screwed up and we’re going down the wrong path,” said Kyle McGowan, who resigned in August as chief of staff at the CDC under Redfield, the center’s director. “It was a series of multiple decisions that showed a lack of desire to listen to the actual scientists and also a lack of leadership in general, and that put us on this progression of where we’re at today.”….
A hallmark of the response has been the secrecy of some in the White House, including Meadows, whom other officials described as outright hostile in his denial of the virus and punitive toward colleagues who sought to follow public health guidelines or be transparent. As the virus spread wildly among White House staff this fall, Meadows sought to conceal some cases from becoming public — including, at first, his own — and instructed at least one fellow adviser who sought to disclose an infection not to. In addition, Meadows threatened to fire White House Medical Unit doctors, who fall below the chief of staff in the chain of command, if they helped release information about new infections, according to one official….
Kennedy said that Brad Smith, the director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation and a friend of Kushner, asked him and another volunteer to make a coronavirus model for 2020 that specifically projected a low casualty count. When Kennedy noted that he had no training in epidemiology and had never modeled a virus before, he recalled, Smith told him that it was just like making a financial model. The other models made by the health experts, Smith explained, were “too catastrophic.”
“‘They think 250,000 people could die and I want this model to show that fewer than 100,000 people will die in the worst-case scenario,’ ” Kennedy said Smith told him. “He gave us the numbers he wanted it to say.”
[The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 12-22-20]
[Pro Publica, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-22-20]
“As the [he Peoples Community Health Clinic] staff tended to the sick, a chilling pattern emerged: 99% of the patients either worked at the local Tyson Foods meatpacking plant or lived with someone who did. Some patients said they’d come from a town two hours away where an outbreak had shut down another Tyson plant… Meanwhile, a lawsuit would later allege, top Tyson managers in Waterloo were directing interpreters to downplay the threat of infection at the plant, while privately making winner-take-all bets on how many workers would test positive. (Seven managers were fired last week).”
[Pro Publica, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-22-20]
[Nature, via Naked Capitalism 12-21-20]
Hilda Bastian, “Absolutely Maybe,” [PLOS, via Naked Capitalism 12-21-20]
The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics
[The Intercept, December 20 2020]
Years of understaffing nurses and health care workers have consequences, experts say.
[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-23-20]
“The Justice Department’s lawsuit claims Walmart sought to boost profits by understaffing its pharmacies and pressuring employees to fill prescriptions quickly. That made it difficult for pharmacists to reject invalid prescriptions, enabling widespread drug abuse nationwide, the suit alleges. Walmart responded in a public filing Tuesday, saying the lawsuit ‘invents a legal theory that unlawfully forces pharmacists to come between patients and their doctors, and is riddled with factual inaccuracies and cherry-picked documents taken out of context.’ ‘Blaming pharmacists for not second-guessing the very doctors [the Drug Enforcement Administration] approved to prescribe opioids is a transparent attempt to shift blame from DEA’s well-documented failures in keeping bad doctors from prescribing opioids in the first place,’ Walmart said, adding that it ‘always empowered our pharmacists to refuse to fill problematic opioids prescriptions, and they refused to fill hundreds of thousands of such prescriptions.'”
Economic Armageddon: The COVID Collapsed Economy
Research Arm of Congress Confirms that Mnuchin Never Released Bulk of CARES Act Money Earmarked for Fed’s Emergency Loans
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, December 21, 2020 [Wall Street on Parade]
“Committing” money and actually turning the funds over to the Fed are very different things. For example, the Term Sheet for the Municipal Liquidity Facility indicates that the Treasury had committed $35 billion to that emergency lending facility. But the Fed’s H.4.1 that was released on December 17 shows that the Fed had only received half of that amount, $17.5 billion. The same thing occurred with the Fed’s Primary and Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facilities. The term sheet indicated that the Treasury would be providing a total of $75 billion combined to the two facilities. But the Fed’s H.4.1 has indicated for months that all it received from Treasury was exactly half that amount for the two facilities, $37.5 billion. (See footnote 14 to Table 1 of the H.4.1.)
Mnuchin was able to delude the public with the idea that the Fed has just been sitting on over $400 billion of Treasury’s money, so it was time for Mnuchin to claw it back and kill the programs, because that information was inaccurately reported by mainstream media.
