The Adverts were part of the initial wave of British punk, part of the same scene as The Sex Pistols, The Clash, Buzzcocks, etc. They’re not as well-known and as a result they’re definitely underappreciated. The Great British Mistake is one of their best songs, and though the title is good for a laugh in our present context, keep in mind this was written in 1977:

The great British mistake was looking for a way out,
Was getting complacent, not noticing
The pulse was racing.
The mistake was fighting.
The change, was staying the same.
It couldn’t adapt so it couldn’t survive,
Something had to give.
The people take a downhill slide into the gloom.
Into the darn recesses of their minds. […]

String out the drip-feed, they’re losing their world,
They’re losing their hard boys and magazine girls.
Advert illegal, T.V. as outlaw, motive as spell.
They’ll see the books burn. They’ll be 451,
It’s people against things and not against each other.
Out of the pre-pack, into the fear, into themselves.
They’re the great British mistake.
The genie’s out of the bottle, call in the magician.
They didn’t mean to free him, devil behind them,
devil in the mirror, chained to their right hands.
They’re the great British mistake.
They’ll have to come to terms now, they’ll take it out somehow.
They’ll blame it all on something.
The British mistake – when will it be over?
How can they avoid it?

And the punchline:

A little over nine months after British voters chose to withdraw from the European Union, Britain took a decisive — and likely irreversible — step Wednesday toward ending a partnership that has bound the country to the continent for nearly half a century.

With the simple handoff of a letter in Brussels, the British government became the first to trigger Article 50 — the mechanism for nations to exit the European Union.

“This is a historic moment from which there can be no turning back,” Prime Minister Theresa May announced to a momentarily hushed House of Commons, before debate later turned rowdy.

The one thing I don’t get is why the vast majority of Labour members voted for Brexit even though only 1/3 of their party did (and at least some of that was probably motivated by hatred of long-forgotten ex-PM David Cameron). Given how close the numbers were, you’d think the stronger position would be to avoid any involvement in the Article 50 process on the entirely reasonable basis that if it blows up and harms Britain, that harm would not have their fingerprints on it. Is there a stupider political argument than “this should be above politics”? I don’t think so, and yet they seemed to fall for it. Given how the polls have gone, they seem to have lost both leavers to the Tories and remainers to the Liberal Democrats, leading to hilariously poor polling that makes it not impossible the party is in a death spiral.

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I’ll have a nice long post next week with my take on the dynamics of all this budget/shutdown/debt ceiling business (contain yourselves), but one thing that I think I need to make clear is that Trump cannot just get “some Democrats” to sign off on something the same way that Dubya did. The Blue Dogs of that era simply do not exist anymore: for one thing there are fewer of them in absolute numbers, and the ones that remain have profoundly different incentive structures than the personally popular red-district Democrats with tons of seniority who stayed in office by bringing home the bacon, as they say. Your John Tanners and Jim Marshalls, in other words. The incentives for them to cut deals with Bush were overwhelming: nobody to the left of them could be elected in their districts and their positions depended on a steady stream of goodies to tout, which Bush was happy to provide in exchange for votes on his bills. (This absolutely infuriated liberals, by the way. The epithet I remember was “Bush Dogs,” which was almost clever.) Making ideological waves was not going to help them at all. Getting new high school football stadiums or what have you, however, would. You still see this sort of politics in some places, like Alaska, though in that case it’s Republicans that benefit. But it’s mostly dead, the casualty of the 2010 midterms and subsequent redistricting most directly, but in a larger sense, the real killer was partisan sorting. People are less and less willing to put up with representatives whose politics they don’t like because they bring home the bacon. Aside from maybe just Joe Manchin, Democrats have little incentive to work with Trump, unless they’re simply vain and stupid. Even the red state ones will rely on liberal Dems in their states to turn out in 2018. Manchin is the exception here given how his state has changed since his last election, I really wonder how that math will work out for him. But even Sens. Heitkamp of North Dakota and Donnelly of Indiana have been more inclined to fight Trump than to placate him. I doubt that House Dems will be much different.

