Wednesday, November 02, 2016

The Last Gasp of the American Dream

Just at the moment, many of my readers—and of course a great many others as well—are paying close attention to which of the two most detested people in American public life will put a hand on a Bible in January, and preside thereafter over the next four years of this nation’s accelerating decline and fall. That focus is understandable, and not just because both parties have trotted out the shopworn claim that this election, like every other one in living memory, is the most important in our lifetimes. For a change, there are actual issues involved.
Barring any of the incidents that could throw the election into the House of Representatives, we’ll know by this time next week whether the bipartisan consensus that’s been welded firmly in place in American politics since the election of George W. Bush will stay intact for the next four years. That consensus, for those of my readers who haven’t been paying attention, supports massive giveaways to big corporations and the already affluent, punitive austerity for the poor, malign neglect for the nation’s infrastructure, the destruction of the American working class through federal subsidies for automation and offshoring and tacit acceptance of mass illegal immigration as a means of driving down wages, and a monomaniacally confrontational foreign policy obsessed with the domination of the Middle East by raw military force. Those are the policies that George W. Bush and Barack Obama pursued through four presidential terms, and they’re the policies that Hillary Clinton has supported throughout her political career.

Donald Trump, by contrast, has been arguing against several core elements of that consensus since the beginning of his run for office. Specifically, he’s calling for a reversal of federal policies that support offshoring of jobs, the enforcement of US immigration law, and a less rigidly confrontational stance toward Russia over the war in Syria. It’s been popular all through the current campaign for Clinton’s supporters to insist that nobody actually cares about these issues, and that Trump’s supporters must by definition be motivated by hateful values instead, but that rhetorical gimmick has been a standard thoughstopper on the left for many years now, and it simply won’t wash. The reason why Trump was able to sweep aside the other GOP candidates, and has a shot at winning next week’s election despite the unanimous opposition of this nation’s political class, is that he’s the first presidential candidate in a generation to admit that the issues just mentioned actually matter.

That was a ticket to the nomination, in turn, because outside the bicoastal echo chamber of the affluent, the US economy has been in freefall for years.  I suspect that a great many financially comfortable people in today’s America have no idea just how bad things have gotten here in the flyover states. The recovery of the last eight years has only benefited the upper 20% or so by income of the population; the rest have been left to get by on declining real wages, while simultaneously having to face skyrocketing rents driven by federal policies that prop up the real estate market, and stunning increases in medical costs driven by Obama’s embarrassingly misnamed “Affordable Care Act.” It’s no accident that death rates from suicide, drug overdose, and alcohol poisoning are soaring just now among working class white people. These are my neighbors, the people I talk with in laundromats and lodge meetings, and they’re being driven to the wall.

Most of the time, affluent liberals who are quick to emote about the sufferings of poor children in conveniently distant corners of the Third World like to brush aside the issues I’ve just raised as irrelevancies. I’ve long since lost track of the number of times I’ve heard people insist that the American working class hasn’t been destroyed, that its destruction doesn’t matter, or that it was the fault of the working classes themselves. (I’ve occasionally heard people attempt to claim all three of these things at once.) On those occasions when the mainstream left deigns to recognize the situation I’ve sketched out, it’s usually in the terms Hillary Clinton used in her infamous “basket of deplorables” speech, in which she admitted that there were people who hadn’t benefited from the recovery and “we need to do something for them.” That the people in question might deserve to have a voice in what’s done for them, or to them, is not part of the vocabulary of the affluent American left.

That’s why, if you pay a visit to the town where I live, you’ll find Trump signs all over the place—and you’ll find the highest concentration of them in the poor neighborhood just south of my home, a bleak rundown zone where there’s a church every few blocks and an abandoned house every few doors, and where the people tipping back beers on a porch of a summer evening rarely all have the same skin color. They know exactly what they need, and what tens of thousands of other economically devastated American communities need: enough full-time jobs at decent wages to give them the chance to lift their families out of poverty. They understand that need, and discuss it in detail among themselves, with a clarity you’ll rarely find in the media. (It’s a source of wry amusement to me that the best coverage of the situation on the ground here in the flyover states appeared, not in any of America’s newspapers of record, nor in any of its allegedly serious magazines, but in a raucous NSFW online humor magazine.)

What’s more, the working class people who point to a lack of jobs as the cause of middle America’s economic collapse are dead right.  The reason why those tens of thousands of American communities are economically devastated is that too few people have enough income to support the small businesses and local economies that used to thrive there. The money that used to keep main streets bustling across the United States, the wages that used to be handed out on Friday afternoons to millions of Americans who’d spent the previous week putting in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, have been siphoned off to inflate the profits of a handful of huge corporations to absurd levels and cater to the kleptocratic feeding frenzy that’s made multimillion-dollar bonuses a matter of course at the top of the corporate food chain. It really is as simple as that. The Trump voters in the neighborhood south of my home may not have a handle on all the details, but they know that their survival depends on getting some of that money flowing back into paychecks to be spent in their community.

It’s an open question whether they’re going to get that if Donald Trump wins the election, and a great many of his supporters know this perfectly well.  It’s as certain as anything can be, though, that they’re not going to get it from Hillary Clinton. The economic policy she’s touted in her speeches, to the extent that this isn’t just the sort of campaign rhetoric that will pass its pull date the moment the last vote is counted, focuses on improving opportunities for the middle class—the people, in other words, who have already reaped the lion’s share of those economic benefits that didn’t go straight into the pockets of the rich. To the working classes, she offers nothing but a repetition of the same empty slogans and disposable promises. What’s more, they know this, and another round of empty slogans and disposable promises isn’t going to change that.

Nor, it probably needs to be said, is it going to be changed by another round of media handwaving designed to make Donald Trump look bad in the eyes of affluent liberals. I’ve noted with some amusement the various news stories on the highbrow end of the media noting, in tones variously baffled and horrified, that when you show Trump supporters videos designed to make them less enthusiastic about their candidate, they double down. Any number of canned theories have been floated to explain why that happens, but none that I’ve heard have dealt with the obvious explanations.

To begin with, it’s not as though that habit is only found on Trump’s side of the fence. In recent weeks, as one Wikileaks email dump after another has forced an assortment of stories about Clinton’s arrogant and corrupt behavior into the news, her followers have doubled down just as enthusiastically as Trump’s; those of my readers who are familiar with the psychology of previous investment will likely notice that emotional investment is just as subject to this law as the financial kind. For that matter, supporters of both candidates are quite sensibly aware that this election is meant to choose a public official rather than a plaster saint, and recognize that a genuine scoundrel who will take the right stands on the issues that matter to them is a better choice than a squeaky-clean innocent who won’t, even if such an animal could actually be found in the grubby ecosystem of contemporary American politics.

That said, there’s another factor that probably plays an even larger role, which is that when working class Americans get told by slickly groomed talking heads in suits that something they believe is wrong, their default assumption is that the talking heads are lying.

Working class Americans, after all, have very good reason for making this their default assumption. Over and over again, that’s the way things have turned out. The talking heads insisted that handing over tax dollars to various corporate welfare queens would bring jobs back to American communities; the corporations in question pocketed the tax dollars and walked away. The talking heads insisted that if working class people went to college at their own expense and got retrained in new skills, that would bring jobs back to American communities; the academic industry profited mightily but the jobs never showed up, leaving tens of millions of people buried so deeply under student loan debt that most of them will never recover financially. The talking heads insisted that this or that or the other political candidate would bring jobs back to American communities by pursuing exactly the same policies that got rid of the jobs in the first place—essentially the same claim that the Clinton campaign is making now—and we know how that turned out.

For that matter, trust in talking heads generally is at an all-time low out here in flyover country. Consider the way that herbal medicine—“God’s medicine” is the usual phrase these days—has become the go-to option for a huge and growing number of devout rural Christians. There are plenty of reasons why that should be happening, but surely one of the most crucial is the cascading loss of faith in the slickly groomed talking heads that sell modern medicine to consumers. Herbs may not be as effective as modern pharmaceuticals in treating major illnesses, to be sure, but they generally don’t have the ghastly side effects that so many pharmaceuticals will give you.  Furthermore, and just as crucially, nobody ever bankrupted their family and ended up on the street because of the high price of herbs.

It used to be, not all that long ago, that the sort of people we’re discussing trusted implicitly in American society and its institutions. They were just as prone as any urban sophisticate to distrust this or that politician or businessperson or cultural figure, to be sure; back in the days when local caucuses and county conventions of the two main political parties still counted for something, you could be sure of hearing raucous debates about a galaxy of personalities and issues. Next to nobody, though, doubted that the basic structures of American society were not merely sound, but superior to all others.

You won’t find that certainty in flyover country these days. Where you hear such claims made at all, they’re phrased in the kind of angry and defensive terms that lets everyone know that the speaker is trying to convince himself of something he doesn’t entirely believe any more, or in the kind of elegaic tones that hearken back to an earlier time when things still seemed to work—when the phrase “the American Dream” still stood for a reality that many people had experienced and many more could expect to achieve for themselves and their children. Very few people out here think of the federal government as anything more than a vast mechanism operated by rich crooks for their own benefit, at the expense of everyone else. What’s more, the same cynical attitude is spreading to embrace the other institutions of American society, and—lethally—the ideals from which those institutions get whatever legitimacy they still hold in the eyes of the people.

Those of my readers who were around in the late 1980s and early 1990s have seen this movie before, though it came with Cyrillic subtitles that time around. By 1985 or so, it had become painfully obvious to most citizens of the Soviet Union that the grand promises of Marxism would not be kept and the glorious future for which their grandparents and great-grandparents had fought and labored was never going to arrive. Glowing articles in Pravda and Izvestia insisted that everything was just fine in the Worker’s Paradise; annual five-year plans presupposed that economic conditions would get steadily better while, for most people, economic conditions got steadily worse; vast May Day parades showed off the Soviet Union’s military might, Soyuz spacecraft circled the globe to show off its technological prowess, and tame intellectuals comfortably situated in the more affluent districts of Moscow and Leningrad, looking forward to their next vacation at their favorite Black Sea resort, chattered in print about the good life under socialism, while millions of ordinary Soviet citizens trudged through a bleak round of long lines, product shortages, and system-wide dysfunction. Then crisis hit, and the great-great-grandchildren of the people who surged to the barricades during the Russian Revolution shrugged, and let the Soviet Union unravel in a matter of days.

I suspect we’re much closer to a similar cascade of events here in the United States than most people realize. My fellow peak oil blogger Dmitry Orlov pointed out a decade or so back, in a series of much-reprinted blog posts and his book Reinventing Collapse, that the differences between the Soviet Union and the United States were far less important than their similarities, and that a Soviet-style collapse was a real possibility here—a possibility for which most Americans are far less well prepared than their Russian equivalents in the early 1990s. His arguments have become even more compelling as the years have passed, and the United States has become mired ever more deeply in a mire of institutional dysfunction and politico-economic kleptocracy all but indistinguishable from the one that eventually swallowed its erstwhile rival.

Point by point, the parallels stand out. We’ve got the news articles insisting, in tones by turns glowing and shrill, that things have never been better in the United States and anyone who says otherwise is just plain wrong; we’ve got the economic pronouncements predicated on continuing growth at a time when the only things growing in the US economy are its total debt load and the number of people who are permanently unemployed; we’ve got the overblown displays of military might and technological prowess, reminiscent of nothing so much as the macho posturing of balding middle-aged former athletes who are trying to pretend that they haven’t lost it; we’ve got the tame intellectuals comfortably situated in the more affluent suburban districts around Boston, New York, Washington, and San Francisco, looking forward to their next vacation in whatever the currently fashionable spot might happen to be, babbling on the internet about the good life under predatory cybercapitalism.

Meanwhile millions of Americans trudge through a bleak round of layoffs, wage cuts, part-time jobs at minimal pay, and system-wide dysfunction. The crisis hasn’t hit yet, but those members of the political class who think that the people who used to be rock-solid American patriots will turn out en masse to keep today’s apparatchiks secure in their comfortable lifestyles have, as the saying goes, another think coming.  Nor is it irrelevant that most of the enlisted personnel in the armed forces, who are the US government’s ultimate bulwark against popular unrest, come from the very classes that have lost faith most drastically in the American system. The one significant difference between the Soviet case and the American one at this stage of the game is that Soviet citizens had no choice but to accept the leaders the Communist Party of the USSR foisted off on them, from Brezhnev to Andropov to Chernenko to Gorbachev, until the system collapsed of its own weight.

American citizens, on the other hand, do at least potentially have a choice. Elections in the United States have been riddled with fraud for most of two centuries, but since both parties are generally up to their eyeballs in voter fraud to a roughly equal degree, fraud mostly swings close elections.  It’s still possible for a sufficiently popular candidate to overwhelm the graveyard vote, the crooked voting machines, and the other crass realities of American elections by sheer force of numbers. That way, an outsider unburdened with the echo-chamber thinking of a dysfunctional elite might just be able to elbow his way into the White House. Will that happen this time? No one knows.

If George W. Bush was our Leonid Brezhnev, as I’d suggest, and Barack Obama is our Yuri Andropov, Hillary Clinton is running for the position of Konstantin Chernenko; her running mate Tim Kaine, in turn, is waiting in the wings as a suitably idealistic and clueless Mikhail Gorbachev, under whom the whole shebang can promptly go to bits. While I don’t seriously expect the trajectory of the United States to parallel that of the Soviet Union anything like as precisely as this satiric metaphor would suggest, the basic pattern of cascading dysfunction ending in political collapse is quite a common thing in history, and a galaxy of parallels suggests that the same thing could very easily happen here within the next decade or so. The serene conviction among the political class and their affluent hangers-on that nothing of the sort could possibly take place is just another factor making it more likely.

It’s by no means certain that a Trump presidency will stop that from happening, and jolt the United States far enough out of its current death spiral to make it possible to salvage something from the American experiment. Even among Trump’s most diehard supporters, it’s common to find people who cheerfully admit that Trump might not change things enough to matter; it’s just that when times are desperate enough—and out here in the flyover states, they are—a leap in the dark is preferable to the guaranteed continuation of the unendurable.

Thus the grassroots movement that propelled Trump to the Republican nomination in the teeth of the GOP establishment, and has brought him to within a couple of aces of the White House in the teeth of the entire US political class, might best be understood as the last gasp of the American dream. Whether he wins or loses next week, this country is moving into the darkness of an uncharted night—and it’s not out of place to wonder, much as Hamlet did, what dreams may come in that darkness.


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Gee said...

"These violent delights have violent ends. "

This will most assuredly end badly for us all. It is merely a matter of when. Just as the virus spreads through Westworld, it is spreading slowly and steadily through our country. You can't stay on the wrong path forever, yet we seemed determined to double down and go full speed ahead.

One important point left out here (or rather, only hinted at indirectly) is the global economic experiment we have embarked on, which is just as much a journey into the wilderness with no end in sight. The global central bank takeover is very much at the heart of the asset inflation that keeps the elite cozy in their positions of power. You only need think back to 2008 to realize how scared, insular and clueless these people are...and ultimately, how vulnerable they are in the future once everything falls apart again. Next time, it won't be so easy to just trot out the duct tape and bailing wire and make it appear unbroken.

Hubert Horan said...

No issues with your basic assessment of Clinton as the embodiment of the elite consensus, or the distrust of the "talking heads" who have told the public that There Is No Alternative to these elite policies. But from a practical political standpoint there is no reason to believe that a Trump victory would do anything to weaken elite power in the near term, despite the fact that Trump (and most of his supporters) actively disagree with major elements of elite policy (military spending, immigration, trade, etc). A Trump election means unified control of all three branches by the Republicans, and an end to the stalemates that have kept things from getting worse. Trump has absolutely no ability or interest in coordinating or controlling what the Republican congress does. Congressional Republicans, despite the active hostility of rank-and-file Republican voters are far more dedicated to the programs for unlimited military spending, no infrastructure investment, enhancing corporate and financial power, and upward income redistribution than the elite Democrats. The Democrats will at least look after the interests of the top 20% while the Republicans are totally focused on the 1%. These Republicans are far better at employing the "talking heads" to push their pro-corporate anti-working class agenda than the Democrats. The Republicans and their backers have been salivating at the prospect of unified control of Washington for decades, and once they get it they'll be absolutely ruthless about exploiting that position. Trump understands power; as President he won't have it but Congress and their financial backers will, so he'll play along with 95% of what they want in order to prevent the appearance of impotence. SO, accepting your general predictions of life following a Clinton election, I'd argue everything gets worse with Trump. There will be symbolic sops to hard-core Trump voters while everything else is for the benefits of the plutocrats and rent-seeking big corporations. Just like there were always sops to the religious right on "social" issues that business didn't like but weren't financially important.
The comparisons to the late stage USSR are important. Maybe you've done this in the past but I think the key parallel is the use of propaganda techniques--not just Fox News or your "talking heads" but 40 years of corporate/plutocrat investment in "narratives" and the ability to use propaganda techniques to totally hollow out journalism, academia, the judiciary and similar groups in order to totally exclude evidence and arguments that might have challenged the dominance of these elite groups.

Mister Roboto said...

Okay, so I did vote...straight-ticket Libertarian. I might not be a libertarian as such, far from it in fact, but they offered a full slate of candidates on the Federal level for which to vote where I live, and I also respect their consistent stance against hegemonic militarism and the encroaching police-state. The Green Party couldn't be more irrelevant if it tried, and sometimes I wonder if it is indeed trying! The one state-level office up for grabs here, state representative, I left blank because the only choice was a safely-ensconced Scott Walker Republican versus a Democratic old union-boss challenger at whom I'm sure sixty percent of the voters will flip the finger when they vote for the incumbent.

I find Trump too detestable to cast my vote for him (he's going to be charged with fraud for his Trump University scam and he's an aggressive sexual harasser if not a rapist), but if the Flyover Country laboring classes want to put him in the Oval Office, I won't stand in their way, because I know how fully legitimate their grievances are. The whole shebang is precipitously heading for collapse anyway and the rot of our society and its politics fully reflect this fundamental truth, so "what the hey"?

I only hope whoever wins doesn't start the ICBMs flying. Last night someone was hot-rodding down my street in their muscle-car, and the sound was a little bit like how the civil-defense sirens sound when they start their nightmarish wailing call. Let me tell you, my heart started thumping like the proverbial jackrabbit!

Bill Pulliam said...

One flaw in all this discussion though: Trump is not a man of any principles or beliefs at all, in a policy sense. He is a performer, a "reality" TV actor. He would/will quickly wind up being just be a rough-talking figurehead puppet for pretty much the same neocon/neoliberal consensus of the last several decades. You could say the same was true of Reagan, but by the time he became president he had a substantial history in politics and his principles and policies were well-formed, well-known, and (at least for practical purposes) sincerely held. George W. Bush was more similar, but in reality you can kind of draw a line from Reagan (actor turned politician with real policies) to Bush II (Mindless Prettyboy from a political dynasty figurehead for the Neocon movement who did what he was told) to Trump (Publicity hound who has no actual foundation principles or policies and will just chase the spotlight).

Clinton's one positive is that she is a known quantity, no mystery about what a Clinton administration will and won't try to do. The devil we know, or the loose canon we don't?

My own vote has been cast, for neither of them.

Substantial prospects for significant change in the American trajectory on this presidential cycle evaporated early in the primary season.

Vadim said...

Dear JMG,
as interesting and intelligent your writing is, it seems to miss some important points. One is, both candidates are equally disliked by a big group of electorate. However, there is very little proof (to say the least) that D.T. has any intention or abilities to change anything in DC. He has showed some abilities in staying on top of a wave of discontent (even at that he is far from being brilliant), and an astonishing lack of anything resembling leadership qualities. He got that far only because both the things are quite bad in the "flyover states" and his opponent is, well what she is.
I do find your reading of the situation a bit disturbing. 'cause, if you really see DT as somebody "admitting issues" or "takes the stand on them", the country is really primed for a collapse.
Then, maybe, it is because I am one of the better-off coastal liberals?

Bill Pulliam said...

On a p.s. I do find it interesting that many seem to think the current narrowing of the polling gap between Clinton and Trump is because of the FBI email stuff. It seems far more likely from the timing of it all that is it because of the huge rate hikes in Obamacare premiums. Of course "85% of enrollees don't have to pay the full rate" so it's not a problem... except for that other 15%, who I guess don't count? I think the average voter has already heard more about Clinton's e-mails than they care to think about and just glossed over the latest crap, but health insurance hits right in the gut and the wallet. But the FBI announcement lets the Dems ignore the problems with the ACA yet again and focus on something meaningless instead.

Robert Mathiesen said...

Thank you for this unexpected blog-post before the election. Your reading of the national situation seems spot-on to me. We are in for a very unsettling next two or three weeks after bthe votes are counted, whoever wins the Presidency.

Matt Beresford said...

Fantastic analysis John. The similarities with Brexit just keep hitting home again and again. The left here continues to flail around trying to make sense of it all...

Rich_P said...

Trump *won't* change things enough to matter, as he's avoided talking about root causes and does not understand the Constitution, federalism, etc. I view this entire circus of an election as a textbook example of how the failures of statist progressivism inevitably engender populist uprisings that allow would-be Caesars to take control of bloated federal apparatuses to ultimately destroy the republic. President Obama, ironically enough, has voiced concern that he's leaving behind a "loaded gun" for the next president to use. You think?

What's concerning to me (as a self-described republican [little 'r'] constitutionalist who favors decentralized governance) is that we've reached this point. Where healthcare for a nation of 300+ million people is based around a failed program named after a president. Where desperate people look to the president to somehow bestow upon them jobs as though he's Jesus with loaves and fishes. Where in Article II of the Constitution are these powers given to the Chief Magistrate (as Washington called the office)? This is extraordinarily dangerous and, dare I say it, pathetically desperate.

The fallacy of statism is that economic and political power consolidated in the hands of the "benevolent" and "all-knowing" few is desirable and productive. Instead, it creates corruption, disconnectedness, and ultimately threatens liberty itself. E.g. we defeated the Soviet Union so our economy could be steered by a politburo of econ PhDs at the Fed who debase the fiat currency for the benefit of asset holders.

Unlike other coasties, though, I am not surprised by Trump's ascent, though I always viewed his candidacy as a rather ham-fisted "F U" to a clearly-broken system. I am saddened that this justifiable anger is not directed at intelligently fixing the underlying issues and has instead been channeled behind an egomaniac blowhard.

Varun Bhaskar said...