Health care crises
[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 12-22-20]
Progressive Policies into the Breach
The seven-point platform is both a fundamental and ambitious list, ranging from specific policies to broad, aspirational goals:
- COVID-19 relief that “meets the scale of the crisis” and directly addresses the pandemic’s disproportionate harm to Black, Indigenous, people of color and “other vulnerable communities”;
- Programs to put people back to work, with a focus on moving the economy to clean, renewable energy—but also restoring and expanding worker rights, including union rights;
- Ensuring health care for all;
- Defending and expanding voting rights—including proposals to end gerrymandering and rein in corporate money in electoral campaigns;
- Attacking institutional racism and white supremacy;
- Turning away from militarism and “endless wars” in favor of a commitment to peaceful diplomacy;
- Rejecting corporate greed and ending corporate monopoly.
Climate and environmental crises
[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 12-20-20]
Corporations are working with the Nature Conservancy, the world’s largest environmental group, to employ far-fetched logic to help absolve them of their climate sins. By taking credit for saving well-protected land, these companies are reducing nowhere near the pollution that they claim. This is how the world’s biggest environmental group became a dealer of meaningless carbon offsets.
[E&E News, via The Big Picture 12-20-20]
Scientists at two of America’s biggest automakers knew as early as the 1960s that car emissions caused climate change, a monthslong investigation by E&E News has found. The discoveries by General Motors and Ford Motor Co. preceded decades of political lobbying by the two car giants that undermined global attempts to reduce emissions while stalling U.S. efforts to make vehicles cleaner.
Creating new economic potential - science and technology
[Science, via Naked Capitalism 12-22-20]
[Scientific American, via Naked Capitalism 12-24-20]
Disrupting mainstream economics
[Mike Norman Economics, December 21, 2020]
Yesterday, I discussed the results of recent research that demonstrated the ‘trickle down’ hypothesis, which has been used to justify the sequence of tax cuts for high income recipients, was without any empirical foundation. While mainstream economists have been enchanted with that hypothesis, heterodox (including Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) economists have never considered it had any validity – neither theoretical nor empirical. But it is good that mainstream researchers are now ratifying that long-held view. Today, I am discussing another case of the mainstream catching up. When I say catching up, the implications of these new empirical studies are devastating for key propositions that the mainstream macroeconomists maintain. The ECB Working Paper series published an interesting paper (No. 2509) yesterday (December 21, 2020) by an Italian economist from the Bank of Italy – Losers amongst the losers: the welfare effects of the Great Recession across cohorts. In brief, the research found that younger people bear disproportionate burdens during recession in the short-run, but also, face diminished prospects over the longer-term. The paper bears on some of the major fictions that have been propagated to disabuse governments of using fiscal deficits to smooth out the economic cycle – namely, the alleged burden that is created by the current generation’s excesses (the deficit) for their children and grandchildren (who according to the narrative have to pay back the debt incurred by the excesses). This is another case of evidence being produced that ratify the analysis that MMT economists have been advancing for the last 25 years
[Mike Norman Economics, December 23, 2020]
Economics has traditionally been about scarcity. But now we have one part of the economy where scarcity remains dominant, and another, growing part, where it has just about disappeared. That raises a lot of different issues.
First, while we are accustomed to think of things like economic growth and inflation rates as objective facts, they are actually based on index numbers, which are the products of theoretical models. Those models don’t work well when an increasing part of the economy consists of information services that are becoming radically cheaper all the time. As a result, much of the debate about the desirability or otherwise of growth is misconceived.
A positive implication is that we can anticipate improving standards of living, because of ever-increasing access to information services, without economic growth in the 20th century sense of steadily increasing throughput of materials and energy, and correspondingly increasing environmental damage.
A century ago, Thorstein Veblen explained how business management engages in sabotage of industrial processes precisely to maintain scarcity and support profit levels. But that is not discussed in the book review, below…
[Mike Norman Economics, December 27, 2020]
Short review of Veblen: The Making of an Economist Who Unmade Economics by Charles Camic. Worth reading if into the history of economics and economic thought.
The reviewer near the end writes ”I have read Theory of the Leisure Class, and found it almost unreadable.” So her understanding of Veblen is highly suspect. As Jon Larson is fond of pointing out, reading the first four or five pages of Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class (free texts) will teach you more about economics than most professional neoliberal economists know.
Disrupting mainstream politics
Progressive Caucus of the North Carolina Democratic Party
On Saturday, December 19, 2020, the Progressive Caucus of the North Carolina Democratic Party hosted a presentation by Elaine Berry, the campaign manager for Ricky Hurtado’s successful election in District 63 of the North Carolina House of Representatives. Hurtado is the first Latinx legislator elected to the North Carolina general assembly. And, he defeated a Republican incumbent, making this one of only two races that the Democratic Party was able to flip in the general assembly.
