Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

In Nevada, Sanders’ Improvement in Vegas Delivers a Decisive Victory

Bernie Sanders has crushed the competition in Nevada. With 96% of precincts reporting, Sanders commands nearly 47% of the vote. He’s almost 27 points ahead of Joe Biden’s 20%. Pete Buttigieg is below 14% and Elizabeth Warren has slipped under 10%. In the last two states, I’ve drawn attention to shifts in Sanders’ popularity in cities, college towns, and the countryside. Sanders has delivered stronger performances in big cities, but has paid a price in the countryside. In college towns, the situation has varied, depending on the competitiveness of Warren. Does Nevada affect this narrative?

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Liberal Hypocrisies and the Alternatives to Them

All social orders are supported by “legitimation stories”. These are the reasons orders give us to support them, or at least to stay out of their way. Legitimation stories don’t have to be true, but they have to be persuasive. The social order has to create a set of conditions that are similar enough to the stories that we mistake what we have for what we were promised. Legitimation stories are chiefly about “good order”. Order is straightforward–social orders promise to protect us from violence, starvation, instability, and precarity. They promise to make us feel secure. “Good” is less obvious, because “good” tends to mean different things to different people in different contexts. Liberal legitimation stories understand “good” in three senses:

  1. A good order is one in which the subjects of the order are “free” or have “liberty” in some relevant sense.
  2. A good order is one in which the subjects of the order are treated as “equal” to one another in some relevant sense.
  3. A good order is one in which the order “represents” the subjects in some relevant way.
  4. A good order is “dynamic”, it is capable of delivering real change.

The trouble is that terms like “free”, “equal”, and “representative” don’t have stable social meanings. Our understandings of these terms can easily slide out of alignment with the understandings we need to have for legitimation stories to work. If we understand “equality” to mean “a fair distribution of resources” but the liberal order wants us to understand “equality” as “everyone gets to have their say”, the order has to convince us that we’ve misunderstood the meaning of equality. It has to get us to think about it in a whole different way. When gaps open up between the conditions the order produces and our expectations, it is often because the order has lost control over how we understand the words it uses to tell its stories. When this happens, the order appears “hypocritical”–it appears to say one thing and do another, to tell stories it has no intention of realising. That’s what today’s post is about–the liberal order’s hypocrisies.

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New Hampshire Highlights Continuing Problems With Sanders’ Strategy

One of the core components of Bernie Sanders’ 2020 strategy is to turn out fringe voters–people who sometimes don’t turn out. For this reason, many Sanders supporters hoped Sanders would out-perform the 538 projection, which predicted he’d secure 28% of the vote. Instead, he under-performed, managing just 26%. This was still enough to win, but the campaign shouldn’t get overconfident. The data shows that voters are behaving very differently from the way the Sanders campaign initially anticipated. Read the rest of this entry »

Iowa Shows that Sanders’ Gains in Cities Will Have a Cost in the Countryside

I’m fond of saying that there are three kinds of places American politicians need to win–cities, college towns, and the countryside. In 2016, the Sanders campaign did very well in the countryside and in college towns, but lost to Clinton in the cities. In 2020, the campaign has tried to reach Clinton voters in cities, but I’ve long feared this might come at a cost to Sanders’ appeal in the countryside. Iowa gives us the first real test of how the new Sanders campaign compares with the old. Now that more than 96% of precincts are reporting, we have enough data to see what has changed and what has stayed the same.

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Joe Rogan, Frantz Fanon, and Left’s Future in the Countryside

The recent endorsement of Bernie Sanders by Joe Rogan throws into sharp relief the division between what I call “the political left” and “the church left”. The political left wants to build a broad, inclusive coalition that can build enough power to do big things, like Medicare-For-All. The church left is more interested in building a spiritual community that can replace the traditional Christian communities that once dominated the American social and moral landscape. The political left is excited by Rogan’s endorsement, because it suggests that it we might yet succeed in widening Sanders’ appeal. The church left is horrified, because it considers Rogan to be a source of spiritual impurity and corruption. It’s a clarifying moment that really illustrates the vast gulf in purposes and worldviews between these two forces.

Today, I want to have a think about how we can build on the Rogan endorsement to build a bigger, stronger, more inclusive movement. Frantz Fanon is going to help me. You’ll see why.

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