Welcome back, hope you had a good time with your lodge!

Cracked recently published another article about the possibility of a second civil war in the US, it is another really good read.

Whether Hillary or Trump win, I feel that this is the end of the road for working class support of the liberal program. I consider myself a lefty in many respects, but even I’ve started to talk about liberals with a great deal of contempt. A fair number of my liberal friends are clinging to our current institutions, universities and such, like their lives depend on them. Their lives probably do depend on those institutions, but they refuse to consider a future without those places. They’re also crawling paycheck to paycheck, though not a one will admit it how close they are to disaster.

Whatever happens we really do need these years of fire. The weakness and arrogance of some of the more educated members of our society needs to be dealt with, and hardship is the only solution. I’ve increasingly started to look upon the affluent, and those people who should know better, with a great deal of contempt. The only thing worse than a know-it-all with power, is a know-it-all without.



David, by the lake said...


Once again, a well-wrought, cogent, and unsettling essay. I must admit that while I cast my ballot for Stein weeks ago, fully cognizant of the fact that she has zero chance of winning, and while I am more than aware of Trump's shortcomings and less-than-pleasant qualities (reasons I did not vote for him despite agreeing with him on a handful of select, key issues), I have been quietly hoping for something that would dislodge our politics from the senile status quo. I have no illusions about the odds as to whether or not such a change would be better, but as you point out, the present course guarantees that it will not be.

I also realize that I need to get out more. I live in what I'd consider a small-to-mid sized city (~12k), but it is the second largest city in the county (there are three) -- other communities are organized as villages or are unincorporated county (townships). So, despite it being non-metro, I am still not really exposed day-to-day to experiences in the more rural life. (And it is not like I have to go far. Just off my well-beaten path a bit and I'm in farm country.) I need to de-bubble myself. Quickly.

Your comment re the dark, uncharted night brings to mind a bit of news I saw this morning:

I thought immediately of your posts discussing the various games and everyone's assigned roles. I guess that these folks are uncomfortable with the idea of uncharted territory and change, preferring their old role? It seems odd at first, but makes total sense when viewed from the perspectives you've suggested previously.

Building the local relationships and economies needed to find our way through this unknown landscape is more important than ever. I hope that I can keep myself from getting pulled back into the nonsense of our national politics so that I can focus on what actually matters. It is not always easy and I admit that I do not always succeed. Discipline and practice!

Thank you, again, for your observations and analyses on this blog. You do a great service and it is much appreciated.

Peter VE said...

The media ( specifically NPR) keeps saying that the success of the Democratic party will depend on getting "their" voters to the polls early in states like North Carolina and Florida. It doesn't seem to have occurred to either the media or the Democratic party that just because someone is a registered Democrat, they may not automatically vote for Clinton.

Doug W. said...

Good column. Arlie Hochschild's recent book "Strangers in Their Own Land" describes the plight and mindset of working class Americans in detail. It is definitely worth reading While the book focuses on people in the South what the author says applies to other parts of the country as well. I live in the rural north country region and in our neck of the woods thirty-one percent of households have a net worth of under $15,000 which means they can not fully participate in the economic and social life of their communities. And it is getting worse. Perhaps there is a set of policies that can help working class Americans, but more likely people will have to figure out how to save themselves.

Rustin Gray said...

As a millennial there is nothing in my lived experience that my country has done that hasn't made me furious or ashamed. The middle-east military interventions, the response to the 2008 financial crisis, the continued impoverishment of the people, no plan to address resource depletion and climate change.

Marijuana legalization, being a baby step to end the drug war, and marriage equality being small exceptions.

I think we hunger for something grand and something we can be genuinely proud of. Bringing money back to our communities is critical and some economic floor, some sense of security is critical. That's why I think Trump needs to come out in favor of a Universal Basic Income.

It could be part of "the biggest deal, the best deal, this deal, it's solid gold", give the people some small bit of relief in exchange for reducing the size of government, deregulation, and haircuts for oligarchs.

It's a long shot, but I think it's worth fighting for.

Breanna said...

Did you see the roaring, full-throated defense of the status quo in politics that The Atlantic posted recently?

The author praises machine politics, backroom deals, and all the rest of the things that the media has hitherto regarded with faux horror. This article drops all pretense and goes for full-on persuasion complete with head-shaking at the author's own juvenile idealism. It describes Sanders and Trump both as "political sociopaths."

It's like the mainstream media has suddenly noticed all the things you talk about and taken the complete opposite position on them.

dfr2010 said...

Voting for Donald Trump is the big middle finger to the political establishment (aka, "The Powers That Be") since apparently flying the Stars-N-Bars isn't getting the point across anymore.

I've seen a grand total of three bumper stickers in my county that had the name Hillary on them, and two said, "Hillary For PRISON 2016."

I am seriously thinking of adding my vote to the big one finger salute to the District of Criminals.

FiftyNiner said...

Your magnificent analysis of the forces impinging on this exceedingly momentous time in the life of our country leaves me fearful of all the possible outcomes. The irony is that the status quo candidate wants to propel us into a future we do not want and the change candidate seeks to find a "reset" button somewhere in the past where everything could be put back on track. In the middle of the noise of this campaign, most people have not stopped to consider how near to impossible it will be for Trump to halt the inertia of this dying system and salvage anything of value from it. It is only in reading you for last few years that I have allowed myself to admit to the mess that we are truly in. If Trump wins--and I think and hope that he will--it will be then that the "work of democracy" will begin in earnest and the people will have to back him with all their vigilance and might against the forces that will be arrayed against him.

pygmycory said...

As for cluelessness of elites outside the USA, the Canadian government does seem to be working quite hard at it. Despite the economic headwinds in Alberta and housing crisis in Vancouver, they've boosted the immigration target for 2016 and 17 to 300,000 per year from 260,000. There's a number of people in important positions who think it should be higher still. Right now doesn't seem like a good time to be raising the target to me. Canada's current population is currently somewhat over 36.4 million. It is rising a little over .75% yearly, but only due to immigration. Without that, population would be decreasing very slightly.

Trudeau is also annoying a goodly number of people in Coastal BC by reneging on promises with respect to oil tankers and proper scientific and public review of pipelines. The recent sinking of the front portion of an articulated tanker right by the Heiltsuk's clam beds and fishing grounds, and the utterly inadequate cleanup in rough weather really doesn't help his case.

He's started getting protested by youth about climate change inaction (sure, he talked a good line in 2015, but when it comes to actually doing anything...), and about lack of jobs.

I'm sad to see that it looks like I was right about him.

Matthew Lindquist said...

I'm coming out of lurker-retirement in order to post something further from that particular raucous NSFW online comedy magazine:

It is interesting that both Cracked and The Onion seem to be unburdened from the enforced elite consensus by their sheer irreverence. Cracked in particular has been impressing me with their return to good old-fashioned journalism in the form of actually sending people to the places their articles are about- even to Ukraine and Syria.

As for the election, I'm not sold on Trump at all. I agree that he'd scrap some elements of the current kleptocracy, but not by a long shot do I believe that he's in it for anything other than himself. Which is to say, I must thank you again- it's reassuring(inasmuch as reassurance can be found these days) to know that many Trump supporters do in fact see what I see, and have simply made different value judgements about the current situation. My fear was that they were operating on blind faith, and would perhaps react violently if their savior turned out to be another traitor.

That being said, I'll be damned if I vote for Hillary. My current plan is to send some votes toward a third party(haven't decided yet, but probably the Greens), and hope that next election cycle, the Democrats will be overwhelmed by their own outsiders in the same way the Republicans were overwhelmed this time around.

There is some hope there; I have been telling my friends that 2016's Democratic primary resembled nothing so much as 2012's Republican contest, with Hillary in the role of Mitt Romney(they're certainly both robotic enough!) and Bernie Sanders representing the rage of the dispossessed that finally manifested in Trump. Perhaps, just perhaps, things may hold together long enough for a "Bernie-crat" to run away with the nomination in four to eight years. That's my sliver of hope. But I'm not holding my breath.

On another note, I finally made it to Ashland, after years of living out here in Eugene, and I can say I totally understand why you left! I don't know if you ever frequented "Oberon's Three-Penny Tavern" when you were there, but the friends of mine who own that bar were the friends I was there to see, and since then they've been driven out by the yuppification of their own hometown. It was sad to see, but it was also some clarity- "Bobo Americanus" is out there in force! I suppose a silver lining of the decline and fall will be to make all of that go away forever. At least, that's another hope.

Hope your travels went well,


pygmycory said...

JMG - some weeks ago you suggested I write and post an article about why the Noldor in Middle-earth declined faster than the sindar/silvan realm of Mirkwood. Here it is:

pygmycory said...

Elites all round the world seem to be clueless at the moment - although some more than others. BC and Canada's doesn't seem to know or care what the housing prices in Toronto and across much of southern BC are doing to lower-income people. They don't seem terribly keen on listening when people stand up and tell them, either, judging from the reactions of a panel on housing affordability I attended some weeks ago. Three different people brought up the inadequacy of social assistance/disability rates and/or minimum wages in the context of skyrocketing housing costs in Greater Victoria, and they ignored every single one of us like we weren't even there. The rest of the audience, on the other hand, clapped, so I guess some of them noticed.

Jordan said...


You might enjoy this (5min) video of Bernie Sanders grilling Alan Greenspan back in 2003 for being one of those people who think that the destruction of the working class in America doesn't matter.

hhawhee said...

Intellectually, I know that we are headed where we are headed and have been for a long time (500 years?) but sometimes one feels more anxiety than at other times. For a concrete example, intellectually I knew that JMG was coming back after a one-week hiatus, but I was seriously losing it anyway when there was no Archdruid Report last week. Don't make a habit out of that.

Ezra Buonopane said...

It appears to me that some parts of the mainstream media are finally beginning to realize that the current US government doesn't have as secure a hold on power as it likes to think. Just last weekend NPR interviewed a former state department official and a person from Bosnia, who was openly comparing the situation of the US right now with that of Yugoslavia in the 1980s. He did discount the possibility of a civil war for a variety of reasons, but the fact that he considered it in the first place, and the lack of shock on the part of the NPR interviewer at his doing so was a definitely a sign of the times. The state department guy's answers were more riddled with euphemisms and newspeak, such as "political turmoil" "a wave of populism" and all the other standard terms elites use to avoid talking too bluntly about their own vulnerability.

beetleswamp said...

I've been following David Wong for a while now and very happy to see you posted the Cracked article. Been trying to show it to my liberal minded friends who say they "don't understand" why people support Trump only to find out what they really mean is that they refuse to understand. I got fed up with being called racist/misogynist/homophobe/etc so I'm not talking with anyone about politics until this is over.

On another note it's getting interesting in Hawaii. Not many Hillary stickers, and a good percentage of them mention prison. There aren't many Trump stickers either, but I'm guessing that it has more to do with avoiding retaliation than lack of support. This state is being run into the ground by the crony capitalist left, who made a living monument of their corruption with a hopelessly dysfunctional and pointless elevated Rail line surrounded by growing homeless encampments. At some point there will be a backlash, and it may have already started.

Yesterday the bumbling but very popular Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi was acquitted on charges of stealing $30k on a city credit card. Only the media is incompetent enough to not realize their witch hunt against the small beans anti-GMO mayor is actually driving the rage of the population as to why the Oahu politicians get a free pass after stealing billions of taxpayer dollars for the Rail (and still managed to mess it up).

Christopher Henningsen said...

Interesting analysis. My own hope is that Trump will turn out to be the Gorbachev in this election, his plan to close foreign military bases seems consistent with a scaling back of american neocolonialism. He's certainly presided over a number of spectacular failures, and best case I think he might be able to dissolve the American empire with something resembling a touch of dignity and good humor.

Worst case... well, our Canadian talking heads do love their refugees.

Mister Roboto said...

Speak of the Devil, here's one of those pieces of American "Pravda" journalism you mentioned in this very post!

One scenario I can readily imagine is Trump winning, and then the day after he takes the oath of office, pulling a Howard Beale at the end of Network. said...

Fantastic post John.

Like many here, I have my reservations about Donald Trump but on core issues, including relations with Russia, trade policy and cutting back on the global empire pretensions of the elites, I do think that he genuinely means what he says. What struck me during the debates was that he slapped down Mike Pence brutally, on front of the American population, on the issue of Syria - Trump is his own man and won't be pushed around by anybody on the issue of resetting relations with President Putin.

So, unlike some of the more cynical commentators on your forum, I do think that Trump, if elected, will try as much as possible to change the foreign and economic policy trajectory of the United States.

I have outlined what may likely be seen in a Trump presidency in my blog, which some may be interested in reading.

My own prediction, at this point in the race, is that Trump will win on 8 November 2016.

David, by the lake said...

The other point that I have to keep bringing back into focus for myself is that **the system cannot be saved** -- the trajectory of decline can be deflected, mitigated, softened, but not halted, not reversed. The Renaissance does not occur until after the Dark Age has run its course. We ourselves are only in the Shadow Years, which means that the Renaissance is well beyond our lifetime (or our children's or their children's or their children's...) And no amount of wishing otherwise will alter that fact. What we have to do, then, (I tell myself) is to put on our grown-up pants and do what is needed to construct societies that will 1) help people manage the times ahead, and 2) preserve the seeds of what will one day flourish anew, long after we are gone. We must be satisfied with that.

Old Professor said...

Recent visits to small towns in both Tennessee and Maine have illustrated the plight of the working class to me. Both towns looked much poorer from a visit made one year prior. Very few businesses open and lots of people selling used stuff along the roadside. Discussions with relatives and other locals revealed that no good jobs were available just low wage, no benefit subsistence work. People are getting by on credit cards and social security. Collapse might be better for some of these folks because at least a local economy instead of a global one would emerge.

It doesn't matter in the long run who wins the presidency because the system is corrupt and people have lost faith in it. This is true not just in the US but in many other parts of the world. The big question now is into what and how will a new politic and economy come into being? My feeling is that the Union will fail and that people will sort themselves out into culturally based groups that could encompass states (or provinces). The problem is that history shows that people with power and weapons do not voluntarily relinquish either. At this point I think it is time to move north of the 45th parallel.

NomadicBeer said...

I would like to compensate a bit for the Trump bashing I see here (too).
One thing that came out was that he apparently knows he has no idea what to do as a president. That single fact is enough to raise him above 99% of the politicians, including HC.
Another thing - it's a big jump from "locker talk" to rapist. I don't like the current political correct climate where is okay to shoot innocent black kids just as long as you don't use the N word.
I think it's the same with DT - he is obviously a womanizer and a BS-er and he would be an easy target for people that want money. And yet there is no history of women complaining about abuse, it all started just now. Hmm... Compare this to the long history of HC corruption and evil.
That being said, I voted Green. All I did was empty my mind and read the candidates pages in the pamphlet. For better or worse, I decided to take them all at their word - and the Greens were the only ones NOT completely delusional.

Shane W said...

Umm, I beg to differ: the bipartisan consensus has been firmly welded into place since "Third Way" Bill Clinton took office in 1992.

John Randall said...

I think Trump was flattered into running for President and never really wanted the job. The idea of a billionaire playboy having any sincere concern for the welfare of ordinary people seems absurd to me, so if he wins, nothing of any significance will change. Society will still be run by, and for the benefit of, the extremely wealthy. The US will still keep trying to influence world events in its favour by fair means or foul, including military force, because that's what is needed to try to sustain business as usual.

NomadicBeer said...

On a different note, I have a question about Romneycare (I mean Obamacare).
I talked to some people at a Halloween party and what I gathered is that yes, if you have money the Obamacare increases healthcare costs (I see that with my work provided health insurance too!). But if you are poor, Obamacare helps by removing preconditions and providing free healthcare.
Is there any truth to this? I am not poor and I am willing to pay more to live in a more equal society, but my fear is that all the rate increases will go to the top and the poor will get screwed again.

Dale NorthwestExpeditions said...


This is one election where I believe the Vice-Presidential candidates should be given a closer look. Violence seems to be heating up in our country and, heaven forbid, one of those two could end up holding the bag. Pence scares the bejezus out of me. A white-haired Cheney! Kaine seems to represent the old SNL character who was born without a backbone. Too bad that there isn't another Teddy Roosevelt standing in the wings. It took a malcontent Republican to clean out the Robber Barons of another age.

Bill Pulliam said...

An especially sad and desperate side of this election: Those who do support one of the major party candidates mostly do it for what s/he symbolizes, not what s/he is. Clinton voters support her because of the prgressive dream, ideals of egalitarianism and diversity, etc. Trumps voters support him because of a dream of a mythical golden age we can return to, smashing the status quo and restoring democracy. More so than in any previous election that I can remember (back to 1968) these are just pure fantasy with no connection at all to the corrupt affluent scoundrels who are actually runnng.

Patricia Mathews said...

If Trump's actions, the ones that are on record, and his responses to comments, criticism, questions, and being called on his stuff, didn't remind me so much of a 2-year-old, I'd be more inclined to agree. As it is, he's not precisely the Platonic ideal of a populist of any sort, even when judged by the standards of most of the critters in public life these days. Your diagnosis is dead-on, but the remedy - isn't, in my view.

Not that there's anything better on the horizon. Even so - sorry. Either way, this will not end well.

tolkienguy said...

Am I the only one who found that Cracked article...scarily plausible? Sometimes I feel like this country is one gigantic pressure cooker with the vent closed, with the steam slowly building up...

And, contra JMG, I feel like either Trump or Clinton would be equally disastrous, just in different ways. If Trump gets elected, a large portion of the country will, from day one, hate his guts and think he's some kind of proto-Hitler-and Trump has shown no sign of doing anything to remotely conciliate these people. I can easily imagine city after city-including a few I've been to, and care about-going up in massive riots, all while certain ends of the political class-while piously deploring the violence, of course-implicitly encourage it by blaming everything on the half of the country that voted for Trump, and go on and on about how the country would be so much better if flyover country like...never voted again, or something.

Likewise, a Hilary presidency (still most likely, IMO, though less likely than it was a couple weeks ago), will be almost as bad. A good hardcore of Trump's supporters will probably buy into conspiracy theories about the election being stolen, and form protest movements that spiral out across Appalachia, the Deep South, and the Dryland West, making the Tea Party look tame with noisy rallies for the "legitimate president". And meanwhile, Hillary's presidency will be rocked by scandal after scandal, the economy will get worse for everyone who doesn't live inside Manhattan or the Beltway (fueling the pro-Trump protest movement and its numerous splinters), and the whole country will slowly stumble and lurch towards disaster.

What America really needs right now is some kind of national reconcilation and healing from the last two decades of hyperpartisan madness. And unfortunately, I don't see any way we're going to get it.

thenoteswhichdonotfit said...

I have spent some time in rural America this year, but I know I did not visit the most desperate areas. In one town I visited with very traditional values - lots of churches (and church attendance), very family oriented, pride in local history, etc. one of the residents told us that the main source of income for the people in town (population is about 800) is marijuana. I was at first surprised to hear this, since this did not at all seem like a community which would be pot-friendly on the surface, but as the resident explained, that is the only way most folk can make money. Without marijuana, he said, the town would have no economy. For the record, main street in that town seemed to be doing okay, with a number of local business which seemed to be doing okay.

In a bigger rural town (population 1,400) there are a lot of retirees moving in, mostly from the SF Bay Area, because the cost of living in SF Bay Area is too high. I met some of these retirees from the Bay Area. They are mostly middle class, but I also met two working class retirees who relocated from the Bay Area. That town's main streets has a mix of thriving small businesses (the town is proud of not having any chain stores) and abandoned store fronts. When I talked to the long-term locals, though they are not thrilled about the cost of housing going up, they consider the people moving in from the Bay Area to be a net positive since they help sustain local businesses.

I do not know how representative the communities I visited are of Northern California as a whole, and I know they are not representative of rural American in general.

And yes, many affluent people here are clueless about how people in rural areas feel, though some are not clueless (especially those who at one point had lived in flyover country, or had once been blue collar). I have seen many more Hillary than Trump signs (though Bernie signs remain more common that Hillary and Trump signs combined).

Danil Osipchuk said...

I feel a bit uneasy to express a keen interest to the elections in the foreign country, but my excuse is that looming nuclear war under the HC presidency is certainly of my concern too. Anything is better than that.
Also one have to admit it is very entertaining to follow all the twists - so much scandals and intrigues - the reality outdoes fiction, truly grotesque.
Not that arguing with general trend outlined in the post, but again trying to bring back factor of decent people who must be present in every country to have any work done.
Dear JMG, do you remember 'anon-fbi' thread on 4chan? You then dismissed it as a complete nonsense and I had to say that we probably will see soon if there is any substance in it.
Now there is a sudden rush of FBI to reopen the probe and share its previous findings:
May be the following does mean that something is brewing?

peakfuture said...

Spot on, as usual. Perhaps we really aren't electing a president, more of a 'starter president'; how many folks think that either candidate won't be impeached (or up to their ears in scandal) a year from now?

Being outside of a big city, with traditional liberal leanings, the view from most of my colleagues is that things will continue, and Clinton will win. They do admit to being a bit nervous, though.

Michael Moore had another bit on Trump that speaks to this stuff, in the same vein:

Richard Larson said...

I'll waste my vote on Vermin Supreme as I don't want to have any responsibility for the collapse.

Gabriela Augusto said...

Dear JMG,

Unfortunately it is not only the US election the reason why I suspect that our brand of democracy often fails to provide an acceptable choice of leaders. Just ask the French, the Spaniards, the Brazilians to name just a few. Shouldn't our government system atract reasonable decent people? I am starting to believe we would be better served by some kind of random selection to appoint our governments.

Jay Moses said...

i only wish joe bageant was still with us to see this spectacle. there comes a point when irony is no longer possible, when no exaggeration can exceed the reality of the lunacy on display.

MawKernewek said...

Somehow all this talk of Washington DC reminds me of the Kim Stanley Robinson climate change trilogy where the Californian author has the Californian hero of the story look on as Washington is devastated by successive climate related disasters.

Armata said...

Speaking of full-throated defenses of the status quo, have any of you seen Thomas Friedman's rather pathetic defense of Hillary Clinton and attempt to persuade Trump supporters to vote for her?

Meanwhile, Friedman can only offer Trump voters and the rest of us in "fly-over country" same platitudes, catch-phrases and lullabies that Bush, Obama, Clinton and the rest of the establishment have been repeating for decades and a defense of the same policies that got us into the terrible mess we are in today. Things look an awful lot different when you spend your life in an ivory tower or aboard a private jet and don't have to mix with the masses whose lives are being destroyed by the policies you are defending.