Yes, this is the Alamance County where protesters against vote suppression were pepper sprayed by police on the last day of early voting this year.
Berry’s presentation was via Zoom, and it was recorded, and is now available on YouTube here. The YouTube video is also embedded at the bottom of this story.
Elaine Berry is also chairman of the Alamance County Democratic Party. While she did not directly attack anyone in the North Carolina Democratic Party establishment, I do not think anyone can listen to her presentation, and not come away with a strong feeling that the state Party establishment really needs to be shaken up.
Alamance has been a solid Republican county since the 1980s, and I personally think a large reason why Democrats have suddenly become competitive in Alamance is because a bunch of new people have replaced the old guard.
I can give you one personal anecdote. About ten years ago, I was having dinner with a small group of activists, and we were discussing why the Democratic Party was not running someone against Republican fossil Howard Coble for the U.S. Congress Sixth District. Coble had been serving in that seat since 1985, and he was quite entrenched, but clearly it was time for him to retire. Fortified by a few bottles of inexpensive wine, we reached agreement that the then chair of the Alamance Democratic Party would be a great candidate. So, one of those present took out their cell phone and called her. When we told her we wanted her to run for US Congress against Coble, she explained to us that she would never think of it, never. Why? Because her father had been friends with Coble.
That little story actually tells you a lot, and accurately reflects how the state Democratic Party functions as a private club today, making it generally ineffective against the Republican seizure of power in North Carolina since 2010, and the destruction Republicans have caused with their power.
Berry explains that most Democratic campaigns failed because they are out of touch with their districts. The major campaign decisions are made in Raleigh, by the state Party, not in the district. People in the district just are not be asked what they want and what they need.
“A red district is not a blue district,” she says. “Too many decisions about candidates and campaigns are being made in Raleigh [the state capital], and they are being made by politicians with little knowledge of what it takes to win in a rural or red district.”
The Biden Transition and the Fight for Real Hope and Change This Time
David Sirota, December 22, 2020 [The Daily Poster]
Read that again, just so it sinks in: Biden endorsing an initiative to slash the stimulus bill in half “gave Democrats confidence to pull back on their demands” for a much more robust rescue package at a time when America faces rising food insecurity and poverty. His enthusiastic lauding of the final bill underscores the role he played.
“In November, the American people spoke clearly that now is a time for action and compromise,” Biden said in a statement. “I am heartened to see members of Congress heed that message, reach across the aisle, and work together. This is a model for the challenging work ahead for our nation.”
That last line of Biden’s statement is arguably the most disturbing foreshadow of all: He is depicting the process — which starved America for months and now skimps on benefits — as a terrific “model” for the future.
Notably, Biden’s austerity ideology was not aimed at the $671 billion military spending package that was tacked onto the COVID rescue bill, which also included billions for Trump’s Space Force and new weapons systems. Instead, austerity was targeted at the part of the omnibus legislation that was supposed to help people whose lives have been destroyed by the pandemic.
[The American Prospect 12-21-2020]
In a March 2020 article, The Biden Do Not Reappoint List, Robert Kuttner flagged 12 senior Clinton and Obama alums who were corporate Democrats, and became a sort of template for Prospect administrative transition coverage throughout the year. Of the 12 profiled, only one got a (second-tier) job.
[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism 12-24-20]
….in a conversation with a few columnists on Wednesday, Mr. Biden delivered a resounding declaration that the political center is alive and well, that he resides there, that he’s always been there, and that he’s going to govern from there. “I believe that [in] the country, in both parties, the center of gravity has moved to the center and center-left,” he said.
Moreover, Mr. Biden insisted that there are enough Republican lawmakers prepared to meet him in the middle that he can get things done in an evenly divided Congress where he won’t have the kinds of Democratic majorities some of his predecessors enjoyed.
“Part of it is that Republicans are beginning to realize that there is a center that has to be responded to,” he said.
For Republicans and conservatives, Mr. Biden is saying, in effect, that they are wrong when they claim he has been, or soon will be, captured by the most liberal elements of his Democratic Party.
And to the progressive wing of his own party, Mr. Biden is saying, essentially: Don’t forget that I won our party’s nomination, and then won the popular vote by seven million votes, by running as a candidate of the center, not as one of the left.
