On Grim’s Law

Writing a few days before the election, Huffington Post Columinist Ryan Grim broke a longstanding taboo by advancing what I will refer to (with apologies to my linguist friends) as Grim’s Law.

The pundit, according to Grim, is “endowed by (the) creator (with) the inalienable right to be consistently wrong and never apologize.”

It hardly needs to be said that the days following the election provided nearly ideal laboratory conditions for assessing the predictive accuracy of Grim’s Law.  An astounding number of pundits were consistently wrong on the election in so many ways that it will take a veritable encyclopedia to document their errors.

Among the most egregious were those who predicted not only a Clinton victory, but denied even the possibility that the race could be close.  For those doing so from the left, the certainty of the result became grounds for attacking “soft leftists” urging swing state votes for Clinton.  According to them, we were capitulating to the “climate of fear” manufactured by the Democratic Party of “hippie punching” those who had the courage to resist the calls to help prevent the disaster of the Trump presidency.

In retrospect, it now seems incredible that these charges would be levelled, but they were more or less routinely in the weeks and days prior to the election, not just by random internet bloggers but by bona fide pundits-those with access to substantial major corporate media perches.

Indeed, one of these left pundits, hereafter LP, showed up in the comments section of this very blog to issue a snidely personalized attack on Chomsky and myself for our article advancing swing state lesser evil voting.

“Congratulations John, this post will be used relentlessly to bash everyone an inch to the left of Democrats. As was surely it’s (sic.) intent.”

This was followed up by a rather stunningly confident assertion of what he took to be fact of the matter:

“By the way: Trump cannot win. This election is not close. It has never been close. The notion that it was ever close was always a fantasy sold by a media that needs to perpetuate the idea that it’s close.”

At the time, as I pointed out in response, most polls indicated that Clinton was ahead but that the election was close, with a few polls putting Trump in the lead.  But this was too much for our LP to bear and he invented his own reality, using it as the grounds to launch an attack against me and Chomsky.

“And in 2020, they’ll nominate another conservative Democrat again, and you’ll make this identical argument again. Every presidential election of my lifetime, the Democrats have lured soft leftists like you to hippie punch with this argument. And they will never stop doing it.”

It has now been two weeks since the total bankruptcy of LP’s comments was revealed, sufficient time for us to assess the validity of Grim’s Law namely, its prediction that when a pundit, in this case LP, is embarrassingly and incontrovertably wrong, they “never apologize.”

I can personally attest therefore to Grim’s Law having been confirmed.  For not only would LP not apologize, he would double down on his attacks on me in a facebook thread hosted by Astra Taylor in which he accused me (bizarrely) of blaming Jill Stein for the Trump presidency, something I neither believe, nor have I ever suggested.  In short, another invention on his part providing the grounds for an attack.

It would be easy for me to put this aside if it were not for LP’s most recent performance.  As I mentioned, P is clearly moving up the ranks, now in a position to inform Washington Post readers that, contrary to what Clinton supporters have repeatedly asserted, “Sanders could have won” . The piece was approvingly circulated by Sanders sympathizers who assumed that the pundit was giving voice to their views.  

Probably few were aware that rather than supporting Sanders when it mattered, LP was not just neutral but hostile, having reminded his readers that he has “repeatedly and publicly said that I won’t vote for Bernie Sanders due to his stances on Israel, immigration, and guns.” Some months later, he would shift to becoming, in his words “a lukewarm supporter”, making clear that to those who were deeply invested in the Sanders campaign, donating whatever they could afford to, putting in countless hours canvassing, phone banking that they were investing in a “highly flawed” candidate who would almost certainly disappoint them.

Yet again, Grim’s Law is confirmed.  In no way did LP provide any evidence that he held these prior views, he now sees himself as leading the parade: dictating how the left should respond to the attacks on its core institutions which will define the Trump era.

As a pundit, he sees himself as having the right to do so, but with complete certainty and blithely dismissing questions as to whether his past analytical failures and factual gaffes should raise any doubts.

Those of us who do so without the benefit of his platform will, as Thucydides remarked, “suffer as we must”, our rejoinders, relegated to the fringes of what now passes for discourse in the new media age.

Sanders and His Critics: Moving the Ball, Calling Trump’s Bluff

The headline of this article in Roll Call gets it right: Sanders and Warren have entered a high stakes poker game:  They will declare themselves “willing to work with Trump” on a range of issues which Trump campaigned on to sell himself to working class voters including rolling back free trade agreements and massive infrastructure spending.  The core of the strategy involves calling Trump’s bluff,  betting that he has no real intention of seriously following through on and then cashing in when he walks away from the table.

Not surprisingly, as they always do, Sanders’s critics have jumped on the opportunity to attack him, dividing themselves into two categories:  a) those who assume Sanders is operating in bad faith, i.e. a typical Democrat “rolling over” to the right and b) those who question Sanders’s command of political strategy. As for a), it should be recognized that most of those offering it are ultra-leftists who have opposed Sanders from the beginning, regarding him as a “faux socialist“, “corporate hack” or “sellout“. During the campaign, they tended to mute this line knowing that it would expose them to ridicule (and further marginalize the pitiful sects that they delusionally take as the vehicle toward revolution). A quick google search will reveal their history along these lines, and provide a prima facie basis for why they should be recognized as the opportunists they are and ignored. 