The smartest thing we can do now is to keep our economy as open and flexible as possible — to get the change signals first and be able to quickly adapt; create the opportunity for every American to engage in lifelong learning, because whatever jobs emerge will require more knowledge; make sure that learning stresses as much of the humanities and human interactive skills as hard sciences; make sure we have an immigration policy that continues to attract the world’s most imaginative risk-takers; and strengthen our safety nets, because this era will leave more people behind.

This is the only true path to American greatness in the 21st century. Trump wants to make America great in ways that are just not available anymore. “What do we have to lose” by trying his way? Trump asks. The answer is: everything that actually makes us great. When the world gets this fast, small errors in navigation have huge consequences.

While Clinton has failed to inspire, her instincts and ideas will keep us hewing to basically the right course. And however great her flaws, she is still in the zone of human decency. Trump is not.

Shills like Friedman remind me a great deal of the French aristocracy prior to the Revolution of 1789. Words cannot begin to describe how much I and most of the people I know despise the Friedman's and Clinton's of this world. While I have serious misgivings about Trump, I ended up voting for him because I like and trust Clinton even less and I know that a vote for her is a vote for more of the same ruinous policies that are destroying America from within. If that makes me a "Deplorable", then I will wear that label with pride and honor.

Edward said...

As a CEO of a corporation, Trumps word is law. If elected as president I see him becoming stymied by the entrenched interests and using increasingly authoritative strategies to impose his will.

In the interest of salvaging something good out of our nation, Trump's candidacy may be a case of the right message but the wrong messenger. His lack of acuity is astounding. When asked if he would accept the results if Hillary wins, he fumbled badly. It would have been easy to think of something to the effect that the voters would regret their choice and he'd be back in 4 years. He probably wouldn't, taking his ball and going home, but perhaps the forgotten populace in the flyover states should start working on a more suitable candidate to run in 4 years.

Both Trump and Hillary are among the most hated candidates ever and one of them will go on to become one of the most hated presidents ever.

Bill Blondeau said...

This will be the election in which many Americans confront the uncomfortable reality that The Lesser of Two Evils is simply not lesser enough. Not anymore. Not in these times.

Hard to imagine a more destabilizing political perception.

Justin said...

I'll throw in a prediction that Trump will win, just for the record. However, I've believed this since a year or so ago because Americans love an underdog - his wealth and second-generation silver-spoon status aren't enough to make Trump not an underdog compared to Clinton.

I will occasionally watch a Trump rally, and one interesting bit of rhetoric - something that Sanders did not do - is he talked about the value of vocational training and skilled trades. He's been doing this for at least a week, probably longer.

When's the last time a presidential candidate did this? I don't mean a bit of working-class pandering, but actually suggesting that becoming a welder or something was actually a decent life decision.

I agree with Bill that Trump is likely full of shale, but his rhetoric and criticism of government and other aspects of the current era will not go away now that it has entered the public sphere. I hope that the Conservative Party of Canada (the other two are hopeless) is watching and learning.

Armata said...

A leading Russian sociologist's take on the 2016 Presidential election.

PS - Is it just me, or is anyone else having issues with getting Blogger to accept comments today? It seems like most times I have tried to submit a comment today, I have received an error message and have had to make multiple attempts before it would accept the comment. Blogger is really going downhill fast, especially after their latest so-called upgrades. We've been talking about the law of diminishing returns when it comes to technological "progress", but you can really see that phenomenon in action with Blogger after the latest so-called upgrades.

jean-vivien said...

Gee and Matt,
the rest of the Western world does not suffer from all the problems plaguing the USA, so I am far from sure Trump's election would have such an impact on Europe, for example. But it would still be a shock, as in Europe the same distrust of the European technocracy is felt as for the USA's folks towards their government.

if you take Trump's stance on energy, it would make things even worse for the USA as he advocates a return to the Reagan era of oil guzzling. It would even be a disaster for the entire world... That's the thing with disruptive candidates : they get votes because people assume that if they got in power, it would completely upheave the status quo and hopefully some good might come out of the upheaval. The "jump into the dark" described by JMG. In this case, Trump's election would not necessarily mean he is approved as President, but that a lot of people want to upheave things. And when it turns out that he doesn't upheave things a lot after all, I guess that the next "new frontier" will be plain violence. Or he might be smart enough to enact a populist agenda... A big risk to take, but at least it beats maintaining the status quo. Violence might come out just as quickly if the status quo were maintained in power by the Democrats.

In general, we get a bit of the same feelings here in France, with the Presidential function reaching so far unprecedented heights in distrust and impopularity. The differences are too numerous to be listed here, however one of the most significant is that the enemy of the lower classes is twofold this time : both the French elite and the European elite. Therefore a candidate with a strong authoritarian slant and a clear support for economically patriotistic policies might very well get an easy way to the Elysée's Palace, and make for a good President once in office. However the most credible candidates have all been in power previously, all come from the same school (the ENA). And the ENA is slowly becoming the symbol of the formatting of an elite where political orientation matters less than the social separation from the nation's daily life. A lot of them (which includes, erm, a former President) are even mired in corruption/misdeed trials.

So yes, France is at a similar stage of its History. We have found many of the solutions for a post-industrial future (we still have good rail service, a growing organic agricultural sector...), and yet we need an actual alternative for leadership. The sense that people would do a better job governing themselves than the government has sipped through the Nuit Debout movement which tried to discuss ideas such as randomly chosen elects, universal basic income. But Nuit Debout was too Parisian, too much well-to-do, and the current political offerings on the left have yet to catch up...

There has yet to come a movement that advocates giving back the work to people, versus rampant automation,offshoring or mass immigration.
I fear that if a left-wing political movement does not rise to defend that proposition, which would also help us face the Long Emergency, we will end up stuck on a devil's choice between either the far right, or radical religious ideologies.

Repent said...

Absolutely amazing essay! I'm stunned by how you continue to put all the disjointed pieces together to make a coherent picture of reality.

It's a little early yet to revisit the predictions that you made at the beginning of this year, but they are uncannily correct. Saudi Arabia is borrowing huge gobs of money to pay its bills and it is teetering on collapse, Trump is the likely victor of the election, also one of your 'out there' predictions about a push to solar energy can be seen in this Hillary propaganda ad that came out of the wikileaks dump recently:

Meanwhile the general decline of the long decent continues its winding path downward. How do you do it? Premonitions?

Shane W said...

I tell my coworkers that I'd like to be the first Confederate ambassador to Mexico, and they don't think that it is crazy in the slightest. I just found out I'm descended from FFV (First Families of Virginia) on my mom's side, and I qualify for Daughters, I mean Sons, of the Confederacy (my great-great grandfather received a Confederate pension from the state for his service w/Hunt Morgan, he was a POW in Ohio, and took the oath to the Union "under compulsion" in Lexington)

Mark Mikituk said...

Another great post John! As to the question of who will end up as your president, I choose option C: It doesn't really matter cuz things are about to get even crazier either way.

Shane W said...

JMG, I'm wondering why you've abandoned your "welfare, wage, salary, investment" class terminology to go back to more traditional terms like working class? IMHO, your post on income source & class was one of your best...

Avery said...

A few months ago you pointed out the amusing rhetoric of anti-Russian hysteria in the American press, and suggested that contrary to the established narrative, there are plenty of Americans who would love to see a President tackle the rampant corruption and greed in our country with the ruthless efficiency that Putin exercised in Russia. One thing that should be pointed out, though, is that as this rhetoric intensified into all-out conspiratorial paranoia over the past few months, it also became familiar to a certain group of people: those who personally lived through the Soviet collapse.
Those who felt the impact of the collapse in their homes tell me that in the final decade of the Soviet Union, those few voices in the wilderness who claimed that the Union itself would collapse were lambasted as CIA plants or pro-American traitors. Certainly the CIA obviously was operating in the USSR -- and based on that kernel of truth, the establishment was able to conjure up a vast conspiracy by the other Cold War power to subvert people's faith in the motherland. This conspiracy became the go-to response to any sort of concerns about the stability of the Union. Does this sound at all familiar?
As you've pointed out on this blog before, the appearance of infuriated defenses of the status quo often tells us more about the people doing the defending than it does about those doing the questioning. A healthy status quo does not need to be defended. And check out the headline of Breanna's link! A full-fledged defense of corruption, as she said, and it's entitled "How American Politics Went Insane"... see any unintended reflexivity there?
I feel like this thing must have reached its peak this past Monday, when Hillary Clinton tweeted out a claim that Trump owns a "secret server" that talks to a large Russian bank. I say this must have been a peak because this was too ridiculous even for the New York Times and Washington Post, who both quickly debunked the theory. But on the other hand, I'm just setting myself up to be surprised by what happens next.
One thing's for sure, whatever sort of collapse we see will not be the end of the story. Life goes on regardless of politics, and the history of Russia in the 1990s should be a good message to us that political turmoil will not slow down when a new government is installed.

John Michael Greer said...

A note before I proceed -- as expected, I've received a flurry of fist-pounding, salive-spraying tirades from people who thought that rehashing canned talking points at the top of their lungs counts as polite discourse. With that in mind, I'd like to thank everyone who took the time to read this week's post and respond to it in a thoughtful and courteous manner, whether or not they agree with me.

That said, on to the comments...

Gee, since this is a weekly blog post rather than a book, I didn't include every relevant factor. The gyrations of the central banks in recent years are indeed important, though my interpretation of them veers as far from the conventional wisdom as it does from any of the standard theories out here in the doomosphere. I'll be doing a post on that, focusing especially on negative interest rates, as we proceed.

Hubert, I'm not entirely sure that you're right. The GOP is by no means as unanimous as you make it out to be, and a Trump victory is going to show every ambitious politician in the country which policies will get him or her an instant following among voters. Still, we'll see.

Mister R., glad to hear it. I'm enough of an old-fashioned small-d democrat that I consider voting an important civic ritual, if nothing else.

Bill, as I noted in my post, many of the people who are voting for Trump know as well as you do that they can't be sure that electing him will help. What they know for a fact is that voting for Clinton will prolong the unendurable, and voting for Trump will at least annoy the political class. As for substantive change, that's on its way, though not because of the two figures currently whacking each other in our quadrennial Punch and Judy show...

Vadim, the fact of the matter, as noted in my post, is that Trump has consistently talked about exactly those issues I enumerated. Whether that's pure opportunism or not, it's taken him from the fringe to an election in which he has a serious chance at victory -- and that right there means that the issues in question are not going to go away, because every ambitious politicisn in the country now knows how to win an instant mass following.

Bill, my guess is that you're quite correct. When I first heard of the scale of the latest round of Obamacare rate hikes, my immediate reaction was that that, all by itself, could put Trump in the White House. But we'll see...

Robert, no argument there! We're headed for very, very troubled times.

Matt, thank you. I've noticed that if you just keep spelling things out over and over again, sooner or later people start to get it!

Rich_P, I'd be perfectly happy seeing the federal government get out of the job creation business, so long as it also gets out of the job destruction business. The federal policies that subsidize automation and offshoring, penalize employers for hiring people, and tacitly allow unlimited illegal immigration have played a huge role in creating the jobless pseudorecovery we're in. More generally, I don't disagree at all that the federal government needs to get back to the purposes established for it by the constitution as amended, and stop trying to do things that were left to the states and the people. More on this as we proceed!

Varun, thank you! Yes, York Rite Grand Sessions is always a bit of a vacation weekend; it was again at Ocean City, a good time was had, and I came back with a grandiosely titled minor office -- for the next year I'm Grand Principal Sojourner for the Grand Chapter R.A.M. of Maryland. (That and $3.30 will get you a cup of coffee.) As for the more substantive aspects of your comment, I suspect it's not just the working class that's ditching the liberal program. A lot of the lower end of the salary class is turning to something a lot more like social democracy, as exemplified by Bernie Sanders, which is just as much of a challenge to the liberal status quo. One way or another, we're in for a wild ride.

donalfagan said...

I was thinking that the meme of the angry Trump voter was overlooking the already poor, when I got this from my stepdaughter at the Southern Poverty Law Center:

Justin said...

Pygmycory, did you see the one where the minister for finance thought the population of Canada should (and therefore will) be 100 million in 2100?

Some days I think this is all an elaborate prank. Is Truman Syndrome a thing?

Armata said...

I've only seen one Hillary for President bumper-sticker, but several Hillary for Prison bumper-stickers around town. I don't think the establishment has yet grokked just how hated she and the rest of the establishment really are.

Trump definitely seems to have the momentum behind him, especially since the FBI reopened its investigation into the email issue. One possibility that I can see is that Trump wins the popular vote but Hillary wins the electoral vote because the Democrats have a built-in geographical advantage. If that turns out to be the case, its a near certainty that The Donald and his supporters will refuse to accept the results and refuse to accept Hillary as the legitimate president. This could trigger a really nasty constitutional crisis and possibly some very serious political violence. There are huge numbers of people, particularly wage class whites and inner city blacks, who are fed up with the status quo and I don't think it would take much to trigger off a conflagration.

John Michael Greer said...

David, thank you. For what it's worth, I see a third party vote as a valid option -- anything that'll point out to the establishment that people aren't willing to tolerate the lesser evil any longer applies pressure in the right direction.

Peter, yes, I saw that. The hubris implied in the claim that the Democratic Party owns a certain section of the electorate is impressive, in its own way.

Doug, I think there are policies that would help, and I'll be talking about them as we proceed -- but those are going to have to be accompanied by a lot of work on the part of individuals, families, and communities. More on this in an upcoming post!

Rustin, I'm coming to see a universal basic income as a relatively simple fix for one of the industrial economy's most pervasive self-destructive features. I'll be talking about that, too, in an upcoming post.

Breanna, no, I didn't see that -- thank you! That's really quite stunning, and I hope a lot of people read it and think about what the United States has become.

Dfr2010, if I had a dollar for everyone who's said much the same thing in my hearing, I could probably buy pizza for everyone who comments on this week's post.

FiftyNiner, good. Of course you're right; even if Trump wins, the real work will be waiting, and if he loses, it'll still be waiting.

Pygmycory, of course. How can they break the unions and force Canadian workers to accept starvation wages and no benefits without an ongoing influx of immigrants? That's certainly how it worked down here.

Matt, if Clinton loses this time, the Democrat nomination is going to be wide open next time, and a competent Berniecrat will be hard to beat. (She'd certainly have my vote.) If she wins, the Dems will be committed to the existing order until 2024 at least. But we'll see...

Pygmycory, many thanks! I'll make time to read it as soon as I've waded through the current round of comments. As for the cluelessness of the elites, yep. That's exactly what I'm talking about.

Jordan, thank you!

Hhawhee, it'll happen from time to time, but not too often. Remember that you can always read the archive!

Ezra, fascinating. Thanks for the heads up.

Beetleswamp, when I was a kid, Cracked was the lamest humor magazine in print, a Mad wannabe that never even got halfway there. I have no idea how its online incarnation has turned into so lively, funny, and routinely thoughtful a site, but there it is. Thanks for the data points from Hawai'i -- worth knowing that the same causes are driving the same backlash there as elsewhere.

Armata said...

Meanwhile, wage class whites aren't the only ones who dislike Hillary Clinton. Have any of you heard about Louis Farrakhan's latest sermon, where he openly compares Mrs. Clinton to Hitler and accuses her and her husband of spearheading a war against African-Americans?

onething said...

"it’s common to find people who cheerfully admit that Trump might not change things enough to matter; it’s just that when times are desperate enough—and out here in the flyover states, they are—a leap in the dark is preferable to the guaranteed continuation of the unendurable."

And then there is the little matter of the guaranteed war that her side intends to provoke, this time with countries that can actually stand up to us!

John Michael Greer said...

Christopher, he could be our Gorbachev, or he could be our Yeltsin. Either way, what's unsustainable sooner or later will not be sustained...

Mister R., yep -- that's exactly the sort of thing I had in mind. As for Beale, hmm. Maybe, but I don't think Trump believes that.

Lordberia3, I'm kind of in the middle here; I'm no admirer of Donald Trump, and I certainly don't expect him to come through on all the promises he made, but yes, I think it's possible he could at least slow down the endless march to war in the Middle East and maybe ditch some of the policies that are getting rid of American jobs. I doubt it will be enough, but it could be something.

David, exactly. That wider perspective has to be kept in mind even, or especially, while dealing with the crises of the moment.

Professor, I see the same thing. The one point I'd make about the change of power is that it's not actually the political class that has the weapons and the power. All they do is issue orders -- and we got to see in the late 1980s and early 1990s, in the former Warsaw Pact states, what happens when the people who are supposed to follow orders stop doing so.

NomadicBeer, so noted!

Shane, some major elements go back to Ronald Reagan, for that matter, but the neoconservative ascendancy really got bolted into place with George W. Bush.

John, he doesn't have to care. He simply has to recognize that if he pursues policies that discard business as usual in favor of a rebalancing that benefits the silenced majority, he's going to be reelected in a landslide. I think he's more than enough of an egotist to want that!

NomadicBeer, notice that they left out everyone in the middle. The rich have enough money to pay for coverage; the poor get subsidies, though the co-pays and deductibles are still ruinously high; it's the people in the middle who don't get the subsidies and don't have the cash to cover medical insurance bills that cost more than a mortgage.

Dale, Pence is supposed to scare you; he's a well-chosen impeachment insurance policy. Clinton's choice of Kaine was stunningly inept; if you're one of the most detested people in American political life, you don't choose a well-liked moderate with no baggage as your running mate -- not unless you basically want to pin a sign saying IMPEACH ME to your own backside.

Bill, I'm by no means sure that that's a valid generalization. As I noted in my post, a lot of Trump voters seem to be motivated by specific, concrete issues, not the sort of fantasy images you've evoked.

Patricia, I'm not saying that Trump's a good choice. As I noted quite some time ago, there are tens of thousands of Americans who would be a better president than he will. It's just that, to my mind, Hillary Clinton is not one of them.

Tolkienguy, I certainly didn't mean to present Trump as a panacea! Quite the contrary, he's nearly as problematic as his main adversary, and you're quite right that no matter who wins, we're in for a period of bitter polarization and quite probably political violence. Reconciliation, I suspect, is still a long way away -- at least as far as it was in, say, 1860...

Cherokee Organics said...


Yup. These days people confuse money for actual wealth without realising that once the government that issues that money goes into massive debt and begins printing that money - then it is worth less with each passing year.

Yesterday morning, I passed by a bus stop in the big smoke and there was a guy - who was clearly an addict of some sort in his final days - and he was picking a few of his open sores on his leg. And he asked me if I had a smoke which I could give him. What do you say to that? Sorry mate, I don't smoke is what I said. Homelessness and mental health issues are way, way up and on the rise down here.

It is interesting, but I had a strange insight this morning that it is only possible to live in the moment if someone else is taking responsibility for your situation. And when they're not doing that, you really are up the creek without a paddle if you attempt that particular trick of outsourcing your responsibilities to someone who is no good or irresponsible. US politics - and down here too - appear to me to be a lot like that. That is why people claim that it all doesn't matter, because for them it probably doesn't. Dunno, but it seems like a confused way to get through life to me.

Cheers - and nice to have you back too. Hope you had a nice trip and weren't subjected to any television screen heavy bars this time? ;-)!!


pygmycory said...

This year needs an election sign reading 'A pox on both their houses!'

Glenn said...

NomadicBeer said...
"On a different note, I have a question about Romneycare (I mean Obamacare).
I talked to some people at a Halloween party and what I gathered is that yes, if you have money the Obamacare increases healthcare costs (I see that with my work provided health insurance too!). But if you are poor, Obamacare helps by removing preconditions and providing free healthcare.
Is there any truth to this? I am not poor and I am willing to pay more to live in a more equal society, but my fear is that all the rate increases will go to the top and the poor will get screwed again".

Blogger ate my well reasoned nuanced response and gave me a 404 error. We live below the poverty line in Washington state. My brother and his wife now have free coverage, they had been paying $500 a month for catastrophic with a $10K deductible before 2014, paying for nothing essentially. I am retired military, so medical coverage is good. But Washington gives free Dental to those below the poverty line now. Untreated dental problems are a major proportion of Emergency Room visits, so this is very cost effective. We now have dental coverage for the first time since I left the Service.

In states which have accepted Medicaid from the Feds (mostly blue states) the poor do better. In red states, which haven't? Not so much. After the election I suspect a lot of red states will quietly sign on to the Medicaid aspects of the ACA, and no one will ever say the word Obamacare again.


in the Bramblepatch
Marrowstone Island
Salish Sea

Megan Robins said...

Dear JMG,
Thank-you for another insightful Archdruid Report. I found your comparison between Russia in the 80's and 90's and the US today to be very interesting. I am interested in whether you have an opinion about who will rise to the top after this particular debacle is over? Who will be the US's Putin?

pygmycory said...

Justin, yes I did. I'm mulling writing to some of the relevant ministers about how dumb this is, but I don't feel like that will do any good. I've written so many letters and emails and signed so many petitions, given money, and collected signatures over the years... I've marched in the streets and it seems to make so little difference. I'm really sick of the status quo, but also of banging my head against a brick wall.

I guess I have the consolation that things that cannot continue forever don't, and the status quo will die one way or another. I can't say that the assorted right-wing populist movements impress me, though. It seems like we're offered frying pan or fire, and what I want is to go hide in the bushes.

Robert Tweedy said...

Every time I hear someone say, "A leap (jump) into the dark," I think of Wilhelm II, Bethmann-Hollweg and von Moltke in July 1914. Whenever I hear "status quo," I think of Nicholas II in February 1917. Every. Single. Time.

Curtis said...

As for the US election, I'm watching with interest, trepidation, and quite a bit of fatigue from here in Canada! I thought you might appreciate this election-related article from Jonathan Haidt (who's done some interesting research into the moral psychology of liberalism and conservatism). I thought it complemented some of the things you and others have had to say about the economic factors driving Trump's popularity, while also giving a different angle on the situation. It even mentions Burkean conservatism!!

One of the things your writing has gotten me thinking about is the tension between the need for shared values and norms in a given society, as well as a certain "live and let live" attitude in regards to different values and norms across various sub-cultures. I thought your Retrotopia narrative was an interesting exploration of this tension.

Roy Smith said...