Think about someone like Jim Cooper, a Democrat representing a safe D district (Nashville, in this case) in a red state who is a bit to the right of most Democrats. He mostly keeps his jobs because he’s a talented politician, but he’s always susceptible to primary challenges because Nashville a Democratic city. The seat is one of two in Tennessee that Democrats win, the other being Memphis, which has a much more left-wing representative in Steve Cohen. Somebody to the left of Cooper could win the seat with no problem. (Come to think of it, that’s a race that Ashley Judd could actually win, as that’s where she lives.) Voting for a Trump budget that decimates programs popular with Democrats in order to secure a few goodies wouldn’t bolster Cooper, it would end his career. Trump is hated by Democrats everywhere. Cooper’s position doesn’t rest on bringing home the bacon, it rests on his being a Democrat. If he loses that credibility he’s done. So yes, Cooper is more conservative than Nancy Pelosi or John Conyers or Barbara Lee, but ultimately all of them represent safe seats and are all subject to the same pressures from a base that will not brook cooperation with Trump. Which means that this would be something less like Dubya’s domestic policy and something more like a grand bipartisan bill involving all Congressional leaders. Which would be a tough one to get by the Dem base and its activists like Indivisible, which are specifically built to resist stuff like this. More on that later.

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I honestly don’t understand why a non-zero number of American lefties are cheering for Angela Merkel to win another term as German Chancellor. I have to assume it’s because they’re conflating that election with the French election, where the alternatives are the soft, Russian-linked fascism of Le Pen and something mainstream (most likely Emanuel Macron). But in Germany the choice is between Merkel and center-left Martin Schulz. The soft fascist choice polls at about 12% and has been falling. It wasn’t long ago that the general consensus among the left blogosphere was that Merkel was a failure and probably a world-historically disastrous one, responsible for the failed and useless Greek tragedy, the obstinate face of counterproductive austerity politics, the stubborn foe of mending EU institutions, and so on. It’s possible that Schulz will be worse on those issues – his background is mainly as an EU bureaucrat – but his stances on them have been encouraging, and it’s possible that his knowledge of EU institutions could lead to some strengthening reforms. Plus, showing that the center-left can still win would be, you know, good.

It’s just really weird that American liberals got it into their minds that Merkel is the only hope for Western Civilization is all I’m saying. The nightmare scenario didn’t happen in the Netherlands and probably won’t in France either, and Trump’s already more hated than Obama ever was. Let’s just keep things in perspective.

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Perriello may actually win this. Yes, about half the Virginia Dem electorate is undecided, but Northam has a ton of establishment backing and he can’t even manage a modest lead in the early going. It’s not great that neither are terribly well-known, but it’s a much bigger problem for the guy who’s the second-highest ranking official in the state than it is for the guy who actually is running as an underdog. Perhaps this poll will shake things up a bit in terms of the establishment support, which it should. There’s no need to settle here. Perriello is someone who could conceivably be on a national ticket in three years, and who could help relaunch the party given Virginia’s proximity to DC. One of the many problems with the culture of the Democratic Party is that it doesn’t develop prospects like it used to, i.e. running men in their 60s and 70s for the Senate because they don’t have anybody younger who is promising. Perriello is someone who could be a prospect for Senate or the White House for some time to come if he wins. It seems like gross political malpractice to toss that aside, particularly since Northam doesn’t seem to really have a base or much public support.

