One Purpose

Whether you voted for me or you voted for Barack, the time is now to unite as a single party with a single purpose. We are on the same team, and none of us can afford to sit on the sidelines. … Barack Obama is my candidate, and he must be our president.

Hillary Clinton, 2008 Democratic Convention (8-26-2008)

This week’s featured post is “Fears of Democratic Disunity: talking myself down“.

This week everybody was talking about a plane crash

The usual news sites can be confusing places to keep track of an unfolding story like the loss of EgyptAir Flight 804. They focus too much on what information is new today, and it’s often hard to tell whether they’re reporting or speculating. I recommend checking the Wikipedia page from time to time. That way you get the whole story as it is currently understood.

and whether the Democrats can unify

In the featured post, I let my fears run wild and then talk myself down.

while the Republicans unite around Trump

Interesting article in The Atlantic about Trump’s message to coal country versus Clinton’s.

[Trump’s] plan is very easy to envision: You’ll have your job back, and your old lives. This is the power of Trump’s blame-based worldview. When curing a community’s malaise is as simple as getting rid of the bad actor who caused it—in this case, Obama’s environmental regulations—the rewards feel more certain, more tangible.

“When you say, ‘I’m going to give your job back,’ that’s a very immediate solution to the problem,” said Erin Cassese, an associate professor of political science at West Virginia University. “If you want to find fault with Clinton’s plan or Sanders’s plan, it’s that they’re really vague. People don’t have a clear vision of what their lives are going to be like in four years. It’s more abstract, and that’s why it has less resonance with voters.”

The problem is that Trump’s plan has almost no chance of success. A U.S. president has no power to stoke global demand for coal, or pump up the price of natural gas; the most Trump could do is repeal Obama’s environmental rules, and economists agree that would have a minimal effect on employment.

In the fall campaign, that’s going to be the argument across the board. Clinton will offer a detailed program to make things better than they are now; Trump will pledge to make things right again, but offer either no plan or one based in fantasy. It’s going to be a serious test of the wisdom of the electorate.


Trump put out a list of the 11 white people he would consider nominating to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. In general, conservatives consider this a good list and liberals don’t, but getting into that argument misses the obvious: Once in office, Trump will do what he wants, independent of anything he’s said in past or is saying now.

Look at what we’ve already seen: He publishes a tax plan, and then distances himself from it. One of his top surrogates now says his Mexican Wall would be “virtual” and his deportation promise “rhetorical”. As Kyle Kondik of Sabato’s Crystal Ball put it:

Tackling Trump on the issues will be tricky because he just changes his positions all the time.

So in January, if Trump pulls a Caligula and nominates his horse to the Court, I can imagine what he’ll say if anybody mentions this list. “That was a good list, a great list, and those 11 judges are really top people, totally first rate. But America’s Greatness — have you seen him? — what a horse he is!”

but a lot of important things have been happening the in the world while we’ve been focused on presidential politics (and bathrooms)

I haven’t given this stuff nearly the attention it deserves. Fortunately, Vox been on the case.

Brexit. The European Union is at a tricky point. Its member countries are unified enough that the EU limits the actions of the national governments, but not so unified as to provide the kind of benefits that, say, the states of the US see from our federal government. (For example, if our states had the kind of loose relationship EU countries do, Florida might have had to go bankrupt in the 2008 real estate crash, or New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy.)

Previously, this has come to a head with regard to the Greek economic crisis, and the “Greek exit” option got smushed down to “Grexit”. (Greece decided to stay in the EU for now.) Now Britain, a much larger, richer economy, is facing a referendum to leave the EU.

Britain has always had an ambivalent relationship with the European mainland, which is symbolized by the fact that it has retained the pound, rather than merge into the EuroZone. That limits some of the hassle of being in the EU, and would limit some of the impact of a Brexit. (For example, Britain’s national debt is in its own currency, which it could print if it needed a quick way out of a debt crisis. Greece, on the other hand, owes Euros, which it doesn’t control.)