The November meeting of the Cascadia Guild, Greater Seattle Branch, will be held on Thursday, November 17, 2016, from 6:30 to 8:00 PM. Venue will be the conference room at the Edmonds Library, 650 Main Street, Edmonds, WA 98020.

Visit our online forum for meeting agenda and other details.

Thank you to Mr. Greer for the inspirational blog as well as for tolerating advertising for this in the comments section.

Matthew Smallwood said...

Steve Sailer nailed it years ago, when he pounded George Bush for "Invade the World, Invite the World" policies.
And you see it too. Everyone sees it, everyone that is, whose job and or Affluent Lifestyle doesn't reward them for not noticing it. The only Hillary signs in my neighborhood are on two homes where I've never seen a human occupant in the yard, checking mail, doing work, or in general, being OUTSIDE. The ruling class wants America to be one gigantic suburb, with the globe as their oyster, and people who don't or won't fit in, will live in either slums (if they'll vote for approved candidates) or No-Go Flyover country.

D. Mitchell said...

I'm crying because you are so right. You are right that we are up against the wall. You are right that we are worried how we will feed our families while we work 40 hours a week even because Obamacare takes 54% of my husband's pay. You are right that unemployment and part-time work is a death sentence with the "Affordable Care Act" killing us slowly. You are right that Trump is the last chance for us to may be see an American dream.

For my country, to turn against me and everyone I know, hurts so deeply. No matter what though, we the people will prevail. Sometimes, it's the diamond in the rough found that makes everything more tolerable. Trump isn't polished, he doesn't offer a promise that everything will be ok, but he gives us hope. Out here, hope is as rare as a unicorn. Hope is worth taking a risk on. Hope that we will not be enslaved to Washington, that we may be able to support our families, to feed ourselves, to offer our kids a chance to have something to hold on to...hope is worth fighting for. After all, it's all we have left.

Once all hope is gone, we have nothing left to lose.

Candace said...

This is mostly off-topic for the post, though it does address Bill's comment.

This is what I received in my health insurance renewal notice.

I currently have a Bronze plan. My premium is $53. My tax credit is $350. So the total the insurance company gets is $400. (Amounts rounded)

The Bronze Plan means I have a $6,300 deductible before they cover anything.

To renew this plan: the full monthly premium will be $700. If I continue to get the same $350 tax credit my part will now be $350. The new deductible will be $6,400. I chose this plan because it was the cheapest on the exchange. (I currently gross $24,325 annually so I felt it was what I could afford.). I'll be talking to a navigator next week to find out if I will still be able to have health insurance or have to opt to pay the fine.

Mark Luterra said...

Reluctant Hillary voter here. As much as I prefer some of Trump's policies (or pretend policies - I half suspect he will do an end-run to maintain the corporate oligarchy of which he is a leading beneficiary if elected), I simply cannot stand his demeanor, his divisiveness, and his willingness to scapegoat and stereotype others.

I had to respond to this:
"The rich have enough money to pay for coverage; the poor get subsidies, though the co-pays and deductibles are still ruinously high; it's the people in the middle who don't get the subsidies and don't have the cash to cover medical insurance bills that cost more than a mortgage."

I'm a member of the unsubsidized individual market, i.e. Obamacare's big losers. There is much that needs to be done to bring down health care costs - none of which is addressed by the law as it deals only with insurance - but in my opinion the law is a net positive with one major flaw that could be easily fixed. As written, the law allows insurance companies to create risk pools for employer group plans, with a separate risk pool for the individual market. As this group includes many previously-uninsurable people with "preexisting conditions" and high medical bills, the average cost for the individual market risk pool is proving to be untenable. This is essentially imposing a penalty on the self-employed, small local business employees, and part-time workers while privileging full-time employees of large corporations, primarily the salary class.

A simple fix to the law would require insurance companies to create universal risk pools based on a few permissible factors (age and smoking status, perhaps) and charge the same premiums to everyone in the same risk category, whether on an individual or employer-paid plan.

Dennis Mitchell said...

I'm pretty tired from planting trees in my pasture. Got the calves separated from their moms, so even my farm is sounding like a political "discussion". I might be pushing things trying to grow zone 7 fruit in a zone 6 area. Hopefully all the hot air from the presidential thing will help them through the first winter. Growing tea in Idaho will be as much a miracle as any political promise. As for the real world, screw it! I've moved to retrotopia.

Tower 440 said...

Greetings to the assembled Wizardren!
We in Northeast Ohio are following Melbourne’s example by holding well-advertised monthly meetings.
The monthly joint meeting of the Green Wizards’ Benevolent and Protective Association, Tower Number 440, and Ruinmen’s Guild, Local 440 will be held at 11:30 AM on Wednesday, December 21 2016. Our location is Ruko’s Family Restaurant, 9385 Mentor Avenue, Mentor, Ohio 44060, (440) 974-1914. Shining the Green Light! Public Welcome! Tables for Failed Scholars. Look for the table topper with the Green Wizard Hat. Contact us at
Many thanks to John for the posting space on his blog.

Bill Pulliam said...

JMG -- Oh of course it is an overgeneralization; but it may apply to about 50% of Trump voters and maybe 30% of Clinton voters. The otehr fraction are just voting party line or against the other side.

More on Obamacare possibly killing Clinton's chances -- though the changes in absolute poll numbers are only a few percent, if you look at the probability models at 538 the shift is dramatic, one of the sharpest changes in the campaign so far. Yeah, that is definitely NOT happening from just one more Hillary Clinton e-mail story. The steady collapse of Obamacare represents a major failing of the Obama administration on one of its core policies and biggest promises. That is actually something worth voting a party out for, and the small but critical number of voters who remain "on the fence" feel this. More e-mail gossip rumors and leaks? Meh.

Still, there are a very small number of voters whose minds are not already firmly commited to one, the other, or neither-of-those-crooks. There might not be enough left to tip the election away from confirming Clinton's appointment to the office. We'll know in a week.

Ian R Orchard said...

The Mike Moore in Trumpland doco was broadcast in NZ a couple of days ago and it puts a whole new slant on the propensity for Americans to HATE each other. It's sad that so many Trump supporters latched onto the few moments in the program that Peakfuture referred to, where Mike succinctly explained the very real and valid reasons why the flyover states have every reason to stick it to the man!! Unfortunately, by switching off and not listening to the rest of the story, they may be missing the only chance they have of getting out of the predicament they've been dumped into.

OK, so maybe Hillary isn't going to do a Pope Francis, who bided his time for years, not rocking the boat until he got into a position where he could make a REAL difference. Hillary has been pilloried mercilessly for decades for daring to suggest that America could do better in the Health sector. In particular, Mike pointed out that while the 3000 victims of 9/11 are rightly remembered, no-one but the victims gives a snot for the 1,000,000 fellow Americans who have died as the result of the crappiest Health Service in the 1st World. One fucking Million!! It's unbelievable!!

I urge all of JMG's readers to make a point of watching that doco. Put aside your assorted hatreds for an hour or so and watch it, it will be available on the Net somewhere. You'll be doing it for America and all the downtrodden.

Rich_P said...

JMG, you and I are in broad agreement. I look forward to future posts about federalism and the Tenth Amendment; starting a discussion about state sovereignty would do a huge service to the Republic.

Reading these comments, it strikes me how nearly every issue could be solved or abated by taking the battle from the federal arena to the individual states. Obamacare is a disaster, but various state-level programs might be effective, based on the circumstances and preferences of that state and its citizens.

For those reading who view Trump as a white knight or way of flipping the bird to D.C.: my suggestion is to focus your political energies on getting your state legislatures to call for a constitutional convention per Article V. This is the ONLY way significant change will happen and would represent a genuine middle finger to the establishment in D.C. -- Trump is and always will be a phony, and it pains me that the Republic's justifiable anger is being channeled through a conman and not something like a constitutional convention.

John Michael Greer said...

Notes, my own visits to northern California don't lead me to think that it's a good measure of the rest of rural America. If you have the chance to visit the Rust Belt or the South some day, I'd encourage you to give it a try.

Danil, well, we'll see. If I turn out to be wrong, of course, I'll admit it.

Peakfuture, I expect whoever wins to be bogged down in sixteen different kinds of trouble starting the moment they take their hand off the Bible. The next four years are going to be, well, colorful.

Richard, you could arguably do much worse.

Gabriela, back in ancient Athens, people were selected for the legislature by random, and I'm sorry to say it didn't work any better than our system -- read Thucydides sometime to get the whole story. I'm fond of Winston Churchill's famous comment: "Democracy is the worst political system, except for all the other ones."

Jay, oh, I think we've still got a ways to go before we reach peak political lunacy -- but I think we'll get there.

MawKernewek, I really should get around to reading that.

Armata, yes, I saw that. The word that came to mind was "meretricious."

Edward, well, we'll see.

Bill, exactly. It's going to be a wild ride.

Justin, fascinating. There are honestly times that I wonder if somebody in his campaign staff has been reading this blog.

Armata, thanks for the link -- and also the comment. I haven't had any problems with Blogger this time around, but of course I'm coming at it from the other side.

Repent, no, I keep premonitions, divinations, visionary experiences, and horoscopes strictly to the other blog. What guides my predictions here is history: the recognition that similar causes produce similar effects in human societies.

patriciaormsby said...

OMG, 80 comments before I had a moment to jump in!

The third meeting of the Kanto Green Wizards will be held on Sunday Nov. 6 (that's three days from now) at the Asakawa Kompira Shrine. People start showing up at 11:00 a.m. but most come by at about noon. It is potluck, so please bring something to share.

The weather looks good, but in the case of awful weather, this will be cancelled due Ikeda-san. A little rain is no problem, because we open the shrine.

To get there, go to Takao Station on the JR or Keio line and exit through the south exit (which apparently means going through the Keio part of the station). The small mountain that Asakawa Kompira Shrine crowns is directly west of the station (in fact, the train tunnels under it). For a map, see the Green Wizards site, "Meet-Ups" page. I am told that the Google map is practically invisible on small, hand-held screens, so it would be best to confirm the location before coming out. But nearly everyone in town knows where Kompira Shrine is, so if you get lost ask. (It's not the prominent golden UFO thing --that's to the south of the station.)
If you lack confidence in directions, RSVP here or at the Green Wizards site, and I'll arrange to meet you at the station.

Guilherme de Baskerville said...

I was going to post something longer, but gave up on it.

Just wanted to point out that the article in The Atlantic, which Breanna put up as a "damning" piece praising Washington insiders, is actually pretty good reading. I can sense echoes of JMG positions on the role of "old fashioned democratic institutions" and his assertments that the US government machine has become gridlocked by conflicting interests that have managed to "veto" anything that is disagreable to themselves, at the expense of the wider public. It is a piece about the virtues of "the establishment", but I don't see it as entirely without merit....

patriciaormsby said...

Big big hurry here. In copying over the last message for future reference, I realized I'd not edited it carefully enough. Please disregard "due to Ikeda-san" who is a lovely priestess.
@JMG, I will read your article (been missing you) later.

John Michael Greer said...

Shane, I'm not going to put money against that happening in your lifetime.

Mark, oh, granted, but the shape and trajectory of the craziness will likely depend on who wins.

Shane, I didn't abandon it, I just didn't want to add that additional bit of complexity to this post.

Avery, exactly. If the current US government implodes, whatever government or governments replace it will have a very rough row to hoe.

Donalfagan, and notice the strident effort to shove a class issue back into the convenient categories of race and sex. Utterly typical.

Armata, well, we'll see. I wouldn't be surprised by some amount of violent unrest, whoever wins, but I don't think we're quite ready for civil war yet. Give it another five to ten years. No, I hadn't heard about Farrakhan; thanks for the heads up.

Onething, yes, there's that!

Cherokee, fortunately we stayed clear of bars this time! Your comment on "living in the moment" is astute -- and of course it's always convenient for the political status quo to convince people to do that, too, since it keeps them from noticing which way the wind is blowing over time. Hmm. I may want to bring that into a discussion of Barbara Ehrenreich's fine book Brightsided.

Pygmycory, I think you'd find a lot of takers for such a bumper sticker.

Glenn (if I may), you're still missing the existence of millions of people too poor to afford the premiums and too rich to get the subsidies. I'm one of them and I know many, many others.

Megan, you've never heard of him and neither have I. He probably holds down a midlevel job in the Pentagon right now.

Robert, I ain't arguing. The events of a century ago have been rather on my mind in recent years!

Curtis, thanks for the link. The tension between shared values and freedom is always a challenging one, but it's also critically important -- thank you for catching that in my narrative!

Matthew, exactly. Like every other policy, it benefits some people and costs others, and who benefits and who pays have been taboo subjects for too long.

Thomas Prentice said...

Thank your for your thoughtful insight and analysis.

John Michael Greer said...

D. Mitchell, thank you. More people need to hear that.

Candace, and people in some states are getting hit with much higher hikes, and get lower subsidies, higher deductibles, and higher co-pays. It really does suck.

Mark, the law has sent health care costs soaring year over year, while more and more insurance companies pull out of the market and the exchanges go broke. I think it's going to take much, much more than the bandaid you've offered to fix it.

Dennis, sounds like a plan.

Bill, this may be another regional thing, because I hear people talking about issues, not just party line votes or fantasies. As for your conclusion, though, no argument there. I think the crucial figure will simply be how many people on each side vote vs. staying at home with a muttered "frack it."

Ian, I watched the documentary, and I didn't see any particular way out of the predicament being offered -- just more of the same rhetoric the American left has been using to prevent constructive change for decades. I agree, for what it's worth, that the US has far and away the worst (and most expensive) health care in the industrial world, but Clinton's proposed solution is to keep the Obamacare fiasco in place, which has made health care here even more expensive than it was. That's not exactly going to help!

Rich, I think we're going to have an interesting conversation down the road! I'm considering proposing a series of Constitutional amendments, which might be called the Bill of Redress, to clean up the messes that 220-odd years have made of our republic.

Guilherme, I had a hard time getting past the shrill tone of the thing, but you're right that it deserves a closer read.

onething said...

" If she wins, the Dems will be committed to the existing order until 2024 at least."

Surely you aren't saying that she would be a two-term president?

At any rate, I do not believe her health can hold out that long.

Justin said...

JMG, I would put up decent odds that Trump, personally, is far more aware of the real predicament of the United States than his public persona lets on. Although he suggested that coal would last 1000 years, he did actually say at a rally that other energy sources have a finite life. I mean, holy shale, even though it was an offhand remark by the Orange One, that sounds like progress to me. He also made a direct connection between domestic US energy (which presumably includes Canada and Mexico) and national security, which although obvious, is quite something to see a credible politician talk about in public.

Although I find a lot of the alt-right to simply be racists for the sake of feeling superior and therefore ignore many of them them, I still kind of like Red Ice Radio & a few other 'alt right' podcasts. They recently had Ryan Landry of Weimerica ( on. Ryan talked about the petro-dollar and the possibility of the US going to war with a competent opponent as part of a Faustian bargain to maintain the US dollar. Ryan specifically mentioned the spectre of a burning aircraft carrier with 2000 seamen dead and what that would do to the American psyche. Sound familiar?

Guilherme de Baskerville said...

After some stuff that happened here in Brazil over the municipal elections, I've been reading about something that's pertinent to this discussion.

As JMG has long said, and some other people are now catching on, the traditional labour/progressive parties have been hijacked by an upper-class urban liberal agenda, worldwide. The result has been a disenfranchisement of the ordinary working classes, specially in smaller cities, rural/semi rural areas and on the perypheries of some big cities (and by that I don't mean the geographic suburbs, which could be upper-class, but just working-class neighborhoods). Again, a worldwide phenomenon. What has been happening lately, and with increasing speed, is that this vital electorate has given up on traditional politics and have been giving the middle finger to the political establishment by electing non-traditional right wing candidates, often extremly right-wing populists.

Brexit had this undertone. Trump. Duterte in the Philipines. Several righ-wing parties gaining rapid ground in Europe. This is happening to some extent here in Brazil, etc.

These movements are NOT going to make anything better, though. They tend to do unproductive things, like scapegoating minorities of various kinds for economic problems, start nationalistic wars and promote ethnic cleasing, in the extreme. This, couple with formation of warband culture on the outskirts, may be what causes the system to finally enter it's death-kneel. It won't be pretty, though, if it goes like that. Some people seem to forget that, as intolerable as things seem to be near a collapse, the collapse itself is worse. It's faint reasurrance that things will sort themselves up in the long term. The long term can take a loooooong while.

I'm really sad by the commenter above that illustrated her dreadful economic situation and the impact that healthcare insurance has had on her family, but putting your hopes in Trump is, I'm afraid, very misguided. You're unlikely to experience any improvement if he wins, because I don't think he's sincere in the populist stuff he talks about. Electing him, though, will have a non-trivial chance of hastening the end of whatever is left os american democracy.

The solution, it seems, would be for some sort of political movement that abandons the current liberal urban upper-class interest and forms some sort of aproach with moderate political/social working and middle class conservatives to try to create some form of political movement against the financial class and corporate hegemony. It seems that Bernie Sanders was trying to create such a movement, but failed to atract enough support and was torpedoed by the Dem establishment. I hope his movement doesn't die in the US and more people like him start to crop up on the left-leaning spectrum of political life in the future, in more places. Could be too late, though. It's difficult to say.

onething said...

I'm a bit confused as to why the insurance companies are pulling out and and exchanges going broke when healthcare is so overpriced? They charge Monopoly money for the littlest things.

thenoteswhichdonotfit said...

It just so happens that I plan to visit a friend of the family in rural Missouri this winter, and while I'm at it I also intend to visit Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. Since I don't have a car, and I am such a bad driver that I don't trust myself with a rental car, I can only go to places with decent public transit (except in Missouri, where the friend of the family will pick me up in St. Louis - there is no public transit where she lives). That means I won't be seeing the most desperate parts of those states, but I do plan to visit places like Vicksburg, Mississippi.

The only southern state I've ever been to before is Florida, and it's been twenty years since I was last there. I'm from an old Florida family (more than a century in Florida), but since my Florida relatives are all dead or no longer in Florida, I don't have any reason to go back. Though my father considers himself a Floridian, he never intends to visit again since the Florida he grew up in no longer exists, and he does not like the new Florida which has replaced it.

Donald Hargraves said...

First, a video about the Brexit. Start with 0:16, with 1:08 starting the key point that matches a lot of people on this blog (and JMG's point as well).

Second, as for Romneycare 2.0 (I'm not giving Obama credit for theft, nor am I letting Romney off the hook), I believe it was set up to fail at some point. It just happens that things are falling apart during the 2016 Election (and that may have been the plan all along...)

Third, I actually voted Socialist Party for President (Emidio Soltysik, if you need to write-in your candidate). I would have voted Communist, but they became the "Independent" radical wing of the Democratic Party in 1990.

Genevieve Hawkins said...

Bravo. I think you've done a better job than anyone in explaining the Trump phenomena in a way that makes sense: most sites just reduce it to something that would be considered hate speech or at least a microaggression if it was employed towards anyone but the white working class. I pray that whomever wins does not start World War 3 though I'm betting more on economic collapse as the end game here. Good thing those Trump supporters already beat the rush!

team10tim said...

Hey hey JMG,

First off, wow. I don't disagree with any particular point, but it's a more than a little bit shocking and bracing to see it all spelled out clearly and concisely in a short essay. I'll put it to you like this: Imagine that a pan galactic gargle blaster (for those who don't know look it up, it will be fun) was a fancy coffee drink instead of booze. I feel uncomfortably lucid instead of pleasantly debilitated.

Second, to JMG and Breanna, I got about halfway through the Atlantic article before I realized two interesting things. One, they also realize that politics is inescapably related to matters of competing interests, as was discussed here recently. And that cooperation, coalition, collusion, corruption, brat in Russian, guānxì in Chinese, graft, or honest graft, whatever you want to call it, is a feature not a bug. As the social mammals that we are this is something that is going to happen and there are ways to utilize it and mitigate the less desirable aspects. Two, they incorrectly, in my opinion, blame our current problems on a break down in the system of graft and political machines. I think the breakdown lies elsewhere in two related areas. The decadent, entrenched, and disconnected elite and a fracturing of the collective consensus. As you know know from Toynbee, Spengler, Gibbons, et al the entrenched elite is perennial problem for civilizations, but the fracturing of collective consensus feels more like a fourth turning, 2.5 crises, revolutionary war, civil war, great depression kinda thing that if handled well might be ok on the other side.

Normally I conclude with a 'Thanks, Tim' but thanks implies the sort of pleased gratitude one might have for the instructor after an ordinary class in Tai Chi.

Uncomfortably grateful and appreciative, altered and affected, and unpleasantly aware, almost as if my consciousness had been smacked with a highly caffeinated slice of lemon wrapped around a brick,

Keith Huddleston said...

When reading Stephen Greenblatt's wonderful book Will in the World, I was struck by how incredibly VIBRANT the rural cultural around Shakespeare was. We think it amazing that Shakespeare was a country boy -- but there were a myriad of festivals and creative traditions to be part of. (Also, he received a world class education in Latin)

Kind of a side-note, I realize, but I'll conclude by saying I have more faith in your reader's ability to revitalize the social-capital and cultural life around them on the micro-level than I have for either of these candidates's macro-policies.

I will be sitting this election out.

drhooves said...

JMG, another fine summary of what appears, at first glance, to be a complex and confusing topic. Every time I read an essay like this, my lack of understanding history and sociology becomes quite painful. The collapse is coming here in the States, though compared to Russia we have more wealth (at least for now) to draw on to cushion the landing. Half of Americans get some kind of government handout, and when that ends, the misery begins. And compared to Russians, many Americans will indeed not be as well equipped to cope with it - mentally, physically, emotionally, etc.

As for our political system, the fact that the "Clinton Machine" has struggled against socialist Bernie and now bonehead Trump tells me our two party system is on its last legs. I believe you've blogged about that before, and perhaps the next election cycle might make way for a independent or populist candidate that proposes sensible change like converting away from a growth economy dependent on fossil fuels to "rehumanized" models relying on manual labor, a foreign policy that embraces something different than trying to hang on to the empire, and a reboot of some of the conservation movements of the 1970s.

There should be plenty of misery for the masses to rally around.

barry_NZ said...

All I can say in reading this is; "welcome to the third world". and in the third world they vote for people like Duterte (who is probably a closer analogue for Trump than any other world leader) until they suddenly find that they don't get to vote any more.

So yes, fix up your electoral problems but don't grasp at straws.

I am reminded of when Homer Simpson got elected with the slogan "I'm someone else"

Fred said...