[The Media Manipulation Casebook, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-22-20]
The Dark Side
[Buzzfeed, via Naked Capitalism 12-22-20]
David Sirota and Matthew Cunningham-Cook [Newsweek, via Naked Capitalism 12-22-20]
[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-22-20]
“Across the United States, many areas with large populations of Latinos and residents of Asian descent, including ones with the highest numbers of immigrants, had something in common this election: a surge in turnout and a shift to the right, often a sizable one. The pattern was evident in big cities like Chicago and New York, in California and Florida, and along the Texas border with Mexico, according to a New York Times analysis of voting in 28,000 precincts in more than 20 cities…. Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress, said he worried before the election that Democrats’ focus on racial justice issues came at the expense of outreach about easing the lives of hard-pressed workers. ‘In general, it suggests that Democrats’ theory of the case — that their electoral problems were all about race rather than class — was incorrect,’ he said.” • That’s rich, because nobody worked harder than Teixeira to convert the Democrat party its base in the working class to a bundle of identity politics verticals — the so-called “coalition of the ascendant” that I [lambert preens] pilloried in back in February 2016.
Matt Taibbi, December 23, 2020
….an egotist and gluttonous devourer of inherited cash who made it all the way through the grad programs of the country’s finest schools unblemished by insight, reflection, or idealism. Impressively, he seemed even more immune to America’s civilizing institutions than George W. Bush….
Trump began his vengeance campaign with the easiest targets, Republicans. He asked a simple question during the 2016 primary: why was one of the two most powerful political parties in the country content to put its fate in the hands of a clear sub-mediocrity like Jeb Bush?
Trump pantsed Jeb and the rest as phony “leaders” who had no will of their own and whose real job was to be puppets of other interests who didn’t have to guts to show themselves. He then deployed the same strategy against Hillary Clinton, who walked into his trap by openly courting Bush’s donors and refusing to repudiate the Wall Street titans backing her.
Trump at best was a deeply flawed human being, and maybe a level or two down from that… but he was the only politician who bothered to prioritize talking directly to voters. Democrats like Clinton were obsessed with the transactional model of politics, which dictated that winning was mainly a matter of securing the right backers, the right endorsements, and the right message, written by the right consultants….
He more or less completely destroyed the old Republican Party in 2016, while the damage he did to Democrats was lasting in a different way. He forced them to abandon their pretensions to kumbaya liberalism and announce themselves as the elitist authoritarians they’d always been…. Trump’s pitch was, would you rather vote for an unrepentant pig like me, or someone who goes to Oxford to learn how to make selling you out to Johnson & Johnson or Lloyd Blankfein sound like it’s your idea? If you thought in these terms, the vulgarity gap suddenly didn’t look so pronounced….
[NPR, via The Big Picture 12-22-20]
At conferences, in op-eds and at agency meetings, domestic terrorism analysts are raising concern about the security implications of millions of conservatives buying into baseless right-wing claims. They say the line between mainstream and fringe is vanishing, with conspiracy-minded Republicans now marching alongside armed extremists at rallies across the country. Disparate factions on the right are coalescing into one side, analysts say, self-proclaimed "real Americans" who are cocooned in their own news outlets, their own social media networks and, ultimately, their own "truth."
….They added that there's no easy foil for a right-wing propaganda effort that amplifies fears and grievances on a nonstop loop. Those beliefs already have inspired political violence at protests over lockdowns and racial injustice. Political conspiracies drew thousands to last weekend's pro-Trump rally, after which the Proud Boys and other violent extremist groups wreaked havoc in downtown Washington, D.C.
"Breaking through that echo chamber is critical or else we'll see more violence," said Elizabeth Neumann, who in April resigned her post leading the Department of Homeland Security office that oversees responses to violent extremism.
"This tent that used to be sort of 'far-right extremists' has gotten a lot broader. To me, a former counterterrorism official, that's a radicalization process," said Mary McCord, a former federal prosecutor who oversaw terrorism cases and who's now a law professor at Georgetown University. “They hold views they didn’t hold 10 years ago because all they listen to is that conservative infotainment. Unless we help them break the deception, we cannot operate with 30% of the country holding the extreme views that they do.”
[via Avedon’s Sideshow]
A new Showtime docuseries reminds us of just how awful Ronald Reagan was and how his brand of demagogic racism became a model for Trump. [...] Memories, how they linger — from calling in the National Guard on peaceful student protesters in Berkeley as governor to breaking the Air Traffic Controllers' strike as president, to forcing disastrous tax cuts, massive military escalation, corporate deregulation, and 'trickle-down economics' upon us. There's even the story about how Reagan got the idea for the delusional and costly 'Star Wars' missile defense system from a ray gun he carried in one of his old B movies — it's all here! But some of the details that you probably forgot — or maybe never knew — will make you groan aloud in pain that this man was unleashed upon the country at such a pivotal moment. And that his legacy, sadly, is seen everywhere today."