Vox has a good explanatory article. An exit vote on the UK referendum on June 23 would trigger the negotiation of an exit agreement with the EU, which would then have to be approved. So the referendum is a move towards exit, but not a direct exit.

The biggest worry, though, isn’t Brexit itself, but the larger nationalistic process it might be part of.

Brexit is the British manifestation of a broader popular revolt against European integration that is gradually spreading across Europe. If the British people choose to abandon the EU at this vulnerable moment, it might well be the catalyst that causes the cancer of populism and disintegration — which is helping to drive this campaign in the UK — to metastasize across Europe at a dramatically faster rate.

The Brazilian impeachment. Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has been impeached by the Senate, which under the Brazilian system means that she immediately steps down until cleared.

This is a weird story about Brazil’s weird version of democracy, in which a clear majority of Congress is under investigation for corruption.

Ever since colonial times, Brazil has been dominated by wealthy elites who thought they could get away with anything — mostly because they usually did.

Rousseff probably will be removed permanently, and it’s hard to feel too bad about that, because she is corrupt. But she might well be less corrupt than either the people who are impeaching her or the VP who will take over.

The Zika virus. Brazil is also ground zero for an outbreak of the Zika virus.

But Zika isn’t just somebody else’s problem. There’s already been a death in Puerto Rico, and much of the Southern U.S. is at risk. The Obama administration has asked for $1.9 billion to fight the disease, but this apparently is the kind of “wasteful government spending” that Republicans feel obliged to block. The Senate is trying to pass a $1.1 billion bill, while the House is only willing to spend $622 million — and funding it by taking the money away from anti-Ebola work. God forbid that we increase our public health budget just because there’s a public health problem.

Puerto Rico. It looks like Congress will pass a bill to deal with the Puerto Rican debt crisis. Matt Yglesias describes the proposal as “in effect … bankruptcy” because the lenders and bond holders will get less than 100% of what they’re owed on paper. No federal money is appropriated to bail anybody out.

and you might also be interested in

Larry Wilmore appeared on Chris Hayes’ MSNBC show Wednesday, and an interesting point came up: We’re at the point where people will start wondering what history will make of the Obama administration.

Like Wilmore, I think Obama is going to come out pretty well. Not only is ObamaCare ultimately going to be remembered as a major accomplishment, but he’s going to get credit for the way he held things together in the face of the horrible conditions he inherited from Bush and unprecedented obstruction from the opposing party.

Anyway, more about that in January. But it seemed like a good time to review my end-of-term assessment of George W. Bush in 2009. I’m standing by all of it: In hindsight, I don’t see any reason to look more kindly on what he did.


Oklahoma’s legislature just passed a bill criminalizing abortion, but the governor vetoed it. I think of these sorts of laws as Lawyer Full Employment acts. The only thing they accomplish is to create court cases whose outcomes are known before they begin.


George Zimmerman just sold the gun he used to kill Trayvon Martin for $250,000. This looks to me like a pioneering transaction that brings a whole new market into the capitalist system. Imagine the possibilities: “Of course I didn’t hire that guy to kill my parents (and besides, there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him). But after I got my inheritance, how could I turn down the opportunity to own an artifact of such personal significance to my family?”

and let’s close with something unexpected

The sidewalks of Boston are covered with secret poems that you can only see when it rains.

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Comments

  • JJ  On May 23, 2016 at 11:07 am

    “Tackling Trump on the issues will be tricky because he just changes his positions all the time.”

    I think that can be used for a pretty good anti-Trump campaign ad: Some video clips of Trump putting forth multiple positions on the same issue, followed by something along the lines of “Do you have any idea what he’s going to do as President?”

  • Uncle Gary  On May 24, 2016 at 11:30 am

    Hillary is an unlikeable policy wonk vs. the stupidest man who ever ran for president.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    • weeklysift  On May 27, 2016 at 7:26 am

      In general, women who break barriers don’t do it by being “likeable”.

  • portfoliolongo.com  On June 2, 2016 at 11:24 am

    Thank you. Your post inspired me (again): https://portfoliolongo.com/2016/06/02/caligulump-incitatus/

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