Can any reader here confirm that the Chinese run an economic development zone in Detroit? The governor requested 50,000 visas for Chinese workers to come and build in that city? I saw it mentioned in a movie review of all places and can not confirm it by googling. I did find this story of how the Chinese first warmed up the government officials by doing cultural exchanges. They've been doing that too in my I guess they are coming here too.

Mikep said...

That is a rather depressing view of the near future, let's see if I can make it worse. One possibility that you have not mentioned is that part of the establishment will make common cause with the working class by playing the identity card, but in order for this to work they will need to pin the blame for the current mess on some other section of the ruling elite. A section of the elite ideally distinguished by ethnicity or religion and with a reputation for aggressively pursuing their own collective interests. If this ethnic/religious group's influence were dis proportionally concentrated in the most despised sectors of the system, the worlds of finance the media and America's disastrous foreign policy, especially Middle Eastern policy, then so much the better. I will leave you to suggest some suitable candidates for the role of scapegoat but the next twenty years or so could well prove "interesting for people with names ending in 'berg or 'stein for example.

Cherokee Organics said...


Thank you! Yes I would appreciate your thoughts on that matter and I have heard you refer to that particular book in podcasts, but have not read it myself. I may have to correct that lack. Is it a worthy book? The insight came this morning when I was observing the dogs running through the orchard on their important canine business in the warm spring sunshine and they were absolutely 100% in the moment and chasing reptiles, insects and phantoms. As always there was the human contrast to the canine behaviour which drummed home the insight.

The thing I'm curious to know is whether the "Left" as it is generally understood to be, actually is the "Left" anymore? A very cheeky person may suggest that they have possibly "left" the building? ;-)!

What an exciting week or two you are all in for!

Down here, the powers that be announced that the Hazelwood power station will be decommissioned in March with the loss of 900 jobs in what appears to be an already economically depressed area. Sure, the power station burnt the plentiful supplies of brown coal which are readily available in this state and the power station was enormously inefficient, but I just help shake the feeling that somehow this closure was linked to the shutdown of the vehicle manufacturing industries. Maybe it is and maybe it isn't. I heard someone on the radio from a think tank suggesting that electricity security will be fine because we can rely on generation facilities in the state to the north of us (New South Wales) which burns black coal. Now, call me a Cassandra but the links between both here and South Australia (relying on Wind) and also Tasmania (relying on Hydro) both broke within the last year causing all sorts of disasters. What could possibly go wrong with this absurd plan? And I am personally very curious as to why nobody in the media seems to apply this same sort of thinking to industries such as tourism.

Back in the day those areas used to employ huge number of apprentices, but not so anymore.

I recall that many years ago the most popular Prime Minister in our recent history, faced a smear campaign in the media during the election about how he had been to a strip club. All that media smear campaign did was reinforce in the minds of the voters – who it should be pointed out are not the people setting the moral tone of the media - that this dude was just like them and his popularity soared. It was a bad thing for us when apparently a cabal of mining magnates pooled together - and this is all speculation - a $22m war fund and took him out of his job. As you quite rightly point out, nobody expects their politicians to be Saints, I certainly don't. I judge them on whether they can get a job done. And on that note, it is worthwhile mentioning that recording one and a half years of metadata at the expense of the average person down here went through parliament like a breeze – despite one notable politician who was responsible for the implementation not even being able to explain what metadata actually was – unlike their strange displays of gridlock on other matters nowadays. Oh, how they must fear your night. On that note, I’m going for an actual walk in the dark forest here and will enjoy the antics of all of the creatures of the night.



donalfagan said...

A few pundits - Thomas Frank, Jimmy Dore @ The Young Turks, even Michael Moore - admit that Trump's support has a lot to do with class, but I'm seeing more articles like this: Donald Trump and the rise of white identity in politics

[[[Many political commentators credit Donald Trump’s rise to white voters’ antipathy toward racial and ethnic minorities. However, we believe this focus on racial resentment obscures another important aspect of racial thinking.

In a study of white Americans’ attitudes and candidate preferences, we found that Trump’s success reflects the rise of “white identity politics” – an attempt to protect the collective interests of white voters via the ballot box. Whereas racial prejudice refers to animosity toward other racial groups, white identity reflects a sense of connection to fellow white Americans.

We’re not the first to tie Trump’s candidacy to white identity politics. But our data provide some of the clearest evidence that ongoing demographic changes in the United States are increasing white racial identity. White identity, in turn, is pushing white Americans to support Trump.

When we talk about white identity, we’re not referring to the alt-right fringe, the white nationalist movement or others who espouse racist beliefs. Rather, we’re talking about everyday white Americans who, perhaps for the first time, are racially conscious.]]]

An Alternet article from last week takes class concerns at face value: We Are Ignoring the Worst Dangers of Trumpism at Our Own Peril
[[[It is interesting to read bemused articles by correspondents at elite magazines like the Atlantic and the New Yorker, wondering who the Trump supporters really are (as they do after every populist upsurge), acting as though they were writing about aliens from another planet (which they are in a sense, since the elite commentators cannot understand why the Trumpists take such a dire view of the economy, since everything, from their point of view, seems pretty decent, with a 5% unemployment rate, the stock market doing well, and the evidence of their own booming urban areas).]]]

Dan the Farmer said...

I've been saying for months that Trump is an old friend of the Clintons. I believe he knows his own strengths and interests, and his run has been with the purpose of strengthening his brand, in order to get a better reality TV gig. He's been egged on by team Hillary. In the Wikileaks emails, she purportedly told her media friends to "play up the pied piper candidates". And it's hard to argue that he isn't the very best thing for her. Every time there's a scandal in her camp, he does something outrageous to shift the focus off her. I'm not sure if they're in league (my guess) or she's just playing him in a way that serves both of their purposes.

The interesting part is that every time he's tried to throw the race (because, you know, being president would be work and no fun) it's backfired and raised his status.

I think it's a giant con job.

But how about that arctic ice volume....?

Brian Chadwick said...

America deserves trump. It is called Karma.

David, by the lake said...


I second the motion to call for a constitutional convention. It is the best way to (hopefully) deal with our issues in a non-violent manner.

Tidlösa said...

I don´t think Trump can improve the American economy (unless he has some kind of truly extraordinary ace up his sleeve). Deporting 11 million illegal aliens doesn´t seem possible either. However, if his administration becomes highly repressive, I suppose he can discourage new immigrants from entering the US. They will go to Canada instead! The Canadian government is set to double its immigration rates, apparently. If Trump can overcome the resistance of the Neo-Cons in his own party (including his own veep, Mike Pence), he might be able to change US foreign policy, from adventurist and clueless to more pragmatic. My fear is that Trump might simply exchange enemies by making a deal with Russia while simultaneously stepping up the confrontationist attitude towards China. As I said two weeks ago, I would prefer a multi-polar world in which the great powers balance each other, and even cooperate on some crucial issues (such as the war against radical "Islamic" terrorism).

In summary, this means that Trump is at best moderately better than Clinton would have been, but hardly the Savior of Western Civilization. I think you are right when you said that thousands of people are better qualified to be president than Trump - the problem is, Clinton isn´t one of them! In the future, Trump will probably be seen as a transitional figure to whatever comes next.

Which brings me to your Soviet analogy. Your comparison of Clinton to Chernenko and Kaine to Gorbachev is actually quite funny - yes, Chernenko was the poor old man who died in office after only a year or so, making a mockery of the entire Soviet leadership in the process. I´m old enough to remember him (well, dimly - I´m surprised anyone else does!). Hillary is obviously sick and might very well die in office if elected. Kaine is the young, good but weak guy who will fail to hold the Empire together if he ever becomes POTUS.

However, I doubt America will ever get its Yeltsin (unless Trump is Yeltsin?). If you´re lucky, you will transition directly from Gorbachev to Putin. If you´re less lucky...well, there´s always Ivan the Terrible...

Bruno Bolzon said...

JMG, another parallel between the USA and Russia I have been considering is the lifespan of both empires. Russia began its modern empire scheme around the 1850s or so, the Crimean War being the very first Russian imperial adventure. Russia's empire then collapsed roughly 140 years later, in 1990. The American empire, on the other hand, began in 1905, with Theodore Roosevelt, just after the reconstruction era post civil war, and will end roughly by the 2030s, making it just as long as Russia's imperial era. Thoughts?

Rita Narayanan said...

Airdropping largesse is one way of maintaining an illusion...whether in the form of charity or jobs. It has/and happening all over including here in the third world (India).Part of the problem is that urbanisation/individualism/liberalism meets capitalism cannot recreate the **sociology of communities since both are involved in defining these matters as an anathema.

contrary to popular romantic notions religious/traditional lives are complex & not a performed version of the film Avatar. So educating girls/water/food projects easier than vocation. Scares me this trend **let girls go to school and become doctors/engineers trend.

Vocation & recreating communities would involve a **regression in modern thinking & revisiting everything that was simplistically tagged as **evil.

Mr Kunstler's work often talks about these matters with regard to America.

Thanks for another educative & unusual post.Regards :)

Tidlösa said...

He he, I just saw your comment that Pence is an "impeachment insurance policy". Unfortunately, I think you´re wrong - Pence is the Neo-Con fifth wheeler on the Trump ticket, the guy placed there to "unite the GOP". But sure, I might have missed something (presumably, Pence is also unpopular among the Never Trumpers for actually being on that ticket in the first place!).

You´re right about Kaine, of course. Hillary picked him because he´s weak, but precisely for that reason, he can be easily controlled by the Deep Government if the Democrats are elected and Hillary goes. Or if the Deep Government makes Hillary go...

Eagerly awaiting your ideas on the constitution, and how to win the workers to a Green perspective. Is there any deeper thought in wikileaking this *after* the the most hotly contested election since Lincoln-Douglas? ;-)

Ric K said...

JMG, your best post in years. Nailed it. Exactly. Thank you! Next week should be interesting.....

Bobo the Dorkboy said...

THANK YOU for saying "another think coming"! Everyone I know says "another thing coming" and it makes me feel all stabby... :-)

Susan Roberts, MDiv, OTR/L said...

As always I find something to think about with this blog. In response to the many comments that they see few Hillary signs, let me add my two cents. I, and many of my friends and acquaintances, have not posted either signs or bumper stickers from concern that cars will be keyed, lawns vandalized, and the like. The president's office has historically given HIM a bully pulpit. I think the operative word in that sentence has increasingly become, "bully". As a lesbian, I have some very specific concerns about the tone of the rhetoric in this campaign season. I don't think it will go away - no matter who gets elected. As long as we think we don't need our family, friends, neighbors - to say nothing of the trees, birds, microorganisms, etc. we are in big trouble. I appreciate this community forum where people seem to get this HUGE underlying truth. It gives me some hope.

Mark said...

Couple of thoughts on the US healthcare system, from someone who spent too many years working in the administrative/financing end of it.

Firstly, there are no simple, quick fixes. It's a complex system that relies on financing growth, which requires more people getting treated for more things (some treatments of highly dubious value, some less so)and someone paying the prices necessary for everyone to get paid. The "someone" paying for it includes a mix of taxpayers, employers or individuals. And the "everyone" getting paid includes those numerous insurers, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, clinicians, nurses, administration staff, software companies, shareholders, consultants, government agencies, construction companies, equipment manufacturers, retailers, and on and on, that collectively make up the system. And that system is now around 18% of US GDP. A fifth of our economy is in the business of healthcare! Since none of these players seem remotely interested in not getting paid, the system will continue to try to grow, aided and abetted by policy makers who don't want hurt this great engine of the economy. The only difference between the Trump and Clinton plans comes wrt to the balance of the "someones" who have to try to pay for it all. I'm guessing Clinton will try to taxpayer-subsidize the onboarding of more young and healthy people into the risk pool, while continuing to screw the middle segment of the population that JMG has discussed; and Trump will wave his hands about cross-state competition while figuring out how to withdraw or water down the subsidies and pre-existing condition terms of the ACA, pushing more costs back to lower income individuals. But neither of them will seriously try to cut the expense of the system. Because economic growth and jobs.

To go forward, we have to go back, retrotopia style. Which means fewer people getting fewer expensive treatments, walking away from the system. Which means taking better care of our health, using alternative treatments, using allopathic medicine more sparingly ("surgically", perhaps), knowing ourselves and our constitutions better, and coming to terms with dying rather more quickly than we might have been planning to. This is where we are heading anyway, since the system as it stands is getting decidedly crumbly. Coming to terms with this is one particularly challenging plank in the "collapse now and avoid the rush" platform. Personally I need to take a monthly shot of a medication without which I will suffer a slow decline and death. So I am reliant on the pharmaceutical system staying intact to some extent; meanwhile there are herbal things that I am trying, and making some progress. But it isn't going to be easy, especially for people who are heavily dependent, or believe themselves to be dependent, on the current system.

Robert Carran said...

I pretty much agree with and appreciate your assessment of the situation, albeit with minor nit picks not worth mentioning. I am, however, troubled by how much psychic space politics takes up in our collective consciousness and even this post, and how it takes away from the energy to create the foundations for local/non governmental relations. I understand that you take on the role of education and tying things together, and you do it quite well. AND at some point, I wonder if the nail has been sufficiently pounded in. I wonder what's next. How do we collaborate and act on this understanding? Personally, I am making local connections to foster resiliency in food systems, energy production, and other resources. For instance, gathering and drying literally tons of acorns (it's been a mast year here in Asheville, NC) for human consumption and livestock feed. Almost nobody knows that this is a high quality food source when properly processed. Could be the new currency when fiat goes bust. I am sure there are plenty of other readers here that have useful information like this to share. At present, I am aware of many bloggers and you tubers who assess the situation well, but I am unaware of any forum that fosters practical organization and trading of information. What say you?

eerie said...

Putting Trump in the same sentence with dignity and good humor is just, how shall I put it... yuuuge!

Anthony Romano said...

This year Colorado has ballot measures to raise the minimum wage and a another to establish a state single payer health plan. The working class in this state has a real opportunity this year to vote for something that is far more likely to tangibly improve their lives than either presidential candidate will.

So I see this as one way of measuring your arguments. If Trump supporters really are primarily working class folk that just want to see their lot improve then, should Trump win Colorado, both of those ballot measures should also pass. If Trump wins and those ballot measures both fail, well then something else is going on.

in the latter case, I'd say it is the result of affluent conservatives (and there are quite a lot of those) supporting Trump in great numbers while also stomping down on anything that might redistribute wealth.

Alex Blaidd said...

Long time no speak on this blog from myself.

I read and shared the piece on the other day too - suffice to say not many people took notice of it. Over on this side of the pond the parallels with Brexit are impossible to miss. The wails of the affluent just show to me how clueless they really are - I mean how do they even pretend that Clinton is better? I'm not of the opinion that Trump will do much to improve the fate of the States, but I can see why many will vote for him, and certainly wouldn't be so presumptuous as to castigate them for it - and what do I know about their situation or Trump? He might well do what's needed to ease the collapse for many millions. It's the same here with Brexit. I didn't vote Leave in the end, not because I like the EU, but because I didn't want the Tories to gain even more power (which is how I saw it). But what do I know? I know that my hometown, Swansea, is an economic backwater, that without the life support machine (benefits) will quickly descend into crime. The once thriving city centre is now full of charity shops, and not ones that you feel terribly inclined to buy anything from - they're full of the junk of the last decade. Even the charity shops groan and wheeze. They're punctuated by kebab shops and mobile phone shops that promise to fix tour phone and sell you fancy phone covers. It couldn't be further removed from the affluence of the gentrified parts of London. Quelle surprise, The once labour stronghold of Swansea voted for Brexit and is now a stronghold of UKIP. Abandoned by the Blairites where else do they turn?

I don't like Trump, I couldn't vote for him (nor could I vote for Clinton) - I'm disappointed that Sanders isn't on the ticket, much like I'm disappointed that over here Corbyn will more than likely not get a shot either. But then I'm another middle class, liberal, affluent citizen so what do I know? But if I was one of the working class struggling for a job I'd have a punt on him - why not? What's there to lose? The fact that people don't grasp that's the motivating mentality of many shows they haven't got a clue what's going on in the world. If you asked me though, I'd rather Trump get in than Clinton. If for no other reason than Trump will help to drag out the shadow of Western society into the light and with that may save us and the 'others' around the world that we perpetrate against, some suffering. Clinton, on the other hand will only continue to suppress our collective shadow by letting us all pretend we're far more decent and civilised than we really are. Now that might be a little unfair on Trump - for he may make some important political interventions, despite his crass character - but at least he doesn't pretend to be what he's not.

I'm going to largely ignore the histrionics of the media in the next two to four weeks, because it'll just be the wailing of children upset that their toys are being taken away. The changes to Western society that are impending pale compared to the so-called 'crisis' many mainstream papers are discussing Trump and Brexit - I'll save my energy for the crises further down the line - the whole debacle of the two things reminds me of some of your earlier posts on how we must make a spectacle out of something more ordinary. Though I do also realise that Trump and perhaps Brexit is a bit of a rude awakening to many.

On a final note, I remember a friend of mine about 3 months back saying that it was 'impossible' that Trump will get in. Those were the words. He quoted some study or other - I just smiled and said that it couldn't be further from the truth, and that there's no way they could make such a proclamation. He continued that it was impossible. And 10 years ago he would have been right, but it seems we have now moved into a new territory with new rules.

Clay Dennis said...

Obamacare has had another bad effect on the wage class in flyover country beyond the skyrocketing premiums. Since it has rolled out the U.S. has gone from spending 18% of its gdp on healthcare to 20%. This represents a massive diversion of financial flows in to the already bloated medical industrial complex. Most of the money is flowing to big hospitals, big surgicenters , big pharma and big HMO's, which are mostly located in Urban areas. So if the destruction of working class jobs in the heartland is not enough, the little money that folks in rural and small town america have, is being siphoned off to the big cities for healthcare. Trump may look like the classic greedy real estate mogul form the "Monopoly" board game, but Hillary reminds everyone of the cold hearted bureaucrat at the hospital or HMO that turns them down for treatment, or sends out the collection service after them.

Allie said...

Hi John Michael. Great post. I really enjoyed the part about doubling down on previous emotional investment. I have friends and family members who are Trump supporters and others who are Hillary supporters. Another interesting thing I have noticed about these Trump and Hillary supporters is that they use the same basic arguments to try and get you to vote for their candidate. And the arguments are all about how bad it will be if the other candidate gets in. A phenomenon you've discussed before.

Another great observation I've made is when I tell these same people that I am not going to vote for either of the candidates. I tell them that I'm not voting for either because I think they are both liars and will continue the bipartisan consensus regardless of what they say on the campaign trail. After I finish explaining my reason for not voting for either the Trump/Hillary supporter will almost verbatim say: "Well that is just a vote for [the bad candidate]" When I point out that supporters in the other camp say the exact same thing they seem totally surprised by that. A very fascinating thing to observe.

That brings me to another point specifically about Trump. I don't think it is an open question at all about him actually tackling these real issues if he wins. I think he will go right back to the bipartisan "Loot America" policies that have been in place since Reagan. My reason for thinking that is his economic policy team. It is chock full of some of the biggest billionaire looters on the planet. The same people who have pushed for the bipartisan consensus and profited handsomely from it.

His economic policy team:

John Paulson is the founder of investment firm Paulson and Co., and made billions betting against subprime mortgages in 2007 leading up to the financial crisis.

Roth is the billionaire head of Vornado Realty.

Hamm is a billionaire oilman and CEO of Continental Resources.

Lorber is the CEO of tobacco and real estate company Vector Group.

Mnuchin is Trump's national finance chairman, and the chairman and CEO of hedge fund Dune Capital Management.

Barrack served in the Reagan administration as deputy undersecretary of interior, and is founder and chairman of Colony Capital.

Calk is the chairman and CEO of The Federal Savings Bank.

Beal is the billionaire founder and chairman of Beal Bank and Beal Bank USA.

Feinberg is the billionaire co-founder and CEO of Cerberus Capital Management.

Malpass is a former Bear Stearns chief economist who has had high-ranking roles in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations.

Navarro is an economics professor at the University of California, Irvine.

Moore is a former member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board and a founder of the Club for Growth.

DiMicco is former CEO of steel company Nucor.


If you want to see Larry Kudlow fawn over these vultures and corporate welfare queens, visit the CNBC link for the video.

And just a reminder for anyone who doesn't remember John Paulson, he worked with Goldman Sachs to purposely pop the housing bubble to make money on shorting it. Other hedge funders and investment banks did the same thing. Pension funds, municipalities, smaller, regional banks were all wiped out by their actions.

So just based on who he has brought on board to help him craft economic policy makes me think he is just running a con game on the destroyed working class Americans to get elections.

blackwyn said...

I think there's a missing piece in your analysis, and I will try not to be inflammatory here as I tried to make this comment on a previous political post of yours and you rejected it, probably for good reason.

The media has made the mistake of conflating all recent political "surprises" as part of the same zeitgeist. I'm referring here to Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Brexit. And they are the same in a way, I guess, in the same way that Italian food, Mexican food, and Indian Food are all the same by virtue of the fact that they are "not McDonald's." This would seem to be especially true if you had eaten nothing but McDonald's your whole life (which would kill you very quickly, but anyway...).

The main difference with Brexit is that you have the U.K. *breaking away* from a centralized authority, whereas with Trump you have a political figure who seems to be *craving* the centralized authority. He paints himself as a strong man who is going to solve all our problems, and that he and he alone can accomplish this. He is not a libertarian type who is for states' rights and a non-interventionist foreign policy. Just the opposite, he appears to abhor these ideas. He seems refreshing to some because of his unorthodox style, but his policies appear to be the same old Republicrat trickle down garbage we've been seeing for decades. He makes a lot of noise about immigration but the fact is he has a long track record of hiring immigrants. In short, as you pointed out, there is a very good chance that he cares nothing about the wage class whatsoever.

Ok, so what? He can't be any worse than the Bush-Obama-Clinton dynasties, right? Well, unfortunately, I think that there is a historical precedent of authoritarian types taking advantage of the populace when they are in the kind of dire straits that you described so eloquently in your post. Is Trump that type of authoritarian? Well, that's debatable, I suppose. I happen to think he is, it seems you do not, however this is not something you have addressed in your analysis that I've seen and I think it's an important point of discussion.

Friction Shift said...