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Atrios is correct when he argues that Trump could have had levels of popularity equivalent to what Obama enjoyed for most of his presidency, instead of already being below Obama’s worst period a mere two months in. I think it has much to do with Trump/Bannon being sentimentally attached to the image of being DISRUPTORS than anything else. People are more likely to adjust themselves to gradual change than a big bang, all at once type deal. That’s what all the executive orders were about, the cabinet nominations, the ACA repeal tactics. Fuck you, what you gonna do about it? As it turns out, quite a bit. Bullying can occasionally be effective but it does ultimately breed resistance. This is why the LBJ fetishism on the left doesn’t entirely make sense unless you ignore the brutal downfall that killed his career (and in short order the man himself). Or take Jim Wright, if you want another example–guy spent three decades working to become Speaker and lost it in less than three years because he bullied everyone so much, nobody defended him when he was in trouble. Trump could be substantially more popular if he’d just given Democrats a couple of reasons to think he wouldn’t be as bad as they feared. Instead, he’s united the opposition and divided his own party, which is a pretty ironclad sign of shitty leadership, whether it’s on the left (e.g. Jeremy Corbyn in the UK) or right.

This is why the numerous press narratives about how Trump was some sort of little-loved pariah in his party never really washed. He was merely responding to what Republicans demanded of their leaders. No compromises, get on board or get off, grind the liberals and RINOs into the dirt. If it takes tanking the economy, shutting down the government, breaching the debt ceiling, so what? In other words, they liked Dubya as The Decider, not as the guy hashing out No Child Left Behind. Of course, the times when Bush was a my-way-or-the-highway type were the ones where he fell flat on his ass (Social Security privatization, Iraq), while the times when he maneuvered tended to be more successful. NCLB is a pretty terrible example (though it was plenty bipartisan), but overall, he did manage to keep Democrats off balance for four years and essentially owned the media for the length of that time as well. I never thought Bush was the worst president ever (bottom ten for sure but Andrew Johnson and that string of Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan are really hard to beat), but Trump has a real chance of getting down there.

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As horrible and stupid as the Trump Administration is and will be on Obama’s progressive regulatory efforts, the reason why many have been so easy to roll back is because they were issued so late in his presidency. And the reason for that was because after the 2010 midterms he hired fifth-rate corporatist Democrat hacks to run the show, people who made “all of the above” the party line on energy for a time and tried to bond with Republicans on hating regulation (and also advised Obama to pursue a “grand bargain” that led to the debt ceiling showdown and one of the dumbest, worst, one-sided budget giveaways of all time against the near-fanatical opposition of noted socialist left-wing nutjob Tim Geithner, but we’ve gone over that enough). They all but shut down the regulatory system for some reason in the run-up to the 2012 election (as if that was going to win over Romney supporters), which among other things helped bollix the Affordable Care Act website launch. Had Obama released the Clean Power Plan in 2011 it would like Obamacare have just vanished into the ether and become the new status quo years before. But no. Apparently they still thought there were coal country voters to win, just like they still thought Wall Street was going to back them again. Why? Because these guys were on the motherfucking cutting edge.

So while the Trump Administration’s energy policy is a triumph of stupidity and cupidity, it’s also fallout from strategies pursued by David Plouffe and Bill Daley, hired by Obama in a pointless homage to Bill Clinton’s triangulation that backfired. Triangulation was a reasonable strategy for keeping Bill Clinton popular, it was a terrible strategy for the long-term health of the Democratic Party, but regardless of all that, it wasn’t a strategy of any sort for Obama because Republicans during his era weren’t making deals. And yes, Obama did get better after all that, though never fully (Merrick Garland was a last earnest olive branch to Senate Republicans), and to a large degree you can’t un-bake the cake. Sure, no high-profile websites were known to break down completely after the ACA’s did, but the GOP still used it to quickly turn the page on its shutdown disaster and grab a generic ballot lead that it never lost. The Senate in retrospect was doomed in 2014 but just doing a little bit better – losing 6 seats instead of 9 – would have given us the Senate now.