As for b), most of those offering it have never gotten within 20 miles of political office and have no idea what is required to “move the ball forward” which is Sanders’s constant objective, as should be apparent by now. For me, I’ll take Sanders’s four decades of achievements and meaningful political victories over those who are content to second guess him from the bleachers, which is where they are likely to remain.

Whether Sanders succeeds or fails, the reality is that he is the only Washington figure possessing the moral and political authority required to lead an opposition. No one else has even an ounce of it. We either support him or we concede defeat.

Full speed ahead.

Idiot Left: Neoliberal Edition.

The Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky and Kurt Eichenwald are two  Clinton surrogates who helped to saddle us with a candidate under FBI investigation with the lowest approval ratings of any Democratic Party nominee in history and whose loss they were blindsided by.  It should come as no surprise that they are now trying to defend their indefensible role and that they are flailing away wildly at Sanders and his supporters in a desperate attempt to salvage their remaining credibility.  For both, their defense rests on the supposition that nominating Sanders over Clinton would have been been a mistake since he would have been a sure loser.  It is a “delusion” to believe otherwise, so we are instructed.

According to Tomasky, Sanders winning the primary would have been disastrous since it would have triggered the entry of former NYC billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg into the race. No doubt for Tomasky, a long time apologist for the Democratic Party’s corporate/billionaire wing, this would have posed a problem.  But for Sanders and his supporters, it would have been a dream race for we would now be opposing not one but TWO billionaires. Sanders wouldn’t have had to say anything in his stump speeches. All that would have been necessary is for him to mount the podium and laugh and everyone would know what he was talking about.

For Eichenwald, Sanders’s inevitable loss would have resulted from the devastating effect of Republican opposition research he claims to have seen, though anyone following the race had known about the stories from the very beginning when they were first aired by Sanders’s antagonists in the Democratic Party. Among the items is a four decade old fictional essay in which Sanders describes the rape fantasy of one of his characters. According to Eichenwald, this would have torpedoed Sanders. Why? Apparently “values voters” would have fled in horror to, get this, a candidate who bragged about committing multiple sexual assault on tape less than seven years ago.

Over the past few months, I’ve advanced the category of the idiot left to apply to ultra left opposition to Sanders and then their small but possibly not insignificant role in  electing Trump.

Tomasky and Eichenwald provide me the pleasure to announce, ladies and gentlemen, a new category: the idiot left,  neoliberal edition.

Who are the Deplorables?

Today’s New York Times reports that crazed bombs-away Islamophobe Michael Flynn is likely to assume the post of NSC advisor of the “peace candidate” Donald Trump. You laugh, but it was not Trump’s neo-Nazi base which was promoting Trump using this expression but respected left figures Rosa (Ehrenreich) Brooks here, John Pilger here and Robert Parry here among others. Did they, in fact, vote for Trump on these grounds? None seems to want to say. But it is reasonable to infer that at least some did.

In short, they were Trump voters, included among those who Robin Kelley, in a widely praised Boston Review essay, would consign to the category of racist, misogynist, homophobic, bigoted deplorables. One should not attempt to interrogate, understand, or attempt any reconciliation with those making up the Trump coalition. That they “voted for a platform and a message of white supremacy, Islamophobia, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-science, anti-Earth, militarism, torture, and policies that blatantly maintain income inequality” cannot be “ignored” and, one presumes, forgiven.

Fine Mr. Kelley. Perhaps we should never forgive any of those within the Trump coalition. Frankly, I don’t agree. But if that is our position, it must be applied across the board: not just to trailer parks, auto part dealerships and gun shows, but to segments of hipster left journalism and academe as well.

“My Hands are Clean.” (New Yorker edition).

Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker delivers yet another entry in the “my hands are clean” school of journalism. An article of faith of the genre is to view Trump as “one of those phenomena that rise regularly in history to confound us with the possibility—and black comedy—of potent evil: conscienceless, cruel and pathologically dishonest.” But at the same time, Gopnik insists, “there is no explaining Trump . . . Overexploiting (his) rise is as foolish as pretending that it can be easily defeated.”

What Gopnik and the “liberal minded folks” he blithely subsumes within the pronoun “we” are incapable of facing up to is what they likely know to be the explanation.  That’s because doing so would require them to look in the mirror. Were they to do so, they would see, staring back at them, their role in the destruction of countless communities through neoliberal policies which they, the New Yorker, the New York Times, NPR etc. enthusiastically endorsed as did the candidate they are now promoting as an embodiment of “liberal values”. As is typical of the genre, Gopnik omits the prefix which prevents him from accurately categorizing Clinton as she is: no liberal at all, rather an iconic NEOliberal.

While there was plenty to criticize about previous generations of middlebrow intellectuals in the pages of the New Yorker, when push came to shove they were able to come to terms with a basic truth contained in W.H. Auden’s frequently cited line: “Those to whom evil is done do evil in return.”

It’s probably too much to hope that the Gopniks, Packers, Remnicks and others in the “agenda setting” journalistic caste will have the intellectual honesty, self-discipline or decency to experience a come to Jesus moment any time soon. And it’s depressing to have to endure their stench from being on the same side of the barricades with them.

But that’s only for the next week. After then, they are almost certain to return to their role as apologists for neoliberal atrocities implemented within the Clinton II regime-representatives of a professional managerial class politics which has much to answer for-up to and including Donald Trump.