I thoroughly agree with your analysis of the grievances and desperation of the large number of Americans who were once middle and working class and are now simply poor. They have been hammered by nearly 40 years of predatory neoliberal economic policy and insane neoconservative foreign policy.

One commenter noted that this has been going on since the administration of Bill Clinton. I would offer it extends back to the years of Saint Ronald Reagan, although he at least had sense enough to mix it up militarily with lowly Grenada and not with Russia or China, as the current crop of loonies in the Obama/Clinton orbit seem bent on doing. As an aside, if memory serves, Reagan invaded Grenada to “save” US citizens from Grenada's Marxist government. I think many of the US nationals were in Grenada to attend medical school, no doubt because they could do so without incurring massive student loan debt. Oh, the irony.

During the Reagan years, the offshoring of American jobs picked up major steam as his administration took the muzzles off of corporations. Here in timber country, for example, the economy of family-owned and private timber companies -- which were managed for generations for sustainable harvests – was laid waste by predatory corporate raiders, who would buy companies with borrowed money, liquidate the private forests, and then completely liquidate what was left of the companies, leaving entire communities devastated. Those companies that remained furthered the pain by turning increasingly to automation. Many shipped raw logs directly to Japan and China because it was cheaper than milling timber in the US. The phrase I heard from people I knew in the industry was “cut and run.” Enter, stage left and on cue, the environmentalists, who argued that this policy should not be allowed on public lands, and we had the perfect scapegoat. It didn't hurt that they could easily be stereotyped as rich, latte-drinking Marin County liberals, and that the guvmint was seen to be implementing their policies.

Our region has never really recovered. Rural poverty in Oregon is some of the worst in the west, the people caught in it are really pissed, and 2/3 of the state (geographically, but not numerically – The populous I-5 corridor from Portland to Eugene determines Oregon's status as a Blue State) will be voting solidly for Donald Trump.

I read Orlov regularly, and I think his analysis of the parallels between the collapse of the Soviet Union and the probable collapse of the United States' empire is very powerful. But I wonder if we push the comparison a bit far in trying to figure out if Trump is our Yeltsin and Clinton is our, what? Andropov? I rather think that Trump, if elected, will more likely be our Silvio Berlusconi. Trump has channeled the former middle and working classes' anger effectively because he smells a con, and he is nothing if not an accomplished confidence man. I predict his tenure as President would be characterized by one scandal and outrage after another, by influence-peddling that puts even the Clintons to shame, by self-aggrandizing posturing, by vendettas against enemies both real and perceived, by completely inept administration, and by doing absolutely nothing to alleviate the misery of those who voted for him. Trump wouldn't destroy America, but, like Berlusconi, would advance its status as an economic basket case that threatens to pull a lot of the world down the drain with it.

Berlusconi had his media empire. There are rumors that Trump is exploring the foundation of a media empire of his own. Berlusconi was also pretty cozy with Putin. There are lots of parallels, but of course Berlusconi did not have a nuclear arsenal at his disposal.

My wife an I were traveling in Germany this past spring and were constantly asked the German equivalent of “WTF?” when it came to Donald Trump. When I explained my theory of Trump being our version of Berlusconi, they immediately got it.

Friction Shift said...

If I may also stumble into another point brought up this week, I think all the attention focused on this nauseating election has drowned out another significant FU to the ruling consensus; to wit the six states which will be voting on marijuana legalization this year. The War on Drugs has hammered poor communities for generations. Predation by Big Pharma is largely responsible for those same communities' pharmaceutical and opioid epidemics (and Big Pharma is spending big money to defeat marijuana legalization). California's initiative, which will likely pass, also includes an avenue to review past marijuana convictions. Just as you mentioned rural poor in your region returning to herbal medicine, many people are realizing that marijuana is a much more safe and effective pain medication than, say, Oxycontin. And, at least here in Oregon, it is legal to grow it in your garden.

Jerome Purtzer said...

JMG-good essay!
I think that The Donald has more in common with the Romanovs than Lenin and Marx. His first order of business would be to build a wall around the new improved Trump House-still white but more Trump. Melenia would redecorate with the Louis XIV flair that she is known for-solid gold toilets, bidets and accoutrements. She and The Donald would show the rabble the greatest reality show ever conceived. Our 70" flat screens have never seen such opulence and splendor. Truly, the past is prologue and it is only fitting for the greatest empire ever!

Raymond Duckling said...

For your amusement, and in a spirit of neighbourly friendship, let me offer you this "Calavera". A Calavera is a traditional poem for Dia de Muertos: It is always about someone still alive, and it showcases their ultimate demise in a macabre, yet playful, way.

So, here it is. The title is: LOS CANDIDATOS.

Los dos cabeza a cabeza
van los campeones odiados,
Doña Hilaria, la abadesa
y Donaldo el renegado.

Casi llegando a la meta
les sale al paso la Huesuda.
"Momentito," les espeta,
"ya se acabó la dulzura".

"A él primero, a él primero"
le grita la de Illinois.
"Quianque'l no sea caballero,
femina y hermana vos sois."

"Corrupta, cínica y loca
protectora de ilegales,
quiere a America en la boca
por sus ligas maritales".

La Muerte muy impaciente
les pone un alto a los dos.
"Ni en los infiernos ardientes
han de aguantar a vos".

Continua la Blanca Dama,
"Hágase, pues, como he dicho."
echó mano a su guadaña
y los cortó en un suspiro.

Por el Capitolio van dos,
dos fantasmas vagabundos.
Porque ni el Diablo ni Dios
quisieron a estos difuntos.

Geoff Krueger said...

The next President will have to make a decision regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline. The notable silence emanating from the President and both Clinton and Trump is indicative of the massive can of worms this has become. Shut down the pipeline and the Bakken project turns from a slow leak into a massive implosion; or, bring to the forefront that all of that land doesn't really belong to the US Government.

Keith Hammer said...

It may well be that what some have called the deep state are having second thoughts about Hillary.They may now view her as unable to deliver whatever swag that is required to keep the status quo in place because of her imminent indictability over the next four years.That would explain the FBI directors october surprise.Maybe they think Trump is a better bet and if not there are ways of handling that.Just another gloomy thought in a season of them.

Mister Roboto said...

If anything could have saved Obamacare from being an utter disaster, that might have been a robust public option (basically, the government gives the monopoly that private insurers have in some regions competition by becoming an alternative insurance seller itself). But by the time the legislation went before the House of Representatives, the robust public option was replaced with a highly inadequate fig-leaf of a public option. But Obama gave in to the insurance industry even on that and eliminated the public option entirely. The Senate then proceeded to turn the "Affordable Care Act" into the horrendous piece of corporate welfare currently helping to crush the working class of this country. If Trump wins because of Obamacare, I can't help but wonder how mighty an effort The Washington Post, The New York Times et al. will make to avoid any discussion of this manifest fact?

Fred said...

One of your best efforts, John.
I really appreciate it.
And I TRY to get other intelligent people to read your blog, even if most of them never do…….

M Smith said...

D. Mitchell, you are not alone. I live in a poor county near a poor town in NC. I have no idea how the few shops on Main Street stayed open before the Walmart Supercenter came here, let alone how they do it now. Racial tensions are high and openly discussed, at least among those of us who reflect lots of light. There are some stores I cannot get waited on. Perversely, the attitude among "struggling" black businesses here seems to be one of drinking poison and hoping I die. I don't take it personally. I see it as a manifestation of hopelessness.

John Michael's moving essay is profound, as always, and the "Cracked" piece sat me down and shut me up with a quickness. I've never been able to express what I, too, feel is the loss of a way of life where men did indeed support and defend their families and communities. That includes old women who have no men in their households. Oh, and they'd make sure their kids shoveled my walk for me! In turn, those men could count on those old women to keep an eye out in general and care for their children if need be. No money exchanged hands and it all worked out.

Today, though, the PC powers that be declare that I must put up with a troublesome drug dealer who was already on welfare and continued to make babies (till he overdosed and died) because he was married to a black woman, therefore my objections to his antics could only have been racism on my part. Now that he's dead and the wife has abandoned the house, I breathe easier. But I certainly did remember, with the peculiar clarity that C.S. Lewis mentions in connection with souls arriving in Hell, the days when the men in the neighborhood would have learned he was bothering me, gotten together with little discussion, and taught him a lesson he'd never forget. Even in suburban Chicago with no need to provide our own food, the men accepted their role as protector, and we all looked up to them. Imagine that.

Varun Bhaskar said...


Good lord, your business cards must be as long as dinner menus. :P

A very large number of people are rethinking their allegiances that’s for sure. I don’t know how a social democratic movement can get off the ground without kicking the lefty purity tests to the curb. All the left-of-center publications I read are still obsessed with the latest race/gender/sexual politics. It is largely impossible to talk about anything substantive with these folk. Their reaction to Trump seems to come more from their fear of the unknown he represents. Well that and the ethno-nationalist elements that are supporting him. The lefty circles want a national solution, but not the possibility that the solution may come from someone outside their tribe who doesn’t care to pay lip service to their purity tests.

I agree with Chris as well, the whole “live in the moment” mantra is really indicative of a bunch of people who don’t want to be responsible for themselves. It’s hyper prevalent on the left-side of the political spectrum. I tried repeatedly to get my newspaper off the ground, and though I got a lot of lip service in support, no one actually bothered to read to paper. Keep in mind I live in a college town that considers itself very politically active. I have a grim feeling that the collapse of the bubble will be far more catastrophic for the left than for the right.



whereami? said...

Thanks for another thought-provoking post. Do you still live in Western Maryland? I live in Frederick County and I’m not sure I’d refer to Maryland as a flyover state especially east of the Appalachians. Most people in the Frederick area, including myself, moved here for employment opportunities. There are already signs, however, of things starting to slow down. Even with all of the dump trucks, the construction of the new super Walmart and massive road improvements, there is a whiff of desperation in the air.

I have been traveling through the state with my high schooler visiting various colleges. While we were at the Eastern shore last week, I noticed Trump signs on commercial properties, large agri-business farms and Purdue chicken farm franchises. While coming home from a college visit in Baltimore, there were no Trump signs at an early voting site in Pimlico, an area which comprises mostly black working class residents.

Back home in Frederick, most Trump signs appear to be in the yards of homes in middle class housing developments. I’ve also seen Trump bumper stickers on vehicles leaving Fort Detrick at the end of the work day. Fort Detrick is the military’s biochemical warfare/research site and is one of the largest employers in Frederick County.

As for Clinton, I see even less evidence of support for her. I will be surprised if she wins the popular vote. I do find it ironic that she is actually more socially conservative than Trump. She is not divorced. She was raised in the Methodist Church. Her father was a business owner and she was a Republican until 1968. She is about as boring as Bob Dole. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why she is so unpopular, eh?

Steve W. said...

I guess I'm in a real sour mood about the election next week, because it's hard for me to see a good outcome to any of this. What I'm afraid of:

Clinton w/Democrats control of Congress: cries of rigged election, possible social unrest, more of the same from government.

Clinton w/Republicans control of Congress: complete government paralysis.

Trump w/Republican control of Congress: pray we don't become authoritarian or get involved in a nuclear war somewhere.

Trump w/Democrats control of Congress: complete government paralysis, or ---? Something more interesting?

C'mon, JMG and fans: I need some words of encouragement!

Pantagruel7 said...

Apropos of Obamacare in particular but our health care system generally: Several times a week I do a cardio workout at a gym where there are TV sets spaced about 10 feet apart all along the walls. I can't help but noticing an add for an investment company that uses the slogan, "In complexity there is opportunity" or something along those lines. This slogan seems like an invitation/admission for/by financial parasites who like to siphon money into their own pockets without actually contributing anything of value. Our health care system is nothing if not complex. Single payer would be far simpler. A part of the Old Testament that gets the least attention these days is the part that one of my literature profs in college called "the social justice thread in the OT." It included the prohibition on usury and the periodic forgiveness of indebtedness. If this Biblical prohibition were taken seriously, I think it would make capitalism impossible. Supposedly virtuous behavior like "putting your money work to for you" and "the magic of compound interest" would not seem so virtuous after all.

Rita said...

Re Northern California. The Nor Cal of commuting distance to the Bay Area is not typical of rural America. The inland areas are more so. Stockton and Modesto and other Central Valley cities are in desperate straits as are the smaller cities and towns that surround them. Unemployment, drugs, gangs, racial divisions, etc. Large portions of the Central Valley are natural deserts made fertile only by the runoff from mountain snowfall. Since droughts seem to be becoming more severe and frequent the battles over water are heating up. Environmental scientists assert that the rivers must get more water to preserve the ecosystem. But long established patterns of irrigation use have reduced some to less than 40% of normal. One of the local congressional races is focused on this issue, pitting "environmental radicals funded by Nancy Pelosi" i.e. Democrats, against the Republican who promises to restore water to the Valley. In Sacramento itself there has been a huge expenditure on a new arena for the Sacramento Kings basketball team while the mayor and city council continue to ignore the problems of homelessness and lack of wage class jobs. Being a govt. town means that the salary class is pretty well taken care of.

I am attending local classes for retired people, the Renaissance Society. A speaker for one of the classes pointed out the ways in which government decisions dating back to the New Deal continue to shape the geography of race and poverty in the area. The decision to redline black and Latino neighborhoods from receiving government sponsored mortgages left those areas poor, poorly supplied with amenities such as hospitals and clinics, transit, shopping and so forth. Really amazing to see and think about. Sure it is true in many other areas as well.

I left my job this past January. The first Medicare insurance plan I enrolled in had $0 premium and reasonable co pays, etc. For 2017 an almost identical plan will be $29 a month. I foresee having to reshop every year. Ugh.

David, by the lake said...

Noting, again, my vote for Stein, I do admit to a bit of schadenfreude watching the Democratic establishment in recent days.

Glancing at RCP's trending polls (the 4-way, which I think is more accurate with respect to how folks will vote this time)

I noticed that while all the talk previously was about how Trump had a "ceiling" of support (40%, if I recall the discussion correctly), it seems that if anyone is showing a ceiling, it is HRC at ~45%. Trump, in the meantime, has blown through that 40% level and is rapidly closing. The chart is a rather dramatic in its demonstration of this.

A scenario to further fuel the flames of discontent -- HRC's electoral college firewall holds, but she narrowly loses the popular vote to Trump. (Likely neither major candidate will top 50%, but it is possible that his popular vote could top hers.) Two potential results of this: 1) HRC has no mandate and her political capital is weakened considerably, 2) the Republican establishment comes under fire by Trump supporters for its weak backing of Trump (and in some cases disavowal), being seen as having cost him the election. So HRC's presidency is hobbled and the Republican party collapses.

These last few days before the 8th will be interesting. Of course, the days after the 8th aren't exactly going to be dull, either.

David, by the lake said...

Much mockery in the Demo-sphere commentariat re the narrowing of the polling. No way, no how, impossible for any key states to flip, media-induced horse-race, lazy journalists stirring up a false frenzy, etc.

Mister Roboto said...

A curiosity question: I'm sure the preponderance of "fist-pounding, saliva-spraying tirades" were from the sort of Hillary-Aid drinkers that currently inhabit the politics subreddit of But were any of them from Trump-supporters who were indignant that you failed to praise their candidate to the skies?

Clay Dennis said...

Its ironic, that if Hillary is taken down, it will most likely be by the rank and file ( wage class eq.) at the FBI. For too many years the worker bees were tasked with setting up confused immigrents as Christmas Tree Bombers whil letting the 1% ers in finance and politics slide. The antics of Hillary and "Clinton World" seemed to be just too much for the street level agents so they pushed for this november suprise against the wishes of everyone in the federal establishment.

Rich_P said...

@Steve W -- The only encouraging thing I've read recently is that the prospect of a Clinton or Trump presidency has made constitutionalists like Senator Lee of Utah take up the "Article I Project" with renewed vigor. In short, it's increasingly evident that Congress delegating Article I powers to the executive and "independent" agencies was a mistake that quite literally threatens the republic and liberty.

So regardless of which flavor of disaster we get on Tuesday, I hope America realizes that Congress is Article I, the executive branch is Article II, and the latter has grown too powerful at the expense of the former.

Gabriela Augusto said...

Dear JMG,
I also think democracy is the best government system, namely because it is the only where people can get rid of governments without having to resort to violence. I was talking about "our brand" of democracy. There must be something very wrong in a system where government attracts people like this. I do believe that 8 in 10 Americans must be more honest, trustworthy and sensible than any of yours two leading candidates. The same is valid for many of the leaders of the western democracies I am aware of.

RAnderson said...

While the causes outlined here for Trump's popularity may well be correct, to elect such a despicable human being to the highest office in our land seems to be a tacit admission of defeat as well as despair for a once optimistic and idealistic country. And while there may not be much to be optimistic about and plenty of despair, in this case the comparison to Berlusconi is incredibly apt, and one I've been thinking about for some time: the unlimited egotism, self-aggrandizement, lack of decorum and self-knowledge are evident, and I'm surprised the analogy has not been mentioned more frequently. To think that such a willfully ignorant, self-centered narcissist would actually intend to lead this country in order accomplish anything beneficial other than for himself, and not for the neglected and deserving poor and working classes? The conundrum is how, then, can one possibly vote for HRC, the embodiment of all that we abhor about the "system"? We can't. Writing in "Bernie" would at least allow one to maintain a shred of dignity and conscience in the midst of this joke that we unfortunately must call this election.

Marc L Bernstein said...

Morris Berman is inclined to believe that a Trump presidency will accelerate the deterioration of the USA, although Berman did not spell out any detailed mechanism by which that acceleration would occur.

My sense is that a Trump presidency would be a debacle and a farce. Donald Trump has no idea how to govern, if past experience is an indication. Furthermore, his populist rhetoric is probably just empty words. After all, he lies so routinely even his own lawyers prepared for his lies in advance of their meetings. Trump could easily resign or be impeached within a year or so of being elected and then we would have Pence as president, a scientifically illiterate, sanctimonious man with neat hair, a smug manner and a cruel heart. Poor white folks are desperate and probably don't care, but Trump is not the answer, as much as they would like to think so.

Cherokee Organics said...


Forgot to mention that I was very glad to hear that you managed to avoid those bars on your most recent trip (I do hope that you managed to score a dark ale somewhere though?). Your story of the ever multiplying television screens marauding across the landscape made for quite the gothic horror tale! Or a comedy like the story of Tribbles? The funny thing I find with those screens is that the sound is always turned down and so you see the bright flashies and the talking heads bobbing and dancing around. That practice is all very strange, but then it may make some people feel comfortable, I guess.



Bill Man said...

I get the impression in this article that Trump is being judged on what he says, and Hillary on what she has done. I agree with some of Trump's supposed positions but every time I get a little bit excited about a Trump presidency I remember Trump's last helping hand to desperate Americans. Trump wanted to help folks down on their luck earn a secure future in real estate, so the Trump tells these desperate people that if they rack up their credit cards and borrow from family and friends to pay the $75,000 course fee, those folks would not only learn Trump's secrets, they would be able to invest with the Don Himself, on the ground floor, special access. Of course it was a scam and thousands of Americans had their life savings wiped out. Trump's most trusting fans gave everything they had because they trusted him and the billionaire took it all and left his desperate fans perpetually destitute.

Hillary is a slimy lawyer/politician but she has never stooped to such depravity as the Trump U scam, nor ever come close. I too find the liberal elite acting too dismissive of the real pain we are feeling, like the biggest problem facing America today is which gender bathroom to use. But, I find the Birther Right to be an existential threat. The Birther Right has no problem telling the biggest and most ridiculous lies to foment hatred and even leaders of Birther Right have threatened "ballot box or bullet box" style threats, church leaders, congressmen and talking heads. They are threatening mass murder not based on some errant policy or actual physical threat,but purely which party gets elected.

Since Trump hasn't held office, our best guess at what his leadership style might be will come from this world leaders whom Trump admires, Putin, Kim Jung Un and Assad. Trump said Assad is an "A grade" leader, a leader who barrel bombed and gassed hundreds of thousands of his own citizens and caused the worst refugee crisis since the Holocaust. And Trump's pal Putin isn't lifting a finger to help deal with the problem Putin helped create, with Putin actually preferring to destabilize the rest of the West with loads of immigrants from a country rife with Islamic terrorism. Having a president who publicly adores bloody tyrants yet insults leaders like Merkel, leaders who lead over nations with better standards of living, better healthcare, better wages and better worker protections, leaders of relatively free societies compared to Syria and North Korea.

I get that many people want to at all costs avoid being seen as biased towards liberal and try to be seen as balanced, but the difference between Clinton and Trump is the difference between a cold sore and brain cancer. I think people of conscience owe it to denounce Trump, particularly for the Trump U fraud. I could forgive Trump and maybe vote for him if Trump paid his share of taxes and compensated the victims of the Trump U scam, because then I'd know he was a changed man, unlike the Trump we see today. Who thinks Trump will do the only right thing and compensate his Trump U fraud victims?

dfr2010 said...

Steve W.: "Clinton w/Democrats control of Congress: cries of rigged election, possible social unrest, more of the same from government."
Add in almost-certain war in Syria. Clinton is a warmongering chickenhawk neocon cut from the EXACT same cloth as Shrub and Darth Cheney (no, I really don't like those two. Why do you ask?). She wants to do in Syria what they did in Iraq ... and how well has that turned out, especially for the northern part? Add in the fact that is poking the Russian bear directly in the eye, as they have been supporting the Syrian government for years.

Gridlock sounds like the best possible outcome to me. I've actually made the argument that a good reason to vote for Trump (other than the big FU to DC) is that Congress will not be inclined to play ball, and he will certainly return the favor.

Helix said...

Seen on my son's Facebook page:
"I voted... and now it burns when I pee"
"I voted... and I just threw up in my mouth"
"I voted... and now I am dead to myself"


Down here in central Virginia, it's pretty clear that the right is arming and is looking for a fight. We're starting to hear the refrain "if you don't vote for Trump, it's a vote for Hillary", usually delivered with a steely-eyed stare that makes you think they might rather be looking at you down the barrel of an AR-15. The first time I heard this was last night. But then I heard it twice again this morning. I guess the MSM has been busy. Meanwhile, those on the left spew their usual drivel. Those in the middle are generally just depressed.

By the way, Virginia is an open-carry state, meaning that it's perfectly legal to carry a gun into the polls. I work at the polls, so I should probably consider upping my life insurance. Added to that, it is now legal here to use your cell phone in the polling centers, specifically so you can take a selfie proudly displaying your filled-in ballot. I just can't wait for the day when I start getting visits from armed gangs notifying me that they'll be back the day after the election to check my cell phone, and it's going to have a photo on it showing that I voted for -X-. Or else...

thenoteswhichdonotfit said...