Race to Control U.S. Senate: “Georgians for Kelly Loeffler” Campaign Committee Packed with NY and CA Trading Firm Billionaires
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, December 18, 2020 [Wall Street on Parade]
...the fate of the Biden administration, the fate of the nation, and the future of millions of Americans about to become homeless through foreclosures, evictions and their businesses shuttering as a result of the pandemic – thus creating lots of distressed real estate debt for hedge funds and Wall Street speculators to scoop up on the cheap – hangs on the outcome of two U.S. Senate races in Georgia slated for January 5.
Comments on Naked Capitalism sjh December 21, 2020 at 9:57 am
Handy chart this morning.
“Stimulus Relief Fund
Australia: $ 1,993. a month
Canada: $ 1,433. a month
Denmark: Up to $ 3,288. a month
France: Up to $ 7,575. a month
German: Up to $ 7,326.78 a month
Ireland: Up to $ 1,793.44 a month
UK: Up to $ 3,084. a month
US: $ 1,200. to last for 32 weeks”
Wukchumni December 21, 2020 at 10:18 am
Half a year, half a year,
Half a year onward,
All in the valley of debt
They spent the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns if you still have credit!” he said.
Into the valley of debt
They spent the six hundred.
Democratic Discord and Dissent
[The West Wing Thing, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-21-20]
Lambert Strether summarizes: Good discussion of the weekend’s dustup on the left, including but not limited to Jimmy Dore, David Sirota, and Briahna Joy Gray, staring at 24:03. Dave: “Dave’s really disappointed in all of his fellow leftists. People are reallly f*cking angry right now, and they should be. It’s justifiable. This is the time when countries fall. What we’re doing to our population is how governments are overthrown.”
[The American Prospect, via Avedon’s Sideshow]
If there was one Senate race that Democrats absolutely had to win, it was in North Carolina. Thom Tillis, the incumbent Republican, a Tea Partier and Trump diehard, sported a negative approval rating in his home state, per a July poll from High Point University, and was considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the nation. Outside of sure-thing victories in Colorado and Arizona, this was the highest-priority true flip in the country. It was well within reach; Democrats just had to be sure they didn't screw it up. That was the justification for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and Chuck Schumer intervening swiftly and decisively in the Democratic primary, plucking out of thin air an inoffensive moderate in Cal Cunningham who hadn't held public office since 2003. Schumer bestowed upon him significant financial and institutional support, and he used it to crush his primary opponent Erica Smith, a Black woman and rising star in the state Democratic Party, before the race really began. Smith, despite leading Cunningham in the polls at the time of endorsement, was not worth the risk of letting the voters decide. Cunningham boasted polling advantages over Tillis of better than ten points throughout the summer; he raised a mind-boggling $47 million, more than twice Tillis. But Cunningham stumbled to a disastrous defeat, a failure of his particular candidacy, and one that also featured elements of the party's struggles nationwide. Cunningham ran on his own character, then got popped for prodigious low-grade sexting. Tillis, who isn't even liked in the state (certainly not like Susan Collins is in Maine), put up a bigger margin of victory than Trump, blowing out Cunningham in rural districts and faring shockingly well with minority groups. 'North Carolina ranks number two in the nation in rural geography. In the last three election cycles in the state, Democrats have lost rural and first American [Native American] voters,' says Smith, who represents the state's rural Third District. 'The DSCC pattern of interfering in primaries and often elevating moderates at the expense of progressive people of color is disappointing and ultimately hurt us in multiple races across the nation in the 2020 cycle.'
Eric Foner, London Review of Books [Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-21-20]
“The divergent paths chosen by Brown and Lincoln illuminate a problem as old as civilisation itself – what is a person’s moral responsibility in the face of glaring injustice?… Today, Lincoln is widely revered, while many Americans, including some historians, consider Brown mad. Yet it was Brown’s strategy that brought slavery to an end. In a note written shortly before his death, Brown wrote: ‘The crimes of this guilty land will not be purged away but with blood.’ And Lincoln, the centrist politician, ended up presiding over slaughter on a scale neither he nor Brown could possibly have imagined. At his Second Inaugural, in March 1865, Lincoln embraced Brown’s penetrating insight that slavery was already a system of violence and so could not be eradicated peacefully. Echoing Brown, Lincoln explained the Civil War’s staggering death toll as divine retribution for two and a half centuries of ‘blood drawn by the lash’. He was reminding his listeners that violence in America did not begin when John Brown unsheathed his sword; it was embedded in slave society from the outset. And in the end, as Brands concludes, ‘Union arms, not Union arguments, overthrew slavery.'”