Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Five Forms of Retreat

In the Roman Empire, during the Crisis of the 3rd Century, everything began falling apart. The army was swapping emperors out left and right, and the political system could no longer generate the legitimacy or stability that had prevailed in the two centuries prior. Chunks of the empire lost faith in the ability of the central authority to restore order, and began looking to their own defences. It was bleak:

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The Left Cannot Win the Country by Campaigning Like Hillary Clinton

As Bernie Sanders sags in primary polls and Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris surge, it’s time to talk about the big mistake we made after 2016–we tried to win over the Clinton voters.

The bulk of “the squad” comes from districts that voted for Clinton:

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Green New Deal is More New Deal Than Green

Like many of you, I’ve seen that clip of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) arguing with children about the Green New Deal. If you haven’t seen it, I have it right here for you:

In and amidst the hostility, Feinstein said something quite honest in this exchange:

Well, it’s [climate change] not going to get turned around in 10 years.

I have a certain admiration for honest centrism. So often these days, politicians pretend to be more radical than they are to excite voters, only to disappoint them. But it’s not merely because we can’t get the votes in a Republican senate to pass the Green New Deal. No–it’s because the United States is at this point no longer capable of cutting its own emissions enough to deal with climate change, and it’s unlikely to successfully lead other states in this direction even if it tries.

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Seems Confused About Race

I have been increasingly concerned by the way Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) talks about race. I see two principal ways people discuss racism:

  1. The Citizenship Model–people who face racial discrimination are being treated as second class citizens on arbitrary grounds, and they are entitled to the same status as other people in our society. On this model, racial oppression is a failure to recognise that citizens are entitled to equal political standing. It denies the citizenship of people of color. People with this view often speak in a universalist language, because their emphasis is on what we all have in common as citizens. It’s a critique which erodes racial distinctions, emphasising common political standing across group categories.
  2. The Group Fetishist Model–people who face racial discrimination are subject peoples who are entitled to group self-determination and therefore to their own political arrangements, separate and distinct from whites and Europeans. On this model, racial oppression is the attempt to wrongfully subject distinct groups to the same institutions. People with this view speak in a particularist language, because their emphasis is on what is different about various groups of people. It’s a critique which reinforces racial distinctions, emphasising separateness.

These two models in turn proceed from different ways of understanding what politics is. For those on the citizenship model, it is our political status as citizens which unites us. The state structures our self-conception as a people. You see this in America in the commitment to the constitution–we think of ourselves as American insofar as we are all committed to a common political project. But for those on the group fetishist model, ethnic and racial groups are primordial and pre-exist political associations. We are united not by political standing but by cultural commitments–language, cuisine, religion, ideology, ethnicity, race, you name it. So whenever two or more distinct cultural groups exist under one political framework, the group fetishist alleges that one of those groups isn’t “independent” or “self-determining”, that there’s a subjugation relationship.

Ultimately, only the citizenship model can provide the conditions under which diverse people can live together. If we recognise each other as equal citizens, we don’t have to fuss about whether we speak the same language, worship the same gods, or look the same color. We can instead work together to ensure every person enjoys equal status and the distributive benefits that go along with that. Group fetishism kills unity. It breaks us up into ever smaller factions, and it makes it difficult for those factions to collaborate.

Initially, AOC appeared to be operating on the citizen model, but increasingly she’s been moving in the group fetishist direction. The result is a confused position on race. Let me show you what I mean…

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What Would Happen if We Returned to the 70% Top Tax Rate?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has been shopping the idea of a 70% top rate of tax on earnings above $10 million. It’s popular proposal, with initial polling showing a solid majority of Americans in favour. While this policy can’t pass this congress, it’s indicative of the kinds of reforms we might see if we organise to elect more politicians like AOC in 2020 and beyond. So what would happen if we elected more AOCs and they enacted this policy?

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