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There’s an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine called “Progress,” the main plot of which is that Kira, a former terrorist/resistance fighter turned military official, has a hard time conducting a forced evacuation of an old man because the situation reminds her of the past injustices she fought, to the point of putting the mission and her career in jeopardy. I think this helps to explain why the Trump/Bannon operation is so inept. Bannon in particular made his career as an enforcer of ideological purity, resisting if you will. But now he’s using the same sorts of tactics to try to govern and it just doesn’t work. You can threaten to create a “shit list” as a Breitbart editor and have that be effective as your job is to pressure people to your line, but it doesn’t work now because even if you get burned by these guys on one bill, you can’t afford to alienate them because you may need them next time. This is especially true since Trump’s done no outreach at all to Democrats. With almost no Blue Dogs left to play against recalcitrant Republicans (as Dubya so often did) and opposition leaders with no reason to spot him one, intraparty rifts are especially treacherous for these dudes. But that seems to be what they’re aiming for, some great clarifying battle to cleanse the GOP of the non-Trumpians. If Trump/Bannon were even remotely aware of how political power works, they’d just forgive the saboteurs in their party and move on to the next thing, and then a year from now maybe a bridge or a medical research center in Mark Meadows’s district gets mysteriously deleted from the budget. After all, it’s just business, not personal, and they’re taking it very personally.

The Star Trek episode ends all right for Kira but I doubt the real life equivalent will. Trump/Bannon are little more than bombthrowers capable of causing a lot of agita out of office, but issuing unenforceable “orders” and making threats about seat losses that the people hearing know are bullshit just makes them look like idiots who don’t know what they’re doing, who don’t actually know what their members of Congress fear and thus don’t know how to manipulate that. Shocker, huh?

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If the House Freedom Caucus actually does kill TrumpCare, it will be because they are the superior con artists to Donald Trump.

Think about it. If they kill off the bill, sure, Republican leaders will be mad at them. But after spending eight years preaching purity above all else, those leaders will be in a terrible position to argue for the messy compromises with shitty people that governing is. Democrats didn’t like that eight years ago, but most accepted it. The Republican base won’t. It consists largely of rage babies who throw a tantrum when everything doesn’t go their way. Getting the GOP base to shift from “opposing everything” to “having a realistic view of governing” was not going to happen overnight. Parties can’t hide their true nature for long. To maximize partisan advantage purity was the watchword of the Obama Era. It can’t just be flushed away because it’s no longer convenient. Many lefties (myself included) figured it would be. But it hasn’t.

What’s more, the increased power of the Freedom Caucus should be mostly win for Democrats. Sure, there’s the possibility that they’ll decide to be more realistic about future fights, or that the House leadership will cater more to them and this will get much more horrible things passed. But frankly, they’ve not exactly seemed to be interested in being constructive parts of the process. Inconceivable as it might be, one wonders if they’ll balk at any tax numbers Ryan throws at them as being too low, oppose them and refuse to elaborate. And why not? If it’s not zero dollars in tax, it’s not pure enough. Didn’t they want to abolish the state? They’ll certainly find some sympathetic voices in conservative media. Most of the stuff they’d be killing is unpopular anyway, so they’d not face public backlash. And if Paul Ryan squawks they’ll hit him so bad he’ll shut up for good–maybe get him canned like Boehner. They’ve shown they can do it.

What’s genius about this con is its simplicity. The preferred policy agenda of the Freedom Caucus would not be popular. But there’s no reason to believe that Republicans care much about policy. By simply killing off insufficiently pure pieces of legislation, they could improve the power of hard right politics without having to actually implement it. The only real victims are Paul Ryan’s Randian dreams, and who else cares about those? George Orwell famously wrote about leftist parties being a con of sorts because if their agenda were fully implemented, they’d be obsolete. This is a mirror version of that. If their agenda were implemented, they’d be dead.

Ultimately, say what you like about them, they’re clever to operate while hedging their bets, and could well carry the entire agenda of the next two years on a stretcher while enhancing their own profile, exploiting the gaps of trust between the base and the party. If Donald Trump weren’t a fool, this is the sort of thing he’d be doing. He needs to learn from the masters.

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