@ Rita

I do not doubt what you say.

For the record, the places I visited were all in Siskiyou County, right next to where JMG used to live. I wouldn't consider it commuting distance from the Bay Area, since it almost equally distant from San Francisco and Portland.

Ethan La Coursiere said...

I have to say, I'm so close to blowing a blood vessel over the sickening anti-Trump sentiment being spewed by the liberal elite. In particular, is a nasty example of the sort. Seriously, the only thing cattier than that video is the local pet shop. I just hope that on November 8, Trump gives the status quo the bruising it's been cruising for. So many innocent Americans have been pushed to the edge by these new policies, and it's high time for a change.

Oh, and, also, amazing post as usual, Mr. Greer. I feel the need to put this in every comment here, because this really is some of the best in blogging fare.

patriciaormsby said...

Here is something that might help a few people.
I am not living in the States, so I haven't pursued this beyond reading and earmarking it. This may not be the only solution to Obama Care out there, but people are motivated to come up with better solutions that can be put in practice. What downsides there may be I do not know.
I enjoyed this week's post very much. You mention Dmitry Orlov, another author who, like you, responds thoughtfully when I contact him. I enjoy his writing for the same reasons I kept travelling to Russia while I could. These folks are down-to-earth with practical nuts-and-bolts experience. You hang out with them and you learn a lot about non only survival but also how to have fun while surviving.
Thus I sincerely hope that 2017 America will be more akin to 1985 USSR and less akin to 1935 Imperial Japan than it is now.

Glenn said...

John Michael Greer said...

"Glenn (if I may), you're still missing the existence of millions of people too poor to afford the premiums and too rich to get the subsidies. I'm one of them and I know many, many others"

No, I am not missing their existance nor saying the ACA is perfect; it (as passed with many GOP amendments) did a better job of saving the Health Insurance Industry from self destruction than providing decent health care. I was not generalizing, I was being quite specific about my exact situation, in only my state. What I wrote applies to people living below the poverty line in states that accept the Medicaid subsidy from the Feds. Period. Full stop. I'm quite aware that the group immediately above the poverty line suffers the most under the ACA. I'd still like to be making enough to join that group though. And in the Medicaid states, the co-pays are not ruinous. In my particular case (military retiree below Federal Poverty level in Washington State) ACA covers the co-pay that I would otherwise have to pay to use Tricare, the Health Insurance system for military retirees.

There are definite improvements that should be made to the ACA; and the most logical would be extending Medicare to all citizens. I'm not holding my breath though. It's a possibility that if Sec. Clinton wins, and the Senate turns (likely) that Obama's proposal of a Federal option in states where the Insurance plans are too few and too expensive might get wrangled through a divided House of Representatives. Again, I'm not holding my breath, but it's more likely than expanding Medicare right now.

in the Bramblepatch
Marrowstone Island
Salish Sea

Glenn said...


Like Armata, I receive 404 errors when trying to submit comments, and it takes multiple attempts. The primary problem seems to be from using the review function before posting.

Regarding my ACA remarks. I, like you, appreciate it when people actually read what I wrote and respond to it, rather than responding to what they think I wrote or what I didn't write. Please bear this in mind when responding to my comments.

Thank You,


in the Bramblepatch
Marrowstone Island
Salish Sea

Justin said...

Donalfagan, you might be surprised to learn that every other racial group in North America engages in racial identity politics. The fact that suddenly, whites are doing it too should surprise nobody.

I have no doubt that there is a large contingent of Americans of all colours who sip beers together. The Cracked article that JMG linked to alludes to that. There are also ethnic enclaves which are implicitly no-go-zones for people with the wrong skin color.

I'm perfectly happy to live in the colourblind meritocracy that I was taught about in school, and even see some special advantages given to non-whites, and the particular rights of Native Americans respected. The problem is that invariably, ethnic/racial politics comes to the fore whenever enough nonwhites are in one place.

I like the Indian (dot not feather) people I work with, and yet I'm aware the reason they were allowed into Canada was to lower Canadian wages (and prop up rents) for the benefits of the ultra-rich. And so, like many people, I'm in the position of resenting their presence without any ill-will towards the individuals. Considering that some of them have started families here, I certainly wouldn't want them deported either, but they need to stop coming.

There is a nearly 100% black gang in my city which is in the business of grooming young women of any color, getting them addicted to drugs, and selling them as strippers and/or prostitutes in another province. Every time they come up, the usual contingent of black journalists (and virtue-signalling whites) comes out to defend them and call the cops racist. If they were a white gang preying on young black women, it would be a national emergency.

I make no apologies for bad stuff white people have done before, and acknowledge that law-abiding nonwhites are typically at a disadvantage. I don't hate anyone, and certainly don't judge individuals I personally interact with due to their race. But the reality is that racial politics are already here and it's time that whites drop the myth of the colorblind meritocracy.

Sub said...

Thank you as always for the excellent essay that has it's finger directly on the pulse of current events.

As someone who spent the last decade working at poorly renumerated manufacturing jobs, and just recently acquired a better paying(though not by much) job as a researcher at the state university, I have gotten to see both sides of the cultural divide in the past year, and I think you have described them perfectly.

After spending so many years getting sore joints with people in manufacturing, it has been shocking to listen to my new progressive academic colleagues and the undisguised contempt with which they view the working class, despite ultra-partisan attachment to the political party which not that long ago represented working class interests. It is almost as though they support HC to spite their less well-off countrymen, and the support for Trump's version of "Hope and change" is simply a mark of stupidity which proves that the blue collars deserve the screwing which the coastal elites have given them.

That being said, there doesn't seem to be much enthusiasm on display, as I have seen more bumper stickers reading "Everybody sucks 2016" than sticker for either candidate, which is quite the contrast to 2008.

I find that I am quite stressed by the idea that no matter who is elected next Tuesday, violent conflict is right around the corner, and as a resident of a large Midwest city, that notion frankly terrifies me about the future of my family and myself.

Thanks again for all you do in getting the word out on the end of the oil age.

canon fodder said...

You’re a brave man for venturing into the toxic cesspool of this presidential election. Hopefully the civil comments far outnumber the spittle splattered ones.

Hopium is a powerful drug, as one commentator quipped. Reagan tapped into it with his Morning in America, Obama did it in spades with his Hope and Change. Trump is now doing it with his Make America Great campaign. Hillary’s response? I’m with Her. Sounds depressing rather than hopeful. You can see the difference in the rally attendance numbers. Trump supporters mob his rallies, Clinton supporters are corralled into hers.

We voters have been served the hopium line enough times now to see it’s most likely the precursor to a bait and switch routine. Sort of like Charlie Brown and Lucy with the football. Which brings us to flyover country and your comment about the breakdown in our faith in the establishment and the American Dream. We seem to be at the point where “all men are created equal” has passed into the realm of farce, and invisible class structures have metastasized into tools of division and oppression.

Your parallels to the collapse of the Soviet Union are well taken. I’ve been following the events in Venezuela as closely as possible given the bias of American media, and find many parallels there as well. As you have pointed out in past blogs, many civilizations have gone down this path before, and it’s foolish to think we won’t eventually get there. Trump may forestall that, Clinton surely won’t.

We Americans do have a choice in our leaders, though I seriously doubt we actually exercise that choice to any extent. Take the US Congress for example. It consistently polls as one of the least liked, least trusted institutions in the country. So what have we done about it? For at least the last 40 years, we’ve reelected over 90% of the incumbent politicians, and much of the 10% turnover is from voluntary retirements, not voter angst. How do you reconcile near total revulsion on one hand, and near total approval on the other? It must belie a sort of cultural schizophrenia.

At this point in the national embarrassment that is this election, I feel much more kinship to Mercutio than Hamlet, with a rapier in my gut and bile on my tongue. To the Democrats and Republicans I say, “A plague a’ both your houses!”

ganv said...

There is a huge difference between the US and the Soviet Union in the 80s. It is that the USSR could see that the west was doing much better. It was easy to pull support away from the existing institutions in the USSR to a movement that said "We are not winning. We need to make a break with the past because there is a better option out there." The only countries competitive with the US at the moment are Scandinavian bastions of the big government liberal approach that you paint so negatively along with some other British colonies and east Asian countries. ( There is going to be much less potential for an organized alternative to business as usual when there is no model out there that is demonstratively better. I know you think the system is so shaky that it is almost to collapse, but I think there is enough pragmatism in people that they will not collectively choose a much lower standard of living than is possible by maintaining the existing political structure, even if it has deep problems. So when a Trump like candidate tries to blow up the system, the huge number of educated influencers will make him look foolish enough that they will stabilize business as usual. And don't be fooled. In a collapse, it is the uneducated and rural poor that are going to get hit hardest. (See the 1930s great depression) In short, I think democratic capitalism in its American incarnation is much more resilient than you describe because those on the right wanting to blow it up are suggesting replacements that are incompatible with each other and are almost certain to produce much worse results. And enough people in positions of influence know this so that a soviet style collapse of political legitimacy is unlikely.

latheChuck said...

If the USA is following the USSR model, who's our Putin? The only name I know of that even comes close is Evan McMullin. (... and I mean this in the nicest possible way.) Here's his Wikipedia bio:

David Evan McMullin (born April 2, 1976) is an American politician. He was formerly chief policy director for the House Republican Conference in the U.S. House of Representatives. He has also been a CIA operations officer, a volunteer refugee resettlement officer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Jordan, as well as an investment banker.

Forty years old - relatively young and presumably healthy.
McMullin: single, Putin: married once, divorced.
Former intelligence officer - that's a match.
"Policy Director" for the House Republican Conference suggests to me that he's socially conservative (as is Putin).
"investment banker" - well, I doubt that Putin has experience as a bank officer, but I'll bet he's been a fairly sophisticated bank customer!

latheChuck said...

Just a minor revelation: I had held the unchallenged belief that "trade is good", that people should specialize in those products for which they have some sort of natural advantage, so the greatest quantities are produced for the least effort. Only yesterday, did it occur to me that if "free trade" depended only on the consent of the trading parties, there would be NO NEED for trade "deals". But why would we negotiate, if not to weigh the benefits accruing to some, against the damages done to some others?

(And as a negotiator, it shouldn't be too hard to figure out how to ensure that the benefits accrue to the elite, educated, intellectual worthies, like, for example, trade negotiators.)

Justin said...

Stefan Molyneux on the Salary Class (no, he doesn't use that exact phrase):

Justin said...

JMG/others, I will also add that Stefan Molyneux was a libertarian ancap as little as a year ago.

Armata said...

With regards to Obamacare rate hikes as a reason why the election seems to turning against Hillary Clinton:

Donald Trump has been making hay out of this issue. I watched part of one of his rallies the other day on YouTube and one of things he brought up was the obscene rate hikes that so many people are facing. He pointed out that in Arizona, health insurance rates for those covered through Obamacare are rising an average of 117 percent. Think about that. Some of the commenters have pointed out that even with the government subsidies for low-income people, a growing number are reaching the point where they can no longer afford it.

Clueless Hillary meanwhile continues to defend Obamacare, talks about how wonderful it is and claims everything will be just fine with a few minor adjustments around the margins. That's cold comfort for the millions of people who are losing their healthcare because of skyrocketing insurance rates and all those people who can't use their overpirced health insurance without ending up in bankruptcy court because the co-pays and deductibles are so high. She sounds an awful lot like Marie Antoinette right before the storming of the Bastille.

Speaking of Clueless Hillary, have any of you seen the latest news coming out of the FBI?

There are rumors coming from within the FBI itself claiming that indictments are likely in the near future stemming from the FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation. It's also being reported that the FBI found new emails on Anthony Weiner's laptop from Hillary's private email server and it looks like senior Clinton aides including Huma Abedin lied to the FBI when they claimed they had turned over all electronic devices that had been used to receive emails from Hillary.

Mister Roboto said...

Hillary is a slimy lawyer/politician but she has never stooped to such depravity as the Trump U scam, nor ever come close.

A Hillary Clinton victory will certainly mean a retrenchment of the "Affordable Care Act", and that's a scam that's wiping out working-class people in which the citizens of this country have no choice but to participate.

John Michael Greer said...

Thomas, you’re welcome.

Onething, nah, if she wins this year, she’ll be the Democratic candidate in 2020, and so it’ll be 2024 at the earliest before the Dems get around to trying anything other than channeling George W. Bush.

Justin, fascinating. Sales of Twilight’s Last Gleaming remain steady, and the five part series on which it was originally based is still way up there on the alltime most-read list, so it’s not impossible that a bit of inspiration trickled that way.

Guilherme, I see Trump as a transitional figure, a lightning rod of sorts around which the mass movement of the dispossessed is taking shape in this country. If that movement embraces old-fashioned democratic process – which I think is quite possible – then it could accomplish much; if it goes for the easy totalitarian answer, then Weimar America, here we come! So I’m aware of the downside you discuss, but I also see positive potentials in all this.

Onething, that’s the big question these days, isn’t it? I’m beginning to wonder if somewhere in the thousands of pages of fine print, there’s some bit of gimmickry that rakes millions of dollars out of Obamacare and leaves everyone – patients, doctors, insurers, you name it – holding the bag.

Notes, I know the feeling. I grew up in Seattle, but that town doesn’t exist any more; these days it’s Los Angeles North, but not half as charming, a solid wall of smog, strip malls, and subdivisions from the water to the mountains. I don’t expect ever to go back.

Donald, and that’s also a choice.

Genevieve, it’s a source of wry amusement to me to watch how quickly the people who like to yell about “hate speech” resort to hate speech about the people they despise.

Tim, you’re most welcome and thank you! I’m glad the post had the effect I intended. For what it’s worth, I think your analysis is spot on, and the two factors – the collapse of collective consensus and the failure of the elite – are closely connected. More on this as we proceed.

Keith, the rural US used to have the same sort of lively culture. Gutting the countryside to feed the metastasis of the big cities is a normal part of the decadence of every civilization.

Drhooves, I think it’s quite possible that there will be two parties contending in 2024, say, and they may even have the same names, but you’re right, of course – the parties as they now exist are moribund, and will be coopted or swept aside shortly.
Barry, the US has been a third world nation for decades, and we’ve got the corrupt politics, lousy roads, and worse health care to prove it!

Fred, fascinating. If you hear any more about that, please post it.

jessi thompson said...

I'm not very old, only 35, but for a long time, I was widely regarded as being a fringe-thinking doom-and-gloom negative nancy because I warned people about things like peak oil and climate change. Nobody wanted to hear any of it, and frankly, I learned to just shut up about it because it alienated me quickly. Since the collapse of 08, everything has changed for the rural and wage-earning suburbanites. Truly rural people are well situated for collapse, with extensive food networks that haven't changed much since the invention of the pickup truck and will easily convert back to horses (though they mostly still seem to think the pickup will be around forever). They tend to stockpile guns and ammo, and have been doing that for longer than I've been alive. They have gotten angrier though. The realchange is in the suburbs. You would be SHOCKED if you knew how many families have "collapse plans" and have discussed them with their close confidants. A lot of people in the lower classes feel like they're watching wile e. Coyote hover in midair in that split second before he looks down. But remember this engine can run solely on the fumes of belief in itself for a looong time, I guess it's a type of inertia. If any one of us could correctly pick that "collapse day" and write it on the calendar, none of us would be reading these blogs anymore, we would all be reading "diy backyard chickens" and "how to can cattail root".

It's possible when trump was "admitting issues" you didn't catch it because they aren't issues to the affluent. (For example, building that wall, a horrible idea, is to address issues caused by illegal immigration. He also talks a lot about tariffs, which are a good idea, not that there's any guarantee he will do that. )

PS voting g for Johnson only cuz stein isn't pulling any numbers

John Michael Greer said...

Mikep, I doubt it. I suspect the next thirty years will be considerably more interesting with people with last names like Hassan and Ali instead.

Cherokee, I liked Ehrenreich’s book and I think it has quite a bit to say about how the US in particular has ended up so batshale crazy about so many things. By all means enjoy the creatures of the night, while we’re waiting for ours to slither off to the saurian ooze from whence they sprung...

Donalfagan, it’s essential to current mainstream political rhetoric that everything has to be flattened out into the categories of race and gender, so that the impact of class and the rural-urban divide can be erased from public discussion. I see those stories as just par for the course, disinformatsia of the classic American Pravda type.

Dan, well, we’ll see, won’t we?

Brian, I just hope we haven’t been awful enough to deserve Clinton!

Tidlösa, Ivan Grozny is always a possibility. With regard to Trump and the American economy, a lot depends on what you mean by that slippery term. If you average out the kleptocratic frenzies of the very rich and the destitution of the majority, you get a “recovery;” in the same way, if the very rich take it in the shorts and the majority stabilizes and gains a bit, you could well have a “recession.”

Bruno, hmm! Fascinating. You’re quite right, of course. I may have to put some time down the road into figuring out how many other empires lasted either 140 years or some multiple thereof, perhaps with down time in between.

Rita, granted. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when nobody can afford the airdrops any more.

Tidlösa, nah, he could have picked dozens of other people if that was the deal. Pence was chosen because he gives Democrats violent nausea, and so Trump would have to go way overboard before a Democratic-controlled Congress (if that happens) would grit their collective teeth and impeach him. Clinton is practically begging for a special prosecutor followed by an impeachment trial.

Ric, thank you!

Bobo, you’re most welcome. I try!

Susan, I’m sorry to say I think it’s going to be a long hard road before most Americans grasp that. Most of us, after all, are descended from people who bailed out on their communities in the Old World to pursue their personal betterment here. That is to say, you’re right – but it’s going to be a hard, bitter lesson to learn.

Mark, that’s why I suspect that what’s going to happen is what’s already happening – more and more people on the bottom and middle of the economic pyramid are going to bail out on the mainstream health care industry, turning to alternatives, while the industry itself becomes an ever more baroque monstrosity taking care of an ever narrowing circle of rich clients, until the economic and technological basis breaks down and the alternatives are what’s left.

Armata said...

Bill Man wrote

Hillary is a slimy lawyer/politician but she has never stooped to such depravity as the Trump U scam, nor ever come close

Really? I trust you haven't heard about the $16.5 million that Bill Clinton got paid to be the "honorary chancellor" of Laureate International Universities, a notorious online diploma mill.

As David Goldman aptly put it in one of his blog posts for the Asia Times, no sewer has been too stinky for the Clinton's to crawl through in search of ill-gotten pelf.

Ray Wharton said...

The only solace in this election is what a hot mess the winner will be stuck with. The sad part is that the American people will be the mess; and quite likely alot of people beyond that. Like watching a train wreck from the caboose.

John Michael Greer said...

Robert, have you been to the Green Wizards forum? That's what it was set up to do.

Eerie, funny.

Anthony, you're assuming that the working class has the same ideas you do about how to improve their lot. I'd suggest that this isn't a safe bet by any means.

Alex, if you ever happen to visit Cumberland, MD, you'll find identical charity shops with identical goods in them. I suspect that a good many American states would vote for USexit if they could.

Clay, yep. Nicely summed up.

Allie, so what you're saying is that he has the exact equivalent of Clinton's gang of good buddies at Goldman Sachs. Fair enough; the question is whether anybody on either side has figured out that one too many looting operations like that could destabilize the entire system and leave bankers dangling from lampposts...

Blackwyn, I haven't addressed it because I haven't seen any reason to think that either one of the candidates is any more or less authoritarian than the other. As I've pointed out in previous posts, the left likes to fling around the word "fascist" -- it's one of their favorite bits of hate speech -- though the frankly ignorant way they use it reminds me of Tom Lehrer's injunction not to write naughty words on walls if you can't spell. The "Evil Ists" are the invariable whipping boys of modern liberal rhetoric, and serve a central role in distracting attention from issues liberals don't like to address. That's why I've talked about those other issues instead.

Friction, it's quite possible that Trump will turn out to be our Berlusconi, or for that matter our Tsipras. That doesn't change the fact that the mass movement currently behind him sees him in a very different light. As for the war on drugs, no argument; prohibition never works, period. I look forward to an end to that particular insanity, the sooner the better.

Jerome, if he does win, the interior decor of the White House is going to be quite something to behold. I'll have to see if I can take a tour, and then find a taco truck for lunch. ;-)

Raymond, thank you! I wish my Spanish was better; I doubt I'm getting more than a small fraction of the jokes.

Geoff, no matter who wins, the pipeline is going through. I don't like that fact, but the majority of Americans will turn a blind eye to any abuse, so long as it gets them gas for their SUVs.

Amy Olles said...

I know that in the past few weeks you have told your readership to comment on the article at hand and not on politics. I wanted to say thank you for letting us, this week,express our concerns, frustrations and otherwise vent about...politics.
I feel tension mounting as we get closer to Nov 8th. I voted, not for either of the big two, but felt like I was losing the entire time. I worry about what sort of violence might break out due to election outcomes. I am watching otherwise rational friends suddenly get all lathered up about politics on social media. This election seems to bringing out the worst in people. Thank you for opening the door on this blog to let us post about this topic for this week. Hopefully we can all get through till next week and get on with the business of collapsing for the future.
I'm glad you're back from you trip,and hope it went well.
Remember to breath everyone over these next days!

Ien in the Kootenays said...

I can totally understand why anyone would not want to support Rodham Clinton. What boggles the mind is why that leads people to imagine Trump to be a valid choice. To quote a former Green candidate here in B.C. : "If everyone who says they would vote Green if Green could win would vote Green, Green would win."

John Michael Greer said...

Keith, heck of a good question. It'll be fascinating to see how all this plays out.

Mister R., almost anything would have been better than the mess we ended up with -- and yes, if Obamacare puts the final nail in Clinton's coffin, nobody in the privileged classes will mention that for a lifetime and more.

Fred, thank you.

Varun, the American left alternates between actually trying to change things, on the one hand, and concentrating on preening itself on its moral superiority to everyone else on the planet, on the other. The purity tests come in during the latter phase. Give it time, and it'll implode.

Whereami, next time you go for a drive, head west on 70, then turn onto 68 and keep going until you get to Cumberland. We're almost twice as far west of you than you are from Baltimore, and we're well into flyover territory out here. A lot of people in your end of Maryland -- from here, everything from Hagerstown east is "downstate" -- forget about us up here!

