Benjamin Studebaker

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

The American Two Party System is Actually Pretty Great

There are lots of folks who think that the answer to America’s woes are more political parties, and the way to get more political parties is to adopt electoral reforms which move America in the direction of continental European-style proportional representation. I used to like electoral reform once upon a time, but I have increasingly become convinced that this is not only never going to happen but it is actually a bad idea. Here’s why.

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If Deng Xiaoping could Capture China’s Communist Party, You Can Capture the Democratic Party

There is a part of the left which believes the Democratic Party is beyond hope. They think it’s too corrupt, too beholden to rich people and corporations, and that it’s a waste of time and energy to try to change it. Even in articles which express support for running progressive and democratic socialist candidates on the Democratic Party ballot line, concessions are routinely made to this faction.¬†Jacobin recently ran an interview with Seth Ackerman, in which Ackerman advises the left to run candidates as Democrats, provided those candidates are beholden to outside activist groups. But even this piece is far too pessimistic about the prospects for penetrating the Democratic Party. Right at the start, it begins with a left-wing shibboleth–that the Democratic Party has a “conservatising force field” which necessarily assimilates into the borg all efforts to change it. This is really wrong and it’s shockingly easy to show why.

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The Left Should Commandeer Red State Democratic Parties

For decades now, the Democratic Party has been in the hands of people who don’t really care very much about ordinary people. More and more wealth and income has been transferred to the rich, regardless of which party has been in power.

Percentage Point Change in Top 1% Income Share US Presidents

Increasingly, the Democrats have attempted to win elections relying exclusively on the McGovern coalition–students, young urban professionals, and people of colour. They privilege issues of status discrimination, ignoring economic exploitation entirely. The American worker was abandoned by the Democratic Party. Without the Democratic Party, American politics stopped being an arena for ensuring that our economic needs are met. Instead, the entire political debate became about the culture war, about social conservatism’s battle with social liberalism. The Republican Party pledged to protect the traditions and beliefs of those living in rural and suburban areas, and came to dominate them. The Democratic Party settled for the college towns and big cities. What we now call the “red states” are those states where the rural and suburban areas have more sway than the liberal cities. The Democratic Party in these states is a rotting corpse. It is ready and waiting to be transformed by a new generation of left-wing Americans.

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Why Every President Tries to Make Nice With Russia and Why It Never Works

One of the things I find odd about the way the press is covering the Trump/Putin relationship is how devoid of context and historical memory it is. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, four new presidents have come to power, and each has tried to create a good relationship with Russia. Bill Clinton was briefly successful, but the way Clinton used his success poisoned the well and made it very difficult for his successors to replicate his performance. Today I’ll tell you the story of how America has tried to turn Russia into an ally and why this effort has yet to succeed.

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The Collapse of Artistic Criticism Under Trump

The Trump presidency has been bad for art and the way we evaluate it. Yes, there’s newfound popularity for far right art forms that speak to dark impulses. “Martial industrial” music–often set to images of Nazis marching–is spooky stuff, and in the last few years it’s quietly spread all over YouTube:

But mainstream art critics have mostly ignored the niches of material which are nakedly far right. They prefer to focus on more popular stuff. And here they have done us a number of disservices, aiding the right even as they attempt to resist it.

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