Benjamin Studebaker

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

Category: Sophiarchism

Barack Obama’s Role in Giving Us the Trump Presidency

The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius is remembered as a great philosopher and successful military commander, but he is also remembered for picking his feckless son Commodus as his successor, an emperor who infamously cared more about making showy performances as a gladiator than he did governing the empire. Barack Obama is still a popular president–his favorability rating is +10 and his job approval rating is +8. In recent months many pieces have been written lamenting his imminent departure, and many more will likely be written before January. But no matter how likeable Obama is or how well Obama governed while in office, the fact that he could not ensure the election of a competent successor counts against his legacy. How did Barack Obama end up giving us a Commodus? What, if anything, could Obama have done to avoid this?

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The Electoral College is a Distraction

There are some people who feel that because Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, Donald Trump’s victory in the electoral college is illegitimate. This is a very poor argument–there are many much more interesting grounds for challenging Trump’s legitimacy than the electoral college.

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Don’t Hate Trump Voters–Hate the System that Creates Them

I’ve been disappointed in my side over the last 48 hours. On social media aggressive posts are circulating personally blaming and shaming Trump supporters for Trump’s victory and for criminal acts motivated by hate. Columnists are lashing out, reductively attributing Trump’s victory to racism and sexism alone on the basis of exit polls which show the same kinds of gaps in support among the races and the sexes that we’ve long seen in previous races dating all the way back to the 70s and beyond. The last time women were more likely to vote for a Republican was 1960 (when they skewed slightly toward Nixon) and black voters haven’t gone for a Republican since before the New Deal. Too many people are doubling down on the same failed strategy that brought us to this pass. But just as importantly, by blaming the voters as individual agents, these people are contradicting fundamental left wing principles.

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The DNC Didn’t Screw Bernie–The Voters Did

The New York primary was an unmitigated disaster for Bernie Sanders. Polichart’s updated victory targets called for Sanders to win 54% of the vote and get 133 delegates. He got 42% and 108. This puts him 36 delegates behind schedule, and he still trails in the polls in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and California. Sanders failed to do better than the polling data in New York indicated he would do, damaging the comforting theory that polls in northern states underrate him. As regular readers know, I am very sympathetic to Sanders, but I cannot in good conscience mislead you about the realities of the political situation. In the last few days, many well-intentioned people have tried to make arguments that Sanders can still win or that Sanders would be winning if the DNC were not corrupt–I wish these arguments were true, but they’re not. Sanders is losing because most Democratic primary voters do not support him.

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Voter Turnout Has Nothing to do With Rising Inequality

When I talk to people about the threat rising economic inequality poses to the consumer economy, I am often told that the problem is participation. The story goes that disadvantaged groups have lower turnout, and because of this their interests are underrepresented. Bernie Sanders plans to win support for his egalitarian agenda through a “political revolution”, but all he means by that phrase is exceptionally high voter turnout:

…if Bernie Sanders becomes President of the United States, it will mean that there will be a huge increase in voter turnout. If there is a huge increase in voter turnout, our Republican colleagues may not be running the Senate or the House. So my life will be made a little bit easier. As I mentioned earlier, Louise, Republicans do well when people don’t vote. For me to get elected, we’re going to have to have a huge increase in voter turnout, and that will carry in a lot of other people in the Congress and Senate

The turnout story is especially popular among left wingers in the United States, because the US has unusually low voter turnout for a rich democracy. But the refrain is heard abroad as well–left wingers in Britain think that Jeremy Corbyn can win by raising turnout. There are right wingers who make similar arguments–Ted Cruz claims that republicans lost in 2012 because of low voter turnout among evangelical Christians. It’s a seductive argument, because we all like to believe that our own beliefs are common sense and that there’s a silent majority out there who agree with us. Unfortunately for all those who make turnout arguments, the data indicates that they are bunk.

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