Steve, I'm hoping for stalemate. It'll keep most of the worst case scenarios at bay.

Pantagruel7, I ain't arguing.

David, that specific possibility is one that I've considered. It's also quite possible that Trump will squeak in with a very narrow win and thus no mandate either, while the Democratic party is abandoned by its voters who, quite rightly, blame it for sidelining Sanders (who could have trounced Trump) for Clinton (who failed).

Mister R., all of the saliva-spraying, fist-pounding rants I fielded and deleted were Clintonistas screaming about how Trump eats small children for breakfast, etc. The Trump supporters who post here have been uniformly polite, even when they disagree with me.

Clay, one more irony in the fire!

Gabriela, but that's how democracy actually works! Show me a democratic society that doesn't routinely attract scoundrels and fools to high office; to my knowledge, there's never been one.

RAnderson, as I noted in the post, not everyone thinks that the election ought to be decided on the basis of the moral virtue of the candidates, you know.

Marc, as I noted in the post, working class people (notice the way you slipped in the usual insistence that they're all of one skin color; they aren't) have a choice between one candidate whom they know beyond a shadow of a doubt will pursue the policies that have destroyed their communities and plunged them into poverty and misery, and another candidate who might do something else. Their logic in voting for the latter, it seems to me, is impeccable.

onething said...

I'd like to point out that even when a family isn't poor, health care is becoming unaffordable. 15-16 years ago I purchased good insurance, Blue Cross, for a family of four by myself with no employer assistance. The max you could be charged for an ER visit was 100 dollars. Co pays of 25 or 30. It was 300 per month, then 350 and then 400, which was a lot of increases I thought. Lack of transparency was already a big problem.

My daughter's family has a good middle class income and insurance with a pretty nice employer. White collar. Yet they pay, even with the employer paying whatever they pay, about 1200 per month for their insurance, and it covers very little. Due to some bad luck they have had to go to the ER a couple of times and they come out of it owing hundreds and even a couple of thousand dollars. Not a big trauma case, just a few tests or some IV fluid, that kind of thing. So even though they are not poor, they do have student loan debt and a mortgage and car payment - it really is a bit tough to get sick or even just to be afraid that something is very wrong (all three cases turned out okay) and then be socked with bills like 1700 dollars when you already pay out 1200 a month.

A lady on medicare at the hospital where I work showed me her bill for the helicopter ride, 30 thousand and some change. Medicare is an 80/20 plan, which means she owes 6000 dollars for that trip and of course probably thousands more for the rest of her stay.

So I called a helicopter service in a nearby city and asked them if they gave tours to the public. They sure did and I could hardly get the salesguy off the phone. He said we could take 4 people for 2200 dollars for a one hour flight, but if we didn't do it at the last minute and reserved it ahead of time, the price would be 1,499.

I get that Lifeflight has 2 trained personnel and some equipment and might even be a little bit bigger helicopter, but how do you square that?

Ray Wharton said...

Concerning the pipeline protests. Lots of my friends are there, I even consider going, but I don't think that long distance travel is the way to support it. You observed that the protesters cannot win unless they go on the offensive, well to do that they would have to effect change where the protest exactly isn't.

An oil worker I know posted to his facebook, sarcastically, a great idea. Ribbing the protesters, he suggested that if they don't want the pipe line they should start by turning of the natural gas line into their homes. My friend certainly has little love lost over the Standing Rock protesters, but I think he has a good idea.

The only way to resist pipelines is to block demand, and the way to do that is to decrease our personal use of fuels and then to inspire others to do the same. A boycott is what I am suggesting. A retro technique. Even a small number of protesters actively working in communities around the country to decrease their areas demand for fuel, using appropriate tech, could have a disproportionate benefit.

I am trying to decrease my house holds fuel needs, but I have a long way to go. The skills to do these things is something that I am having to develop from scratch, my gardening skills have moved up a bit, but manufacture is another story still. The next project along these lines I will try is a solar dehydrator. Maybe a few more engineering capable folks could do more.

John Michael Greer said...

Cherokee, yep -- the Grant Sessions were held at Ocean City, a local seaside resort, in the off season but not too late to get some decent restaurants before they closed. So Sara and I were able to dine pleasantly at a nearly empty steak house, with no screens and decent beer, and walk a nearly empty boardwalk that's wall-to-wall human flesh during the season. It was pleasant.

Bill, not at all. I'm taking Clinton at her word when she says her economic plan will focus on handing out benefits to the middle class, and when she talks about picking a fight with Russia. As for Trump University, er, you really need to check out the sleazefest that is the Clinton Foundation; selling preferential treatment at the State Department to foreign nationals for plump under-the-table donations is pretty well up there on the scale of graft, you must admit.

Helix, I know. No matter what happens, it's going to get ugly.

Ethan, thank you. Nice metaphor, by the way!

Patricia, hmm! That's a historical comparison I hadn't considered, but of course you're quite correct. Hmm and hmm again. I may need to do a post on that.

Glenn, fair enough. I simply noted that you were only talking about the people on the two ends, and that's common enough these days that I overreacted.

Sub, you're welcome and thank you. I wish I knew some way to get it through the heads of the privileged and clueless that they're cutting their own throats by supporting screw-the-majority policies with a big side dish of sneering contempt for the victims of those policies, but so far I haven't found a way.

Fodder, fortunately, yes -- I got maybe twenty saliva-flecked rants, and close to 170 comments that, even when they disagreed with me strenuously, had the grace and common sense to do so in a civil and reasoned fashion. I think that speaks very well of the readership of this blog.

Ganv, I wonder if we live in the same country. The collapse of legitimacy, as I noted in my post, is already well under way among the increasingly impoverished and silenced majority in America; the people in power are doing nothing to forestall it -- and they, not Trump, are the ones most likely to bring the system crashing down, by pursuing a set of hopelessly unsustainable economic and foreign policies in the teeth of all the evidence that those policies have already failed. What's more, people do have an example of something better to look toward; the past. Most people in middle America were a lot better off a few decades back, and they know it. That's why retrovation is already becoming a massive social force in America, and will in due time turn into a massive political force as well.

LatheChuck, it's way too early to identify our Putin, if we get one. We might get a Napoleon Buonaparte instead, you know! As for your revelation about trade, thank you. If that kind of common sense was more widespread, fewer stupid policies would be in force today.

Justin, fascinating. The sooner all the libertarian anarchocapitalists turn into something less crazy, such as flat Earthers and believers in the Great Pumpkin, the better off we'll all be.

Armata, yep. Anyone who thinks they know what's going to happen at this point is smoking their shorts.

John Michael Greer said...

Mister R., exactly.

Jessi, that's good to hear. The more people who are prepared for the impending crisis, the better off we'll all be.

Amy, you're welcome. When the politics gets too thick, I post something on a different subject -- but my posts on politics are getting a huge readership, well past what other subjects attract, and I do pay a certain amount of attention to that.

Ien, maybe it's because people appreciate his stands on certain issues, which the Greens haven't addressed...

Onething, no argument. Modern health care is pricing itself out of existence; I wonder if the MDs who love to denounce alternative health care realize that the bills they and the institutions that employ them charge have become the single most compelling reason for people to turn to alternative health care.

Ray, exactly. Exactly. Thank you; you've just earned tonight's gold star by pointing out the inescapable.

FiftyNiner said...

JMG, et al,
While roaming around the local big box store today--waiting for my brother to catch up to me--it seemed that everywhere I looked I saw parents and grandparents with beautiful toddlers. Since I have for weeks now been mired in the noise of this almost unbelievable campaign, it was on my mind and I had a kind of epiphany: If I had to choose between Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton to babysit a toddler for an afternoon, which would it be? It is not even close! TRUMP hands down!
If I cannot imagine leaving a child in Hillary Clinton's care, why should I entrust her with taking care of this country?

Dave said...

It is such a complex set of issues, how we got here. In some ways we're better prepared than the Russians for collapse, though; we have a cadre of capable people who know how to make things, maintain things, and take a part in creating economic activity (many of them the suspect recent immigrants); but we also have a very large group of people lacking the character or skills, or health even to adjust to severe changes. JMG, as you say, the flyover people (by the way, we have flyover counties here in California also; the places the affluent rarely go to).
Partly because of miseducation on many levels, partly because of the rotten elites we've come to accept somehow, the country continues to flounder. We know that the ones left behind don't lack potential intelligence or energy, but their initiative and drive gets taken away. I can see it generationally here in the SF Bay area; the working class tends as a group to become less capable. Is it nutrition? Bad schools? Bad peers? All of the above? But quite a few of the workers here (I know whereof I speak as I am in the building trades) do quite well as there are many opportunities, though many of these pay poorly unless you start your own gig.
I guess I'm getting around to saying that this presidential election really doesn't matter; neither party's choice will substantially improve things. Grassroots action, State and local, have a chance to help. In Richmond we elected a Green mayor and some progressive officials, and we greatly improved the police department as well as correcting a subservient relationship with our big bad corporation, Chevron. -David M.

jessi thompson said...

When the roman empire fell, it raised revenue by taxing farmers exorbitant amounts. Farmers walked off their farms only to be dragged back and legally forced to continue farming even though there was no way to grow enough crops to pay the taxes. When Rome disintegrated too far to enforce the law, the farmers just walked away. My point is even though things got worse for Rome, they got better for the farmers very quickly. We may have a rough patch ahead, but we may also have a golden opportunity to rebuild our way of life so that we can take our time back and choose to work together with friends and family rather than slaving away for corporate overlords to pay ridiculously high taxes. We will lose a lot of comforts and we will experience hardship, but do not lose sight of the opportunity!!!

donalfagan said...

Justin, you might want to read my post again before assuming I heartily endorsed The Conversation's piece.

Bogatyr said...

@Bruno (and JMG) "the Crimean War being the very first Russian imperial adventure". Hooooooo boy. That's seriously inaccurate. The Crimean War was when Russia was attacked on its own territory by an alliance of Britain, France and Turkey. I was taught about it when I was still in primary school, back in the 70s - Florence Nightingale, the Charge of the Light Brigade, the Thin Red Line, the Siege of Sevastopol, Balaclava & Inkerman, etc. Not one of the combatant nations in the Crimean War - not the UK, not France, not Turkey - considered the Crimea to be anything but a part of Russia. Russia had many imperial adventures going on at that time, and I've read many entertaining books about them, but they were further east, in the Caucasus and Central Asia, and the first of them was a couple of centuries before the Crimean War! That means that your timing is badly out in your calculations....

@Alex Blaidd I worked in Swansea up until about 3 years ago. I used to enjoy the laverbread from the market (and there's a great cheese stall there as well!). Even then, the deprivation was obvious, and it could be pretty scary at times. You're right about the town centre: charity shops, pawnbrokers, slot machine arcades, and not a great deal more. I'm not sure that I agree with you about the charity shops - I got some good furniture from the Heart Foundation shop, and the Oxfam on Wind St is a good source of old books! All that tells us, of course, is that the last generation with the taste and money for good furnishing, and the education for reading, is dying off. What was obvious was that many of the remaining thriving shops are ethnic supermarkets - I recall Chinese, Indian, Turkish/Kurdish, and Polish. Great for me as a lover of spicy foods etc, but it says a great deal about demographic change in what was until very recently a traditional white working class stronghold. IIRC, the local council declared Swansea a 'sanctuary city', and has a policy of inviting refugees I wonder what connection that might have to the UKIP vote you mentioned? I think we agree overall that both the current circus in the US and Brexit are symptoms of an ongoing, underlying, collapse.

Fred said...

@Ray Wharton and everyone When I pointed out to someone "standing with standing rock" that the DAPL pipeline is running right alongside an already existing pipeline, crossing the river in the same area where the protests are, I got a complete jaw drop and stare. They didn't understand that the Sioux tribe took the payment and allowed the pipeline in before and now they decided that they aren't letting this one in.

That existing pipeline was reported in NPR but my lefty friends on Facebook pretend it doesn't exist. And not one has suggested driving less or using less home heating. But some are planning trips out to ND in support, and driving to major cities to protest. The absolute hypocrisy is astounding - protesting fossil fuels by using fossil fuels. It's like my grandfather used to say "they act like their excrement don't stink"

Sven Eriksen said...

It's good to have you back. Thursday morning just ain't the same without the comment section and a bucket of coffee. I actually violated my own principle to never share political material on social media for this, which probably is the highest form of praise within my power to bestow ;-)

Re: "Brightsided": Bummer... I thought I was the one who coined the term "smile or die"...

Fred said...

I have to say The Donald's speeches have gotten much better and he sounds much more presidential since you first posted his was going win back in August 2015. When you posted that week, I spit up the coffee I was drinking - wait, huh, Trump win??? - and I dropped my assumptions about what a buffoon he was and have watched with much interest his development as a speaker. He has been taking some coaching from someone which I take as a good sign he can learn, and just yesterday his wife came to PA and did a very well received speech in a very upscale part of suburban Philly.

Trump doesn't like to look bad, and if he is president he won't want the country to look bad, so that works in our favor. He isn't going to want to govern an overweight, out of work country, so that could mean some positive changes. I could see people working to spiff up themselves and the country so Trump will come to their city. We have so little pride left as a country and to have that again, and not because we are fighting some war somewhere.

I am convinced Hillary will start a war with Russia, if not directly then in Syria, and a war with China via North Korea. Either country will take us out so quick. I just hope Trump knows that.

Fred said...

Black Lives Matter seems to have disappeared from the news in the last month or so.......970 people killed by police officers so far this year

Mister Roboto said...

One final thing I will say about Obamacare: Even though it seemed to be a very flawed thing when it was passed, I was raised to be a good liberal Democrat, so there was a period prior to late 2014 where I thought that we should really "give it a chance". I chose that date because it was that election that made it clear to me that the working class low-key hated the healthcare law in a pretty big way. But now that it's late 2016, Obamacare has since used its chance to demonstrate that it is rather more awful than I imagined it would be in early 2010!

I also performed an interesting mental exercise yesterday. If I were legally compelled to vote, could choose between only Clinton and Trump, and my vote would not be a matter of public record, I would very reluctantly vote for Trump only because he advocates a minimal level of reconciliation with Russia. If Clinton were, instead of being the uber-hawk she is, a perfect midpoint between a hawk and a dove but absolutely everything else about her were the same, I would very reluctantly vote for Clinton. That is because I find myself just a little bit more aghast every time I learn something about the personality The Donald reliably and consistently displays, and I wouldn't want to give such a person the nuclear codes under normal circumstances. If I were to honestly describe my feelings about this election, you probably wouldn't be able to post the resulting comment!

Ben Johnson said...

JMG - Overheard an amusing conversation at work the other day. Keep in mind that everyone I work with are solidly wage class. A couple of ambulance dispatchers were talking about how sick and tired they are of this election cycle, and one even said, with much trepidation in his voice, that he would rather keep Obama around for four more years than put either of Hillary or Trump in the White House.
That drew a whole round of amused groans and moans, then things got busy and we all had to leave it at that.
While it may be a bit soon to speculate, my guess is the 2020 election will feature whoever wins this current farce getting curb stomped by a real populist.
Side note, occurred to me the other day that a speculative American People's Party shortens to the APP party. The campaign adds write themselves; "Swipe right for change!" "Swipe left to throw the bums out"

Eric S. said...

Cracked really has been hitting some out of the Ballpark of late. I trust you saw this one? .

Fred said...

The Podesta emails talked about Spirit Cooking and Twitter is blowing up this morning. It's apparently a satanic ritual of some sort?...

Vedant said...

Only question I have is why working class did not opted for Sanders. Sanders seems much more appropriate choice for the same tasks for which Trump is being supported. Thinking Trump will remove current fallacies of America is like appointing a thief for protection of bank. Trump is one of the very benefactor of status quo and idea that he suddenly had a change of heart is not plausible considering his current behaviour. Despite all this Trump got nomination but not Sanders. Why?

Richard Johnson said...

I saw this article this morning and immediately thought of this blog.

"Faith in progress has overtaken religiosity as the answer to the question of how to be happier in secular societies."

Allie said...

JMG said:

Allie, so what you're saying is that he has the exact equivalent of Clinton's gang of good buddies at Goldman Sachs. Fair enough; the question is whether anybody on either side has figured out that one too many looting operations like that could destabilize the entire system and leave bankers dangling from lampposts...

Yes, that is exactly what I'm saying. I would answer your question with the following: No, no one on either side has figured out that one too many looting operations could destroy the system. To them America is exceptional and indestructible. I chalk that up to your concept of the senility of the elites.

All that said, no matter who wins on Tuesday night, America will get the President it deserves.

Looking forward to your post next week. Have a great weekend and take care.

David, by the lake said...

An ACA data point: a young couple (early-mid thirties) with whom I do a small amount of barter-and-trade falls right into the cracks. Both work jobs that have no benefits (including health coverage) but b/c they have no children (and do not want to have children) their income level precludes them from subsidies. In the market, they'd be paying $700-$800 a month for "coverage" with a $12k deductible. Unsurprisingly, they opt to pay the penalty and go without, as it is considerably cheaper. (Not that political views enter into one's benefits, but I'd point out , too, that this couple is hardly right-wing. She is the coordinator of our community garden and works at an area non-profit, he is a carpenter, they have a 5-acre farm just outside of my city, and are full-on _Mother Earth_ subscribing sustainability/low-consumption types. And they are considerably frustrated with their health insurance situation.)

Chris Larkin said...

When it comes to local support, Hillary support is quite common where I live. I usually see at least one pro-Hillary bumper sticker on my commute to work on the infamous Beltway.

The historical analogue current events remind me the most is the Election of 1896 with Trump in the same role as William Jennings Bryan. Both are very much populists responding to the plight of the desperate rural with bombastic talk. Bryan lost in his case and it's doubtful he would have been able to save the rural farm of the time. However, we'll see what happens in the current case!

As for problems facing the US today, I am quite interested in your Bill of Redress. One thing I noticed recently is that many amendments come in decade long groupings. Ignoring the Bill of Rights, we had three between 1860-1870, four between 1909-1919, and another four between 1960-71 (yes I’m cheating a bit there). All of these were years of challenge and reform though some more than others. My hope is something similar might happen before things get too crazy in the US.

On alternative medicine, I’m reminded of a discussion in Poor Economics by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo. One thing they note when it comes to medicine for the extreme poor (less than a dollar a day) is that they use both Western and traditional medicines, but not together for the same disease. When there's effective affordable Western treatment, they use that. When they can't, they use traditional methods.

Eric S. said...

"I see Trump as a transitional figure, a lightning rod of sorts around which the mass movement of the dispossessed is taking shape in this country. If that movement embraces old-fashioned democratic process – which I think is quite possible – then it could accomplish much; if it goes for the easy totalitarian answer, then Weimar America, here we come! So I’m aware of the downside you discuss, but I also see positive potentials in all this."

The strongest historical parallel I've seen with Trump (though if he does actually beat his lag in the polls and win, the parallel would fall apart a bit), is Goldwater. It's almost the exact same story, a populist candidate with a whole lotta ugly wrapped up in his language, but ideas boiling and ready to be tossed from the fringe and the mainstream. With Goldwater, we had his ideas refined and honed and channeled through the New Right, which lobbied to bring an end to the New Deal and turn it into a neutered compromise in the form of LBJ's New Society program, and eventually found a voice fully in the mainstream with Ronald Reagan, who brought out the unspoken shadows of American thought, took up the same populist approach but with less of the rhetoric that empowered his opponents, and (for all his long term problems which we've often discussed), wound up being popular enough that his policies became the consensus that still has a hold on both parties today. The road from Trump's Goldwater to a future Fred Halliot's (or the more democratic alternative's) Reagan will probably be a much shorter road, but if Trump loses this election, I expect his place in history to be much the same.

Bill Ding said...

Why do elites look down on lower class Republicans? Because they vote against their own interests over and over and over again and just get madder and madder when things don't get better. They'd rather eat glass than vote for a Democrat, and the reasons are purely reptilian.

Nastarana said...

Dear Curtis, I read the American Interest article to which you linked. The link inside that article, by Michael Lind, is also worth reading.

What I can't understand about cosmopolitan, globalist elites is why they are so comfortable with a dumbed down public school curriculum. One would think that people who identify themselves as citizens of the world would be promoting a world class education for all, emphasizing the study of world history, geography, foreign languages, and world literature along with mathematics, science and civics.

Dear Guilherme de Baskerville, What your analysis of the American election leaves out is the reality, plain and simple, that Mme. Clinton is a bloodthirsty sociopath who intends to start WWIII. I think she fancies herself as Winnie Clinton, the great war president; the sordid reality is that she gets an emotional rush from the suffering of others, or, to put it in moral terms, she sold her soul to the Dark Side. It is highly unlikely that Trump can win at this late date. The people who are claiming they have dirt to release about the Clinton ménage have waited far too long to speak up. Why did they stand back and allow her to steal the primaries from the real winner? Maybe, in Brazil, you can expect to sit out the hostilities, but I wouldn't be counting on it.

Owen said...

Care to comment on the "spirit cooking" in the latest Wikileaks release?

Phil Knight said...

I think this is particularly worth keeping an eye on:

Matt said...


I was really impressed by Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed, a damning expose of the difficulties of living in the US as a wage-worker. We are now 15 years down the track from the nightmare she describes, staring at the consequences.


Joe Roberts said...

I have one quibble to your very sound analysis, a quibble that looks at first merely pedantic but has a point. Any great-great grandchildren of "the people who surged to the barricades during the Russian Revolution" would have been very young indeed in the late 1980s.

A 35-year-old at the revolutionary barricades in 1917 (and many on the front lines were of course younger than 35) would have been born in 1882. His children were born circa 1905; his grandchildren circa 1931; his great-grandchildren circa 1956; and thus any great-great grandchildren were born circa 1981, and were little kids during the last years of the USSR. (Of course I'll grant that these years very much deserve their circas.)

Again, my only point in mentioning this is because an institutional and familial memory of revolution -- what it really is, how it works, what its many downsides look like -- was very much more present in the USSR than it is in today's America. That revolutionary man born in 1882 spent the rest of his life telling family and friends about his firsthand experience at the barricades. Younger 1917 revolutionaries (those born circa 1897) might have lived until the late 1970s or early 1980s.

Various parties in today's United States like to talk about revolution as if they know what it actually is. However, unless they are the children of certain diasporas, they are incredibly far removed from firsthand stories of any relatively recent example of a national revolution. That's a difference between the USSR of the late 1980s and us, and it's a difference that is not to our advantage.

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